Antwerp, Belgium: Diamond Capital Of The World

Antwerp Diamond Center Last week we took a class field trip to the diamond district in Antwerp.  Who knew that Antwerp, Belgium was the diamond capital of the world?! I certainly didn’t until I got here! However, 80% of the world’s uncut and unpolished diamonds go through Antwerp, and at least 50% of the worlds finished diamonds go through Antwerp.  So, when you buy a diamond, there is an extremely high chance that it has been in Antwerp at some point!

We went in one of the 4 polishing and cutting facilities, where we met the man who is in charge of all the operations of the facility.  All of the polishers have to report to him and get approval from him before they can be done with their diamond.  This company cuts and polishes all of the diamonds that are sold by Tiffany & Co!! I thought that was one of the coolest things ever!

Then we went to the open room where a lot of the diamond trading and buying/selling takes place.  The diamond industry is dominated by the Jewish community in Antwerp, and when you enter the room, it was Diamond Cutting and Polishing full of their heritage and culture! It was actually really interesting and neat to be able to see. We were not able to take any pictures inside the trading room because it is top secret and extremely private.  (Apparently, it was a huge deal for them to let us go in there!)

I learned a lot about diamonds and had no idea how much really went into the trading, buying, designing, cutting, and polishing of the diamonds! I also had no idea that 80% of the natural diamonds found in the world are used for industrial purposes, rather than jewelry that makes up only 20%!  Diamond powder is used for a ton of things that you would never guess it could be used for since it is such a hard stone.

All in all, I think this was one of my favorite field trips we have been on as a class! It was really interesting and I think I learned the most and took the more from this one than any of the others!

XOXO Kristen

 

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Passing Through Athens, Greece

αφήνει να πάει στην Αθήνα, Ελλάδα – Let’s Go To Athens, Greece

On our way back to Belgium from Santorini, we had a five hour layover in Athens where we stopped for a two hour bus/walking tour and a quick lunch!

We weren’t in Athens for a very long time, but I still noticed a lot of differences between Santorini and Athens! Athens is a city and is not located on the coast, so it is naturally more fast paced and is not a colorful and scenic.  The buildings were all taller and were also much darker than the white buildings in Santorini.  It was also extremely historic, being the one of the oldest cities in the world, it was expected to have a lot of that! A few of the things we saw were:

Zeus’s Palace.

Zeus's Palace Athens, Greece

The stadium from the first ever Olympic Games.

The Acropolis.

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The Parliament Building.

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The University.

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And then other historic and government buildings.

 

 

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XOXO Kristen

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Καλώς ήλθατε στη Σαντορίνη, Ελλάδα!

Welcome to Santorini, Greece!

Santorini, Greece After spending a day in Lake Garda and Milan, Italy, we headed to the airport and were on our way to Santorini!  Santorini was probably my favorite part of the whole trip.  It was absolutely gorgeous! For those of you who have seen the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it is where Lena goes in Greece when she visits her grandparents! AMAZING!

The first day we were there we went on a tour for a few hours where we got to see all the major tourist sites and attractions.  They were all really cool and of course all so pretty and I learned a lot about the island and the Greek culture.  After the tour, the bus dropped us off at the Black Beach where we got lunch and spent about 5 hours on the beach! The water was absolutely gorgeous, but it was so cold, and the bottom was all rocks instead of sand, so we had to get out far enough where our feet wouldn’t Me And Katie In Santorini, Greece touch really quickly!

After spending a full day on the beach, the girls and I along with the boys decided that we wanted to spend our free day on a boat, so we did a little digging, and the boys found a private boat for us to rent for the day that was actually really affordable.  That morning, we were all so excited for our boat ride.  We got up, had our breakfast at the hotel and set off for the boat!  It was so much fun for about the first 45 minutes, and then it hit me… the water was really choppy that day and I got extremely sea sick! So, for the next 4 hours I spent my time curled in a ball feeling extremely nauseous.  However, I did manage to swim in the hot springs of the volcano and I also went Snorkeling with everyone! Unfortunately, I missed the cliff jumping and a lot of the swimming along with the amazing lunch our captain made for us!

The next day was the day we were all dreading, the day we had to leave and head back to Belgium and back to the Monty.  On our way back, we had a 5 hour layover in Athens, where we took a break and went for a little bus tour…

XOXO Kristen

Santorini, Greece

Boating In Santorini, Greece

Costa Marina Villas In Santorini, Greece

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Day Trip to Lake Garda and Milan, Italy


lake garda Casually Road Tripping To Milan… Making a Pit Stop In Lake Garda, Italy

After leaving Venice, we hopped on a bus and started off on our way to Milan!  About half way in to our three hour ride, we stopped for lunch and a tour of a vineyard in Lake Garda, Italy.  Lake Garda was gorgeous!! It is the largest lake in Italy and the scenery and views all around the lake were amazing!

The tour of the vineyard was extremely interesting and I actually felt like I learned a lot! They taught us all about how the wine is made, and we got to see where they store the wine and how the barrels are positioned and moved during the fermentation process.  After the tour we got to the best part, the tasting! We tasted two different wines, both white.  One was a pinot and the other was a chardonnay.  They were both sparkling wines, which is basically the same thing as champagne (but it is not called champagne because it is made in Italy and not Champagne…)!  After we tasted the wine, we had a chance to go to the little shop and buy a bottle winery if we wanted.  I did not buy one, but a bunch of my friends did so I got to try theirs and I actually liked most of them! I am not a huge wine drinker (I usually stick to Moscato…) but surprisingly, I really enjoyed almost every one that I tried!

After the winery, we got back on the bus for our trip to Milan, and after another hour and a half of driving we finally made it! When we first arrived, we had a short walking tour of a few places.  We saw the palace, which was kind of cool but it was extremely crowded and we were only there for a few minutes.  After that we walked to the cathedral and it was amazing! It was really pretty and cool looking from the outside, but even more amazing on the inside! We were not allowed to take pictures inside unless you paid, so I did not take any, but it was gorgeous!

That night we went to dinner as a group and then we went out! Two of the boys on the trip turned 21 that IMG_3263 day so we celebrated their birthdays! How cool would it be to turn 21 in Milan, Italy!? The next morning, we woke up early and headed right off to the airport and headed to Santorini, Greece!

XOXO Kristen

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Benvenuti a Venezia, Italia

The first stop on our week long excursion was Venice, Italy.  It was absolutely gorgeous… one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen!!

Small Canal In Venice, Italy When we arrived at the hotel, which was actually in Lido (a small island off of Venice) we had a little time to change and get ready for dinner, and then we were off to Panchuka, a small restaurant on the beach for our first group meal in Italy!  It was so delicious!! We all had bread and a ton of appetizers (fried mozzarella, stuffed olives, fried vegetables, etc.), and then for my main course I had spaghetti with tomato sauce.  It was absolutely amazing!! Then, we all got dessert which was tiramisu, one of my favorite desserts ever!! After dinner, we stayed at the restaurant for a few hours and hung out at the bar, it was a lot of fun and everyone got to know each other a little better which was really nice.

gondola Our first full day in Venice, we went on a 5 hour walking tour (yup… 5 hours!), it was really really long, but we got to see a lot and I actually really did learn a lot too! After that we had free time in Venice and some friends and I went on a gondola ride! It was so awesome, I still can’t believe that I actually rode a gondola in Venice!

The next day was a free day to do whatever we wanted, so my friends and I decided to go back to the main island and go shopping.  We got some really cool stuff and I even tried Italian gelato, it was so yummy! Then we went back to Lido after hours of shopping and went to the beach for a little while.

Building In A Small Street In Venice The next day we left Venice, so when we woke up we had to be ready to go and we got on a bus and started off on our 3 hour drive to Milan!  Venice was absolutely amazing, one of the best places I’ve ever seen.  It is definitely somewhere I would go back one day and I think anyone who gets the chance to go definitely should!

XOXO Kristen

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Italy And Greece Anyone?

Gondola In Venice, Italy This weekend the whole group is going to Venice, Italy, Milan, Italy, and Santorini, Greece for 8 days! Since we arrived in Antwerp almost 2 weeks ago it has been rainy and really cold everyday, so to say I am excited about warm weather, sunny skies, and sandy beaches is an understatement!

I cannot wait to ride a gondola in Venice, visit a vineyard in Milan, and lay on the beach in Santorini! I am also extremely excited about finally getting a little bit of a tan. A few friends and I are going to Croatia for our next free weekend, so it will be nice to get a little color on my pale skin before that!

I am also so excited about this trip because of my Italian roots.  My mom’s side of the family Santorini, Greece has a lot of Italian in it, so I think it will be really cool to go to the place where so much of my family is from.  Italy has always been my ideal vacation, and a place I only dreamed that I would actually go, but I am so excited that it is actually becoming a reality so soon!

Stay tuned for more details about what will probably be the best week of my life!

XOXO, Kristen

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Bienvenue à Paris: Free Weekend #1

Eiffel Tower - Paris, France On our first free weekend, three of my good friends and I went to Paris! At the top of my list of places that I wanted to go, Paris did not fall short of any expectations I had – we had an amazing time!  While the people were not really the nicest (they did not like us at all!), my friends and I did not let that stand in the way of our fun, and we still had the time of our lives! Here are some of the highlights of our weekend…

Day 1:

The first full day that we were in Paris, we went went to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.  Both of these were things that I really really wanted to do while I was there, and both of them were amazing! We did not have the greatest weather while we were there (or really we have’t had the greatest weather at all while in Europe…), but when we were at the Eiffel Tower the weather was gorgeous, and the clouds started to move in while we were at the Arc, but it was still great weather for pictures!

Notre Dame in Paris, France- Hunchback of Notre Dame  Day 2:

The second day we were in Paris we went to the Louvre (where the Mona Lisa is…) and Notre Dame.  While we were going to these places we got a little side-tracked and did some shopping and also got a crepe! It was so good!We also saw the famous lock bridge on Sunday – so romantic! That day we definitely got hit with the bad weather.. it wasn’t raining when we woke up and got our day started, but then while we were out and about, it
started to pour!

The Famous Lock Bridge - Paris, France Day 3:

On the third, and last, day of our amazing weekend in Paris, we went to a huge indoor mall and just did some shopping because #1 it is the fashion capital of the world and #2 it was pouring
down rain all day long!  The mall that we went to was absolutely amazing!  They had everything you can possibly imagine… from Zara, H&M, MAC, and Michael Kors to little French boutiques that you would not find anywhere else, it was like my own little paradise.

Unfortunately, on top of all of our fantastic shopping, we also had to leave on Monday – but, as seems to be the theme of this trip so far, Louvre - Paris, France we couldn’t do that without having obstacles to overcome!  After a bunch of drama and stress over our train ticket to Brussels and the transfer from Brussels to Antwerp, we finally got a new ticket and were able to make it back to Antwerp in time to go out with everyone else in the program!

 

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Welkom Bij Antwerpen!

My Experiences Over The Frist Few Days In Antwerp, Belgium!

A Typical Street in Antwerp, Belgium We arrived in Antwerp about a week or so ago (after a few delays and problems with the engine!).  The day that we got here, we got to the Monty (the apartment/dorm building we’re staying in) and then we got our room keys and all of our sheets/bedding/towels and stuff, along with our cell phones (from like 1900..) and then we went up to our rooms to unpack and get settled in! That night, we went to dinner as a group and then we all went out together!

The first few days was basically just focused around getting used to the city (and country), and adjusting to the time difference!But after we were all adjusted, we got down to business and started having real classes and doing things as a group! A Famous Fry Place In Antwer

 

One day we went on a tour of Brussels and I learned so much about the city and Belgium as a
whole! I didn’t know that french fries were called “french fries” because American soldiers were in Brussels during WWI and had fries, but they thought they were in France so they called them “french fries”! (I did know that they were from Belgium though, because my grandpa told me when I was a lot younger – I can thank him for a lot of the trivia knowledge that I have!)

Belgian Chocolate Belgium is also known for its world famous chocolate! Being a chocoholic myself, naturally I was super excited when I found this out! My roommate and I tried chocolate and one place that we thought would be one of the best places.. we paid 5 euros for a tiny box of chocolates to share! It was good.. but it was not anything that I hadn’t ever had before or that I felt like I couldn’t get in the US, but I know that I will be trying more over my 6 week stay and I am almost positive (and really hopeful!) that some of it will be absolutely amazing!

Our Tiny Box Of Belgian Chocolate!

Then over our first weekend, three friends and I went to Paris for the weekend! Stay posted for more about my amazing weekend in Paris, France!

XOXO, Kristen

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Who Is Ready For Summer!?

Summertime Is Upon Us… Do You Have Anything Fun Planned?

University of Antwerp - Antwerp, Belgium Round 1:  Study Abroad – Trip To Belgium

For the first six weeks of the summer, I am studying abroad in Antwerp, Belgium at the University of Antwerp!  I am leaving this Saturday, May 11, and I will be back in the United States on Saturday, June 22!

While I am there, I am taking two classes – Global Marketing and Special Topics in International Logistics.  Both classes will be taught by professors from JMU who are traveling to Belgium with us, and both classes will be integrated and really tied together a lot!  In class, we will be assigned a group and we will be responsible for creating a business plan to bring an American product that is not currently available over seas, to Europe and then market it appropriately.

University of Antwerp - Antwerp, Belgium In addition to class and our school work, we will also be taking trips to Italy and Greece as a group, and then we will have two free weekends where we are free to travel wherever we choose!I am not positive yet where I am going to go for my two weekends, but my roommate and I are talking about Paris and Barcelona for one of them!

To say I am excited about my trip would be the understatement of the century!  I am absolutely ecstatic and extremely nervous all at the same time!  I cannot wait to experience life in Europe (I have never been to Europe before!) and get to travel throughout!  However, while I am super excited about the adventures that lie ahead, in the next two days I may not be feeling too happy… I have a TON of packing and shopping to do in order to get ready for my venture across the Atlantic!

Round 2:  Internship – New York City

After my six weeks abroad that I am spending in Belgium, I will be home for a little more than a week (June 22-July 1), and then I am headed to the most amazing city in the world, New York City!  I am going to the city for an internship in the fashion industry (yup, I did it!!).  After writing about a billion cover letters and almost ten interviews, I ended up getting four job offers (I know, I was shocked too!) and I ended up accepting two of them.

Company Agenda - Fashion PR Firm Internship #1:  Company Agenda

One of my internships is what you think of when you imagine an internship.. show up 2-3 days a week and do anything and everything you are asked to do.  I will be working for a PR firm in the fashion industry called Company Agenda, and is located in SoHo in New York City!  I have never done anything in PR and don’t have a ton of knowledge on the subject, but that is why I am so excited about this opportunity.  It is going to be an amazing opportunity to learn what I do/do not like and then go from there when I look for a real job after graduation!  My whole life I have dreamed of living in the city and working in fashion, and now it is finally happening!

I am extremely excited and anxious about starting my work with Company Agenda on July 2nd. But, I’m a little nervous since I have no where to live yet and I’m leaving the country in two days!! But I know everything will work out and I am so excited to see how it happens. (My parents are going to the city while I’m gone to find me a home away from home for the summer!)

Just SVARA - Online Retailer, Social Media Intern Internship #2:  Just SVARA

My second internship is with a start-up online retailer called Just SVARA, and is a virtual internship.  I will be working as a social media intern, and all my work will be done remotely. We will have weekly meetings either on the phone or on skype, and that is where the other interns and I will receive our assignments, present the work we have done, and pitch ideas that we think will be successful.  I am super excited about this, I already know that I love social media marketing and I am so eager to get started and see where it takes me!

While I am abroad, I am actually going to be acting as the European Correspondent, where I will simply email them once a week with pictures of things that I have done/places that I have been along with a few sentences about what the picture is!

As you can see, I have a super exciting, busy, and crazy summer ahead of me!  While I am going to be exhausted by the time September comes and it is time to go back to school, I could not be more excited to watch my dreams unfold!

XOXO Kristen

P.S. Stay posted for more about Belgium and my Internships!  I am leaving Saturday, so while I am away posts may be more spread out.  But stay tuned – they will definitely be here eventually! :)

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