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Category: Country

Being Home is Weird. (my last China study abroad blog post)

Being Home is Weird. (my last China study abroad blog post)

Hello again! Welcome back to, unfortunately, my last blog post. I wanted to get this up sooner but was running into technical difficulties getting it up…

Throughout this post, you will find some pictures I took while in China. They have no correlation to what I am talking about (lol) I just want to share them!

Jing’an District, Shanghai, China: My friends and I on the way to a jazz performance.

From my previous post, you all know that there is a virus that is spreading around the country and is reaching other parts of the world. It, unfortunately, couldn’t get contained as fast as most had hoped. Because of that reason, my study abroad program has been canceled.

When we all first got the news that we had to book our flights out of China ASAP, the day was full of panic, sadness, and rapid-email-sending. Honestly, the top five worst news I’ve ever received. I would have never expected my study abroad experience to be cut so short, nor would I have ever expected to be evacuated out of a whole country!! I feel like I am living in a movie, and part of me still doesn’t want to believe I will not be going back anytime soon.

The Big Lawn, Shanghai University Yanchang Campus: My friend studying Chinese outside because the sun was out for a little.

In a way, I am grieving. And although I don’t like sounding dramatic, I’d much rather be honest about how I feel. There were more things I didn’t do than I did. There were so many relationships with people I was so excited to see develop, but now we are all separated. I was so excited to improve my mandarin skills, but now I have lost the opportunity of immersion. I am hurting for all of the families in Wuhan and the Hubei province that has been affected by the virus, have lost a family member, and that cannot get access to decent health care. I am sad for all of China that they are unable to celebrate the Spring Festival and welcome in the new year with joy and celebration, but instead with isolation and sadness.

Gonghexin Rd: Usually a bustling street filled with traffic, people, and electric scooters; practically empty due to people going home for the New Year and staying inside because of the virus outbreak.

I am home now, but the transition back has not been easy. I have been extremely jetlagged and emotionally drained. It has been incredibly hard for me to sleep. I feel like I should not be home; something about it feels wrong. When things end, I think that most people need some level of closure in order to feel accomplished or a sense of completion. I did not receive this closure, so, I am currently feeling dissatisfied. Also, I am nearing the end of my self-quarantine – so, I have been incredibly bored, hahaha! Embodying the true Jesuit spirit, however, this time inside has given me much time to think and reflect on all that has happened.

I am beyond grateful for the time I did get to spend there. I have fully fallen in love with the country and its people. The friends I made, the experiences I did get to have, and everything else will stay with me forever. All the things I did not get to do just give me a reason to go back (which I am 100% planning on doing)!

Xitang, Zhejiang, China: Group photo at the water village!

Life is not going how I expected. At. All. But I will not let this slow me down! With this new free time, I have much more possibilities for self-growth. I have some plans and hopes for the next few months that I think will keep me sane. I hope to continue learning the Chinese language here in Seattle because that is a skill I refuse to lose. I am going to travel to a few places around the world because if I have the time to do so, why not? I am going to start working again which will help relieve some financial burden off of my family who has already done more than enough for me since I have been home. I also love working so that will be good for my mental health. Also, with this semester being canceled it pushes me back academically, but the mantra that has helped keep me sane is that things happen for a reason.

Shanghai Pudong Airport: Not the greatest quality picture, but this is the last picture I took in China – a beautiful sunrise from the airport window.

I appreciate you all for reading my blog, and this post especially. I really wish I could keep writing about more crazy adventures I would be having (maybe I’ll start my own blog?)!! For me, this is just the beginning of more adventures to come.

 To close this post, linked below is a short video I made about my time in China before the virus outbreak. I was not going to share this, but I thought you would all enjoy it!

Until next time!

欢迎你! Welcome! (+health update)

欢迎你! Welcome! (+health update)

Hey Everyone!

            I have been trying to make a blog post for the past two weeks but have not found the right time where I can sit down and think about what I want to say. Right now is that time!

 I am currently sitting on my bed (my friends and I call it “my rock” because the beds here in China are like sleeping on wood floors lol) trying to think about how I want to format this post since so much has happened these past three weeks! I think I am going to keep it brief and casual, and start from the day I departed the states…

After one 14-hour plane ride from Seattle to Hong Kong, and another 2-hour flight from Hong Kong to Shanghai, I was extremely relieved to finally be able to walk freely.

Me (center) and other USAC friends from the group flight

At the airport is where I met the first group of USAC students (we were all on the group flight to Shanghai). We all loaded onto a bus and headed to campus. First couple of days, January 6th and 7th, we spent time exploring campus and taking tours of the city. We made stops at The Bund, Yu Gardens, Pearl Tower, and Tianzifang. They were all beautiful places even though the weather was pretty gloomy those days.

One of the many walkways of Tianzifang

The next morning, we all woke up early to take a charter bus, we dubbed the Teal Mobile for its color, to Hangzhou where we would spend the night. Once we arrived there, we ate brunch and immediately went to Lingyin Temple, AKA Temple of Soul’s retreat. It is one of the largest and wealthiest temples in China consisting of many smaller temples and grottoes. It was a pretty awesome place. To get to one of the temples you have to climb SO. MANY. STAIRS. According to what my apple watch tracked that day, I walked a total of 36 flights of stairs. The views were so worth it though. After climbing back down and checking out a few of the hundreds of Buddhas carved into the side rockery, we hopped back onto the charter bus and headed to Hangzhou National Tea Museum.

Hangzhou Tea Museum tea fields

The day was ending, and the weather was clearing up, so the rays from the sun were reflecting perfectly off of the damp tea leaves in the fields. The museum itself was empty but our program advisor didn’t give us that much time to explore, so we just kind of passed through, but a small group of us got to try free tea – it was amazing!

Next day, January 9th, we headed to West Lake. It was a cloudy day and all the plants were dead because it is wintertime, but it was still such a breathtaking view. We got to roam the lake freely which was a nice break from the quick pace we had been on the past few days. After looking around for a couple of hours, again, we loaded back onto Teal Mobile and headed to our next destination.

cute gazebo along the west lake

Our next stop was a water village, Xitang. It is really interesting because it is a gated off place and you need a ticket to go inside, however my program director was saying that people still live within the walls (obviously they don’t have to pay to get in, but still interesting) . We walked pretty far into this village to get lunch, and then we had more free time! There honestly was not much to do except check out the little shops and soak in the beauty of Xitang. On our way out of the village, we got to ride gondolas! It was a nice break from all of the walking we had been doing.

boat path in the water village

We rode the Teal Mobile for the last time and headed back into the city. The following week was the first days of classes. My classes are three hours once a week. Some days it is harder than others to sit in class that long, but the topics are quite interesting. The only class I have more than once a week is Chinese; that class is three times a week for three hours. I am so excited to get better at speaking and understanding Chinese. Being here these few weeks, I already have noticed an improvement in my skills.

 I currently do not have class this week because of Chinese New Year, but I also wanted to talk about something that I am sure you are all wondering about. A novel virus known as the coronavirus has been spreading rapidly around China, and now the world. I want everyone to know that I am safe and healthy and have been practicing every safety precaution I can be to ensure that my friends and I continue to stay healthy. I am definitely in a unique situation and I am honestly not quite sure what to think about it. I want to be naïve to it all and continue to enjoy my time here, however with the constant closure of events and tourism sites, the possible extension of break, having my temperature checked every time I enter the gates to my dorm, having to remember to wear a mask, and having to cancel my trip to Beijing makes all of this feel a little more real. I know the news in the States is covering the story of the virus very well, but I want to remind you all that news can be shocking and scary, but it does not paint the full picture of the situation. I am blessed to have really good travel insurance and have access to clean, well-managed American-style hospitals. My school here in China is taking every measure possible to ensure that the students here are safe. Shanghai and the other larger cities are doing all it can to make sure this virus gets contained. The other part of this reality, and what you all have been witnesses to, is that outside of the big city is where the problem worsens. There are many families who are not as fortunate as I am and who do not have the same access as I am able to have, so please keep them in your prayers and if you are able to find a way to donate masks or money to valid fundraisers, please do so. Right now, those in quarantined cities especially need as much aid as they can get as they are now not only limited but restricted to access to hospitals, transportation, and other critical resources. It is important to not panic is times like this but continuing to stay safe and manage the situation as much as possible. I added below a link to video from a citizen of Wuhan where he tells the story of the situation there better than what I can explain and better than what I have been seeing on the news.

https://youtu.be/7OEqybiGdaA
*strong language used

On that note! All is not so dark and grim. The sun is supposed to be coming out on Tuesday, I had a movie night with my friends, and I am so grateful for the experience I have already had these first three weeks here in China. I am hopeful for the world and China that it can make it through this hard time, and you will all be hearing from me soon.

me wearing my mask to protect from pollution and sickness!

Until next time!

On-Sites and Sightseeing

On-Sites and Sightseeing

On-site classes are a hack to seeing Rome even when you may not have the time to go on your own.

To start, I’m taking six classes this semester. A full schedule. I would not recommend because you don’t really get a ton of time to venture about the city and balance work and maintain balance. I’ve been taking full schedules since I was a freshman, so I’m used to it.

One of my classes, an ENGL class about writing fiction in Rome, is a class where we travel quite frequently and get to see so much while getting tips about the city from the professor who lives in a nearby neighborhood. Within the first few weeks of classes, we’d gone to the Teatro di Marcello, the Jewish ghetto, the Roman forum, countless churches, and to a keyhole that became a monument if and of itself.

This isn’t the only class I have that takes on-site trips. One of my HIST classes takes trip out, too. We’ve visited the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the tomb of the unknown soldier built into it, and the Olympic Stadium just a forty-five minute walk from campus.

The point of these classes, however, is not just to see these places but to really teach you their history and importance. It doesn’t hurt that the teachers have lived here for years and know where to get the best granita (shaved ice with espresso poured into it and whipped cream on top), and the fun fact that twelve COUPLES ate in the belly of the Victor Emmanuel horse before it was showcased, and that there’s a pretty stellar gelato place across the bridge and over a street from the stadium.

Student, Evironmental Scientist, Sourdough Lover, and …Wife?

Student, Evironmental Scientist, Sourdough Lover, and …Wife?

Photo taken in Baños, Ecuador

Who am I? A question for the ages. For most students, the answer is going to be fairly similar. You identify by the class year you are in, maybe you’ve decided on a major and maybe not, and you could even be a member of one club or another. For me, this answer is a little different and may even surprise you, it has definitely surprised some of my classmates! In the end, our identifiers shape who we are and how we interact with the world around us. That’s why my identity is so important to my study abroad journey.

This year, I am a senior Rambler at Loyola where I major in environmental science with IES and have a concentration in conservation and restoration ecology. I love to frequent the farmer’s market on Mondays, where I spend all my cash on sourdough and tamales, and I like to study by the lake on nice days. I have a name that professors find impossible to pronounce (by the way, it’s “ray-leen”) and I’ve even learned to recognize the face they all make when they get to me on the roster. I live in Rogers Park and have just begun riding my bike everywhere. This all sounds pretty familiar, right? Well, I’m also 25 years old and have been married to my husband, Andrew, for four and a half years. Are you surprised? Or did you read the title and completely ruin it?

Super cute right?

My story makes more sense once you know a little more about my past. I graduated from high school back in 2012 and completed my associate’s degree in 2014. Andrew and I just came back to college this past Fall after he completed his 5-year contract with the Marine Corps. We’ve made two major moves across the country between Northern Illinois and Southern California where we lived in a little desert town called Twentynine Palms. It was never my intention to take 4 years off from school, but life has a funny way of working out. While we lived in California, I worked as a vet tech. It was a job that I adored until I didn’t anymore. As it turns out, pet parents are really mean! I’ve always maintained my love of animals though.

Coming back to school is one of the most difficult adventures Andrew and I have embarked on and we’ve been through two deployments to the Middle East. There were 3 hours of commuting 5 days a week, depression, anxiety, financial issues, loss of adored pets, and even talks of divorce. This is what makes my journey a little more unique. I don’t have to only worry about classes, basketball games, and club meetings. I also have to worry about where our grocery money is going to come from, if all the bills for the month have been paid, or if Andrew and I are spending enough quality time together to maintain our marriage. That’s also why it was so hard to decide to study abroad.

After deployment #2

Now that I’ve given you way too much personal information, this brings me to where I’m at now. I chose to attend the GAIAS-Galápagos Extension Program through IES abroad where I am a part of their marine track. I am currently in Quito, Ecuador studying various aspects of marine ecology at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and I will be leaving for the Galápagos Islands in just 18 more days. I am so happy and thankful to be here and while I did all the work to get to where I’m at in life right now, it’s not without help from so many others.

First off, I have an incredibly supportive husband and family. If it weren’t for their help and insistence that I study abroad, I wouldn’t even have considered it. This program also comes with a rather large bill that is almost completely covered by 3 grants, 2 government loans, and 3 scholarships.

I am so thankful to be in Ecuador studying something I love and wouldn’t have a chance to study at Loyola. I’ve been here for a month and some days, I wake up and still can’t believe I’m actually here. There are so many aspects of this program that are incredibly amazing! Tune in for the next episode to learn more!

Call me Scuba Steve.

– Rhealene

In Loving Memory of Maya Papaya and Sheldon Kitty

 

Life Update

Life Update

It feels like I’ve been here for over a year, but it’s only been a little over a month. I’m still homesick, but my mom told me I’m “Alec sick.” I’ve been traveling a bit since we last talked, which has been a major distraction. My classes are going well but I have little motivation to do much during the week. Let’s not talk about that, though. The fun part: where have I been these last few weeks?

As mentioned in my last post, I went to Naples the last weekend of January. This was a school run trip for our orientation, but it was still fun because I met a bunch of cool people. We did a bunch of history museums and such, which is not my favorite, but I made the most out of it. Next stop: Florence, Italy.

Florence has been my favorite city by far. It was a girl’s trip so, of course, we shopped and ate! We went to Gucci, Zara and the leather market and bought some fun things. We saw two different wineries’ in Tuscany on Saturday, which was so fun and interesting. We ate so much pasta and bruschetta that I am ready for some American food (definitely Chipotle and Canes). It rained most of the time while we were there, but my friends and I made the most of it. Next stop: Berlin, Germany.

I traveled to Berlin with a bunch of my friends from Loyola & Dayton during the second weekend of February. We ate some German sausage and drank German beer, which if you know me, I was not a fan of (check out my featured photo). We saw the Holocaust memorial and it was extremely eye opening. We also went to the Berlin Wall, which was full of super cool graffiti. It rained most of the time in Berlin as well, so we weren’t able to see as many sites as we wanted to. The main reason we went to Berlin was for the Louis the Child concert. It was so fun, but extremely overwhelming for someone who is 4”11. The highlight of my trip was definitely eating at a fake Chipotle. Next stop: Barcelona, Spain.

Maddy, Maddie and I traveled to Barcelona this past weekend. Barcelona is definitely my 2nd favorite city. We did some shopping (of course), saw the Sagrada Familia and Gaudi’s House and watched the Barcelona soccer match at a restaurant outside the stadium (mostly to send pictures to my dad). The views were gorgeous, and I slept a lot, which was much needed. The Cheetah Girls movie was definitely one of my favorites when I was a little girl, so I loved seeing all the spots they were at. Barcelona reminded me of Chicago, and it made me smile. Next stop: Milan Fashion Week.

My four friends and I are traveling to Milan this Thursday for fashion week, which is totally up my fashion alley. I get to shop for an outfit, which is even more exciting. I have been doing a lot in Rome during the weeks as well. I see a different Church every Wednesday for my theology class. My friends and I go to restaurants in the city center to get off campus for a little bit at least once a week. We went to dinner on Valentine’s Day and my family sent me flowers, which was definitely a happy! Midterms are coming up and FOMO is a major issue in my life right now, but I’m powering through.

I hope you all enjoyed my little life update. Alec is coming in early March and my parents are coming in late March, so I am really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and getting hugs! Before I know it, I will be back in the states, but I am really enjoying myself (and my homesickness). Thank you for reading this long, long post!

Talk soon xoxo.

LUC in the Land of Harry Potter

LUC in the Land of Harry Potter

Last year, being in the NCAA Final Four was such an exciting time to be a Rambler. With national coverage of the basketball team, we became “the Harry Potter school” with our maroon and gold striped scarves, more famously known as the Hogwarts colors. Here, in the city where J.K. Rowling wrote many of the Harry Potter books, I see maroon and gold everywhere in windowshops, on people’s hats and scarves, and I get so excited to throw my “‘blers up” hand before remembering what they mean when they sport maroon and gold stripes. As I pass closer, their merchandise always says “Hogwarts” or “Gryffindor”. Still, I am always happy to see our school colors and it makes me feel a twinge of familiarity in this new place. I have shoved homesickness (or “schoolsickness”) to the back of my mind successfully for a few weeks (not a method of coping that I would recommend), but the maroon and gold stripes always make me a little sad. However, I am not a fan of Harry Potter, and it makes me giggle to see people line up in front of The Elephant House Cafe, famous for being the exact location where J.K. Rowling wrote many pages of the first few books of the series. They wait in the rain, snow, and sleet to get in, and from many online reviews and testimonies from people I meet who have visited, it ends up to be a disappointing experience as far as the actual coffee and cakes go. I am sure they would be happier to spend their money on food and coffee that is worth it, maybe in Cafe Arrivadolce, listening to the construction along North Sheridan Road, watching Chicagoans fight against being blown over in the harsh Lake Michigan winds as they make their way down the street. They might like Metropolis Coffee Company on Granville Ave, close to where people were paintballed by a moving vehicle last year, and where I have seen countless domestic disputes under the train tracks (there is never a dull moment in Chicago). Maybe they would like to be visit the school that made the 2018 Final Four after over 50 years. At least, that is where I would want to go right now; that is my maroon and gold.

Feeling at Home in Rome

Feeling at Home in Rome

I’d decided I was going to study abroad during my senior year of high school when the decision was, arguably, easy. I was leaving for college the following year, so I didn’t have any ties to life at Loyola’s Chicago campus yet. Even as I applied for the John Felice Rome Center my sophomore year, my nerves were at a low in anticipation of all the new experiences to come. When it came time to actually board my flight to Rome, however, my faith in the decision began to fumble. I was worried that I wouldn’t love Rome the same way I loved Chicago or that I wouldn’t make any new friends to travel with. My relief was palpable when, in just the first few weeks of my JFRC experience, both of my doubts were set aside.
Orientation was pleasantly exhausting. We spent most of the first week venturing around Rome, seeing everything from the Colosseum to a whole in the wall restaurant that served authentic pasta for four euro. The near constant immersion in the city made me fall in love with Rome and its contradictions; I’ve always loved Chicago, but even when I moved there for university, I never felt quite as at home as I did dodging puddles in the cobblestone streets near the Forum.

While I was discovering that Rome was the place I’d been looking for, I was surrounded by people who felt the same, the majority of whom had not come to the JFRC with a pre-established group of friends. I expected making friends to be the most difficult part of the journey, but everyone at the JFRC is there to meet people who share this same desire to see the world. During a scavenger hunt wherein we ran around the city taking pictures of all of the quintessential Roman sites, I made friends with a wonderfully positive group that shared my traveling desires and a few of my classes.
There have been nights where I miss my family and friends back home immensely, but the experiences that I’m having during the day make it much easier to cope with. As the days go on, I find myself reflecting on the cappuccino that blew my mind or the breathtaking view from the top of the Spanish Steps instead of how badly I miss Chicago. There are so many things to love about Rome; the hills are nothing like I’ve seen in the suburbs, pasta here is never overdone, and historic churches and ruins are always a few steps away, offering an insight into the city’s history, present, and future. When I do connect with my family and friends, they’re always anticipating stories about my life here and encouraging me to continue chasing personal growth in the eternal city. Connecting with a time change is easier than I’d thought, and the distance has made hearing about life back home is even more entertaining than before I left. I will never not miss my life in Chicago, but I’ll be back within four months. I’ll only have a life here in Rome once, and I can’t wait to live it to the fullest.

Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

A quarter of the way through my time here abroad and I am all emotions. On one spectrum, I am happy and exhilarated of all that I have seen and done thus far. On the other end, I am exhausted, physically, mentally, and socially. I have traveled to the southern part of Italy to Campania, and I have traveled up to the northern part of Italy to Florence and Pisa. I have marveled at the history of the past, whether it is walking through a museum with centuries old art, or strolling through Paestum as if I can relive the past of so many people who came before me, my imagination has sparked in all forms. The other day, my class and I traveled to the Roman National Museum where we saw a fresco of Augustus’s wife, Livia Drusilla. It is a beautifully detailed garden scene that wraps around all four walls. It is believed to have been a part of their villa as their dining room decor. In my wildest imaginations, I can only dream about what those walls may have seen and heard. Yes, walls may not have a heartbeat, but they can still hold the memories of people, dead and alive. It reminds me how much of our lives, and our stories can become intertwined in art. It is able to keep alive pieces of us after we are gone, and connects us in all sorts of ways. I found the creativity and imagination of art again in Florence and Pisa. The architecture of the buildings breathe so much history while reminding me of a fragile card house, and a tilt-

ing jenga tower, about to be toppled down with one big blow of air. My friends and I filled our stomachs with warm paninos, carbonara, and chocolate souffles that were heaven on earth. We headed to Pisa for a day to see the famous leaning tower and we found it as cool as everyone says it is in all of its falling glory. On our last day in Florence, we stumbled upon a parade of renaissance dressed men walking along the cobblestone streets, marching towards a reenactment of some sort. Yet again, I found myself drifting into my childhood imagination of what the past might have looked like. These past few weeks have clearly reminded me to keep my imagination alive to retell the past, paint the present, and connect with others in the future. Let the dreaming and imagining continue…

Falling in Love with Spain

Falling in Love with Spain

Whilst being in Europe, we all get excited to go see all of the different countries especially because traveling is cheaper in comparison to America. My advice to students who want to study abroad would be to pick a handful of places you absolutely would love to travel to and plan those out. There may be a lot of pressure to hit a ton of countries, but as I have experienced these past few weeks, getting to know the country your living in is an incredible feeling. I am studying in Alicante which in itself is a beautiful city, my friends and I have been able to take trips to nearby cities in day trips, discovering hidden gems. A lot of these places have less mass tourism and are much more authentic, allowing us to get an intimate feel for the country we’re in. Altea is a small city on La Costa Blanca, or the white coast, which was a small town on the Mediterranean filled with immaculate white homes and buildings. We found a small restaurant where they insisted we get the lasagna, it was the best I had ever had, it was so fresh and rich. It was a lovely city and we had a perfect day. The next day we went to Calpe, another city a few hour from Alicante on train, where we hiked up a mountain there. The view was absolutely breathtaking, you could see for miles, even into other cities. We were above the clouds and able to see beyond the horizon. After, we had dinner on the beach and relaxed along the coast. I have had many of opportunities see the countryside of Spain and have had the pleasure of meeting manylocal people. When I go back to the states, I want to feel like I actually lived here, so I am so glad I’m able to travel within the country and immerse myself in the local culture.

Sitting in Altea

strolling through Altea

Views from Calpe

 

Calpe and Yoga

 

So I Moved Across the World

So I Moved Across the World

Hi, my name is Jaylinn, and this semester I decided to move to Europe. It’s crazy to think I decided to live across the world without ever having been here. But I knew it was something I had always wanted to do. Living in Spain is definitely a drastic change, but I would not trade it for anything in the world. It’s important to research ahead of time what to expect, for example, I researched social norms in Southern Spain. Europe is relatively similar to the United States but the little things like kisses on the cheek instead of hand shakes can throw you off if you aren’t aware. I also listened to Spain top 50 on Spotify to know what music they listened to. Lucky for me they listened to Latin American and some English music which I was familiar with. Although research beforehand was very helpful it’s important to keep an open mind and observe the first few weeks. Because of this I didn’t experience much culture shock, of course a little is inevitable though. So far this experience has taught me so much about myself in such a short amount of time. It’s the first time I had lived on my own outside of a dorm and has taught me about independence in that sense. Also about how much broader the world is outside of America. People from all over Europe are always in Alicante, and it’s common for people to move to other countries and just pick up on the language. Most of all out of this journey so far I feel like I have learned to keep an open mind, when it comes to experiences, cultural norms, and everything else in between.