The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2012

A Weekend of Day Trips

A Weekend of Day Trips

This past Friday I tagged along on a study trip to Ostia Antica, an ancient town.  We received a personal tour given by one of the professors that is here at JFRC.  It was extremely interesting!  We were also able to eat our lunches right on the steps of the amphitheater.  It was amazing thinking about all of the people thousands of years ago that used to wander the very streets I was stepping on.  From Ostia, we took a short bus ride to the Christian catacombs located right in Rome.  These were very cool, but very creepy as well.  The first level underground, which we walked through, was 12 meters beneath the earth’s surface.  The walls were very high but narrow.  I was able to see the indents in the wall where bodies used to be placed.  It was such a unique experience, and I’m so glad that I signed up for this study trip.

Then, the following day I attended the school trip to Assisi for a pilgrimage.  We left early in the morning and returned very late into the night.  During the day, we toured the Basilica of Sant Maria degli Angeli, the Basilica of San Francesco, and the Basilica of San Chiara.  The whole town was very quaint and provided a beautiful view of the countryside.  It was such a peaceful place.  We spent most of our time wandering through the basilicas, praying, or eating..a lot.  We were provided full meals that left me full for days afterwards.  This trip was also a great experience, and I only wish I had a little more time there to explore even more.

Last few days of being a teenager

Last few days of being a teenager

So, I’m suppose to be reading a huge article right now for my Poverty and Development class that I have in about an hour, but I thought it would be more productive just to blog. (:

This last week has gone by really fast! I can’t believe that it is going to be April in just a few short days, and that I will be turning 20! Que Loco! I got my birthday package in the mail from my parents, the best surprise ever! It’s a little insane to think how far that little pink package has come just to get to me! Unfortunately I don’t have anything super duper exciting to tell you, haven’t gone hiking in Patagonia or surfing at one of the greatest beaches in the world.. but I have been just experiencing the chilean way of life! This past weekend I went to one of the other foreign exchange student’s birthday party! She is from Belgium and she has the coolest spanish accent because her native tongue is French.

I also went and saw one of the best movies ever! In English of course, the Hunger Games! Loved it! It’s definitely not as big of a deal here in South America, in fact no one really has heard of it except for us.

I’ve been giving my sister English lessons almost every night and in return my sister and my mom have been giving me spanish lessons! 🙂

It works out perfectly and is really good practice for both my spanish and hopefully future ESL teacher skills.

Last night while my family and I were drinking our cups of tea together and watching the news on TV we had a really good discussion about all of the hate crimes that have been occurring in Santiago. It’s so horrible and disheartening to see that there have been young homosexual boys, just around my age that have been beaten to death in their homes and even on the streets…

The society here is so different from that of the U.S because of the generation gap, that almost reminds me a little bit of the Middle East, how the older generation tends to be more conservative and the younger generation is very progressive and will fight for their rights. I think this is also because Chile is still a very young democracy, they just had a military Coup, as a dictator in the 70’s. I know that my host family here is very supportive of the gay rights movement and a lot more progressive and understanding than my older host family that was obviously homophobic.

It’s a really serious issue, but just one of the many issues that Chile has, being one of the most isolated countries in South America, with the ocean on one side and Andes on the other and Atacama in the north, it is not a very accessible or open place to the world!

This past Tuesday our professor was sick so we didn’t have any classes so a few friends and I just hopped on the Metro and explored the City a little bit! We went to one of the really hipster, artsy parts of Santiago and got delicious gelato (which I ended up spilling all over my white skirt, dark chocolate flavor doesn’t look like chocolate on a skirt) and we meandered around taking pictures! I also just had a really bad day with luck because I also ended up getting pooped on by a pigeon and sitting in some dog poop in the park- but that’s just typical Shirley.

I’ll be sure to update you with how my Chilean Birthday goes and my weekend! The Santiago marathon is on  Sunday so I am hoping I can ride my bike downtown and go cheer on some runners! It’ll be really cool to be able to compare the Santiago marathon with other marathons I’ve been to in NYC, Chicago, Midwest. But I know it’ll probably be kind of sad too because the only marathons I go to watch I always go with my family and we cheer on my dad! So I’ll probably end up going but then catch myself looking in the crowd for my dad running.

On saturday- My Birthday! We are going on a little class field trip to one of the detention centers where they held the prisoners during the dictatorship, so I’m sure that will be really interesting too!

Besos y Abrezos !!

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” -E.B White

G’day Mates!

G’day Mates!

After countless hours fretting and packing, I’ve made it Cairns, Australia. It’s hot, and beautiful, and Australians really are whacky and love their beer.
Orientation has been a week long adventure, giving us a taste of what we can expect for the rest of the trip. After we finally start to get used to the heat of Cairns, we traveled to the Atherton Tablelands, where it’s much cooler unless you are in the rainforest, which of course, we were. We’ve already had the opportunity to hold koalas, pet baby crocodiles, and feed kangaroos and wallabies. We even saw tree Kangaroos and a platypus on a night time canoe in Yungaburra.
We will be settling into our homestays soon, so expect an update then!

Czech it Out!

Czech it Out!

Czech it out!

This weekend my friends and I visited possibly of of the most beautiful places I have even been. With the city being a museum in and of itself we were able to roam around without much of a plan simply admiring all the views this city has to offer.

We stayed at a really nice hostel a little bit outside of downtown and were able to take the tram very easily to all of the destinations inside the city. You don’t need a ton of time to see Prague. I recommend exactly what we did which was a three night trip. We got there on a Friday and left Monday afternoon. Prague is the perfect city for the combination of a beautiful historic place but also has some great nightlife. Every student visiting here seemed to be on the pub crawl we went on. We were able to meet young people from all over Europe and had quite an awesome experience.

The city at times is so pretty you feel like you are walking through a storybook world, especially when we visited the Prague castle, a camera simply cannot capture what we saw. On top of this the weather was perfect, and we just wanted to spend every minute outside. We took a comprehensive 3 hour walking tour of the old part of the city and learned a lot. The food was also really great, we enjoyed authentic mexican food for the first time in awhile and also some traditional czech cuisine, great sausage! Don’t let me forget Starbucks, they are everywhere in Prague.

With the semester coming to an end I am so happy I had the chance to visit this city. It was not one of the places I had planned on going to but I am so glad that I did. Sometimes it is nice to visit the places that are not your typical Paris, London, Barcelona.. etc. To anyone considering going to Prague while they are abroad I say it is a must!


Perspectives on East Asian economic development model: the roles of external economic assistance and timely government intervention

Perspectives on East Asian economic development model: the roles of external economic assistance and timely government intervention

The East Asian economic developmental model has been one of the most distinguished features in the field of comparative political economy and the origins of East Asian development have been controversial. For example, Bruce Cummings contends the critical role of American hegemony during the Cold War, while David Kang pays attention to the dynamics of societal factors and Stephan Haggard et al puts more emphasis on the leading role of the state.

This essay reviews some relevant articles on the score, and finally chooses a perspective to argue its theoretical implications to explain contemporary China’s economic development.

It is true that different political economy scholars have offered their own perspectives on the interesting issue of East Asia Economic Developmental model. It attracted many scholars attention due to its quite unique feature and as it occurred unimaginably against all the odds of the neoliberalist thinking which I would like to call it the Bible of the West’. To this effect, in line with Bruce Cummings’ argument, the essay, inter alia, will immediately take over one of the strong arguments: the perspective of the special existence of the cold war.

Brendan Da Costa (P.8) reviews that the context of the Cold War, during which much of East Asia’s development took place, seems to be particularly important to the emergence of the newly industrialized countries.  The security threat that was faced by the East Asian states during the Cold War helped to foster nationalism in these states and with it a commitment to a long-term transformation of the economy, in order to ensure the Communist threat was not realized. (Onis, P.116) States that were within reach of the communist threat were given special treatment by the US, amongst others, and this “enabled them to extract important advantages vis-à-vis the core…” (Ibid) These advantages were combined with continued expansion in the US market, acting as a recipient for increased East Asian exports, creating a favorable situation for development. (Brohman, P. 121)  As well as creating access to markets, the Cold War provided a more tolerant climate for the developmental state approach.  This meant that as long as the East Asian states remained firmly anti-communist in their approach, the rest of the western world turned a blind eye to the authoritarian regimes and market intervention approach. (Wong, p. 252)  The freedom and assistance allotted to the East Asian states during the Cold War was crucial in the emergence of the developmental state.

Similarly, it has been suggested that the developmental state was possible in East Asia due to the specific conditions that were present in the region at the end of WWII. (Onis, P.123) The first part of this context is resulting from the Japanese occupation of East Asian states during WWII.  One of the problems constraining development in Latin America has been the resistance from the traditional landed elites, who have been able to affect government policy to ensure it is not harmful to their privileged position, even if this restricts development.  However, the Japanese, as an occupying force, treated all citizens with equal disdain, and thus “the power of landlords was decisively broken…” (Kay, P. 31)

The return of East Asian states to the world economy was another factor that was crucial to development.  By reintegrating into the world market after the war, it gave East Asian states a relatively equal playing field from which to compete in, as other states were faced with full economic reconstruction.  “Hence…the timing of incorporation into the world economy appears to be crucial for the subsequent success of the East Asian states.” (Onis, P. 117)

In another line of argument, it has been argued that one of the primary reasons for the rapid economic development occurring almost exclusively in East Asia is that there are some unique aspects of Asian culture that make development possible.  It is the Confucian values that are most commonly associated with the developmental state in East Asia.  One of the Confucian values that is identified with the developmental state is the idea that “Asian societies have always been more concerned with the welfare of the group over the individual…” (Hood, P. 854) This is relevant in the developmental state context because it suggests a willingness to make personal sacrifices in order for the state as a whole to progress.  In this vein, as long as the state is making progress, individual losses of rights are not viewed as such an issue.

Another related Asian, Confucian, value that contributes to the phenomenon is the respect for a hierarchical society so that state authority “whether sanctioned by free elections or not, is respected and hierarchy is held to be natural and good.” (Ibid) This means that even if the methods that a head of state utilized to obtain the position are questioned, the respect for hierarchy will allow the citizens and the state to carry on with the goals of developmental state. ‘Confucian culture, with its emphasis on deference to authority and hierarchical human relations, contributes to the social stability and political order’ which by themselves are important factors for prosperity. (Kim, P. 1130)

For this writer, although he concedes that all arguments hold different amounts of water; the external economic injection takes the lion’s share. In other words; despite the fact that cultural values of the region like some Confucian elements contributed a lot for the model to more or less work smoothly, the American economic hegemonism and Japanese economic interference that resulted in technology transfer had unparalleled lasting contribution. It can be argued that the massive American economic input done for the East Asian countries can similarly elevate a country or a region, so to speak, in a totally different setting. The cultural element was not the leading factor but rather a subsidiary one playing a catalyst role. Unless we argue that the combination of the factors was a key one, culture on its own couldn’t have taken the East Asian economies to their existing level. For different causes and motivations, some of the East Asian economies were privileged by the Hegemon – in terms of basic but comprehensive capacity building that focused on the hardware of the region’s nations.

Similarly, the diffused Chinese economic development model seems to share several factors with the wide East Asian Developmental model. This, however, does not mean that all what has been reflected in the Korea, Japan, Taiwan, etc cases is repeating itself in mainland China. Neither has it meant the converse, though!

Nevertheless, the writer still argues that even for China’s contemporary economic development, the role of “foreign money” accompanied by foreign ideas and technology that has been entering China, makes the biggest contribution for its impressive growth. However, the way the money is entering the country is totally different from the support made for the East Asian countries the US economic hegemony. The US had special interests and motives to extend its help to the region’s countries. One cause was fear of expansion of communism. Another one was the timely entrance of the countries to the West market. It is important to note here that the WWII was difficult for some European countries but has also created opportunities to the East Asia countries that were active in the production sector for export. The US was directly opening its door to such countries in addition to giving/transferring technology to them.

Back to China’s issue of economic development behaviour; FDI in China especially since the Opening Up policy was launched, heavy government involvement in some selected industries, etc. played a great role in China’s fast growing economy. The export-led economy, luckily a common element from those of East Asian economic developmental model features, has also been the force not the culture in spite of the fact that 关系guān xì was/is being extensively used in the economy sector to scratch each other’s back.

In sum, I would like to conclude the essay by emphasizing on two main points that I argue are more leading factors for the developmental state model. These are the US massive economic assistance and the government’s position in the economy as a facilitator and regulator and in some strategic and selective areas an active participant.

Surfs Up!

Surfs Up!

This past weekend the other girls and I from the U.S.A  took a trip down to the coast to a little beach surf town called Pichilemu, it is where Jack Johnson filmed one of his music videos, no joke.

We took a bus down after our classes on friday, it was about a 4 hour bus ride down and then we got in around 11 pm and ate some deliciously bad empanadas. Mine was so cheesy and greasy that I had to give the last half of it to a stray dog that was following me around. I really am starting to enjoy the Chilean food more and more though I have to admit. On Saturday morning we woke up bright and early and had our first ever surfing lessons! We started off by stretching on the beach and practicing getting up and balancing in the sand then on boards. With our wetsuits on and anxious minds we then stumbled into the freezing cold Pacific Ocean with our huge surfboards. It was really hard, I won’t try and say that it wasn’t. Once I got past the feeling of having numb hand and toes and salt water constantly rushing up my nose and throat every single time I wiped out on my board, it was such a fun sport! There really was no better feeling then when I finally stood up on my board and rode a little baby wave for about 30 seconds, it was so cool and addicting! I want to go back and try again!

That night we had a really entertaining St. Patty’s BBQ with the other people at our hostel. There were a few british guys, a Swiss, an Argentinean and more Chileans. We had some delicious food, music, irish dancing and lots of fun mingling! This week school has been hectic with classes, actual homework and just meeting all of the Chileans at school.

Today I felt again as if my brain had run a marathon, simply just from going to one class. It was my Photojournalism class, and of course after lunch I rush up to the building, climb 6 flights of stairs to where my classroom should be to see that they changed it to a different building on the other side of campus! So I have to go there, and I see all of the students just in groups laughing and talking to themselves while the professor is talking with someone trying to figure out where we should go. So, for about 10 minutes or so I just stand there quite awkwardly by myself, until we finally start heading down the stairs to outside, seeing as we still have no classroom. A girl in the class, thought I was chilean so she came up to me and asked me if I was in the class de Fotografia, and I responded yes! Then we got to talking and she realized I was not Chilean haha and I told her I was a foreign exchange student from Los Estados Unidos and instantly her face lit up and she responded, quite loudly, ” Nooooo, en serio?!” before I knew it, there were literally about 10 or 15 students surrounding me in a circle all saying “Charlie! Charlie!” and asking me the same questions such as , where do I live, do I know where New York or Miami is, Can you speak some English for us? All of these things..I literally felt like I was in a zoo, and I was the animal. But, I did end the day with a few new really good friends and we exchanged contacts and I can’t wait to hang out with them! After the class, a few guys invited me to go hear a speech with them that was about Education and the Political Fights going on in Chile, so of course I went! It ended up to be really really interesting and a heated debate ending in people storming out with banners and going into the streets. I was invited to go march with them, but I had to turn them down because of my fear of somehow getting arrested and being deported back to the states, so I did something a little less dangerous- I rode my bike home the 8 km during rush hour traffic in Downtown Santiago.

My host mom has the flu, so I helped her out around the house a little bit and warmed up some dinner with my sister. We made delicious ravioli with Alfredo sauce and bread with avocado and honey!  Tomorrow morning I’m actually meeting up with a girl from Notre Dame and we are going to a really poor high school about an hour and a half from here to go teach english, my advisor at the university warned me that it was loco, with about 50 students to one teacher in a I expect that I’ll have my hands full!

All I know for sure, is that I’ll be taking the metro because last Thursday I attempted to ride my bike to school, not knowing that there would be huge protests and I ended up being tear gassed and almost pushed into a broken window by the police. The riots are absolutely crazy, students all wear gas masks or scarves wrapped around their hands that are soaked in lemon water to fight the strong tear gas that the army tanks spray at them with such force, its unbelievable the violence that I witnessed. I’m just lucky that I wasn’t hurt anymore than just a few chemical burns on my face and a whole new perspective on freedom to peaceful assembly, something that doesn’t exist here in Chile.

Signing off!

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Stevenson

Céret – la bonne vie

Céret – la bonne vie

Céret is a small border town that sits just on the other side of the Pyrenees in southern France. A friend has a family friend with an apartment in this quaint ville and we were invited to stay for the weekend. Leaving Friday morning, we broke up the two hour train ride by stopping in Figueres to visit Salvador Dali’s museum. The museum, topped with a massive dome reminiscent of Epcot, houses many of Dali’s works and shows the evolution of Dali’s creative, signature style. After touring the surprisingly vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and other creations, I finally came to terms that I am indeed not a fan of modern art. While it is apparent that Dali had quite the imagination to dream up such perplexing works, they failed to instill a sense of wonder or appreciation for me. If you do enjoy the work of Dali and his contemporaries, then a trip to Figueres and the museum is required. Despite this initial setback, Dali did not completely disappoint; his jeweled creations were captivating and I was able to wonder at just how Dali was able to think of, and then bring to life, such radiant manifestations. One piece involved a jeweled heart that actually had a pulsating movement to it. Incredible.

Our host Carl picked us up in Figueres, about a twenty five minute drive to Céret, and when we pulled into town, we were inundated with the charm of the small French town. The narrow streets, miniscule even by European standards, barely fit our car and pedestrians sometimes had to slide into doorways in order to avoid the mirrors. Carl took us up to the apartment and introduced us to the beautiful view from the balcony, warmed by the Mediterranean sunshine. The most welcoming individual, Carl brought out some snacks and French beer and we basked in the heat while looking across the valley. A true French dinner, made by our host himself, ended with a tray of four cheeses and the epoisses stole the show. Filled to the brim, the comfort of a bed quickly became irresistible and we turned in.

The next morning we woke up in order to make it to the weekly Saturday market. It seems that the whole town of Céret is in attendance, either buying or selling fresh produce, homemade crafts, or delicious beignets. We picked up ingredients for dinner that night along with a dozen very, very fresh oysters (a personal favorite) to snack on that afternoon. I was again able to practice some French and was more than pleased at my ability to keep up with conversation. After a pitstop at the Café de Paris in the center of town for some café au laits, we went back to the apartment and could not escape the calling of the balcony drenched in sunlight. After an excellent respite, it was time to celebrate another Carnaval with the town of Céret. Carl’s friends, an elderly British couple Mavis and Bob, invited us to an apartment with a balcony above the parade route and we watched the raucous parade from the perfect vantage point. Evidently the parade goes through town twice, as if once was not enough, however we elected to leave after the first lap. My friends and I went exploring up a hillside and captured phenomenal views of the whole area before the sun finally set.

Dinner that night again followed the delicious French fashion, however, this time it was a demi-sec goat cheese that stole my fancy at the end of the night. After genial conversation and a quick check in on the NCAA tournament, we set for bed in order to rise early enough to take one last tour through town in the morning. We had a final café au lait at The Grand Café and walked the confetti-strewn streets one last time before Carl drove us back to Figueres to catch the train back to Barcelona. The weekend in Céret was relaxing and everything I needed to enjoy my time back in France. I also think I found the perfect retirement community for myself in 50 years or so.

Celebrate Me Home

Celebrate Me Home

March 20, 2012

Celebrate Me Home

It’s Tuesday and I am late in writing to you yet again…I think the European lax ideas of tardiness are starting to rub off on me.  All of my apologies, I am now caffeinated and ready to share!  So, to start where I left off…midterms ended (thank God) and break was upon us!  Spring break held the promise of so many enticing prospective destinations but I ultimately decided to venture out of Rome and visit the land of tapas, flamenco dancing, bull fighting, and where two of my best friends are currently studying.  Spain was the name of the game.

First stop: Madrid!  My friend Lauren and I flew into Madrid late (in American


terms) Thursday night and grabbed a taxi to our hostel.  Our Chicago roommate and best friend Emily was there waiting for us!  What a perfect start to our trip.  True to Spanish custom we did not go to bed upon late arrival but rather ate delicious tapas, drank copious amounts of sangria and stayed out as late as our bodies would let us.  In the following weekend we visited the Palacio Real, the Prado Museum, Plaza Mayor, and the St. Michael Market to name a few of our adventures.  We met up with another Loyola friend, Donais, who had studied in Madrid the year before.  She introduced us to some local friends and we hit the university nightlife scene.  It was a wonderful end to a spectacular weekend.  Luckily for me, it was just the beginning of my Spanish adventure.

Adios Madrid! Buenos dias Alicante!  Alicante is a small, southern beach town where the sun shines with promise and the people are some of the kindest I’ve met! Emily is studying at a university there and living with a host mom, which differs

Seaside in Alicante!

greatly from my dorm style living in Rome.  We walked the town soaking up the sun, sipping on café con leche and hearing all about Emily’s adventures in this gorgeous town.  The beach overlooking the Mediterranean Sea was flawless and locals and international students alike were taking full advantage of it.   We met some of Emily’s amazing friends and even had a true Spanish lunch with her house mom, Salome.  Despite about 4 years of Spanish language experience I am nowhere near fluent in the quick paced language.  Regardless, Salome spoke slowly and beautifully in a pace that I could understand and I felt like I was getting the kind of experience I could only dream of.  She made typical Spanish dishes and we spoke of politics and women’s rights for a delicious and leisurely 2-hour meal.  The next few days were characterized by climbing.  We climbed to the top of the Alicante castle and up the hill of a neighboring town to its gorgeous main plaza.  The views of the sea at sunset are some I will never forget.

Sad to say goodbye to Emily but excited about continuing our adventure, we headed up the coast to Barcelona.  Wow!  I have never experienced a cooler city in my life.

Parc Guell

The nightlife rages until morning, the food is spectacular, the shopping is divine, the people are beautiful, and the architecture is some of the most interesting I have ever seen!  I felt like a grown up kid walking around CandyLand in Parc Guell with the sandcastle-like creations of Gaudi.  We decided the city was too big to explore on own so I did something I thought I would never stoop to.  Yes, I took the infamous red tourist bus.  Sunglasses and scarves allowed us to feel incognito while boarding the bus stamped with “we aren’t cool enough to be from here” on the side.  The English speaking tour was actually thorough and helpful and I decided ultimately being cool was overrated anyway.  I shed my sunglasses and really took in the city from the roof of the bus…it was perfect!  Our other Chicago roommate and great friend, Thomas is studying in Barcelona this semester as well.  We grabbed dinner with him and got the honor to meet a bunch of his international and amazing new friends.  We played a traditional game with Germans, listened to Parisians talk about home, and played American beer pong with friends from the Netherlands.  It was the most internationally enlightening 21st birthday party I have ever been to.  As the week came to a close I was sad to say goodbye to Spain and to my old friends, but alas the time had come to pack up our messy hotel room and fly back to Rome.

The next week occurred without too many stories to share.  Midterms have slowed to a halt and I had time to take a cooking class and learn how to make homemade pasta with pesto sauce…yum!  The weather has been wonderful and we passed most of the week sitting in the courtyard soaking up the Italian sun.  The whole sunny week led up to one of my favorite holidays…St. Patrick’s Day. I was jealous of my friends’ Facebook and Twitter posts about the bright green river and two-day citywide celebration happening back in Chicago and it caused me to miss home quite a bit.  Who celebrates an Irish holiday in Italian Rome? A group of about 10 of my JFRC friends and I hit the town in our green shirts searching for any type of measly festivity.  We found it, but it wasn’t so measly after all.  The Irish pubs, the Italian restaurants, and the streets alike were alive with celebration.  We met new people, drank great beer, and celebrated until morning.  I found a comfort in Rome that day.  We really aren’t all so different after all.  After my week in Spain and my holiday in Rome, I have realized we are all just people looking for reasons to celebrate and to laugh.  I feel at home in this sentiment.

“May the road rise to meet you.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rain fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”



5 Countries. 11 Days. Challenge Accepted.

5 Countries. 11 Days. Challenge Accepted.

If I could  describe Spring Break 2012 in one word: whirlwind. It was seriously a crazy week of planes, trains and automobiles. The first day, I was in three countries. Three countries in one day. What is this craziness? That’s what I was asking myself as I reached my hostel that night. However, despite the insanity, it was the most amazing trip of my life. I learned and saw so much; I’ll never forget it.

I started off my Friday morning with a plane ride to Brussels, Belgium. It wasn’t spectacular weather, but it was still cool to experience the city. I discovered that I essentially forgot most of my French in favor of Italian. When ordering a coffee, I thanked the guy with a “grazie” instead of “merci”. The amount of times that happened on the entire trip was slightly embarrassing, but I guess that means I’ve fully embraced the Italian life, right?

To be honest, Brussels would have been cooler if I’d actually stayed there longer, but my hostel for the night was in Amsterdam. Visiting Brussels was sort of a trip of convenience (meaning I got an extremely cheap flight there). It was still nice, nonetheless, but I was excited to get my butt up to Amsterdam. So, I hopped on a three hour train ride and made it up to the city in time to curl up in bed. Needless to say, it was an exhausting day.

At least I got a Belgian Waffle.

I didn’t care much what my hostel looked like. I was just happy for a bed and a place to put all of my crap. The next morning was better though. I sort of overslept and rushed to get down to the free tour, barely missing it. So, I was determined to walk around and explore when I ran into the tour! Or so I thought. It wasn’t until halfway through that I realized I had joined a school group. Oh well. I still learned things and nobody said anything to me. After some unauthorized learning, I snuck away from the tour and headed back to the flower mart. It is one of the largest floating markets in Europe, but the Netherlands’ famous tulips are actually an import from India (thanks tour guide). They sell some pretty nice things for pretty cheap, so I took advantage, of course.

Ze flower mart.

The afternoon found me visiting the Anne Frank House, which was really amazing. What the family went through was unimaginable. I couldn’t believe how little room they actually had and how quiet they had to be. The rest of my time was spent eating and exploring. Overall, Amsterdam was pretty great, but definitely not my favorite place of the trip.

That came next: Berlin. Hopped on a quick flight from Amsterdam to Berlin on Sunday morning and was in the city by the afternoon. Words cannot describe how much I loved Berlin. It was definitely a different city from what I’ve experienced in Europe so far. It was far more modern and didn’t have that old world feel. It was largely destroyed in WWII and was not rebuilt for various political reasons. Actually, it was destroyed even more after the war. All of the old Nazi buildings were destroyed in a process called de-nazification. This was done for obvious (and right) reasons, but removed a huge part of the already destroyed Berlin.

Look! I’m in two different countries at once!

To be honest, I could have a whole separate post about Berlin’s history (I might; who knows?). I’ll just say I sufficiently nerded out over everything there was there. The city is essentially a living museum. However, it’s also a rapidly changing city. Most parts of the city that is there today was rebuilt in the last 60 years. There are remnants from WWII and then the occupation of Berlin. It’s so interesting to see the two sides of the city. The Communist half is completely different to the Allied half. Even to this day, it’s still black and white. But they’re rebuilding and expanding. If I went back to the city in a few years, it would probably be a completely different city than what I experienced last week. I find it fascinating and would go back just to see everything.

Me and the Berliner Dom.

I’ll give you a quick rundown on what happened since this post is already getting pretty long and I’m only halfway through. Free tour (with a pretty cute guide, I might say), visit to Reichstag (the government building), burrito for lunch (yes, it’s that important), German history museum (loooove), Berliner Dom (this epic cathedral), trip to concentration camp (I know; uplifting), fabulous food (and beer) and new friends.

Just chilling by the Berlin Wall. No big deal.

I just had the greatest time in Berlin. The people I met were fabulous and that’s very nice when you’re travelling by yourself. It’s fun to see what other people are doing and to learn about them. I was the only American in my hostel room for all four nights, so it was really interesting to meet Germans and learn about them and how they see the world. I also met a wonderful lady from the States on my concentration camp tour. We spent the day together and she was so kind!

I was a bit sad to leave, but also excited to meet up with friends again. I hopped on a train to Prague early Thursday morning and met my friends Nora and Emily. It was so cool to get back to that “Old Europe” feel and Prague certainly delivered. Wandering around the city was the best. It was just awesome to take in the sights. The next day we visited Prague Castle and did some shopping. I could say a lot more about Prague as well, but I’m sure you’re getting just as sick of reading this epic post as I am writing it.

The cathedral inside Prague Castle.

Quickly: The last two days were spent in Vienna. I wish I’d had more time there/had gone there at the beginning of the trip. It was honestly one of the most beautiful cities and just a lot of fun. We saw a ballet (which I may or may not have fallen asleep during) and went to the Royal Viennese Palace. It was really great. We had gorgeous weather the first day and just spent time outside enjoying it. Vienna is really an amazing city. If I could speak German, I would actually considering going there to study. That would be unbelievable.

We love palaces!

As great as spring break was, I will say that it was extremely nice to get back to Rome. It was definitely like coming home and I was even excited when I could see Italian (a language that I can actually understand now (what?!?)). I did and saw so much in just a week that it’s almost unbelievable. Exhausting, but so so great. It will definitely be a break I’ll never forget. /endextremelylongpost.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Italian Transportation in a Nutshell

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Italian Transportation in a Nutshell

Transportation is one of the most confusing aspects of life in Rome. Here’s a bit of a breakdown for anyone planning to travel to or from Rome soon:


There are two airports in Rome, Fiumicino (FCO) and Ciampino (CIA).From the JFRC, both will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour in a cab. There are ways to get there by public transportation, but if you have more than three companions, it tends to be about the same price to take a cab. The JFRC actually has a deal where the porter can order a cab for a 45 euro flat fee. This holds up to four passengers. They can also call larger cabs, which tend to work out to be about the same price when divided amongst passengers. Both airports are great and security is usually pretty quick. ALWAYS have your passport out to speed up the process and be sure to take your liquids out of your bag. Don’t be that guy in line.


The metro consists of just two lines. Orange and blue lines run through the area surrounding downtown. The closest stop to the JFRC is Cipro. From here, the metro stops at a lot of major sites, as well as connecting passengers to Termini. Termini is the central transportation hub of Rome. In addition to the metro lines, regional trains and buses also run from Termini. Cabs are always available in front of the building. The regional trains run further out into the suburbs, as well as some great day trip locations. The closest place to catch a regional train is the Balduina Station.


Never count on a bus to get you anywhere on time. It’s a great system that takes passengers to the best locations in the city, however, the schedule is arbitrary at best. Still, the buses tend to be the most used transportation by students at the JFRC. The 990 and 913 stop nearby and take students into the heart of downtown Rome. Buses only cost a euro per ride and tickets are good for any transfers for 75 minutes after you validate the ticket. There is also a night bus that runs after midnight, with an extended range. It’s always easy to find the N6 on a late night and it stops just a couple blocks from the JFRC.


In Italy, traffic rules are optional. Be wary of cars, scooters and other motorbikes.


They happen all the time, so keep an eye on what’s happening locally. The strikes usually only last a few hours, a day at most. They usually don’t hinder travel too much, but they can delay a trip or leave you waiting at a bus stop for hours confused. Just something to keep in mind.

But the best, most reliable for of transportation is…your FEET:

The best way to see the city is to get out there on foot and explore it. Once downtown, walking around Rome is no big deal at all. Maps tend to make distances look much larger than they are in real life. The roads are mostly short, narrow and easy to navigate. Also, people are friendly. Stop in a store and ask for directions, you’ll always find someone who can help you.

So go out and explore! It’s fascinating to see what you can find just by getting lost on all that transportation! Good luck!