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Tag: study abroad

A Dreamy Paris Weekend (don’t mind my reminiscing)

A Dreamy Paris Weekend (don’t mind my reminiscing)

Bonjour,

There’s a certain weight to the way Paris sounds when you say it, even audibly, it’s luxurious.

I booked a Friday plane ride to Paris the Wednesday before I went, and I’ve been itching to write about it.

May I present: Paris in the fall

My trip to Paris began with me dragging my suitcase down Champs-Élysées in hopes to greet the Eiffel Tower with an insanely wide grin. My stroll across the city, paired with a ham and butter baguette, reminded me that I was walking in a city that was nothing less than a masterpiece. I sat under the eiffel tower drinking the richest hot chocolate I’ve had in my life, feeding pigeons french fries while naming them.

Paris in the fall, what a sight. I stayed in an airbnb that was neighbors to the Picasso Museum (I can’t believe I’m living a real life right now). It was a cozy studio nestled in an amazingly charming neighborhood not too far from Rue de Rivoli (I would recommend the 3rd arrondissement to anyone, although every Paris niche has it’s own charm).

What to do during a weekend in Paris, you ask?

  1. Parks Parks Parks

Jardin du Luxembourg is gorgeous all year round, but in the autumn, it’s a haven. I sat in the grass of the garden surrounded by champagne toasts, children floating mini sailboats in the fountain, and a small crepe stand in the middle of a warm hue of fall leaves. While this park is a show stopper no doubt, there are a plethora of Paris parks that reside in the city– find them, frolic in them, drink champagne, write a future pulitzer novel. The park is your oyster.

 

2.  Free museums

FREE museums. Yeah. The Louvre is free Friday nights for anyone under 26, so you bet your bottom dollar I danced throughout the ancient art and statues (and said hey to the Mona Lisa) on a beautiful Friday night in Paris. There are loopholes to getting into a multitude of museums for free (certain days of the month, certain times, package deals, etc), and if you do your research you’re bound to find something that suits your interests.

 

3. F-o-o-d

Parisian culture is smoking vogue cigarettes and drinking an aperol spritz at an outdoor cafe, but when you’re in the mood for a bite, here’s some dishes it would be a shame to miss:

  • Moules Frites – usually consist of a huge steaming pot of mussels cooked with butter, white wine, shallots, and herbs. They’re delicious and you’ll probably eat them all in like 2 minutes, but with a basket of fries to dip in the leftover cooking liquid, you have every component for a perfect meal.
  • Streak Frites – steak and fries, what could go wrong? A perfectly cooked, thin steak paired with fries is mouth watering and as french as it get. (Ask for pepper sauce if you can!)
  • Bread – croissants. Baguettes. Get them in the morning when they’re warm. They will undoubtedly change your life.
  • Cafe Noisettes  – a perfect couple of sips of coffee with a hazelnut dollop of cream. An absolute delight.

 

Looking for a specific spot to go?

  1. Café de Flore (Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint-Benoît, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement)

A corner cafe covered in flowers– how can you beat that? Café de Flore is famous for having famous writers and philosophers as it’s regulars. It’s really Paris, really charming, and really overpriced. I would recommend stopping for coffee, not a meal.

 

I stumbled across so many amazing things in Paris, I can’t even count them. Spend your days in the city of love walking around it aimlessly, you’ll venture to a million picturesque places.

Merci pour la lecture!

Madrid to Mallorca

Madrid to Mallorca

Time is running out, and finals are fast approaching. Earlier in the semester a couple of friends and I decided to book a trip for the long weekend before finals week to the island of Palma, Mallorca.

I’m not sure if it was because I know my days are numbered now, but this trip was by far my favorite. I arrived with only two expectations: laying on the beach every day for the whole trip, and leaving with a heavy tan.

Not only were my expectations met, but they were surpassed. I made friends with other guests at my hostel and we tanned on the beach and went on adventures for the three days there. I went cliff diving for the first time, visited a palace, took a picturesque train ride to the other side of the island, and partied with people I just met! It seems like a dream, how perfect the trip was. It made me realize that talking to people who didn’t come on the trip can add to your plans, not take away from them.

Of course, I was afraid to do a lot of what I’ve done, but I’ve also conquered a lot of those fears now. I’m terrified of heights, so cliff diving seemed ridiculous to me, but I went anyways. I still have no idea how I mustered up the courage to jump, but I did, and even though I landed wrong I’d do it again any day. You don’t have to do anything as extreme as cliff diving, but you should do things that push you out of your comfort zone.

The last night I was there I got to see the sun set over the mountains and the ocean, while thinking about my study abroad experience. As often as it is repeated, I really do believe you have to go into all of it with zero expectations, ready to change plans again and again, and be open to new experiences. My time studying abroad wouldn’t be as amazing as it is without trying new things.

    

Home Is In Plain Sight

Home Is In Plain Sight

My weeks have turned to days which have turned to hours. Tomorrow is my last full day in the magnificent Rome. Why am I crying in the club right now.

Time here has truly flown by, it’s hard to believe I’ve accomplished everything I have in these past few months. Multiple countries, so many new friends, endless bowls of pasta…My complete history of trips includes:

  • Bologna
  • Florence (twice)
  • Copenhagen
  • Amsterdam
  • London
  • Paris (twice)
  • Barcelona
  • Dublin

Even looking at my list it still blows my mind how much I’ve experienced in such a short amount of time. I could honestly type out an entire novel, chronicling my adventures in full detail, but I’ll spare you. I’ve made so many friends that I know will stick with me even after we land in Chicago. I could not have had a better roommate, as Alexa and I are similar on every level (most importantly on our sleep schedules). Italy has taught me so much, like how to roll with the punches, how to take local social cues with a grain of salt and be more patient, the importance of calling my mom every once in awhile, and never ever ever taking for granted the privileges I’ve been blessed with. I’ve grown and blossomed into an entirely different person. Did I mention I even got a tattoo??? I mean, WHO AM I THESE DAYS.

The point is, this entire study abroad experience has taught me more about life and independence than in my three years of college life in Chicago. I never could’ve imagined my life would take this turn. I only dreamt of living in Italy, I’m not even 21 and I’ve already been to more than eight foreign countries. My stories are endless, and while I’m aware that the reverse culture shock is real, I’m excited to share every story with anyone willing to listen. I’ve partied with the professional Denmark basketball team, visited the house of the late Amy Winehouse, got tatted in Rome, listened to the Weeknd’s new album in Paris, stuffed myself with lasagna in Bologna, and the list goes on and on. I’m prepping to take my last final tomorrow, but I feel as though I’m prepping for something much bigger when I get home.

Finals and feeling sentimental

Finals and feeling sentimental

12 days. I have 12 more days in Vietnam. I swear this last month has went faster than any other time in my entire life. I came here with 100 and something days to explore and live, but I am almost left with single digits now. This has been plaguing my mind this entire week. When I first came to Vietnam and had orientation and settled in I thought reverse culture shock wouldn’t even be a thing that would concern me at all. I thought I would just come here, go to class, and travel and be ready to head back home to the US. But now I just don’t know what life is going to be like. Other than having to figure out apartments and classes for the fall, returning to the US is going to be quite the adventure. It really really sad to think I’m not going to eat pho and fresh mango every day. I’m not going to see the wonderful women outside the dorm at KTX Coffee who know my order down and are just so lovely. Mainly I am going to miss the people and daily interactions I have. The people I have met here are some of the sweetest people I have met ever. My Bach Khoa partners are so helpful and so funny and so kind and I could go on forever and list how much I love these people!!!! I have so many conversations and talk to so many people everywhere I go since I’m a foreigner but I have so many wonderful talks with people. Going back to Chicago is going to feel weird because everyone on the street avoids eye contact while here I get stopped almost every day just to talk to people. There is also the aspect of culture quirks I am probably going to take back with me like waving my hand a certain way to say no and flagging down buses. Not to mention, it is an icy tundra back in Illinois and I’ve been living in 80-90 degree weather and its only been getting hotter this week too. I am just going to truly miss Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
Butttt I don’t even have time to think about all this because of my final papers due soon! Who knew the semester would creep up so quickly and now I have 3 final essays, a final poster, and an actual final by the end of my time here. I was an ignorant fool thinking I wouldn’t wait till the last two weeks to get everything done because guess what? It’s the last two weeks!!! I am trying my hardest to just bang out these papers and all this work before I leave, but I have been taking my time too as I can just forget that I have to leave in 2 weeks. I know I will get this work done, but it would’ve been a lot smarter to get it done early but here we are. If I disappear for a few days to those that are reading this, no worries I am probably stressed and in a coffee shop furiously typing my heart away to meet the page limits. The upside is that the topics of my papers aren’t boring or one dimensional. They really do tie everything I’ve learned and experienced all together into one huge assignment.
I probably only have one more blog post here because I fly home on a red eye 2am flight on April 27th to the US. Funny thing is I land on April 27th at 12pm so it will be 10 hours difference but 22 hours flying because of time zones. Maybe my last post will be during those flights? We will see. Till next time Goglobal.

Ps: Please forgive me on my lack of pictures these final projects truly have taken over my life and I have no food pictures 🙁

Leaving TRG

Leaving TRG

I’M DONE WITH MY FIRST INTERNSHIP!!!

I’m so happy with how far I’ve come, oh my goodness. My last day was this Friday and it’s my longest day in office all week. This gave me plenty of time to complete projects I had and wrap everything up. I completed my final events post for May. I added some content to MeetEdgar for the events posts to get it out there on all the social media accounts. I created a thread on Twitter for all of the food tours The Roman Guy offers so it’s easily accessible to whoever goes on their page. Finally, I went over everything I’ve accomplished and what struggles I’ve faced throughout the course of the internship.


Facebook:

  1. YouTube Videos get the most interaction.
  2. Best time to post: between 6 and 9pm
  3. Posts with a longer description do better.
  4. People aren’t as engaged on Facebook, so they aren’t really into answering questions about their favorite places or anything like that. They prefer visual content that doesn’t involve much interaction which is why YouTube videos do great.

Twitter

  1. Live tweeting does well and I think it’s much easier than scheduling into Meet Edgar.
  2. Testing: Scheduling a few key posts into Meet Edgar such as events posts, and live tweeting while in the office. I think live tweeting does best because it seems more authentic in my opinion.
  3. Constant content creation/ Updating is key!
  4. Best time to post: any time/all day. With twitter there isn’t really a set time because people tweet so often that in order to be seen we also have to constantly tweet.

Instagram

  1. Stories do well and I’m a such a fan of saving the whole story as highlight because it organizes content by what people would like to see. Polls are best in thestories because they’re easy to followers to use. “Foodie Adventures” were my favorite thing to do once a week because it involved the least amount of work with the greatest engagement.
  2. Posts: Sweets, cheap food, trip advisor recommended restaurants do the best
  3. Best time to post: between 6 and 9pm
  4. Testing: posting on Saturdays instead of Mondays seems to be doing really well and hitting a bigger audience.
  5. Tested: Putting borders around pictures with a common theme, but it takes too much time and doesn’t really add much to the value of the posts.

Enjoyed:

  • I really liked running the Instagram because it allowed me to see immediately what posts did best and the analytics are easy to have a look at.

Highlight:

  • I really enjoyed the tour. It was a super interesting to see the quality of what the Roman Guy offers first hand because I spent the past few months hearing about the tours so it was cool to finally see what all the hype was about.

Enjoyed the Least:

  • Twitter: I feel like Twitter could be really fun and has a lot of creative potential, but with the new rules in MeetEdgar it’s difficult to keep on renewing content.
  • I wish I had more time to try more creative things with twitter. For example, I think it would be a good idea to create a thread on twitter of food tour information and pin it to TRF twitter so its the first thing people see when coming to the twitter. This would also be a good way to link TRF Twitter to other social media accounts.

Challenges:


  • Having enough photos for posts. Since constant has to be constantly flowing, it’s important to always have new pictures and places to talk about. That can be difficult if one week there isn’t time to go out and take more pictures.
  • TIME! I just wish I had more time here. I feel like I could have accomplished so much more. By the time I got used to how everything works and what I’m supposed to do, it’s time to go!
  • Sometimes tasks seemed a bit disorganized. Sometimes I’d have assignments on google calendar, then there was the google doc, now there’s asana so it was a bit confusing figuring out what to do at time.
  • Some weeks I’d have the main things I’m supposed to be doing like the FB, TW, INSTA, content creation, stories, monthly blog post, follower growth for TRF, but then I’d also have follower growth for TPG and TRG along with Pinterest, and Trip Advisor reviews which ended up being a lot considering I’m only able to come in for 10 hours a week. It did get a lot easier once more interns came do tasks weren’t so heavy.

What can TRG do to help future interns?

  • Show them exactly what posts should look like or what key points to hit. For example, on Instagram, name the place, food item, price of food item, recommend it.
  • For blog posts, I think formatting is helpful to go over because it’s so important in making TRG look professional.

After going over all of this with my supervisors, they gave me a run-down of improvements among their social media accounts. Engagement and website traffic went up for all social media 

accounts which is awesome! Although I didn’t reach my goal of 4,000 followers on Instagram, I have brought Facebook engagement to a record high. I had no idea I was actually doing well because I wasn’t sure of myself throughout the course of the internship considering I’d never worked in Marketing before. I was really shocked because it kind of felt like I was drowning a bit, but I pulled through.

That night we all went out for aperitivo and gelato in Testaccio. It sad to go, but I’m beyond grateful for the time I’ve spent with the Roman Guy.

 

ONE WEEK LEFT

ONE WEEK LEFT

Next week is the last of my internship and honestly this came really fast. Everything after Spring Break tends to go super quick, though. To celebrate the end of my internship, I’m going to be going to Santorini, Greece next weekend and I’m so excited for it. Treat yourself, why not? My roommate and I are going together so hang out on the beach to destress from this semester. I know I need it.

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Romantic Solo Trip to Venice, Italy

Romantic Solo Trip to Venice, Italy

So, there I was, sitting in Rinaldo’s in my usual seat on the couch in the corner listening to my peers discuss travel plans for the upcoming weekend. I couldn’t join in because I had no plans so I decided I needed to go somewhere. I pulled out my computer and my credit card, searched “Rome to Venice” and booked a train ticket and a hostel for the weekend. Spontaneous and maybe even a little impulsive, I made the decision and didn’t need to discuss it with anyone. After I realized what I did, I thought, Oh my God I’m going to Venice, ALONE!! And there began the brewing of excitement tinted with unease in the pit of my stomach.

Here’s my “excited-to-travel-alone” selfie.

After a late night of cheering on the Men’s basketball team and celebrating their victory into the Sweet Sixteen, I woke up (a little hungover), packed, and made my way to the train station. I’m not an anxious person, but when it comes to traveling with a deadline, I’m always on the edge of panic but everything went smoothly and I made it on the fast train headed to Venice. With a grin on my face, I admired the hills and fields passing me by as I sped over 150 mph towards the City of Water. Four hours later, tired and hungry (the default state of being for a college student studying abroad), I arrived in Venice, immediately dropped my backpack off at my hostel, and went off to explore the narrow streets and winding canals.

Venice is a maze. Google Maps would tell me to walk down what appeared to be a dark, deserted alleyway but, when I would turn the corner, the street would be bustling with life. I thought I was walking in circles because I would pass Murano glass shops, mask shops, and pizzarias then I’d walk over a bridge and pass more glass, masks, and pizza. I happened upon Piazza San Marco, the only piazza in Venice, crowded with one half tourists and the other half pigeons. Children were chasing the pigeons, couples were dancing to live music emanating from the caffès lining the piazza, men were feeding the pigeons and trying to get tourists to pay to take pictures with the birds, and tourists were walking around with their selfie sticks, always looking up with their mouths agape. When you travel a lot, you start to notice the typical tourist giveaways.

At the East end of Piazza San Marco lies Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica. Unfortunately, I was unable to go inside but I did admire the facade, which was highlighted with gold mosaics and sparkled in the golden hour sunlight. The sun was approaching the horizon and I realized that now was my opportunity to see a Venetian sunset so I frantically walked around trying to find that perfect view that I’ve seen in photos but, unfortunately, I could not beat the sun. I started back towards my hostel, meanwhile glancing at all the menus posted along the way. A woman, whose job consisted of getting people into her ristorante, advised me about the perfect Venetian dishes to try for a seafood beginner (I’m not a fan of seafood but I wanted to be adventurous). I ate spaghetti alle vongole which was spaghetti with teeny, tiny clams in their shell and tomatoes with garlic sauce. Delizioso! Oh, can’t forget the glass of white house wine, one must drink wine in Italy.

I began my second day in Venice with a cappuccino and a trip to Murano, an island about a thirty-five-minute waterbus ride from my hostel. Murano is famous for its glass production which began in the 7th century. I went to the Glass Museum and saw some ancient glass and learned the history surrounding the main product of Venice. The glassblowing process is so fascinating, I wish I could’ve seen it in person! After leaving the museum, I walked along the canals and browsed through the shops lining the water. It took lots of deliberation but I found some beautiful souvenirs to bring back home for my friends and family.

Let’s talk about transportation in Venice. There are no roads, only canals, so you can either walk or travel by water. Waiting for the bus consisted of standing on a swaying platform next to a dock and hopping on a boat when it arrived. Venice did not feel like a real place because it is so different than any city I’ve ever seen. Florence has mopeds, Amsterdam has bikes, London has the Tube, Paris has the Metro, and Venice has waterbuses and gondolas.

Gondolas have set rates in Venice so one gondola for forty minutes is €80 and you can have a maximum of six people splitting that cost. As we know, I was traveling by myself and I could not afford an €80 private gondola ride on my romantic solo trip but I couldn’t go to Venice and not ride a gondola! I scoured the internet until I came across a deal on Viator.com for a walking tour plus thirty-five-minute gondola ride for $51. US DOLLARS! Lifelong dreams were coming true that day. It was time to meet up for the walking tour of Venice and my tour guide was a Venetian with a sarcastic, dark sense of humor and I enjoyed it. We toured an area with less tourists and saw a few of the one hundred and twenty-five churches of Venice. Venice sinks about 12 cm a century so now is a great time to invest in the housing market (credit for that joke goes to my tour guide, Marco). 

It was finally time for my gondola ride! I was put onto the boat with two couples and another solo rider and we embarked on our thirty-five-minute expedition around the winding Venetian canals. My gondolier did not sing or wear a fun hat like I saw other gondoliers wearing but he peacefully propelled us along. The best way to experience Venice is by water and I am so glad I was able to go on a gondola ride. It was peaceful and beautiful but over all too quickly.

After disembarking from the gondola, I wondered around a bit and happened upon Piazza San Marco, again. There are wooden walkways for when the city floods stacked all over the piazza so I went off towards the Doge’s Palace to sit on the walkways with the other tourists. I had a salami sandwich in my purse leftover from my sack lunch and I was starving so I thought it would be a good time to relax for a minute and eat. Plus, I was saving money because I did not need to buy another meal. I pulled out my sandwich, unwrapped the tinfoil around it, and took a bite but within thirty seconds of that first bite, a seagull swooped down and grabbed the sandwich from my hand. The seagull landed about fifteen feet in front of me and eight other seagulls were fighting that thief for my sandwich. I was completely shocked. Did a seagull really just take my sandwich? The other tourists around me also looked shocked and I started to laugh hysterically. I could not believe that just happened and I thought it was hilarious because it was such a stupid mistake to try and eat in a piazza FILLED with birds. If you go to Venice, please do not eat in the Piazza San Marco, learn from my mistake!

There I was in the piazza, hysterically laughing, alone, and without food so I wondered around until I found a take away pizza place. I had walked past it a couple of times during my earlier adventuring and there was a spinach and ricotta pizza that I had been eyeing. Of course, I got the pizza because it was only €3.50 and the slice was huge! I think my sandwich was meant to be taken from me so that I could enjoy that delicious pizza. It was waaaaay better than any pizza that I’ve eaten in Rome so far.

The sun was setting on my second day in Venice and I found myself at a dead-end with a perfect view of the sunset. It finally hit me that I was in Venice. Traveling is hectic and everything moves so fast that it’s possible to forget to take a breath and really appreciate the place you’re in. I felt the cool breeze on my face and I knew that if I touched the water, it would be cold. I’m not sure for how long I watched that scene but I did not walk away until the sun made its full decent beyond the horizon.

Venice is gorgeous, unique, and a little bit ridiculous and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit before it sinks. I’m kidding, that’s not going to happen for a while. Traveling to Venice felt unreal because it is so different than any city that I have ever seen. This small town will forever hold a place in my heart, even if it feels like just a dream.

 

What Do I Do Now?

What Do I Do Now?

Part of my midterm was giving feedback about my company. I’ve already written tons on how that’s going for me, but I also got back the review they gave on me. For the most part it’s going well, they enjoy that I work there and I contribute solid ideas. I noticed the areas that I scored lower in were communication and making sure I complete all requirements in a task when I have to get it done quickly. So, with that, I was trying to reflect on what I’ve done up until this point, and how to change it going forward because by the end I want to make sure that I made the most of it. During the beginning of the semester, there wasn’t much structure to my internship because things kept changing. For example, they wanted me to create a schedule and brainstorm idea of what and how I want to post to social media. Then I ran into the problem of the company not having enough content for me to post so I had to find my own. On sheet the company  filled out detailing my strengths and weaknesses they also listed my responsibilities as managing social media for The Roman Foodie (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). However, so many more responsibilities kept getting tacked on to that.

Now, I’ve worked on following growth for The Roman Guy, and The Paris Guy. I’ve added tripadvisor reviews to the Roman Guy website. I write the monthly blog posts for the Roman Guy. I’m writing a blog bost for The Roman Foodie. I create content for The Roman Foodie social media accounts which includes going out to take my own pictures, finding quotes to lay over it, and schedule it into MeetEdgar to post at specific times a day. I’ve done research for my supervisor to present on how to use Instagram to turn in a profit/make sales. So, especially in the beginning it was very overwhelming. In retrospec

t,  should have been straightforward about when the amount I had to do in a week was unrealistic because of time restraints, but going forward I feel more comfortable being honest about that. I used to me worried that it would look bad if I said there was something I couldn’t handle, but it’s far worse to have to do too much and turn in poor work or miss a requirement because of stress.

So, what am I going to do now? Definitely prioritize school and be more honest about what I need in work wether that be more time or less tasks. I’ve been keeping work and my life separate. It’s really annoying when I’m out with friends and I say, “Hold on I have to get to wifi so I can post this thing on Instagram for work.” So instead I’ve been taking pictures randomly throughout the day ahead of when I need to post something and create a caption at work so it doesn’t take up so much personal time. Since I decided to do this and keep work at work, my life has been so much more enjoyable and relaxed in Rome.

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

Saigon Living

Saigon Living

 

I feel like I’ve killed this phrase, but time is flying. I’ve spent the last two weeks just enjoying Saigon and going to class and getting into my everyday routine which I have been craving. It’s no secret to people that I had a bit of a rough time adjusting to life abroad which (surprise surprise) is 100% okay. Everyone is secretly having their own struggles, and I’ve been trying my best to be transparent now a days. I feel a lot more okay with saying “I think I’m going to take a nap, but thanks!” to people.

My service learning placement has been amazing. For the program here, you do have to have to complete some hours at a service learning site (or take the internship class) but, honestly it’s something I’ve been craving since I came here. I officially started right after the Tet holiday in late February, and wow it has already improved my time here a million times over. Having something I go to weekly now keeps me sane. I get to get out of the dorm so I don’t keep taking boredom naps, but I also know I’m spending my time here productively within the community. A few of us go to the Green Bamboo Shelter that house boys in Saigon and we teach English. Obviously none of us are qualified teachers, but we are native English speakers which is super helpful for people learning English especially with pronunciation. We have been working on a curriculum to help us guide out study session a little better and to have for Loyola students who follow after our semester, but these sessions are exactly what I needed. We get to talk to these boys who are the cutest, cheekiest, and hilarious kids ever. Its fun to just spend time with them, but also we know we are helping in the ways we can with their English skills. The weekends we have thrown in with a pool day and board games also helps us sneak a few days in just to hang out with the Green Bamboo boys.

Our Bach Khoa partners took us out for dinner the other night and we had quite the meal. First, we had the fluffiest yet crispiest bread I’ve had in Saigon. I know I know Emily shut up about the bread BUT Saigon has the best baguettes (from the long history of awful French occupation). For our actual food we had quail. Yes, the cute lil bird. And it was delicious. In Vietnam they do eat almost everything so after a long deep breath, I ate a quail head. It was an experience. I thought that qualified me as ~fully immersed~ but, no I had another snack to complete my immersive experience in Vietnam. Does everyone know what balut is? If not open a new tab and google it and prepare yourself. So I ate what is the equivalent of quail balut. It took a lot of baguette to wash it down with but, honestly it wasn’t half bad. You’d expect something like that to be disgusting but it was pretty okay with salt and kumquat juice. The only thing I have left to eat is fresh durian to consider myself pretty well versed in the food. I’ve tasted it in a few snacks that have been in grocery stores with less than satisfactory responses, so maybe the fresh fruit will bring me around to it.

Well, next week we head off on our final excursion to northern and central Vietnam. It’s wild how that excursion seemed so far away but, its creeping up on us like our final papers are. I’ve gotten pretty skilled at sleeping on buses and on planes so I say bring it on! I’ll end this entry with the classic food pictures and some food for thought. I think I’ve changed a lot by travelling to Southeast Asia and specifically Vietnam but, for the positive. I’m excited to see my loved ones, but this city has become a lot more than a temporary home for me. So I’m just going to keep making memories and living it to the most of the month and a half I have left.