The GoGlobal Blog

Month: January 2013



¡Hola amigos! I’ve been in Santiago, Chile, for two weeks now.  I’ve been keeping my own study abroad blog and now I have this amazing opportunity to share my experiences for Loyola University Chicago!  Since I’m just now activating this blog, I’ll include my previous posts from the past couple of weeks.  I hope you follow me on my adventures! 🙂







Exploring Europe, Round Two!

Exploring Europe, Round Two!

The hike up the mountain was worth this view

Ciao amici!

My name is Ryann Howard, and I am a junior at Loyola University. This is my first time blogging, but not my first time studying abroad! I was in Rome last semester, and my four months there were some of the most incredible of my life. I traveled to places I only dreamed about prior. In total, I went to 13 countries and visited over 25 cities from the time I left America (August 21, 2012) to the time I returned, (December 20, 2012). I met the greatest people, both teachers and students alike, that I hope to stay close with for years to come.  I wanted to remember all my experience so I kept a journal last semester to document everything.  I admit that I struggled to write in it every night or every weekend. I hope to change that this semester though by keeping up with a blog instead. I also hope this will be a good way to reach out to others, especially Loyola students, about how amazing studying abroad is. I intend to write here at least once a week.  Who knows what I will write about – could be a wonderful weekend I spent exploring or how I struggled with a paper and homesickness.  I hope my experiences will enlighten others about the study abroad experience as well as documenting how I am changing and growing from spending a whole year abroad. I believe blogging will be a great method for reflection, as well as my outlet for emotions and stories, the good, the bad, and the downright hysterical ones. I have a tendency to babble a lot too, but hopefully I can control that 🙂

Okay, well now that I have gone over the basics, I think I can begin sharing my time in Spain so far. First, I decided to go to Alicante, Spain for several reasons. USAC and the Universidad de Alicante offered all the classes I need to take to finish my Spanish major, as well as some other courses for my Sociology degree. I did a lot of researching beforehand to make sure this would be the best, which everyone should do. I also chose Alicante because it is considerably smaller than Rome, and even Chicago (my hometown) for that matter. I have always been a city girl, and decided I should change it up and go somewhere smaller. Alicante is on the coast of southern Spain, so it is much more tropical and beautiful than the Windy City. I also wanted to be in a home stay, something I didn’t get to experience in Rome (campus dormitory). Considering my options, it was clear to me that Alicante was the place I wanted to spend my second semester abroad.

I was so excited for Alicante that I started to plan for it even before I left for Rome, filling out all the proper paperwork (course approvals, home stay requirements, etc.) and planning my trips while there. This planning process was fun, when it wasn’t stressing me out, of course. One of the most important and time consuming of Alicante preparation was the scholarship application process. I know studying abroad is not something for most, particularly because it is so expensive. I knew this long ago.  However, back in high school when I first started thinking about college and studying abroad, I didn’t let cost stop my dreams. I had always dreamt of studying abroad and traveling around Europe when I was older, which is the reason I began working as a lifeguard at the age of sixteen and started saving for Europe with my first paycheck. I worked multiple jobs (hostess, party planner, and student leader, etc.) throughout high school and college, saving as much as possible.  Don’t get me wrong, I still had plenty of time to enjoy my first two years of college. I also applied to every scholarship I could possibly find. I didn’t win all, but I was able to get a few, and it was those couple that helped my dream become reality. I won the USAC Scholarship as well as the Gilman Scholarship for Alicante, both within a week of each other while I was in Rome. My face hurt for days after the good news because I could not stop smiling!  I worked hard for these awards, and knew the work would not stop there.  I knew the struggle was, and would continue to be, worth it. The scholarships were the final part of preparing for Alicante. Once those were settled, my flights booked, my courses approved, my host family ready, and after three wonderful but busy weeks home with my family and friends, I was ready for Alicante!

I practiced packing my suitcase multiple times, like I had before I left for Rome, and found myself just as excited as I was for the first time I went to Europe. I knew this was going to be a completely different experience, and I counted down the days before I left. Some of my friends thought I was crazy for going abroad for a whole year, but I can’t think of another way I would rather spend my junior year. I left America at 4:45 pm on January 8th, and arrived in Madrid, Spain the next morning. From there I spent a week exploring Madrid with the USAC group, with visits to the ancient cities of Segovia and Toledo. I loved watching other student’s reactions to everything European, from the signs in other languages, to the food, to the beautiful foreigners, and, of course, the old castles and buildings that were thousands of years older than even the oldest building in America. I knew I did the exact same thing when I first went to Europe.  Even so, I still found myself gapping at various things. I had to remind myself that I was in Spain, and I was spending the entire semester here, not just a short visit.  I had never felt so fortunate as I did when I arrived at my host home.  I was ready for another completely new experience.

Alright, I realize this post is rather long, but I had to get the background in! My next post will be after I spend my first full school and home stay week in Alicante, and I promise it won’t be nearly as long. I can’t wait to share more about my experiences!


R. Howard

First Impressions

First Impressions

We’ve been here for roughly three days so far. My first reaction is that I am really, really REALLY not in America anymore. The city is chaotic, stressful, loud and hot. The worst is the feeling of helplessness that accompanies this type of situation. You don’t know the language, the customs, the structure of daily life. Plus, everyone stares at you because you’re ‘big and white’ (as we like to say). At the same time, the city provides with its amazing food (I had the most amazing veggie spring rolls today) kind people and thriving day and night markets. It doesn’t hurt that everything is incredibly inexpensive compared to America. I love dem $1 meals!

We’ve been taking the city in stride. All of the Vietnamese roommates have been incredibly helpful. It’s safe to say we’d be very, very lost without them. Either way, I think we are all struck by how different everything is. It’s going to take a little while to get used to this city. I just really can’t wait until we get to see the country side. I’m especially excited for Hanoi and Cambodia.

In short, I can’t wait until I start feeling more comfortable with the city, right now it’s incredibly intimidating but I’m hoping that feeling won’t last too long. However, there is a sort of organized chaos to it all, a sort of puzzle. I think once I put all the pieces together, I’ll get the bigger picture.





Hey-O! Guess Where I am?!

Hey-O! Guess Where I am?!

Hola Todos!!

Today is my 10th day in Madrid and I am in no way disappointed!! I am going to try to recap the past ten hectic days with clarity!

I left for Madrid on Tuesday January 8th.  My flight was suppose to depart at 8:25pm but due to weather conditions and someone checking a bag and then not actually boarding the plane, we did not leave until 10:50pm.  Those 2 hours and 25 minutes did not seem like a big deal in Dallas but when I was running through London Heathrow trying not to miss my next flight to Madrid, I realized why everyone else on the plane seemed bitter.  Luckily I made my flight just in the nick of time.  The first night we, all those studying abroad in Spain through USAC, stayed in a hotel because orientation was held at the hotel on Thursday January 8th and 9th.  Orientation was boring but helpful.  We went on a mini walking tour of Madrid, talked about social graces in Spain, how to be a polite stranger in your host families home, and how to work the metro system as part of the orientation on Thursday.  On Thursday at 5:35pm my host mother Paloma, came and picked me up from the airport!  She speaks english very well and has really helped me get accustomed to life here.  My first night here I Skyped my parents and little sister, Kennedy, as well as a few of my friends.  We had another full day of orientation on Friday January 9th.  On Friday we took the Spanish placement test and selected our classes.  I got placed in track II out of four and I am taking a drawing class.  Saturday I went on a scavenger hunt with students in the USAC group.  The most exciting place we went to on our hunt was a Market, Market de Ventas!  It was HUGE, 3 floors of food! Shinyoung, a girl in my scavenger hunt group, and I vowed to go back and shop and we did on Monday after class!!

Classes started on Monday January 14th.  Unlike Loyola, you do not get to choose the time of your classes here, they are predetermined..My class starts at 9:20am.  I am not, by any means, a morning person.  The school is 50 minutes to 1hour away from my house so I have to wake up around 7am.  I was not quite used to the time change on Monday, but as the week progressed waking up got harder and harder.  The good news is that naps are very common here!  They are called siestas! So every day after school I come home and take a nap 🙂

Besides going to school, I went to the Market with Shinyoung, she is from Korea by the way, explored the city a little bit, and went to this wonderful place called San Gines Chocolateria with some friends.  Like star grill there are places that stay open really late for people to eat early in the morning.  Here they have a place where they serve churros con chocolate! I had never had a churro before and definitely would never have thought to dip one in chocolate!  Needless to say I will be going back.

That sums up what I have done here so far, now I would like to share little experiences and realizations I have had.

The metro is extremely efficient.  The trains come very often, they are clean and well lit.

There is a lot of petty theft but not a lot of major crime, which is a plus.

You do not invite people to your house, you go out and hangout.  That being said, there is a lot to do and a lot of places to go to hangout.

People are always walking, and it seems everyone has a dog.

Breakfast is around 7-9am, lunch is some time between 2-4pm and dinner is between 9:30 and 11pm.

There is a period during the day where most shops close down.  I am not talking about “little shops”  I am talking about the pharmacies, the book stores, the markets, the banks, and some of the restaurants, it becomes ghost town.  The shops re-open around 5 and stay open as late as 10pm.

You do not smile at someone you do not know, nor do you complement someone you do not know.  It is just not done here.  This makes train rides very awkward.  Also, it is OKAY to stare at people.  I am not talking about a glance, I mean the full on “I am judging you” stare.  When you greet someone you MUST kiss them on both cheeks, if you do not YOU are strange and weird.  You do not under any circumstances shake someones hand.

Electricity is very expensive here so the Spanish have perfected conserving it.  Here are some examples:

-Every time I leave my room, if only for a second, I MUST turn off my light.

-Almost all lights are sensor lights so they automatically go off when no one is around

-On the metro not all doors open at each stop, there is either a button or a lever on each door that is used to manually open the doors.

-My host family unplugs chargers from the outlets when they are done using them

Well that is all I have for now! Stay tuned 🙂

Hasta Luego!

Tyler Monroe


Churos con Chocolate!!


Forging bonds through rice and pork.

Forging bonds through rice and pork.

My first taste of Vietnam


Once again, insomnia strikes me. It is roughly 5 A.M.right now in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m happy to report that all of us Loyola students who left Chicago on Thursday afternoon have made it without incident to the Vietnam Center.
After a grueling 20+ hr flight, terrible airline food, and a brief layover in Hong Kong, we were able to meet up with our Vietnamese counterparts by 1 AM! Having been restless for most of the journey, several of us had, and still have our sleep cycles thrown off (yours truly in particular). Luckily, some of the Vietnamese students, including my roommate were of the same mind and were more than willing to lead us out on an early morning adventure.

We traveled to the Backpacker’s District, which is known to stay open late and cater to expatriates. There we settled down at one of the street-side restaurants and indulged ourselves in plates of delicious broken rice and grilled pork. Weary travelers always find respite in warm food and conversation.

Eventually, we trekked back to the guesthouse. However, restless as ever, I struggle to catch enough sleep for orientation tomorrow.

You always learn from your mistakes

You always learn from your mistakes

I hope this is true, and if it is then I am possibly one of the most learnèd 20- year olds on the planet. Or, at least, in Loyola’s study abroad program.

My stay in Santiago started in a very… interesting manner. And what I mean by ‘interesting’ is a 5-hour stay in the airport. Think Tom Hanks in ‘The Terminal’.

Mind you, this situation was one completely of my own making, as these kinds of things usually are. It started with me leaving my passport in Chicago and needing to get a new one when I came to stay with my family in New Jersey after fall semester ended and I vacated my apartment.


I received my passport a little less than a week before my Chilean adventure was to start and due to the complete unresponsiveness of the NYC branch of the Chilean Consulate and the unfortunate vacation period of the person who approves passports in the Philadelphia Chilean Consulate branch, I was unable to receive my student visa before coming to Chile. I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting to come to Chile, so I decided to come as a tourist and get my student visa after getting here.

Some countries require tourist visas, but in the case of Chile, tourists are able to stay without a visa for 30 days, and only have to pay a reciprocity fee (which is a fee that the government of Chile charges incoming tourists from countries who charge their citizens. Example: US charges Chileans $160, and therefore so too does Chile to the citizens of the US).

So as to be able to pay this fee, I made sure to have $200 in cash with me when I travelled. This would have been perfect, except that when I got to the front of the checking baggage line in JFK airport, I was told that I would not be able to bring my longboard on board (no pun intended) with me, as I had been able to do with Southwest. My only options were to get rid of my board (trash? random donation to the people behind me in line? who knows) or pay, as my father was long gone by then. How much was the fee you’d like to know? $180.

Lesson 2: Be ABSOLUTELY SURE about the rules regarding special baggage.

addendum: or just…. don’t bring a longboard.

As you might have guessed, I paid said fee. With the $200 meant for the reciprocity fee. Once I got to my gate I called my parents, knowing that this would be the last time I would be able to do so until probably Chile a day later. Because now the problem lay in my lack of money. Because, you see, I only had about $50 in my bank account at this time, as my parents were going to transfer the other money in two days later on Saturday. The best my parents could do was promise that they would try to get to the bank on their lunch break tomorrow to transfer some money into my account. And that was the last time I would be able to contact my parents for a long while.


12 hours, a rerun of ‘Pretty Woman’, two in-flight meals, and a layover later, I touched down in Santiago, Chile. What a beautiful country! And now to see if my father was able to get to the bank on his lunch break… too bad we had thought that Chile was two hours behind EST rather than two hours ahead, which left my father with the idea that he had until around 4PM EST to get to the bank rather than 12 PM EST (I touched down at 1:45 PM … ‘Chile time’).


After I tried paying with my debit card (twice, about an hour apart from each other), I knew something was wrong. And not only was I stuck in the airport unable to leave the section cordoned off by the Chilean police, but my host mother, Yali, was also waiting for me outside, and now, cellphone-less, I had no way to contact her. Worse, even if I had had a phone, I didn’t have her number.


I had my United States OIP coordinators number and an iPod touch with a calling app, but unfortunately I was unable to access the wi-fi, and the only place with wi-fi happened to be in the departing section of the airport. With my stumbling spanish I was able to explain my problem to the guards and was let through to the departing area. I found the VIP Salon, where there was free wi-fi, and beggared my way in.

I started sending e-mails to everyone I could think of, as well as sending my Chilean mother a message through facebook (the means through which we had been communicating) saying that I would be fine and would take a taxi to her address when my parents were able to transfer funds into my account. As I was sending this I received an e-mail from my father saying that he would be unable to reach the bank until the next day, Saturday. And so I started to settle in to spend the night in this VIP lounge.

However this was not to be: the people from the program were having none of that. I know this because at that point Yali (well, the coordinator for my program in Chile using Yali’s Facebook from cell phone of my coordinator… yes it’s all very confusing I know) reached out to me through a Facebook message telling me to STAY WHERE I WAS SOMEONE WILL COME TO GET YOU.

The program, the woman told me, would lend me the $100 I needed (I had at the time $20 left on cash and $60 in my bank account) and would deliver it to me by one of the airport personnel.

Aren’t you happy that my story’s almost over?

I think that I would have appreciated that as well.

Except… remember how I wasn’t really supposed to be in the lounge? Because of this, when the airport personnel came to find me, she was told that I couldn’t possibly be in there. So after another hour of searching, they said my name over the loud speaker and I was able to find the woman, who gave me the $100 passed on to her from my program coordinator.


Spoiler alert: Nope.

When I returned to the window to pay the fee, the woman, who was the only person in this ordeal who spoke a good amount of English, shared with me a look of amused sympathy. Which then turned into a look of apprehension and regret.

Because, as she told me, you couldn’t pay half on a card and half with cash.

And where was the nearest ATM (‘cajiera’, as I learned that day)?

It was inside the ‘country’, where I could not yet go.

Of course it was.

So I waited in line for the Chilean police, as I would be able to get to the ATM if one of them were to accompany me.

The man to whom I explained my situation acted just as most of the people there I had met acted; with concern for me and with a wonderfully helpful manner. However no amount of helpfulness could have made me understand that gosh darn cajiera (cah-hee-erra).

Lesson 6: BE FAMILIAR WITH THE MONETARY SYSTEM (clarification: VERY familiar!)

Because that cajiera was NOT in dollars, and furthermore, it kept telling me that I had MUCH less money that I had (most likely because it was saying something like $30000 pesos and I was thinking ‘$30.00’.

Eventually (after three failed tries which left me near tears) I was able to take out [what I thought] was $20. It was also in pesos, which I wasn’t able to comprehend at that moment! I was very, very scared, because having only $20 more meant that I still would be unable to leave the airport.

I returned [YET AGAIN] to the register to try to pay the fee, and my new friend Mr. Chilean Policeman came with me to help. The woman looked at my money and said [to my relief] that there were $50! But then… “I’m sorry, but you can’t pay half in pesos.”

And so I climbed the stairs once more and Mr. Chilean Policeman (whose name is Hector, if you’re interested) handled the transaction for me.

I was finally able to pay. What relief I felt! And after some paperwork, I left Hector behind with this:

“Querría decir algo, pero no sé como… en español. Gracias. Por todo de tu ayuda.”

My grammar was horrible, but I got enough right that it was comprehensible. I wanted to get across what his help had meant to me.

And he knew.

Lesson 7: One person can change someone’s experience completely.

Without Hector, I wouldn’t have been able to change my dollars into pesos so easily or more importantly, been able to get through my ‘journey’ without a heart attack. He listened to me worry aloud [in very bad Spanish] and ask questions to calm me down, and went faaar out of his was to help me. I’ll always remember that experience.

I’ll always remember, also, my Chilean mother waiting for me when I finally exited out into the waiting area (Well, I exited the wrong way at first, but really, would you expect anything different of me? Eventually I got to her.) The first words I said to this wonderful, wonderful woman holding the sign was “LO SIENTO.” I think you probably know what this means.

The first thing she did after recognizing me?

She hugged me. “Mi hija!”

Most people might think that my 5 hour ‘journey’ in the airport was something to look back upon with horror, and while I can understand that sentiment, I also think that there is no better way that I could have been introduced to the absolute best part of Chile: the Chileans themselves.

Lesson 8 (and the moral of my story): You can learn a lot when you screw up.

Whether you learn that it’s important to double check everything, or you learn that people are a lot more wonderful than you expected. Both are valid, and both are things that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I’m including a picture of my Chilean mother, Yali (who says she ‘labored for 5 hours birthing me, her hija’) and some of my wonderful friends who came to eat ‘onces’ with us on my second day in Santiago.

Yali (mi madre chilena) and some of my wonderful LUC/UAH friends!

Hasta luego, amigos míos.


Is This Real Life??

Is This Real Life??

Finally in ROME! It’s Thursday afternoon and it has been a week since I arrived in Rome. It has been a dream of mine to study abroad and now that I am here I can’t believe it! (IS THIS REAL LIFE?)

Before coming to the John Felice Center I came to Rome with my grandparents, my two sisters and my three cousins. I had just graduated high school and my grandparents took us to Rome for a few days because my Papa wanted us to see and experience where my Nana grew up. It was an amazing experience and I was very fortunate to go with them, but now I have more time to experience the Italian culture.

So far I have loved everything Italy has to offer! I love how the culture focuses on being in the moment with friends and not worry about what’s going to happen next, which is a nice and much needed change for me. JFRC organized a neighborhood dinner near the school and our table sat there for 3 hours. We enjoyed some amazing food, talked about what we’ve done thus far and where we would like to travel. If you do come here (WHICH YOU BETTER) I highly recommend attending that meal.

Also, the SLAs (Student Life Assistants) and the full-year students give the best and craziest advice. They don’t tell you where to go or what to see first, but rather want you to figure it out. I did that on Saturday with a group of friends after the tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum (INCREDIBLE) and we had a great time! We didn’t plan ahead at all. We just walked down different alleys and streets and got familiar with this incredible city.

Experiencing the food, the monuments, and the Italian culture has been absolutely amazing. I love everything so far! This weekend we are going on an orientation trip to Campania, aregion in southern Italy, and then Brussels, Belgium next weekend!

Until next time…


Shipping out!

Shipping out!

It is less than 12 hours until departure, and I cannot sleep.

The last week and a half back in Chicago have been phenomenal. I’ve never had such a chance to appreciate my surroundings and my friends as I have during this time.

In a way, it is almost somewhat bittersweet and a little bit cruel that the Vietnam Center students leave so late compared to those at Rome or Beijing. However, I know that a great adventure awaits me, and I hope that everyone is ready to come along for the ride.

For now, as I count down the hours, I’ll be cleaning, packing, and preparing myself. In 40-some odd hours, I’ll be back to my parents’ birthplace.

Au revoir !

Counting Down

Counting Down

The rest of Loyola is back on their grind, and I’m at home in the frozen Midwest for the next two weeks until I can finally land in sunny Spain. Thank goodness for Netflix.

Somewhere in that period of time I should probably find a suitcase and maybe pack and brush up on my Spanish and find a gift for my host mom. Also, Netflix.

I’ve been planning on going to Spain since before I even got to college, and I’ve been stalking Granada on Wikipedia, lonely planet, Google Maps, architecture websites, etc… I’ve been excited about going before I even applied. But now that I have all this free time to think, I’m starting to get a little nervous. Will the moon look the same from across the Atlantic? Will my Spanish be good enough? Will my host mom and I get along? Will I miss my cat too much?

I expressed these feelings to one of my friends who studied abroad last semester and he told me that yeah, I’m going to be nervous because I’m about to go live in a country that I’ve never been to for an extended period of time. But he also said that I absolutely need to do it and I’m going to have the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think that we can grow as people unless we do things that make us nervous and uncomfortable, and I know that right now it’s time for me to grow some. I believe Eve Ensler when she says that we should take trains (in this case, planes) by ourselves to places we have never been, and I believe Shiloh when they say that if I have a heart, I have a home.

Despite the fact that I’m freaking out a little (a lot), I’m reminding myself that I’m going to be in the same city as my favorite building, I’m going to be speaking a language that I love, and I’m going to be surrounded by so much beauty and knowledge I don’t know how I’ll handle it. It’s also warm there (score!). The fact that I feel nervous never ends up eclipsing the fact that I feel so lucky.

About to go off to a new land

About to go off to a new land

Well here I am, in limbo between Winter break and the Spring Semester. All of my friends at Loyola are already almost half way through their first week of classes, and I am procrastinating packing for a semester in Vietnam.

I leave on Thursday for the grueling trans-pacific flight and have hit the “what am I doing with my life” stage of packing. What do I bring? Am I forgetting anything? Quick! I have to go pick up something at Target! With one more full day here in Wisconsin, I am gallivanting around with my thin rain jacket, freezing while convinced that pulling out my winter jacket from the basement closet for a couple days is far too much work.

I am really excited and cannot wait to meet all of my new classmates. I have been emailing back and forth with my Vietnamese roommate, but still feel like I have not even scratched the surface of getting to know him. I actually think I am getting more nervous than excited to go, or maybe it’s just because I have an empty suitcase and a starving mind for all of the new experiences that I will have starting in less than a week.

I’ve been abroad before, but from what I have been seeing in movies, videos and reading about, Vietnam is going to be a totally new experience for me. I was at the John Felice Rome Center for both Summer 2012 sessions. That was a blast! So far while preparing for this semester though, all I can do is remember all of the memories from last summer. I cannot wait to make more.

I will check back in once I get settled into Saigon, until then, I hope everyone is having a great week!