The GoGlobal Blog

Month: October 2011

S’agapo: It means I love you

S’agapo: It means I love you

S’agapo was the first Greek phrase we learned on the Greece Study Trip 2011 and also reflects the warm feelings I had for Greece upon my departure from the country.

Between travel, midterms, and trying to get the most out of being in Rome this has been a very busy semester. Fall break was a welcome reprieve and I was excited to get out of Rome for a while to embark on the longest trip (10 days) out of Italy that I will be taking this semester. During study trip sign-up at the beginning of the semester there was a lot of controversy over the Greece trip: would it be worth the money? But after this experience I can say that this trip is definitely worth it. It was really nice that all the transportation and hotels were prepaid and everyday we had at least one group meal included. The meals were ridiculously good and consisted of multiple courses… and unlimited wine. I was really excited to have some new cuisine outside of the pasta and pizza that I eat day in and day out in Rome. Plus, gyros are awesome, especially in their place of origin. I also feel like the trip allowed me to see the different sides of Greece because we went from the city (Athens) to towns (Delphi, Nauplio), to even smaller towns (Karyes), and to some islands (Spestes, Hydra). Attempting to see these locations would have been very difficult without this study trip. Also, although I am not really a museum person, I liked how at each site we got to go in the accompanied museum and see some of the artifacts that were removed from the site. Our guide also didn’t try to make us stay too long at each museum either; we would hit up the highlights with 15-20 minutes of free time and head out on the next leg of our journey. Since this trip was so long, I don’t think I would be able to describe what we did each day in detail (nor would you want me to) so I’ll just give a couple highlights from each city/ island that we visited.

Also, it is definitely necessary to mention that the current political situation in Greece is very tumultuous. Many of the cities have recently been hit by a series of strikes and protests. I have never witnessed first-hand a situation like this before; many of our travel plans were impacted by the strikes and I saw a couple protests during my time in Greece. It was a little stressful to be unsure of what was going on or whether we would be able to reach all of our planned destinations but luckily the leader of the trip, Ioanna, was able to amazingly adapt our plans whenever any obstacles appeared.


We began our trip to Greece in Athens. Our hotel was walking distance from the Acropolis and Parthenon. I learned that the Acropolis is the hill and the Parthenon is the specific structure dedicated to the God Athena. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the Parthenon up close because that area was closed off due to the strikes but we did see it from the bottom of the Acropolis. We also so got to go to the newly built Acropolis museum, where we saw a lot of the artifacts. I was really glad we got to go into this museum because it made up for not seeing the actual Parthenon up close. The museum was built to mirror the orientation of the Parthenon and houses a lot of the relief sculptures so I still got a good idea of the site. Another interesting point about this museum is that when they stared excavating the land to lay the foundation, they found the ruins so the whole museum is built on stilts above the ruins. There are also clear glass floors in sections of the museum that allow you to see down under into the ruins that they are presently still in the process of excavating.

There was also a market in the area around the Acropolis that was a little tourist-y but it was fun to walk around all of the stores in the area. Some of my friends even got fake Ray-Bans that only cost 5 Euros.

Acropolis Museum


We only stayed in Delphi for one night but it was in a really pretty location among the mountains. Being so high up did mean that it was pretty cold however, and I was really glad that I decided to bring my Northface. Apparently, Delphi is a really big skiing area in Greece. There was even snow on the top of some of the higher, neighboring mountains. Overall, Greece had a lot more hills/ mountains that I expected; many more that even Italy. We went to the ruins of the Oracle of Delphi, which I was excited to see, especially since we had just watched the movie 300 on the bus ride to the site.


On the way to Nafplion, we stopped at Epidaurus Theater. It is an outdoor amphitheater that seats 17,000 with amazing acoustics. You can hear a coin drop or a piece of paper rip from the top of the seats. I was really impressed to learn that scholars today still do not really know what makes the sound travel so clearly. Nafplion was a really pretty city. It was really clean and well kept (especially compared to the piles of trash laying around in Athens due to the strike). My favorite thing we did in Nafplion was climbing all 999 steps up to the Palamidi Castle. It was definitely a work out but not as bad as I expected. There was a great view of the city and harbor from the castle. From the castle you can also see that the city below is laid out in a grid pattern, which is really unusual for old towns like this.

View from the Castle


The leader of our trip’s family was from Karyes so we stopped there after a wine tasting during the day. The town was really small and is based on agriculture so on the way there were a bunch of goats blocking the road. The village is also located on the land that was formerly part of Sparta. Looking around at the surrounding countryside, I tried to imagine what it was like in Spartan times. The people of ancient Greece must have been really resourceful to have been able to transverse such hilly terrain. Before leaving the town I got to try some Greek coffee (delicious) and homemade donuts (extra delicious!).


After the day trip to Karyes, the original plan was to stay in Mykonos for the rest of the trip. The boats were on strike, however, so we ended up going to a much closer island, Spestes, instead. This was disappointing at first, but Spetses was really beautiful. We mostly just walked around and hung out at the beach, which was fine by me after so much busy traveling. We also rented bikes for a day and rode around the island, which was a really fun way to get around.


On the last full day in Greece we went to Hydra. It was about and hour and a half boat ride away from Spetses. It was super small and there aren’t even any cars on the island- the main form of transportation is donkeys! We walked around a little bit when we got there and then headed straight for the beach. There aren’t normal sand beaches many places in Greece, but there are rock ledges on the side of islands where you can sit of lay out. Then there is just a ladder that goes down into the water. This was a really cool change of scenery. The water was so blue and crystal clear! I tried to take pictures but they really can’t even begin to show how insanely beautiful the scenery is in person.

Overall I gained so many great memories in Greece. Greece felt like the most foreign place that I have visited so far. Mostly because they use a different alphabet so I had no chance of reading any signs, but also because they were ruled by the Ottoman Empire for a long time so Middle Eastern culture has had an effect on the area. It was cool to see mosques and more European architecture all in the same plazas.

This week is turning out to be a busy one with another midterm and lots of reading to do for class, but I’m already getting excited for next weekend. It will be my second weekend in Rome- I can’t wait to explore the city some more!

Amalfi Coast Ahoy!

Amalfi Coast Ahoy!

Today is Monday morning and once again I have just returned from an amazing weekend! Last night we got back from the Amalfi Coast. The trip was through a company called Bus2Alps that plans trips for students. It was a nice change to have all of the transportation planned out for us in advance, especially since the towns we visited are small and do not have extensive public transportation. I wish more elements of the trip were included in the price up front, but it was still a nice break from all the planning that usually goes into traveling.

Last Thursday night, we went to the main train station in Rome, Termini, and got on the Bus2Alps bus. The ride wasn’t too bad; it only took about four hours. We arrived in Sorrento around midnight and went straight to sleep. The hostel was by far the best that I have stayed at so far. It was very modern and had large bathrooms and a really pretty bar/ gathering area downstairs. We didn’t get to enjoy the hostel for very long, though, because we left for Capri the next morning at seven a.m. Once we got to Capri, we got to go on a private boat tour around the island. It was so beautiful! The water in the Amalfi Coast in unbelievably blue even compared to the water I saw at the beach in Rome. The view from the boat was amazing because you can see all the towns perched on the island’s cliffs. After the boat ride, we went to Augustus’ Garden, which also had great views. Then, we took a bus to Anacapri (the town at the top of the island). The top point of Anacapri is called Mt. Solaro and we decided to take a chairlift to the top. I was pretty excited because I heard you could see the island really well during the 15-minute ride to the top. During the ride, however, the overcast day turned into rain. By the time we got to top, the rain had turned into a torrential downpour! Luckily, there was a café at the top where we stopped to get some hot chocolate and shelter from the storm. While we were there, it stared to lightning and thunder a lot. The power flickered on and off. After one particularly large round of lightning, I even smelled smoke coming from outside the café! Some people were pretty nervous about the storm, but I knew that eventually the rain would stop and we would be able to get back down to the town. Unfortunately, about an hour later when the rain stopped, they shut down the chairlift so we had to walk all the way down to Anacapri. The walk wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely would have been easier if I was wearing gym shoes! The adventure on Mt. Solaro took up most of the day so by the time we got back to Anacapri it was time to head to the hostel. That night, we went to a dinner with other people on the Bus2Alps trip that was extremely delicious. I tried gnocci for the first time in Italy and had awesome tiramisu (per usual here).

Saturday was much more relaxed and I just soaked up the sun, beach, and views in Positano. In the afternoon we went on a boat that dropped us off in an area to do cliff jumping (I actually did something more like scooting off a large rock into the water instead of cliff jumping), but it was still cool to get away from the beach and into a more natural area.

Finally, we made our way over to Pompeii on Sunday morning. I was really, really, really excited for this part of the trip because I have been interested in Pompeii since elementary school. It was really cool to get to see an active volcano (Mt. Vesuvius) too! We went on a guided tour around the ruins and learned a lot of interesting things about their excavation. A third of the ruins are still concealed underground, but excavation is proceeding very slowly so the ruins will stay well preserved for future generations. I’m glad that I went on the tour because it made seeing the ruins a truly great experience. In the afternoon the bus returned to Rome and we got back to the JFRC around 7:30pm; just in time to get dinner before the dining hall closed!

Overall it was a great weekend and I’m happy I got the chance to see another awesome area in Italy!

Central European Tour

Central European Tour

I just got back from a USAC Fieldstudy. We traveled to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Bratislava, Slovakia.  Most of the program went on the trip which was nice to be with the whole group. Plus, not only is the trip planned by our professors, but it also counts for 1 credit if you write a research paper as well.  These four cities are chosen because they are vital in the history of central Europe. I have spent a lot of time learning about these cities in both my Modern Central European History  and my Central European Politics classes so it was rewarding to visit the cities I have heard and learned so much about.

Our first stop was Cesky Krumlov which is a small town that was built on the Vltava river in 1302.  It’s castle is unusually large for the town of its size and is the second largest in all of the Czech Republic. At its peak, this town was important in trade routes of Bohemia especially due to its proximity to the river. Mainly a logging town, Cesky was almost forgotten about after the aristocratic family left the castle. However, in the 90s it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is now a highly visited city in the Czech Republic.

Next on our road trip was Vienna, Austria or as the Germans say Wien.  It is particularly important for Czech history because it was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who ruled over Czech lands. I fell in love with Vienna.  I remember that my grandmother always used to tell me how much she loved Vienna, and I now understand why. It is the cultural, musical, and political center of Austria. The museums are fabulous.  I went to the Belvedere which actually consists of two palaces that were built for Prince  Eugene of Savoy as his summer residence. They now serve as museums and it was there that I saw Gustav Klimt’s famous painting “The Kiss.” It blew my mind, much more so than when I saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The weather unfortunately was rather cold and rainy but it did not stop a few of friends and I from exploring the city. We walked everywhere. On our trek around the city we found St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Stephansplatz (German for the center square), the Spanish Riding School, Parliament, Rathaus (city hall) and we even found a circus.  I know Vienna is famous for actually still having a ball season just like in the 18th and 19th centuries. I would go back to Vienna in a heartbeat.

From Vienna we went on to Budapest, the Hungarian capital. Budapest was formerly two cities Buda and Pest separated by the Danube and was unified in 1873. Despite its fairly recent existence as one city, the land itself has been settled since the early 9th century by Celtic tribes and the separate cities of Buda and Pest were created in the early 14th century . The view upon entering Budapest is breathtaking as Parliament sits on one side of the Danube and Buda Castle is perched upon a hill on the other side. It is perhaps one of the prettiest cities I have seen thus far in my time abroad  (besides Prague). I am a fan of wandering around the streets in cities to get a feel of it and talking to locals so that is exactly what I did. We had a traditional Hungarian dinner of beef goulash in a quaint restaurant which came highly recommended by the locals. We also went to a famous indoor marketplace which had hundreds of stands with local cuisine and artwork. I could not help myself and came out with quite a handful of gifts. Coincidentally enough, one of the program leaders in Prague was born and raised in Budapest so he was able to give us a detailed history of the city and take us to many historic places. My favorite place was on the top of Gellert Hill  overlooking the Danube and the entire city of Budapest.  Overall, I am so glad that I was able to go to Budapest. Without this field study I honestly do not think I would have gone. Now I cannot wait to go back someday.

Lastly, we visited Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. As Slovakia was once part of Czechoslovakia, its historical importance for the Czech Republic is clear.  The difference between the Czech Republic’s flourishing and gorgeous capital of Prague and Bratislava is quite striking. It is clear who the economic successor was after the split or the Velvet Divorce as it is commonly called.  The city center is quite beautiful and although smaller has a unique charm. We had a traditional meal and wandered among the markets and streets. Folk culture is very important here and I loved seeing the dances, listening to the music and hearing all the stories. Plus, the local artists are very skilled and sell their products in little markets all along the city. We drove to Devin Castle which is on the outskirts of Bratislava. This castle was built  in the 8th century overlooking the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers which had many strategic advantages especially in controlling part of the Amber Road.  The ruins have a gorgeous view over the entire countryside.  It was unbelievable to be standing in the same spot where  former kings and queens ruled their empires from.

I would love to explore more of the Slovakian countryside because it is beautiful and there are more castles ruins intertwined with their natural beauty. I liked that I was able to go off the beaten path a little on this trip and go to cities that may not otherwise have been high on my priority list to see.

I would advise students to take advantage of the trips that are organized through their study abroad programs. They are wonderful hands on learning experiences as well as cultural experiences.  I loved my trip and had another amazing travel experience.

On the school front, my midterms are next week. I am going to be a little reading machine at the Globe cafe.  Tomorrow, we have a local field trip to a Czech concentration camp. Also, we have fall break starting next Thursday and I will be spending it in Spain and Portugal.  I will update soon.

Happy Reading!

Adventure to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam

Adventure to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam

It seems so long since I have been in Prague. I just got back from a 10 day trip to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. It was my first trip outside of Prague since I have been here. It was wonderful and full of adventures. I have to say that I cannot believe how convenient it is to travel once you are in Europe.  There are so many inexpensive ways to travel whether by bus, train, or discount airlines. I  can only urge you to save up as much as you can and  jump on a mode of transportations and see as much of Europe as you can.  Here is a little overview of some of the things that I did.

Paris- It is truly a beautiful place and words cannot describe all the splendor that it has. I knew I had to go here on my European tour so  I made it my first stop. I saw Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris right before I moved to Prague  (which I am obsessed with by the way, I just love Woody Allen films)  and I was literally counting down the days until I would be there. Plus, There is so much history and architecture not to mention the plethora of museums, pastry shops, art exhibits, tourists, shops, and more. My friends and I tried to cram as much as we could into our days. We visited the Louvre, which I can proud say we went in for free because we spoke in Czech and used our transportation passes as IDs which made us look like we were EU students.  I could have spent all day there because I adore art, but I settled for 5 hours of glorious art viewing. We went to Notre Dame, Champs-Élysées,  Arc de Triomph, Le Petit Palais, the Eiffel Tower of course, Moulin Rouge, Sacré-Cœur Basilica and meandered along the quaint streets. My favorite part of Paris is the neighborhood called Montmartre which is on the Right Bank of the River Seine. It is an area frequently inhabited by artists with the like of Salvador Dali, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Degas and  Renoir all  having called it home at one point. Now, there are street performers at every corner and local artist still flock to the hill that overlooks the entire city.  This neighborhood is not as congested with tourists so you really get to know Parisians. Plus Amelie and Moulin Rouge take place there, need I say more.

Here are a few notes  to keep in mind.  Paris is the most visited city in the world, hence it is swarming with tourists. The amount of people can be overwhelming and this is coming from a city girl herself. With the high traffic, there are places in Paris that can be kind of dirty. Also, be aware of pickpockets. Unlike in Prague where they do not approach you head on, in Paris they are aggressive and even touch you fairly forcefully.  Just be extra cautious. Overall, my time in Paris was heavenly and I would go back in a heartbeat.

Brussels- As much as I loved Paris, this medium sized city  and capital of the EU  stole my heart. It is so international which I adore and they are super friendly. It is a walkable city and the tourist crowds are in control and very manageable.  We met translators from Malta, students from Poland and Ireland and many more people from all over the world. The city is broken into three districts; we spent the most time in the old city center and we ventured into the EU district as well.  The streets are a maze of shops, chocolate shops,  cafes and resturants. The town square which is called the Grand Place  has a unique mix of gilded baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV buildings.  This city has a unique charm that I personally loved and Belgians have a very interesting sense of humor.  Of course, I could not resist the  luxurious chocolates and literally sampled some from every shop and I had to buy some. Also, french fries were actually created in Belgium not France, and they have tons of stands that fry them freshly for you.  They speak both Flemish,which is extremely close to Dutch, and French.  Overall, I love Brussels and highly recommend it.

Amsterdam-This picturesque canal city of Northern Europe is certainly a gem. First of all, the canals make you feel like you are walking on a movie set, they are so beautiful. The shopping is perfect. There are thousands of small quirky shops that have unique gifts. The people are extremely friendly and are very eager to talk and give advice about their city. I went to the Van Gogh museum and Anne Frank’s Secret Annex. The Secret Annex was a great museum and (as most WWII spots are) an emotional place. I remember reading her diary as a young girl and I was so glad that I was able to visit the exact spot that she had hidden in for years.   Bicycles rule the land here. They have their own traffic lights and lanes. Amsterdam is infamous for its Red Light District and its coffee shops, but there is so much more to this quirky city.  I am very glad that I took the trek to the North and saw this wonderful city.

I was surprised at how much I missed Prague.  When I met people along the road, I felt like I bragged about Prague like it was my child or something. Traveling really made me appreciate my choice to study in Prague and I literally felt like a small anxious child waiting to return.

In other news, I got a job. I teach English to a 3-year old girl or rather I babysit her and teach her basic English words. I go every Monday to her house located on the other side of Prague and for four hours chase the little rambunctious girl around.  I also love talking to her mom and learning about the Czech Republic.

I am going to Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava this weekend. I will update soon with more updates.

Happy Reading!

Happy 60th UIBE!!

Happy 60th UIBE!!

So the Beijing Center is really only a few classrooms, some dorms, and a library. It’s a small program located at its host school, the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE, or duiwai jingmao daxue, or 外经贸大学). For prospective students who think the Beijing Center is it’s own entity (like I did), it really isn’t. Anyway, this past week UIBE celebrated its 60th anniversary. This meant that they had news coverage, foreign guests, local celebrities, speeches, and then some speeches, and then some dancing, and then a few more speeches. You can see some pictures at CNTV. Personally, I liked whole production, but many of my Chinese friends were actually pretty critical about how boring the content of the ceremonies was. One student seemed pretty embarrassed that UIBE brought professors from schools as far away as the University of Maryland just so they could hear very clichéd and condensed words of praise about UIBE. I don’t know, I thought it was cool.

The capstone of this celebration was the deliciously over-the-top window lighting display at the girls’ dorm building. (Pictures available at Baidu Baike) The building in that picture is a beast. It’s the sole dorm building for all the girls at UIBE, a university of about 11,000+ students, most of which are girls. That means that the girls dorm houses about 7,000 people at five to a room. And there’s no air conditioning and all the bathrooms  are public. When I look out from my comfortable two-person dorm with a TV/AC/fridge/private bathroom, I can’t help but feel a little spoiled.

On another note, this week is China’s National Day holiday, meaning I have a week to do whatever I want, however I want to do it. I had originally planned to go Tokyo, but I guess I wasn’t the only one, as the ticket price quickly grew to be staggeringly expensive. So now I’m just gonna hang out around the city and find fun things to do. If you read my last post, you now that my Chinese class is very efficient at kicking my butt, so free time to just do fun stuff is hard to find. That changes this week. So far I’ve visited the crazy-crowded Tiananmen, the lesser known but still famous and crowded Qianmen, Houhai, Gulou, Solana, and Beihai. But what I’m most looking forward to is my attempt to relive the experiences of ancient China’s past scholars and artists. I’ve bought a whole bunch of painting supplies and rice paper, and in the next few days I’m gonna hitch a bus way out of the city to some ancient, forgotten temple and sit and paint the day away. Of course I’m no expert at Chinese brush painting, but still, it’s gonna be awesome.

If you want to read more about UIBE, check out Wikipedia, or if you feel like learning Chinese, Baidu Baike (‘Baidu-pedia’: Chinese Wikipedia)  is even better.