Other Reasons to Study in Europe Besides Lower Tuition Fees

I am currently researching other Master’s and short-term exchange programs that have either a certificate component or can give me college credits to transfer to a social sciences degree, because I would still prefer to complete my studies in Germany or Austria someday. Other than some perks that I will be outlining for you, it just makes more sense for the career I am pursuing if I study in German. Everybody “goes on and on” about either significantly lower or free tuition in European countries, especially in the United States where the cost of education is so astoundingly high. There’s more to it, though. That lower tuition fee comes with a lot of hard work, and also sometimes having to pay higher prices for other things such as fees, tuition for preparatory courses, and expensive certification tests.

I would also like to point out that simply getting in to a European study program with lower tuition or none at all is not easy, or else I’d be doing it right now. The clickbait articles listing countries with free or extremely low tuition online often fail to mention the criteria native students have to fulfill, and then the usually higher criteria foreign students are supposed to maintain. For instance, in Germany citizens there have to attend and graduate a special kind of high school to be eligible for university, or else pass private exams (similar to our ACT and SATs in the U.S.) to prove they are able to study. The same thing applies to foreign students wishing to study in Germany without a first bachelor’s degree, and if they attended a school system in their home country that wasn’t an International Baccalaureate program, or didn’t include enough similar study subjects to what high schoolers learn in Germany, then they are required to take additional basic courses that come with a hefty price tag for non-citizens. In addition, if you can’t prove German proficiency at C2 level with either a TelcDeutsch, Goethe, TestDAF, or ÖSD certificate, then you have to take preparatory languages courses through the university or through a public school associated with the university. This is also expensive, compared to tuition.

Also, notice that I did not list a Bachelor’s in German language and Culture as proficient proof of German language ability! My Bachelor’s was taught mostly in German and I majored in German language and culture. However, none of the German universities I have been in contact with will accept my BA and transcripts as proof of ability to speak at C1 or C2 level. However, my transcripts were accepted as proof of B2 level German proficiency by the University of Vienna, though, when I applied for the transcultural communication program. BUT, the University of Vienna has since changed its standards for language proficiency for Bachelor’s programs, and now only accept proof of C1 level German for new candidates through the same certificate programs I previously listed.

If you want to have the European uni experience and don’t have the finances to seek out an American degree that is as intensive and equivalent to a European degree, or if you aren’t fluent in a second language spoken in the country you’d like to study in (C2 is the highest achievable level of fluency), or if you aren’t a good exam taker or simply don’t have the funds to invest in all the test prep, exams, and language prep required, you ought to consider other options. Studying abroad for a semester or two through a U.S. study program, or partaking in a fulbright Teaching assistantship or research program would be a better option for you, and may also help you to achieve what you need to complete a postgraduate degree overseas.

Yeah, there are English language degrees in Europe. But in my experience, they always come with a higher tuition that you have to pay out of pocket, because Europe doesn’t have a student loan system. They’re also mostly limited to students who have Bachelor’s in the social sciences (law, international studies, economics, international business, political studies, etc.). I found as  a humanities student–although my degree included several social science courses–I am excluded from these English-only Master’s programs, anyway. In an upcoming blog post, I’d like to list some short-term programs and exchanges that I’ve learned about over the years that are open to undergraduate students and would provide you with the European uni experience and networking opportunities. In this post, though, I am covering the perks of study in Europe.

1. More Cost-efficient Alternatives to Overpriced Textbooks

I didn’t have to buy textbooks while studying in Brno, and also later while in Vienna. My professors at Masaryk University posted excerpts of the chapters or texts they wanted us to read on their course web pages. The only con of this was if it was done by a professor, who still hadn’t honed his/her copy machine skills then some parts of the text would be missing or the entire text would be extremely difficult to read. In Vienna, I copied the texts directly from the library and saved them to a USB stick. The only con here is that the library at the translation and interpreting faculty is so small with limited copies of textbooks, and only one copy machine. In the beginning of the school year, there’d be a line of students out the door trying to get their texts for the semester. I did end up buying one of the textbooks because I wanted to review it other places besides in bed in my dorm on my laptop. But the cost of the textbook was also significantly cheaper than what it would be in the U.S. 12 Euros is not unreasonable.

2. Cheap Student Cafeterias with Healthier Options

Something I loved about Brno and that I notice university systems in Germany also have were mensas. Mensas are cafeterias where they sell cheap but filling student meals. In Brno, there were two mensas within 2 minutes of my residence hall, so if I didn’t want to grapple with my small, limited dorm kitchen I could just go there. There was also a mensa close to my faculty in Brno, and also two university-owned cafes nearby that sold lunch items and had full espresso bar menus, so it was super easy to eat on the go or between classes and also study. It was also less expensive to eat in student cafes and mensas than it is in the U.S. Also, German mensas seem more serious about presenting healthy, vegan and vegetarian options. I say “more serious” because many American universities “talk the talk” when it comes to this issue. But I’m always disappointed when most of the choices available for me are neither healthy nor vegetarian and also not suitable to make a full meal from. They aren’t cheap either. Or the employees cook the vegetarian and vegan food in with the same cooking oil they cooked meat in, so it’s not unusual for me to have a vegetarian option that tastes like hamburger or bacon grease.

3. Inexpensive Student Housing

I didn’t have the opportunity to do the dorm experience in the U.S. so I can’t actually compare it. But I would like to point out I didn’t have that opportunity because it would have been completely unaffordable for me, as tuition was also unaffordable and I had already had to take out loans and find grants and scholarships to cover those costs first. I did get to live on campus, though, when I studied in Brno, because European countries ACTUALLY HAVE AFFORDABLE STUDENT HOUSING. A perk of studying abroad for me was that I don’t feel like I missed out on the on-campus student experience. For students who choose to go to college locally and live at home or in an affordable roommate arrangement, studying abroad is a great opportunity to make up for foregoing the “Going Away for College” experience.

Also, I realize that student housing in the U.S. presents students some employment opportunities. However, the Student Housing Associations in Austria and Germany, I think, have a much more extensive network of student employment opportunities, especially since the student housing associations are also responsible for mensas, and also offices that specifically are intended to assist students with achieving an acceptable quality of life while they complete their studies. Many housing associations arrange language courses too, which can also be an employment opportunity for students. Anyway, this point made me think of another perk of studying abroad. . .

4. Opportunities to Learn a New Language or Improve Already Existing Knowledge of a Foreign Language

Usually when I meet students who go abroad, it’s because they are either language majors or minors and want to undergo a complete cultural immersion in the language they study. This was the reason why I initially have ever wanted to go abroad. When I was a Rotary student, I had wanted to study abroad in Norway, because I wanted to learn Norwegian. In St. Louis, Missouri at the time, there were no opportunities for high schoolers to learn Norwegian to the level of actually being able to use it. Sure, I bought a “Teach Yourself Bokmal Norwegian” book with a disc set. However, this only covered up to A2 and gave me no opportunities to practice speaking it. Well, Rotary Norway didn’t accept my application, so I chose a German-speaking country instead, because I had already been learning German and being immersed in a German-speaking culture would help me become even more proficient than my high school classes could. I chose to study in Czechia for the same reason, because I wanted to learn Czech but I couldn’t find any classes for me that were beyond tourist basics.

There are other reasons why students would want to study abroad, like competitive programs in certain fields, or wanting to experience traveling around a country or region. For that reason, I am including the opportunity to learn a foreign language. As I mentioned, housing organizations and international clubs managed by universities often provide free or inexpensive opportunities to learn the local language, or the languages of other international students. In Czechia, I taught beginning German to other international students through the international club at Masaryk University. This course was free, as were the other evening courses through this program, as long as you were a member of the international club. In the next point, I will go over some further perks of joining an international club at your host university. Not only would it be helpful to build a basic understanding of the language in the country you are spending a semester or two in. But this experience could lead to further opportunities to learn the language at a more advanced level when you return to the U.S. And I don’t think it needs to be said already what other opportunities you may have after graduating if you can master another language to B2 level.

5. Deals for Students in Europe that make Travel Cheaper and more easily Accessible

This topic will have its own post–or posts, because the deals available for students varies by country. However, many of the deals overlap and can be used in other countries too. My youth Vorteilscard made it possible for me to travel around Austria on scenic routes. Otherwise, train tickets are quite expensive. There are Vorteilscards for people over 26, but it does cost a little bit more and I think the discounted fare is a bit higher than what youth card carriers receive. I traveled extensively with Regiojet while in Czechia, and also when I returned to Austria. Despite being too old for their youth rates, I still have ISIC membership via my student banking account with Sparkasse, so I could apply that to my order information for a discount. Even if I didn’t have access to discounts, though, I would still travel with Regiojet because their fares are generally lower than competitors, they have excellent free entertainment options and services, and each trip comes with complimentary cups of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

I don’t regret being a member of the international club at Masaryk University. I wish I could have had a similar experience in Vienna, but I couldn’t find any information about such a club, and I think I was excluded from being contacted by the international office about such opportunities because I didn’t have to apply as an international student since I wasn’t on a short-term exchange program. There is some kind of weird gray area between Austrian citizen students and international students on short-term arrangements, which includes international students with Austrian social security numbers, who for some reason do not end up in the radar of the international office. This is one of the things I found problematic about the organization structure of Uni Wien. Anyway, not to get too far off on this negative tangent–I had wanted to discuss being a part of an international club. Not only did I have access to evening courses in Czech and other languages, the club also organized weekend and day trips around Czechia and Europe. I participated in a Prague weekend, and did a day trip to a castle. My orientation seminar included a hike, a guided tour through a cave in Moravia, and a tour of a local brewery with beer tasting. There was also a weekend exchange between the University of Vienna and Masaryk, where international students can go to Vienna and experience what it’s like to be a student there, and Austrian international students could come to Brno. There were also trips to Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Poland. Aside from being a great resource for travel destinations, the international club was also a community and helped me to find a place while I was living in Brno. I never felt alone.

In future posts, I intend to highlight these topics more in-depth and provide direct resources. It’s just that this post has become so long already. I can’t imagine someone reading through this entire blog post if I included all the resources I have too. As always, if you have any questions for me about life in Austria or Czechia as a U.S. American student, working abroad, traveling around Europe, etc., hit me up in the comments!

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The Return of the Blog: Austria and my Hiatus from Blogging

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog. I originally stopped blogging because I accepted a teaching assistantship in Austria. I had to focus all my energy in meeting the demands of teaching at two schools. I didn’t realize that I would be entering into a position supervised by someone, who would never be happy with what I did. The teaching assistantship didn’t lead to a teaching career for me, and I was burnt out of the teaching field because it ended up that one of the schools I taught in had a toxic work environment. The unreasonable demands and conflicts with scheduling at my main school took far more of my time than it should have. This left me with minimal time for my other school, which  displeased my supervisor there. Therefore, my first impression of teaching in secondary schools was extremely negative. (It would have been nice if someone from the other school would have listened to me, though, when I explained my concerns.) The director of my teaching assistantship ended up pulling me out of my main school before my contract was up, due to the toxic situation.

The following year, I moved to Vienna to do the entrance exams for the transcultural communication Bachelor’s of Arts program at Uni Wien. I had originally wanted to do their translation Master’s program. However, higher education in the U.S. is a bit outdated on the standards that students must meet to do translation Master’s degrees in Europe, or in general, since I can’t find an affordable, quality program in the U.S. either. I suppose it’s my fault for not knowing exactly what I wanted when I was 18. But the Bachelor’s degree I received is not sufficient for me to do a translation Masters anywhere I’ve looked. I kind of regret not double-majoring in communications, because not having enough credits in my comm. minor to do a comm. Master’s in Europe has also hindered me in my search for Master’s degree programs taught in German, since Communication Management was my backup plan. Either way, it looks like I have to do a second BA if I want to switch fields. I don’t want to take out anymore loans to do in the U.S, since it’s my goal to study in a German-speaking country.

While in Vienna, I did open WordPress several times and stare at a blank document. I  didn’t know what to say. As time went on and I stayed away longer from blogging, it became more difficult to think of “interesting things” to write about. Not to mention, my time in Vienna was extremely turbulent as well.  I ended up trashing the idea of studying at the University of Vienna, as I was not happy with the translation and interpreting faculty.  Not only were the amenities very bare-bones–but I was not happy with the quality of assistance and feedback I received. I have colleagues in the Master’s program, who have recently expressed to me their unhappiness with that program that I would be putting 3 years into a second B.A. in just to reach. One person I know recently left the program completely and is looking at other options. I don’t want to waste three years of my life only to be dissatisfied with the M.A. program too.

That semester I started my studies (in 2016), the transcultural communication entrance exams and the entire program itself also changed. What’s resulted is an increase of negative student reviews on studycheck.at and confusion in the student-run facebook groups. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one leaving the BA program dissatisfied. I’m not the only one, who seemed to be presented with an impossible situation. I could not even sit for my entrance exams, which I worked so hard to study for that winter semester. Previously, the faculty had students register for STEOPs and exam via a paper system in the office–you’d fill out a form and leave it in a designated mailbox. That semester, they switched to the electronic registration system the other faculties used through the uni portal website. However, there was no way to check to see if your registration went through, except that it would show up on your page. My STEOP registrations did show up on my page. But during the holiday break, they suddenly disappeared and there was no one in the office to assist me. By the time holiday break ended, it was too near to the exam dates for anyone to do anything for me (or the staff then just didn’t want to be bothered *casts shade*). So I will become a translator some other way, I suppose.

I am reviving the blog to write about travel tips I have amassed over the last 8 years. I sure don’t have much to show for a career, but I do know how to make your travels around Central Europe easier and more interesting. I would also like to write more in-depth about university student life in Austria and some concerns I had that are shared with other students I’ve encountered.

I’m frustrated with myself for being too depressed and stressed out to continue blogging while I had such a great opportunity in Vienna. This could have been a means of getting myself out of my student apartment and experiencing more than I did. I was often upset or ill, though. There was too much stress in my life from trying to pass those exams, and then later trying to build up a freelance career in something else so that I would have enough evidence to apply for a residence permit as self-employed. Obviously, that didn’t work out either.

I would also be happy to take requests from readers–if I can figure out this SEO thing and find more readers–if you have any questions about:

  • Life in Austria
  • Technical immigration stuff (since I did all that crap by myself and managed when many do not–Austria is a difficult country to legally migrate to)
  • General travel tips for Central Europe
  • TEFL programs for young people, etc.

Hit me up in the comments.

 

Eye-Catching Book Covers

I saw this article in my Twitter #Discover feed nestled between an article about some busy-body Americans who fear that the Austrian tradition of the Krampus (link to a video of the annual Krampuslauf in Graz, Austria in case you are unfamiliar with Austrian traditions) is going to corrupt the children–because. . .the Devil, that’s why–and some anecdotal tweets about the best books of 2013. Between all this chaos of moral uproar and best of lists, I found Flavorwire’s “Best Book Covers of 2013“, which made me wonder if this year was really not that great of a year for book covers. Or maybe I just disagree with them on what the criteria are for a good book cover. Although, I’m not going to outright say that because I directly linked to them and I think that they have a right to an opinion, just as anyone else does. Also, I haven’t seen all the book covers of 2013, so maybe I can’t really say that this year was just not a good year for book covers. (But I kind of said it anyway, so oh well.)

But Flavorwire’s article has inspired me to write my own list of good book covers–as in, the book covers that would make me actually pick up a book and read the plot description or the first page. So this–Nikki’s list of Good Book Covers through the Ages (classic reprints and alternate covers also included)–now exists.

1.) No Saints or Angels, by Ivan Klima (English edition)

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Why this is a good cover:

There is something hauntingly beautiful about the angle at which the photo of this already hauntingly beautiful angel was taken. It’s also a great representation of Czech culture, with a little bit of irony thrown in (with some help from the title). But Klima’s (I don’t have a Czech keyboard, so I apologize for the misplaced accent) books usually have some interesting cover images. I don’t know if it is because I just like the Czechs’ visual preferences, or if perhaps the theme of the book itself makes these kind of cover image choices an option.

Another good book cover belongs to Klima’s Waiting for the Dark Waiting for the Light:

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The nude woman with a fit body aside, I think the photograph offers not only a lovely setting (old fashioned windows thrown open and that broad sill), but also the photographer has made good lighting and coloring choices and the pose of the model evokes really strong emotions in the viewer, considering it is a book cover. The model seems deep in thought and as though she is waiting for something–like she’s tormented by something, but also perhaps that she is anxious and on the look-out for something or someone that she expects to come. If the cover photo/image itself can make me speculate about what is going on in it, then I’m going to pick up the book. I expect the book to be an explanation of what is going on in the cover, or the cover somehow relating to the theme(s) of the book.

2.)Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Looney Bin, by Norah Vincent

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I picked this book up to read because I was writing a research paper on the differences between the various options we have for people with mental illness in the United States (spoiler alert: the best options are financially out of reach for a majority of people with mental illness). After going about 5 years since I’ve read this book, I still recall loving the cover. Even if the subject of the book was not relevant to a project I was doing or I didn’t have to read it for whatever reason, I still would have picked this book up and read it from cover to cover. I guess I like this cover because it is relevant–again–to the content of the book. It isn’t just a colorful gimmick intended to catch a book store browser’s eyes. It gives a visual point-of-reference to the settings explored within the book.

3.) The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (Multiple editions)

2000 Harper Perennial Classics Modern Edition:

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2005 Harper Perennial Classics Modern Edition (I own this version):

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1971 Harper & Row Edition:

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While writing this, I’m recalling that I have a bit of a flare for the dramatics in my daily life, so of course these covers are going to be on my list. Why do these images visually appeal to me though? I guess the same could be observed about the lighting choices and the way that the 1971 edition photo was developed (I’m not a photographer and my friends who are well-versed in old-school photographic technique also only speak German. . .so I lack the proper terminology to describe this.) I guess I also like the choice of props and subjects represented within the photos. I like the distance expressed by the models in all the photos. It appears as though they seem to be hiding, or someplace distant that one must work hard to get to. Plath’s narration in the novel seems emotionally distant at times with a bit of insight thrown in every so often, but told in a way that you really must work and think over the words to get the full implication behind them (just my interpretation, feel free to disagree).

4.) A Great and Terrible Beauty and The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray

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After I had graduated high school, I started reading solely literary fiction and the classics that I did not read in high school (with some adult fantasy and horror thrown in for good measure). If it weren’t for the cover image of the first book in this series (A Great and Terrible Beauty) I wouldn’t have read it, because it’s teen fiction. But I am a huge fan of this series now, even after stumbling upon it when I no longer considered myself a YA reader. The reasons why this cover is good are pretty obvious. The attention to historical detail and the pretty laces and corset are visually appealing. I’m not sure how relevant this is to the underlying theme of the series, but it gives a somewhat shallow point of reference to a piece of the wardrobe worn by some girls and women of that time period.

5.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

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I suppose that without such a concept, such a book cover would never come into existence. But this is just a very unique cover image. I’m not sure how creative it is, but you can tell that an artist put a lot of work into it. It’s just gorgeous, creepy, and so explanatory at the same time.

In conclusion, perhaps what makes a good book cover is ultimately subjective and not something that can be organized into a tight, marketing formula. Yes, colors definitely affect a person’s attitude toward a book. But, if the book deals with a somber or solemn plot/theme, perhaps yellow and red would not be appropriate for the book. Furthermore, what makes a good book cover completely depends upon the audience the author is writing for. Many of my selections were intended to appeal to a more solemn, less excitable audience. I don’t think it would be appropriate for The Bell Jar to have the same color scheme as any of the cover editions of Naked Lunch, for example, because both novels are written in completely different tones. Many of the book covers I see often do not reflect upon the actual tone of the book, and so this confusion created by a cover that doesn’t relate to the story or capture the tone of the narrator very well leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can think of some really great books that were written in a somber, slow tone, but featured colors that inspire excitement and anxiousness in the viewer (like my edition of Love in the Asylum, ordered online because I was interested in the theme and the story, featuring a very red cover). Also, many bibliophiles just gravitate toward visually stunning covers. To them (and to me), everything about the book (the writing within it, the cover, the inside of the jacket, and the font and layout of the pages) is a part of a work of art.

Kutná Hora and a Church Decorated with Human Bones

I’ve been devoting most of my blogging time in the last month to my new blog about Czech beer (http://ceskepivo.wordpress.com). In doing so, I find myself reminiscing about last year. I also realized, going through this blog, that I had said many months ago I would post photos from my visit to Kutná Hora but I never did.

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This is the first sight you see after walking past the train station in Sedlec. When you walk a little farther, you arrive at the Sedlec Ossuary, which is what goth and metalhead kids on Tumblr seem to be obsessed with. You see pictures of the inside of the ossuary quite often, it being decorated with the bones of people who were once buried, but were removed because with all the plagues, there was simply no room to bury the new dead. Many of the remains of the people who make up the decor of the church had died from the plague or from wars. But, very rarely do you get to see pictures from the modest graveyard around it. My roommate, Ilayda, and I walked around the cemetery, finding all sorts of unique tombstones, many having photos of the people who were buried there, as they were in their lives. Exploring a village’s cemetery in Central Europe is a very good way to learn about its inhabitants, both past and present.

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After we had explored the snow-buried cemetery, as more snow fell around us, we went into the church. We took our time on the stairs down so that we wouldn’t slip, paid our way in, and collected our laminated handouts in English that told about the history of the church.

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If you are ever in Prague to visit, I strongly suggest making the day trip to Kutná Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary for yourself, along with the rest of the city. It’s also a great village to find nice, Czech blown glass.

What I’m Learning from Freelancing on Elance

I decided I would try out one job on Elance to see how I like it. Thus far, I’m really enjoying the assignment I took on. I’m writing 5 articles about guitars–something I’m genuinely passionate about–and it’s been a good exercise in making me feel like less of a writing failure. Also, it’s been good for motivating me to write at least 1,000 words a day. But after this assignment, I don’t know if I want to take on anymore jobs at Elance.

I’ve been looking for any follow-up assignments that would be similar to this one. But so far, all I’m finding are people looking for ghost writers to write their e-books, and it’s making me lose faith in the e-book author community. Do any of you write your own books?! I scrolled through 7 pages of lazy e-book “authors” (and I use that term, author, very lightly, because so many of them don’t even have a story layout for you to go by and just expect you to do all the work for $85). If I really want to sit down and write a 20k 50 Shades of Grey style romance in e-book format, I would do so and sell it under my own name and take the profit for myself. It would be better in the long-term if I am really going to devote the amount of time it takes to write a book THAT WOULD ACTUALLY SELL if I did it for me, instead of someone who wants to give me a pay-out of $85 and wants me to have it done in 6 months. Um no. That’s not how writing a book works. Try again.

I’m not finding any assignments similar to what I’m doing now, just these propositions to get cheap freelancers to write books for people who would then market themselves as authors. Since I’m considering e-publishing my book when I am finished with it and if I don’t find a traditional publisher for it, I’m fairly active in the e-publishing community. If I read a good e-book, I like to promote it and help the author out. But seeing this is disheartening and making me honestly question an author before I actually help them out, because I have absolutely ZERO respect for people who market themselves as something they are not. (And no, you’re not an author and you have no right to call yourself that if you didn’t write your own book and I won’t read your book, because marketing someone else’s work as your own is dishonest and cheating.) It is insulting to me that I put in all this time on my book because it is an act of love and something I am very passionate about, as are most other people who write for a living, and there are people out there who approach this industry as a way of making “easy money” and can’t even be bothered with penning their own works.

Anyway, this isn’t just about how many fakes there are out there marketing themselves as authors. I actually wanted to write a pretty good review of my experiences so far with Elance, for anyone who is considering trying the site out. I originally signed up on Elance for translation jobs, but there aren’t a lot of translations for the particular skills I have (I do German to English and English to German translation). Or, if I do find a job in that area, they are asking for a native German speaker (and I understand why, because American universities have such low standards for how much formal training you actually need in order to get a Bachelor’s degree in foreign language, that a lot of the majors I’ve met who haven’t spent any time abroad for real-life language practice are not equipped to do certain translations) and refuse anyone other than that, no matter if you have the credentials or a very good portfolio. They just won’t even look at your proposal. The translation thing hasn’t really been working out on Elance for me.

But if I could find more jobs similar to what I’m doing now (in-depth informative content writing jobs for around the same amount of money I’m being per article), I’d totally be content with Elance. I’m not finding that though. I’m really disappointed with the types of jobs I’m finding there. There are so many firms that want you to write 10 articles in a very small amount of time for only $1-$5 per article, and I just don’t think that’s worth it. If you want me to write 10 articles in a day, you need to pay me more than $5 per article, especially if you want something that’s more than 500 words and you require extensive research into the subject. Research takes time and if I have to do 10 of these in a day, it’s just not happening. . .especially not a $1 per article (and I’m not exaggerating, the pay is really that low).

My experience with Elance ultimately has clued me in to what society seems to think of freelancers. They seem to think we’re gullible, desperate sods who would do huge amounts of work for basically free. But it hasn’t been an entirely negative experience. There are some good jobs on there occasionally, but they do get claimed pretty fast.

Travel in the United States

Should I change the name of my blog? I realize that I’m no longer in Central Europe and won’t be for a while. But I’m still working on Mind Terrorist (which takes place in Czech Republic and Austria) and most of my posts will probably be about working on that. One could say that Lenore is on quite a travel adventure in Central Europe herself. But I don’t know how many travel adventures I’ll be having in the U.S. for the next year. I did just get back from visiting relatives in Colorado Springs. That was my big trip for the summer, other than trying to get out of Europe before anyone noticed that my visa had expired. I am definitely also supposed to visit my friend, Liz, for a day this summer. Right now though, my focus should be on trying to find a job that won’t be too demanding since I am taking 15 hours this semester, but that would allow me to make enough money so that I can both save and go out for fun every once in a while.

While I was in Colorado Springs, I certainly experienced quite a lot of different severe weather scenarios. There was a flash flood in El Paso County near Manitou Springs, which carried a car away. We went down there later when it wasn’t flash-flooding and were relieved to see that the old Arcade with all its penny video games was open and mostly undamaged. We’ve gone to Manitou Springs every year that we’ve visited in Colorado and the penny arcade was always an attraction for my brother and me when we were kids.

On our way to visit my great aunt and uncle, we drove through the remains of the Black Forest fires. It was really eery, because almost every year of my childhood in the summer we would drive out to Black Forest and pass a lot of these houses and ranches that were destroyed in the fire. On a lot of properties, all that was left were debris, burnt out cars, and chimneys. It seemed so empty in Black Forest and a lot of the trees had lost their leaves and were charred black. The last time I had visited 4 years ago, the place was so alive. I had even participated with my cousins and brother in an antique car parade that year. I remember seeing so many people out on the streets that day. But when we visited this year, most people had gone away and it was just really sad.

Back in the States after a long Few Weeks of Travel

It was brought to my attention that I haven’t updated  the blog for a very long time. First of all, I apologize if anyone else happened to be looking out for one of my random posts. But I must explain myself. In the beginning of June, I started work on another post that requires quite a lot of research and thought. I underestimated how much time exactly it would take to put it together. As a result, I ended up burning myself out and I just had to give up temporarily on it. Then, my German history exam and all the studying I had to do to prepare for that came up. Right after taking this final exam, my boyfriend and I left for his parents’ house. That was when I became too busy to update my blog or work on my writing projects.

The last few weeks have included a day trip to a small town in Poland (the name of which I can’t remember–maybe my boyfriend will comment and remind me of the name of the city we were in 😉 ), a weekend trip to Slovakia, a weekend with my host family in Graz, Austria, moving out of my flat in Brno, three last nights in Prague with my boyfriend, being detained by security in Poland because my visa had expired the day before, and finally returning to the United States. (If anyone is interested, today I also got a haircut.) I’ve been back in the States for almost a week. I’m wondering if I should start texting people on my own, or continue to wait for them to text me, because I haven’t hung out with any of my friends since I’ve been back and everyone was so insistent that we hang out as soon as I came back. (Now, I understand there are busy exceptions who I’ve made plans with but we unfortunately cannot get together until a few weeks from now, but the amount of people bummed that I was out of the country and the amount of people calling my phone now are not equivalent. It’s an odd phenomenon, but also an experience I’ve had before. The last time I returned from a year abroad the same situation occurred. I’m at peace with the fact that people who were my good friends before I left last September will probably no longer be friends of mine next September. It happens. But nothing can make this not feel weird.

I hate how many of my international and Czech friends I will probably never see again. Or, if we do see each other again, it won’t be for a very long time. It is so weird that last month I woke up every morning next to my boyfriend and told him immediately about the nightmares and weird dreams I had. Now though, if I want to talk to him about the dreams of the night before, I must go downstairs, turn on the computer, and hope that he is on Skype. (This is another reminder that I need to ask for more people’s skype I.D.s because I only have two contacts.) It frightens me that a few of my international friends are returning to countries, which have recently become a lot less safer than they were before my friends had left (Egypt, Turkey, Syria) and I hope for the best for them and that we can meet again in the future someplace safe.

Every year for the last four years, I have felt like my life was starting over again or everything was changing and I had entered some kind of new era of my life. This year is no different. I feel like I’m starting over again from the beginning. I don’t want to do exactly what I did the last year I spent studying in the U.S. I want to try something new. I want to gain more experience working either as a German tutor or translator. But the lack of opportunities that I am finding in St. Louis right now is frustrating. I feel like I’m about to attempt to push a boulder up a hill, honestly. I’m just warming up. It’s really hard not to be overwhelmed by the frustration though, and I’m bracing myself for the next few weeks. I keep telling myself that I just started looking and that it will take some time. However, I don’t listen. I’ve always been stubborn.