The GoGlobal Blog

Month: January 2011

I haven’t left yet!

I haven’t left yet!

I’m still in Missouri waiting for my semester in Ireland to start. I’m not looking forward to the 16 inches of snow that is supposed to start falling an hour before my flight leaves on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out of here on time. I’ll write more when I get there.

Pura Vida!

Pura Vida!

Hola amigos,

As I sit on the balcony of my school in Puntarenas, Costa Rica which overlooks the Pacific Ocean I decided that now is better than ever to start my study abroad blog.  I’ve been here for a little over a week now and feel like I’ve adapted to the way of life pretty well so far!  Here are the main highlights of my experience as a wannabe-Tica thus far:

*My host family: I live with a family of ten people including: a grandma, grandpa, mother, father, 3 brothers, 1 sister-in law, 1 nephew, and myself.  There are also 2 dogs, a parrot and a cat.  Everyone in the family is very nice to me and the parents have spoiled me with my own TV and AC.  I find this very ironic because in my Chicago apartment I don’t have either.  they also gave me the cutest bike to ride around town!  My room is dorm room size but very cute.  Also, I don’t have an alarmclock because without fail the parrot (la lorita) wakes me up every morning at 7am or before.

*My classes: I am really enjoying all my classes here and think they’re a perfect fit for me.  I’m taking 18 hours but because of the Pura Vida lifestyle I don’t feel stressed at all, I even think I may get through the semester without a single allnighter I’m accustomed to while at Loyola.  I’m taking Latin American Cultures in Spanish, 3 Spanish composition course, Latin American Social Revolutions, Latin American Cuisine, Latin American Culture Field Study and my ultimate favorite: Latin American Dance.

*The beach: I live three blocks from the beach and as I mentioned before, my school overlooks it.  I think the majority of my favorite memories from my life have occurred near or in a body of water and this is no different.  Normally my study breaks consist of a dip in the ocean or a nap in the sun.  All the fun bars overlook the ocean and last night some of us students built a bonfire on the beach.  Also, I’ve started to go jogging on the beach barefoot  after dark when it cools down and I love it!

*Curu National Park and Isla Tortuga: Last weekend the school sponsored a trip to these 2 places.  We went hiking on trails where monkeys lived, rode in little speed boats to the island, went snorkeling and saw an octopus, ate fresh pineapple, coconut and watermelon on the beach, and played a pretty intense game of beach frisbee.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  I hope everyone in Chicago and at home is surviving the winter and having a great semester.

Pura Vida,

Angela

Hit the Ground Running

Hit the Ground Running

After a good night sleep post 3 5 hour energy drinks (and others…) and 20 hours of continual flight across the world wide awake, I was ready to hit the ground running in Vietnam! I woke my roommate and we ventured out of the dorm into the streets. The night before they had been dormant with almost nothing but our little taxi, but now there was a bustle reminiscent of the Indian roads that I loved sans camels, donkeys, and little green auto rickshaws. However like India there were definitely lots of little mopeds, bicycles, and motorcycles. Differing from India was the large amount of cars, especially nice new cars. There were cars every once in a while in India, but here the streets are clogged with brand new sedans, lots of taxis, and an excess of black S class Mercedes. I’ve seen five brand new Bentleys and on our first night on the town a tough white Ferrari prowled by followed by a silver Bentley. This blew my mind, especially after Fr. Julio told me that cars here are taxed between 70-100% to support the communist party. Wow. Take that Ferrari and double the price. There a definitely some high rollers here in Vietnam.
What surprised me is that these cars are not driven by communist party card holders (otherwise the license plate would be blue) or by white expatriate investors who seem to be abounding here, but are rather driven by Vietnamese citizens, most of whom are entrepreneurs who have made successful businesses after the country opened up the economy and loosened it from centralized government control. YAY CAPITALISM! While on the subject of cars, there are lots of Mercedes buses around here that seem to hold a special cargo: Nuns. I’ve seen so many vans full of nuns. It makes me smile to see so many little nuns being shuttled around first class. I live by two convents, so that might be why… Also, unlike the huge trucks that I saw in India that were monolithic transporters, the little Toyotas here could probably fit inside the minivan my family owns volume wise. They are quite a sight to see.
To finish my little tangent on cars- there is quite the variety here. I can be walking on the street to Loyola’s office and be passed by Bentleys, BMWs, Mercedes, strange three wheeled contraptions (opposite of India, because here the third wheel is in the back), old woman in conical palm hats on bicycles, nun vans, every strata of society on mopeds, and even Buddhist monks whizzing by on their dinky old motorcycles with robes flying in the air. If cars in Vietnam interest you, I suggest you check out my buddy Robby DeGraff’s blog. He has a special section on cars in Vietnam, and he’ll be a good resource. His area of expertise is in cars whereas mine is religion, so check it out!

http://www.robbyaroundtheworld.com/

Anyway back to my story. So we crossed the street, which is a little adventure here in itself. In America if you tried to cross the street with oncoming traffic you would be pulverized. In India you had to time your crossing between the spurts of animals and vehicles jostling for control of the road. In Vietnam if there a no heavy cars coming which you usually have to wait for and the road is full of just motorbikes, you can take the Moses approach and part the Red Sea. I can cross and a path will pop up. Motorbikes and cars if they come will swerve around me like water moving in a clear path. It is simply amazing. At first it was kind of intimidating but now I can do it in confidence, but my iPod definitely stays off during crossing. A phenomena of Vietnam is that motorbikes like to take shortcuts on the sidewalks during rush hour and that even though there may be four lanes clearly marked, these can be arbitrary and as before, water finds a path and motorbikes go anywhere there is an open path. So you have to be constantly aware of your surroundings during those busy times of the day.
For example once I was crossing a street and had looked both ways. I was good and began to walk because the cars coming from the left had stopped and were waving me on. I began to cross when a motorbike turned a corner (going the wrong way) and clipped my arm. I yelled out and looked up in surprise. The bike sat three teenage girls and they all said ‘sorry sorry sorry’ with worried expressions and continued swerving between cars still going the wrong way. I was not expecting anything to come around the corner which was supposed to be empty because the cars on the other side of me had stopped. But hey its not as bad as the Forth of July this past summer when a car in India hit me and knocked me over. I actually probably did more damage to the car than it did to me, but that’s an entirely different story and I have to get back to my story of the first morning that I keep veering from!
So we crossed the street and headed down a few back alleys filled with small vendors and little children playing. My roommate Nghiem decided on a little restaurant and we sat down to eat. I looked around and saw a Christmas tree in the back adorned with tinsel and a bright yellow star on top. There was also a large red banner reading Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! A third interesting thing was a large mother of pearl looking Icon of the Madonna and Christ Child prominently displayed behind the register and gazing out lovingly over the dining area. This restaurant was one of the many Catholic establishments in the city. Being about 10 percent of Vietnam as a whole, Catholics form a large minority in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon itself and their presence is definitely felt.
I didn’t know what to order so my roommate ordered a simple noodle dish for me and I attempted to use chopsticks. It was quite funny, even for myself. I have rapidly improved in my short time here and hope to be a chopstick master by the time I’m back stateside. The food was delicious and as I digested then, I’ll let you do so now… with my blog. I’ve thrown a lot at you, and before I go into my day proper I think I’ll let you mull over what I’ve written. It’s a lot and I apologize, but there is just so much to say. More soon!

Namashkar,

Jimmy

“Study” Abroad

“Study” Abroad

With “study” being the operative word in the phrase “study abroad”, I begrudgingly left the fantasy Italian vacation to which I had become happily accustomed and was forced to start classes last week. It was certainly a busy week overall. With  going to classes, making travel plans (I absolutely cannot wait for Spring Break!!), and the weekend trip to Salerno, I have sadly not had the time I felt was necessary to allot to a well written post – my apologies.

This semester, I finally have the fantastic schedule that I’ve yearned for all of my semesters at college. My usual semester consists of taking 6 classes which forces me to be in class every day of the week. Further proving that everything is better in Europe, I am currently only taking 4 classes. I am ecstatic about the fact that I attend classes only 3 days during the week (my excitement about this fact was slightly squashed by the realization that this is my brother’s schedule at DePaul every semester).  Nonetheless, I am quite pleased with the amount of time I don’t have to spend in the classroom. However, I doubt I’ll entirely mind going to classes this semester based on the fact that I’m going to classes here in Italy.

Having gone to a week of actual school, I have a few initial opinions on the classes I will be taking. My first class is a history course based upon the World of Late Antiquity. It is taught by the Dutch instructor I mentioned in a previous post. So far, he  proves to be an engaging and amusing speaker; he’ll frequently pause throughout class to tell us  that we need a cappuccino break (so awesomely Italian). I have always liked learning about history so I figure this course will be enjoyable for me. In the first week, we discussed Roman emperors who’s stories are nothing short of legendary. In Ancient Rome,there were 80 emperors in 49 years! Multiple emperors even tried rule at the same time before they would end up killing each other off out of sheer spite and boredom. Having only experienced US history courses at the fabulous Whitnall level, it will be interesting to see a different world perspective.

The next course I am taking is for my Political Science major. The class emphasizes the evolution of European Security in the post Cold War World, a narrow but interesting topic. However, I have some mixed feelings about the professor. I would be inclined to have great feelings of admiration toward him because of his background as an Italian ambassador and diplomat. With that experience, he obviously has amazing insight into the world of international relations. The downside is that he has been a little hard to listen to this first week. This is not helped by the thoroughly dense material we have been assigned to cover. All of the reading he gives us will seriously cut into my vespa riding time. I assume this class will prove to be most challenging for me.

My third class is called Art in Rome and I predict it will be one of my favorites. Every week we go to a different museum or site and look at Roman artwork (shocking isn’t it?!). This Thursday, we will be seeing the Roman Forum and the outside of the Colosseum…again (damn you Loyola, I WILL make it inside by the end of the semester). However, next week we will be seeing the Pantheon. In the meantime, we’ve discussed….columns. Not as thrilling as actually going to see artwork in person but I suppose that it is necessary to listen to boring lectures to be able to go out and explore later.

The final class  is Italian Film Genre. I predict that this will also be a favorite of mine, as well as a nice opportunity to relax and watch Italian movies. Christopher, be excited…we have a Fellini unit.

At LUC, I loved my Italian classes because the foreign professors were such complete characters. In 3 semesters of college, my most hilarious class stories came from Italian professors Antonio, Elana, and Alessia. But here in Rome, it wold be foreign to have an American professor. Excluding my Dutch history professor, the rest of my teachers are all Italian and all highly amusing. It’s hard for me to see how I can dread the mere 3 days of classes I have when I get to listen to all of these hilarious people.

Aside from classes, the previous week was consumed with making travel plans for the rest of the semester. This upcoming weekend we will be escaping the cold of Rome (and by cold I mean the 50/60 degree weather, sorry Chi town). On Friday morning, we leave to go to Sicily. However, the biggest travel plans we made this week involved our Spring break trip which will consist of 3 amazing cities in 11 days – London for 3, Paris for 3, and Barcelona for 4. Life is good.

At last, I am becoming accustomed to my neighborhood surroundings. My friends and I have discovered the local supermarket, gelato stand, and shoe store; what else do you really need? But this past weekend was spent breaking away from our neighborhood surroundings to explore a few new cities. As part of Rome orientation, Loyola took us to Salerno. On Friday, we left at 7 in the morning (so brutal) for the Herculaneum. Herculaneum is an ancient city which stands in the shadow of the mighty Mount Vesuvius. This antique world which once stood proud now lays in exotic ruin due to the destructive volcanic activity it has experienced over time. There were many areas we explored and it was crazy to compare that ancient Roman world to the one I live in today. There was a room that served as an ancient fast food station (pretty legitimate) but there was also a section where the Olympic games took place (and took place in the nude which just sounds complicated and painful). With the enormous tour group, it was a little hard to soak up all of the information the tour guide provided. This was made more exhausting because I felt as though I heard the same fact in every room that we went in. Our tour guide seemed like a very nice woman but I wanted to count how many times I heard one particular story she was thoroughly pleased to tell again and again. Apparently, enormous feasts took place every week in many of these rooms. The Romans would eat food and drink wine to the point of vomiting. After puking, they would repeat the process over and over again. Hmm, sounds like the habits of the typical Loyola student in Rome? Just kidding!

After the Herculaneum we left for lunch in Pompeii and then headed to the hotel in Salerno. The town of Salerno was adorable. It was a little less crowded and definitely more calm than the busy streets of Roma which proved to be a nice change. We happily spent the night out in this lovely new city.

Toward the end of the weekend, our group also visited Sorrento. Our plans were slightly hindered when the weekend weather turned to rain and put everybody in a bit of a foul mood. Good thing the shopping was mainly in doors!

And now I’m back at home (barely…the bus driver got a flat tire on the way back) and ready to start another week. I set some goals for myself forthe next few days: go to Trevi Fountain, figure out the bus system so another 3 hour session of being lost downtown does not occur ever again, and try to realize I am actually here for schoolwork, not just vacationing in this beautiful country. The third will prove to be the most difficult but I’m afraid the best way to start is to unfortunately get off this blog. Ciao for now.

I can feel it!

I can feel it!

It is not too often that someone can say “In four days I will be over 7,200 miles away from my current location, in a foreign culture where I barely speak the language” but when it can be said, it’s definitely a wake-up call. Especially for me, who has spent most of the past two months sleeping in, playing video games and watching TV. To be honest, I’m eating KFC and watching Indiana Jones as I type this (the third one, with Sean Connery as Indiana’s dad – it’s the best)

In four days I will be spending the next four months abroad in Muscat, the largest city and capital of the Sultanate of Oman. You know how the Arabian Peninsula kinda looks like a boot? Oman is the toe, just south of Saudi Arabia and right across the pond from Iran. While a lot of you may not have ever heard of it, Oman hasn’t been resting. When the Sultanate of Oman was created in 1970 it was a subsisting backwater with a civil war being waged in the south.

However, since the Sultan, his Majesty Qaboos Bin Said, wrested power from his father in 1970, the country has been on a rapid sprint towards modernization and internal development. Today, this work is starting to pay off. Oman’s currency, the rial, is the third most-valued currency in the world, and just this past year, the United Nations’ Human Development Report ranked Oman the world’s ‘top mover’ in its Human Development Index.

Be sure to check back here as I explore Oman’s nearly unprecedented history, plus you can laugh at my blunders as I bumble across the Middle East. But for now,  I’m gonna eat this fried chicken and watch Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones just threw the guy out the blimp and said ‘no ticket’)

Chilean Besos

Chilean Besos

Hola, amigos!

I am very excited to share my experiences with all of you back in Chicago. I have been in Santiago, Chile for exactly one week. It has been a crazy 7 days!! I have never felt so excited and so scared at the same time. I think everyone needs to feel these emotions in order to grow and succeed. Studying abroad is definitely an experience of a lifetime.

I have started my own blog for my friends and family to read as I explore South America. Please follow me as well on my Chilean Besos blog!

Adios–

Xin Jao! Hello from Viet Nam!

Xin Jao! Hello from Viet Nam!

Xin Jao!

Greetings from Vietnam! So here are some interesting things about my trip so far (for the day I’ve been here). The country of Vietnam is SO CLEAN! When I left Indira Gandhi International in New Delhi this past summer, I was met with the stench of stale urine and auto exhaust thick enough to be soup and confronted with masses of people lying in the street dead, dying, somewhere in-between… Here, I was met with a warm blast of beach air and lots of people on mopeds…. and CARS! There are so many cars. Also nice cars too. If I had a dollar for every sleek black Mercedes I saw, we’ll lets just say I could get three meals a day from that here in Vietnam. Compared to India where there were no cars and a lot of rikshas, bikes, mopeds, donkeys, and camels. I keep comparing little things between our culture, India, and Vietnam. Like India, it is impolite to point fingers at someone, so to call someone you put your hand out flat palm down and pump your fingers toward yourself. However unlike India where smiling at people can be a very forward gesture, in Vietnam it is a great way to say hello, and lots of people have been smiling at me. So that’s good.

I met a few interesting characters on my connection flights to Ho Chi Minh. At the Chicago aiport, an asian guy who I presumed to be Chinese was sitting next to me. He looked at my hoodie and said, “Go Ramblers!”. I smiled and asked if he was a graduate, to which he responded yes. So I found a fellow rambler for my flight, even though he was an alum of several years. We were talking about the school and he also introduced me to his wife and son, Martin, who had gone to get food. It turned out he was not Chinese, but Filipino and was heading to Manila through Hong Kong.

It was also here that I met Vi, who was actually Vietnamese and had been staying in the US for some time to visit her boyfriend. She said, “When you are close to someone you love, your mouth gets tired from talking. When you live far away from someone, your legs get tired from walking. I would rather my legs get tired than my mouth. ” I thought that was very clever. Vi then went on to teach me some Vietnamese, Xin Jao (Hello) and several other words. She said my pronunciation was very good for a white person and asked if I had ever been to Asia before. I replied that I had been to India and see smiled and said, ‘very funny, Indians are not REALLY Asian’. Vi and I played with Martin, the 9 month old baby until our plane pulled up to the gate, a giant white and blue 747. This was my first time on a 747 as I had flow on Airbus to India. This Jet felt truly epic. After waiting for some time we boarded and I said bye to Vi who was seated farther up than me.

It was then that I met KiKi, a 36 year old merchant who devided her time between Hong Kong and China town in Chicago. She was really friendly and we talked a lot about the differences between Asia and the US. We even shared a bottle of Jack Daniel’s which I found appropriate because I had just listened to Kesha’s Tik Tok on the in-flight radio which mentions that brand. After a few rounds I was nice and toasty and snuggled in my blanket as we crossed through Siberia and we watched the movie Charlie Saint Cloud which was really cool because a Saint Jude medal plays a prominent role in the film (I wear a Saint Jude medal). Pretty cool.
Before getting off the jet, KiKi told me that she spent her youth working hard to make money to pay for school and come to America and while she doesn’t regret the success she has now, she sometimes wishes for her youth back, so she told me to tone down my hectic life a little and just live it up. I plan to do that in Vietnam.

I got off in Hong Kong to leave the Jet, go through security, and get back on the same Jet in pretty much the same seat. I was not too happy about being frisked by Chinese security because I wasn’t even going into China, I wasn’t even changing aircraft! Hong Kong at night was really pretty though. The lights of islands made little orange rings, and there were lots of freighters and smaller boats milling about. It was just like in the movie. There were also seven really bright almost crystal looking towers by the airport. It was breathtaking.

After Hong Kong we flew over the South China Sea for some time and what I saw reminded me of Genesis. Just Ocean, black sky, and clouds swirling over the water like the mist mentioned in the Bible before the creation story. I felt very awed and humbled at the same time.
On our arrival in Saigon, the city from above looked like a computer chip, if the lights were green I seriousy could have mistaken the city for an oversized motherboard. Closer to the airport, a large array of bright blue lights appeared all over the ground, a blue light similar to the towers in Hong Kong. It looked almost like pale snow flakes of LED Christmas lights. The sight filled me with mirth and I couldn’t help but smile. On a side note, while all of this looked amazing, I dont think any of it compares to the Hindu Kush (which is Persian for Hindu slayer) mountains dividing India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Those were simply breath taking! Now back to the airport…

I reconnected with Vi and I waited for her baggage because she was all by herself and most people had gone. When she finally got her bags she offered me her number, which I was about to ask because she had already been a great help. She reached in her wallet and I thought she was grabbing some loose paper but instead pulled out a business card. It turns out Vi owns the largest driving range in Saigon. Score, or should I say Fore?! (That joke was for you Dad). She said stop by whenever because the range includes a top notch restaurant. I think I’ll be taking her up on her offer soon.

I passed through customs which equaled putting my bag on a screening desk. They didn’t even check the screen, nor was I pat down! I just walked though into Vietnam! If I was to smuggle goods into any country, it would be Vietnam! (totally kidding, but really)

There were hundreds of people waiting with signs just outside of the airport with signs waiting for family. It is interesting to think that lots of them are waiting for expat Viet people who came to the US as boat people and are now returning to Vietnam to see their family after so many years. Pulls at your heart a little bit. I saw people running to the crowd and crying. Very powerful. I actually met a guy on the plane who flew sorties for the Americans during the war and had to flee during the fall of Saigon. He was wearing a baseball hat with a bald eagle and an American flag. I told him I liked the hat a lot and he told me the story of how the eagle is so important to him because he was a pilot. I’m wondering how many veterans I’m going to meet during my trip. My roomate said that in a few weeks that he will take me to his mountain village for Tet, the Viet/Chinese New Year. (Yes there wil be a giant paper dragon and lots of noodles). He said I will be the first white person to visit since the ‘Great American War’, which is the local name for the Vietnam war. Quite the honor? I’m not sure what I should do… just be myself I guess.

He also said that nobody speaks English, which is no different from here in Saigon where the only English I’ve heard is ‘motorbike?’ ‘thank you’ and ‘have nice day ok?’. I’m trying to pick up Vietnamese but the tone are throwing me through a loop. Makes me miss Hindi. At least they use the Latin alphabet.
Speaking of my roomate, I found him in the crowd thanks to his distinctive oval glasses and we got in a taxi to our dorm. His English is great, so I feel a bit guilty for not learning Vietnamese in advance. Oh well! On our arrival the driver got out and put his hand very close to me and said, “You give me tip now!” I was really tired, and if I hadn’t just flown 20 hours I could have said piss off you got your fare, but I remembered my friends denying a tip at a mosque in India and being chased by a mob, so I got out a few dollars and my best glare and cussed the guy out in Hindi since he knew English fairly well. Now that I’m somewhat rested and have my barings, my money is staying in my wallet.

This is a lot and I haven’t even got to my first (and now second, 3rd, 4th, etc) day in Vietnam. Gosh I am always playing catch up! So take care of yourself and look forward to my next email where I discover the American Embassy, the largest church ever built in the French Colonial Empire (named Notre Dame of course), get to know my roomate, run into my program director on a moped, eat my first mystery meat at a food stand which I’m really hoping wasn’t dog, and test out the hospital due to a nasty little viral infection. So in the meanwhile when you are shoveling snow up in Chi, think of me on the beach with a bunch of Viet friends drinking a mango shake and eating all the fried shrimp (wrapped in bacon which is absolutely amazing) I can get my hands on. Cheers!

Namashkar,

Jimmy

Roming Around the First Week…

Roming Around the First Week…

La mia vita e perfetta.  It seems crazy that I’ve only been living in Europe for about a week. Already I feel as though I’ve had months worth of experiences to share.

But I don’t want to be the girl who blogs in only clichés. I will fill you in on what I have been up to the past couple of days. As I said in a previous post, the first days of Rome were slightly reminiscent of the first days of college. We have had to go through many tedious orientation procedures necessary for our existence in the community. These have included a great number of different types of  orientation presentations. Some presentations have felt pretty pointless (yes, I get it….drinking wine and then taking a swim is not ok) but others have been quite interesting. After hearing about it in a presentation, I plan to work in Rome as an English tutor for an Italian native. I can only hope I’ll like Italian children more than American ones? Further, there are also the presentations that serve no other purpose but to scare the crap out of me (new goal: don’t get framed for murder and stuck in an Italian jail).

Unquestionably, the best presentations are the ones that provide insight into my surroundings. Yesterday, one of my professors (a “freaky deaky Dutch” in his words) filled us in on the history of the Colosseum and Roman Forum. It made me very excited for my semester’s classes to come. But more than that, it made me excited to actually see these places and luckily that’s what we did next!

When I saw the town surrounding Roman Bath in London, I thought that it had to be one of the most gorgeous places in the world. After yesterday, I felt the same way about Roman Forum. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such green grass or blue skies; I felt like Dorothy finally seeing colors in the Land of Oz. All the buildings featured beautiful pillars and ancient stones. I couldn’t help but be in awe of the history in which I had just been immersed.

After seeing the Roman Forum, we went to the Colosseum. Now, Loyola’s idea of scheduling a visit to the Colosseum is a little different than what I would do myself. Apparently, when Loyola schedules a tour of the Colosseum, they think it would be a great idea to do so when the Colosseum is actually closed. Typical. Way to go JFRC. I guess I’ll see the inside of the Colosseum some other day. To add insult to injury, Loyola provided buses for transportation to the Colosseum, but no way to get home. Four of my friends and I wandered the streets of downtown Rome for 3 hours before finally getting on the right bus home. However, I couldn’t imagine a better place in the world in which to get myself lost. Also, it gave me a chance to break out my Italian which is always fun, even if the language barrier is slightly challenging.

The people here are wonderful.  Italians are very friendly and somehow charmed by my American ignorance. One of the only downsides would have to be their lack of rules on the road. These people drive like maniacs! One of our cab drivers decided to drive between lanes and simultaneously give us all heart attacks on a night out. Besides that, they are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. However, I’ve managed to meet many other fascinating people from different countries too. The amount of dialects I hear on a day to day basis never ceases to amaze and entertain me.

Of course a big part of Italian culture is the food, I have yet to experience cappuccino (shocking isn’t it?). However, I have experienced enough pasta for the rest of my life, let alone the rest of the semester. But yes, it is amazing.  I have also tried pizza at a little shop downtown. They cut you 2 square pieces and then you eat them as a strange sort of sandwich. And by strange I mean strangely delicious of course. Today was the first time I tried gelatto and it certainly did not disappoint. Coffee and chocolate, could there be a better combination.

I feels unbelievable to me that in this perfect vacation that is my life I must actually go to class tomorrow. Only one class starting in the afternoon isn’t bad though. And after these 3 days of class, we will be traveling to Pompei, Napoli, and Sorrento next weekend! I love Rome but I can’t wait to see other breathtaking places in this beautiful country.

Buonanotte!

And we’ve landed!

And we’ve landed!

Hello from my new home! Through the irritating jetlag, I write to you announcing I arrived safely and soundly in Italia.

The last couple of days have been a blur. It feels like freshman year of college again but with Europe and without the annoying icebreaker games your RAs force you to play. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from neighborhood to the day to day routine, seems new and exciting. With the prospect of Rome waiting for me upon landing, the plane ride itself wasn’t even horrible. Those of you who went to London with me know that if I’m good at one thing, it is sleeping whenever and wherever I can. Out of the 9 hours we were in the air, I’m quite sure my eyes were closed for 8 of them. I woke up to ask for a glass of wine during the flight and was denied…regrettable but not exactly surprising for Loyola. And though one of my friends was not so lucky, all of my bags were waiting for me at the airport – very reassuring to know I would not be  judged in the land of Armani and Gucci for having to repeat the same outfit everyday until my luggage was recovered.

The first Italian conversation i witnessed was by my friend Megan. When walking to the buses that would take us to our new home, we were forced to awkwardly navigate the crowded, cobblestone streets. Even the quick “Scusi!” and “Prego” exchange seemed entertaining and exotic.

Now that I’ve been at my dorm for about a day, I’d say that the process of acclimation to the new surroundings is going well. The room that Betsy and I share is small but appropriate for the amount of time we will be spending there. However, technology has been turning against us since our arrival. If it’s not the lights which stubbornly refused to turn on for the first several hours, it’s the shower that unexpectedly turns off without provocation. But the biggest technological issue to get used to would have to be the absence of a phone. Though I should be receiving one in the next couple of days, I feel naked and awkward getting by without the certainty a quick text brings.

Despite minor complications, it is impossible to be in a bad mood. Leaving the snowstorm of Chicago and arriving in wonderful Spring weather was more than appealing. Being surrounded by vespas and different dialects everywhere I turn shows me that I am truly not in Wisco anymore. I just had my Italian Survival Language course. It reviewed basic language and taught me that I can’t just “go ciao-ing all over the place” (the words of my professor) because of cultural differences. That will be useful to know for when I explore the city further later tonight.

I already love it here and hope to have time to update everyone again soon! Arrivederci readers.

L’inizio…

L’inizio…

In precisely 36 hours, I will be sitting in great anticipation at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. My bags will be packed (and hopefully not exceeding the irritating weight limit), I will have survived the new  TSA pat down procedures necessary to travel, and I will be awaiting the announcement that I can board the plane and officially begin my semester abroad. 9 long hours after that, I will have landed in Rome.

But for the moment, I sit here on my laptop and realize I don’t seem ready at all.

My empty suitcases sit in my brother’s room in the same position since I first brought them out in a short lived moment of ambition on Tuesday. At risk of having a complete girl moment, the one, lonely checked bag I am allowed to bring is still sort of freaking me out, not to mention a constant running list of odds and ends for which we must continually run to the store. And of course, there’s a million questions racing through my mind: do I have all my necessary travel documents in the right place? Could I really hold my own in Italian conversation with a legitimate native? Will the Italians be able to appreciate my rapping ability and knowledge of all things Kanye West….or will I just be ‘that American’?

While I hope for the best, I assume the second outcome to be more likely. However, that minor pitfall could not hinder my excitement for this semester one bit. Ever since I returned from London at the end of the Spring Break of my senior year of high school, I felt the immediate the need to travel again….especially back to Europe.

Over this semester, I intend to immerse myself in all things Italia. I plan to (attempt to) speak the language and explore my surroundings, as well as any other country I find the funds to travel to. I also intend to experience new people, places, customs, and of course, fine Italian wines (it’s me, were you expecting anything different?).

So I guess that’s what this site is for. I’m new to the blogging idea so bear with me anyone who is actually bored enough to read my  rants. I wanted to share my Italian (and European) escapades with a large number of people. This desire made me think back to one of my Communications classes in which we were forced to blog with this site throughout the semester. At last I can finally say I got something useful out of that class!

So with my first entry published and one more item officially checked off  of my To Do List, I suppose I should actually finish……or who am I kidding, START packing or any other of the enormous amount of tasks which must be done before 36 hours from now.

Feel free to comment, this blog being public forum and your country being America (you might know, freedom of speech is strongly encouraged, thank you Poli Sci major). I’d love to hear thoughts to know that I am rambling for someone out there. And I’ll miss everyone in America so it would be great to hear from you!

The next time I write, I will be in my new home: Roma!

Io vi parlerò più tardi!