Friday, May 7, 2010

Done and Done

After 4 1/2 months of traveling, studying, and experiencing Europe in ways unimaginable, its over. Like any experience that finally runs its course, all good things must come to an end.

My group and I have parted ways, my travel visa has run out, and the war chest is all but depleted. Brittany and I are reminiscing in our hostel on a Venetian canal in the heart of the seaside town. With volcanic delays still rippling throughout the European transport systems, we're not entirely sure when we'll be back stateside.

I'll miss Europe, but I won't try and deny or hide my excitement about coming home.

I appreciate all the well wishes and support that all my friends and family have relayed to me throughout the duration of my tenure abroad. I hope you have enjoyed my blog and encourage readers to keep checking back. Although my worldly travel may be coming to an end, I'll still be inclined to post the happenings of my life for those who are interested to read on. Soon enough I'll have put up a second website that will show pictures of my Summer adventures and eventual return to Clemson.

See everyone soon!

All good; all the time,


Monday, May 3, 2010

Fun in the Sun

We pulled into Barcelona Sants train station right at midnight on the 2nd of May. After 14 hours of riding in passenger cars from Brussels to Paris to Pegnana to Port Bou and ultimately Barcelona we were exhausted. We made the taxi ride to Equity Point Hostel and pretty much went straight to bed.

Sunday ended up blessing us with gorgeous weather. A full sunny day with temperatures topping out in the high 60s and low 70s couldn't have been better spent than on the sand of a Spanish beach.

We had a dinner of Spanish Paella and spent the evening walking around the city looking at the local markets and vendors.

Unfortunate today has been much less pleasant. We awoke this morning to find the city victim to a torrential down pour and relatively cool temperatures. Although I'd much rather be relaxing on the beach reading in the sun, its still nice just sitting in the hostel's cafe taking it easy with no real concerns.

Yesterday morning we bought an overnight train ticket to Milan on May 6th. We don't plan on spending much time there, but instead plan to jump onto a connector and make our way to Rome and the Vatican.

As for now, I'm going to continue doing nothing, which is exactly what I want to do.

All good; all the time,


Friday, April 30, 2010

Loaded Up and Headed Out

Tomorrow morning marks the beginning of my final European excursion. With exams all finished, my lease run up, and bags packed, its all a-board for Barcelona, Spain!

The past two weeks were rough. We had our final round of testing followed by finals that ultimately determined our academic standing for the semester. Ensuing many late nights of studying, multiple upon multiple pots of coffee, and last minute cram sessions we finally finished. The sophomore year of my college career has come to a close and with it, the beginning of summer.

Brittany Hall, Charlie Sipple, Andrew Blayton, and I all head out early tomorrow morning for the white beaches of Barcelona, Spain. We're meeting up with a fellow Clemson student, Brittany Clinton, who spent her semester studying Cantonal in Barcelona. A practical native of the city, she'll be a great asset to our vacation in Espana.

Where we go from there is still a bit of a mystery. Due to complications from the Icelandic Volcano we still aren't sure of our following travel arrangements. We will hopefully find means of transportation to take us south to the Italian boot, however, if all else fails we may be making an early departure back to the United States of American from Barcelona.

I'll do my best to keep the world posted now that my time is a bit freer due to lack of school work. Keep an eye out for soon to come pictures of Spanish beaches, and Mediterranean sun.

All good, all the time,


Final Call: Departure for Barcelona

A semester abroad, half a world away from everything we know as home, finally comes to an end.

Last night marked the closing ceremony for the Spring class of 2010 Clemson University Brussels Center. With a smorgasbord of mixed emotions, we bid each, other as well as the CUBC faculty and staff farewell. Having come to appreicate Brussels and the memories gained while studying abroad, we found the ending of the semester bitter sweet. Many of us are anxious to return home but we know that deep down, in all reality we'll miss the place we've called home for the past half a year.

As I've said before, its hard to explain what study abroad is truly like. Its one of those adventures in life you actually have to partake in to really understand. You develop a newfound respect for the world outside your own little bubble, but you also begin to realize how much you truly love home.

I'm ready for my return to the states, but there is not a doubt in my mind that we will all miss Brussels very much in our own ways. I thank those that helped get us here, and I wish everyone the best.

All good; all the time,


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Problems of Volcanic Proportions and Nature

With over a week of delays and backlogs, Europe is now full of tens of thousands of stranded travelers which has ultimately cost airline companies over 1.7 billion dollars. Is the worst of the trouble over or yet still to come?

I've mentioned my intentions to spend the two weeks following the conclusion of the academic semester traveling through Spain and Italy before returning to the states, however the recent volcanic activity in Iceland that has sent the European travel infrastructure into a tizzy is presenting some unforeseen obstacles. I've spent the past five days visiting the Brussels Midi train station in attempts to purchase railway tickets and reservations for my planned travels. Regardless of my attempts, the backlog of travelers in the airports has put considerable strain on the railway systems and to be quite honest, they are inept at handling this influx of demand. There is such a high demand for tickets that train stations have been unable to handle any booking outside of the current working day. Yesterday was the first opportunity they've given travelers to begin buying advance tickets. By the time I reached the booking counter, the train schedule I wanted was already over booked and unavailable. The railway worker ultimately helped us find an alternate route but not without serious layovers and rail changes.

Train stations throughout Europe have been experiencing this increase in volume of travelers. The result has not only strained staff and availability, but also strained the railway network and servers. We are unable to book any connections or trains outside of the current country network. This means that although we're trying to travel through Italy, we're unable to book lodging accommodations because we cannot guarantee where we'll be or when we'll be there.

On top of this obstacle, seismologists have reported increased seismic activity in the region and are concerned about the possibility of renewed volcanic activity, and which could re-cripple European airspace travel.

So where does this leave myself and fellow comrades?

We really just aren't sure. We are currently deliberating and toying with the idea of an early return home. With flights booked and paid for currently set to fly out of Venice on the 13th of May we question the possibility of if we could even get to Italy on time and by reasonable manner.

As of now I have no answers, only questions. I'll do my best to let every one know what happens when I can.

All good; all the time,


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Not Your Everyday Excuse

Wednesday morning my roommates and I were packing for our departure to Dublin, Ireland when suddenly all of our email accounts Buzzed simultaneously with an update from Ryanair concerning the status of our pending flights across the English Channel. They had been canceled. Earlier in the day, a volcano in Iceland erupted spewing gas, ash, and debris as far as Germany causing the E.U. to close all airspace affected by the dangerous conditions. This is my second attempt to visit Ireland, but yet again my efforts were thwarted by circumstances outside my control.

I've heard some seriously far fetched and creative excuses before. Heck, I myself have even daringly chanced a few personally constructed tails, but never before have I heard anything about a volcano disrupting a person's plans. It sounds ridiculous honestly, however scientists predict that the volcanic activity could disrupt flight patterns for up to several weeks.

What does this mean for myself and my fellow study abroad comrades?

Well many of my classmates are currently scattered throughout the E.U. without a means of transportation back to Brussels or back to the states for that matter. All non emergency air traffic has been grounded which has resulted in clogged bus and railway systems. I have been unsuccessfully trying to book train passage to Spain and ultimately Italy for the past 4 days to no avail. The train stations are so overflown with stranded passengers that services for future bookings are not even being currently offered. With no reliable prediction as to when air traffic will resume, prospects are not looking good for those of us who still have travel arrangements to be made.

Could I be stuck in Europe for a longer duration than planned?

While I sure as heck hope not...its starting to look like a possibility at this point. Only time will tell.

All good; all the time (except if I spend my summer stuck here)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Workin' Hard or Hardly Workin'?

My family flew out of B.R.U. in the early morning hours of this past Monday morning with near 100 lbs of extra luggage than they arrived with. We had a great time and Switzerland as well as France trying to cram in as much as possible in the short time available. Being around them for the past two weeks kind of stuck me with a bit of renewed homesickness as my mind wanders to summer activities back on the shores of Carolina. With less than a month to go until my return to the states I find myself more and more anxious about returning to the southland.

This week is shaping up to be an academically demanding one as I prepare for my third round of tests following rapidly by finals. I'm currently researching and writing a position paper on gun control and law for my American Law 322 class, which precedes work for the three tests I have on Monday and Tuesday of the coming week.

With all that being said, and myself quite occupied with academia over the next couple days its probably best not to expect another post until this weekend. Its getting to the breaking point and I know what needs to be done. Academics.

However, I am headed off to Ireland this coming Friday and you can be sure that I'll have many a tale and picture to share upon my return.

Hope all is well!

All good; all the time,