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Tag: Loyola University Chicago

My Roman Bucket List

My Roman Bucket List

Buongiorno! My name is Amanda and I will be writing about my adventures on this blog while living in the beautiful and eternal city of Rome! I had never been to Italy before, but I have to say, I am entranced. The people, food, architecture and overall atmosphere are unlike anything I have ever experienced! While I have been able to spend a little bit of time exploring the most famous sites of Rome, I still have a lot of things I want to do. Keeping this in mind, I wrote a “bucket list” to try and complete before I leave in December. A few are popular tourist destinations, a few are things I saw online, and the rest consists of anything my mind could dream up, but I want to do it all!

1. Get aperitivo (appetizers) at a rooftop restaurant.

2. Watch the sunset from the top of Piazza del Popolo.

3. Stare up at the Sistine Chapel for such a long time I get neck pain.

4. Buy a water-colour painting from a vendor in Piazza Navona.

5. Visit the Trevi Fountain while it is under construction and again when it re-opens in October.

6. Eat the largest size gelato I can get while people-watching on the Spanish Steps.

7. Get lost.

8. Tour the Castel Sant’Angelo at night.

9. Stand under the dome in the Pantheon.

10. Watch a sunrise over the whole city somewhere.

11. Buy my own Vespa.

12. Befriend Pope Francis and get invited to dine at the Vatican.

13. Discover an ancient artifact while strolling through the Roman Forum.

14. Get asked if I am Italian by a local.

I am very determined to finish all the things on this list, and will post updates all the time! Sadly I’m only kidding about the Vespa…

Nonetheless, “When in Rome” is truly a phrase I am living out for the next few months. So if that means getting gelato every night, so be it!

Even after living here for about one week, it still takes me by surprise when I wake up and realize that I am in a whole different country. Small occurrences keep me from forgetting where I am! For example, while I was typing this, the computer auto-corrected water color to water-colour. I am definitely not in America anymore!

As I get ready to go to class, I will leave you with a beautiful shot of the Spanish Steps I took two days ago.








Two down, Two to go!

Two down, Two to go!

你好! I have officially been living and studying in Beijing for two weeks and have two more weeks to go! I have to admit that I can’t believe it’s already the third week, it really has flown by. I have looked forward to going to China for as long as I can remember and thanks to China Encounter it was made a reality. These weeks have been filled with fun and fascinating trips to popular tourist spots, restaurants, and “real Beijing” locations.

My goal before coming to China was to really dive into Beijing. This is my first time travelling abroad and I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. Whenever I am out and about in Beijing, I always think to myself “People, Places, and Food!”. Yes, this thought may be broad, but whenever I get a little overwhelmed and a feeling of culture shock comes upon me, I remind myself that I want to learn, see, taste, and really enjoy everything relating to the Chinese culture. So far I believe I have succeeded! Although I wish I could spend all day discussing everything, I know that would make for a not so enthralling blog so I have decided to make a few entries with some of my favorite highlights. I will start off with one of my favorite food experiences.

Food checklist: Peking Duck and Hot pot. In preparing for my arrival in Beijing I made a very small food checklist. Of course I knew I would try many different meals that I haven’t heard of, but Peking duck and hotpot were a must do, well actually a must eat. As of now I can check one item off the list: Hot pot! I will admit, I did have high expectations for hot pot, but this experience completely blew me away. Last week, a group of us headed to a hot pot restaurant a few blocks away from campus led by some UIBE Chinese students. I was excited but did not realize what would come next. The host greeted us at the door and took us up the elevator and into the restaurant. There was a room next to the restaurant, where guests were welcome to partake in FREE MANICURES! The service was top notch. We were even given aprons to wear and ziplock baggies to protect our phones.Two boiling pots of broth were placed in front of the twelve of us, and then we dug in. The assortment of food included: shrimp, beef, lamp, potatoes, noodles, tofu, and a few more items that were very tasty, although I am still not sure what they were. I definitely let my adventurous side take over. We all gathered around the pots cooking our food while being entertained by masked dancers and noodles throwers. This was definitely an experience I will never forget.

Hot Pot!
Hot pot!
The Beijing Center
The Beijing Center


Rome for the weekend.

This past weekend a few of my friends and I stayed in Rome. We explored the city and spent the day soaking in the sun. We got to relax by the Tiber near Castel Sant’Angelo and have a picnic. Literally we bought fresh cheese, wine, and bread and had ourselves a romantic little picnic for Valentines Day.

To top it off there was a little man playing his guitar and singing… It was like we were in a movie. I absolutely loved it.

The next day I decided to branch out a little and try something new. I hopped on the train after breakfast and headed to the beach. I jumped on the train to Lido and spent the most beautiful relaxing day wandering around. The train that took me to Lido was called “freccia mare” literally: Sea Train. Omg… I was in love. So I spent the day around this little sea side town.

This weekend was nice because I made memories, simple memories, had so much fun, and everything I did was unplanned. It’s nice knowing that you don’t have to go to another country every weekend to take full advantage of studying abroad. Especially here in Rome.


photo 2 photo photo 1

The Vatican

The Vatican

I got to see the Pope.

Wait… what.

On Wednesday Loyola cancelled classes and got all JFRC students tickets to see Papa Francesco.

5 AM and my friends and I are beginning our 3 mile walk to the Vatican in the pouring rain. What time does the papal audience start? 10:00 AM. It’s ok though. When we reach the walls of the Vatican we are one of the first in line, which means we got the best seats. It paid off because Papa Francesco literally rode directly by us. All the while though, little old ladies and nuns became suddenly vicious and started throwing elbows to see the Pope up close…. Understandably so.

He spoke in 6-7 different languages, blessing the audience, our families, and any articles brought with us.

He truly is a contemporary Pope. When he passed a group of Loyola students, they got him to throw up some deuces for them. Talk about a cool Pope.

That’s it for this post.


Papa Francesco
A Month of Vacation

A Month of Vacation

Tomorrow I leave for vacation for almost an entire month. I’m heading to Puerto Varas in the south of Chile to do some camping, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities with Theo. We’ll be there for about five days, and then we leave for the island of Chiloé to meet up with some of the other people in the program. From what I’ve been told, the island has a very laid-back culture and is completely different from the rest of the country. After Chiloé, I’ll head to Coyhaique with Theo. It’s a small town in the mountains that is globally known for its fishing. Finally for the last five or six days, I will be in La Serena with Dee and maybe Gaby. La Serena is a beach town on the Pacific that is north of Santiago. Once everything is finished, I’ll arrive in Santiago on March 5 to begin orientation.

Those are my plans for the next month, now on to some things I’ve done in the past two weeks. Probably the most fun and most authentic cultural experience I’ve had is when I went to a salsa club last Friday with some other gringo friends. We paid 4000 pesos to enter, or about $8. The dance floor wasn’t that big, but the place was packed with people. We were definitely the youngest ones there – most people seemed to be in their 30’s or 40’s. I had taken some beginning salsa lessons before, so I thought I would be okay and be able to blend in. What a joke that was! I spent most of the night bumping into people and trying to learn how exactly to dance. Despite the learning curve, the night was a ton of fun and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

Another memorable moment, this past Sunday a few of us went hiking in the Andes. The park was about ten minutes from my house and we completed the three hour loop. For the first half, we basically walked uphill and into the mountain range. Although there were still plants, the environment was the closest I have been to visiting a desert. The ground was dirt/sand and there were many dry plants and even cacti! At the halfway point, we descended into the valley and found a small creek running with much more vegetation than on the sides of the mountain. There we had lunch, ate some wild blackberries, and even drank water from the stream! It wasn’t my idea, in fact an employee there told us it was perfectly safe. After seeing others do it and her telling us that she drinks the water often, we filled our bottles with the water. After a long, hot hike, it tasted delicious!

Once again, I cannot thank God and my parents enough for this incredible opportunity. To those reading who have not traveled abroad before, I highly recommend it, even if only for a short period of time. Every day I am learning more about Chilean and Latin American culture. Hopefully I can figure out how to post pictures and allow people to comment and follow me. To everyone in the states, stay warm!

Nos vemos!



Paris, Versailles

Paris, Versailles

This past weekend my friends and I hopped on a plane to the city of love <3 

Getting to Paris was definitely an adventure in itself. It began when the night before we were supposed to leave, we received an email from Ryanair (the most elite airline in Europe) that our flight had been cancelled. Why? Because the entire airport (Ciampino) decided to go on strike for the day. No biggie, Italians on strike is nothing new. I mean even today, they decided that tomorrow they are going on strike so none of the buses will be running. Except this is a huge inconvenience because we have the Papal Audience tomorrow which means my roommate and I will have to walk to the Vatican at 5 in the morning tomorrow. NBD.

So anyway, 3 of my friends were able to rebook their flights for free for the following day. But then there were two of us who couldn’t. Knowing the Italians are pretty chill, we decided to just show up at the airport (without tickets or even a reservation) and beg them to let us on the flight…

After explaining our situation to the ticket lady, she got her supervisor and the fun began (all of this took place around 5 in the morning). The supervisor came and promised us he would do everything he could to get us on the flight with our friends. He rushed us through security and within 5 minutes we were by the gates…. What.

And to top it off, one of my friends forgot she had brought her expensive lotions that were over 3 oz. But no worries, she made friends with one of the workers and she got her through security, cutting everyone in line and even stopping the x-ray machine so she wouldn’t have her lotions confiscated.

It was definitely an experience I’m never going to forget.

So that was the basic summary, details were left out that you probably would not believe unless you had been there. But hey, we made it to Paris!

Side-note: the French men are by far the the most polite, handsome, and respectful.


Naples, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii

Naples, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii

One thing I learned over this weekend was that Loyola will NOT let you starve. All of that walking too and from the Zone was pretty much all for naught. Literally, I don’t think there was one point during our entire stay this weekend that I was hungry.

So yes, Loyola does Wine and Dine you before raising your tuition.

We were taken to see temples and shrines and mountains. The place I want to talk about most though was the Amalfi Coast. Here’s a picture just so you can see why I am dying to talk about it.

View from my wonderful hotel room

So we were taken to this gorgeous hotel on the seaside and I fell in love.

That night we ventured down the mountain to a little town where the nightlife wasn’t too shabby. We wandered, just as college students do, and we found this amazing little hole in the wall. We all piled in there. It was like a Moroccan themed getaway. Instead of chairs, pillows were piled along the walls and mirrors surrounded us.

It was perfect since Loyola took over the place and it was fun to simply hang out with our friends in a close way. We literally sat crossed legged around tables. Talk about taking in the culture…

The next day we visited a buffalo farm which was probably the best thing ever. The buffalo were allowed to do whatever they wanted and they had little massage machines for them. They also got to listen to Mozart all day and they decided when they wanted to be milked. They were some pretty bourgie buffalo.

Our last day there we got to visit a winery next to Mount Vesuvius, where Leo and Bradley Cooper visited. I tasted some of the best red wine I’ve ever had and then we headed down to Pompeii. We ate at a restaurant near Pompeii and then headed home.

Before heading home though, I ran off with a few friends and we explored Pompeii a little more. I mean, we ate in Pompeii so why could we not see it?? We got to see some amazing sights and really see the damage caused by Mount Vesuvius. It was truly an experience.

Pompeii ruins

Loyola, kudos. You did well




I could do a clichè post about how beautiful Italy is so far, or how excited I am to start my semester abroad here. But I’m sure you already know this. I’m going to give you an honest opinion on my first few hours here at the JFRC (later in the night finding out people here have coined it “J-FORCE.”)

I walked into my new campus lugging two suitcases after spending a whopping 80€ on a cab (WELCOME TO EUROPE WHERE THE DOLLAR IS WORTHLESS). Then after registering I, and 5 other friends, dragged our bags approximately 1 kilometer to The Zone Hotel, which is where I decided to live this semester. After turning a 20 minute walk into a 40-45 minute long struggle of avoiding pot holes and dog droppings (which we quickly learned Italians do not use doggy bags…) and helping my fellow “Zoners” with their luggage, we arrived.

Now this, you could say, isn’t the most inviting way to experience my new life. But I beg to differ.

When told in depth, it’s actually quite pathetic how hard we made the moving in process, but it also makes a memorable story.

That same night when the rest of my friends arrived we took to the streets of Rome and had an interesting experience. Making our way to Campo de Fiori, which is the “American hangout,” we got to see the Pantheon and other buildings that looked really historically important and awesome.

We make it to The Abbey, which you could easily say is the italian version of P’Cos. YAY!

When we walked in, everyone from Loyola was there. As a recommendation to other students who may or may not read this, and are considering studying abroad here in Rome, The Abbey is comforting because of your fellow J-Force students around you, but you cannot experience “real” Italians here. Most of the guys who hang around the American pubs are total creeps.

So we bar hopped a little, stopped to get a pizzette from our new favorite version of Star Grill, then grabbed a taxi and headed back to our little home on the hill.

So welcome to Italy Britanny!

So far, the Italian men are creepy; if you ever get lost, just keep walking uphill and you’ll eventually find your home; and get ready to get some gladiator legs from walking 20 minutes UPHILL everyday!

But hey, its just the first day!


First Night: Pantheon
Best friends taking over Rome (clichè, I’m aware)
Ancient History

Ancient History

Take any Islamic Civilization or Islamic Art class and you will inevitably study Granada. Granada and Córdoba have some of the best conserved buildings from before the Catholic Kings took over Spain, the best examples of which are the Gran Mezquita de Córdoba (in Córdoba) and the Alhambra (in Granada). Walking through some of the neighborhoods here puts you in touch with buildings and streets older than the idea of exploring the Americas. In the U.S., if something’s really really old it might have been built in the 1800s. Here, that’s new and shiny.

Last week we took a trip to Córdoba for our Art and Architecture class so that we could see Madinat Al-Zahra, the city built exclusively for the Caliphate of Córdoba by Abd Al-Rahman III, and the Gran Mezquita de Córdoba.

In 929,  the emir Abd Al-Rahman III decided that since he was so rich, he didn’t have to be ruling a measly emirate, still linked to Damascus, so he declared himself the caliph and established the Caliphate of Córdoba. After doing this, he decided to build a city for himself. This city is Madinat Al-Zahra, outside of Córdoba. It was built with the finest materials and adorned with the finest decoration, because it was meant to be a city of brilliance, the symbol of the caliphate’s power. As time wore on and the caliphate was divided into the Taifas, then defeated by the Almorávides, and then the Almorhades, and then the Catholic Kings, Madinat Al-Zahra was abandoned and buried in the sands of time. Until some farmers outside of Córdoba happened upon some stones too perfectly arched to be natural, and caused an archeological uproar. The mythical city of Madinat Al-Zahra had been found. Now the city is a museum, and you can visit it and walk on the very floors that the former kings of Andalucía laid. It’s unreal. I’ve never felt so much like I was in a history book. In my classes we study the Independent Emirate, the Caliphate, the Reigns of the Taifa and their art, but it is something very different to be able to stand there and run your fingers across the deeply carved capitals of the red marble columns.

Being in the mosque was another experience. I’ve seen iconic pictures of the forest of red-and-white striped arches printed on the glossy pages of books, and to stand looking up at them gave me chills. Not only is the mosque still largely intact from when it was finished during the Caliphate, but parts of the Christian church it was built on top of still exist as well. The grandeur and the detail are unlike anything else, but the part that really blew my mind was that it was still standing. Through the years of Andalusian turmoil, it is still standing, and around us swirled the whispers of the worshippers who had come through the ages, the whispers of the architects and kings who shaped Spanish history.

There is something magical about being one of millions to have laid your feet down in the same place, and to have stood in awe. There is something beautiful about stopping to gaze and reflect in a building that has held thousands of years of human beauty and suffering and discovery and questions.


Portico and arches at Madinat Al-Zahra outside of Córdoba, Spain