The GoGlobal Blog

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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.
*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.

Small City Ventures: Assisi and Bari

Small City Ventures: Assisi and Bari

We started travelling this semester inside the country. I had been to Assisi previously before and so had my roommate, and we loved it and were excited to have the chance to head there again. Only a two hour train ride makes it super easy to get to.

Of course, the legendary Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi is there, looming over the path leading from the parking lot where the bus from the station to the city stopped. Near-white and standing tall above us, it looked familiar because so many of the churches in Rome had white-stone themes, but this one was more angular and square. Sadly, inside there was no picture taking allowed but it was stunning, every wall and even the ceiling filled with paintings and decor. We went downstairs to see the tomb, where there were also no pictures allowed. It had an eerie feel because it was so dark and dim, a few candles lighting. There were pews and kneelers in the cramped space for people to sit/kneel to pray or just take a break.

Once out of the church, the sun beat down on us but there was plenty of shade in the narrow streets. Shops, bakeries, hidden pathways, even a museum lined the winding streets. There were shops for so many things: souvenirs, jewelry, religious items, clothes, leather bags, baked food, even wooden kitchen utensils.

Soon enough, we found ourselves climbing even higher on the eternal hill Assisi is situated on and discovered an old, old church nestled into one of the side streets. We knew it was so old because of the uniformity of building materials, lack of decoration, and small size. Scoping out these stores was what most of our day consisted of.

Until I found a hiking trail.

I found a hiking trail, to where, I didn’t know at the time. But I started up it, in a skirt that went past my knees and a thin tee shirt, and my friends followed me also in nice clothes. It took maybe a little over an hour and a half but we made it to the top where we found a fortress, and a spectacular view for miles.

After a long tiring day at Assisi, we took the train back and relaxed for the weekend, until the next. The next weekend we had a flight and full weekend in Bari.

We got to Bari relatively early in the day and couldn’t check into our airbnb so we explored the city with our backpacks. The center looked like the center of a smaller city in the US, shops on all sides, restaurants too, side streets leading to more of both. The big difference was the government looking building in the middle that had a bunch of high school looking kids with signs. Confused, we tried to read a few, only slightly successful, but we figured out they were for a climate change protest, which was super cool. Soon enough, we found ourselves by the water and relaxed after traveling and walking.

area by the water with benches

My roommate had brought a baby present for her cousin who still lived in Bari with his family. He was so nice and showed us one of his favorite places to eat, which was insanely good (Bari seafood, guys, I’m telling you). We turned in a little early to prepare for the next day when we’d take a train and her cousin would show us around.

Bari is beautiful. I forgot to mention earlier, but it is a wonderful sight, especially if you love saltwater. My roommate’s cousin took us to a popular stoney beach where there were plenty of people, but also plenty of water that was basically see through. I immediately got into the water. I love the ocean, sea, any and all salt water I can get near. And we enjoyed ourselves, swimming, joking around, eating focaccia. The area nearby was filled with white buildings and a park from way back when.

After a few hours, we headed back to the car and went to another beach, much more sandy and less filled with people, in fact you had to pull into the parking lot of an abbey and walk a bit to the area people were. I think there were only thirteen across the whole area. The water was just as pretty here and there was a cave I swam to where residents at the abbey would use to bathe. And there was a hole in the rocks, a hole next to the cave and higher up where you could jump and swim out of it. It took about five minutes, but I jumped into the hole, which was crazy. The beach day was filled with fun, laughs, and plenty of pictures.

Our weekend at Bari was coming to a close with an early flight the next day, but my roommate and our friend weren’t ready to stay in our Airbnb when the city was still alive. We walked around the main center, talking, and we found a bar stand. I say bar stand because it was a bar but there wasn’t anywhere to sit and you had to walk the streets, which we did.

Assisi and Bari were both beautiful cities and a nice expansion of our Italian trips. The next weekend though, would be Vienna, the first out of country trip we’d go on. 

The Day That Lasted Forever

The Day That Lasted Forever

It may have been two. They blurred.

The day of the flight was bittersweet.

Last sunrise of my Chicago summer

I had built up all this excitement over the summer about leaving and going abroad and it was great. But that day I hung out with some of my friends for the last time until I didn’t know when because they graduated, and I had to say sad goodbyes to my roommates.

It was a normal Friday for the most part- I ran, I stretched and did some yoga because I didn’t have to hurry to my internship, and I had a really chill breakfast accompanied with my slew of podcasts. I finished packing all the last minute things I needed to and relaxed.
I had to take an Uber because I didn’t want to try and take the L with a checked bag, a backpack, and a wheeled carry-on. Imagine that.

The flight went how every safe, regular flight went. I never understand when people ask how my flight was. I slept, I read, I wrote a bit, I watched the movies on the plane. We landed in Germany then took off to Rome an hour or two later.

When we landed in Rome, the students were gathered and transported via bus to campus. Many people slept. And once we got there, everyone startled awake and bustled through check-in and throwing your bags into the rooms and quickly cleaning up before having to go to a meeting.

The rest of the first few days were really just full of meetings and told where to go, which in hindsight makes sense and I’m grateful they did that because it forced us to get used to the time difference. But at the time, it was tiring and people were less than willing to do much of anything we were told to do.

Related image

It was a full week of going to meetings and following orientation leaders and sitting while people talked and informed us about stuff on campus.
It was hectic but it was good to get so much out of the way, to learn about the new campus as opposed to the campus I had become very familiar and comfortable with the one in Chicago after three years.

We went to so many places within the first weeks : the Spanish steps, the Vatican, a mass in a beautiful church (the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola) and a lengthy dinner to follow after, and different small towns with each group. My group went to Bolsena. It is an absolutely lovely lake town where the water crashes just slightly and there are plenty of streets to get lost wandering. The orientation groups broke off again to explore different parts of the city on another day. Mine went to the Borghese gardens right by the Spanish steps and it was stunning and filled with green, and the views were amazing.

It was after a “casual” outing my friends and I took on a free day for me to realize, Oh my gosh, I’m in Rome. I’m across the world from where I’ve been for my entire life.

And I couldn’t wait for more.

Better Late Than Never: My Intro

Better Late Than Never: My Intro

Hello hello hello!!

I’m Gabbie Gardziola (Guard-zee-ola) and I’m blogging while I’m studying in Rome!! As you can read in the title, this post is going to be a quick intro before I start to catch up on the weeks I’ve been here.
I’m a senior at Loyola University Chicago and I’m a history/global international studies double major with a focus in social justice and a sociolegal minor. I’ve worked part time at the Wolf’s Kettle when on campus since November 2018. It’s a lot, I know. Yes, I’ve been very busy during my college career. Yes, I can somehow manage all of it and remain sane. 

this is me. hello 🙂

When I said that I was planning on studying abroad this semester, people always asked why but made the connection themselves that I was an international studies major, of course I would study abroad if I got the chance (and I’ve been so lucky to get the chance). But I want to elaborate.
My family is half Italian and half Polish, a common mixture in Chicago, but my grandparents and parents were very much raised in immigrant-American households. My mom’s grandparents didn’t want the kids to learn Italian so they could talk about the kids without them knowing. My Polish grandmother didn’t want my dad and his siblings to learn Polish because she didn’t know it. Long story short, I don’t much about my family history besides the general areas we are from. And I wanted to learn.

As you could probably guess, this is my family, I haven’t been able to see them all at once since Christmas and have seen them for only a few days since.

On top of my family history, I’ve traveled a lot in the past and I wanted to continue. I had the chance to travel to different countries because of the sport I did and organizations I was a part of. I got to go to Mexico, twice, and Bolivia, once, through tournaments and camps for tae kwon do. I got to go to Italy, France, and Greece through People to People Ambassadors. I went to US Open for tae kwon do several times, some to compete and some to not, and seen the variety of cultures under one roof. I’ve been super fortunate to do these things, and if I was able to do it again, I desperately wanted to.

In Europe, many of the countries are close to each other, similar in size to US states, some even smaller. For backstory, I lived in Greenville, South Carolina from fifth grade until I left for school. For example, a drive from Greenville to school in Chicago took twelve hours, the drive from Lecce, Italy (in the heel of the boot) to Switzerland (the nearest Northwest country) takes twelve hours and forty-five minutes. That’s insane to me. When a flight from South Carolina to Chicago takes two hours, and a flight from Rome to Vienna takes a little under that. I love travel and new cultures and now I have a much quicker way to do/experience both.

So here’s the beginning of me telling you how this semester goes while travelling and keeping on top of school. Let’s go!!

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


Begin Again

Begin Again

Rebuilding something after a shatter is quite the undertaking of a project. It can be a mess when trying to fit all the pieces back together as they once were before. After the shatter, some parts may be too small, like tiny, annoying crumbs within the fibers of a carpet, and other pieces just too big to match with any of the small ones. So what I have learned from my past and my recent spring break trip, is that rebuilding is not trying to put all the pieces back together exactly, in the same shape and same form as before, but it is simply more like starting over, starting again, and starting new with different pieces, different materials, and different approaches. It is never forgetting what once was, but realizing the magnificence of what is beginning again, and that is starting over.

Over my spring break, I traveled to Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and then I ended my trip in Hungary. Each of these three places taught me something new, but Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina specifically broke my heart, but would put it back together again and again with its people, faith, and culture. Sarajevo taught me what it means to have strength in love, and never fear. It taught me about what it means to rebuild a city, a community, a home, a faith, a heart, even while everything around you has been horrendously taken away. Before arriving to Bosnia-Herzegovina, I had little to no prior knowledge about the Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s. After learning through various museums, tours and personal stories from people who actually went through the war at the time that they were happening, I became increasingly aware of the extreme magnitude of trauma, pain, heartbreak, and violence these people have endured, and unfortunately still have to carry with them as a part of them everyday. The horrendous violence and genocide of the ‘90’s wars proves the extremely dangerous and inhumane rhetoric and acts around ‘ethnic cleansing’ and territorial revenge. The extremely difficult and traumatic stories of those who have survived are a testament to the need of educational awareness surrounding this war, and others so it never happens again.

Although the people of Sarajevo remember, honor, and commemorate their past frequently, they have show me what it looks like to remain strong and kind, even after the unimaginable. Their architecture is a beautiful mix of old and new with historical remnants of their tragically violent past. The food is their breadth of family and community, while their present faiths are a reminder of peace between peoples themselves, not simply their beliefs. The people, and culture, of Sarajevo are indicators of how the past will always be a part of you, but rebuilding the heart requires a will to move forward. It does not mean you move on, it simply means you start over with the knowledge that the broken old pieces will never be whole once more, but that the different new pieces can create something fully, completely, wondrously, beautiful.

Thank you Sarajevo for sharing your broken, and new, pieces with me…

Look Up Child

Look Up Child

These past two weeks have been filled with the giggly, smiley, laughing, overwhelming kind of love drizzled with a few tears and a whole lot of Pastéis de Nata. The weeks, and even the days themselves, I often feel have their own “W” with curvy lows, and reviving highs. In the grand scheme of the study abroad experience, spring break tends to be the middle high which is quickly approaching. Thankfully, my sister and brother in law visited Rome a couple of weekends ago that refreshed my heart and my attitude on the first big dip of the semester. With a blend of gratitude  and overwhelming uncertainty, I was feeling most unlike myself during that low, but seeing my sister was exactly what I needed. It pushed me to come back to why I am here in the first place. To grow. To get out of my comfort zone. My everyday realization is when you do not feel like yourself that is often when you are just discovering something in yourself you did know you had before. It is simply uncomfortable because you are growing. So just sit in it, feel it, and do the best you can. My sister, as well as my brother in law, and I roamed around the city, eating pizza, pasta, and gelato at every turn. We did a couple of walking tours with one hilarious tour guide who never minded to photobomb anyone’s picture, went to a market in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome, and visited my school campus. It was filled with memories I will never forget and collect in my heart for the rest of my life.

My friend has always wanted to travel to Portugal. I was neither here nor there about it. However, I found the trips that have no expectations around them with no clue what you are getting into end up being one of the best experiences filled with incredible memories, usually more than the planned ones. So we went for it. Lisbon, Portugal would be my first out of Italy tripe since I traveled from America, and it will probably be one of my favorite trips when I look back on study abroad. We stayed at a beautiful hostel in the heart of the city filled with eclectic mosaics and curvy bricked archways. Our first day, we walked around the steep cobblestone streets, ate some steamy garlic buttery shrimp, and found a circus themed sardine shop. We ate dinner at the hostel where a Portuguese chef cooked us a delicious meal filled with fish, potatoes, and a creamy mushroom dish as well as a bunch of vegetables. My friend and I mingled with others at the dinner, each person being from a different place. It was surreal to know that we were eating dinner with people from all over the world, and even though we may all come from somewhere else, we were all sharing similar conversations about our lives over a delicious meal. 

Our second day was filled with exciting, beautiful, on top of the world moments. We traveled to an abandoned restaurant from the 1960’s that has over the years been the site of creative art through graffiti. It has not only become a beautiful building, but it also has a wide view of the city. It was one of the first moments realizing how incredibly beautiful Lisbon is and how it is truly one of a kind. We then headed more towards Sintra, a city about forty five minutes away from Lisbon. We stopped at Quinta Da Regaleira, an elaborate estate built in the early twentieth century. It was a medieval-like playground filled with underground, pitch black tunnels, mossy ponds, greener than green gardens, windy wells and staircases, and enchanting buildings. Yet again, I was overwhelmed with the imaginative beauty that we saw there. Our tour continued on to the most beautiful beach my eyes have ever seen. Yes, I love a relaxing lake Michigan day, but this Portuguese beach was something else. There were large rocks that framed the crashing waves that perfectly washed upon the shore. My friend and I ran up and down the beach, catching, and splashing the water, getting a little more wet than we expected, but it just made it all the more fun. There was a Dad and his two daughters playing a game of running to not touch the water when it came up to shore. They were giggling, laughing, and smiling as their Dad would count down to the next time they should run. He would scoop them up and spin them around. It may be the sentimentalist in me, but it reminded of how often love can be found anywhere and everywhere you go. In the sun, in the sand between your toes, in the laughing, in the special family moments, it is all love. After the beach, we stopped for lunch and then we headed to two different outlooks to see the sunset. One was right off a cliff and the other was at a sanctuary, but both were equally breathtakingly beautiful. As I sat, and I felt the sun hit my face, hit the rocks, hit the water, hit the view of Lisbon, I thought about how I grateful I am to be in the exact spot I am in. Two years ago, my family and I were in an extremely rocky place, and I was not sure we would get out of that dark hole. Right then, right there in Lisbon, it reminded me of the hope in a new day. The hope that things can always change if you are willing to let it, and the acceptance that it may need to. Thank you Lisbon for the beautiful views, the delicious food, and the hope of a new day rising always. More often than not, it is simply just a matter of looking up.

Over the Hills and Far Away

Over the Hills and Far Away

After a long, and ongoing, battle with jet lag, my third day in Edinburgh began with a quick change and a brisk walk to Arthur’s Seat. It caught my attention the minute we saw it’s green and brown-capped peaks towering over the city as we drove in. I love hiking at home, and often feel nature-deprived in Chicago, and I knew I would end the semester knowing every nook and cranny of Arthur’s Seat. We were told by our tour leader and many other locals that the hike was no longer than 30 minutes, which I thought would be impossible with the height of the mountain from the ground.

The top of Arthur’s Seat was breathtaking, and I almost don’t want to describe it, for fear of ruining prospective hiker’s fantasies. The 360-degree view of Edinburgh and the North Sea are broken up by rolling green hills within the mountain itself, (there is probably a pretty Gaelic word for them that I have yet to learn), and multiple mini-peaks of jagged brown rock. Lord of the Rings fans may compare it to the land of Rohan, and foot trails leading over the edged of the green grasses make it feel like the Rohirrim is about to scoop you up and ride away with you.

My second hike to Arthur’s Seat, a much clearer day, was just as beautiful, minus having to dodge tourists that scattered the mountain (I am trying to separate myself from the tourists although most would consider me one as well). The Americans on the mountain are obvious, talking loudly, many groups of teenagers hungover from Saturday night’s first overage freedom. Although I listen to music while I hike, I often turn my volume down when I walk past people, and I am amazed at how many different languages and accents I hear.

Today’s most exciting encounter included the college’s cat, who hang out near my dorm, and a real-life wild pheasant! It reminded me of my chickens at home, another twinge of homesickness.

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.