The GoGlobal Blog

Month: May 2013

Hasta la vista America! Opps, I mean Ciao!

Hasta la vista America! Opps, I mean Ciao!

May 17th, 2013: the day I’d been waiting for since I first heard about the John Felice Rome Center. The day that trumped being done with finals. The day that I would continue to live my dream of traveling the world. May 17th, 2013 was the day that I departed for 6 weeks in Rome and there was no looking back. This particular Friday was not like any other travel day I had ever experienced. For instance, wake up, wave goodbye to my small Iowa town, drive 2 hours to the Minneapolis airport, go through security, eat overpriced airport food blah blah blah, you know the routine. For me, May 17th, 2013 was also the day that my little brother would make his debut at the Iowa High School State Track and Field Meet at Drake University. What a day for my parents, watch their only son be one of 24 boys in the 1A state division to compete for the high jump state title, and ship me off to Europe for half of the summer (probably to get me out of the house. Genius.) This day of excitement called for a 5 am wake up, I repeat, 5 AM! A little fun fact about myself, I am not exactly the happiest camper in the morning (and that’s putting it nicely, ask my mother). But as my Dynamite alarm clock sounded, I had to have been the happiest person on planet earth; I kid you not. Fast-forwarding through the track meet, I gave my brother a congratulatory slap on the back and received my first goodbye hug. Needless to say, there were no tears shed on either end. And so my parents and I went on our merry way. Des Moines → Mason City (to pick up the dog of course) → Minneapolis → Amsterdam → Rome. Unfortunately for my parents, that sequence stopped at Minneapolis and took a u-turn back to Mason City. Saying goodbye to my parents went exactly how I expected it to go. My dad gave me the typical “Be safe honey. You’re going to have the time of your life but you need to be careful, you’re in a foreign place and people will recognize that” lecture. My mom, a woman of many tears, surprisingly did not cry. Which proved my theory that she was indeed sending me off to Europe to get me out of the house. However, only 15 minutes into my solo journey, 1 new text message (MOM). Apparently the tears were just a little delayed that day because she told me that she was now crying. To whoever is reading this, I will save you all some time, the Minneapolis airport and my slumber across the Atlantic Ocean is not all that exciting. “Attention passengers traveling on Delta flight 9580 service from Amsterdam to Rome, at this time we will begin boarding business class and Platinum card holders.” I anxiously jump out of my chair only to sadly remember that I am a college student who is definitely not flying first class. Wait, did I really just use the adverb sadly while explaining my travel experience to Rome?! Someone slap me now. When it was finally turn for me to board, I happily claimed my seat next to a window. Remember when I said I wasn’t exactly a morning person? Well that was all catching up to me (even after I slept 7 of the 9 hours of the first flight) so naturally I slept a majority of this flight as well. When I woke up, I started talking to the middle-aged American woman next to me about our travel plans. She then began digging around in her purse and telling me about her daughters that were my age. She pulled out a small paperback prayer booklet and handed it to me. She knew I was traveling alone and going to be a long ways from home for a while and told me if I ever get lonely or homesick to take a look inside. It’s small acts of kindness like that that restore my faith in humanity. It wasn’t until I had to lug my bags on my own that I realized I EXTREMELY over packed. Luckily it wasn’t more than 200 feet before I was swarmed with Italian male taxi drivers. I agreed to one and he led me to his car where his wife actually drove me to campus. After some slight confusion with directions (yes Mom, I got lost, not surprising I know), my two-day travel extravaganza was over. As I walked up the cobblestone walkway I heard a familiar voice clearly coming from a window of one of the dorm rooms. “Grace grace!” I looked up and noticed it was my friend and teammate, Rachel Bush, surrounded by a group of new friends hollering, smiling, and laughing. It was that moment that I knew I was going to have the time of my life at the John Felice Rome Center. Keep reading miei amici (my friends). Ciao! grace

Making My Way Through Roma

Making My Way Through Roma

One of the most interesting things about studying abroad so far is the Italian culture. It should be no surprise that it’s different from the States. There’s a change of pace.

It is quite challenging to be in a country without knowing the native language. I have picked up some phrases here and there. I might not become an expert, but I’ll be very happy if I at least learn how to order a gelato in Italian!

Of course, when coming to a new country, you start to pick up their customs. Stores are not open during the late afternoon because it’s “siesta” time. You might have to wait five or fifteen minutes for the 990 bus.

That doesn’t mean that Italy is a terrible place. It’s different. Everyone here is more relaxed, which I enjoy. Dinners last longer. Waiters don’t rush you to finish your meal. You can sit back and chat with your friends. It also gives us extra time to savor the pizza and pasta. 

You can’t forget about the “study” part of being abroad. The past weekend I was able to take a tour of Pompeii. Walking through the ancient ruins made me picture a busy ancient Roman city with forums, theatres, and homes. The group and I even got to eat lunch on Mount Vesuvius!

A street in Pompeii

In addition, I had an amazing opportunity with other JFRC students to visit the pope’s summer residency and the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo. Brother Guy Consolmagno, an American reserach astronomer and planetary scientist, gave us a great tour. Lake Albano is gorgeous!

Lake Albano

I have to say that the JFRC has done an incredible job on having students connect in studying abroad. We have dinner outings every week and other fun events. You can feel the sense of community here. This weekend I’ll be hiking in Abruzzo for another study trip so I am excited to see another part of Italy. I’ll write again next Thursday. Ciao!

Summer School is Cool

Summer School is Cool

At orientation we received our class schedule, and needless to say I was not super thrilled to see that my Spanish class was from 8-11, Monday through Friday. However I was pleasantly surprised when I went to class Monday morning and the three hours flew by. There are only five people in my Spanish class and the professor is a native Costa Rican who speaks English fairly well. Instead of the very structured type of classes that I am used to in the States, my professor, Cristian, is great at maintaining an informal environment that is conducive to students asking questions and learning from each other. When I took Spanish in the States, I found it to be much more difficult because I did not have the opportunity to practice it in a variety of ways. Since I am in such a small classroom here, we write stories in Spanish and receive immediate feedback, we hold conversations with each other in class, and Cristian asks us questions individually to ensure that we each have a chance to practice correctly. Additionally, when we all go home to our host families, we can try and speak all of the new words we learned that day. Although I may be a slow speaker that has a long way to go grammatically and phonetically, my host family is very understanding and they help me finish my sentences and formulate thoughts in Spanish.

The other two classes I am taking are Dances of Latin America and Latin American History. They are each one credit so we only meet for three hours a week for each class. The dance class is so much fun and a nice break from doing homework. Our teacher’s name is David and let me just tell you, his hips don’t lie. I attempt to mimic his steps and movements but continue to fail miserably. Most of the students here are in the class so it is a fun way to interact with each other. So far we have learned the salsa and the merengue. The salsa is much easier, whereas the merengue has a tempo and rhythm that I am not used. I also feel that you need a certain genetic trait to move your hips the way you are supposed to when you do the merengue. David gives us each individual attention to improve our form. There is only one guy in my dance class, so the ladies partner up with each other to learn these two person dances. My history class is super low key, and again has a very small class size. The professor’s name is Arturo, and he is absolutely hilarious. He speaks almost perfect English. He let us choose the three Latin and South American countries that we want to learn about for the remainder of the term. We chose Colombia, Cuba, and Chile. We watched a movie called, “The Mission,” with Robert De Niro on our first day to learn about colonialism and imperialism in South America. I am excited to learn more in all of my classes.


My First Weekend in Puntarenas!

My First Weekend in Puntarenas!

I have officially survived and tremendously enjoyed my first week in the beautiful Puntarenas, Costa Rica. My time thus far has been jam packed with traveling, schoolwork, and of course beach time. We first arrived at midnight Friday the 17th, and were greeted by our host families. Costa Ricans, locally referred to as “Ticos,” greet women by hugging and giving you a kiss on the cheek, immediately establishing friendship. My host family consists of my mother Gabriela, her husband Miguel, and her son Jorge. Her husband works in a different city so he is gone a lot, but I am fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of time with Gabriela and Jorge. When I first arrived at their house, I was offered food and drinks and was given my own bedroom and bathroom. My ethnocentricity led me to believe that everyone everywhere spoke English, so I was very surprised to learn that most people in Puntarenas do not speak English. The mother speaks a little English, but the son speaks quite a bit since he has been taught it for several years in school. I am impressed by both of their English speaking skills, because based on my first semester of college Spanish, it is extremely difficult to learn another language. Jorge was able to translate for his mother and I my first night so that all of my questions were answered.

My first full day in Puntarenas was pretty incredible. I was awakened by the chirping of tropical birds and Costa Rican sunlight pouring into my room around 6:00 am. My host mother made me a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, very similar to a breakfast in America. My host father’s sister also has a USAC student so after breakfast, my host aunt brought the student over. Her name is Diana, and we met up with a few other students and walked around Puntarenas for most of the day. We live literally five minutes from the beach! Puntarenas is a quiet beach town, filled with families who have all lived here for years. There are tons of restaurants and corner stores. We walked town to a local market that is on the beach and bought some souvenirs and real coconut water. By real coconut water, I mean we actually bought a whole coconut with the top cut off and a straw was put in the middle. It was delicious and refreshing on such a hot, humid day in Puntarenas. For the rest of the day we laid out on the beach and went to a club called “Mystikallis.” We looked like such gringos though because we went super early because we were afraid to be out late in a foreign country! Earlier in the day after lunch, Diana and I walked around for about an hour lost out of our minds. The houses in Puntarenas all look very similar with large patios out front and gates so we discovered the importance of paying attention…

On Sunday we had orientation to learn more about the culture and the city of Puntarenas itself. Some interesting things to know about the city are that women wash their own underwear, sunscreen is about $20 a bottle, shampoo and conditioner are in locked cabinets at stores, men constantly cat call women, they have the coolest soap EVER, and most Ticos follow “Tico Time,” which means most Ticos run about 20-30 minutes late. They also told us about the trips we will be taking with USAC which I am super pumped about. We are going to Tortuga Island and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Overall I am super stoked to be here and to be immersed in such a wonderful and different culture.


There’s lots of world out there!

There’s lots of world out there!

There is nothing more exhilarating than trying something new. As soon as I got off the plane, I can feel a new atmosphere in Italy. It might be scary to some, including myself, to make that decision to spend a few weeks away from home. I decided to travel alone without any family or friends. Sometimes you just need to take that jump and I’m glad I decided to study abroad. Now I’m spending my first part of the summer at the John Felice Rome Center.

Rome is absolutely beautiful.

I recently finished my first week of classes and this whole week is becoming a wonderful blur for me. One day, I’m taking pictures of the Vatican. Another night, I’m grabbing a cup of gelato down the road with new friends from the JFRC. The next day, I’m strolling through Villa Borghese. Last night, I was able to enjoy some wood fired pizza for dinner with the other JFRC students.

Hopefully, blogging will give me the opportunity to share my stories and allow others to get a glimpse on what it’s like to study abroad. For classes, I’m reading stories that are set in Italy (Exploring Fiction) and understanding the appreciation of beauty (Aesthetics).

Since this is my first time in Rome, I still have so much to see of the city. I also plan to visit other parts of Italy such as Pompeii, Abruzzo, and Assisi. I am ready for more adventures to come!

Finding Home in Rome

Finding Home in Rome

The Trevi fountain, the women in stilettos on cobblestone streets, the gelato, the smell of Italian fresh flowers – it has all been a whirlwind of impressive beauty here in Rome! I am currently in day three at my new home in the JFRC where I will reside for the next five weeks.  The whole time I’ve been here I have felt completely full.  Maybe from the genuine meats, cheeses and pasta served here at the JFRC and the full four course meal we had on a day trip yesterday.  Maybe from what seems like a heightened sense of smell I’ve received from the clean air and poignant smells of food and scenery.  Maybe from the rich history that I am surrounded by.  Regardless, in the past 72 hours I have absorbed so much of Rome and it has left me with a feeling of warmth and thankfulness.

Classes began today, and to those reading for future experience on study abroad – do it!  I cannot explain enough how much I have learned, seen, and enjoyed in the past three days alone.  My first day of class revealed that my experiences here are far from full and also are far from being over.  In my Italian culture and context class I will be experiencing Rome by learning to make pizza, taste testing food & wine, and also touring monasteries in the countryside.  The day trips ahead of us in our group sound incredible – the ancient & beautiful Abrazzo, Tuscany, Pompei, etc!  I know from the tour of the rolling green Lazio countryside yesterday and the Palazzo Frenese day trip yesterday that this experience is far from over.  My feeling of being whole is only the beginning and I cannot wait to spill over more of my experiences to be recorded on this blog.

Until next time! Xoxo, ciao!

OH MY…2 Days left…

OH MY…2 Days left…

Hola Todos!

Well my time here has just about come to a close.  I have had several amazing experiences this semester in Madrid.  I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity.  I leave for Dallas on Thursday May 16th.  I have a direct flight, which is really nice, and I should land around 5pm Central Standard time.  I am not fluent but I have definitely improved.  Speaking is much harder then listening and understanding.  I can almost completely understand Spaniards when then speak.  I have made some great spanish friends and I have discovered great restaurants, bars and clubs throughout the city.  I am really going to miss Madrid, I have learned to call this my home.

Well for the 5 day weekend my friends and I went to Malaga, which is in the south of Spain, and we had a blast!  We went to the beach, went swimming in the pool at our hotel and read books.  It was a very relaxing vacation.

Last week was the last week of classes and today was our Spanish final.  I am happy to announce that I have completed all of the verb conjugations!!  This is definitely one of the highlights of my spanish speaking career.  If I would have known there were 2 MILLION (an exaggeration of course) verb conjugations I think I would have quit 6 years ago… Anywho, I think the final went well and hopefully I will finish this class with an A or A- as well.

My friends and I are trying to do everything and eat everything we cannot do or eat back in the U.S. which is surprisingly stressful!  I packed tonight, I only have one big bag to check so in order to fit everything including the new clothes I bought and souvenirs, I am actually leaving some of my clothes here.  We went to the Madrid open and saw Serena Williams and Federer play!  It was incredibly surreal!

The weather has been spectacular lately but it is suppose to rain tomorrow and Wednesday, (I think Madrid is going to cry because I am leaving).  I am looking forward to some aspects of going home for example, I really miss spicy food and flavorful food.  I miss driving around.  I miss not having to convert euros to dollars and Celsius to Fahrenheit and Miles to Kilometers and just the whole metric system.  I miss English.  I  miss malls.  I miss breathing fresh air without cigarette smoke interrupting it every couple of seconds.

Tomorrow is my last day of volunteering at the elementary school, and the kids do not understand that I am leaving 🙁  it is very sad.  I have grown to really like those kids and it is going to be really sad saying goodbye to them.  Saying goodbye to my spanish professor was actually pretty hard today as well.  She was such a fun awesome and amazing professor.  She is the best racquetball player in Spain.  Our whole class was in spanish and she really helps us translate and conjugate anything.  Saying goodbye to Paloma, my host mom, is going to be very sad as well.  I am not looking forward to all of the goodbyes I have coming up this week!

Speaking of Paloma, she has been teaching me how to cook.  This week I learned how to make torltilla de patata and croquetas.  Both are very easy and have few ingredients, but all Spanish food is easy to make and has few ingredients.


Alright so now some things that I have noticed:

Spaniards are not the best dancers.

If a thief steals your stuff and you catch them they will give you your stuff back.


I am going to have to think of some more stuff but that is all for now!!

Stay Tuned!!

Tyler Monroe

Serena Williams!