The GoGlobal Blog

Tag: LUC

Ciao, Roma!

Ciao, Roma!

It has been a little over a week since I arrived at the John Felice Rome Center, and I still can’t stop pinching myself. From the aroma of oven-fired pizza on every cobblestone street to the blooming olive groves lining Via Massimi, I am starting to see why they say living in Italy is la dolce vita. 

This past week of Orientation has been planned minute by minute by our trusted Student Life Assistants to give us a crash course in Roman life. We’ve toured the Colosseum, splurged on a gelateria crawl, navigated public transportation, relaxed on the beach, and consumed bottles and bottles of wine (thanks Loyola) to toast the beginning of the semester. This weekend we had the opportunity to tour the Italian region of Umbria, and became aquatinted with the whimsical towns of Narni, Spoleto, Foglino, and Citta di Pieve. Sometime during lunch overlooking Castiglione del Lago, or wine tasting at a countryside vineyard, or even reenacting a Roman battle we grew from classmates to friends as we learned about the ancient history of these fairytale-esque Umbrian escapes.

With the commencement of Orientation on Wednesday upon the Mass of the Holy Spirit, I do have to admit that I’m excited to explore Rome on my own terms, and learn more about exactly what is la dolce vita (with the help of gelato, of course).

The Final Stretch

The Final Stretch

When did this happen!!! I’m freaking out a bit because I’ve realized I really only have a little over a month left in Italy. It seems like yesterday that I flew in, but then again, it may as well be an entire lifetime. All that I’ve accomplished, all the places I’ve visited, all the food I’ve eaten, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. This opportunity has left me entirely awestruck and grateful to no end that I was able to even participate.

This past weekend I was able to go to Paris with my roommate and it hit me (for like the hundredth time) how blessed I really am. I routinely posted all the pictures I took and read the comments that my friends and family left me and couldn’t help but bask in the praise. When I’m old and wrinkly, I can always look back on being 20 and how I freakin’ travelled Europe. Does this sound kind of cocky? Probably. But it’s okay because if I can’t fully enjoy these few months and have all these memories to feel nostalgic about, then what was it all for?

I have a graduated friend who has spent the past few years bouncing all over Asia and South America. I’ve always been genuinely so happy for him. I mean, how many people can say they’ve spent their post-college years traveling the world? I’ll probably be freeloading off my parents as I sink into the abyss of adulthood. But he’s gone to so many beautiful countries and dipped his toes into so many wonderful cultures, sharing his experiences through his blog posts and Instagrams. However, the other day he posted a little gem on his Twitter that said:

“Since when did going to London, Paris, Barcelona, and Rome constitute traveling the world? Lmao please stop this nonsense”

HA. Okay. I was a little salty about that one. Omg maybe he was subtweeting me…who knows? And honestly, who cares!! I could write a book about why that tweet was BS but I won’t. Because first of all, traveling doesn’t have to be taking a voyage across the entire globe. Travel is as simple as taking a drive to a street you’ve never been before, visiting relatives in a different state, going on vacation to a warm, sunny place. Getting out of your comfort zone can even be travel! And even if you have gone to London, Paris, Barcelona, and Rome, hell yeah! Good for you! You a boss! Why would you bash on something as petty as that? My friend has been to more countries than I can name (kidding) but for him to come for those who have taken a step outside their usual routine is shady.

I don’t even know if anyone is reading this or cares, but I’m so proud of myself. I’ve been to more countries than those in my hometown and now have a collection of stamps in my passport and although I haven’t traveled the entire world, I’ve been to places I used to only dream about. If you have the opportunity and the means to travel or STUDY ABROAD, enjoy! You’re a world traveler! And if you’ve only visited a great aunt in Montana, hey you’re still a traveler! Small steps are still meant to be celebrated. Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty. 🙂

-Andrea

The Mekong Delta, Motorbikes, and Me

The Mekong Delta, Motorbikes, and Me

My time here in Vietnam is already flying by and this past week has been full of so many different experiences so buckle up!

This week classes have settled in and I’ve gained a rhythm to the ebb and flow of Saigon. Tuesday night was one of the craziest nights here all because of football (aka soccer). In case you did not know, football is a huge deal in Vietnam. Tuesday night was the semi-finals for the U23 Vietnamese football team and when I say this was a big deal, I mean this was a big deal. Football is such an essential part to a lot of socializing and culture from what I have experienced, and the team won, making it to the finals. Now everybody remember when the Cubs won the world series? Imagine that reaction but ten times over. The streets filled with people waving their Vietnamese flags and chanting and cheering. I can say I have never experiences anything like it before. I ended up stuck in district one of Saigon and I live in district ten, so it did take a quite a while to get back, but it was worth the experience.  I have never seen such pure joy and celebrations like that.

 

In other exciting news, I finally rode a motorbike (with a helmet because duh)! As I mentioned in my last post, motorbikes are a vital part to transportation in Saigon and I have never ridden one before. The Vietnamese equivalent to Uber is an app called Grab which is exactly like Uber with motorbikes as well. I decided to try it out as riding the bus can get repetitive and I sure did make the right choice. There is nothing like riding on the back of a bike in the bustling streets of Saigon. Its almost scary but, mostly an adrenaline rush and I’m going to be riding a lot more while out here.

We also had our first excursion this weekend where we bussed to the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam. Southern Vietnam, specially the areas away from large cities, offer so many bright and lively experiences.  We woke up at 5am to go to the floating markets of Can Tho. Floating markets are exactly what they sound like, boats of people selling fresh produce, coffee, various fruit drinks and such. It was quite the view on the river seeing the sun rise and eating fresh pineapple in a boat.

 

      

Shifting focus, we also discussed many important environmental factors affecting the Delta area as well as Vietnam as a whole. We visited a wind farm and got up close and personal with a wind turbine (spoiler alert: it was windy). We also visited the U Minh Thuong national park and took another boat ride around the forest and saw monkeys, walked across a bamboo bridge, and avoided getting leeches from the water.  It was absolutely enlightening to be at the front end of a large issue of rising water levels, sustainable power, and the tender balance that needs to be made to create a positive change without negatively affecting another part of the environment.

 

  

I feel like I have been here for longer than three weeks because I’ve experienced so much (even more than I was able to write about here!). It is breathtaking and amazing and many more adjectives and the more time I am here, the happier I am that I am spending my semester in Vietnam.

Culture Shocked: Transportation, Scammers, Making Friends

Culture Shocked: Transportation, Scammers, Making Friends

Thursday, January 18th, 2018.

What am I doing here.

 

Prior to arriving in Rome, I had this notion that I’d be living in the middle of a postcard. Everything beautiful all around me all of the time. That wasn’t the case. Here at the John Felice Rome Center, we’re on the hill. It’s sort of the outskirts of Rome called Balduina and is on top of a hill. If I take the 990 Bus, for example, I’m 45 minutes from Vatican City. That is if the bus ever comes, of course. This is the first culture shock: public transportation works how and when it wants to. There is no use in understanding it. This is just the way it is. Understanding that Rome has no logic is the hardest part of adapting for me, but now I’m two weeks in and I’m over it. Need more dependable transportation? Take the metro.

Culture shock two: Scammers. They’re everywhere. This is a huge obstacle to making local friends other than the language barrier. The second night in Rome, a group of friends from at the JFRC and I went out to Trastevere. All of the locals know this area for their American pubs and clubs so some often times locals will come to swoon the International Students. Its also known by JFRC staff as an area

for students to be more cautious in. While hanging out near a bar, a group of locals approached my friends and I. They seemed really friendly and we had a lot of fun trying to overcome our language barriers. They knew as much English as we do Italian. One of the guys offered us a drink out of his cup. Red Flag. Its important to remember, especially if one’s been drinking, to stay aware of possible harm. I don’t know whether he was being amicable or malicious in his offer; however, I did know I did not want to find out. This isn’t to say making friends here outside the JFRC is impossible

because there are so many warm and loving people in Rome. More-so, never forget to stay aware.  During the first two weeks of orientation, the JFRC staff takes all of the students on trips and diners. One trip we went on was to The Colosseum and to the Roman Forum. It is one of the most astonishingly beautiful areas I’ve ever been in. Around these tourist areas specifically I’ve noticed, people on the street will approach me with roses, selfie-sticks, bracelets, ect. and try to put them in my hand essentially to get me to buy. At first I found it shocking, but now I’ve learned to say, “Non, grazie,” and be on my way. One place I noticed scammers weren’t as prevalent are the Villas. As a group, JFRC visited Villa Farnese other known as Villa Caprarola where we were privileged enough to tour the mansion. Sometimes the coolest places in Italy are in the middle of nowhere and its amazing.

 

This week I met someone named Ben. He’s an International Student studying medicine at a neighboring university. One night, we walked all around Rome hitting all of the tourist spots that just have to be seen and he explained the history of each spot. It was fascinating. We saw the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain), Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti (The Spanish Steps), and Villa Borghese gardens. Days like this where the weather is beautiful, tourism is down because its later in the evening, and great friends surround you are days where Rome is absolutely lovely and the fact that buses may or may not ever come doesn’t matter to much. Making new friends, in my opinion, is my favorite part of being in Rome. I generally trust new people, but taking precautions such as telling my roommate or SLA where I’ll be, who I’m with, ect. to stay safe is vital. We drove back to the JFRC to drop me off at the end of the night on a scooter and in that moment I actually felt like Lizzie McGuire.

 

 

 

So, what am I doing here?
Living my best life.

 

Reflection Turns to Action

Reflection Turns to Action

My time in a world far, far away is almost coming to a close. It’s impossible to believe that I’ve spent nearly four months in VIETNAM of all places in the world, and the lessons that I’ve learned here will last a lifetime. I’ve done more in one semester than I ever thought possible, and even still I felt like there was so much more to do. While I won’t be able to fully reflect on my time abroad until I’m home, I’ve started thinking about all of the things about Vietnam that I’ll miss (and trying not to think about the things that I won’t) and have even started making Pinterest boards of ways to incorporate Vietnamese food into my diet back home. I’ve been asked by every professor if I would consider coming back, and I would emphatically answer yes, although maybe not just to Vietnam or for an extended stay. I still have so much more of the world to go but I’m glad I started here!

Memories from the first trip to Malaysia!

The amount of markets I’ve been to this semester is nauseating, but I just can’t stop. It’s almost become an addiction wherever I travel in SE Asia. The scariest market experience I’ve ever had was in the famous Ben Thanh Market in Saigon. It’s the most touristy and also the most aggressive market. I went just to say that I went, with no real intention of buying anything here because there are several cheaper and more local markets around. However, when in Saigon, you must attend! As I walked through the numbing amount of aisles, I thoroughly enjoyed squeezing past crowded stalls and being poked and prodded to buy something, even to the point of being followed for several minutes to come back to one person’s stall. After I escaped I realized what a hilarious experience it is, and then proceeded to hit up some of my favorite local-business/hipster markets around town.

Kayaking in Halong Bay – The day before they shut it down completely

Another aspect of life here that I’ll miss is how cheap everything is. I know, I know, I’m a cheapskate. But when you can get by for $3 a day, it changes you. I have epically failed in sticking to such a budget just because the cheapness of everything tempts you to buy more, but I don’t regret any purchases I made or experiences I had because I’m coming away with so much more than monetary value. There are many frustrations that come with being a foreigner, most decidedly how an “authentic” experience is far from achievable. As a white female who doesn’t speak the language, I can get close but never be truly involved in the real lives of the Vietnamese. I struggle with this fight every day between my desire to be a part of the community and my recognition of my status as a foreigner who has few avenues to become involved. I have this never-ending feeling of not having done enough but I also have a long list of accomplishments from this semester. While the Vietnam Center was nothing like I unconsciously expected, I still learned so much.

A group picture before heading up Mt. Fansipan!

There’s going to be so much more that I’ll miss. What I do love is how robust the culture is here if you know where to look. On one Sunday morning, I was on the back of an uber bike and as we drove along the river, I saw a group of local people having a drawing and painting class. It was a beautiful moment, and sparked my interest in how the arts are used in Vietnam. On that same uber bike ride, I rode past a man biking with an open flame in his basket, an extremely hip couple dressed to the nines having a photo shoot, naked children running on the street, and one of my now favorite coffee shops. Thinking back on all these moments of absurd contradictions and times of confusion, you just have to laugh and go with it. There have been so many days that I’ve been tempted to give in to the cynicism that one can face when you are constantly challenged, and some days I have given in. More often than not, I’ve somehow found the courage to laugh. The blend and struggle between modern and traditional is as clear as day when you step outside the dorm gate. Back to the art, there’s also a huge influence of pottery and music on society here. As much as I sometimes despise it, karaoke is a monumental part of the daily life of a Vietnamese person. To see such a blend of art from painting workshops to poetry to song and dance (Vietnamese break-dancers are amazing) has been something that’s brought life to my study abroad experience. In a place that I didn’t have any specific expectations from, I had the time and inspiration to find my own creative voice.

Studying abroad has added so many more dimensions to my college career and even to me as a person. This semester I had time to grapple with who I, Kelly Ravenscraft, really am and what parts of me were just borrowed from other people or from definitions of who I thought I was supposed to be. If I were to do anything differently, I would have asked more questions, especially more difficult questions of other people, and would have tried to be more intentional with asking the Vietnamese partners. Even just taking someone out for coffee feels different here, but I wish that hadn’t stopped me from continuing trying throughout the rest of the semester. I struggled with community this semester as I was cut off from all of my normal communities and wasn’t exactly used to being thrown out of my comfort zone in this way. I wish that I hadn’t been afraid of awkward one-on-ones, as I never had been before back at home. Even with other big personalities, I wish I had been my “full” self the entire semester. It took a lot longer for me to get comfortable with the community here than I was used to, but I also think that it took longer to be my real self because this semester was dedicated to actually understanding who that real self is. Even if there are small things that I wish I could change, I don’t regret any part of my Vietnam experience. I’m so happy that I went to the Loyola Vietnam Center as my first study abroad program, and I’m hopeful to go abroad a second time, preferably to a direct enrollment program so that I can continued to be challenged! If you’re considering studying abroad, I urge you to pursue it, no matter the financial cost or the anxiety that may accompany your decision at first. I still have so much more to reflect on (and more blogs to post!), but overall I’m excited to see where the next step of my journey forward takes me. No matter where you are in your journey, I urge you to step outside of your comfort zone and get lost in the thrill of it all. Chase after fears with a goal of overcoming them, seek out love and community in places you’d never think to find them, and jump at any chance to see the world with a perspective you could never have without seeing another side of the world. Go forth and set the world on fire.

 

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world”.

– Mary Ann Radmache

This One’s for Sufjan

This One’s for Sufjan

Walking on the beach of Phu Quoc Island, looking distantly into the horizon of the South China Sea while listening to Oceans is an incredible experience. Less incredible was walking behind an older woman who’s bikini top was at her waist and her bottom piece was more nonexistent than existent, if you know what I mean. Over the weekend I spent 48 hours in retirement paradise amongst mostly people old enough to be my grandparents. I met up with a new friend, Kate from Canada, and shared laughs over the fact that we were the “young chicks” as one sweet older couple called us.

As she headed off to motorbike around the island, I headed off in search of clean beaches and time to reflect over the last 4 weeks of my life. As I walked, I strolled through street markets, to local areas, to dirt roads, to talking with local children just getting out of school, to accidentally stumbling upon and deliberately sneaking into a 5-star resort with a beautiful beach. Here’s the thing though: it worked. As I walked onto the beach and set up camp, I wasn’t questioned. I blended in, sitting there amongst the small crowd of variably tan white people, and was never questioned whether or not I belonged there. It was then that I realized that the privilege I have in the US as a white female is just as real here and everywhere else in the world. The whiteness of my skin is a ticket to not being questioned of my authority or belonging. So what do I do with that? How do I treat my privilege here or anywhere? These are the questions I’ve had for much of college and studying abroad continues to confront me with this, especially living in a district mostly populated by local Vietnamese. I still don’t have answers. I do my best to acknowledge my privilege and bias but I fail all too often. One important lesson I learned from an international experiential education conference I attended a couple of years ago is that there is a 100% chance that you will offend others at least one point in your life when trying to make cross-cultural connections and confront your own privilege. However, now more than ever you have to make room for brave space. Be okay with the fact that you will fail and try anyway. I’ve learned the most through conversations with others, and I’ve already had several eye-opening conversations here about race and what it means to be a foreigner in Vietnam.

 

Cassia Cottage
  

 

So switching gears a bit, I’m a month in and have been blessed enough to have done a ton of traveling and bouncing around within SE Asia. However, I’ve been yearning for something more, something more immersive. And yet, I’m the only one getting in my way. There are moments of motivation where I reach out to service organizations that are mostly Vietnamese run or have conversations with locals who don’t have English as their first language that push me outside of my comfort zone. And then there are moments that have me running to my cà phê sữa đá in English-speaking cafés and my bed with Netflix. I want to be happy enough with the progress I’ve made so far, the small victories, the lessons I’ve learned, but I can’t help but think that there’s more to this. Should I just throw my computer out the window, cut off all ties to the US and walk out my front door in search of solely Vietnamese company? Should I keep enjoying my status quo of classes, cafes, banh mi, and short interactions with locals? As I struggle through what it means to be in search of an immersive study abroad experience, any advice can be directed to 497 hoa hao, Phuong 4, Quan 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. At the beginning of the year I made a list of 17 for ’17 achievable goals for the year that would challenge me to open up my perspective of the world and enjoy each moment as it comes. While I’m happy that I’ve started to make progress on many of them, I’m realizing more and more how little I know and have experienced so far.

 

Fisherman off the coast of the South China Sea
 Fisherman off the coast of the South China Sea

 

So by now you’re probably wondering why I titled this post the way I did. For reading this far, I’m granting you the answer. So one thing that’s great about all of the flights around SE Asia is that they all play music while boarding and getting off. On my solo flight to Phu Quoc, excited for the weekend ahead, I knew it was going to be a good time because as soon as we landed, they started playing an anthem by the great hero, Sufjan Stevens. And not just any song, but “Chicago” of all possibilities. I took this as a sign that not only is it going to be okay, but I need to see each moment for what it is and accept each emotion as they come. Between signing myself up for an adventure race in April, joining a local church, and continuing to make a name for myself here in Vietnam, I’m slowly but surely learning who I really am and want to be, all the while experiencing things I never could have dreamed of before coming here.

 

Here’s my motto for the rest of the semester:

 

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry. – Jack Kerouac

 

Catch you on the flip side.

Fourth Time’s the Charm

Fourth Time’s the Charm

Ciao tutti! My name is Aleksandra Wysocki, but please, know me as my Polish nickname, Ola. It’s what I’ve been called my entire life and it was one of the reasons I chose to study Italian vs. Spanish (because Hola, me llamo Ola! seemed a bit annoying to me…. Okay, that’s not the reason I chose to study Italian, but it’s definitely one of them).

Moving on.

This is my fourth time in the eternal city. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have been here three times previously; six weeks during the summer when I was thirteen years old, a winter break vacation when I was fourteen, and a ten day choral tour through Loyola this past summer. Disregarding the most recent trip, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve grown up a lot both physically (thankfully, because middle school me had a lot of work to get to where I am now) and emotionally between my previous visits and now. I look at the world in a different way than I did back when I was thirteen and (hopefully) people see me differently.

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Ola a Roma, natale 2010.
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Assisi. giugno 2015.

You may be wondering why Roma again? Why not somewhere new? Well… I’ve definitely thought about it, to be honest. There are a lot of places I could have gone, but yet, I’ve always gone back to the thought of living it up in la citta eterna.

Despite being here before, I can’t tell you street names where certain things are. I can’t tell you where the best gelato is (although right now Giolitti’s is at the top of my list) or where you can get the best dish of bucatini all’amatriciana (it’s to die for). I don’t know all of the names of the neighborhoods other than Trastevere, Centocelle (where I happen to have family, which is the reason I’ve been here before) and now Balduina, thanks to being a student at the JFRC.

During my last trip here this past summer, I got the opportunity to travel outside of Rome. Thanks to the generosity of the university, Loyola’s choir got to not only stay at the JFRC, but travel to Napoli, Pompeii, Assisi and Firenze and for the first time, I got to travel around Italy without my family. I didn’t only stay in the touristy areas of cities. I got the opportunity to explore on my own and with people my age, and for me that was life changing.

That is why Roma again. I want to better my Italian and to spend time with my family here as well, but I truly love Italian culture. I love their way of life, at least what I perceive it to be. I want to discover this beautiful nation personally. If I can see other places in Europe, that’d be amazing too, but my focus will be Roma. Not only will I be interning at an Italian film production company (which I’m psyched for) but I’m also hoping to tutor Italian students with English.

I’m excited to be back and see where this adventures will take me! Jet lag and orientations have rendered me ridiculously tired these first few days and I feel like I’ve been running on adrenaline. Yet, that exhaustion isn’t complete, as I’ve been out almost every other night, chilling in Piazza del Popolo and eating some delicious pizza. The beach trip to Maccarese was also a blast, despite the fact that it resulted in a slightly sunburnt Ola.

To wrap up this somewhat long post (I’m actually quite surprised with myself, seeing how much I ended up writing) as mensa just opened up and I’m quite hungry, here are two pictures from my Sunday walk in the city center with some new friends.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana. Definitely order it if you love yourself. Originally, it was known as more of a poor man’s dish, because it was so simple and had few ingredients, but I see it as more of a triumphant ode to simplicity, as IT IS DELICIOUS.
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Hidden corner off of via Cavour.

P.S. If you want a more in depth look at my adventures/more pictures, feel free to follow my personal blog at https://olawysockiphotography.wordpress.com/!

How to Choose Your Summer Music Festival

How to Choose Your Summer Music Festival

live-concert-455762_640

Spring is upon us, and as such, so is music festival lineup season.

If your favorite music festival hasn’t released its lineup schedule already, it will in the next month or two rest assured.

But what about those who don’t have a favorite festival? How do you choose between two festivals that have almost identical lineups?

If you don’t already know, there’s so much more to music festivals then just the lineups they host.

You need to take into account the culture of each festival, and the spirit that drives it.

If you want to make the most of your music festival filled summer you have to pick a festival that not only matches your music taste, but also your personality.

I’ve collected a wide range of information detailing my personal accounts and opinions of festivals I’ve attended, and festivals that some of my closest friends have gone to.

If you’re hoping for a cold analysis of each festival then you’re reading the wrong article.

This is a tutorial to help those who have no idea what they’re getting themselves into and need a guiding light before taking the musical plunge.

 

Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL

“Lollapalooza is a great place to start your festival career, a real beginner experience.

Ok so that’s no way to sell a festival, I know, but bear with me ok? Lollapalooza isn’t a festival I would undersell or oversell by any means.

It was the first musical festival I ever went to so it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

It’s an exciting feeling. You’re surrounded by downtown Chicago, but not to the point of being claustrophobic, and you have a great breeze coming nonstop from Lake Michigan.

What should you expect at Lolla?

Lollapalooza is a great place to start your festival career, a real beginner experience.

It always has a popular lineup, and the people there are pretty spread across the spectrum of personalities you’d see at a music festival.

You’ll see a healthy dose of ravers, frat boys, mid-life crisis dads, high school kids, and then some normal everyday people thrown in the mix.

It’s enough diversity to keep Lollapalooza from skewing into one type of audience direction, but enough that you’ll feel at home no matter what type of festival goer you identify as.

What’s the venue like? Should I have safety concerns at all?

The venues and stages are gigantic so you’ll never have to worry about being to far back, but there’s also plenty of room at each stage to lie down at the back of the ground and mellow out to your favorite band.

The police and security presence is very comforting. They’re there to help you, not to ruin your life, so just don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you.

Personally, I’m over the whole Lollapalooza hype fest that happens every year. It was a great first experience but my tastes have become more experienced now.

Bottom Line: If you’re new to the whole festival thing, have about $500 bucks sitting around, and don’t mind some debauchery, Lollapalooza is probably the festival for you.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: North Coast (Illinois)

Lollapalooza’s 2015 lineup has not been released yet, but you can listen some of my favorite tunes and bands from their 2014 lineup here.

 

Bonnaroo – Manchester, TN

“Also, the toilets were surprisingly top notch, had no fear of pooping or getting herpes.”

 Ahhh Bonnaroo, home of the hippies and land of the free. Bonnaroo gets a lot of bad rep for being a smelly, hippie ridden, and overall dirty festival, but it is all that and so much more.

Bonnaroo, or Roo (as it is lovingly called), is a magical land filled with some of the friendliest festival goers you will ever meet.

Honestly, I have some great memories of getting lost from my friends and for making new friends out of complete strangers.

Everyone is seemingly there for the same reason: good vibes and good music.

Two years ago I attended Roo with my good friend, Alejandro and he’s been in love with the place ever since.

What did you like most about Bonnaroo?

“The atmosphere, people, and festival grounds were incredible. Just such a cool vibe, everyone was extremely friendly. You could talk to anyone about anything.

Not really judgmental, not to many frat bros, real people that were really nice. Also, the toilets were surprisingly top notch, had no fear of pooping or getting herpes.”

What kind of advice would you give newcomers to Roo?

Bonnaroo is focused on the camping and immersive atmosphere that few festivals obtain. You go for 4 days, camp out surrounded by strangers, and go see your favorite bands throughout the day.

But wait, there’s more! There are also art exhibits, comedy shows, food vendors from around the nation, beer tastings, and the list goes on.

I remember this encampment next to mine, back in 2012, spending the entire 4 days building this open-air library and phone charging station for anyone to use. They made tire swings and cots for folks to enjoy, and man was it popular.

So what’s it like to go to the Roo for the first time?

“Surreal, like a kid at a toy store,” says Alejandro. “So many cool things and so many people.

I wish I had more time to explore and do everything that they had to offer. One day I’ll actually make it to the comedy tent for once! You just can’t find time to do everything.

Bottom Line: Bonnaroo will set the standard for your music festivals. It has an almost religious following amongst it’s goers, and is easy for any music lover to enjoy. As long as you like camping, Roo is for you.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: All Good Festival (West Virginia)

Bonnaroo’s 2015 lineup has been released! It’s pretty stacked and promises to be a grand time for all. Here are a few of my favorite tracks and bands to watch out for there, you can listen here.

 

Coachella – Indio, CA

“Sometimes it felt more like a fashion event than a music festival.”

 So now we begin to delve into uncharted festival territory for me. Coachella is a festival that I’ve always heard about, but never had the money to attend.

It’s set in glamorous California, and from what I’m told, the people organizing this festival know exactly what they’re doing.

The grounds are located on a gigantic polo field, so it’s really easy to get around and probably only a 5 minute walk from one side of the venue to the other.

I really have to back off of this discussion, however, and leave it to my close friend Jonny Swift, keyboardist and producer for local Chicago Electronic Rock band “Super Hairy,” to describe because anything I tell you at this point is just conjecture.

What did you like most about Coachella?

“We liked a lot about Coachella! We had an awesome time.

The lineup and music were great, some of our favorites were Pretty Lights, TNGHT, Purity Ring, C2C, Alt-J, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, the fact that it’s in SoCal in the desert surrounded by mountains, and so much more.

The food was delicious and siphoned off into one section of the festival grounds, although expensive, the art installations and decorations were really cool, there was a giant ferris wheel you could ride, and all in all the festival was just organized really well.”

Did you dislike anything though? I’ve heard some wicked rumors about the atmosphere.

“We disliked a few things actually. The drinks were extremely overpriced, the check-in people at the gates to the festival were very strict and thorough and rough and searched everything, the porta pottys were always disgusting and never stocked with toilet paper, I don’t think they cleaned them once all weekend, and overall the crowd was kinda rude.

Not a very friendly crowd at all, and it seemed like a lot of people weren’t there for the music, but just to try to see celebrities and get into the fashion scene.

That’s one of the main things I didn’t like- sometimes it felt more like a fashion event than a music festival.

Other than that, the only other thing I can complain about is that our camping site was a decently long walk to the festival grounds- about a 15-20 minute walk.”

So why did you choose to go all the way to SoCal for this festival?

“We chose to go to Coachella because the lineup was amazing and had a ton of our favorite artists, and because it was in SoCal!

And because it’s Coachella, duh. When we first got there, we were obviously super excited but also nervous because we’d never done a camping music fest before- only Lolla, North Coast, and Pitchfork beforehand.

After we flew in, we had to rent a car and stop at a Wal-Mart on the way to stock up on everything we needed for camping all weekend.

The coolest story I have from Coachella is that I got to meet all the members of both C2C and Alt-J after their performances on Friday afternoon.

Chatting with them was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.”

Bottom Line: Festival of the stars. Go for the culture, stay for the music.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: SXSW (Texas)

Coachella’s 2015 lineup is STACKED with good music. Seriously. I don’t think I could name another festival with a lineup this badass. Here are some of my favorites!

 

Electric Forest – Rothbury, MI

“There is a crazy strong spirit of reciprocity and respect flowing throughout the Forest, and it’s absolutely contagious.”

I’m so embarrassed. Another festival I’ve never been to before. However, this time I can say I’ll have Electric Forest taken off my bucket list this summer. Bought my tickets and could not be more excited. To help me explain my excitement I again have Jonny Swift of “Super Hairy” and also my close friend Philip Albers.

What did you like best about Electric Forest?

Jonny Swift: Electric Forest was one of the best experiences of my life. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! It’s gonna be hard to describe it in words but I’ll try.

By far, it’s the best music festival I’ve been to and one of the most amazing places I’ve been period. Coachella was awesome and I love Lolla, North Coast, and Pitchfork, all of which I’ve been to multiple times, but none of them can compare to EF.”

Philip Albers: Electric Forest is my most anticipated music event every year, partly because the lineup and music is so good, but mostly because of the people and the atmosphere.

The attendees are all considerate and friendly people, and give the festival a sense of unity and harmony that is unmatched in any other concert or festival I’ve gone to.

Also the venue is in a beautiful pine forest, and is looked after by the attendees.”

So was there anything to dislike?

Jonny Swift: There were few things I disliked, but they’re pretty nitpicky. Shower lines could sometimes be quite long, and it cost $10 per shower.

Other than that, the only thing I could complain about is that the festival grounds can sometimes feel quite large if you don’t know your way around, and it can take a decent amount of time to get from one side of the festival to the other.”

Philip Albers: “There isn’t much I dislike about the Forest. However, 2014 saw the first ticket sell out of Electric Forest, and it seemed as if the number of people really increased the congestion and anxiety of moving from stage to stage.”

What can be said about the atmosphere of the festival?

Jonny Swift: “There is a crazy strong spirit of reciprocity and respect flowing throughout the Forest, and it’s absolutely contagious.

I’ve never experienced a crowd at a music fest that was so friendly and respectful towards everyone and everything around them.

I usually hate crowds at concerts or music fests or large events, but nearly everyone I met, strangers, volunteers, everyone, was extremely friendly and helpful.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to more strangers or made more momentary friends that quickly in my life.

Everyone is just there to have a good time and make sure everyone else is having a good time as well!

My fiancé has said multiple times that she sees it as a utopian mini-society that gives a glimpse of how society could be if everyone treated each other with love and respect.”

Any good stories to share?

Philip Albers: “There are countless stories I could share about Forest. One in particular kind of epitomizes the atmosphere though.

In the Forest there is this sacred little place called the Giving Tree, the concept is that you take something and you leave something.

It could be something of great personal value or something completely trivial.

My first year we paid many-a-visit to the giving tree, offering up cigarettes and mysterious tokens we picked up on the way for things like lighters and other mysterious tokens.

The third night, after some vigorous dancing, our group convened and one member realized his necklace had come off.

This necklace was a simple sterling silver charm he got from his grandmother, though not completely vital to survive the Forest, he was understandably bummed.

We looked through forests of feet on the dance floor, searched lost and found, asked strangers, and finally paid one more visit to the giving tree.

There the little necklace was found totally in tact. This is not so uncommon in the Forest; things have a way of working themselves out there where everything just seems to go right.”

Bottom Line: An electronic wonderland filled with some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Come for the wub wub, stay for the love love.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: Shambhala (British Columbia)

The Electric Forest 2015 lineup is set to be mind blowing. Hold onto your underpants folks, you’re in for a wild ride. Listen to some of my favorite tracks from the lineup here.

 

Pitchfork – Chicago, IL

“Hipsters and kids everywhere, what has my life become?!”

 Pitchfork is most known for the music columns online. Everyday they release 5 to 10 album reviews, in-depth interview cover stories with big name artists, and are basically revered as musical gurus by most of the hardcore music fan community.

I went to Pitchfork for the first time the summer of 2014 and loved it. Real easy to navigate, very clean, and everyone was very friendly.

You could really tell that everyone was there for the music. They didn’t come to get trashed and they weren’t there to tell you your music taste was shit either.

They always have a great lineup, and even if you don’t recognize the bands you can be sure you’ll like them on at least a basic level.

My good friend Alejandro has been a regular attendee at Pitchfork for the last 3 years (mainly because his hipster roommate used to drag him there kicking and screaming) and had a few things to say about the festival.

So what did you like most about Pitchfork?

“Pitchfork has a nice lineup, real cheap prices, and the crowd is always interesting.

My first reaction when waiting to get in though? Hipsters and kids everywhere, what has my life become.

The festival is filled with the type, but if you are on the level, or can at least tolerate it, you’ll be fine. “

 Bottom Line: If you’re the type who is always up to date on the new hot album release, and loves discussing music in depth, then Pitchfork is for you.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: None. It really doesn’t get cheaper than this for the quality of the lineup.

Hosted by the highly regarded Pitchfork magazine, this festival’s 2015 lineup promises to deliver its audience fantastic up and comers, as well as some incredible veteran performers. Listen to some of the tracks here.

Authentic London

Authentic London

Hello my lovely readers!

       Well, I’m making a go of becoming a true Londoner and I think I’m making some real progress! I’ve started to feel true annoyance at those who stand on the wrong side of tube escalators (the left side is reserved exclusively for those willing to risk their lives on the incredibly long and steep escalators to be on time), I now wear scarves as stylized, belted blankets in order to fend off the damp chills of February, and I have tried every type of cider I can think of at every type of pub. I also eat sandwiches multiple times a day, I am addicted to Cadbury chocolate Oreo bars (& had a moment of genuine panic at the Cadbury ban in America), and I have blown the dust off of my two years of Deutsch, much to the entertainment of a few German friends. But perhaps, most importantly, I have finally started discovering the fun, authentic, and commonplace pasttimes of my British neighbors!


 

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Midway through the week, I ventured out to appease on of my favorite guilty pleasures at an independent bookstore. The London Review Bookstore is the most wonderful place- no one tried to rush me out the door once I found what I was looking for, there are chairs in the basement to sample your reading material, and, most charmingly of all, I happened in on one of their monthly Late Night shopping events and was offered a complimentary glass of wine for my trouble. It was the perfect way to spend a Wednesday night.


 

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I also spent quite a lot of time at the V&A Museum with my sister, which is often skipped during short visits to London; however, Taylor and I both found the museum and its exhibits to be truly incredible- so much so that we will be headed back soon to see what we didn’t have time for.

On a slightly more important note, we also tried our first authentic dessert at the beautiful cafe. The scone I ate (my first one!) certainly would have been life-altering, had the stain glassed windows and luxurious atmosphere of the cafe itself hadn’t already done it. Not to mention I almost shed a tear at Taylor’s perfect Victorian sponge cake. 10/10 would recommend making this stop a priority.


 

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Finally, I am a true sucker for the ambiance of a building; therefore, I have begun my search for the perfect study space.

So far the Reading Room of the Wellcome Center is taking first with its plush staircase littered with pillows and its interactive distractions. If you need a break from Tolstoy, there are truly terrifying dentistry tools to examine, straightjackets to try on, and a postcard table to tell your mom about all the fun you’re having.

A close second is the British Library, where one can ogle original Charlotte Bronte manuscripts, Leonardo Da Vinci notebooks, and unfinished Beethoven pieces. I just went through the rather rigorous process of getting my own Reading Pass this afternoon -I had high hopes that the countless esteemed individuals whose work is on display would give me the strength to focus on the “study” in study abroad 😉


 

Tomorrow I am heading off to Cambridge to see what else the UK has to offer! Stay tuned 🙂

-Megan