Castle Correspondents: Ponderings and Preparations

Our Castle Correspondents, Elizabeth Venere and Jamie Loftus are both nervous and excited about their departure to Kasteel Well on September 15th. Read what’s going through their heads and what they are doing to prepare both physically and mentally below.

by Elizabeth Venere

As the weeks fly by, and September 15 gets closer and closer, I’m reminded of my semester abroad. I will be living in a castle—a real, honest-to-goodness castle (ahhh!). And as much as I would love to say I’m feeling pure excitement and anticipation, I can’t ignore the anxiety that is beginning to fester.
This is mainly because of the free time the program gives us to explore Europe. While I’m so excited to venture beyond the castle walls, this will be the first time I’ve traveled where I have made all my own arrangements. As a planner and organizer of OCD proportions, I like to get everything down perfectly. The fact that I’m doing this in a foreign country is a little unnerving; how do I know I’m going to the right airport or getting on the right subway? And if I’m lost (and don’t know the local language), how do I get myself where I need to be? How will I find something? How will I do anything?

I’ve come to the realization, though, that I cannot let this obsession over details and planning get in the way of enjoying this amazing experience. So what if I get lost, or the hostel isn’t the best (which is very possible)? That’s life. Since I only have three months to spend here, I need to make the most of it. And if I make a mistake, it will only prepare me more for the next time I travel. So while I’ve triple-checked my packing list and found some ideas of where I want to go, I’m keeping an open mind and waiting to see where everyone thinks they want to go.

Besides, isn’t that the joy in traveling, finding the unexpected, discovering what makes a place different? I don’t just want to visit somewhere; I want to truly experience it and find out what makes it unique.

Because of this, I’m excited to take my beat reporting class at the castle. Since we’ll be spending most of our weeks abroad in the village of Well, I think it’s important to get to know the people living there. They are, after all, opening up their home to us. I hope it will be a great way to establish a stronger connection to the community and enhance my traveling experience.

Once Elizabeth is settled at the Castle, her bi-weekly posts will be all about the people. She will share her interactions with the people of Wells, the other students and faculty as well as Emerson student’s interactions and conversations with the people of Europe as they travel. Check the Campus Section regularly to hear about the interesting characters that she meets.

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Photo from Emerson.edu

by Jamie Loftus

When heading out on a trip that will no doubt define my perception of the world and its inhabitants, it’s easy to feel like I’m packing as many worries as I am extra pairs of socks.  The important difference, of course, is that I’m actively contemplating these thoughts as opposed to actively packing, which I have planned on leaving until the very last, or next to last, unit of time. From Amsterdam to St. Petersburg, I have big dreams on where I want to travel, and refuse to let that fact that I am an “obnoxious American” get in the way of that, although it’s tough to tell exactly how interrelated those two terms are.

From what I can gather, when travelling abroad it’s important to appear as little of an American as humanly possible. That means some of my more spirited Fourth of July t-shirts, long ago purchsed from Old Navy, are already preparing for a semester-long rest in the recesses of my hometown drawers. Oh, and aren’t we supposed to be taking classes there, too? Totally forgot about that part, and I can only worry that this “full course load” is merely a thinly veiled pretense to explore the world and find out exactly how tall the boys in Amsterdam are.

My family, as usual, is the national headquarters for unnecessary worry. My parents warn me not to get pregnant, a worry which is quickly dispelled when I tell them that getting pregnant was my sole reason for travelling abroad in the first place. My aunts are concerned I’ll die of alcohol poisoning — again, why would I leave the continent without every intention of dying of alcohol poisoning?

And how will I talk? It’s difficult, especially in this region, to disguise such an affected accent, and the phrase book I’ve purchased offers some sinister, if pretty useless, sentences as opposed to something nice like “Hello, how are you today?” In what case, in which country, will anyone use the phrase “I’ve been raped by a gay night pharmacist!” I sincerely hope I won’t eat my words on that one.

And finally, the international assumption that American girls are “easy”. In my case, this is true to an extent — I would say that it’s very easy to give me free food, and it’s even easier to engage me in a conversation about pictures of cats in sweaters that appear on the Internet. But I prefer to think, as I’m sure my fellow lady castle mates would agree, that certain things just aren’t that easy. Other than that, between stifling my inexplicable interest in the Kardashian family that’s attached itself to my DNA like a pesky mold problem and enjoying seconds at dinner, I think that my “American-ness” may be successfully stifled in time to become a citizen of the world.

All stupid (or totally legitimate, Kardashian-related) fears aside, all worries any castle student may have at the beginning of this amazing semester are eclipsed by excitement. We’re going to be living the dream, which can only mean we’ll encounter more extra pairs of socks than we will worries.

When Jamie arrives in the Netherlands and starts traveling around Europe, she will share her funny stories with us on the Atlas blog. She will cover anything from language blubbers to culture shocks. Jamie will entertain us with all the humor that is the Kasteel Well program. Prepare to be entertained bi-weekly after September 15.

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