It was a sunny day here in Munich. Thankful to have the day off, I tightened my dirndl, the traditional dress for Oktoberfest. The dirndl is a gift to women and men alike. It fastens in the front lifting the breasts and accentuating the waist enhancing the womanly figure of all that dare to wear the dirndl. With the girls up and ready, I jumped on the 164 bus with more than sixty eager guests making our way to the train station. The train ride into the city center was quick and entertaining. Hundreds of people sported their Oktoberfest dress and some traveled with beer in hand ready to drink their day away.
I was with friends of friends that day. Everyone was Aussie and ready to have a good time. I quickly bonded with a Aussie girl who helped me find the Lowenbrau tent, where I waited for twenty minutes until I ran into more Stoke staffers and friends. We waited outside the doors in the heat. My cheeks started to redden, and I grew inpatient. Just then a good looking Kiwi from the campsite welcomed me with a huge hug. He and friends had a table outside the tent and after a friendly invitation, I joined them for a stein.
The Kiwi was a fire fighter in Dublin and came with a friend who owns a marketing company in Dublin. The steins were delicious and the conversation was good. The friendly fire fighter slowly became too friendly and I excused myself to the toilet. The security guards welcomed me into the tent as I walked past the front doors, where an hour earlier I waited impatiently. I took that as a sign from God to join the fun into the tent.
Thousands of people surrounded tables all throughout the beer tent. It was like walking into a VIP party where everyone is considered VIP. Thankfully I easily spotted the Stoke staff amongst the 10,000 festival goers. I joined them and quickly forgot about my need to pee. The tents go completely mad when certain songs come on. For example, when the life band begins to play “Sweet Caroline,” the crowd goes mad. People hop up into their benches with their stein in hand. Some take the liberty to stand atop the table. It’s glorious.
A newly made friend and I scouted out a good place to sit. We made friends with the people next to us mostly because they had food. The three of them had ordered enough food for five people. So once they left the table, Strappy and I helped ourselves to delicious sausages, potatoes and pretzels. Life couldn’t be better. Drinking the best beer around, eating free food and having good laughs all afternoon.
The boys were gunning to ride the rides all day. So as we finished our steins, we made our way out of the beer halls and toward the roller coaster. Not many know that Oktoberfest includes a giant carnival with rides and carnival games. The roller coaster is not just some set-it-up-in-a-day-dinky-roller- coaster. It was a full out roller coaster with multiple upside down loops and drops. I doubt riding it after two steins was the smartest move, but after giggling my way through the whole ride, I can tell you that riding the roller coaster at Oktoberfest is a highlight of my trip. It was amazing. We also rode another upside down ride called High Energy. From up there, you see the tops of all the halls and all the thousands of people enjoying the Oktoberfestivities. It was a beautiful sight. The sun was setting to the West and the sight was magnificent.
The boys wanted to display their manliness by playing a shooting game. They were sweethearts and won me a little lamb. The lamb paired with the rose they bought me earlier made me a very lucky girl. I had drank steins in Oktoberfest, ate delicious food, rode rides and was making my way back to the campsite via taxi. Life was good.
That concludes my first experience in Oktoberfest. As a tease, the first experience has nothing on the second. Oktoberfest is amazing.
The British Summer Institute
This past summer, I participated in the British Summer Institute, a study abroad program through the University of Kansas Honors Program. The program focused on British literature and British art history. We split our time in England and Scotland, and whether it was in the coursework or outside at cultural excursions — even conversations at a local pub taught me something. I gained:
- knowledge of British history
- understanding of British customs — both English and Scottish
- cross-cultural experience
- better understanding of United Kingdom’s political and educational systems
- sense self-reliance
- independence I proved that my
- adaptive capabilities and
These experiences in the UK would continue to improve and help me discover a world much larger than myself.
First Time Abroad
I had my first trip outside of the United States in June 2009 when I participated in an Italian language study abroad program through the University of Kansas. I lived with an host family in Florence, Italy, which taught me to be an ambassador for KU and the US. The language barrier was difficult at times but always provided some strange looks and many laughs at the dinner table, which we would be at for to at least three hours every night. I enhanced both my written and oral Italian language communications skills through the intensive language courses. I gained a truly remarkable experience through cultural tours and culinary courses. At time I did not know it, but this study abroad program has shaped my entire college career into something so much better than anything I could’ve imagined.
After I completed the Italian study abroad program, I spent nearly eight months backpacking from June 2009 to January 2010. I first traveled extensively through Europe for eight months. I developed first-hand knowledge and understanding of the Italian, Spanish and Scandinavian cultures. I visited a family in Denmark and saw a glimpse of what the Scandinavian way of life is. After traveling northern Europe, I took an overnight train through Germany and France, and then found myself committing to San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain. Running with the Bulls at the age of 19 was not exactly how I thought I’d be spending my time now was it a goal of mine, but the experience changed the way I look at life. Now that I have experienced the culture of adventure travel, my bucket list has tripled in size. After leaving Europe, I traveled the West and volunteered in Northern California. During my time volunteering and driving across America, I realized that I can learn so much from traveling in my own country, especially considering the size and diversity of the US.
At the end of my travels, I traveled extensively throughout New Zealand for eight weeks, which was followed by a month in Australia. My semester spent backpacking taught me more than I could have ever anticipated. I proved my independence and gained motivational skills and problem-solving skills. I demonstrated flexibility and adaptability. I also learned about budgeting and planning. These skills have continued to help me succeed and as I grow and foster these skills, I will succeed in so many aspects of life.
This past summer after my study abroad program in the United Kingdom, I flew to the other side of the world to backpack Peru with six of my friends. I expected this trip to be full of laughter and girls’ nights. And although the trip encompassed both of those, what really struck me about the trip was that it also opened my eyes to a continent I knew little about. A year prior to departure, I enrolled in Spanish 111 solely for my personal benefit because I knew I would be traveling to South America. Although I am relatively proficient in Italian, Spanish proved to be more difficult for me to pick back up. I completed the highest advanced placement Spanish courses in high school, yet I quickly realized that my Spanish skills had slipped away. My time in Peru was one of the best weeks I have spent abroad not only because I was with my good friends but because I truly prepared for months to better understand the culture. My preparation for this trip made a huge difference in my experience. Although, my Spanish would be considered elementary, it was great to comprehend most of the spoken language. From this experience, I am encouraged to continually educate myself to better understand the world around me.
Interested in South America
While in Lima we visited a terrorism museum, where I learned about the Shinning Path. I had never heard of the Shinning Path and this dark period in Peru full of genocide and violence. What struck me most about these events was that they occurred while I was alive. Granted I was young, but this cultural experience taught me that you can be so far-removed from a culture without even knowing it. I want to strive for better understanding of the world. I now have a newfound interest in South America, but then again there is not a part of the world I am not interested in.
During my times spent abroad, I have paid close attention to the role of language. After returning to the University of Kansas in 2010, I have focused my time on volunteering with non-native English speakers to empower them to learn English. This passion for international students and my interest in teaching English stemmed from my time abroad in 2009 to 2010. I continue to engage in international student events to continue my global understanding.
A year ago, I had a short-term internship as the Communications Director for Dundori Orphans Project, a non-profit organization that a KU undergraduate stated. As Communications Director, I was in charge of social media and event coordination for the project as well as the communications of the group. I developed creative content for the website, which I edited alongside a web designer.
Now I write
Now personally, I continue to write about my travels and connect with other travel writers through a network of social media and blogs. Through an independent study with a journalism professor, I created and designed a personal promotional website that tends to present itself as a travel blog. I create content and make connections around the world through the incredible power of the Internet paired with the written word. I never thought that a classroom project could lead to an independent study that would allow me to engage with over 35,000 online visitors in a few short months. The website has opened so many doors. I have been published on the Sports Illustrated website, and now, I write for the USA TODAY college blog as a College correspondent. I have even connected with travel writers from around the world online and even in person – a woman and I met in Peru to chat about freelance options. This website, www.sarahdweaver.com, is more than a simple personal blog; it proved to me that I can create a product that not only promotes me but promotes international understanding.
I am studying abroad. To those of you that read this, roll your eyes and ask, “Really, Sarah? Again?”, I say “Yes, again!!” I’m doing yet another short-term study abroad program. You won’t be able to reach me over winter break because I will be basking in the sun and falling in love with Costa Rica.
Costa Rica, here I come! Expect much more on Costa Rica on my blog. The course I’m taking is titled, “Travel writing and the Costa Rica experience.” Perfection. It is as if Dr. Mary Klayder developed this program and course with me in mind. I do not think I could have thought up a better course.
Consider Lonely Planet my new boyfriend – not that I ever stopped loving Lonely Planet.
picture via screenshot of Lonely Planet site
Visit Lonely Planet’s Costa Rica web page. This website is my new homepage on my google chrome. So much for studying; senioritis has officially set in. Costa Rica is on my mind.
via Red Bull YouTube
There is something about Scotland that will call you. It triggers your inner barbarian – making you want to be brave, adventurous and seek more than you did the day before.
This is one of the coolest videos I’ve captured. One of the AJ Hackett Bungy workers, Connor Lamont, does a crazy jump right before our eyes. Connor says that he and fellow employees jump nearly everyday. I did the Nevis jump that day. Expect that video soon! Check out the AJ Hackett YouTube channel for some cool videos.
Two Years Ago Today… I was driving around San Fran without a care in the world.
photo credit: weheartit
Post from August 27, 2009
Jess and I went to the California State Fair in Sacramento with Trevor and his friend,John. I realized it was my first state fair.
My Goal: to see a carnie.
Complete Success: I saw lots.
Jess had me ride a ride with her called the “Orbiter.” I laughed so hard I cried. It was the fastest spinning ride I have ever been on and the scariest. I’d like to think I love thrill rides and it takes a lot to scare me, but goodness, this was so scary. I might have peed a little.
We then spent the night at Trevor’s apartment in El Dorado Hills. He was sweet to have us, especially at last moment’s notice and because he is in the process to moving to Elk Grove.
Aug 27: Trevor took us to a coffee shop near by for bagels. I had a delicious drink and bagel, which was a good start to our long day that we spent driving to and around San Francisco.
Jess and I checked out Sausalito, a quant coastal little town. Also known as a tourist trap. We met an Italian artist, whom I shared a breif conversation in the beautiful language Italian. I was happy with my rememberance of the wonderful language. We then ate at an Italian Ristorante, Angelino’s. This was a disaster, but such a good thing to laugh about now. Jess doesn’t like seafood or tomatoes, so this was an interesting situation. Now we know, no Italian.
After Sausalito, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf. We continued to check out tacky sovieners and sweatshirts, which is always a good time. Dinner was my favorite part of the day. I had “award-winning” crab chowder at Blue Mermaid. It was to die for. I want to drive back into the city today to have it again, but sadly, I will not be doing so.
Last night after dinner, we headed to Berkeley to visit more friends. I met David Pauland his good-looking roommates, Jordan and Ryan. It was a grand time. AJ Ludlowjoined us at Davis’.
After 7-11 Slurpee’s and Guitar Hero, we called it a night and headed to AJ’s. Today Jess and I are headed to lunch at Smart Alec’s and then headed south for more adventures.
Thank you to AJ and Davis for a wonderful stint in Berkeley. Hope you have a wonderful year in quite the exciting little town.
So, two years ago I was road trippin’ Nor Cal – meeting carnies, riding rides, makin’ memories. Two years later, it is Today. Today I had to get my car window fixed because someone vandalized my car. Life changes but I’m still smiling.
Two Years Ago Today.. I was skydiving in Spain.
There we are enjoying ourselves in Northern Spain when good ol’ Englishman Richymentions skydiving. Skydiving?! Jumping out of a moving plane? (Yes, Grandpa, a functioning plane). Voluntarily putting on a parachute and jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft at ten thousand feet or so? Sounds like a great idea, Richy.
“I’ve always wanted to go sky diving,” was basically the group consensus as we sat around chatting that evening in San Sebastian.
Before we knew it, Alex, Brett and I were packed into Richard’s car headed to the East Coast of Spain for a Sunset Jump the following evening.
Hours of On-The-Go playlists and sharing popular music from our homelands was really fun minus the no A/C on a hot day during Spain’s summer. As I stuck to the seat with my thigh stuck to Brett’s, I looked out the window to appreciate the mountainous view.
Spain really was beautiful. They had such an array of scenery to offer. I felt like I was in the mountains of the Rockies then the desert of Arizona then the wooded areas of Kentucky. The boys appreciated my American comparisons or at least pretended to.
After six long hot hours and a few glorious ice cream pit stops, we made it toBenicassim, which is near Castello, between Barcelona and Valencia on the East Coast. A McDonalds beckoned us in with its air condition and WiFi. In a weak moment, I ordered a Big Mac. To everyone’s surprise it was my first Big Mac . Not just my first Big Mac in Europe or Spain, which itobviously was, but my first Big Mac ever. I was decently impressed with it, I guess.
As I enjoyed my high-class meal, Richard called the sky diving place. He informed us that there was not a sunset jump that night, but they invited us out to check out the jump site. Richard happens to be a licensed skydiver, which means he can do jumps by himself. Whereas, the two Australians and I had never sky dived and in that case would be doing what they call a Tandem jump, where you are strapped to another person, who has the parachute and all the good ol’ responsibility of our lives and all.
After a fulfilling meal, we headed out to the jump site. We show up around eight as the sun begins to set. We meet the sky divers and what looked like most of their family just hanging out. A family-run sky diving business perhaps? It had a nice friendly feel regardless of the lack of English speaking that was going on. Good thing my Spanish isn’t too shabby.
Richard never fails to surprise us.
“We are jumping tonight!” he tells us with excitement. I really wish that someone could have documented Brett and I’s faces. I was shocked, but still stoked. They told us we would jump in an hour. Time flew by as we tried to find an ATM and shoes for me since I through my Sperry’s away after they were destroyed when running with the bulls. Also, there was a contract to be signed, which was 100% in Spanish. Is it bad that I find this little detail hilarious? Yup, I signed it.
Before I knew it, Brett and Alex were up in the plane with Richard and I on the ground patiently awaiting their return. When they returned, they looks like seven-year-boys on Christmas morning. Their excitement even after jumping out of the plane gave me much relief. The boys faces were precious and priceless.
When it was time, I got into the tiny little plane with five other people – one being Richy, which gave me comfort at a time of complete chaos. We ascend into the air. With broken English, the camera lady and I held a weak conversation. Carlos, who was sitting next to me, was about to do his 89th jump. How crazy!
I will never forget the view from that little plane. The plane climbed higher and higher. Out my window you could only see ocean. The other side of the plane offered a perfect view of the sun setting behind the mountains. Carlos and the camera lady agreed that this was the best time to jump— sunset jumps simply offer something that others can’t. Carlos even added that this was one of the best places to jump. Richy agrees that Benicassim is the prettiest jump he has ever done, which is upwards of forty or fifty jumps now. Without hesitation, I can say that I am so thankful that my first sky diving experience was somehow so beautiful. The view was breathtaking and I will never forget it.
When it came time to think about jumping, I hopped up on my tandem jumper’s lap. I think his name was Sabe. He didn’t speak much English. The camera lady was leaning over me hooking me up to Sabe. She seemed busy at work then all of the sudden she paused and sat back. She looked at me with utter concern and said, “You can’t jump today.” Her face screamed disappointment to the max. I am sure my face showed the same devastation. “The strap is broken,” she continued. I gave her a look that regardless of what language you speak said, “What the heck?!”
“I’m just kidding,” she said.
“Oh funny,” I replied feeling half annoyed and the half of me didn’t even care that she did kind of get me. Okay, she got me really good, but I was so stoked that my jump was still on.
We continued to have a broken-English conversation about how Spaniards are always so serious. Her sarcasm humored me.
Then we were there: thirteen thousand feet. Time to jump. They rolled up the door, which was basically just a tarp. Carlos and I did a sky diver hand shake that they taught me, and then he was gone. Carlos was out of the plane. What did that mean to me? My turn! Sabe scooted us over to the door. I was still on his lap. He was sitting on the edge of the plane with his legs dangling out of the plane. Meaning I was dangling completely out of the plane.
I love this part of the story because Sabe didn’t ask stupid questions like, “Are you ready?” I always think this is an idiotic question at this point in time because what if I wasn’t ready? What would he do sit there until I was? I am glad he didn’t ask and glad he didn’t do a stupid count down. He just went. We went. I was plummeting to the ground at a whopping speed of about 140 mph. My face was shaking. My whole body was shaking from the wind speeds. I had never felt so free. It was the most exhilarating thing I have ever done. Well at least that day. Then Sabe tapped my shoulder, which meant I needed to cross my arms again for the pulling of the parachute.
After a few moments, it wasn’t coming out. Sabe yelled all these Spanish things I didn’t understand. The ground was coming near. I started seeing white lights. My life became a blur. I’m just kidding. The chute released perfected and all was well. However, it did hurt my legs because of the strong pull of my harness. No complaints. I am happy it worked.
With the chute pulled, I was able to enjoy the beautiful view at an amazing height. The sun was perfectly setting and was peaking over the mountain range in the West. While below me the waves looked so miniscule as they crashed up against the shore. TheOcean looked endless from up there. It was the most peaceful experience I have ever had. This might sound insane being that I was falling to the ground after jumping out a plane at 13,000 feet. However, it is true. It was peaceful just floating above the city with no cares in the world. Well, except surviving thisexperience.
I did though. I survived. Greatest experience yet. I am already planning my next jump. Hope I live to tell about that one, too.
-Post from August 11, 2009
Two years ago I was jumping into cars with strangers and jumping out of planes in Spain. Today I am moving into Kappa Alpha Theta sorority in Lawrence, Kansas. Life changes but I’m still smiling.