The GoGlobal Blog

Month: January 2015

What Have I Learned? Part 1: Language

What Have I Learned? Part 1: Language

Anyone who studies abroad in a country where they are not fluent in the language will mention struggles with a language barrier, and that’s totally normal. But guess what? British English is SO different from American English! A lot of it boils down to accent and inflection. Basically every time I’ve ordered in a restaurant or bar since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten flustered from not understanding something the server said. And it’s important to remember that even though you’re in an English-speaking country, that doesn’t mean you’ll only encounter English!

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At a Lebanese café near Buckingham Palace, it took 10 minutes for us to order coffee and scones from a waitress who only spoke a few words of English. At an Italian restaurant in Soho, our waiter spoke with such a thick Italian accent that he was almost impossible to understand. When you’re traveling, you always have to keep an open mind and be patient with everyone you meet.


But lets not forget about the Brits! I’ve been speaking English for 20 years now, and up until this month I really thought I’d mastered it. But London may as well be a whole different world.


“Ello, gov’nah!”

“Pip, pip, cheerio!”

“Where’s the loo?”


Sound familiar? These are all examples of overstereotyped British phrases that most Americans are used to throwing out in humor whenever the UK is even mentioned. But I’m 3 weeks into my 5 month-long London adventure, and I can assure you that we’ve all been wrong this entire time. Yes, really.

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The first few might not come as a surprise. I mean, gov’nah? Come on. But I really was shocked about this last one. I’ve now been in London for 20 days and met countless England natives in my dorms, classes, and out on the street. But I have not once heard anyone refer to the bathroom as “the loo.” It’s just not a thing here. I know what you’re thinking, WHAAAAT??!


Most commonly, the Brits just say toilet. “Toilets” signs adorn every public restroom, with the occasional “WC” (water closet) thrown in. I’m not sure why this disappointed me so much, but the loo is no more. All those movies and TV shows lied to us. Let it go, Americans!    :’(


Some phrases I didn’t expect to be different, and those have led to some adjusting. For instance, “cheerio!” might sound a little silly, but Brits are huge fans of one simple derived form of the word. In my extensive scientific studies (ie., 3 weeks of being an obnoxious tourist) I’ve come to the conclusion that “cheers” is the most commonly used word in the British English language.


Open a door for someone? “Cheers!”

Lend them a pencil? “Cheers!”

Hand them correct change? “Cheers!”


Sometimes you’ll get lucky and even get a “cheers, mate” tacked on at the end there. It’s basically interchangeable with “thanks” and even “goodbye” but who knew???

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Two of my flatmates. Erica, left (American) and Marina, right (British)

I could go on for ages, but there is one last one that threw me. I’ve gotten to know my flatmates pretty well so far, and they are all wonderful, hilarious people. But I don’t always understand what on earth they’re talking about. For instance:


“Oh, last night everyone was taking the piss out of me.”


This is a completely normal sentence in London. Apparently, it’s another way to say “everyone was making fun of me last night.” The first time I heard this one I nearly choked on my dinner but now it’s become so common that I’ll probably have to watch myself from saying it when I come back to the states. So weird. Why, England??

I know I have it much easier than some of my other fellow study abroad-ers in terms of language, but adjustment is hard no matter where you go. I can already hear myself changing slightly when I talk to my local friends, like using “quite” instead of “really” and “a bit” instead of “some”….But I still don’t think my midwestern accent will be budging any time soon!

Partially a Roman?

Partially a Roman?

Campania, Italy.
Campania, Italy.

Ciao amici! To be quite honest, I feel very cool greeting you all in Italian, some how makes me feel significantly more Italian. I have been here for about two weeks now and I can say that I am slowly adjusting.

People often like to glamorize study abroad because 97% of it is super glamorous. You are in a foreign country, exploring, eating and learning, that is a pretty fabulous life if you ask me! But there are also the other experiences that factor into studying abroad. Experiences such as homesickness, language trial and error and physically and mentally adjusting, that not so many people talk about. Now to be clear I am not at all a “debbie downer”, I’m just trying to embrace all of the study abroad experience and part of that are the challenges. Here are some lessons/personal remedies I have learned over the past two weeks:

1) Homesickness is real and normal! I am 21 years old and I miss my mom and my dog and I am not at all afraid to admit that. Well okay, at first I was embarrassed to admit that but feeling this way is normal. I had to put it into perspective. I just moved to a brand new country for four months, naturally I will miss things and people.

2) You will have several language fails. We were in Campania this weekend and a kind waiter came to take my dish away and I accidentally said “basta” which is the equivalent of saying “enough already!” but what I really meant to say was “finito”.  Major face palm moment, but that is a part of learning a new language! All the Italians I have interacted with are very willing to help me and correct my awful Italian and I am very grateful. Those language fails will be engrained in your brain, often times from deep embarrassment, but that is totally okay!

3) You will have moments that will make you say “Momma I made it!”. There have been moments in the last two weeks that have made me want to strike the iconic Rocky pose because I felt that I have accomplished a big feat. Okay, in reality these moments are actually quite minuscule but I felt like a champ. Moments such as tackling the bus system kind of on my own, going grocery shopping and not getting lost, knowing how to actually get somewhere and knowing what store to get something at. These are very small moments but I did in fact run (metaphorically) back to JFRC and text my Mom. I’m still very proud.

Till next time my friends! Ciao!


Orientation Weekend in Campania

Orientation Weekend in Campania

Ciao tutti!

Last Friday at 7am, I went with the JFRC to Campania, the province adjacent to Lazio, the province that Rome is in. We drove for about 4 hours until we reached a cliffside restaurant near the town of Agropoli where we had lunch. For lunch, we had lasagna, followed by pork and potatoes. Although the lasagna was good, it was not my favorite, as I still prefer lasagna alla Bolognese. Unlike the ladder, this particular lasagna was more based on a tomato sauce instead of a meat sauce, and had a slightly sweet aftertaste. The pork and potatoes were cooked well, and the pork had a slightly peppery taste to it, which I really enjoyed.

After lunch, we departed for an archeological site in a nearby town.  There, we examined numerous ruins left by the Roman empire that were constructed in a Greco-Roman fashion.  In the middle of the site, there were numerous structures that appeared to look similar to the Parthenon.  Although I enjoyed the tour, it was raining that day, so we had to go under an open air shelter for a bit until the rain subsided.  After, we went to the museum adjacent to the site, where we examined paintings, mosaics, and other works of art excavated from the site that were on display for preservation purposes.

Once we finished at the site, we departed for our hotel in Vietri, a small town along the Amalfi Coast.  After checking in, we had a welcome celebration led by the student life team, followed by dinner.  For dinner, we had a pasta that contained both pork and a mushroom sauce.  Although it was very good, it was not my personal favorite, as I am not the largest fan of mushrooms.  Objectively, though, it was cooked well.  Following the pasta was the second course, which consisted of turkey and potatoes.  Similar to lunch, both were cooked nicely, and the turkey has a slight peppery taste to it.  Throughout the meal, we were served ample wine.  The wine we received was a medium-bodied red, and although it was not as robust as a Cabernet or a Sangiovese, there was still ample flavor.

The next morning, we were woken up very early by staff, after which, we had breakfast and then went to both a bufala mozzarella farm and a winery.  We toured both facilities, followed by a tasting from each.  The bufala mozzarella was served in a water bath, so that when you bit into it, you could taste the freshness and richness of the mozzarella cheese.  Unlike other types of cheese, this particular cheese contained 9 percent milk fat, which meant that it was incredibly flavorful.  After the farm, we went to the wine tasting, where we sampled both a white and a red.  As you can tell from my blog, I prefer red wine outright to white; this particular white, however, was very full-bodied and was not too harsh.  To me, it tasted like a more refined, smoother pinot grigio.  Additionally, the red tasted very good as well; however, unlike the wine tasting in Umbria, it was not nearly as robust in its strength.  However, there was still flavor, and although fruity, it was not overwhelming.

After the wine tasting and lunch, we went to the town of Agropoli, where we climbed to a fort at the highest point in town.  From there, we saw spectacular views of the Southern Amalfi Coast.  We got a couple of hours to freely explore the town, have coffee, and shop.  Although I chose not to participate in the community mass, many people did, and those that attended it got to go inside a church situated on a cliff.  Once it came time to go, we boarded the busses and went back to the hotel for dinner.

Once dinner was almost over, a musical group from near Vesuvius came out of nowhere.  All of a sudden, the room went from moderately loud chatter to a room filled with excitement, music, and dancing.  Almost immediately, I found myself being yanked up from my seat onto the dance floor, where I danced with a member of the band.  I was a bit intimidated at first, seeing as I am not the best dancer; however, I got into the rhythm of the music, and after a while felt much more relaxed.  After the dancing, we enjoyed the rest of the night with new friends looking out over the water.

Although very tired the next day, we were, yet again, woken up very early to eat breakfast, check out, and board the buses.  Our last sight that we visited was a monastery situated on top of a very large hill just north of Naples.  We toured the compound, which included a museum, and were able to spend time taking pictures, talking with friends, and reflecting on our experiences up to this point.  It was a very peaceful environment, as for the first time in almost two weeks, I was able to find a place where I could be in complete silence and think about the many thoughts and experiences I have.

We then left the monastery, went to lunch, and departed back to Rome.

I know this blog was longer than usual, but I felt that there was a lot to highlight from this experience.  Unfortunately, the wifi is very bad in Italy, so I do not have the pictures right now for this blog.  In the future, once I find a solution, I will make sure to add pictures to the site!

Grazie per leggere, e a presto!



Back to My Roots

Back to My Roots

One of the main reasons why I chose Ireland to study abroad, is because of my family background. Both sides of my family stems from Ireland and I was so excited to become enriched in a culture that my family both values and reflects. Since being in Cork, I have begun to notice sayings or traits that remind me both of my family and myself. The most recent one was introduced to me by my Politics of Northern Ireland professor. She was explaining the background on some Irish history and she said to the class, “One thing you must know about the Irish is that if you ask them to do something, make them seem as if they have a choice, they will bend over backwards to try to accommodate you. But if you make it sound like a demand or don’t ask, they will refuse to do anything you say.” This made me smile because I felt like that 100% applied to both me, and a number of family members. Now whether that really is some Irish blood that is being passed down, or just a coincidence, little things like that make me feel as though I have a true ancestry here. The connection of going back to my roots is something I hoped to experience and hope that I will continue to do so. Plus, there is always the bright side of seeing my last name in true Irish form around the city. And yes, two different Irish people have told me that I am pronouncing my last name wrong.


A sign for a meat counter in the English Market in Cork


Since I have last written I have had the wonderful experience of traveling to Blarney. Where, of course, I saw the Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone. For those who don’t know, it is believed that if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will receive the gift of gab. Now, I don’t think I necessarily need the gift of gab, but it could never hurt. However, one thing I didn’t know about kissing the Blarney Stone is that it is easier said than done. To reach the Blarney Stone, you have to climb to the top of the Blarney Castle (don’t worry there are stairs, but they are very narrow and winding), once you reach the top there is someone there who will help you actually reach the stone. In order to kiss it, you have to lay on your back, scoot back out into a gap between the castle wall and where you are laying, and lean back and kiss it. Now this is made easier by the building of rails to hold onto and the guy who helps you back up, but it is definitely a bit more terrifying than I anticipated. But it was worth it, and both the Blarney Castle and the gardens were beautiful.


Blarney Castle
The view from the top of the castle
Kissing the Blarney Stone


Classes here at UCC have been fantastic. My favorite one right now is my Irish Politics class, both because the subject is extremely interesting and my teacher is fantastic. It is crazy to really look in depth about why there is a Republic of Ireland and a Northern Ireland, and to hear about the process, time, fighting, and legislation it took for Ireland to become its own nation. It really puts into perspective how much “easier” it was for the United States to become its own country when compared to the conflict that lasted so many years in Ireland and the turmoil and unrest that is still prevalent to this day. I look forward to learning more and more about the current political system here since most of my classes so far have dealt with the history and background of the country. This class complements well with my Politics of Northern Ireland course so by the end of the term, I should be able to explain to anyone who asks why there is both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and why it is not as simple as some preconceived notions may have you think.

Lastly, one thing you can count on if you come to Ireland for longer than a week, you will most likely develop a cold. It seems as though all of my friends and roommates are contracting a runny nose or cough that will hopefully go away at some point. The amount of moisture that is constantly in the air, and the fact that it rains on a daily basis, is the perfect combination. However, nothing can bring us down, and we have another group trip planned for Cobh this weekend and a pub crawl tonight.

Stay tuned for more!

Cultural notes:

~You WILL hear Fresh Prince of Bel-Air played every single time you go out. Whether it is a club or a pub, you will hear (and sing along to) this tune.

~ The greatest shopping store you will discover is called Penneys, which is a super cheap clothing and home goods store that will save you a bunch of money. A few of us went on a quick Penneys run the other day and the store was swarming with middle schoolers who had just gotten out of school. Apparently Penneys must be THE PLACE to hang after school is released because there was a large number of kids just running around and hanging out.


10 Things To Know Before You Go To Vietnam

10 Things To Know Before You Go To Vietnam

I am officially in love with Vietnam! My first two weeks in Ho Chi Minh City have been packed with many adventures and learning opportunities. I believe everyone should travel to this country. Therefore, I have compiled my top 10 things to know about Vietnam when traveling to this wonderful country. (Note: This list is primarily for Western, especially American, perspective.)

1. KNOW THAT A “TOURIST FEE” IS INEVITABLE AND DON’T FRET. (The most important, in my opinion.) While you may be over charged by 5,000 VN Dong, realize that this equates to a few cents in US dollars. I will admit sometimes it is not easy to overlook. Therefore,  keep these tips in mind:

a) 5,000 VND is not that much money to an American but can be a lot of money to a Vietnamese street food vendor
b) Taxes and tipping are not included in expenses when you’re feeling ripped off. In order to not get charged extra, check out number 2.


Attempting to learn Vietnamese.

As with any foreign country, you are less likely to pay a “tourist fee” if you attempt the language. Many Vietnamese appreciate when foreigners at least try to speak the language and even more so, when you enjoy the food. Don’t get me wrong, 9.9 times out of 10 I still have to use hand gestures like pointing and counting when ordering in Vietnamese. Fear not, I’ve always ended up ordering food, having a wonderful meal, and have successfully paid for my meal. You get used to it.

TIP: Fat Noodle Vietnamese Street Food Guide is a lifesaver, especially if you are adventurous with food.

This was an adjustment for me because in America, I use my debit card for everything. Here, you rarely find places that take credit cards. When using Vietnamese Dong you must understand the current exchange rate. Currently, the rate is 21,367 VND to $1.00 USD. The easiest way to convert mentally is to think 20,0000 VND = $1.00 USD because 1,367 VND is very small change in US dollars. Therefore, 10,000 VND = $0.50 USD, which is how much my ca phe sua da (coffee with condensed milk) costs (it’s delicious and a staple). Therefore, 200,000 VND = $10.00 USD. I’m sure you can figure out beyond that. HOWEVER, be mindful of small change: 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 VND ALL exists and it’s very easy to confuse at first. Don’t make the same mistake I did and try to give a coffee shop 1,500 VND instead of 15,000! I learned my lesson, laughed it off, and moved on.


Bia Saigon with Bánh canh cua.

Beer or Bia (BEE-UH) in Vietnamese is a great compliment to the hot weather and the occasional hot chilies in your Báhn Mí (check out a future post for all things food!). Bia is light and more watery than in America. More importantly, beer relieves potential bacteria you may encounter from eating street food. I have only questioned street food once here, which says a lot because I eat it every day, but I drank beer with the meal and all is well.

Caution, if your beer or any beverage comes with ice, make sure you drink ice WITH holes. If it does not have a hole, then it is not purified. Think: hole-y is holy.

So… try street food and have a reason to drink a beer.




Walking is always thrilling. Each path is like a new obstacle course.

My best advice – find a local and follow very closely beside them before crossing the street for the first time. Cars and motorbikes do not stop for pedestrians, so walk predictably and attentively. Be aware that sidewalks aren’t readily available. Motorbikes use the sidewalks, too, and pedestrians oftentimes walk in the street. Be alert. Walk with purpose.


I love exploring and ultimately learning by myself. The best way to get familiar with a city is navigating it yourself (even if you get lost – you can always take a cab back just keep extra money on you). Game changer: I don’t use Google Maps when exploring. I have limited wifi access, which has honestly been one of the best things, since I’m always attached to smartphone in the States. Until I learn more Vietnamese, directions are like:
Take a left. Pass the Báhn Mí lady with the fresh bread and spicier sandwich. Pass the Báhn Mí lady with the good Báhn bao and sells beer. Take a right by the fabric store on the corner. Go one block. Turn right and the Bún bò Huế (BOON BOH HWAY) place should be on the corner. 


Riding a motorbike in HCMC

First time to conquer your fear. Second time to really enjoy it. Third time to be apro. It is such a great  way to explore this amazing city.
Things to know:

a) By law, you must wear a helmet. Every xe ôm should carry an extra.
b) Beware of the exhaust pipes when riding. Keep your calves away. You WILL get burned.
c) Always put your purse/bag/backpack between you and the driver. Petty theft is the only crime to worry about.
d) Don’t wave your smartphone around. It will get snatched. This goes for anywhere in public.


Always write down your destination in Vietnamese before taking a taxi or xe ôm. I saved my dorm address and university address in my phone for quick access.


The kindest lady with the best Bún thịt nủớng.

You will not get anywhere with the Vietnamese if you have a terrible attitude. Understand that things are very different here than in the United States. Be open to understanding rather than judging and comparing one way of life to another. I have come to realize that the Vietnamese are some of the most friendly and generous human beings by nature. If you reciprocate with generosity and kindness, your experience will be exponentially better. 

Before you know it, your trip will be over, so marvel at every detail. Absorb the culture. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Marvel at the things that make Vietnam amazing and unique.

I hope you enjoy this post. Understand these are the most important things to know, in my opinion, so if you have other questions email me at

Until next time.

Chào các bạn.

Passport Problems

Passport Problems

Last Friday, all of us in the program went to the Foreign Police Department to register our visas. If I could compare this system to anything in the United States it would be the DMV…but a million times worse. There is only one Foreign Police Department in all of Santiago, so you can imagine every single foreigner is there. We all arrived promptly at around 9:00, an hour after it opens, and received our numbers which were in the 170’s-180’s. Upon obtaining our numbers, we passed the monitor that showed what numbers they were on, and they were only on 20. Not only was this place crowded, but the system was so slow that we ended up waiting there for 4 hours just to register our visas. Within those 4 hours, I took 2 naps and ate a snack. It also was around 90 degrees that day so we were all pretty sweaty and exhausted by the time our numbers were called. After registering our visas, we left at around 1:00pm to rush to the second office to obtain our Chilean identity numbers, which I think of as a social security number or driver’s license number perhaps. The only catch was that the office closed at 2:00pm, and the office was maybe half a mile away. All of us pretty much ran to the other office and made it just as they were about to close but luckily they took pity on us and we were the last people to be helped. Covered in sweat and panting like a dog, I excitedly gave my documents and passports to the lady who suddenly had a quizzical look on her face. She exchanged a couple words with the woman next to her with my passport in hand and then moved on to the next cubicle and the next. My stomach dropped because I knew there was something wrong, and low and behold, the woman explained to me that the man at the airport stamped my passport saying that I left Santiago on January 10th instead of that I arrived. Furthermore, she told me that the Foreign Police Department should have caught this mistake and that I would need to redo this process all over again. ALL OVER AGAIN. A whole day’s worth of waiting and sweating to be rejected because the man at the airport used the wrong stamp. Anywho, I re-did the process today with success and NO WAITING IN LINE! I was very lucky today, so maybe my luck is changing around. Point learned- make sure customs uses the correct stamp because otherwise it’s a pain in the butt to get it fixed.




All Roads Lead to Rome

All Roads Lead to Rome

Life was meant to be a great adventure. One event leads to the next and everything happens for a reason. January 13, 2015 was the start of my greatest one yet; all my roads led me to Roma. I embarked on the journey of a lifetime having only one 50-pound suitcase, an empty stomach, and a full heart to accompany me. A long journey awaited me, but I was more than ready.

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Ciao from Rome!

Ciao from Rome!

Colosseum, Rome, Italy.
Colosseum, Rome, Italy.

Hello friends! I have been in Rome for five whole days now and the feelings of being fantastically overwhelmed have slightly subsided. If this post seems frazzled it’s because I have experienced so much in such a short amount of time.

The first few days of being in Rome were going to various information sessions for orientation. But the real adventures occurred at night when we ventured off into the city on our own. My friends and I have gotten lost a total of four times but I guess you can’t really get lost if you didn’t know where you wanted to go in the first place. Despite all the various adventures, I do have some highlights.

1) Vatican City. This was my first adventure into the city and my goodness does this city look completely different during the day.

Vatican City
Vatican City

The Vatican is beautiful and right now they still have the Nativity scene and the huge Christmas tree up, so I got to feel the Christmas cheer for just a bit longer. Because this was our first trip out by ourselves, it was even more impactful. How cool is it that I am in Rome, taking a casual trip to the Vatican at night. Oh, no big deal! (So cool!!)

2) Colosseum. After watching The Gladiator a few years ago, visiting the Colosseum has been on my bucket list. I can tell you it did not disappoint at all! Looking at how intact this building still is is mind blowing. Thinking about what the Colosseum was used for seems like the Romans lived in such a different world. It was a gorgeous day as well, so we were able to get some really great photos.

3) Neighborhood Outing. One of the activities the staff here has planned for orientation is a dinner out at a local restaurant.  This was one of my favorite things I’ve done thus far because it encourages you to see the hidden gems of the community around us. A lot of people love going into the historic district of Rome, and there is nothing wrong with that, but meeting the locals is equally important. We went to this wonderful Sicilian restaurant and I do not have any photos because I was so focused on my food. The conversations, food and wine made it a wonderful, very stuffed night. Now I can see why the Italians view eating as a social event, can’t say I mind.

That’s all I got for now!

Till Next Time,


The beginning of my Roman Holiday

The beginning of my Roman Holiday

Buongiorno! I’ve had an exciting and exhausting first week in Rome. The city is nothing like I expected it to be–none of the pictures I’ve seen in textbooks or Google images do it justice. I have been fighting jet lag since day one, and orientation activities had all of us spring semester students too busy to sleep much. We began the trip with what felt like a dozen meetings about life here at the JFRC and a tour of the Balduina neighborhood. The Rome Center is situated at the top of Monte Mario, the tallest hill in Rome, which means that any trek through the neighborhood is sure to build up those calf muscles! With many signs in English, and many English-speaking Italians, it was easy to feel relatively comfortable right when I arrived here.

However, I’m beginning to notice all the small things that make Rome vastly different than anything I’ve seen back in the U.S. The most distinct difference so far is anything related to transportation. I’ve mentioned the hills already, but to add on to that, most of the streets and sidewalks are cobblestone. I’m convinced that there must be no rules at all for Italian drivers. If there’s a speed limit, they don’t seem to pay any attention to it. And stopping for pedestrians just isn’t something they do here–instead, they weave and dart around anyone walking in the street. That being said, Italian drivers have impeccable maneuvering skills. I surprisingly haven’t been hit (yet!). As far as parking goes, it looks like a free-for-all. I’ve seen the various tiny Italian cars parked in whatever direction they please, whether that’s crooked or backwards or in the opposite direction of the flow of traffic. It’s pretty comical, really, but also impressive. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about driving here. The streets are narrow and the vespas dart out of nowhere! Public transportation, as I did expect thanks to some helpful advice before I left, leaves something to be desired. Coming from Loyola, I’m used to the reliable and efficient CTA trains and bus routes. Here, the buses pretty much come and go when they please, while the train routes are very limited for a city so big. I’ve also noticed that Rome has lots of litter and is generally a dirty place. That must be why the people here wear black all the time.

But what Rome lacks in transit options and cleanliness, it makes up for in beauty. Over the weekend, I spent two surreal nights exploring downtown. As I wandered around with friends that I met during the group flight and orientation meetings, I got to see so many places I had never expected visit (I studied French for five years, so Italy always seemed somewhat distant). I saw the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), the Four Rivers Fountain, and Piazza Cavour during those first couple nights exploring. I was extremely disappointed to find out that the Trevi is undergoing extensive construction right now so it is almost entirely blocked by metal structures and tarps. But there is a small pool of water that they encourage people to throw coins in. I did of course throw a coin, which is supposed to guarantee that I will come back to Rome at some point later in life! It was exciting to see the exact places where many famous movies, such as Three Coins in a Fountain, have been filmed. I absolutely adore the fact that people go out so much later here. My friends and I went to a place called Abbey’s Pub near Piazza Navone around 10:30 p.m., but by the time we left just after midnight there were at least three times more people crowding the streets than when we’d went into the pub! As the SLAs warned us in orientation, there is truly no personal space in Rome, even in the middle of the road at night.

One of the best parts of the nightlife here is the food and wine (obviously). I went to a Magnum ice cream store where a man dipped the ice cream into a chocolate coating and toppings right before my eyes. I’m still in shock at how divine it tasted–nothing like the boxed garbage we eat back at home! Of course, gelato is the real Italian specialty. I’ve been pairing chocolate (which is deliciously rich) with other flavors and haven’t gone wrong! So far, the tiramisu gelato is my favorite. And the tiramisu in general. The JRFC hosted a “dinner in the neighborhood” during orientation, where we paid for a several-course meal at a restaurant near campus. For the most part, I had no idea what I was eating. There was amazing pasta, cheese, and plenty of bread, so what else matters at this point? I’ll begin to understand the food terminology eventually. The food here is more fresh than anything I could hope to taste at home. So far, I especially like the pizza. Pizza is something I can understand in any language. And, yes, the part all my friends at home have been waiting for me to write about–I’ve been drinking incredible wine with many of my meals. Don’t ask me the names of them, though…that’s another thing I’m working on!  I also bought a bottle of white wine for under 4 euros, but realized when I brought it back to campus that I don’t have a bottle opener. I’m still getting adjusted to it all.

I also got to go to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum with an orientation group. Just as pictures don’t do these places justice, neither do words. I tried to soak up all of the history in front of me by imagining what life must have been like during the height of the Roman Empire. I cringed at how thousands of people gathered to watch gladiators fight to the bloody death, and stood in awe as I imagined the low, excited hum of voices as the men of Rome paraded into the Colosseum. When you look past all the tourists and their ridiculous “selfie sticks,” it’s mind boggling that the Colosseum was even bigger and grander than what we see today. The Forum, though, was the most breathtaking thing I’ve seen. Even more so than the Colosseum, it’s a lot larger than I would have expected. The ruins and rubble are situated right in the middle of modern Rome, so from the top of the Forum you can see the amazing juxtaposition of old and new and the nature that ties it all together. I reached the top just as the sun was setting, so I didn’t get to stay for long, but I wish I could have sat there and looked out over the city all day. It’s beautiful now, so I can’t wrap my mind around how magnificent the city must have been before it turned to rubble. You can see the ruins of countless palaces and churches with some of the most detailed architecture in the world–and the Romans did it without all the advantages we have today. It took decades, even centuries, for most of those places to be completed, making many modern buildings seem thrown up haphazardly in comparison. Walking among the various columns, arches, and building structures, I thought about how many people died or were murdered just beneath my feet. I know I keep speaking in superlatives, but seeing the Forum was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. After I left and went out to explore the city more, it began to sink in that I’m actually in Rome. We walked through the nearby Piazza Venezia, which was filled with tourists, but I loved how the city was bustling just next to the ruins. I also began to feel like I was in the Lizzie McGuire movie, which let’s be honest, is everyone’s dream.

My first class starts today (Italian 101), so I need to head off to buy some books and grab lunch. I hope you all continue to read up on my adventure throughout Italy and other parts of Europe!

Ciao tutti!


View from the top of the Roman Forum
View from the top of the Roman Forum
Sono ritornato a Roma

Sono ritornato a Roma

Ciao tutti!

As you can see from the title of this blog, I have returned back to Rome from a month break in the United States. Although I enjoyed spending time with old family and old friends, by the time the temperature dropped to close to -15 degrees Celsius, I was ready to return.

Upon returning to Rome, I found myself feeling many conflicted feelings about my return. On the one hand, I was returning to a world that I had once known: familiar teachers, co-workers, even many full-year students with whom I had been waiting to become reunited with. On the other hand, there were close to 200 new faces that I found myself in contact with, which, in-and-of itself, was more than 100 greater people than last semester’s population. So while my experience back to Rome was a return home, it was also the start of a new adventure.

This past week I had taken part in orientation, and although many events were the same, such as visiting the Colosseum, as well as exploring this vast city with a new group of friends, unlike last semester, we went into the mountains yesterday for a day excursion into Lazio. While on this excursion, we visited two mountain towns: the town of Bagnaia, which was close to Viterbo, as well as the town of Capararola. In the first town, we visited a large villa and some gardens. The villa had been in the town for centuries, even surviving the hardships of the Second World War.

After seeing the villa in Bagnaia, we had a community lunch in a mountain top park. For lunch, we had pasta cacio e pepe, roasted chicken with potatoes, as well as a liquor-saturated sponge cake. The pasta was very flavorful, albeit a bit al dente for my taste. The chicken and potatoes, on the other hand, were cooked perfectly. The chicken was moist, flavorful, and tasted of rosemary, while the potatoes were seasoned perfectly. In my opinion, the cake was the best part of the meal; it was a chocolate cake with a sponge-cake top that was saturated with a dolce liquor.

Once lunch was completed, we ventured to the town of Capararola, where we saw an old manor that at one point had been converted into a fort. This particular site had been around for centuries, and contained many different pieces of exquisite art work. Upon completion of visiting the site, we returned to Rome.

Well that is all I have for now. Over the next few weeks I will update you with my findings and observations as I continue to travel throughout Rome, Italy, Europe, and beyond!

Ciao per ‘ora,