The GoGlobal Blog

Month: November 2011



Hola queridos!

It’s finally starting to hit me that this is really and truly my last week in Mexico. I have friends that will be staying in Mexico for the entire year and when they talk about the classes they’ll be taking or the upcoming parties and outings they’re planning, I realize that I won’t be around for that. It’s very hard to have things come to end, especially when you’ve made good friends and become accustomed to the lifestyle here. My semester here has truly been like a vacation. Schoolwork, up until this point, hasn’t been very stressful so I’ve been able to relax, explore the city and take trips without the burden of homework and tests. The climate has been a dream, considering I’m a born and raised Chicago girl, which has made for many afternoons tanning and being outside. The trips I have taken have been amazing and the friends I have made are fun, truly lovely people that make me laugh and love being Mexico too. The food is incredible (which I think shows haha), my house family has been welcoming and helpful, so many factors that come together to make this a very enjoyable place to be. At times, I have felt guilty about not having a typical semester, which consists of spending hours in the library and very few days of relaxing. But this was a well deserved rest for me, being a senior and having a tough semester of student teaching coming up in the spring.

To those of you going abroad, a few things to keep in mind:

-Work your butt off now to save money. I was lucky to have made enough to come here (and with the dollar being very high, it was to my advantage). Being abroad definitely takes a toll on your piggy bank. Going out more, taking more trips, eating more, shopping, ect are expenses you usually don’t have when you’re in Chicago and only going out once or twice a week and generally being frugal. You will enjoy your stay a lot more if you dont have the money issue hanging over your head. That doesn’t mean you should go nuts because the money does go fast. But find simple ways to save like taking public transit when you can instead of cabs, or shopping at the grocery store instead of eating out all the time.

-Make a list of things you want to accomplish before or during your first week abroad. Having a goal in mind about what you want to see and experience will give your trip purpose. You will have a lot of time to do fun things if your homework load is light (which it probably will be), so make the most of what your destination country has to offer in terms of theatre, concerts, tours, ect.

-Mingle! If your school has an orientation day(s) for international students, mingle with everyone. You don’t know who you are going to become friends with, so its best to get to know as many people as you can, exchanging info so you can have new friends to go out with. Some of the people in the exchange group decided they were only going to hang out with people from their own country, and they cut themselves off from the rest of us, which was sad. The friends I have made are from all over, and that makes for a great mix.

For any of you who are coming to Mexico next semester, please contact me with questions! Or for anyone considering studying abroad to Mexico City, please keep what I have said in mind and feel free to ask any questions you have about this wonderful city. I know there haven’t been too many Loyola students come here, but it is a great option if you are looking to improve your Spanish and are on a tighter budget. Because Loyola is Jesuit, and the Ibero as well, they have an exchange program set up. This means that you do not pay anything extra to studying at the Ibero, you pay what you would for Loyola and all of your grants, scholarships, benefits, whatever transfer over. Housing here is also very reasonable (about $400 a month to live with a family and about the same for an apartment), and I actually saved money on rent. Food is also crazy cheap, so you can definitely survive on about $5000 (including housing).

Again, contact me with any questions!

Adios amigos, nos vemos en Chicago 🙂

Un puente con amigas lindas

Un puente con amigas lindas

Hola hola!

I don’t even really know how to start this post to describe how incredible the past trip I took was. Our school had a break from Friday through Monday and so some friends and I decided to go to Leon, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende for a few days. We started in Leon because there was a hot air balloon festival (Festival de Globos) and have a friend that lives in Leon who was nice enough to let 5 girls crash in her place for 2 days. The festival was so beautiful, even my pictures couldn’t capture how amazing it was. We went the first night for a bit, and as we came closer to the grounds via bus we saw all of them light up, sincronized to the music. But the next day, we were able to get up at 5:30 am and see all of the people preparing their balloons and then seeing them all take off. There had to be close to 150-200 balloons all in the sky; just gorgeous. After that magic, our Leon friend took us around to local places to eat and to buy shoes, since Leon is famous for them….yeah not a good idea for a girl on a budget. I ended up with part leather/part fake boots for about $25, a leather bag for $20 and a fake leather purse for like $5. I’m actually proud I was able to resist that much, since my friends all ended up with at least 4 pairs and a few bags.

After being in Leon for 2 days, we set off for Guanajuato and enjoyed the rest of that day, a night and an afternoon there, eating, drinking, exploring, buying more stuff, ect. I had been there before when I came to Mexico with my high school senior year, but it really is a precious city to see it again in person. The next afternoon we set off for San Miguel and enjoyed a night there and part of Monday until we headed back for DF. I had also been to San Miguel, but this a much more enjoyable visit since I was able to spend more time there (and being of age makes going out a lot more fun). And my friends and I made our debut on stage in the plaza singing Mexican ballads…we sounded pretty good….too bad i didn’t know the words 😀

It’s amazing how the time flies, so this little break from my daily routine was nice and the friends I went with are amazing girls. It’s moments like the ones I had this weekend that make me sad to go back and some days I feel like I could just never go back and live here and sell tacos or something and be completely happy. But then I just make a promise to myself to come back many many times so I won’t miss it so much.

T- 1 Month

T- 1 Month

I can’t believe that there is only a little over a month left! Time has flown by so fast since I’ve been in Rome. At the same time, however, I feel like I’ve done a ton of awesome things this semester so far. This past weekend was no exception: definitely one of the record books.

On Friday afternoon I went to the Rome Zoo with a couple friends. Its official name is the “Bioparco” and is located in Villa Borghese. It was a really perfect, beautiful day to be walking around in the park. It’s weird to think that at home in Chicago it has already snowed, but here in Rome it feels like the beginning of fall. All of the trees looked really pretty with their leaves changing colors. The zoo was a lot of fun, as well. Yes, the animals do look the same as they do in zoos back home. What I didn’t think about, though, was that the names of animals are different in Italian so I wasn’t exactly sure what a couple of the animals were.

Saturday, I ventured out by myself on a day-trip to Milan. I was really excited to get to plan my own agenda. Although I was a little nervous to go by myself, I luckily didn’t get lost and would definitely consider it a successful trip. When I arrived, by train, in Milan I went straight over to the Triennale Design Museum. On my way there, I stopped at Castello Sforzesco. The professor my Italian Fashion and Design class talked up the museum a lot so I was pretty excited. It turned out to have some cool stuff even though it had less to do with fashion than I expected. There was a really cool exhibit about time, in which there were many different artistic interpretations of clocks. One of them had knitting needles that knit a stitch every half hour, which ends up creating a whole scarf by the end of one year! There was also an exhibit featuring a bunch of Italian designers and the unique furniture pieces they have created. It was cool to see some of the furniture we learned about in class in person, but there was so much jammed into this one room that it was hard to really focus on any one thing. After the museum I was starving, so I stopped for the traditional quick lunch, pizza, on my way to the Duomo. The Duomo is a giant church in the middle of the city. It was seriously huge; it took me about 10 minutes just to walk around the side aisles. It is pretty dark inside, but the outside is a brilliant white color and very ornate. It reminded me of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Next, I was going to the Quadrilatero d’Oro to see all of the designer stores when I stumbled up on La Rinascente, which is the first Italian department store. It was so amazing. It was just like a Macy’s or Nordstrom’s back home, except literally everything in the store was designer. It was so crazy to see all of that in one place! After visiting La Rinascente, I once again set out to see the Quadrilatero d’Oro but I was sidetracked again when I saw Bershka, which seems to me like a European equivalent of Forever-21. They had so many cute clothes! By the time that I made it over to the area with all the designer stores, it was already getting dark. I walked around for a bit and went into the Armani multi-concept store, which held an amazing amount of Armani clothes in one place. They literally had everything: clothes, shoes, and accessories. When I finally left the store, I realized I had completely forgotten to eat dinner so I grabbed some pizza at the train station before my train left to go back to Rome. I totally loved Milan. The whole feel of the city reminded me a lot more of the US than Rome does. It seems a lot more like the commercial culture that invades the US. Rome, on the other hand, has a lot more small businesses. It was awesome to have a day that was all about some of my favorite things.

On Sunday night, I went with some friends to a Chinese restaurant; a good change from all of the pasta and pizza I have been eating. We also went to the “secret bakery” which is an easily overlooked store by the Vatican with delicious, cheap baked goods. It was a great end to the weekend. Milan was a great city to visit in order to round out my trips within the country.

Barcelona Bound!

Barcelona Bound!

Last weekend I went on my long- awaited trip to Barcelona for the weekend. I was especially excited because we booked the flight to leave Thursday night and return early Monday morning to maximize the time we would have in Spain. I was also excited to see how much Spanish I would remember from high school. People in Barcelona actually speak a dialect called Catalan, but I was happy to find out that I could recognize some basic words and phrases. We arrived in Barcelona late Thursday night and stayed at Hostel Urbany. It was a really large hostel: we were on the 10th floor. There were seven people in my group traveling together, so we got our own room. It was really clean and the free breakfast was good, but it was a little difficult to share one bathroom with that many people.

On the first morning, we went on a free walking tour around the Old City district, which is within the area where the original city walls stood. It was nice to be on a tour and hear some interesting facts about the sights (instead of just seeing buildings and not knowing what they are like I usually do). After the tour, we wandered around for a bit and stumbled upon a really cute store called “Happy Pills”. It was a fun store because you bought a “medicine” jar and got to fill it with whatever candy you wanted. Naturally, I ate all of the candy I bought by the end of that same day. We also saw the triumphal arch in the city before returning to the hostel to get out of the rain that had been brewing all day.

The artist/ architect Gaudi made a huge impact on Barcelona, so the next day we set out to see some of the amazing sights he created. The Sagrada Familia was the first stop and it was honestly one of the single most amazing buildings I have ever seen. This church was designed by Gaudi and is still under construction to this very day. They have been working on it for over 100 years already and it is not projected to be completed until 2025. The one piece of advice that I have is to definitely go inside the Sagrada Familia if you are ever in Barcelona. At first we did not know if it would be worth the 10-euro entrance fee, but I would gladly pay even more now that I know how beautiful the church is inside. There is also an exhibit under the church with information about its construction. We ended up spending around 2 hours looking at everything! Once we realized it was already getting late in the afternoon, we quickly headed over to Park Guell (also designed by Gaudi). I was excited that we saw the serpentine bench that I had seen so many pictures of during Spanish class in high school. The whole area around the park was really cool because Gaudi put so much thought into every element of its design. As soon as wewalked into one of the arched areas, I immediately recognized it as the sight of a runway on America’s Next Top Model! I haven’t seen the show in a couple years, but the fashion- loving part of me was still pretty excited.

Sunday was our last full day and it turned out that on the first Sunday of every month most of the museums are have free admission. We went to the Picasso museum in the morning. The line was extremely long since it was free, but luckily it moved pretty fast and we got into the museum in under an hour. Then, we stopped a tapas place for lunch, which was delicious. I am definitely a fan of Spanish cuisine! Finally, we walked around the city to see some of the other buildings designed by Gaudi before having a traditional paella dinner.

The flight back to Rome left pretty early in the morning so we got up around 4 to leave for the airport Monday morning. I was glad that we didn’t leave until Monday, however, because it freed up all of Sunday for sightseeing. Barcelona was one of the longer trips that I have taken this semester. I’m happy that I had some extra time to see all of the beautiful and unique sights that Barcelona has to offer.

Dia de Muertos

Dia de Muertos

Hola amigos,

Ooops, sorry I haven’t posted in forever. Mi vida mexicana has been exciting and a little busy, so I kind of forgot about this blog. In about a month, I will be back in the windy city for my final semester at Loyola. It’s all kind of hitting me now and I’m getting sad about leaving Mexico. When I came here 3 months ago, I was happy to be having a new adventure, meeting new friends, going places, ect but I was also counting down the months and days until I was back in my city. Now I’m having that nervous feeling about going back and trying to make the most of every week here because I’m not sure when I will have this chance again.

For Dia de Muertos, I knew I had to find something to do or see because it is such an interesting holiday and tradition in Mexico. I remember learning about it when I was in 4th grade and first started learning Spanish and I thought it was the coolest thing ever that families would go to their loved ones’ graves and eat and drink all night. So I decided to plan an excursion and gather some friends to experience this cultural celebration. I heard from a teacher that Panteon Civil de Dolores was worth seeing, and it wasn’t very far from school, so we decided to check it out. It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest, cemeteries in Mexico and everybody famous is buried there (Rivera and Orozco for example). There were ofrendas (altars) made by every university in the DF and then we walked the paths to see the graves. The graves were so beautiful, decorated with flowers and candles and trinkets and there were a few families sitting around the graves laughing and drinking and eating. It was a really interesting feeling, since in the US we’re used to being solemn around graves but this was very open, joyful but also respectful.

Mexicans view death not as something scary, but something inevitable and part of life. So instead of being scared or sad about death, ofrendas are made to welcome back loved ones by putting their favorites things to eat and drink on the altars. Families visit the graves and bring food, sing songs, tell stories and drink to celebrate the lives of these family members. For me, I like this idea that we can celebrate our loved one’s lives and the memories we have with them by making ofrendas and visiting their graves and living our lives, like how they would want.

This was definitely one of my favorite experiences in Mexico because it was MEXICO. This celebration is an example of the true mix that is Mexico: the indigenous rituals and Catholic traditions, which is one of the things that fascinates me about this country and people.

Pues, nos vemos pronto!

Is It Really Fall Break Already?

Is It Really Fall Break Already?

I just got back from fall break. The amazing thing about fall break while studying abroad, is that it is a full week which allows you to go on a long trip and see multiple countries. I spent time in Spain in high school with a host family and loved it. I knew I wanted to go back as well as see other places I didn’t get the chance to.

My friend Lindsay and I flew into Barcelona. The first night was a bit of an adventure. We got to the hostel that we were supposed to stay in and they said they were full. Bummer. So we tried to find another one, but that was full as well. The metros closed at midnight and my watch read 11:55 pm. We quickly took the metro to the train station beacause we were hoping that we could stay there. Unfortunately, they kicked us out and we set out to try to find a hotel. We found a large group of hotels and prepared ourselves to drop a lot of euros. Our luck was really running out because they were full too, as well as the surrounding hotels. Luckily, the receptionist offered to keep our bags for us behind the front desk and gave us a map and told us where we could find areas that were open 24 hours. We set off towards the ocean. After making friends with  two professional water polo players, hanging out with the owner of a local bar, walking until our feet fell off and finally crashing in a McDonald’s where we slept, the night was over.  The next couple of days were much more relaxing and filled with the beach, tapas, sangria, Gaudi architecture and shopping.  Barcelona was everything I hoped for and more. The Catalan capital is filled with vibrant people and culture. Everyone is friendly and there is so much to do and see.

Our next stop was Porto, Portugal. The most well known city in Portugal is its capital Lisbon, but we decided upon the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Porto. We took Ryan Air,which had tickets as inexpensive as 20 US Dollars (definitely look into using this airline).   The city was the most picturesque one I have seen besides Prague.  It hugs the Duoro River and is minutes away from the ocean. The old city is teaming with small crooked cobblestone streets that weave along the river. There are hundreds of cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, and houses all from different centuries spanning as old as the 13th century to the mid 19th century. Along with the amazing history, Porto is also known for Port Wine. We went on several wine tasting tours and saw how the wines were made and stored. It was delicious! The 2 days we were in Porto were blissful and not enough.

Lastly, we headed to Madrid. I love Madrid. I loved it when I first visited as a mere sixteen-year-old and if I had forgotten why I loved the city, I quickly remembered the minute I stepped into the Plaza Mayor. The city has such a colorful energy to it. It is fast-paced and relaxing at the same time. Spaniards truly know how to have a good time, and it is so clear in this city that never sleeps. We toured the Palacio Real or Royal Palace, watched flamenco in the Plaza Mayor, shopped in all the little local tiendas that sell handcrafted pieces made in Spain, visited El Parque Retiro, ate amazing tapas,and met my Spanish friend from the university.  Spanish hot chocolate is something that everyone must have before they die, I swear. It is fantastic, with a consistency like pudding, it is so thick and creamy. There so many bistros and cafes filled with locals and tourists alike with their hot chocolate. I was able to practice my Spanish and I was even able to help some other tourists who were a little lost in translation. One of the funnier moments, was that when I was helping an Asian woman understand the Spanish at a little cafe, she told me that I spoke really good English. I guess my Spanish appeared to be so good, that she thought English was my second language. It made my day for sure, and although I know that my Spanish is far from being fluent, it motivates me to practice more at home. Overall, It was a jam packed 3 days and so worth it. I was so sad to leave because honestly I could live there.

Few Notes and Handy Advice

1.) Note to the wise, be careful when arriving into new cities at night. Even if you book a hostel online, sometimes things happen. Have a backup plan. Also, if you are forced to stay up all night, try to find a place for your luggage. You are a much lesser target for any sort of pickpockets without your luggage that screams tourist. Try the lockers in the train station, or ask at a hotel. Chances are if you ask, they will let you.

2.) Try cities off the beaten path. I would have never had gone to Porto if I had not found incredibly inexpensive tickets on Ryan Air and if I had not researched best places that tourists have not found yet in Portugal. Porto is now one of my favorite European cities and I cannot wait to go back. Often, the lesser known places are the best. They are often clear of teams of tourists, and the local people are overwhelming happy to escort you around.

3.) Go to Spain and Portugal. This is all I can say. I have gone to Spain twice and I can not get enough of that country. So pull out that middle school Spanish dictionary and visit. I promise, you won’t regret it.

I have a little less than 2 months in Europe.  It’s not enough time here. I better get going. I have places to go and people to meet.

Happy Reading!