The GoGlobal Blog

Month: April 2018

Arrivederci Roma!

Arrivederci Roma!

Arrivederci Roma! We sang that song three times at our Voice concert celebrating the end of the semester on Monday, April 23rd. There were a lot more people in the audience than I expected. (Many of us had pleaded with our friends not to come.) They came anyway, and we laughed and stammered through a few classic Italian songs, including our solo pieces. Most of us were not singers, but we had fun with it, breathing sighs of relief in between phrases because the semester was almost over, we were almost on our way back home.

 

Street art in Prati, Rome

 

     Early on in the semester, I read a blog post written by a former JFRC student, she warned future students not to spend too much time wishing they were home. She wrote that during her semester, she never really stopped missing home, but that’s okay. I too found myself stubbornly missing home and looking forward to going back all semester. I never woke up one day no longer missing home at all. When I read her post, I realized every moment spent wishing I was home was a wasted one. Soon, I knew, I would be writing this last blog post, from my own kitchen table in Chicago. I think after I read that, I was more motivated to make the most of each day, and I did that the best I could for the rest of the semester.

 

A guitarist plays on a curbside in Rome

 

     Looking back, I loved my semester. Even though it wasn’t perfect, it was my own, unique experience that I wouldn’t change. I traveled to Poland and Switzerland, I toured Auschwitz and jumped off of a mountain. I had pizza in Naples and gelato in Florence. Saw the David, the Trevi, Botticelli’s Primavera, and dropped coins in the hats and cases of dozens of street musicians.

 

St. Peter’s Square

 

     Not only am I lucky to have been able to take this trip, but doubly lucky to be able to come home to a place I love. Friends and family, and a whole list of things I missed. Less than 2% of American college students study abroad, an even smaller percentage gets to study abroad, all the while looking forward to coming home, while still enjoying their experiences in the host country. Needless to say, I have a lot to be grateful.

 

Snowfall in Rome!

 

     I got home Friday, April 27th. It’s been a relatively smooth transition. Three months is long enough to grow and change, but not enough to forget what home is like.

     Next steps: Have a fun summer, and hopefully work a good internship related to communications. Next year I will be an RA at Loyola University Chicago, living at the water tower campus near Michigan Avenue. One more thing: I can’t wait to travel like a tourist in Chicago. It’s time for me to see more of my city, and my country!

 

One angle of Amsterdam

 

A hungry scavenger waits for a meal above a fish market

 

Artwork on display during the WWII trip

 

 

 

 

 

Role Reversal

Role Reversal

Since March, I’ve spent nearly every weekend travelling and discovering new places, including Malta, Barcelona, Montenegro, and Vienna. During these trips I’ve made memories that I’ll never forget, but the travels have also started to slowly become overwhelming. Typically, I’ll come back from one destination on Monday or Tuesday, and by Thursday I’m on the plane heading to another new place.  Although I can’t wait to continue exploring Europe throughout the rest of my exchange semester, the last few hectic and travel-filled weeks have made me crave a bit of rest and familiarity. Therefore, this past weekend was a much needed change of pace, as instead of personally doing more travelling, my sister came to Zurich to visit me.

Aside from providing a break from the continuous travelling, seeing my sister also helped to stop the feelings of home sickness that I’ve been having lately. I’m about halfway done with my exchange semester so far, and it feels like each week my phone calls with my parents are becoming longer and longer. However, from the second I gave my sister a big hug in the airport, all of those emotions went away and it almost felt like I was back home again.

In addition to my sister curing my home sickness, having her visit me had a lot of other minor perks, such as all the American snacks she brought and the hotel in Zurich she got us for the weekend. Living in a dorm for so long almost made me forget how amazing it felt to sleep in a normal-sized bed and not have to share a bathroom with 15 other people.

View from the hotel

Now, while I could probably write this entire blog about the hotel or the American snacks, I did actually have to show my sister around Switzerland and act as a guide for the weekend. After being a lost tourist in every place that I’ve been too lately, it was interesting being the one that knew where everything was and how things work. That included everything from buying train tickets to planning out the days. It was satisfying to know that within two months I’ve mastered the basics of living in Switzerland enough to properly navigate someone around, a drastic progression from the twenty minutes I used to take to buy one train ticket.

My sister arrived on Friday, and most of that day was spent relaxing, walking around, and most importantly catching up with each other. I didn’t even really want to do anything that day besides just hang out with her, as I’ve realized that no amount of phone calls or texts can beat actually being with someone in person.  Plus, even though I live only 20 minutes outside of Zurich, I haven’t had that many chances to casually stroll the beautiful city.

We could’ve talked about life for the entire weekend and it still wouldn’t have been enough time, but we did have to do at least a little bit of sightseeing in Switzerland together. Having been to Mount Rigi once already and Luzern multiple times, I knew that it was the perfect choice for a day trip to take with my sister.

The day ended up going better than I could’ve imagined. This was about my third or fourth time in Luzern, but the town looked more picturesque than ever. There was an entirely different atmosphere walking around the town with the sun shining than when it was 20 degrees last time I went. The streets being filled with food markets combined with the people laying out and tanning by the lake made me feel like I was back in Barcelona instead of Switzerland. That environment continued when we went up to the mountain later on in the day, as it was covered in greenery and flowers, instead of the snow that I remembered. I don’t think my sister expected to be wearing shorts and drinking iced drinks on a mountain when she booked the trip to Switzerland a few months ago. To top it all off, we took a boat from Luzern to the base of the mountain, which was a far better experience than the bus I took last time to get there.

                   Spring time Luzern
                          View from Mount Rigi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, there was another, and far more insignificant, reason that my sister came to Switzerland, besides to see me. On Sunday, she had to take care of just some business: running a marathon. Actually, my sister running and finishing a marathon was anything but insignificant. This was about my sister’s fifth marathon and the one with the toughest circumstances so far. She had only flew in two days prior, which meant that she was still dealing with the jet lag from the flight. It was also the hottest day and most humid day of the entire weekend, which even made me sweat just from cheering her on. However, despite these tough factors, my sister completed the marathon and I couldn’t have been any more proud of her.

Monday morning it was time to part ways and for me to go back to my regular study abroad life. However, the weekend was just as enjoyable and far more meaningful than any trip I’ve done so far. Seeing my sister confirmed that there truly is nothing more gratifying in life than the simple activity of spending time with family and loved ones. I wouldn’t want to walk around Zurich or visit a Swiss mountain with anyone else, and inspired is an understatement for how I felt when she crossed the finish line.

 

Radek

Home Is In Plain Sight

Home Is In Plain Sight

My weeks have turned to days which have turned to hours. Tomorrow is my last full day in the magnificent Rome. Why am I crying in the club right now.

Time here has truly flown by, it’s hard to believe I’ve accomplished everything I have in these past few months. Multiple countries, so many new friends, endless bowls of pasta…My complete history of trips includes:

  • Bologna
  • Florence (twice)
  • Copenhagen
  • Amsterdam
  • London
  • Paris (twice)
  • Barcelona
  • Dublin

Even looking at my list it still blows my mind how much I’ve experienced in such a short amount of time. I could honestly type out an entire novel, chronicling my adventures in full detail, but I’ll spare you. I’ve made so many friends that I know will stick with me even after we land in Chicago. I could not have had a better roommate, as Alexa and I are similar on every level (most importantly on our sleep schedules). Italy has taught me so much, like how to roll with the punches, how to take local social cues with a grain of salt and be more patient, the importance of calling my mom every once in awhile, and never ever ever taking for granted the privileges I’ve been blessed with. I’ve grown and blossomed into an entirely different person. Did I mention I even got a tattoo??? I mean, WHO AM I THESE DAYS.

The point is, this entire study abroad experience has taught me more about life and independence than in my three years of college life in Chicago. I never could’ve imagined my life would take this turn. I only dreamt of living in Italy, I’m not even 21 and I’ve already been to more than eight foreign countries. My stories are endless, and while I’m aware that the reverse culture shock is real, I’m excited to share every story with anyone willing to listen. I’ve partied with the professional Denmark basketball team, visited the house of the late Amy Winehouse, got tatted in Rome, listened to the Weeknd’s new album in Paris, stuffed myself with lasagna in Bologna, and the list goes on and on. I’m prepping to take my last final tomorrow, but I feel as though I’m prepping for something much bigger when I get home.

Buen Camino

Buen Camino

During Semana Santa (which was essentially my Spring Break) I walked 165 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I walked for 8 days, with my only goal being to each day get closer to Santiago. There are many different routes, but I walked along the French Way, which is the oldest route and one of the most common for pilgrims nowadays to take. I began my camino in O Cebreiro, which is the first pueblo on the French way in Galicia, a northern region of Spain. Walking the camino has been a dream of mine since I began to learn Spanish, and I know that I couldn’t spend a semester in Spain and not do this.

My program ends May 18th but I don’t fly back to Chicago until June 1st, so my original plan was to walk the camino in my final week of being in Spain. A few weeks before Semana Santa I realized that if I were to swap trips around and do my camino then, I would have 10 days to walk rather than 5, so that is what I did. What that meant though, is that I had to prepare for this 165 km (approx. 100 miles) journey in just a few weeks. I have always loved the outdoors but I had never gone on a hiking excursion like this before, meaning that I had no idea what in the world I was getting myself into. I began to do what I do best– aggressively research and make so many lists to feel somewhat in control of this situation in which I couldn’t even fathom what to expect.

I am a planner. I plan down to the detail because planning,  for me, takes away the a bit of the anxiety about the unknown. I made an excel document detailing which place I would end up in that night, and which albergue would be the “best” to sleep in, but after day one, I ended up disregarding my carefully detailed work. Regardless of how much I wanted to plan, this was a time where I needed to give up control and just exist. Now, that sounds like a lovely thought, and now it is, but I figured this out because the first day I was on the top of a mountain in a middle of a snowstorm. I arrived in O Cebreiro the night before to find a pueblo covered in snow (it felt like a whole different world than Salamanca, which, that same day, was 60 and sunny). I was told by the woman working at the albergue that the following day we would be unable to walk on the pilgrimage trail, but rather we would have to follow the highway until a pueblo named Triacastela. I immediately asked myself what I had gotten myself into, and in that moment I felt entirely underprepared. I hadn’t planned on arriving in Triacastela until my second night, but that first day I hiked there along the highway and through a snowstorm.I arrived to the public albergue freezing cold and soaked to the bone, but I had arrived. Despite the wretched weather, you are always greeted by other peregrin@s with the greeting buen camino. All along the camino you hear this being spoken between pilgrims, as words of encouragement, solidarity, and community.

    

That first day, I began to develop my camino routine. Each night (minus the ones in Santiago) I stayed at the public albergue in the pueblo. The region Galicia has a network of public albergues solely for peregrin@s, meaning that you needed the pilgrim’s credential in order to stay there. Each morning we had to be out of the albergue at 8 am, which meanta 7:30 alarm so I could throw on clothes, brush my teeth, and pack up my bag. Most mornings I got breakfast in whichever pueblo I slept in, and then I walked until I reached the next place I would be sleeping, arriving anywhere between 1 and 5 pm.

Most of the time, I had no idea where I was. Along the camino there are yellow arrows marking the way, so you never had to think too hard about where you were going. A man I walked with for part of a day said to me, “out here, there are only two names for towns: the next and the last.”When you’re walking, pueblos come and go as you walk through, and time doesn’t really seem to exist because your day consists of walking and sleeping. This disconnect from reality brought me a lot of peace– I didn’t have to think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the next town.

     

I walked the camino sola, by myself. Before leaving, both my real parents and host parents were worried about me going out into the mountains by myself for ten days, but doing so allowed for me to have one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I began my camino with the intention of using it as a time of reflection and to spend time being connected to God through prayer and nature. I left everything happening in my life back in O Cebreiro, so I was able to focus my energy on being with God. The first day of walking I listened to the playlist I had created beforehand, but the more I walked in silence the more comfortable the silence became and the more out of place the music felt. There were times when I walked with others, but most of my time was spent by myself, in silence, surrounded by incredible beauty. When I did run into other peregrin@s, though, I was welcomed with open arms– there is a wonderful community of support between peregrin@s along the camino.

After about a week of walking, I arrived in Santiago de Compostela. My last day was about a 20 km walk, and it poured the entire way. I arrived at the cathedral the same way I arrived to my albergue the first day: soaked to the bone and freezing cold. But this time, it was the end of a journey rather than the beginning. The cathedral was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I returned to the cathedral more than once so that I could really take in everything. After my first visit, I went to the oficina de peregrinación, so that I could “officially” complete my camino by receiving the Compostela stamp in my credential passport. The reality that I had arrived didn’t start to set in until the next morning, when I didn’t have to wake up at 7 to walk more. I spent the next day and a half exploring Santiago, visiting the Cathedral, and reflecting on the experience I had just had.

     

After that week, I felt closer to God than I had thus far while living in Spain. I had intended to use my camino to be in conversation with God and to strengthen my relationship with Her. I was on a Jesus high, and as always, I didn’t want that feeling to leave. Going back to Salamanca, I felt at peace. My entire body hurt, but my soul was calm. I was utterly exhausted, but recharged at the same time. There were points on my camino where I felt a jealous of my friends who were spending the week traveling to places like Amsterdam, Berlin, and Budapest, whereas I was in the mountains, walking until my body couldn’t take anymore. Ultimately though, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Since coming home from Santiago, I have begun to notice the indicators for the camino wherever I go, and each time I see one I feel at peace again.

Seen in Cádiz, Salamanca, and Brussels!

A Weekend of impulse decisions

A Weekend of impulse decisions

The preparation for this past weekend began, as always, with my friends and I sitting around in our dorm’s living room trying to figure out what place we should visit next. None of my friends are American, so it can be difficult to find a destination sometimes as they’ve already been to most of the places in Europe. After a few hours of discussion, the choice was made to go to Montenegro. It was a country that no one had been too before, and one that I probably couldn’t find on a map. We all liked the idea of being able to discover a country that many tourists had never been too before, and the 85-degree weather combined with some beaches was a nice little bonus.

While buying our plane tickets for the trip, one of my friends noticed that there was an option to have a 15- hour layover in Vienna, Austria on the way back from Montenegro. The layover would give us about half a day and a night in Vienna, and we would not come back to Switzerland until Tuesday morning at 8am instead of Monday. It meant that the weekend would consist of me being in a country I knew nothing about for a weekend, then spending a few hours trying to figure out an entire new big city, and finally attempting to make it to my Tuesday class at 9am. On top of that, we were going to have to rent a car in Montenegro because our hotel was decently far away from the closest town, and that town wasn’t very close to any other towns.  With all of those different and somewhat daunting factors considered, I took an extremely long two minutes and said yes to the trip.

Fortunately, that quick, maybe a little too quick, choice ended up being a great one. For the duration of the entire trip, I truly felt and loved the authenticity and natural beauty of Montenegro.

The drive from the airport to our hotel apartment 10 minutes outside of Budva, a small beach town of 14,000 people, was filled with mountains and valleys that gave a glimpse of everything I would soon discover. When we got to our apartment, which was on a dirt road, we were immediately greeted by a local family that ran the building. They let us play with their dog for a while and then gave us all of their recommendations for Montenegro. It was all a far cry from the distant interactions you normally get at any place that you stay at. While the people made me feel comfortable and at home, the view from our room was something that I had never experienced before. Right in front of us was the beautiful Montenegro landscape that I never got tired of over the next few days.

The view from our Apartment

The first day, Friday, we didn’t arrive until about 5pm, so we just spent most of our time venturing around Budva and the nearby area. The old town featured small streets and an interesting history, while the city center was filled with stores. Although both of those were fun to explore, they weren’t anything that we couldn’t find in any other European town. Quickly, we realized that we needed to focus our trip on everything that makes Montenegro unique, instead of what it shares with the rest of Europe and the world.

Therefore, Saturday we went to look at Sveti Stefan, a small island right off the coast in Budva in the Adriatic Sea. The island looks like something from a fairy tale, as it is basically just a tiny and beautiful village in the water. We walked around the area for an hour and constantly looked at the island from every angle possible. When it was time to decide what beach to relax at for the day in Budva, which has about 30 beaches, we chose the one right next to Sveti Stefan. Not only did we get to enjoy the amazing weather and gaze at the island the entire day, there were only two or three other people on the beach the whole time that we were there. It was a stark contrast to the beaches in Barcelona, which were crowded with people and constantly filled with noise. I felt like I had my own private beach and it was a day of complete bliss.

Sveti Stefan angle #1
Sveti Stefan angle #2
Sveti Stefan angle #3

 

I would love to always lay on the beach all day like we did Saturday, but Sunday was our last full day in Montenegro and it was time to do some adventuring and see more of the country. After some complex research (a single Google search), we decided to drive to Kotor for the day. Except for knowing that it’s one of the top places that comes up when you search places to visit in Montenegro, we had zero knowledge of the city. Our plan involved driving over there early in the morning and then seeing what catches our eyes.

While the main attraction for Budva was the beautiful beaches and the island of Sveti Stefan, the highlight for Kotor was the bay that is located on and all the cliffs and mountains it is surrounded by.  About a quarter way up one of the mountains we noticed that there was an old fortress that people could hike up too. Without a second of hesitation, we started our walk up to the fortress. The hike took about an hour to complete and most of the time was spent trying not to slip and fall along the rocky path. It was also about 80 degrees that day, and by the time we got to the fortress all of us were pretty tired and sweaty. Thinking I had finished my exercise for the day, I strolled around the fortress and took in the sights of Kotor. Then, almost out of nowhere, a local man came up to us and asked us where we were from. There weren’t many people at the fortress, and he seemed genuinely curious as to why a group of 20 year olds decided to spend their weekends hiking up to a fortress in Montenegro. He told us all about the history of the fortress and why it is important to the country.

At the end of the conversation, he pointed us towards another hiking path that lead up to the top of an entire mountain. The path was one continuous stone covered zig-zag that looked like it was from the Medieval times. It was only about 11am at that point, and in our typical fashion we thought about it for a few seconds and gave the second hike a try. While the first one was a somewhat hard hour long hike, this one took about 3 hours and was at a steep angle the whole time. In addition, the path was extremely narrow and the rocks felt like they were bruising my feet with each step. It wasn’t the most fun experience going up, but the view from the top was worth every single painful step. Being on top of that mountain with a view of the remarkable bay and town of Kotor was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

View of Kotor from the top of the mountain
The walk up the “Ladder of Kotor”

With zero intention of doing so, we ended up hiking nearly the whole day. We got back down to Kotor around 4pm. We were all extremely tired, so started to drive back to Budva and relax for the rest of day. However, about halfway along our drive we saw a sign for Tivat, another town that popped up on our Google search. The choice was almost instantly made to check out Tivat, even though all of us had just completed the longest walks of our life. When we got to the Tivat, out of nowhere it felt like we had entered a different world. Yachts and fancy designer stores were everywhere and if someone told me I was in Dubai I would believe them. There weren’t any options for adventures, like in Kotor, but it was intriguing to see the drastic contrast from Tivat to the rest of the country.

Slight change from the dirt roads of Budva and Kotor

The next day, Monday, it was time to leave Montenegro and embark on another journey in Vienna. However, after all of the success we had in our time in Montenegro, it was only a matter of time until some things went wrong.

Our flight got delayed a few hours and we didn’t land in Vienna until about 4pm. Then, our hotel for the night was in a completely different part of the city than we thought it was in. When booking the trip we thought we would have a lot of time to explore the city, but in reality we got to the city center at about 7pm. Also, our flight the next day was at 6am, so we had to wake up at 4am the next day to make it on time.

Things weren’t going the way that we planned them too, but from 7pm till about 1am we made sure that we got the most out of being in Vienna. In those 5 or so hours, we walked around almost the whole city and saw every single significant monument, building, or landmark that there was in Vienna. My personal favorite was the St.Stephen’s Cathedral, which was stunning from the outside and even more so inside. We also had the opportunity to go to the top of the Cathedral, where we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the whole city.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Vienna from the top of the Cathedral

 

Along with the Cathedral, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of Austria and Vienna. It hit me from the moment I got on the plane to Vienna, as the Austrian Airlines plays classical music before the plane takes off. From there, every single corner in Vienna has a historical monument, a statue, or an ode to Mozart. Being in Montenegro may have improved my physical fitness, but my IQ probably went up just from being in Vienna for a couple of hours.

In front of one of the many statues in Vienna

Even though I was exhausted from discovering and hiking around Montenegro, seeing as much of Vienna as possible, and only getting 3 hours of sleep Monday night, I still made it on time to my 9am class Tuesday morning. It wasn’t until I woke up from my much needed nap after that class that I realized how amazing the weekend I just had was. I had the chance to see and experience a country that most people haven’t and then see much of Vienna, all while spending time with amazing friends.

Now its time to relax a little bit more in Switzerland and wait to see where my future adventures take me.

till then,

Radek

Top of Table + Approaching Community Development

Top of Table + Approaching Community Development

Hello friends. Welcome to the fifth installment of my blog during my semester abroad in Cape Town.

Firstly, I’m going to add some pictures at the end of this post of my trip to Zimbabwe / Zambia / Botswana a couple of weeks ago. There’s not much else to say about that trip other than to describe it in one word: euphoric. Victoria Falls is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, or likely will experience again in my life, and is generally quite amazing – I would recommend to anyone. Enjoy the photos of rainbows, waterfalls, and animals I’ll attach!

One notable thing I did during these past two weeks was climb Table Mountain. Despite seeing Table every day while being in Cape Town, I hadn’t yet been to the top. We made it up on accident; we started on a different trail quite far from Table, and walked around Devil’s Peak – the mountain next to Table – and ran across a trail (Platteklip Gorge) that would take us to the top of Table. We’d already been walking for about four hours in the very hot sun at that point, and we were all basically out of water, so the hour-long steep hike up was difficult. As per usual, the payoff from the views at the top made the five-hour day completely worth it, and we made it up in time to watch the sunset, which was…. good. I run out adjectives to describe the skies here, so I often resort to simply calling the incredible and beautiful sunrises and sunsets I see as “good,” rather than taking the time and energy to make a sordid attempt to actually give them an accurate representation with words. So the view from Table Mountain was good. Hiking, in general, is one of my favorite things to do here – the walk just around the mountain always gives a different perspective of Cape Town.

Other than finally making it up to Table, we’ve gotten back into our school and service routine, while going to various excursions on weekends. I visited two markets in the Cape Town area – Old Biscuit Mill, which is in Woodstock, a suburb of Cape Town that isn’t far from Observatory, the neighborhood where we live, and incidentally also where my service site is located. The other market we visited was the Hout Bay Market (in Hout Bay), which is about thirty minutes away. If you’re coming to Cape Town and looking for recommendations, I would highly encourage you to visit either of these markets as there was lots of good shopping and food.

Last week, we visited Lotus Park, a township in Cape Town, and talked to a community leader named Fraser, about his work and his development efforts in Lotus Park. It was very cool to hear about real community development efforts occuring in Cape Town. We have been learning about community development in our Grassroots Leadership class theoretically, so it was refreshing to actually hear from a person who works with a community on a daily basis and has been working on a project for a long time with success. He emphasized communication with the community itself and the people who have real knowledge about what should be changed. The main thing that is emphasized in our Grassroots Leadership class is people-centered development, in which the members of the community are consulted and thoroughly involved in changing their community. This is a bottom-up approach, and is preferable to a top-down approach which is usually a bunch of people who don’t know about the community attempting to implement policies that don’t actually create the change that is needed.

Fraser’s approach reminded me of an organization I worked with in Peru, which promotes indigenous peoples’ rights in the Andes. The organization was formed in conjunction with the native peoples because the communities were passionate about sharing their heritage and way of life with outsiders. They also wanted to form relationships with the communities around them in order to help their biocultural heritage and promote agrotourism. The non-profit organization uses representatives from each of the communities in order to implement tourism programs that are true to their culture and beneficial for the indigenous people as well. They constantly communicate with the indigenous people when thinking of new programs and trying to fix problems. This model, which is sort of a mix of both a top-down and bottom-up approach, I think, is an ideal way to approach community development, and can translate to development efforts in my own communities. It is similar to the approach Fraser spoke of in terms involving and valuing the local peoples’ input, encouraging them, rather than coming in and taking over as an outsider.

While it was very cool to talk to someone who has had a large hand in transforming a community and our conversation gave me hope for our own ability to help our communities, talking with Fraser also made me realize how incredibly difficult it is to implement change. We (referring to the students in this program) all have big ideas for how we want to help marginalized groups and create change on a large scale, but we have to realize that often we can’t focus on those big ideas, and instead we should look at concrete ways in which we can make a difference, like focusing on building a community center. It was eye-opening to hear him talk about the process and the length of time it took to build one building – the practical elements of that, like obtaining permits and building one wall at a time.

So yes, that’s all. Hope the little note about community development perhaps makes you think about the difficulty currently facing those attempting to create change in underprivileged communities, and the most effective way to do so. Again, enjoy these pictures from Victoria Falls. See you in a couple weeks. x

One Weekend Remains!

One Weekend Remains!

     This weekend I stayed in Rome and took some time to revisit some of my favorite sites in the city. On Friday I went to a cool cafe called Ex Circus in the city center. They serve many different types of tea, healthy sandwiches, and salads. It’s one of the few cafes in Rome that welcomes students to come in and do some work on their laptops. Many cafes are made for a quick espresso and maybe a bite to eat, nothing more. It was nice to hang out in a cafe like at home.

     I enjoyed some gelato near the Pantheon and walked around, checking out The Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona. The city is even more colorful now that flowers are growing and the summer tourists from all over the world are making their way to Rome.

     The weekend was warm and mostly sunny, and Saturday was a good day to visit the Villa Borghese Gardens. Borghese is a giant green space in Rome with gardens, museums, and restaurants. Go kart drivers, rollerbladers, and dog walkers travel through the almost 200 acres of the park in the spring and summer. SLA Ola, two other students, and I had more gelato and took a roundabout way to the park. We rented a rowboat and paddled around a small man-made pond in the park. After everyone had had a turn clumsily trying to row the boat, I became the designated driver. The girls did not enjoy it when I brought us close to the angry honking geese on the shore.

     I’m always surprised by how close everything actually is in Rome. The city is chaotic and can seem confusing, but in the center, the main sights and structures are only a few minutes apart on foot. When you can get an overhead view, like at the top of the Spanish Steps, it’s easy to point out landmarks and see that the main sights are all fairly close together.

     After a fun weekend walking around and ignoring my homework, I’m back in the library writing this post. With two weeks left, I’m determined to make the most and not let them slip by.

 

 

A pond in Villa Borghese
Piazza Navona
On The Streets of Balduina
The Pantheon

 

Everybody has one of these in Italy

 

Finals and feeling sentimental

Finals and feeling sentimental

12 days. I have 12 more days in Vietnam. I swear this last month has went faster than any other time in my entire life. I came here with 100 and something days to explore and live, but I am almost left with single digits now. This has been plaguing my mind this entire week. When I first came to Vietnam and had orientation and settled in I thought reverse culture shock wouldn’t even be a thing that would concern me at all. I thought I would just come here, go to class, and travel and be ready to head back home to the US. But now I just don’t know what life is going to be like. Other than having to figure out apartments and classes for the fall, returning to the US is going to be quite the adventure. It really really sad to think I’m not going to eat pho and fresh mango every day. I’m not going to see the wonderful women outside the dorm at KTX Coffee who know my order down and are just so lovely. Mainly I am going to miss the people and daily interactions I have. The people I have met here are some of the sweetest people I have met ever. My Bach Khoa partners are so helpful and so funny and so kind and I could go on forever and list how much I love these people!!!! I have so many conversations and talk to so many people everywhere I go since I’m a foreigner but I have so many wonderful talks with people. Going back to Chicago is going to feel weird because everyone on the street avoids eye contact while here I get stopped almost every day just to talk to people. There is also the aspect of culture quirks I am probably going to take back with me like waving my hand a certain way to say no and flagging down buses. Not to mention, it is an icy tundra back in Illinois and I’ve been living in 80-90 degree weather and its only been getting hotter this week too. I am just going to truly miss Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Butttt I don’t even have time to think about all this because of my final papers due soon! Who knew the semester would creep up so quickly and now I have 3 final essays, a final poster, and an actual final by the end of my time here. I was an ignorant fool thinking I wouldn’t wait till the last two weeks to get everything done because guess what? It’s the last two weeks!!! I am trying my hardest to just bang out these papers and all this work before I leave, but I have been taking my time too as I can just forget that I have to leave in 2 weeks. I know I will get this work done, but it would’ve been a lot smarter to get it done early but here we are. If I disappear for a few days to those that are reading this, no worries I am probably stressed and in a coffee shop furiously typing my heart away to meet the page limits. The upside is that the topics of my papers aren’t boring or one dimensional. They really do tie everything I’ve learned and experienced all together into one huge assignment.
I probably only have one more blog post here because I fly home on a red eye 2am flight on April 27th to the US. Funny thing is I land on April 27th at 12pm so it will be 10 hours difference but 22 hours flying because of time zones. Maybe my last post will be during those flights? We will see. Till next time Goglobal.

Ps: Please forgive me on my lack of pictures these final projects truly have taken over my life and I have no food pictures 🙁

Leaving TRG

Leaving TRG

I’M DONE WITH MY FIRST INTERNSHIP!!!

I’m so happy with how far I’ve come, oh my goodness. My last day was this Friday and it’s my longest day in office all week. This gave me plenty of time to complete projects I had and wrap everything up. I completed my final events post for May. I added some content to MeetEdgar for the events posts to get it out there on all the social media accounts. I created a thread on Twitter for all of the food tours The Roman Guy offers so it’s easily accessible to whoever goes on their page. Finally, I went over everything I’ve accomplished and what struggles I’ve faced throughout the course of the internship.


Facebook:

  1. YouTube Videos get the most interaction.
  2. Best time to post: between 6 and 9pm
  3. Posts with a longer description do better.
  4. People aren’t as engaged on Facebook, so they aren’t really into answering questions about their favorite places or anything like that. They prefer visual content that doesn’t involve much interaction which is why YouTube videos do great.

Twitter

  1. Live tweeting does well and I think it’s much easier than scheduling into Meet Edgar.
  2. Testing: Scheduling a few key posts into Meet Edgar such as events posts, and live tweeting while in the office. I think live tweeting does best because it seems more authentic in my opinion.
  3. Constant content creation/ Updating is key!
  4. Best time to post: any time/all day. With twitter there isn’t really a set time because people tweet so often that in order to be seen we also have to constantly tweet.

Instagram

  1. Stories do well and I’m a such a fan of saving the whole story as highlight because it organizes content by what people would like to see. Polls are best in thestories because they’re easy to followers to use. “Foodie Adventures” were my favorite thing to do once a week because it involved the least amount of work with the greatest engagement.
  2. Posts: Sweets, cheap food, trip advisor recommended restaurants do the best
  3. Best time to post: between 6 and 9pm
  4. Testing: posting on Saturdays instead of Mondays seems to be doing really well and hitting a bigger audience.
  5. Tested: Putting borders around pictures with a common theme, but it takes too much time and doesn’t really add much to the value of the posts.

Enjoyed:

  • I really liked running the Instagram because it allowed me to see immediately what posts did best and the analytics are easy to have a look at.

Highlight:

  • I really enjoyed the tour. It was a super interesting to see the quality of what the Roman Guy offers first hand because I spent the past few months hearing about the tours so it was cool to finally see what all the hype was about.

Enjoyed the Least:

  • Twitter: I feel like Twitter could be really fun and has a lot of creative potential, but with the new rules in MeetEdgar it’s difficult to keep on renewing content.
  • I wish I had more time to try more creative things with twitter. For example, I think it would be a good idea to create a thread on twitter of food tour information and pin it to TRF twitter so its the first thing people see when coming to the twitter. This would also be a good way to link TRF Twitter to other social media accounts.

Challenges:


  • Having enough photos for posts. Since constant has to be constantly flowing, it’s important to always have new pictures and places to talk about. That can be difficult if one week there isn’t time to go out and take more pictures.
  • TIME! I just wish I had more time here. I feel like I could have accomplished so much more. By the time I got used to how everything works and what I’m supposed to do, it’s time to go!
  • Sometimes tasks seemed a bit disorganized. Sometimes I’d have assignments on google calendar, then there was the google doc, now there’s asana so it was a bit confusing figuring out what to do at time.
  • Some weeks I’d have the main things I’m supposed to be doing like the FB, TW, INSTA, content creation, stories, monthly blog post, follower growth for TRF, but then I’d also have follower growth for TPG and TRG along with Pinterest, and Trip Advisor reviews which ended up being a lot considering I’m only able to come in for 10 hours a week. It did get a lot easier once more interns came do tasks weren’t so heavy.

What can TRG do to help future interns?

  • Show them exactly what posts should look like or what key points to hit. For example, on Instagram, name the place, food item, price of food item, recommend it.
  • For blog posts, I think formatting is helpful to go over because it’s so important in making TRG look professional.

After going over all of this with my supervisors, they gave me a run-down of improvements among their social media accounts. Engagement and website traffic went up for all social media 

accounts which is awesome! Although I didn’t reach my goal of 4,000 followers on Instagram, I have brought Facebook engagement to a record high. I had no idea I was actually doing well because I wasn’t sure of myself throughout the course of the internship considering I’d never worked in Marketing before. I was really shocked because it kind of felt like I was drowning a bit, but I pulled through.

That night we all went out for aperitivo and gelato in Testaccio. It sad to go, but I’m beyond grateful for the time I’ve spent with the Roman Guy.

 

Walking Assisi and Biking Via Appia Antica

Walking Assisi and Biking Via Appia Antica

     On Saturday, April 7, I went with SLA Vanessa and some other students for a bike ride along the ancient Roman street known as the Appia Antica. Getting to the road took two buses and a train, about an hour of commuting each way, but it was well worth it. The important road was used for military transportation in the 4th century BC. It connected ancient Rome to Brindisi, a town in Southeast Italy. The area is now a huge protected park. The stone road is flanked on both sides by beautiful green fields and ruins of walls and castles, probably used as military bases and outposts hundreds of years ago.

     The trip was the highlight of the weekend. We had perfectly sunny and warm weather that day and I had a blast riding a bike for the first time in a couple of years. I even got some color on my arms from the sun! We watched as a herd of a hundred or more goats passed by on their way to a nearby farm. We stopped for group pictures at the best viewpoints. After riding for almost two hours down the road and back, we grabbed a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant. The special that day was pasta with salmon. I asked the waiter for formaggio to sprinkle on top and I was laughed at. I forgot that putting cheese on any pasta dish with fish is frowned upon. I did not get cheese.

     Saturday was an even longer day. Got up at 6 AM, headed out at 7 for a pilgrimage to Assisi. This is a study trip offered by the JFRC, so I had been looking forward to it since January. Unfortunately, I finally got sick this past week, probably from insufficient sleep over Easter break. Not wanting to miss the trip I had been waiting for, I stumbled out onto the bus, groggy but excited for the day. The trip was full of beautiful churches in an awesome location. Assisi is a hilltop town built above acres of farmland. It is significant because it is here in Assisi that Saint Francis and Saint Clare lived and worked to help improve the lives of others. Saint Francis was somewhat of a revolutionary figure in his day. He spoke openly about the need for all creatures to live in harmony. He is the patron saint of the environment. If I had a favorite saint, it would be him. The weather was great and I was relieved each time I stepped out of every chilly basilica and into the sunlight.

     We must have sang 100 “alleluias” that day, as it was still Easter Season and we spent a lot of time celebrating Jesus’s infinite love and mercy. If I had been feeling better, I would have appreciated the time spent reflecting and praying during mass and the prayer services more. Despite my sore throat, I sang when I could and tried to get the most out of the experience. All the while, I eagerly awaited dinner.

     Dinner was a delicious, extravagant, four course meal at an agriturismo (bed and breakfast/farm) 30 minutes away from Assisi. The wine flowed freely and the servers kindly offered seconds of each plate. The thing about these big Italian meals, is that instead of making you terribly full, feeling like you’re going to burst, they usually leave you perfectly satisfied. This is because each course is smaller than meals at home in the states, and there is enough time in between plates to digest and enjoy.

     What made the meal so great were the jokes and burns exchanged between Father Ted and Father Al, the two priests who lead us on our trip. They had us cracking up. At one point, Father Ted, an older, usually quiet man, stood up and asked if we had ever heard his impression of a German Shepherd. When we said no, he proceeded to shout instructions at an imaginary herd of sheep in a terrible German accent. (There were many more similar jokes and puns throughout the evening.) A little girl of about 7 or 8, holding the hand of one of the waitresses, walked up to Father Al, and wordlessly handed him a drawing she had made. The drawing was of two people lying on a beach under some palm trees. There was no explanation, it was just a simple and sweet moment. One teacher, Sander, known for his long-winded speeches and toasts, shared some lovely thoughts on his time spent with the two fathers as the meal was winding down.

     Sander remarked that the Assisi trip is a great way to bring people back to their roots, spiritually and emotionally. This was the last official trip of my semester and I feel closer to home than I have since the winter. The trip was exhausting but it reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for, and gave me some new ways to get closer to my roots when I get home.

 

 

 

Views of Assisi
A herd of goats passing by
One of many ancient ruins along the Appia Antica
The group stops for pics on our ride
One of the many times I dropped back to climb on something
Can you spot the biplane?