The GoGlobal Blog

Category: Italy

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.

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…

Most Of Us

Most Of Us

Since I was a child, the idea of traveling has always excited me, whether it was trying flaky pastries in a small village in Paris, or walking through the historical entrances of Pompeii, I have always been fascinated by the world and all of the distance that separates us as human beings, and yet, all of the everyday commonalities that unite us. However, I am a deep dreamer, and thinker, constantly wondering, and often doubting, about the next move, step, or leap. Although this may be useful for planning and organizing, I have found that this state of mind can get me into trouble. You see, overthinking can turn your wildest, happiest dreams into a prison of fear, anxiety, and doubt. It can lead to a place of certainty, safety, and comfort, but what I have found over the past couple of years is that there is no room for growth, nor learning when set in a box of sameness. See, I enjoy a well rounded routine with a schedule that is almost set to the tee, but I am constantly faced with the decision to break free bit by bit from my comfort zone and face everything that scares me. This includes leaving behind a magical fall school semester, a beautiful city that I call home, and family and friends who have carried me through a tumultuous couple of years.

My decision to study abroad in Rome, Italy was surrounded

with months of contemplation and discussion with family, friends, advisers, and even strangers at the grocery stores who would jump at the chance to relive, or do over, their study abroad experience in college. However, my decision came only clearly to me through writing, specifically when overlooking the waters of Lake Michigan, watching the sailboats pass back and forth, and the sun hitting the water just right. One day, when I was sitting by the water, I turned to the left of me and found a lonely grasshopper. Now, I am known to believe in signs, and I, of course, took this as one. After researching the meaning of grasshoppers, I found that they are representative of jumping forward into the unknown, without jumping backward into the past. Believer or not in signs, I took this grasshopper as a symbol to not be afraid, and to jump as a means of moving forward, of moving towards my greater self.

Now, as I sit here writing this at the library in Rome, I look back on that decision making process with sheer joy and gratitude of the journey that got me right here. It has only been two weeks, but over the course of them, I have experienced so much already. The staff of the John Felice Rome Center do an amazing job organizing a jam packed schedule of events for the two weeks of orientation that include four course meals, city walking tours, and even a weekend trip down to the south of Italy full of wine and cheese tastings, and historical site adventures. Of course it has been overwhelming with the amount of new people, new places, new sites, new sounds, new food, new everything, but I have enjoyed the moments of sameness that stretches throughout continents, and cultures.

Most of us get stuck in traffic. Most of get caught up at the grocery store deciding which cookies to buy. Most of us run late to work on a Monday. Most of us get irritated when the bus does not come on time. Most of us love the smell of homemade food. Most of us love the comforts of people who love us as much as we do them. As human beings, most of us just want the same things. We all want to be seen, heard, recognized, and loved. A traditional, and universal message I have already found in the short two weeks I have been here. We are all trying to figure it out. We are all trying to make our way. Rome you have already taught me so much and I cannot wait to see what is next. 

Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

I arrived at the John Felice Rome Center a little less than a week ago and it has been a whirlwind of a journey to say the least. After traveling for almost 20 hours, I was thrown into more orientation activities than I could count. I was extremely overwhelmed by all of the information and the culture and the foreign language and so much more. I mean, I couldn’t even read the blurbs on the shampoo or conditioner bottles, yet alone adapt to a new life in such a short period of time.

When I mentioned to people that I was considering studying abroad, I got the same answer from almost everyone: that it would be the most amazing, life changing experience and that I would never want to leave. No one told me I was going to be homesick. People mentioned it a few times here and there, but no one told me I was going to be THAT homesick. I have so many wonderful, caring people in my life that it was extremely challenging to adapt to a life with them so far away.

The thought of wanting to jump on a plane back to the states has definitely crossed my mind more than a few times. However, I know that would be a mistake. I am so blessed to even have the option to study in a different country with so many new and exciting opportunities right in front of me. My friends and I have started to make lists of all the places we want to travel to in the next 13 weeks, which makes my stomach turn (in a good way, of course).

Expect the unexpected. Like I said, homesickness was barely discussed in any conversation before I left. So, expect to be homesick. Expect to not be able to understand the Italians and their culture. Expect to cry a few times while you are adjusting. Expect for the homesickness to be gone with time. I have full confidence that mine will be because I have one of the best support systems at home. Life takes a few minutes to kick in.

Please continue to keep up with my journey here in Europe. Next stop: Naples!

We’re not in Chicago Anymore

We’re not in Chicago Anymore

It all hit me when I saw a palm tree rocking back and forth in the wind on the other side of a window at Fiumicino Airport. I thought of previous family vacations and tried to understand where I was, “Am I in Florida?” But I quickly nixed that thought as I worked through it in my mind. “This could not be Florida, there was a TV on the flight, I watched two whole movies and was served oddly sweet chicken teriyaki from a tin container.” This was no ordinary family vacation, this was going to be a journey, a five month journey to be exact. This was not a tourist-ridden resort town, oh no, this was Roma.

Roma and its overwhelming beauty and grand scale hit me hard on the first night. Fighting feelings of intense jet lag and the urge to put on pajamas, I ventured out with a group to The Vatican for a taste of our new home, and also gelato. With a cup of hazelnut gelato in hand, I walked up the street, the light glowing off the damp cobblestone. There on the top of the hill was a curve of columns, illuminated fountains and the wonder that is St. Peter’s Basilica all lit up. In that moment I forgot about how much my eyes wanted sleep, and instead, opened them wide to absorb every inch of beauty that surrounded me.

Now looking back on this first night, I smile with nostalgia, as if it were a memory from long ago. I’ve been here for seven days now and it feels impossible to me that I once didn’t fully know beauty of Rome. I’ve now seen the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and Villa Farnese but I’ve also sipped on a cappuccino from a beautiful coffee bar in the Trastevere neighborhood and enjoyed aperitivo before dinner in Monti. Even in the simple things, Rome seems to take my breath away. I don’t think I’ll get it back for five months.

 

A Bittersweet Reunion

A Bittersweet Reunion

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of touring my parents, who flew 4,813 miles from Wisconsin, around Rome. Our time together in Rome couldn’t have come at a better time. It was exactly halfway through the semester, right when homesickness was rearing its head. Seeing them brought me comfort and being able to share my new home with them was more special than I could have ever imagined.

From strolling to Piazza de Spagna to Piazza Navona, I made sure to pack in all of the touristy stops along the way. We sampled the local cuisine at my favorite restaurants: Ristorante Edy, Old Bear, and even Osteria Dell’Anima (the Loyola famous “Pear Pasta” spot). We tossed coins into the Trevi Fountain and sipped authentic cappuccinos at Tazza D’Oro. My parents even joined my on-site Roman Catholicism class, and were welcomed with open arms by Father Rudolf as we toured the Lateran. Then, at the end of the week, we packed our bags and set out for Venice.

Venice was exactly what I imagined it to be; a sinking time machine. As expected, being in Venice was unlike any other Italian city I have traveled to, and it took a second to process that there are zero cars on the lagoon, and transportation is dominated by water. Taking a water taxi and gondola ride were experiences I will never forget, and will forever give props to the expert gondoliers that navigate the choppy waters. We had a great time wandering over bridge after bridge and watching St. Mark’s Basilica slowly start sinking underwater.

Parting with my parents wasn’t as sad as I thought it would be since there are only five weeks left in the semester. I am already getting emotional thinking about having to leave Rome, but seeing them again definitely reminded me of all of the love that is waiting for me back in the states, and that in itself, is bittersweet.

 

9 Days. 8 Friends. 5 Countries.

9 Days. 8 Friends. 5 Countries.

If you asked me before coming to the John Felice Rome Center that I would be able to pull off visiting 5 countries and navigate 4 different languages in 9 days, I would have never believed you. Over the past two months here (WOW time is flying by!) not only my confidence in myself has grown but also my ability to navigate foreign cultures has as well. Also, luckily for me, 7 of my fellow Alpha Delta Pi sisters were willing to embark on this adventure together.

We set off on Friday for Vienna, Austria and ended in Barcelona, Spain by the end of the following Sunday. In-between those two countries, we took a day trip to Budapest, Hungary, stayed in Nice, France, and packed in another day trip to Monte Carlo, Monaco. Every where we visited, a different aspect of the local culture and architecture intrigued me. In Budapest, I felt like I was transported into a fairytale; whether it was peaking through the arches of their castle lined hill tops or the aroma of fresh apple strudel floating from tiny alleyways, I loved it and hope to return some day. Taking in the aqua beachfront in Nice was breathtaking, and people watching from a cafe in Monte Carlo, ogling over the lavishly dressed locals, was a hoot. Undoubtedly, nothing tops the cuisine in Barcelona. We ate tapas after tapas as well as plenty of paella and Spanish omelettes, and even got to experience brunch again.

There wasn’t a place I regret visiting, or an experience I wish I could have rather had over of my fall break. This trip was unforgettable, and what made it even more memorable was the life-long friends who were by my side.

Where in the World is Brandon?!

Where in the World is Brandon?!

Ciao, Amici (Hi, Friends)!

My name is Brandon.

Perhaps you know me, perhaps you don’t. I’m basically a living version of “Where’s Waldo” since I’m usually on a plane, bus, or train to somewhere around the world. This semester, I’m studying abroad at Loyola University Chicago’s John Felice Rome Center (JFRC). This is actually my third study abroad experience. I spent my senior year of high school in Surat Thani, Thailand with the Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad program, and then my sophomore year of college in Chiang Mai, Thailand with the USAC program. Since then, I’ve explored about 40 countries and picked up a few languages along the way. I guess you could say the travel bug infected me a little too hard!

I am currently writing from Guelph, Ontario, Canada (say what?!). Since it’s fall break, I decided to spend the week here in Canada with my lovely partner. I am fully enjoying the beautiful & crisp air, vibrant leaves, sweater weather, and Halloween spirit that Rome sadly does not have. However, Rome has so many other things to fall in love with. It was pretty hard to leave for even just a week.

You may be wondering, “why did you choose Rome?”. Well, I can tell you it wasn’t for any cliché reason. I didn’t choose Rome for it’s impeccable food, unique coffee culture, rich history, immaculate cities, or warm climate. Those aspects are

all more than great, but I actually didn’t have much choice in where to study abroad. When I decided that I wanted to study abroad for a third semester, I jumped through several hoops in order to make it to where I am today. I knew I would need pretty specific courses to complete my degree plans since this experience would be during my last year of college. Thus, choosing a Loyola center (Rome, Vietnam, or Beijing) was my only option. I felt I had spent a lot of time in Asia respectably, so Rome it was. I will admit that I was not the most excited at first (I know! Hear me out). I am a person who thrives off adventure, the unknown, and very “out there” experiences. Rome felt “safe” compared to other possible study abroad destinations. In a way, I had a vendetta against European study abroad experiences… I always believed there was so much of this world to see that Americans too hastily overlooked. Once I was accepted to the JFRC, something sparked. It made my upcoming journey real. In the spirit of adventure, I looked at this semester as an opportunity to do what I love most: explore new countries, learn a new language, and make priceless memories. Any adventure is worth going on. And truth be told, I’ve been proven so wrong about Rome and Europe as a whole. This continent is fascinating, and is so rich with history that there’s no possible way to learn it all.

I started the semester off by leaving Chicago on August 10th. Between August 10th and the 29th, this was my travel path: Chicago –> Toronto –> Montréal –> Paris –> Copenhagen –> Malmö –> Bangkok –> Koh Samui –> Chiang Mai –> Kuala Lumpur –> Gold Coast –> Auckland –> Melbourne –> Los Angeles –> Chicago –> London –> Rome. My head hurts just typing that! Anyways, I found incredible flight deals that lead me to both familiar and unexplored cities. I connected with friends, ate awesome food, witnessed cool sights, and snapped the best pictures I could. Eventually I ended up in Rome and started this crazy semester.

This semester, I am taking 6 courses. I am taking: Italian 1o1 (ITAL 1o1), European Masterpieces (LITR 200), Emperors, Bishops, & Barbarians (HIST 300 TP), Italy in the 19th and 20th Centuries (HIST 324), The European Union (PLSC 347), and Ethics (PHIL 181). So far, I feel as though I’ve been able to truly dive deep into European studies and learn quite a bit that I normally wouldn’t. I highly recommend taking country/region specific courses during a study abroad experience!

I would be lying if I said my favourite part of this semester WASN’T all the travelling I get to do on the weekends. When a roundtrip flight to Morocco, Germany, Israel, or Turkey (or everywhere in between) only ranges from 20 to 100 dollars, why not take advantage of it?! So far, I’ve travelled to Romania, Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. I guess Canada counts too ;). After Fall break, I have plans to travel to Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Morocco, Spain, Israel, Palestine, France, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, and Colombia (the last two are on my way home in December). It is so fascinating to bring to life all of the knowledge I’m learning in my classes. I would say that Istanbul, Turkey is my favourite city I’ve ever visited. I think my next post will be dedicated to these awesome places I’ve been to. This post just can’t do them justice!

I may have actually just lied. How could I forget the lovely friends I’ve made so far? Study abroad has a strange way of bonding you to new friends so closely, so quickly. It’s almost as if we subconsciously understand that out time abroad together is limited and that we have to soak up every minute of it. I want to give a special shout-out to Kaitlyn, Midori, Alyssa, and my uber cool roommate Bruno. You guys make everyday hilarious. We’ve coined ourselves “the wine moms at the end of the hall” since we all live at one end of the hall of our hotel/dorm and highly enjoy the fabulous wine that Italy has to offer. They are my travel buddies, confidants, and joy makers. I love you, and I can’t wait for more adventures!

That’s all for my first post. I’ll be sure to write soon. Thanks for following along!

#NeverStopExploring

~ Brandon

 

Cinque Terre, Salty Beards, and Jellyfish

Cinque Terre, Salty Beards, and Jellyfish

Despite its amazing potential to be the name of a low-budget Kung Fu movie, turns out Cinque Terre is just 5 gorgeous towns along the coast of the clear, blue Tyrrhenian sea with delicious and copious amounts of seafood. Total. Bummer.

Nevertheless, Cinque Terre this past weekend was utterly stunning. In an unofficial poll I took of my friends who went with me, we all gave it a thumbs-up which is as official a promotion seven college students can give a place. The weather was perfect with a ton of sun when we went out on the boat and enough clouds on the other days to give the appearance of a stormy day at sea without it actually being a stormy day at sea. In true sea fashion, our Air BNB was a boat in the La Spezia harbor where we watched sunrises over coffee, waved to many tourists going on boat tours, and watched a man in yellow pants non-stop dance in front of his boat. In short, it was all I could ask for.

To elaborate, we spent the first day out on our boat going around the coast of Cinque Terre and the second day wandering through the five lands. During our boat ride, our captain Piedro told us about the history of the place while taking us to hidden waterfalls and offering us fresh pesto pizza and rice cakes. Mixed with a little bit of cheap prosecco and I felt like I was living the high life. I even was lucky enough to get a ton of salt in my beard from swimming. Each one of us on the trip agreed that we had not done something so relaxing in a long time.

The next day was my personal favorite and most anticipated: a journey through Cinque Terre. We started by heading out to the furthest town, Monterosso, where we climbed rocks and faraglioni, chowed on some streetza (my term for “street pizza”), and walked along the beach. From there, we continued to Vernazza where we had some gelato, found a cave of rock towers, and met some French people who very kindly let us pet their dog. We then found ourselves in the high and hidden town of Corniglia whose tall alleys and views hidden under leaves gave us an entirely different experience. Next, we arrived at Manarola in the late afternoon as the sky was beginning to turn golden and the buildings colors began to shine. Finally, we ended in Riomaggiore to watch the sunset on the rocks and eat some delicious seafood.

The real highlight of the trip, however, was when we returned to Manarola the next day to swim and relax before returning to Rome. The morning began warm and sunny, but by the time we reached Manarola, the sky had turned gray and a slight drizzle was falling. We were not about to let a little bit of rain ruin our plans, however. To the surprise of a fair number of other tourists, we jumped off the rocks into the cold water as the rain fell from above. Shortly thereafter, the clouds began to part and the midday sun shone again on the colorful buildings of Manarola. Although our swim was unfortunately interrupted by a few rude jellyfish who decided to sting one of my friends, the day made up for it with some fried calamari and tons of laughter on the rocky port of Manarola.

When I woke up this morning after the trip, I began to realize how surreal all of it now seems. It was literally yesterday, but Cinque Terre was so beautiful and so relaxing that it feels worlds away from the return to schoolwork. And yet, I can’t get the way the sun hit the buildings at sunset or the jokes made with my friends or the way the lemony calamari tasted on my salt-covered lips. I wish I could return to the oasis, but I had some great moments to remember years from now and that’s pretty much the same thing.