The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Michaela Rabinov

Hi! I am Michaela Rabinov, originally from Kaneohe, Hawaii; I am in the midst of my third year at Loyola University Chicago. I am a Creative Advertising Major, and have a minor in dance. I chose to study at the Vietnam Center because I am looking for a culturally immersive study abroad experience, and I feel that Vietnam is sort of "off the beaten path" of study abroad experiences. I have no idea what to expect from this experience, except that I know it will be amazing! I hope you enjoy hearing about my adventures and experiences!
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.


Long Hai

Long Hai

Though I love Ho Chi Minh City, it sometimes makes you feel as if you are overdosing on stimulation. This weekend, as a means of escape and a means of exploration, a group of us took a short trip to Long Hai, Vietnam. Long Hai is about a 2.5 hour bus ride southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, and about 30 minutes east of Vung Tao; a very well known tourist beach near the city. We chose not to spend the weekend in Vung Tao as we have plans to spend a weekend there later this semester, and so after some google searching, and realizing that a lot of getaway spots were booked up due to Vietnam’s Independence day, we decided on Long Hai.

Long Hai is similar to Vung Tao, except only Vietnamese people usually go there. So though we were in a “touristy area” full of hotels and resorts, it didn’t feel that way because we were the only foreigners that we encountered the entire time. We stayed at the Minh Dam Hotel which was great for it’s location in proximity to the beach and also for it’s price (which included a free breakfast each morning), but was not as great as it could have been in proximity to the town of Long Hai. As it turns out, Long Hai consists of two main areas of town, each about seven or eight miles apart from each other. Our hotel was between these two towns and so when it came time to find a place to eat, we had to do a small amount of traveling. This was only made difficult by the language barrier, and the lack of taxis in the area. All of these things really added to the experience though, and overall, we had an amazing time.

The first day, we arrived in Long Hai in the afternoon, and after checking into our hotel, went directly to the beach. Much to our dismay, our hotel told us that we had to pay 70,000VND to go to the beach, and so we each bought tickets, and headed across the street where we walked through a gate and gave our tickets to a security guard. Once on the beach, we discovered that just a little ways down the beach there is a free access that the hotel “failed” to tell us about. Anyhow, the beach where we had to pay was gorgeous, and we had an amazing afternoon just enjoying the warm, salty water and the sand between our toes.



That night, we walked about a mile till we hit the closest part of town, picked up a case of 333 beer, and had some of the delicious fresh seafood that the area is famous for.

The next morning, a couple of us woke up to watch sunrise from our hotel window. 10/10 I highly recommend doing this.

Post sunrise, we rested for a while longer, and then headed back to the beach. This was the basis of what our weekend was about, and it was everything we could have wanted. In Long Hai, it is possible to climb the nearby mountain. I didn’t do this (big surprise, I know), but one of the guys in our group went and came back with lots of stories of monkeys and friendly locals. After spending the morning on the beach, and acquiring a couple of sunburns, we had seafood fried rice for lunch while we waited for him to return from the mountain.

Once he returned, we set out to find a temple whose golden spires were visible from our hotel. It was very easy to find, and we lucked out in our timing because as we walked down the road leading to it, a tour bus had just pulled up to visit it, and so we were able to sneak in through the gate with the people who had arrived on the bus. There were many vietnamese children who were incredibly excited to take selfies with us. This is something that I have encountered a lot of on my travels so far, and it  brings me much joy.


Sorry for the low quality photo, it was taken on an Android.

Exploring this temple was one of the highlights of the trip for me, by far. It seemed that it was partially still being built, because in the front there were people carving giant statues of Buddhas that later, it seemed, were to be placed around the grounds.I do not doubt that this temple may become a tourist attraction in the future. I am not completely sure about this, but it seemed that the vietnamese children on the bus were at the temple to learn or worship, or something of the sort, as they all filed to one of the buildings, and we heard singing coming from it. The people at the temple were very happy to allow us to look around, and it was so beautiful. We also were there during my favorite time of day; dusk.

It was the end of a perfect day, and we felt we needed to keep it this way, and so we headed into town in the other direction that evening, picked up another case of beer, and proceeded to sit down and eat some of the best and cheapest seafood I have ever had in my entire life. I honestly am looking forward to our trip to Vung Tao later this semester, specifically so I can eat this seafood again. I wasn’t even able to get a photo of it before it was demolished.

Our last morning, we spent about another hour on the beach, and then sadly caught our bus back to Ho Chi Minh. Getting to our bus was a bit of an adventure due to our hotel forgetting that we had arranged transport, but we made it just in time. I highly recommend Long Hai to anyone who wants a weekend getaway from the city in the future. I hope to return one day.


Week One In Ho Chi Minh City

Week One In Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, is a sensory overload in the best way. From the moment you step outside you are bombarded with smells, and sounds, and images that are a display of the colorful Vietnamese culture, and the growing commercial society that is extremely apparent in the city. Everywhere you look, someone is selling something from street food, to electronics, to clothing, to knick knacks, to anything your heart may desire. Oh and coffee, lots and lots of coffee. In fact, there is at least one coffee shop on every block.

This week has been one hell of a ride, and so I will just touch on a few of the most notable parts of Saigon that are beginning to grab a hold of my heart.

The city: Ho Chi Minh City is made up of 12 districts, plus a few other districts that have names instead of numbers. The districts with numbers begin in the center of the city, and work their way outward. Because of this, District 1 and 3 are the more touristy districts, and also where most of the night life is. I am living in District 10 in the dorms of the Bach Khoa University which is the University of technology in HCMC. My classes however, are held at Open University in District 1. Loyola arranged this living situation so as to give us the chance to experience a more culturally legitimate image of Saigon, instead of us only being in the touristy areas. For all my Loyola people, I like to think of District 10 as the Rogers Park of Ho Chi Minh City. As far as going out and enjoying Saigon’s night life, restaurants, and also for our classes, we do have to travel about 15 to 20 minutes by bus, taxi, or motorbike, but in District 10, we have a lot more access to the Vietnamese people, and to much cheaper street food. I have yet to see a foreigner in District 10, but they are everywhere in Districts 1 and 3. In District 10 I am greeted with intrigued stares and often a hello! whereas in Districts 1 and 3, I am seen more as a walking ATM.

The architecture in Ho Chi Minh City is definitely a mix of old and new. Especially in the ritzier districts. There are a minimal amount of skyscrapers though, and so much of the city has a very crowded – boxes stacked upon boxes type of feel. Though it is illegal for street vendors to crowd the streets, this law is paid little heed (like many laws in Saigon), and most of the sidewalks are taken up by peddlers, or small tables accompanied by plastic chairs. This means that most pedestrians have to walk on the road (I will touch on this later in the traffic section of this post). There is also garbage everywhere. It seems that due to the continuing growth and development of the city and its economy, lessons on waste and garbage disposal are not a priority. After speaking to a few Vietnamese about this problem, the common thread of thought is that most people register it as a problem, but think that “someone else will take care of it.” The city also seems to be more preoccupied with development, than with maintaining beauty. I think that this is a commonality in most developing countries. Though the city is crowded, and very dirty, it is still beautiful in its own way, and it is hard not to be sucked into the excitement that perpetrates every corner of Ho Chi Minh City.

The first photo was taken in District 1 at the Central Post Office, designed by Gustaf Eiffel. The second was taken from the window of my bedroom in District 10.

The food: The number one thing that I have done since I got to Ho Chi Minh City is eat. Other than classes, our days basically revolve around our meals, and around trying new food. So far, I have found three and a half different forms of acquiring said food; western style restaurants, groceries (mainly cereal, fruit, instant ramen, and other snacks because we don’t have kitchens in our dorms), and street food. I say three and a half reasons because there is the street food such as bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) that you just buy and eat on the go, and there is street food such as noodles, that you order, and eat while sitting in plastic chairs on the sidewalk. In the second case, you are served by the owner of the establishment and given ice tea on most occasions. All of the food that I have had so far in Vietnam has been amazing. The street food is by far the cheapest (usually ranging from the equivalent of $1 to $2 for a full meal), though it is very common to not be entirely sure what you are eating. I have found that as long as you go to places that the locals frequent and crowd, you will most likely be fine. Slowly, I am learning bits and pieces of the Vietnamese language, so ordering is becoming a little bit easier. Something I learned upon my arrival in Vietnam, is that Pho’ is actually not the most common meal in Vietnam. Though very easy to come by, it is mostly only eaten as a breakfast food, and so most street food sellers close down shop in the afternoon. You can get pho’ at all times though at regular restaurants. Most meals include rice or noodles with some sort of meat and veggies and sauce. District 1 has a much broader range of food choices for when you get tired of Vietnamese food. The other night, we went to Pizza Hut and it was glorious.

The coffee: The Vietnamese love coffee, and I love Vietnamese coffee. In Ho Chi Minh City, there is at least one coffee shop on every block, and they range from western style coffee shops with lots of indoor seating and AC to small hole in the wall coffee shops where you sit on the sidewalk in lawn chairs while you sip. Vietnamese coffee is thicker than western style coffee, and generally more sweet. It can be served hot or iced, and with or without condensed milk. Most shops also have a large array of what I would call “fancy coffees” meaning that they are flavored, or ice blended, or whatever. A cup of coffee generally costs about the equivalent of $1. If you get a fancy coffee, it will probably be about $2. I have yet to try anything but iced coffee due to the high temperatures outside, but I am sure that the hot stuff is just as good. The preparation of Vietnamese coffee came from the time of French colonization. Usually, coarsely ground beans are put through a french drip filter by being weighted down with a heavy lid and adding water. The coffee is then poured over ice (if served with ice). The use of condensed milk originated because the French were unable to easily acquire fresh milk. One famous strain of coffee in Vietnam is known as “weasel coffee”. This is because it comes from the poop of weasels who are fed coffee berries, and then digest it, producing this particular strain. Sounds gross, but it’s actually delicious. Honestly the only downside to Vietnamese coffee is that it comes in small portions, and is usually gone way to fast. coffee shops

My cup is the one that is already sucked dry.

The traffic: The traffic here is insane. In-sane. Think Los Angeles, multiply that by ten, and then replace 98% of the cars with motorbikes. There are approximately 7.43 million motorbikes on the road in Ho Chi Minh City, and the population is 8 million. If Loyola allowed us to drive motorbikes during this program, I still would not drive in the city. Crossing the street in the city is an adventure unto itself, let alone manipulating the roadways on a vehicle. The Vietnamese drive offensively rather than defensively, and so no matter where you are on the road, there always seems to be a bike trying to creep in next to you, whether or not they are going the legal direction. The drivers of bikes also have no problem riding on the sidewalks, and often while walking I find myself jumping out of the way of someone coming right at me. The road laws in Vietnam honestly seem to be more like suggestions. If a cop pulls you over for misconduct, it only costs about the equivalent of $5 to pay them off. To add to the crazy driving habits, the Vietnamese have an incessant habit of honking their horns, even when nobody is in the way. To get a better grasp on the horn honking situation, I highly recommend reading this article; Honking In HCMC. Although the traffic is crazy though, there is nothing more exhilarating than riding on the back of someones bike, especially just around dusk. I always have said that the best way to see a city is to just walk it, but the best way to see Ho Chi Minh City is on the back of a motorbike.


The people: The Vietnamese are wonderful. They are some of the most open, helpful, and eager people that I have ever met. They love to laugh more than anyone I have ever met. Often it seems as though they are laughing at you, but I have learned that in no way do they mean to tease. They just laugh. I have been in many situations where I have had to ask for help, and they are always more than happy to go out of their way to fix whatever situation it is. It is refreshing that I have had to get used to this. partner

Me and my partner from Open University.

The language: Vietnamese is difficult. I am taking intensive vietnamese language and I am struggling. It is a tonal language which makes it almost impossible to say anything correctly. For example; my vietnamese teacher’s name means “Ruby” in english, but if you say it with the wrong tone, it means “stupid.” Pretty much every time that I have tried to speak the language outside of the classroom, the person I am talking to, has absolutely no idea what I am saying. Hopefully this gets easier.

Overall, I am falling in love with Vietnam, and cannot wait for all the experiences to come.

group independence



Ni Hao! I am officially arrived in Ho Chi Minh City after spending six days in China.

China was amazing. Very crowded and very hot, but still amazing.

The first day (August 17), I arrived in Shanghai after my 15 hour flight, met up with Trenton (my friend from high school) and we caught an overnight train to Xi’an. We almost missed our train, and so my first experience of China was basically sprinting through the train station with my giant backpack. It was stressful, yet invigorating, and we made it onto the train with five minutes to spare. The sleeper train was its own experience. It was actually very nice, and I actually was able to sleep though I was in a cabin with three other non-english-speaking Chinese natives.

We arrived in Xi’an the following morning (August 18) and caught the metro to the center of Xi’an where our hostel was. From the moment we stepped off of the metro we were sweating. It was between 95 and 100 degrees fahrenheit the entire time that we were in China (except for up in the mountains). One of the most apparent culture shocks that I felt right away was just how crowded China is. It is very obvious that 18% (1.35 billion people) of the entire world population lives in that one country. I think it is because of this that the Chinese people have a total lack of spacial awareness also. When there are so many people in one place, the idea of personal space is almost at zero percent. This took some getting used to, but by the end of the trip, it was not as bothersome, and in a way, kind of endearing.

Our plan for our first night in Xi’an was to travel to Mount Huashan, and hike up overnight, so we did not plan on checking into our hostel right away. Though we were not sleeping there the first night, the hostel staff allowed us to leave our bags there, and also shower. This was greatly appreciated, if you are ever in Xi’an, I highly recommend the Han Tang Inn Hostel. After dropping our bags off, we picked up some dumplings (delicious) and took a bus to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. This has been a lifelong dream for me, and I was not disappointed. Although sweltering hot, the rooms of the warriors were huge. We learned that each warrior was actually designed to look like one of the emperor’s slaves, and after a specific warrior was finished, that slave would be killed. The slaves carved their initials into their personal warriors though, so that they could be remembered forever. Also, here’s a tip: view the three excavation rooms in opposite order. Rooms 2 and 3 are not finished being excavated yet, and look more like a few piles of dirt. If you see those before room 1, you are very likely to be underwhelmed.terra cotta

After the warriors, we returned to Xi’an to prepare for our hike up Mount Huashan. We packed our bags at the hostel, and grabbed some delicious biang biang noodles from a nearby restaurant. Xi’an is known for these noodles. They are very large, almost like lasagna noodles. They’re also famous for it’s character because it uses 58 strokes.

Biáng-order_complete biang

After our noodles, we took a train and then a taxi to the Huashan scenic area. Another culture shock: taxi drivers, actually almost all drivers in China drive like madmen. This taxi ride in particular was one of the scarier ones I have ever taken. Something I noticed as the days in China went on though, was that since everybody drives like a crazy person, you almost feel safer, just because, although I witnessed “almost” accidents about 500 times a day, nobody actually ever hit anybody else. Anyways, I digress; we got to the entrance of the hike around 10:30pm, and began our upward climb. It was still extremely hot at this time, and I was sweating profusely before we even started hiking. I was blown away by the amount of people on the trail. Huashan is one of the top 3 famous mountains in China, but I was not prepared for how crowded the trail was. I guess, even in the mountains, one cannot escape the Chinese crowds. Another surprise was that for the entire time we were on the mountain, we were the only non-Chinese tourists that we saw. China is a big place, and throughout the entire trip, most of the tourists were actually Chinese.

The trail up Mt. Huashan was entirely paved, and yet it was still the most physically demanding hike that I have ever done, though one of the most rewarding hikes I have ever done. Everything that I had read online said that the climb would take between 3-5 hours. Being a pretty avid hiker, I assumed it would probably take Trenton and I 3 hours. I now realize that the 3-5 hour time estimate was the estimate only for the hike to the North Peak. Trenton and I ended up hiking 6 hours to the East peak where the Chess Pavilion is, so as to get the best view for sunrise. So basically we walked up thousands of stairs, some of them more like ladders, for six hours straight. My body was killing me by the time we got to the top at around 4:15am, where we waited for a little over an hour for sunrise.

It ended up being too cloudy for a good sunrise, but the view of the Chess Pavilion was dreamy. chess pavilion

It ended up being a huge blessing that we spent the night on the mountain, because we were able to beat the lines for the famous plank walk. This part of the hike was basically the reason that I wanted to go to China, and it was everything that I had hoped. I will let the pictures do the talking for this one. plank walk 1 plank walk 2

We decided to catch the cable car back down the mountain because our knees were hurting just thinking about having to walk down all of those stairs again. By this time, the clouds had cleared though, and the view was incredible.


Upon our return to Xi’an, we showered and rested for a bit, and then decided to head out into Xi’an to do some sight seeing. We explored the famous Bell Tower, and were able to get a beautiful 360 degree view of the city from the top. From there, we headed to the Muslim quarter of Xi’an, famous for it’s lively marketplace. It was very interesting gaining insight into Chinese-Muslim culture. I enjoyed coconut milk and a fully fried squid on a stick, delicious! That night was my first night sleeping in an actual bed since my arrival in China, and I slept like a baby. The next morning, we woke up, picked up dumplings from our favorite dumpling shop, and then headed to the airport to catch our plane to Huangshan.

xian1 xian2dumplings

As soon as we arrived in Huangshan, we realized that we were DEEP in China. The owner of our hostel picked us up at the airport, the hour long drive to the hostel was entirely mountains and farm land. The food in Huangshan was very traditional also. We ordered a chicken dish that was basically every part of the chicken, cut up, and cooked in a delicious sauce. When I say “every part” of the chicken, I mean EVERY part of the chicken, feet and head, and beak included.

The next morning, the owner of our hostel drove us to the bus that we needed to catch into Huangshan scenic area. The night previously, we had decided that it would be more beneficial to catch the cable car up to the top of the mountain, so as to save our energy for actually hiking at the top, and for the hike down in the evening. Although we had to wait for an hour in line to catch the cable car, this turned out to be a very good idea, seeing as it was over 60,000 steps to the top. At the top, we were very disappointed by the initial view, as everything was completely covered in clouds. Other than seeing a couple of monkeys, we were extremely dismayed, and I became very frustrated as I had high hopes to see the famed “sea of clouds”.


We spent a few hours, getting super excited every time the clouds seemed like they might clear, until finally around 3pm we had our first real view cloud clearing. It was incredible. At this point, we decided that even if we didn’t get to see sunset, the whole trip up the mountain would be worth it.


We still had high hopes for sunset though, and so we continued to hike to the point where we wanted to watch it. When we got to this point, it had become cloudy again though, and we again, felt very frustrated. The only excitement was the large number of Chinese people who asked me on multiple occasions to take a photo with them. This was a popular occurrence throughout the entire trip for me, being a tall caucasian, I was a bit of a celebrity. I still wonder where all of those photos ended up.

Anyways, we waited at the top of the mountain for about another hour, and finally, around 5pm, we had the most amazing cloud clearance that I ever could have imagined. Honestly, I have seen a lot of beautiful mountains in my lifetime, and these were nothing like I had ever seen before. We were blessed with the sea of clouds, more beautiful than any of the google images that I had spent hours looking at during the weeks leading up to this trip. I still cannot believe that it was real. On top of that, we also had an incredible sunset. It was pretty much the most amazing day.14053720_10210870978670894_7311145620010334008_o 14053871_10210870957470364_4893285044107221721_o

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After sunset, we hiked down the mountain in the dark. It took us about 3 hours to walk down 5 miles worth of steep steps, and we felt like we were on some Indiana Jones type of adventure, deep in the heart of China. Finally, we reached the bottom, and caught the last bus back to Tangkou, where we happily showered and sank into our beds.

The next day, our plan was to take the bus to Hangzhou. We caught the noon bus, and made it to Hangzhou around 3pm, but to our dismay found that due to the G20 conference coming in September, many of the streets were shut down in an effort to lower the amount of driving on the roads to clear up some of the air pollution. Because of this, it was nearly impossible to get to our hostel by the West Lake, and after a few tries we decided that it would be much more worth it to just go straight to Shanghai. We quickly booked a hostel and a couple of train tickets, and hopped on the next high speed train. This ended up working in our favor as it gave us a full day the next day to explore Shanghai. We were able to spend a couple of hours at the Bund, and walking around the market and eating dim sum where in the area of the city where the houses from the 1930’s are still standing. Pro tip: instead of booking an expensive river tour on the Bund, for 2 yuan, you can just take the ferry across the river, and see the same sights. Also, even though the Shanghai museum closes at 5, they stop allowing visitors to enter at 4, something we discovered six minutes too late.

Shanghai architecture is amazing. There is a mix of old and new that is extravagantly more apparent than the same mix that Chicago architecture is famous for, mainly I think because the newer architecture is almost space-like in its modernity.13996223_10210871133954776_8417467483739397451_o

Overall, China was incredible, and I hope to go back soon to explore more. I caught my flight to Vietnam on time, and have now been here for almost a week. A post will be coming soon! Thank you for reading this extra long one!


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