Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Vienna Waits for You

Hello again!

This past weekend I traveled with my friends to Vienna, Austria. The trip was pretty last minute, but the price of the bus/hostel were so affordable that we just had to go. We decided to only stay one night, so in order to make the most of our 48 hours in Vienna we took a 5 am bus there Friday morning and an 11 pm bus back Saturday night. The bus we took was actually super nice (company: Student Agency) so it was overall a pretty easy trip (they even gave us free hot chocolate so i was sold).

Our first stop was Belvedere. I'm pretty proud of us because we were able to figure out the public transportation there right away and took subways and trams the whole weekend. The Belvedere Palace has a massive Klimpt collection, so we got to see "The Kiss" (although we weren't allowed photos) along with some other artists influenced by Klimpt's work. The grounds there are also incredibly beautiful, so we spent a while just walking around and taking pictures. Also, my friends Tara and Isabel were filming a music video for the song "Vienna" by Billy Joel while we were there, which was absolutely hilarious. 

After Belvedere, we took the tram to the Naturhistorisches Museum (natural history museum) and ate some amazing cake in the cafe there. We spent a while wondering through the rock collection, and we also saw the Venus of Willendorf, which is one of the oldest pieces of art ever discovered. We were starving at this point, and we ended up eating at a Viennese pub called Bitzinger Augustinerkeller. My friends ordered traditional dishes like schnitzel and goulash, but being the picky eater I am I just had chicken and potatoes as usual. 

We were pretty much passing out from exhaustion at this point, so we went from dinner straight to our hostel, the Do Step Inn. I was so pleasantly surprised by this hostel. It was incredibly cheap, and we had our own private room and bathroom. The beds were nice and they gave us all the linens and towels and such, and the whole experience was way better than most hostel stories I've head. I wish this place existed in all cities! (oh and the room had exposed brick, every New Yorker's dream!)

After finding a small cafe to eat breakfast in on Saturday, we went to the Shonbrunn Palace, which is absolutely massive. There are a ton of things to do there, but we walked through the gardens and decided to go to the zoo there, which is the oldest zoo in the world. We made sure to see all of our favorite animals, and then Tara, Avi, and Isabel went to go see an apple strudel making demonstration in the palace while Cass and I planned (or failed to plan) dinner. 

We went from the palace back to the area of the natural history museum and bought some postcards and souvenirs, and we also saw a protest taking place to support the Kurdish people in Turkey. We couldn't understand what they were saying, but the protest was pretty large and caused a lot of commotion. We then tried to go to a dinner place close to where the bus was picking us up later that night, but we failed to find it and ended up in a diner-ish place inside some sort of theme park, which was really unexpected. 

We were worried about the closing of the subways, so we took the subway from dinner straight to the bus stop and ended up getting there two hours early. Everything closed very early there, so there was no where inside to go and we ended up sitting outside at the bus stop for around 2 hours. By the end, our entire bodies had gone numb from the cold, and I don't think I have ever been so happy to get inside when the bus finally pulled up. We were all going crazy trying to do jumping jacks and run laps around the station to keep warm, so we probably looked nuts to any passing cars. We all slept on the bus ride home, and got back to our dorm around 4 am on Sunday morning (and then proceeded to literally sleep the entire day).

And that was my trip to Vienna! I hope I can continue to document all my other trips like this so I can look back on them in the future. Thanks for reading :)

xo, Sophie

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My First Week at NYU Prague

The view from my dorm (Machova)

NYU Prague campus

At the ballet

Prague Castle!

The Jewish Quarter
Kafka statue

Hello again!

I have awaked this blog from the dead to document my adventures as I study abroad in Prague! I don't use this blog as much as my YouTube channel anymore, but I wanted a place for my family (those who don't use Facebook) to see what I am up to, as well as a place for all of my memories so that I can look back on them in the future. What an original blog concept! 

I have now been in Prague a little over a week, and the first week was one of the busiest of my life. The traveling process itself took about 24 hours from NYC, and I still haven't fixed my jetlag issue. But so far I have really been impressed with the way NYU has laid out the program for us, as well as with the city itself. There have been a lot of NYU sponsored events since we arrived, such as going to the ballet (or oprah or philharmonic, etc.), and tours throughout the city. I chose to go on tours of the Prague Castle and the Jewish Quarter, both of which were amazing. Throughout the week, we also had 9 hours (3 hours a day for 3 days) of intensive Czech class, and 8 hours (2 hours a day for 4 days) of Czech history. Those days felt quite long and intense, but they were definitely helpful in the end as I have a much better grasp of the culture here now. 

We also went out to eat a lot last week, including going to a couple of traditional Czech restaurants. The food here is super heavy; even the locals say that they cannot eat it every day, so that has definitely been a bit of a struggle. Buying groceries is also quite difficult (turns out cow's milk and goat's milk are both pretty standard here). I have gone out to some really nice restaurants though, and they are super affordable with the conversion rate. We have found some good Mexican and Italian places, as well as a super cool (and probably really tourist-y) bar called Anonymous (based on V for Vendetta and the hackers). The bar has multiple secret menus and many of the drinks come with weird souvenirs or experiences. It was pretty gimmicky, but actually an overall fun experience and I would definitely go back just to see what weird things some of the drinks come with.   

Living in this city is so different from NYC (obviously), but it still doesn't feel too foreign which is nice. The main difference is the noise. Pretty sure NYC is one of the noisiest cities in existence, both from people and cars/ambulances, but Prague is the exact opposite. It is so quite here all the time, and I have probably heard 2 sirens since being here. There are even quiet hours that last I think from 10pm to 6am and are an actual law, so you have to be quiet during that time. I've never slept so well! 

I get a lot of questions about studying abroad through NYU from you guys over on my YouTube channel, so if you are one of the people looking for some answers on that this paragraph is for you. If you don't already know, when you study abroad with NYU you don't have to apply to a random European university like you do with many other colleges. Every study abroad site is through NYU. There are NYU dorms, NYU professors, and NYU classes. It is all very easy and they baby you quite a bit through the process. The dorms here are super nice. We live in suites with bathrooms, kitchens, and suitemates,  and there is also a cleaning service that comes three times a week. Courses are taken in two different buildings, both just steps from the Old Town Square, which is basically the center of tourism in Prague. The dorms are a quick subway ride away, and the commute is pretty pleasant. I will be putting up a "day in the life of an NYU student: study abroad edition" video this week, so if you have any questions about the program, feel free to leave them in the comments there, as it is an easy place for me to respond!

Hopefully I will still be able to document my experiences once classes start. I really am just keeping this as a memory for myself, so I will try to be consistent with posts!

xo, Sophie