The GoGlobal Blog

Month: September 2016

Saigon’s Top Ten Sensations

Saigon’s Top Ten Sensations

Living in Saigon is existing within a context of complete sensory overload every day, all day. Although many sensations tend to not be so pleasant, there are also those that make sensory overload one of the most invigorating parts about living in Vietnam. Below, for your viewing pleasure, you will find a short list of my top ten sensations and feelings:

1. Peeling all of your clothes off your body at the end of a very long, sweaty day in the comfort of your cool air-conditioned BK dorm room.

2. Sensing the release of anticipation and the subsequent rumble of traffic when the stoplight’s countdown reaches 1 and turns green.

3. Biting into a fresh Banh Mi and watching the bread crumble all down the front of your shirt.

4. Finally itching that bug bite after quietly debating with yourself over whether you should or shouldn’t. For your information, you probably shouldn’t but it just feels so good.

5. Walking into a bathroom, remembering you’ve forgotten to bring toilet paper and then seeing toilet paper sitting there in all its papery goodness (it might be wet because of the spray hose but at least it is there).

6. Recognizing where you are in the city on the back of a GrabBike.

7. Jumping onto (or off of) a still-moving bus and completely sticking the landing.

8. Stepping out into a stream of traffic after deciding that you’ve waited long enough to cross the road.

9. Feeling the cool breeze that sweeps through Saigon just before a monsoon downpour.

10. Taking that first cool sip of iced jasmine tea at basically any street food stall across the city.

Saigon's beautiful colors
Saigon’s beautiful colors


Is it Even Possible to “Settle In” In a Place Like China?

Is it Even Possible to “Settle In” In a Place Like China?

If you could go ANYWHERE in the world for five months, where would you go? For good or bad, I never asked myself this question. Instead, I simply let my surroundings decide for me. Confused? Yeah, me too.

I moved to Chicago a little over two years ago when I enrolled in Loyola University Chicago. Since the first time I set foot on Loyola’s campus, I fell in love with everything around me. Fast forward to one month ago, and I felt a very different feeling as I set foot on Loyola’s partner campus–The Beijing Center (TBC) locate at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE)–here in China. I wish I could say that I came to China because I love Chinese culture so I wanted to experience it firsthand or that I am intrigued by the recent economic boom in China and I want to learn more about its successes but, in actuality, I knew little to nothing about China before my arrival. In all honestly, my home institution–Loyola University Chicago–played a huge role in encouraging me to explore the once isolated country of China.

On August 8th, 2016, I landed in Beijing with a 50lb backpack digging into my shoulders and a huge suitcase in hand. I waited for two hours in line to go through customs and then had my luggage screened not once, not twice, but THREE times before I was allowed to exit the airport. As I walked outside, a young Chinese man was holding a sign that read, “TBC.” I couldn’t help but smile. Finally, I stopped holding my breath. Someone was here to guide me!!

As we sat in traffic on our way to campus, my eyes stayed glued to the window. I was amazed by the new world in which I had just landed. My mind was racing a million miles a minute. What does that street sign mean? What kind of food is that?! Why are so many people squatting? Is traffic usually this bad? What is the taxi driver saying to the Chinese man who came to pick me up? Am I going to have to pay for this taxi? Oh shoot…does he take credit card?!

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The Chinese man kindly paid for the taxi as we were dropped off in front of UIBE. The Chinese man helped me with my luggage and escorted me to my dorm. Seeing that it was 6:35am, I was one of the first students to arrive. Instead of collapsing on my bed like I would have liked to have done, I immediately began to unpack. I couldn’t believe it. I was finally here.

Today, September 22nd, I sit on my bed as I write this blog post. I look around my room and see the lamp I bought from IKEA, the dishes I dirtied from cooking breakfast this morning, and the books I checked-out from the library scattered across my desk. My planner lay next to me and glance at it, seeing the events I plan to attend over the next few days. If you can be “settled in” in a place like China, I would say I’m almost there. I do not fee

l do not feel familiar and I do not feel comfortable but I definitely feel growth and that is why–even if I didn’t know it before I came–I am here!

If you are dying to see pictures from my adventures here in China, follow me on Instagram!
Personal Account: littlered_10
Travel Account: contagiouswanderlust


Climbing Hills

Climbing Hills

There are a lot of hills here in Italy.

Literally. I’m pretty convinced this entire country is just one big hill.

I learned this pretty quickly. Our campus is located on Monte Mario, the highest hill in Rome. (I had to double check this fact, so obviously I searched Wikipedia. JFRC even gets a shoutout, so that’s cool.) But I digress.

The reason I’m rambling on about this hill stuff is because it’s a pretty spot on description of my first 21 days in Rome.

So hills. It constantly feels like your walking up one here. The walk back to campus, whether it be from the bus stop, the supermarket, or gelato, is uphill. Every street seems to be at an incline. I also can’t remember the last time I walked up so many stairs. With sore legs and shortness of breath, sometimes you wonder if you will ever reach the top.

And I love it.

The thing about climbing a hill, physically or figuratively, is that it’s a lot more fun than staying on a flat surface. It’s challenging, but each step pushes you to your limit. It gives you new perspectives with every rise in altitude. The thought of climbing each hill freaks you out, yet there is no way to avoid it. You just start walking. And once you get to the top, the exhaustion, frustration, and struggle to get there don’t matter anymore.


Here are some of my favorite hills I’ve climbed so far:

Monte Uh, Scusi?

Trying to speak Italian is scary, but trying to understand Italian is scarier. A semester of Italian 101 plus my Google Translate app are enough to help me order food at a restaurant or ask where the bus stop is. But listening to someone speak Italian is like pausing mid-step and wondering if you’ll be ableto regain your balance or just fall flat on your face. Thankfully, I haven’t fallen too hard yet. I love picking up new vocabulary and feel super accomplished when I exchange words correctly. This hill, although challenging, has been one of my favorites to climb.

Monte Figuring It Out

When you stand at the base of a hill, you look up and try to prepare yourself for the journey ahead. But as you climb, roadblocks force you off the path you intended to take. I had some expectations coming to Rome. I thought I had a plan for, or at least an idea of, how the semester would play out. The reality is I don’t know the path I’m climbing or where it’s going. It’s difficult, and sometimes the only solution is to just sit down. Which is hard, because I don’t want to do that.

This hill has been the most frustrating, but it’s one of my favorites because I know the reward will be great. For now, I’ll just be taking one step at a time.

Monte Keep Climbing

When we climb, it’s easy to forget to appreciate the beauty of it. In Positano, Italy (pictured above), I learned that it’s not always about getting to the top. At the base of a small shopping square, there was a set of stairs rising along the edge of the buildings. So I went up, and up, and up. It became evident that the top was no where near, but I didn’t care. I just kept going. And it felt great. So great, I even took a selfie (pictured below). Man, I love climbing.

So these are my hills. They have been challenging, frustrating, tiring, exciting, rejuvenating, and fun. I know I have quite the journey ahead of me, but when I reach the peak in three months, I know it will all be worth it.

See you at the top. But I’ll probably just keep climbing.

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Protests and Shutdowns

Protests and Shutdowns


Mid October 2015

Students at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa received news that tuition prices for 2016 would be raised 20% for the incoming school year. A few days later, on October 14th students assembled to protest against the outrageousness of the increase. This started the campaign for Fees Must Fall. The rest of the month saw other universities joining the cause, more support, more protests, and the rise of a new movement.
The 2015 Fees Must Fall campaign ended when President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be no increase in tuition for universities across the nation. Protests stopped but the damage was done and the tension was still in the air. The University of Cape Town was home to violent protests, the burning of school shuttles, burning of paintings and property, and the fire-bombing of the Vice Chancellor’s office. The student’s involved were arrested, suspended, or expelled, while a few are still waiting for their hearing and have been barred from campus. Campus activities were suspended and finals were postponed. International students abroad had to complete their tests back in their home countries while full-time students had to take them weeks or months later. But, the protests were successful. The fees did not increase and students were able to return to normal class the next semester.

sp22Oct7UCT-Anonymous-20151022_0_0       UCT1-20151020-MasixoleFeni

Present Day 2016
As Spring Break ended and the 4th term of the year began the tension in the air thickened. It was less than a year ago when protests broke out and people were waiting to see what was going to happen. Soon, we found out.
As the anticipation for the new tuition price announcement, the University of Cape Town suspended academic activities on Friday September 23 and Monday September 19. Small protests had already started the day before and more were expected due to the coming announcement. Sure enough, on Monday students received the email informing them of the expected 8% fee increase for the 2017 school year. Immediately, students mobilized and protested this increase. However, this time the fees were not alone. Tribunals for the students suspended have started again and there is outcry from students for their release and ability to return to school.
Tuesday morning arrived and the protests only grew. Students blocked entrances to the school with boats, benches, branches, cars, and themselves. Other protesters marched on residence buildings calling for all students to join in the march. The Medical School was taken over with classes being disrupted and exits and entrances being blocked. They took to the highway and blocked cars on their way towards Upper Campus (the main campus of UCT). The sang, chanted, clapped, and danced as the went along. All this occurred before 10AM. Around 10:30 UCT officially announced that it was shutting down yesterday and today, Wednesday September 21. And tonight they announce that campus will be closed until Sunday with the hope that some kind of solution can happen so that school may start up again soon.

UCT feesmustfall

Not many study abroad experiences have massive on-campus protests occurring during that time. This experience gives a unique insight into the dynamics of South African turmoil. With the elections occurring in August South Africa has seen a great shift in its domestic power and many people calling for better services. The fight for cheaper, and even free, education is just one of the many social issues that South Africa faces. As an outsider looking in, the current situation with Fees Must Fall and the UCT Shutdown is rather intriguing.
I am the sort of person who has the ability to understand arguments from many different points of view. The protesters are demanding for greater and cheaper education; their ultimate goal is for all education to be free. I understand the fight for lower tuition costs however there are many aspects that need to be taken into account. Last year, after the success of Fees Must Fall the university had to fire a large number of staff members in order to stay operational. In addition, the government has lowered the amount of funding that universities have access to. This, in turn, has caused the need for higher tuition fees in order for universities to stay open and accessible. The university can only do so much with what it has. I am pleased that there is a plan to protest outside the parliament building in order to get the government to get involved. Hopefully this will open their eyes to the education problems and try to find a solution.
The protesters presented the university with a list of demands (I have attached them at the bottom of this post for those of you who are interested). Though many of these demands are fine some stretch things a little too far. The main demand I disagree with is the call for the release of students who were expelled or have hearings coming up in the future. As much as one may want them to be freed and pardoned their actions were illegal. Burning shuttles costs the university money, money which could have gone towards the cause, and puts people’s lives in danger. Furthermore, the fire-bombing of an office could have had devastating results if someone had been inside when it occurred. It is hard to argue that no consequences should come to the people who participated in these events.
I hope that an agreement can be reached in the very near future as, though I can’t believe I am saying this, I want to go back to class. All in all, I am happy that I get to experience this while I am here and express my support for their cause. I am not going to be personally participating in the protests but I stand behind the fight for cheaper education for all. For anyone with concerns, I am well and safe and there is no need to worry.


List of Demands:

About last week

About last week

Fees Must Fall (FMF) is a movement in South Africa that has emerged due to a dissatisfaction with the annual tuition increases instated by various South African universities. FMF’s immediate demands include a halt in tuition increase; however, the movement also argues that tertiary education should (eventually, not immediately) be free of charge in South Africa.
The reason that I wanted to talk a bit about Fees Must Fall is because of an incident that happened last Friday at Stellenbosch. Since last Monday, there had been a peaceful protest taking place in the Stellenbosch University library. The sit-in participants had basically been ignored for the entire week, as they were not being particularly vocal or disruptive to the other students in the library. On Friday, however, the tone of the protest changed drastically. Throughout the whole of Friday, students who were not protesting were barred from entering the library by FMF. Later in the day, when private security arrived to close and lock the library for the day, the protesters refused to leave. FMF was told that they would be given five minutes to leave before more security would arrive to forcibly remove them. The security officers, however, did not allot the full five minutes for the students to leave the library, and within two minutes, the students were being beaten, strangled and pepper-sprayed by private security. One young woman had a seizure after being pepper-sprayed, but was not allowed to leave the building until she had a second seizure, minutes later.
For the past week, the library and many classroom buildings at SU have been completely closed off to the student body. The classrooms that are open are consistently being disrupted by protesters. Many of my classes have been cancelled this week due to the knowledge that the lecture would most likely be disrupted. Test days are particularly nerve-wracking, as FMF participants often run through classrooms and tear up partially completed tests. The FMF’s goal in this action is to say “hey, if your test gets torn up, you can come back another day and take it again. But if fees get raised again, we will not be able to come back. We won’t get another chance at this”. That is a really powerful message.
I’m not going to pretend like I fully understand what is going on here; I don’t. However, I am trying my best to understand. FMF holds open forums every day in one of the buildings they currently are occupying on campus. Last night, I attended a discussion forum that was hosted by an FMF representative as well as a representative from the finance department at Stellenbosch University. Both of the hosts tried their best to present information in an unbiased fashion, with which the audience could form their own, informed opinion. As an international student, I did not feel qualified to offer comments in that conversation, but I did, and do, feel compelled to listen to every opinion and discussion I can find.

As an international student in a foreign country, it is often difficult to position yourself in the culture you find yourself in. It has taken me almost three months to feel comfortable and justified in a discussion of South African politics and justice, and even now, I still have a lot of underlying discomfort. But I am learning that the best thing you can do in any and all situations abroad is listen. Listen to as many people as you can find, and listen to understand, not to respond.

Germany – Surprise, Surprise

Germany – Surprise, Surprise

Image-3.pngI’ll take a break from talking about Rome for a bit to write about my past weekend spent in Germany. Where to even begin…

A group of us 20+ Loyola students began our trip to Munich, Germany very early Friday morning. We left the JFRC at around 3:30am. Some of us didn’t go to sleep from the night before (stupid, I know), which left the flight to Munich full of snoring students. We arrived to what was the cleanest airport I’ve probably ever been in. No joke, it was spotless. It took us few trains to get to our airbrb, where our German host greeted us, friendly as ever. Oktoberfest wasn’t until Saturday, leaving us the entire Friday to explore Marienplatz, the main central square of the city. In walking up from the train steps to the center of Munich, we found it bustling with busy locals and tourists. This was the area in which I spent the day shopping, tasting German food, and trying on some ridiculous-looking lederhosen with my friends to wear the following day. Like most places, it’s hard to sum up Germany or Munich in only a few paragraphs. I tried to narrow it down in my mind to the three best, most memorable things about Germany and the world of Oktoberfest.

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 7.24.03 PM1. The People – How incredibly friendly everyone was… Germans love to chat about anything and everything. Where you are from, what you are studying, what the states are like. The people took me by surprise because they were extremely eager to help us have an amazing time. One night, we ended up at a local bar (I don’t remember the name) and it was filled with Germans of all ages. It only took us 10 minutes to make friends with some rowdy locals who wanted to sing their national anthem to us. They even requested for some American music to play so they could sing with us, arms around each other, swaying in a circle. So great. We didn’t only talk to Germans, either. People came from all over for Oktoberfest. Turkey, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and much more. Everyone was there to have the same good time we were searching for.

2. The Beer – As big as your head! The steins at Oktoberfest were huge. And delicious. And awesome. Before I could finish one beer, the next one was being placed in front of me. Good thing they served some giant pretzels and cheese pre-beer marathon.

3. The Experience – A totally crazy one. We arrived outside the gates of Oktoberfest at 6:00am, in downpouring rain. No one was allowed in the beer tents until 12:00pm. The one my friends and I chose to spend our day in is called “Paulaner München,” and it consisted of mostly Germans. I can understand how people attend Oktoberfest more than once. There is plenty to do, and we only just got a glimpse of it. I bet you didn’t know Oktoberfest was part carnival?? I sure didn’t. After drinking way too much beer, a few of us decided to go on some roller coasters in the still-downpouring rain (It didn’t stop raining once during our visit). I only wish I had a video of our faces… It will go down in my book as one of the hardest times I’ve ever laughed in my life.

Image-1One of the neatest moments for me in Germany was a small, but significant one. I wandered with a few other girls into a small local jewelry shop near the city centre during some downtime. I’m totally obsessed with silver rings, and the woman behind the counter (who spoke almost no English) helped me pick one out. After taking my credit card, she smiled, looked up and said, “German name?” I nodded back without thinking twice. She then, in broken English, asked me how I pronounce it, and told me she had a friend with the same last name. And then it hit me. That moment was probably the first time I had really thought about my German heritage. How crazy is that? That I had basically ignored half of my family roots until right then and there? As sad or strange as it may sound, it was actually a meaningful moment for me. So meaningful, that I almost walked out of the shop with the ring I had bought still sitting on the counter. I was in deep thought. It stuck with me throughout the rest of the trip. How I’ve always only bragged about my Irish roots. They are the roots my family probably talks about the most; I’m not sure why it as always been that way. For years, I had passed off my German side like it was no big deal, nothing special, boring to talk about. Oddly enough, it took this moment for me to realize that, as glad as I am to be Irish, it is really only just a small part of who I am. Little by little, as I found myself truly enjoying the city of Munich, I became more and more proud of my last name. I was glad to be carrying a little part of that place with me. It has always been there and I just didn’t care to notice. I am proud to be somehow categorized, somehow connected with both Germany and the people of it.


The entire trip was made up of surprisingly meaningful moments like the roller coaster and the jewelry shop. And If I could describe Germany in one word, it would be just that. Surprising. I repeated it all weekend to my friends. “I am so surprised by Germany.” Yes, I knew Oktoberfest and the beer drinking would be lots of fun. But it was so much more than that. Before visiting, it was never at the top of my bucket list. I didn’t really know what Germany was all about. But here I am, already wanting to go back someday.





Welcome to My House

Welcome to My House

This weekend marked the Mid-Autumn Day festival in China. We were off classes Thursday through Sunday 🙂 (though many of the locals had to go to school today – Sunday – in order to make up for missed classes on Friday).

Though I decided not to travel to Chengdu this weekend, I still had one of the craziest 4 days of my life full of rave and Chinese massages.

Thursday night, the night of the actually moon festival was also the night of the full moon. If anyone’s ever had a moon cake, this is the weekend where the moon cakes are out full force in China. One of the Chinese roommates in our program graciously invited two of my friends and I out to dinner with his family. We were welcomed and treated like one of their own, and I walked out of there fuller than I think I’ve ever been. The almost four course meal was filled with almost every type of food imaginable from carrots to … yes, bugs. I said I’d try almost everything here in China so I knew once I saw the bugs that I was going to have to eat it, and surprisingly it wasn’t that bad, though the whole time I could only think “yes, I’m actually eating a bug.” Besides that though, we were treated to wonderful dumplings, and this good pork dish just to name a few. I’m really honored to have experienced such hospitality here in China, especially on a holiday that is meant specifically for family to be together. IMG_8103 IMG_8104 IMG_8109

Bugs aside, Friday was equally as crazy. There’s a ton of music festivals here in China all around this time, but we decided to hit up STORM ft. Flo Rida and Alesso. I went into the festival expecting to experience another Lolla, but the experience was entirely different. First off, the cab ride to the festival was almost an hour away (ended up taking us 2). It’s always a good time to try to communicate with the cab drivers – and ours was just finding my minimal Chinese very entertaining. In the US, we grow up saying “thank you” almost all the time, but they don’t do that that much in China, so my cab driver was laughing at me every time I would say it.

I’m going to say I prefer Chinese concerts to American ones, only for the fact that being a foreigner, it was surprisingly easy to get up to the front. And by the front, I mean the literal front. The crowds at the concert were no where as large as Lolla, but there was also a lot less jumping for it being an EDM ish concert. That being said, we now get to say we celebrated Flo Rida’s 37th birthday with him here in Beijing, and that’s something not a lot of people will get to say ever. Also, it was pouring rain when we reached the concert, and concerts in the rain are always a sign that the night will be crazy.

After exiting the concert and receiving my free gift of blue mascara and eyeliner (!!!) we decided to go to a salsa club. It’s always a good time to experience a taste of what the Chinese think foreign culture is like, so after almost 3 hours of dancing to El Taxi and Danza Kuduro, we called it a night.


I capped my weekend off by getting a Chinese massage, which on it’s own was also an interesting experience. The only thing I had remotely experienced massage wise in the US was when I went to Physical Therapy and my therapist massaged my calf. But a 60 minute Chinese massage involves the therapist literally straddling you and popping all parts of your body that you didn’t know could be popped. It also really hurt which is not the relaxing experience I thought I was going to get, but after a day of jumping and dancing, it felt good after.


So that recaps my crazy vacation weekend here in Beijing. The weather has finally started to get cold, which kind of sucks for me because I didn’t pack any warm clothes – so I guess that means more shopping for me:)



Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta

This past weekend, we traveled south, to the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is located at the Southern most part of the Mekong River; the largest river in Southeast Asia. It is the place where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the ocean through a series of distributaries. Many of the people that live in the area live, and make their livelihood on boats. This area is known for its food, floating markets, and peaceful scenery.

We took a bus to the dock where you can catch a boat to the Delta. About 40 minutes before we reached the doc, we took a pit stop at the Cao Dai Temple. This temple is a must see for anybody who is interested in different religions. The Cao Dai religion is a religious practice that originated in Vietnam, and is the third most practiced religion in the country. It is a monotheistic religion that mixes ideas from different religions. If you want to learn more about it, I highly recommend looking it up. Wikipedia has a pretty good description (but really). It kind of reminded me of Unitarian Universalism, except more religious, and also of the Baha’i Faith, except with only one “God.” The temple itself is pretty rad also.


After the Cao Dai Temple, we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Mekong Delta dock. From there we caught our boat into the delta. For the weekend, we stayed in an “eco-tourist” homestay. What an “eco-tourist” is, I have no idea, but the homestay was wonderful. A few of the families in the Mekong Delta have made a living off of turning their homes into homestays. We slept in rooms that had about 10 beds in them, with mosquito nets over them, and the family cooked our meals for us.

The food in the Mekong Delta was some of the best food I have had since my arrival in Vietnam. Our first meal consisted of Elephant Ear Fish Spring Rolls, regular spring rolls (which our tour guide described as #1 spring rolls), prawns, rice, soup, and rambutan for dessert. Throughout the weekend, we ate many other incredible foods, including snake and rat. Don’t worry though, the rats that they eat in the Mekong Delta are farmed, and so they only eat coconut and grass. We were warned to never eat rat in the city, because city rat diets tend to consist of lots of undesirable trash. We also were given the opportunity to make our own spring rolls, and ban xeo (Vietnamese pancake that resembles a crepe made out of egg). Honestly, I felt stuffed full for the entire weekend, but it was so worth it.

After our first lunch, we went on a bike ride around the area, and also on a boat ride down one of the tributaries of the Mekong. Life on the Mekong is simple and tranquil, and once again, I felt myself falling more deeply in love with Vietnam.


Visiting the market in Mekong City was its own experience. I was partly horrified, and partly enthralled. We first entered the meat part of the market, where we bought the snake that we would later eat for dinner. Our tour guide casually just carried it around in a bag all day after our visit to the market, while it was still alive. The market sold every kind of meat you could imagine, though most of the beat was still attached to its original animal, which was still very much alive. There were chickens that they would kill on the spot when you bought them. When we first got off the boat at Mekong City to go to the market, there was a woman dumping fish back into the river. Our tour guide told us that sometimes, when in need of good karma, people will buy live fish at the market and return them back to the river. In this way they are saving lives. Across the street from the meat area of the market, were the streets of vegetables and fruits. I loved this area of the market. Think of every type of tropical fruit you can think of, and then picture them all stacked on top of each other for blocks, where you can buy them for 30 cents a piece. I am learning that markets such as these are some of the best places to overdose on a country’s culture.

After the market, we visited a pottery factory, a honey factory, and a coconut candy factory. At the coconut candy factory I got to hold a snake. I’ve always been kind of weirded out by snakes, but holding one made me love them. It was one of the coolest sensations I have ever experienced, I thought it was going to be slippery, but the snake was so strong and soft at the same time. Experiencing life on the Mekong Delta really made me question western consumerism more so than I have so far on this trip. The people in the Delta use everything they can, and make everything they can with whatever they find in the Delta. They are totally self sufficient, and yet, the majority of what they make is exported out of Vietnam. Their work does not feel like work to them, because they reap the benefits directly. When they put in the effort to catch prawns, they get to eat the prawns right away. Though most people live in poverty, they are happy to live the way that they live, and they are proud of the work that they do.

If you want to get an idea of what traditional life in Vietnam is, I recommend visiting the Mekong Delta. It is the opposite of life in Ho Chi Minh City, and other than my many mosquito bites, I loved every second of it.


Nice to meet you Umbria

Nice to meet you Umbria

After the first week of school last week I was EXHAUSTED. And then the idea of taking a trip somewhere I had never heard of seemed crazy to me. Thankfully, I was able to catch up on sleep on the way to Umbria which is about 2.5 hours away from the JFRC.
When I woke up, I was surrounded by gorgeous scenery, miles of olive trees, and homes tucked away in the mountains. The sequence of events seemed to be something from a movie. Our first adventure was to a farm that was owned by a family in Passignano sul Trasimeno. There, my dream of immersing into Italian culture came true as we learned how to make pasta, harvest grapes, and work with legumes.

The next day we toured the historical town of Spoleto which felt like a third home afterwards. Then, the SLA’s (Student Life Assistants) spoiled us and outdid themselves AGAIN by planning a buffet style meal at Campello Sul Clitunno. Now: I am a foodie with a capital “F”, so just imagine how far my jaw dropped when we were given a HOMEMADE buffet style meal. So yes; I did stroll out of there extremely happy.

Campello Sul Clitunno lunch
Campello Sul Clitunno lunch

On the third day, we left for Todi to eat and then headed to Cascate delle Marmore to go on nature trails and see the waterfall. It was so fascinating to thing about how the waterfall got to be as grand as it is today. The plan was to walk to the top of the waterfall trail to look at the view. However, a heavy rainstorm stopped us halfway and we had to go back down. After 30 minutes of sitting on the bus wondering what the view from the top looked like, other people who waited out the storm to get to the top came back. Their pictures put mine to shame!

Waterfall at to Cascate delle Marmore in Todi
Waterfall at Cascate delle Marmore in Todi

It was such a fun weekend that I would LOVE to go back one day just when I need to escape the busy Roman life.

Looking over Spoleto
Looking over Spoleto
The 12 things I love about you.

The 12 things I love about you.

  1. Chinese is hard!! You’d think that even after being surrounded Chinese here and there for at 10 years, I’d get around better than I do. Speaking aside, there is literally a character for every single word you can imagine AND it’s not based off sounds like English is. As much as I love being in a foreign country, the complexity of the language makes it a lot harder to read and get by than I originally thought I would. Probably explains why everything I eat either is a dumpling (because I can recognize the word) or has a picture attached to it. And I can guarantee you by the end of this semester, we will still not know anything.
  2. You get a good squat workout from going pee. The Chinese toilet is one that everyone should be aware of before they arrive to China. Despite it being physically better for you, it smells bad since people continually don’t aim quite right.squat-toilet
  3. Pollution isn’t everything. Everyone has this stigma about China and the pollution. While I’m not going to lie there are days where the pollution is horrible, it is not everything. There are days where it is bright and sunny and you do not even notice a speck of pollution in the air, and others where it feels like you are walking through a haze. I suspect in the winter I will get sick of it, as they burn more and more coal to heat our freezing bodies, and the pollution gets worse, but for now, I’m enjoying the pretty fresh air.
  4. Physical Contact is real, whether you like it or not. In some ways it’s cute. You can walk hand in hand with your friend, and it’s completely normal. But, then you also have the pushing in crowds. Chinese are fearless when it comes to lines. Cutting isn’t a thing, it’s a lifestyle with no shame.
  5. People people everywhere.
    Yes there are billions of people in China. So if you’re the kind of person who needs time away from masses of people, the only time to do that is in the dead of night when there are no lights.
  6. Americanized Chinese is not American.
    You can go to an Americanized restaurant and order nachos, and you might get a plate of fried chips with no cheese (because Cheese isn’t a thing here). Probably how the Chinese feel when they come to America and are forced to eat crab Rangoon. Which is something I still have yet to find in China.
  7. Fascination galore. People here are fascinated by the smallest things in China whether it be Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, or even High School Musical. AND, they’re fascinated by us, especially when we’re working out. Not even kidding, I’ve had women come over when I’m doing abs and just mimic my actions.
  8. WIFI sucks, accept it. Almost every shop or restaurant here has WIFI, however it is not good. It’s one of those things that I’m trying to embrace, and probably good to cure my snapchat addiction.
  9. Cheap Meals. As a foodie, this was perhaps the biggest bonus to coming to China. Now in one day, I can treat myself to at least three meals full of fresh squeezed juice, dumplings, steamed buns, bubble tea, pancake wraps, noodles, rice, or whatever I’m really feeling for around $10 a day. The downside, the food here, at least in Beijing is very oily. And, the food is also very carby. I love my fresh fruit stand just down the block from my dormitory, but that’s about the only way I get in my 5 fresh fruits and veggies a day.
  10. Cheap Thrills. If/when you live in China, you start to see everything in RMB. There are about 6 RMB per dollar. Thus, my wallet is rolling in bills, literally.
  11. TaoBao is addicting. Taobao is pretty comparable to American Amazon, but it’s even better. You can get just about anything from TaoBao including eggs, clothes, phone chargers, or even white noise machines. The only catch? The website is entirely in Chinese. Thank goodness for my Bing Translator (because Google doesn’t work here) and pictures. But if you spend hours on it and search well like I do, you can get very very good/cheap deals on whatever you’re looking for.
  12. Time flies when you’re having fun. As cliche as this sounds, it is just setting in that I’ve been here for a month already, and there is still SO much of Beijing alone that I have left so see. It’s hard when you want to establish a routine to get out and explore, but it’s one thing that I have to consciously make an effort to do.