…let the countdown begin

I leave for New Zealand in two weeks.

I’m going to repeat that to help my personal denial wake up, I leave in TWO WEEKS!!!!!!!!!

how am I preparing? did I actually start packing? what do I still need to get? culture shock, what!?

Packing has begun (as of today), and I am trying to be as minimalistic as possible. I’ve always been pretty good at packing and going over what I need and what I don’t. I have gradually been crossing off things from my “opposite-land” list (almost done EEEEEEE), and surprisingly don’t need to get as much as I thought I did!!!

I think most of the preparation for my departure abroad is mental preparation. I am still in shock thinking that this is happening. I feel it won’t hit me until I leave the states. I have been so consumed with what is in front of me that I am not necessarily thinking of where I will be two weeks from now. On one side, it’s a good thing because I’m actively practicing one of  my goals (see: What I hope to accomplish abroad). Although, on the other, I don’t want to be consumed with so much awe that I get distracted (let’s be real I am going to sit on the beaches and stare at fur seals and sob #marinebiomajorsunite).

Once I get there, I think I am going to be so overly ecstatic with everything new and exciting that I will be living on a cloud for a while; there’s nothing wrong with expressing happiness and excitement.

Any tips for me? for possible culture shock? packing? breathing?

I am looking forward to documenting my journey. All of the support so far has been amazing, so thank you.

Lots of love,

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Fortress Hohensalzburg – a photo diary || Salzburg, Austria

When visiting Austria this past summer, Salzburg was one of the main stops. Besides the attraction of “Sound of Music” tours and filming locations, the Hohensalzburg Castle was pretty hard to miss; It overtakes the Salzburg skyline.

The fortress was built in the eleventh century, under the rule of the Archbishop at the time. The castle only went under siege once, in the German Peasant’s War in 1525. By the 19th century, Hohensalzburg was made a staple tourist attraction. It is known as one of the largest and best preserved castles of 11th century Europe.

At the time, I sadly only had my iphone for taking photos so I apologize for the quality.

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To make it to the castle you have two options: hike or take the tram. To save money, my family and I hiked (yes, I mean hike. the pathways/stairs get very steep at the top). Although, the steepest part is at the end; so, even if you take the tram, which goes almost to the top, you will have to hike up the steepest part (which thankfully had spread out steps to help hold your grip).

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There was some signs showing us where to go, but at times it was guessing (& thinking, well ok I know I’m going to head up somehow…).

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A good tip is knowing that there is an admissions fee to enter the fortress grounds. I don’t remember it being that reasonable, especially if all travelers are adults.

After admissions there is, in fact, another steep hill, and a few staircases!!! (Yay!! time to treat yourself to some Austrian pastries!!!!!) The path opens to a large court with a gift shop, restrooms, etc.

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Upon entering the very top, there is a few museum-type exhibits going into the history of the fortress (the lines get long but move quick).

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The top has multiple 360 viewing areas. The amount of photo opportunities even on a cloudy day is insane.

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I recommend leaving yourself a lot of time to explore all the rooms and viewing areas. The views are worth every broken sweat. Times like this, only make me want to explore European castles to the fullest extent possible.

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Continue reading “Fortress Hohensalzburg – a photo diary || Salzburg, Austria”

3 hours in Thun, Switzerland

It would not be “my type” of vacation without some reckless running around.

This past summer, my family and I decided to get a Eurail pass for two weeks to start in Vienna, Austria and end in Paris, France. So naturally that entailed some spur of the moment stops, *cough* *cough* Thun, Switzerland.

Being in the middle of the Swiss Alps was breathtaking (there I go again with my “dramatic landscape” needs). Personally, I preferred Thun over a more touristy city of Interlaken. Interlaken, Switzerland is filled with more hotels, hostels, chain stores, and gift shops over Thun. Thun is a relaxed village town with a gorgeous castle overlooking the old town.
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if you ever find yourself in the Swiss Alps, and want an adventure filled with climbing stairs and hills, keep reading.

Ashleigh’s top three

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1. Thun Castle
Although getting up to the top of the castle is not free, its worth every penny. Especially after climbing up the cobble stone streets of Thun, the view is the PERFECT reward. There are a view levels and each are set up with museum-like exhibits. After about three levels, and more stairs you climb a modern narrow staircase to reach the top level.

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At first it’s a bit overwhelming; each of the four pillars is open to climb up to. Each side brings a depth to the landscape that you don’t expect and you just stand there in awe. Yes, my pictures look just like the popular google-search photos, THATS WHEN YOU KNOW ITS REAL!!

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2. Walking the Streets
With the limited time, and the approaching National Swiss Holiday, what better to do than engulf yourself in some Swiss National Pride. The streets of Thun did not disappoint; if you have the time there are some adorable outdoor cafes and restaurants overlooking the canal.

In my case, I was too excited for my third course of action to dilly dally.

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3. Oberhofen Castle
When conducting my research on Switzerland, I came across a photo of Oberhofen Castle; a stunning castle on the outskirts of Thun. I somehow talked my family into taking a 10 minute bus journey from the center of Thun out to Oberhofen (in fact just to get photos, oopsies).
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Sadly the castle gates were closed that day, so I did not get a chance to walk around the gardens and pathways that surrounded the castle. Nonetheless, LOOK AT THAT ARCHITECTURE!

why New Zealand?

A question I get often is why New Zealand? Why would you want to study abroad there? Why go so far away?

I find myself drawn to the mountains: the elevation, the dramatic landscapes, etc. I vacationed to Alaska a lot growing up (I mean I’m still growing up.. but you catch my drift), and seeing what rocky coasts had to offer struck an interest with me.

With my major at university being marine biology, the undergraduate programs abroad are limited. Europe has more graduate level programs over undergrad, and with myself being fortunate enough to have traveled there a few times before, I was craving something different. South America is rich with options in a tropical scene, so that was indeed an option. Although, that part of the world has not sparked my priority just yet (Galapagos, I’ll come for you soon).

A far-off-opposite-land existed in a distant dream. Oceania is far from me, to say the least, but distance has never stopped me; It brought the difference I yearned for. My father has told me stories about his trip to Australia and New Zealand, and raved about the landscapes of the South Island of New Zealand. With that in the back of my mind, I tended to flip immediately to the “Oceania” section of the massive study abroad books. The books were filled with programs I could choose from, and some specialties of each university.

I came across the University of Otago, which is located in the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand. The specialty courses listed happened to be marine biology, and with further research, I found how famous their science program is. Long story short, I had my heart set on attending this university and was accepted this past summer.

My excitement cannot be contained for how this semester abroad with advance my future career as a marine biologist.