Thanks to my amazing friend Sara, I was able to visit Florida last weekend *yay* She was staying with her family on the Gulf Coast and invited me to join her for a couple of days. So I got on a plane friday morning and flew down south. It was AMAZING! I mean, Florida? The beaches? WOW!

...see what I mean? We went to Longboat Key for some tanning on Saturday. It was beautiful. We had perfect weather, not too hot, a little cloudy but overall very sunny! Oh, and the water? Oh My God....

 I've never seen water as clear and as beautiful as this! I was happy :)

On sunday, we did some outlet shopping (and yes, I spent most of my money on good old German sportsware - Adidas outlet *yay*) I also checked out the winter jackets from Columbia - I think the color suits me ;)

On Monday, Sara and I rented a car and went on a road trip even further south - towards the Everglades. The trip itself was a lot of fun already and the Everglades were definitely worth the drive! The highlight of the trip, however, was Mel's Diner :)

It was so beautifully kitschy and just so American and Rock&Roll and *hmpf* SO much fun! And the food! Oh, the food.... *yuum* Ok, but enough about the Diner. So we drove down to Everglade City (cute!) and went on the thousand islands boat trip. We were the only two people on board, which was kinda weird at first, but actually, it was pretty awesome, because it was like having a private tour. Steve and Dan were very helpful and pointed out a lot of wildlife for us. The highlight of the tour was a dolphin which swam with the boat for a little bit - I'd call that awesome! After the trip, we went "Gator hunting :) yep, that's right, Gator hunting ;) we went all Crocodile Dundee :D

I was a little scared, but Sara was totally cool... even when she exclaimed "look, it's moving" and I added "yeah.... towards us!" :D but we survived and were alive enough to visit the smallest U.S. postal office :) so cute! 

So, if you got a postcard from Florida, it might have been stamped here :) On our way back, we drove through Naples and were desperately looking for the Cheescake Factory we had seen on our way south - we couldn't find it! So we drove down to the pier instead, visited another Gulf Coast Beach and looked around in downtown Naples, then we headed to the Interstate - and found the Cheesecake Factory :) Full and happy, we finally hit the Interstate to return to Sara's aunts house...

However, shortly before getting back to Braedenton, we decided to drive to the Beach instead to catch the sunset - turns out that was our best idea of the entire trip :) It was absolutely breathtaking! So, here's the last impression from Florida on Anna Maria Beach. THANK YOU SARA!


Beautiful Boston

As you might have figured, Boston is not only great because of all the shopping opportunities... It's also a pretty awesome city! I love the combination of history and American city :)The city played an important role during the revolution, for example...

And I love the combination of modern architecture (yes, mostly skyscrapers) and old buildings and churches :)
My two favorite churches are both at Copley Place. At least, I'd say they were churches once... don't know if that's still the case...

And, of course, the parcs :) Or rather: the Public Garden - absolutely lovely!

Water! So much water! :) Beautiful, isn't it?

The University is surrounded by it, too :)

I'm now officially a fan of the atlantic :) It's pretty awesome.... Granted, we also had some extraordinary weather.... Maureen tells me it's still pretty warm for September. Well, it's just absolutely gorgeous!



I know, I know, I shouldn't spend so much money.... hmpf... but shopping is so much FUN! :) When you're in Boston, there are actually a couple of cool places to do some (window) shopping. One of them is certainly Harvard Square and the surrounding streets. They have some craft shops there, but they also have a pretty big 'City Sports' (and yes, this is a recommendation!), a 'Body Shop' (cannot live without that one, apparently...) and, of course, the Harvard Book Store!

On a side note: I caught a reading at the Harvard Bookstore on monday - Paul Auster! *yay* yeah... that was pretty awesome... :) 

Then there's Newbury Street (near the Boston Public Garden), which seems expensive at first, but the shops actually change along the road and you can find some pretty cool shops down the street! I personally recommend the 'Victoria's Secret' store: I'm officially a fan! There's also a nice little craft shop called 'Firefly' and some pretty cool places to get a nice and fast mani/pedi (wow, I sound so girly right now...) I can only recommend 'Lauren's Nails' so far. Haven't tried any of the other shops, but they were friendly and the basic mani/pedi is $ 35 - I can live with that.

Not far from Newbury Street is the Prudential Center. Apparently, this is also the place to be when you want a 360° skyline view of Boston, but I haven't tried that one yet... there are some shops in the center as well as a huge bookstore :) AND they have a Cheesecake factory :) *I'm in love* man... white chocolate macadamia nut caramel cheesecake... best dessert ever! :D

Another cool place to shop, especially if you're stuck with bad weather, is the Cambridge Galleria. It's near the green Line and it pretty much has all you need, from Sears and GAP over Old Navy, BestBuy and AmericanEagle to a small Macy's and, of course, Victoria's Secret. What more could a girl want? :)


Money Money Money

At the farewell meeting in Germany (as well as at the welcome meeting here in Boston), people told me that Boston is more expensive than Germany. And most of them seem to think that it's a lot more expensive... Well, here's what I think: Shopping (especially grocery shopping) is an art form. You have to know what you want and where to get it, you have to look for sales, be able to read labels and - in the case of being an exchange student from Germany in America - translate dollar into Euros and gallons into liters. Because, guess what, 2.50 for some Ice Tea might sound much, but if you translate it to a little under 2 Euros for 2 liters of Arizona Ice Tea... well, that seems fair to me :) Of course, some things are more expensive (cream for example... almost 4 dollars for a tiny little bit of cream makes it kinda hard to enjoy pasta Alfredo... but that's what Barilla is for ;) ) but there are so many more things that are actually a lot cheaper!

As for grocery shopping: there's a Shaws right at JFK/UMass. Now, Shaws is not exactly the discounter... but they have really good stuff and if you look around a little bit and go with the yellow sale-labels, its actually really not that bad! If you want to shop for less, there's a walmart in Quincy. Walmart is always good for a bargain or two :) And then there's haymarket of course. I still haven't managed to go there, but apparently it's THE PLACE to get all your fruits and veggies! I'll try it when I come back from Florida...

What shocked me personally where the prices for required books you have to pay at the UMass bookstore... man! $ 11 for a USED paperback novel? Yeah, I don't think so... Problem is, you will probably have to get at least the first book at the bookstore, because you usually need it for the second or third session already. However, if you have the time, buy the books online! Amazone.com is almost always cheaper (especially if you chose the used books). What also shocked me a little where the notebook prices. I seem to recall paying like 2 euros for a good notebook back in Germany (or less if you get them at ALDI). Here, the notebook I've seen so far start around $ 4.50.... The only upside is that those are UMass Notebooks (they have UMass Boston engraved in the front) which I found rather neat :)

I've decided this will be my official creative writing journal while I'm here :) Fits somehow...

So, as far as grocery shopping is concerned: don't sweat it. It might look more expensive, but most of that is just the currency and the fact that American measurements are different than European measurements :) And if all else fails, there's haymarket and the school (and most of the city) is full of water fountains. You'll survive ;)


UMass Welcome week....

....more like Umess... boy, what a week! First of all, UMass managed to change my name somewhere along the administration process, so I am now officially Caroline.... after 25 years of telling people to cut the e.... -.- The real panic attack began last week friday, when I checked in with the English department to ask for some changes with my classes and learned that I wasn't actually registert for any class *what?!* Yeah, turns out, when Lurlene writes "pre-reg" on the registration forms, that doesn't actually mean pre-registered - it means that you have to provide some kind of extra information (usually a transcript or course descriptions of some sort) so that the department can place you. Didn't know that!

Here's a tipp for all future exchange students: contact your department and register for classes via the department to make sure you're actually registered!

So, yeah, I wasn't registered for any classes... Luckily, the woman in the English department's admission office, Lisa Greggo, is a godsent :) She helped me with all my classes and managed not to get annoyed by my slightly panicky attitude :) Naturally, as far as classes concerned, I can only speak for the English and the American Studies department...

I registered for an English400 class - oh boy! The class consists of no less than seven (and yes that's SEVEN) book, five movies (none of which are watched in class), four response papers, three essays and a final take home essay. And that's ONE class! Welcome to college.... BUT, on the bright side, the professor is insanely charming and he obviously loves these books, which makes reading them so much more fun :) And, man, that man can talk! Never thought I'd meet someone who can talk almost twice as fast as I usually talk... Kinda scary... ;)

My other classes are writing classes, an introduction to creative writing (which really is very creative - I love it already!) and a "professional writing" class, which is pretty much an entirely different thing :) The professor has been a journalist for most of his life, which is pretty cool to begin with. He takes his time with formulating assignments though, which is slightly exhausting, but I'm sure I can cope :) Those two classes aren't as reading-intense, but then again they are writing classes, so I'm gonna have to write A LOT this semester :) (not that that is usually a problem for me...)

And then I needed a fourth class. After shifting my classes around and getting rejected for classes that I had actually wanted to take (no advanced poetry workshop -.-) I searched through the list again and found "Independent studies" with the American Studies department. Now, normally, only American Studies majors can take this class (and I normally am, but I'm registered with the English department at UMass) BUT I talked to the head of the department and presented my research topic (yep, a western of course!) and she suggested one of her colleagues, who does not only love Liberty Valance but has actually studied under Leo Marx! How cool is that? So I wrote him, kept my fingers crossed, believed in my lucky charm and... he'll be my supervisor for my research! *yay* I can start working on my BA thesis while I'm here! AND get three credits for that! I am SO happy right now! So, once again, a seemingly horrible scenario turned out to be JUST what I needed! Go figure ;)