The GoGlobal Blog

Month: August 2016

Am I doing this right?

Am I doing this right?

Am I prepared? Have I done enough research on local culture? Am I bringing the right shoes? Should I have used a different bank?

With only one week left until I leave for four months in London I’m wondering if I prepared correctly. With so many thoughts swirling my head it’s hard to focus on actually getting anything ready.  I’ve drafted my next Target run list three times already. But don’t I need an extra travel size deodorant? No.

I continually need to remind myself to pack light. Only bring what is necessary and will be used often; clothes that can be worn with many outfits, shoes that are comfortable, only toiletries I use on a regular basis. With only one checked bag, I know I don’t have space for everything I WANT to bring but I haven’t been able to bring myself to start making the tough decisions about which things need to stay home.  And to think that two years ago I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit everything into one car!


Besides just stuff I am bringing, there is way more to prepare. Do I have all the correct credit/debit cards? How do I get an absentee ballot for the election? How can I handle all that and moving across the country?  Luckily for me I am headed to a big city, which is sort of in my comfort zone after living in Minneapolis and Chicago. I have experience with navigating public transportation, interacting with different types of people and the fast pace which will help me adjust to London.  Of course, I have never moved across the ocean without knowing anyone before. But I got this, right?

Either way I’m heading off soon. I am hoping writing about my experiences abroad will give me a chance to reflect on what I want to take away from my semester.  I just hope I am doing this right.

Ready, Set, Don’t Go

Ready, Set, Don’t Go

Growing up in a family where a family road trip every summer was the norm and a “vacation” day or two, crammed with activities from museums to presidential libraries, was added to any out of town baseball game, tennis tournament, dance competition or college visit, I guess you could say the travel bug bit me early.

I am so grateful for those early years of travel, and all the unforgettable moments they provided. Learning about different regions of my own country has equipped me with an open mind and passion for learning about cultural differences that makes traveling outside of the States that much more rewarding.

Since my first trip abroad in 2010 and my departure for this journey, I traveled to 13 countries on 4 different continents, over half of which were exclusively for educational purposes. All of these experiences left me wanting more. More time, more immersion, more growth.

In fact, I had planned to spend my sophomore year doing the full year program at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center in Rome, Italy. I adjusted my course schedule, applied, was accepted, and then something, I’m not quite sure what, told me not to go. Thankfully, I listened.

On my first day of classes, and what would have been the start of my second week abroad, my father had a severe stroke and lost his speech and mobility of his right side. Over the next 10 months he fought – first to recover, and then Stage IV Lung Cancer before passing away in June 2014. Within those 10 months, I also lost 2 dear friends, a close teacher and my grandfather.

All of this eventually took a huge toll, causing me to lose my passion for travel, and for learning. I became afraid of anything that might upset the status quo. After a year and a half of going through the motions, it was time for a change – a drastic change – to get me back on track personally and academically. That’s when I decided I needed to do something that had always brought me joy, something that always challenged me, and something that I had grown to love during long family road trips and my previous time abroad.

I decided first on Vietnam, but I quickly learned about other programs that peaked my interest, and was determined to fit in as much as possible in the time it would take me to finish my degree.

By October 1st of last year, I had already applied to Fall 2016 in Vietnam, as well as two summer Faculty-led programs Loyola was offering – China Green and Seoul, Korea. My mind was set – I would be going abroad for over half a year, traveling, alone if need be, in between programs to further my understanding of Asia.

In January, on my 22nd birthday, I was accepted to all 3 programs (one of the best birthday presents I have ever received!) and there was no turning back. I became obsessed with traveling as much as I could in the years to come.

There were two major issues:

1. Loyola has a two semester study abroad policy.

2. My plan would not fit into the traditional “4-year plan” seen as how I was technically finishing my 4th year already.

I memorized the courses offered, the opportunities provided and the classes I still needed to complete. After some highly organized planning that may or may not have fried my brain, I had devised a plan that would allow me to finish my degree abroad… and add two minors…

Fall 2016 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Spring 2017 Uppsala, Sweden
Full Year 2017-2018 Rome, Italy

I appealed to study abroad for 4 semesters, attaching the detailed academic plan I had laid out for myself, along with a 10 page letter explaining why these programs and this timing was the best way for me to complete my degree. With the support of my family, my advisor and the study abroad office, my appeal was accepted.

Even with two years of new places, new friendships and new foods to look forward to, planning to study abroad proved to be a stressful, painstaking process, especially having close family and friends I would be leaving behind. The eight months I had to plan my trip were not enough time to prepare myself for what was to come. I had my doubts almost every week, but I knew how much pushing through would benefit me.

I have been traveling for three months now and it still isn’t always easy to be gone. I am writing this while sunbathing on a boat in the Gulf of Thailand, the sea breeze blowing through my hair and mountainous islands all around. I am surrounded by beauty, but I miss home more than ever.

In a few weeks, it will be the first Bears game of the regular season, which I attend every year with my Aunt and Uncle and haven’t missed in over a decade. Last week, there were bombings throughout Thailand. Knowing my family will now be increasingly concerned with my safety makes me long for home even more.

Though I know it would bring me all the joy in the world to be sitting at home eating some of my brother’s mouthwatering dishes using vegetables from our garden, I couldn’t be more happy with my decision to study abroad at this point in my life. I know that with every passing day I am growing more confident in myself, more aware of other cultures, and more prepared for what the rest of my journey holds.

In just 10 days I arrive in Ho Chi Minh City to begin the next leg of my journey. I will meet new people, try new foods, learn (as much as I can) a new language, and continue to develop myself personally, academically, and professionally. I am not quite sure what to expect, but I am excited to see what the next four months will bring.

This time, I am ready.

Ten Days till Vietnam!

Ten Days till Vietnam!

Batu Caves - KL, Malaysia
Batu Caves – KL, Malaysia

It’s around 5am in Chiang Mai. I’ve been up for the past two hours listening to the pitter-patter of monsoon rain as it falls on the green plastic roof of our guesthouse. This first blogpost has to happen eventually so it may as well happen now – in the dark on a moist chair cushion outside my room.  

I’m outside because I don’t want to wake Emily, a fellow Loyola student and one of my dearest friends. Emily and I met our freshman year at Loyola University Chicago’s John Felice Rome Center. Both Rome Start students we lived in adjacent rooms and became friends over a bagel and cream cheese one fateful November morning. The rest is history. We both decided to study abroad in Vietnam for different reasons and it was a wonderful bonus that we just so happened to get to share the experience together. Both of us has saved up for this for the past two years, ever since we returned from Rome. It’s all been leading up to this and now we’re about five days into a two-week long trip to Malaysia and Thailand before our program in Ho Chi Minh City starts on August 24th! Having been in Rome we watched students jet off every weekend to different countries and both of us valued our quiet weekends getting to know the city of Rome. We wanted to travel before the program because once we get to Vietnam we would like to spend the weekends exploring the diverse country and HCMC as much as we can!

The start of the trip was rough. Emily was almost refused entry on our flight from Seattle to Taipei and then Taipei to Kuala Lumpur because she didn’t have the credit card the flight was bought with (i.e her father’s card). It took her three hours to successfully check-in and then we stumbled upon another little issue. Emily found a wallet in the bathroom, we couldn’t find any airport employees and a cranky TSA women told us she wouldn’t help and that we had to call the police. Thankfully, the woman had an AT&T bill in her wallet so we were able to call her up and do a rad wallet-pass-off through the security gates via a different TSA agent as she had already left for baggage claim (thank goodness EVA Air didn’t want to let Emily on the plane!). After 24+ hours of travel we arrived at our AirBnb in Kuala Lumpur and had no idea how to turn on the hot water so we both subsequently took freezing showers after having cooled the room down to a chill 18 degrees Celsius. We learned after that all we had to do for hot water was flip a switch on the bathroom wall. Later, I found a pack of exploded Goldfish in my checked bag that had turned to delicious cheddar sand all over my clothes and shoes. Things shaped up in KL: I had some tasty nasi lemak, watched a monkey steal apples from a man and listened to the call to prayer (a sound that reminds me of my old home in New Delhi, India).

Petronas Towers - KL, Malaysia
Petronas Towers – KL, Malaysia


I did not wake up this morning at 3am because I am jetlagged but rather because I am anticipating breakfast, this entire day and the next four months. I woke up this morning because I have so much to look forward to and I literally could not sleep. Also who can complain about waking up at 3am when you get to watch the sun rise over the lush greenery and rooftops of Chiang Mai? How wonderful is life.





Endless Summer 2016

Endless Summer 2016

At least that’s what it feels like anyways. I am standing over the precipice, looking down, ready to take the step forward, the step that will plummet me into a colossal life experience that will forever shape part of who I am. I cannot begin to explain how blessed I feel to have this experience. I am going to be learning, exploring, and living in Southeast Asia for four months. Vietnam will be my new home for a time. How crazy is that?

Anyways, for the purposes of this blog, let me tell you a little about myself.

My name is Michaela Rabinov, I am a creative advertising major, and a dance minor. I was born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii, but have been living in Chicago for the past four years for school. I do go home twice a year though for breaks.

That is where I have been for the past five weeks. Hawaii. Hawaii is like no other place in the world, and my love for it will never die, but it is an island, and once you have experienced the bigger world, you begin to yearn to experience more and more of the bigger world. Once I started traveling, I could not stop. I have always been a bit of a risk taker/adrenaline junkie/soul searcher/whatever you may call it,  and yet, I have never gone to a new place for five months without knowing anybody, or speaking the language at all before. So this is new, and

Yesterday, I (over)packed my bags, and left Hawaii for Portland. I am here for a couple of days before I have to fly to Chicago for five hours (because it was vastly cheaper to book round trip tickets). Then I fly directly to Shanghai (15 hour flight) where I will spend five days going to Xi’an, Huangshan, and Hangzhou. Then I will finally fly to Ho Chi Minh City to meet up with my fellow loyolans and future adventure buddies.

One of the strangest realizations that I have had so far in this experience was when I was at orientation a couple of months back. I was sitting in the room looking around, and all I could think about was that I didn’t know a single person sitting in that room, but that come December, at least a few of them will probably be considered some of my best friends. Life is kind of amazing that way.

I feel like I have so many expectations for this experience, and yet, I have no idea what they are. So in a way, I guess I have no expectations, which is probably a good thing.

I do have some fears of course, the usual ones, like what will happen if I get mugged and my passport is stolen, or if I get sick, or get malaria (I have some pills for  that), or have any of you seen the movie Taken??? (just kidding, sort of). My biggest fear is honestly my return to Chicago, after this semester is over. It will be the middle of January (I hate winter), and I already know that reverse culture shock is worse than actual culture shock. I am making a huge effort to focus on the present, and to enjoy what I have now though.

The past five weeks in Hawaii have been filled with many experiences. Four days ago, I had my wallet, phone, and a few other things stolen, and so I had to scramble to replace those important items before I left, but during my time home, I also got to swim with sharks, hike some mountains, surf a few waves, and get scuba certified, among many other incredible adventures. The way I see it, the positive experiences always outweigh the negative ones, and the negative ones just have to be seen as learning experiences. This is why I feel ready to take on whatever it is that Asia throws at me. I am entering these next five months with an open mind, and an open heart, and I am ready to take in everything.

olomana sharks

Conquering Your Emotions

Conquering Your Emotions

Buongiorno a tutti (Good morning everyone)!

My first post, yay!!! (Un)fortunately, Bachelorette mania is over. *SPOILER: The guy I picked to win, whom was also my favorite since the beginning, won- aka Jordan! I’m starting to think I have a real talent for this sort of thing. Also, Chase for #TheBachelor, amirite??*  Now, with my attention no longer concentrated on who is getting the final rose, I have shifted my focus to two things:

  1. Following and stalking Jojo and Jordan on every social media platform possible
  2. Packing for Rome!!!

Personally, and I consider this to be one of my biggest flaws, I find it hard to get excited for something until it’s actually happening, until I am finally there experiencing it firsthand. So, this entire summer when people have been asking me if I’m excited or if I’m nervous or if I’m feeling any type of emotion, I give them a polite nod, but in reality, I really don’t feel anything. Of course I can’t wait for the adventures ahead of me, but it’s hard for me to put these feelings into words. However, now that I was given the opportunity to write this blog, and now that my friends and I are discussing all the places we want to go, my cold heart is starting to be warmed by the thoughts of leaving so soon for the Eternal City. I even got a countdown going on: 19 days until departure! Sooo, I wanted my first post to be all about the emotions I have been feeling and to give advice to those of you who may read this as a way to decide whether or not to study abroad at all. Andiamo (Let’s go)!

The summer leading up to my departure has been nothing but a rollercoaster of emotions; however, I have the tendency to internalize what I am feeling. I hate looking weak because in the eyes of others, I should feel nothing but happiness because I am so lucky to get the chance to experience something like this. And don’t get me wrong, I do realize how lucky and privileged I am to be able to undergo such an adventure. But I can’t help but feel distant from the entire thing, it just doesn’t feel real! I have theories as to how its going to be, but I can’t be too sure until I get there. And I’m especially trying not to think about not seeing my family for three months. Yeah there’s Facetime, but after nannying my nephew for the entire summer, it’s just going to be weird not to see him for so long. Hence why I’ve put a wall up. It’s worked so far.

UNTIL, the other day, the anxiety and nerves overtook me out of the blue, which led to an inevitable cry sesh (twas eventually cured with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s The Tonight Dough and a showing of Pride and Prejudice, the Keira Knightly movie version obviously). It was then that I realized how out of control I felt, that I was going across the ocean to places I’ve never seen, and I started to question whether I made the right decision to study abroad. I chose Loyola because I loved the school, but most importantly because it was so close to where my family lives. And I don’t want to question my decision because I definitely know that this is about to be one of the greatest semesters of my life!

I started to read about others experiences and noticed that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of nervousness, which gave me great comfort. I also talked to my friends, who will also be studying abroad, and they emphasized their fears as well. All of this made me realize that having these types of emotions is very normal. You are a departing for a country that you know virtually nothing about. You may know specific landmarks or sites or you may even know a bit of the language and customs like me, but you can’t be sure how exactly life will be until you get there and have lived there among the people and culture for a few days or weeks. I know it’s hard to believe, but you are here for school, so it won’t be all traveling. Instead of focusing on the things that can’t be controlled, such as the people you meet or the experiences you may have, try to center your mind on what’s important, that being your education. These thoughts have calmed me because it reminds me that there will be people in my classes who are going to be experiencing everything at the same time as me. So, I keep telling myself ‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This isn’t a sign of weakness, it just means you are willing to learn.’

To reiterate, it’s okay to feel things, whatever they may be. The worst thing you can do is be like me and bottle these emotions and then have them all hit you like a train. When you think about it, everything in life is a leap of faith. Every choice you make isn’t an easy one, but I am a firm believer in doing what makes you uncomfortable. Yeah, that sounds weird, but by doing the things that make your stomach clench with nerves, the chance to learn a lot about yourself is there. The only person who is stopping you is you.

As the weeks go by, you’ll learn that I love to blab on and on and on, but I just have a lot to say! (-: I want this blog to be a lot of things. I want to highlight my experiences for my friends and family, I want to give advice and tips to future study abroad goers, and I want this to be a source of clarity to those of you who may have questions or concerns.

I hope you all find enjoyment in reading this as much as I did writing it.

Arrivederci i miei amici (Goodbye my friends)! <3



A Long Way to Get to Where I am Now

A Long Way to Get to Where I am Now

Literally! One 2 hour flight from Chicago to New York, then a 15 and a half hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, and finally another 2 hour flight from Jo-burg to Cape Town! Spending over 24 hours on a plane or in an airport leaves little room for enjoyment. However, exhaustion and hunger could not stop the excitement from bubbling inside me as I was transferred from the airport to the residence hall where I will live for the next 5 months…


A week later and my excitement has only grown into all out amazement and awe of what South Africa has to offer. So little time here and yet so much has already been accomplished. Our first real tour outside of Cape Town was The Garden Route with this amazing touring company Southern Ambition Africa (highly recommended if you are ever in Cape Town).


Early morning start: The tour started at the wonderful time of 4:45AM. We hopped on a bus and everyone just went right back to sleep. If you were awake, you would have gotten a beautiful view of the early morning sunrise over the mountains. Since it is winter here the temperature was a brisk 0°C which made it impossible for the heater to work on the bus. My fuzzy socks came out to warm my feet but my nose was freezing.


Day 1: The only relaxation time occurred on the bus or for lunch/dinner. Every other second was spent exploring, seeing beautiful scenery, taking pictures, touring new places, and having fun. Our first stop was in Oudtshoorn, “The Ostrich Capital of the World”.20160707_130611_resized [89217] Here we stopped at an ostrich farm where we were able to feed the ostriches, get a neck message from the ostriches (I wouldn’t leave a tip though), kiss an ostrich, and even ride an ostrich. The main ostrich we interacted with was named Betsy, she was the nicest. After an amazing lunch, where yes, I had ostrich meat, we got back on the bus and moved right along to the next destination. Caving time! We arrived at the Cango Caves and split up into two groups: the historical walk and the adventure walk. With no hesitation I got on the Adventure Walk train. I ended with bruises and scraped knees but it was worth it. 20160707_154116_resized_1 [89199]The caves were so beautiful and massive; one of the caves was used as a concert hall in the past. I am shocked that I was able to squeeze myself into some of the spaces. At certain points I had to walk at a ninety degree angle, duck walk, crawl, slide on my butt, slide on my stomach, climb up a chimney-like hole, you name it. Once all was said and done, I was sweaty, in pain, and so happy!


Day 2: Another early morning wake up call. After breakfast it was right back on the bus and off to the next adventure. Elephants. Elephants. Elephants. Elephants! Our first stop of the day took us to the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary. Here, I got to spend the day learning about elephants and how these elephants were brought to the sanctuary and what their rehabilitation process is.20160708_113937_resized_1 [176062]20160708_114541(1)_resized_1 [89208] Two of the elephants did not have a proper trunk and were unable to eat properly in the wild and so were brought to the sanctuary to learn to adapt to eating with their hurt trunks. The highlight of the trip was being able to walk with the elephants and pet them. It was such an incredible experience. Being near to such a beautiful and magnificent animal was both terrifying and thrilling. Walking with the elephants entailed standing next to their heads while they placed their trunks in your hand. It was adorable and I died a little inside because of how happy I was. Too soon, our time at the sanctuary came to an end and we had to move on. The second stop was a beautiful beach about 30 minutes away from Knysna. At the end of the beach, on a hill, there was an abandoned railroad. This railroad was used as a way for people to travel from Cape Town to Knysna and other parts of the Western Cape. However, due to rough weather, safety issues, and money problems the entire railroad was abandoned. As we climbed up to the railroad the view of the town and the beach were breathtaking. 20160708_171006_resized [89193]Clouds were rolling in from the sea and had cast a glow over the ocean. We followed the railroad around a bend and through a tunnel until we arrived at our destination. Hidden in the cliff and designed out of a cave lived a man who turned the cliff-side cave into a home.20160708_165506_resized [89185] A home not only for himself, but homeless men and women who he has dedicated his life to rehabilitating. Thousands of shells hung from makeshift ceilings, rooms divided by curtains, beds and tables made out of anything, and all only lit by candle light. This man’s generosity turned into something majestic and beautiful to look out. The cave, with one of the best views in the world, is a sanctuary for people who have nothing. It could easily have been a tourist attraction; a five-star restaurant that people would pay hundreds of dollars for just for the view. Instead, it is a home of refuge for so many and hopefully it will forever stay that way.


Day 3: Not surprisingly, our last day of the Garden Route started just as all the others: early. We only had one activity scheduled for today, since we had an eight-hour journey back to Cape Town afterwards, and it was canoeing. Being the lucky person I am , I was paired up with my RA, Lovemore (yes that is his real name).20160709_101723_resized [179556] Suffice it to say canoeing with Love was interesting. On our journey out, he had made it his mission to splash, beat, or bump into everyone who was around us. My goal was to just not tip over into the river. The other boats all headed to this grassy area at the end of the river, where we were supposed to go. 20160709_102813_resized [179557]However, Love and I decided to depart from tradition and head for the random island in the middle. Not a completely wise decision as the island was covered in bird poo, hence Love’s name for it “Poop Island”. After about an hour of exploring “Poop Island” (though it mainly consisted of walking about 50 feet), walking to another beach, talking pictures, and dancing it was time to head back. Our canoe trip back was much calmer, no ramming into other people’s boats. Finally back on solid ground and we hadn’t tipped or fallen in; that is what I call a success!!!


Only a week… That’s all it took for me to fall completely and utterly in love with South Africa. Any apprehension I had about being so far away from home has completely vanished. All my fears about not enjoying myself or having fun are already a thing of a past. If all this can happen in one week I am so excited to discover everything that is to come in the next 5 months!!!20160709_103414_resized [89179]

Friends, Dogs and Wine

Friends, Dogs and Wine

Hey there! Thanks for stopping by to read my first post, which has ended up being extremely stereotypical and admittedly a little boring. In the future, I would like to be a bit more analytical in my perceptions of South African culture, touching on the subjects of race, gender and sexual orientation, but as I have not yet figured out how to unpack those subjects in a fully comprehensible, respectful and thoughtful way, these next few simple paragraphs will have to do.

As of today, I have been in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for exactly one month. This lovely little town is more charming than I ever could have imagined, and being surrounded by 135 wineries and an endless expanse of mountainous beauty is a lifestyle that I am easily getting used to.

The most difficult, albeit expected, aspect about studying here has been the distance that has, both literally and figuratively, formed between me and my friends and family. Although the university provides campus-wide wifi to all students, the service is not free, and due to the limited internet access, I have become exceedingly aware and thoughtful of which online activities are worth my time, and which aren’t. Obviously, contact with loved ones is important in any circumstance, but I am trying to turn this limitation into an opportunity for personal and independent growth.

In addition, because I haven’t been able to text or call my friends, I have been forced (maybe “pushed” is a better word) to make new friends and quickly form my own little pseudo-family here. And certainly, the absolute most positive thing I have gained from this experience thus far is a sense of family. I am so lucky to live with seven people who make it a joy for me to come home every day. Because we spend the majority of our time together, it feels like we have all known each other for nearly a lifetime. And beyond just my housemates, the entire international office here cultivated such a tight knit sense of community during the first week of orientation that I automatically feel welcome among any group of international students. When applying and preparing for study abroad, I was extremely nervous about meeting new people and being accepted into a new group, but this fear has quickly faded thanks to all the wonderful and unique souls I have met thus far.
My favorite thing to do in Stellenbosch is volunteer for the Animal Welfare Society as a dog walker. Even though the society’s facility is currently far over capacity, the workers and volunteers there continue to tirelessly take impeccable care of every animal in their custody. It is a pleasure to spend half a day walking a couple pups up through the hilly vineyards. Spending time with animals has always been a rewarding and enjoyable activity for me, and I am very happy to have so quickly found an outlet for that hobby. Another (slightly more selfish) way I have been spending my time is by touring many of the aforementioned 135 wineries in and surrounding Stellenbosch. This is a surprisingly affordable pastime, and without fail, an absolute treat. Not only do the wineries offer a vast selection of South African reds and whites, they also almost always offer a wide variety of delicious meals and small plates.

Until next time, my friends.

Trying (unsuccessfully) not to panic

Trying (unsuccessfully) not to panic

I am, by nature, a very worried person. There is almost never a time when I am not completely stressed out about some aspect of my life. College itself is extremely stressful; any of you can agree that pulling frequent all-nighters and living off caffeine isn’t exactly the ideal lifestyle. Add studying abroad to the picture and you’re setting yourself up for a crazy stressful (and unforgettable) semester.

That being said, I cannot believe what I’m getting myself into. I’m about to be waaaay out of my comfort zone, but in a good way. In just 24 days, I will be boarding a plane at O’Hare, spending 9 hours in the sky, and landing in the beautiful city of Madrid, Spain. But, before I can enjoy the Spanish sun and sangria, I have a lot to accomplish.

Since my summer has consisted of me working 30+ hours a week, I have had very little time to even think about my upcoming semester abroad. My to-do list is a hopeless mess; I’m scribbling new tasks on it every day. My host family has neglected responding to any of my emails, I’m still on the waitlist for two of the classes I’m taking, and I have yet to pay my tuition (oops). I’m completely overwhelmed. Cue panic induced mental freakout.

Another thing I am completely unprepared for is spending an entire 4 months away from Loyola, the city I’m obsessed with, and all the people I love. I am already dreading the goodbyes. Last semester was my best one yet and my heart aches knowing I have to temporarily leave it all behind. I am very confident, however, that I will return in December ready to pick up right where I left off.

Throughout my time in Spain, I hope to update this blog at least once every two weeks. Not only will it be a great way for my family and friends to keep up with my adventures if they so wish, it will also serve as an outlet for my own thoughts and experiences as they happen. I am excited to see how my semester abroad will impact me and help me grow as an individual.

Thank you for taking the time to read my rambling and unorganized first post.

¡Hasta luego!

For Prospective Kookmin(or Korea) Exchange Students

For Prospective Kookmin(or Korea) Exchange Students

taken offline
Chicago summers1

Hello, and welcome to my first blog post! Today is August 2, 2016, and the end of summer is in sight, which also means that the fall semester is just around the corner!


For my study abroad trip to Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, I am expected to be on campus on August 27, the weekend before classes start on August 29th, for a one day orientation. With less than a month before I start a whole new chapter of my life in South Korea, I’d like to share with prospective students what the summer has been like for me (since it might be the case for you)!


Initially, I had hoped that all the details for my study abroad trip would be set in stone before the summer started, heck, even before finals were over, but, alas, that was not the case.


I am not sure if it is just Kookmin University or perhaps all Korean colleges, but one should consider that your host university might operate on a much later schedule than is the norm for US colleges. I applied to Loyola’s study abroad office and USAC, the University Study Abroad Consortium that creates the study abroad experience, by mid-January and received my approval from both of these institutions by February and March respectively, and then waited to hear back from Kookmin University.


During this time, I went ahead to get course approvals, applied to the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship and the Loyola sponsored USAC scholarship, and renewed my passport. Finals came and went. Students all around me announced their study abroad plans and were registering for class, but I  still had not received word from Kookmin University.  I emailed my USAC advisor and was told that Kookmin University doesn’t actually close the fall registration application window until July 1st, so waiting was inevitable.


Two-thirds of a summer flew by, and then it finally happened! I was notified on July 14th by email that I was accepted by Kookmin University and admitted to their International School of Business. At this news, I was ecstatic and felt 20 pounds lighter with alleviated stress and uncertainty! Immediately, I booked my flight to Korea’s Incheon airport. I received some additional materials from my USAC advisor and was officially free to prepare for my trip during the next six weeks.


However, the waiting didn’t stop there. Another week passed(understandably) before I received my original acceptance letters from Kookmin University through the mail, signed by the college president himself. As soon as I could, I took those documents and everything else necessary to the General Consulate of the Republic of Korea located on the 37th floor in the NBC Tower in Chicago and applied for my student visa on July 26th.  I actually got a call from the UPS store, letting me know that my visa is ready for pickup as I was writing this. The visa process only took me a week!


I also received an email just this past hour from the International Affairs Division manager in Kookmin about class registration, so that process is underway, too!


Besides that, I have been checking into what items I need to buy and pack for my journey abroad, printing backup copies of my identification and insurance cards as per USAC’s suggestion, and am just trying to enjoy my last few weeks in the states. I downloaded an app (Tengugo Hangul) to learn how to read Korean and am now working on learning how to make sentences with an online resource ( I’ve started watching a handful of videos on Youtube about Korean etiquette and norms, too, and am getting so incredibly excited to immerse myself in a new culture and to share the experiences with Kookmin’s 200 other exchange students. With just a little bit more than three weeks before departure, all the pieces are finally falling into place.


I hope that if your study abroad plan to Korea feels delayed like mine that you not panic like I nearly did. Your study abroad trip will happen- just a little bit slower than what you’ve come to expect, which might honestly be your first cultural lesson. 



The next post will be more emotional and personal as I will only have one week before I depart, but until then an-nyeong-hi-gye-seo (goodbye)!



I still don’t know how to use chopsticks

I still don’t know how to use chopsticks

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

Jawaharlal Nehru
1st Prime Minister Of India

This is my pretty generic first post:

I am currently sitting here wondering what I am about to do with my life. In just over a week I will be on a 13 hour flight to spend the next 4 months of my life in the vast country of China. Don’t mind the fact that there are over 1.381 billion people living there or that the entire country is covered in vast and diverse landscape or the fact that China has the largest economy in the world. Or, alluding to the title of this blog, that I literally don’t know how to use chopsticks and the chances of me finding a fork in China are slim, yet alone if I were to find some I would be hard core judged.

I’ve only been to China once before, but I was 8 years old and we were only there for 2 weeks. Now, instead of vacationing with my family, it will just be my newly purchased Go-Pro and I, and the lucky few who have decided to venture to The Beijing Center as well.

For anyone who chooses to read this blog, you’ll quickly learn that I’m obsessed with food, running, and visiting cool landscapes and historical sights. Besides hitting up all of the major tourist destinations including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, I’m hoping to run a half marathon in the Yunnan Province.

I’ve given myself 4 goals for my trip:

  1. Try everything (to a reasonable point) & Live in the Moment
  2. Don’t be so negative
  3. Work on my Mandarin
  4. Appreciate culture and learn more about my Heritage

I guess the last important thing to mention is that I chose to study abroad in China because I have about 50% of Asian roots. I’ve grown up speaking Mandarin, but unfortunately I’ve lost a lot of my ability because I never have to speak it at Loyola. So I want to just go and enjoy China, but I also want to learn more about myself, and their culture in general because it is tied into who I am.

Hopefully this trip will either be my own version of Eat, Pray, Love or my own version of the Lizzie McGuire Movie, but whatever it is, I’m ready (kind of) to be pushed out of my comfort zone.

Until the next blog post which will probably occur during or after our 2 week trip to follow the Silk Road …. Peace.