Bon Voyage!

As the youngest child in my family, I was also the last to leave the proverbial “nest”. I would also consider myself to be fairly close to my parents. So it was no surprise when my mother called me for the 6th time four days before I left:

mom: “I feel like I haven’t talked to you today! Don’t you love me anymore?!”

me: “of course mommy, but I just talked to you 15 minutes ago!”

mom: “oh… well, I just wanted to hear your voice…”

Although I am sure it is difficult for a parent to let their child go off to another country on their own, I think that travel can sometimes be likened to fertilizer for personal growth – you’re still going to develop as an individual, but travelling can accelerate that process by making widening your perspective and who knows, it might even help you grow a little taller than you would have without it.

I have also found the findings by Gary Arndt, a man who traveled around the world for 3 years, both encouraging and enlightening:

I will of course miss my family, but at the same time, I am pretty excited to be starting this adventure!


Before the start of the program, my boyfriend and his brother took their two weeks of vacation from work and together we packed our bags and flew to Zagreb, Croatia. In the plane I was lucky enough to get a window seat and watched through the small frame like a television set, observing Seattle diminish to a small and barely discernible form through my favorite, the thick and fluffy cumulus clouds. My favorite was seeing the jagged ridges and mountains of western Washington and the varied colors and sizes of circles and squares making up expansive agricultural farms.

We hadn’t slept the night before because we were so excited and we had a long flight with 2 layovers. Being unable to sleep on the plane, we were all very tired. Once we landed I was to call our contact for the program Marina to see if I could drop off my tools and work clothes at the dormitory before we traveled. I called the number twice and was unable to contact her, but I also did not want to carry all of my bags with me for two weeks worth of travel. So somewhat based off of the directions prepared by the TA for the program but mostly based off of the advice of the woman at the info desk, I made arrangements to take the daily shuttle down to Rijeka.

After we got out of the shuttle a taxi driver picked us up and dropped us off at a hostel near the dormitory so that we could drop off our stuff, shower, sleep and wake up the next morning to drop off my luggage. However, the woman at the front desk only spoke Croatian and through words, gesticulations, and facial expressions we learned that the hostel was fully booked. My boyfriend thought it would be fun and spontaneous to wing our trip, so we hadn’t make any arrangements for a place to stay. It was therefore a nightmare trying to find a hostel. Who would have known that Rijeka only has two hostels and that they are both on different sides of the city? Of course I didn’t have enough money on my phone card to call the cab to come back and get us, so we ended up walking for an hour with all of our luggage before we found a place to buy another one to call him with. We waited for another hour and by that time it was getting dark.

After now 2 days without sleep, a nice clean bed was all any of us wanted. When the driver finally came he offered that if the next hostel was also full that he could find us a place to stay either with him or with friends for free. I thought that was very kind of him to offer to take us in like that. In addition to that, he walked into the next hostel to find out if there were any free rooms for us in case there were any language barriers. This time we were in luck. After paying for our room and ride, we sunk into bed.

The next day we woke up to a storm complete with lightening and crazy rain. We called our driver and eventually got the luggage over to the dormitory so that we could begin our travels.


From Rijeka, Croatia we made our way through Slovenia to Ljubljana, then to Vienna in Austria and later made our way back to Zagreb, Croatia. In Vienna however, we bumped into a girl that used to live up the street from me and I have gone to school with since elementary school. I had no idea she was even travelling and I haven’t really talked to her since high school. It was a great surprise and a nice little reunion. In addition to this, I later found that a boy that I have gone to school with at UW and who is participating in the design build program stayed in the exact same hostel the following night and met my childhood friend. It just comes to show how small of a world this really is!


On October 4th, after having traveled for two weeks with my boyfriend and his younger brother, I went to the airport with them to drop them off and we said our goodbyes. By chance I happened to see a girl I recognized from one of the predeparture meetings at UW for the design build program and we ended up travelling to the dormitory together on the shuttle. She was a girl that I had seen but never had a reason to speak to and riding on the shuttle gave us an opportunity to do so. I am glad to have met her. She is hilarious.

Getting to the dormitory was much smoother this time around. The ride transversed through a variety of landscape types from red and rocky outcrops to rows of corn and other vegetables to the architecturally diverse city. It was all very pretty.

Our class is going to be staying in a building that is separate from the main dormitory building. I believe it is primarily used for college students, however there are only two of them here. We have to share bedrooms, but we each get a bed, shelf, closet, a desk, and a chair. In addition to this, there is a kitchen and a bathroom. I’m not sure how the shower situation is going to work as there is only one shower room for both boys and girls…

Once we found our rooms and dropped off our stuff we were reacquainted with some of the other students from UW, caught up, ate dinner, played some ping pong, and crashed.