Yup, you sure did read that right. In the 94 days that I have already spent in Europe, I have been able to cover 29 cities and six countries (bottom of this blog post will have my running list of places visited). But my travels aren’t finished yet!
Although I can’t share how much time I have left here because I am keeping it a secret to my family, what I can share is that I still have some traveling left to do in Europe. The upcoming trips I have locked in are the following: Barcelona, Spain (April 28-May 1), Copenhagen, Denmark (May 5-8), Darmstadt and Kaiserslautern, Germany (May 11-15), and Rome, Venice, Vatican City, Pisa, Italy (May 25-29). I also am trying to plan trips to Portugal, London, and Prague. I guess you can say I am keeping myself busy for the rest of my time here.
But it has been quite some time since the last time that I have blogged, so let me bring everyone up to speed on what Sal has been doing (and not doing). One question that I seem to get a lot from family and friends back home (and friends I am on exchange with) is often “Woah Sal you seem to be traveling so much and having all this fun exploring Europe. (Side note: a lot of my European friends always reiterate to me how they feel as though I have seen more of Europe than they have.) When do you study?” or as my family says “I thought you went there to STUDY abroad? With all the fun you have it never seems like you are studying.”
Well, truth is, my first eight-week term kicked my butt. I found myself completing all assignments (and receiving high grades on those assignments) but failing to complete my readings. So, what does this mean? It means that your Blogger over here found himself with 200-plus pages of reading to do the two weeks before final exams. ADVICE: Don’t try this at home… or abroad. I stressed so much those two weeks before finals came around.
Well, kind of.
If you ask my friends from Rotterdam what I was up to the week before my finals, the odds are they will tell you one of two things. One, they will be a good friend and say “Yeah Sal, he was studying like crazy in his apartment. It is like he went on a study hibernation for two weeks!” (Note: these are the friends that often make you feel good about yourself). Or the other response you would get from my Rotterdam friends would be along the lines of: “Sal strategically utilized the week the University gave us before finals to study, to travel. He was in a different German city every other day for ten days.” (Note: these are the friends that are not only truthful, but I would never commit a crime with).
But the real answer? Both of the scenarios put together. I was traveling with my mentor Marty and his wife Ellyn, who came from San Diego to explore all of Germany. Lets just say my days were long, but my nights were longer. Moral of this story: when studying abroad, don’t forget to study, folks. My experience thus far has been Procrastinating Abroad. With all that said, I survived.
P.S.: Please don’t tell my grandma.
My Germany road was not only a blessing but an amazing plunge into German culture. Although he’s extremely humble, it would be disrespectful not to recognize and thank Marty and Ellyn for inviting me to travel through Germany and Belgium with them for 10 days. It is not often that ANYONE offers to take someone on a trip, on their dime. But although I found myself extremely grateful for them hosting my travels, their presence meant so much more to me.
Being away for nearly three months, I found myself in an absolute slump. I missed home so much (still do) and all of my loved ones. When I first met up with Marty at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, I genuinely felt like crying. The comfort of having a familiar face from back home come and visit had to have been one of my best moments in Europe.
Back to talking about our travels: We started in Berlin, which is located in Northern Germany. Berlin was/is one of the most hyped places that international students talk about. I was excited to really visit the city and understand what makes it so special … besides the beer and delicious variety of sausages. The beer and sausages were spectacular, but if I was to give one-piece advice to Americans traveling to Germany, it would be don’t listen to the names of the food you eat. Perfect example is my first experience eating a Berlin delicacy —Currywurst. Now I am sure you all are wondering why in the world I’d eat something with the word worst in it. But let me tell you, it was great. It was a sausage (looked like a hotlink) chopped up into little pieces with some ketchup/curry sauce smothered on top.
Doesn’t sound appealing? That’s fine, just pass your share of the Berlin snack my way!
After Berlin we drove down to Munich, with a stop in a small city called Bamberg. In Bamberg, Marty and I stopped for lunch and a delicious smoked beer, which is hands down one of the best beers I have ever tasted (not that I drink a lot of beer…). The last 75 percent of our trip consisted of bouncing from small town to small town on a road in Germany called Romantische Straße (Romantic Road). Lucky for Marty and Ellyn to be traveling down such a well-named road! For me, I found myself enjoying the romantic scenery from my dreams.
The road is about 217 miles and took us about five days to traverse. The small cities we stopped off at along our trip down the road were breathtaking; each very similar to the one before, but still unique in its own way. My favorite town along Romantische Straße had to have been Rothenburg ob der Tauber — a very small city that is located on the edge of a cliff and surrounded by city walls. We got the chance to do a night watchman tour, where a guide (dressed as a historic town watchman) showed us around the city and the surroundings outside the town walls. Overall it was a very neat and pleasant experience!
So… sounds like Sal has been having the time of his life, right? Probably not ready to come home anytime soon, right?
Well not completely accurate—if anything, it’s far from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, this journey has been an amazing experience and I have learned so much about other countries and their cultures, as well as myself. However, I didn’t fully find myself over the homesickness aspect of studying abroad.
When not traveling other European countries, I often find myself confined to the four walls of my dorm room. This is partly because I am lazy and don’t want to walk to the metro stop, partly because the weather in the Netherlands can be described as depressing (especially if you’re from San Diego); and Partly because at times it’s much easier to just stay and my room and let time pass.
Doesn’t sound like a typical study abroad experience right? Truth is, for some of us, we still find ourselves just being okay … and that is okay. After sharing my feelings with several exchange friends in the Netherlands, you surprisingly start to learn that some of them are feeling the exact same way. And if they aren’t, then they sure will make the effort to make sure that you are okay (or at least that has been my experience here).
At times when I am traveling and keeping myself occupied, I find the feeling of homesickness subsiding, but never completely gone. I know I have shared this feeling of distance from family and home in almost every one of my blog posts, but I do so intentionally. I want people who find themselves in a foreign location, like me this past semester, to know that it is normal. And although my pictures of my travels on Facebook and Instagram tell one story, its not the full story.
A huge part of my time away has really allowed Sal to learn about Sal. One of those lessons is that my family and friends in San Diego mean much more than I could ever describe. But I am glad I got through my time here, because it is an experience I will never regret. At the same time, I hope my travels and blogging (thus far) can at least motivate one person to study abroad — even if they find themselves intimidated by living in a foreign location for a certain period of time.
I must say that it is absolutely true that we learn the most when we are out of our comfort zone. Some times will be tougher than others, but I (and you) can get through it.
Cheers until my next post! I am going to go read for my courses … or maybe finish watching “Sons of Anarchy” on Netflix.
In the meantime, enjoy these photos and a list of the cities and countries I have visited thus far!
- Rotterdam, Netherlands
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Eindhoven, Netherlands
- Utrecht, Netherlands
- Gouda, Netherlands
- Dan Hague, Netherlands
- Dublin, Ireland
- Athens, Greece
- Poros, Greece
- Hydra, Greece
- Aegina, Greece
- Bruges, Belgium
- Brussels, Belgium
- Antwerp, Belgium
- Ghent, Belgium
- Berlin, Germany
- Bamberg, Germany
- Munich, Germany
- Füssen, Germany
- Schwangua, Germany
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
- Nördlingen, Germany
- Dinkelsbühl, Germany
- Creglingen, Germany
- Weikersheim, Germany
- Bad Mergentheim, Germany
- Würzburg, Germany
- Cologne, Germany
- Paris, France
Salvador Terrones is an interdisciplinary studies in three department (IS3D) student with an emphasis in SDSU leadership, counseling and social change, and a social work major. He is studying Spring semester at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication in Rotterdam, Netherlands.