The GoGlobal Blog

Month: October 2013

A Weekend in Par(adise)is

A Weekend in Par(adise)is

Merci, Paris, for a spectacular weekend!

London will always be my favorite, but spending this past weekend in Paris made me realize why everyone loves it so much. It was beyond gorgeous. Even in the wind and rain, the beauty of the white stone buildings made the whole city feel like a palace. The Eiffel Tower was much bigger than I had imagined, and the view from the top was amazing! When we came back down, I ate a crepe under the Eiffel Tower, probably the most ‘French’ thing to do possible.

The second day our tour group walked through Montmartre. I saw the largest mosaic art piece in the world at Sacred Heart Church, bought a really nice silk scarf of a Monet water color painting, saw the Moulin Rouge, and then departed Paris for a trip to the Palace of Versailles. I’ve studied Versailles a lot, but never completely grasped how massive it was until I saw it in person. No wonder there was a revolution! It was over-the-top decorated with more paintings and gold trim than imaginable. Unfortunately, the huge crowds packed in each room took away from the awe, and it was an additional fee to visit the gardens, which would have required more time to fully appreciate than I was allowed. That night I ate dinner at an old wine warehouse with a few other people from my tour group. The food, wine, and creme brulé were delicious!

We spent our last day in Paris visiting the Louvre art museum. It was a bit overwhelming to see so much art in one place. The building itself was huge, but again the crowds of people really took away from the experience. I risked my life pushing through tourists to snap a shot of the Mona Lisa (which was surprisingly smaller than I pictured).  After the Louvre we took the Eurostar back to London. The trip was expensive, but I valued having a guide and not stressing about how to get from place to place like in Germany.

In other news, I shattered my iPhone by dropping it down the center of a spiral staircase. I’ve had an iPhone for almost 3 years and never even scratched a screen until now. Fortunately I brought my old phone here with me and can use it when I’m on wifi. Europe in general has been good about having wifi connections, so I’m not too worried.

My goal this week is to do at least half of the things on my ‘To Do’ list, which includes writing papers, reading books, and sending post cards. I’ve vowed to stop buying clothes and only spend money on food, respectable souvenirs, and memorable experiences. We’ll see how long that lasts.

It’s hard to believe my time here is already half way over. I’m homesick for my nieces and American food, but I can’t say I’m at all looking forward to leaving London.


How to be a non-touristy tourist.

How to be a non-touristy tourist.

How do you become a non-touristy tourist? You can’t. If you want to be like a local, you’ll grab some take out and plop down on your couch for the better part of your trip.

What you can do, though, is be a cultural tourist rather than a sight-seeing one.

Back home in Chicago, I often find myself walking around, mouth wide open, staring at things. The city is teeming with life, and I’m always startled by the glimpses of beauty that I catch while walking down the block. For example, this summer, I stumbled across a community garden that runs along some train tracks in Andersonville. It was only a few feet wide, but there was gravel path that wound through artfully arced branches, creating a (terribly romantic) tunnel. It dawned on me that that is how you get to know a city; you find the little parts that individuals and communities have claimed for themselves and try to grasp what they see.

But, I live in Chicago. I take the Sears Tower (yes, Sears) and Navy Pier for granted. In a sense, I live in Cork too. I can take my time to blend in a bit before I whip out my Nikon and start madly snapping pictures of local monuments. Amsterdam, however, was a different ball game for me. I had to try to reconcile my urge to act like a local with my panicked need to see everything the city had to offer.

And so, I found myself fully accepting that at times I would look like an overzealous goof, trying to grab my camera out of my bag while attempting to tame the wild maps and souvenirs waiting for their escape. It’s OK to want to capture a city’s unique look and feel. If you crouch down enough and angle your camera slightly, people might believe you’re getting paid to take those pictures.

Grabbed a cheap breakfast of fruit from a local Turkish grocery store.

The key to not annoying the natives is knowing when to put the selfies aside. I’ve found that watching how people interact with each other – especially the small things, such as which side of the sidewalk people walk on – can carry just as much weight as learning when the royal palace was built. If you want to know the place you’re in rather than just see it, grab a cup of tea in every cafe you can. Beers in pubs work too, if that’s more your style. Everyday lives don’t often revolve around the great museums and statues, they center on the minimart down the street.

The most important thing is to have a framework for the day and then leave room for happy accidents. One night, a couple of friends and I were searching for a place to eat. We found a small restaurant called Serengeti down a side street. After debating about going in there or heading back to a Chinese place with an all-Dutch menu, we took a chance. The food was foreign, the decorations were bright and the setting was so intimate that we felt like we were barging in on a private party. In fact, I think we did. But after having a fantastic meal accompanied by some off-the-handle mango beers and music performed by the owner and her brother, I knew we found a gem. When I think of Amsterdam, that’s what I’ll remember.

Amazing mango beers.

Throw the guidebook out the door; you’ll know what’s important by how many people are crowding around it. Walk through parks and get lost. Cities are living organisms, and culture is the undercurrent pulsing through them. You can’t see it and you certainly can’t take a picture of it. You have to live it.

And you wanna know the best part of avoiding some of those sights? It’s cheaper too. #brokecollegestudent


If anyone is interested in seeing the large amount of pictures I did actually take while in Amsterdam, here’s the link.



Last week my friend Natalie came to visit me from Rome. It was great to get a little taste of home while being so far away!

Low point in the week: Really missing my American peanut butter.

Highlight of the week: Discovered ‘Sainsbury’s  Lemon Curd’, a sweet, lemon, jelly-like spread. I ate it with shortbread cookies, ritz crackers, and straight out if the jar with a spoon.

This past weekend I went to Germany with Catie. It was a really great time! We left London on Friday morning and flew to Munich, where I had my first European foreign language encounters. Luckily, the ATMs and train ticket machines had language options so we knew what we were buying. However, pronouncing names (especially figuring out what sound “ß” makes), locating points on maps, and communicating with locals wasn’t so easy. The Munich City Center was a huge shopping complex in the middle of the city. I bought a German wool hat and ate weinerschnitzel for dinner. On our second day in Munich we took a trip to Dachau Concentration Camp. It was absolutely the most uncomfortable place I’ve ever been. I’ll never forget that experience. After Dachau we took an overnight bus to Berlin.

At first, I had doubts about Berlin. It was more difficult to travel through and didn’t seem to have the same energy as Munich. That afternoon we took a free walking tour and learned a lot about the city’s history and development. To my surprise, Berlin by night was much more exciting than Berlin by day. The city was hosting a Festival of Lights, and there were some very impressive displays throughout the streets. On our second day in Berlin, Catie and I visited the Reichstag (German parliament building). There is a huge dome on top of the building for visitors to get a birds-eye-view of Berlin. We could see the changing leaves in Tiergarten (huge park in the middle of Berlin) and the constant construction taking place. Overall, I would consider the Germany trip a complete success…even though I left my watch on the overnight bus.

I’m still not loving the study part of studying abroad. I feel guilty for neglecting my schoolwork, but it’s hard to think about studying when there’s an entire continent waiting to be explored. I do make it a point to keep up with my developing creativity course. This was my latest homework assignment:

I’m leaving tomorrow morning for a 3-day guided tour of Paris, and I’m really looking forward to it! It’s a great feeling to be able to experience so many new things in such a short amount of time. If only my whole life could be like this…


“Analysand” – Week VII & VIII

“Analysand” – Week VII & VIII

“Analysand” : a person undergoing psychoanalysis.

Railroads crossing in Torun, Poland
Railroads crossing in Torun, Poland

I use this word to describe these two weeks with the utmost seriousness. The first reason is because these two weeks took me through a journey that sent me diving deep deep down into myself and asking “What can I do to help the world?” Not only did I spend my fall break traveling through Poland learning about the atrocities the Polish people have endured, but I also turned 22.

We will start where it began:

I boarded a plane around 9:00am having no idea what the week had in store for me. Luckily I was surrounded the entire time by some incredible people (faculty, alumni and students) who would share my feelings along the way. We arrived in Warsaw where we had free time and then took a tour of the historic Jewish Ghetto. Previously, I must mention, we were given a book by Jan Karski, A Secret State, that outlined his experience as a member of the underground movement in occupied Poland during WWII. When reading of the atrocities he witnessed in the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto I was immediately nauseous, but witnessing it full force in Warsaw everything really came to life.

That was just the beginning. We continued onto Torun (the hometown of Nicholas Copernicus), a small university town, where we met Polish college students, sat in on a symposium based around Jan Karski and the fight for Poland during WWII and the Cold War, and spent some downtime visiting a gingerbread factory. Luckily, our SLA Jenny Ruffing was conscientious of the fact that we would need some cheering up after the horrors we were first hearing about and added that last little adventure into our itinerary.

Now, let me take a moment to describe the symposium and the people that we met in Torun. We arrived at the college library early in the morning and sat among 2 other groups of college students to listen to 4 of the most educated people I have ever had the privilege of meeting speak about human rights. We learned about the underground government that was able to continue during occupied Poland and then the way that the allies sacrificed Poland to the Soviet Union even after they promised they would never do such a thing. We learned about Poland’s first fake liberation and then its real liberation with the ending of the cold war. We learned about the sacrifices that millions of individuals made in order to serve and save the country that they loved with a deep compassion. And we learned that we, as American students, had no idea what it meant to suffer, to be oppressed, to fight or to love anything the way the Polish people had in their lifetimes. In the end, we were taught what it meant to love your country and to be a human being in the face of disaster and death.

Leonard, JFRC Students and Bologna Students in Poland
Leonard, JFRC Students and Bologna Students in Poland

The people we met included my 3 favorite alumni of all time (who accompanied us throughout the entire trip) John, Leonard and Jim. These three men devote a large part of their lives to teaching young people, especially my generation, what it means to believe in human rights and the ability to do good in the world.


After the symposium we headed to Krakow where we had downtime and then saw Auschwitz. I cannot even begin to describe to someone who has not been there the way that a place like that can make you feel. I think the only way I can even try is to say that afterwards none of us felt much like eating or talking. My most vivid memory was walking through the room where they had preserved the hair that had been shaved from the Jew’s heads after they had been killed in the gas chambers. A whole room that was dedicated just to this part of the process of extermination that had children’s braids that had been thoughtlessly taken from them after they had been murdered in masses. Now before I described this part of my experience I thought about warning my audience that they should not read on if they did not wish to hear of such atrocious acts, but then I realized that that is what America has taught us to do. We allow our children, our citizens, my generation specifically to simply avoid such horrific matters. We give the choice to ignore all of the inhumane things happening in the world instead of simply teaching them and telling us to go and do something. If we all went and did something, do you think these things would still be happening around the world? I don’t. As we walked into the next room there were millions of shoes crowding the glass case and finally in the room after that there were dishes and silverware and briefcases that the Jews all brought with them simply thinking they were taking a trip to work camps that had been set up for them. At this moment I began to cry. It wasn’t one of those cries where it racks your body with sobs, but an internal cry that only lets out a few tears but makes you feel more beaten down and tired than you would have had you physically let everything out. What struck me even more was that no one else around me was crying. I don’t think it was because they were desensitized though, I think it was because they could only numb themselves down with all of this new information flooding their brains. How could people be so cruel?

We had a nice finishing dinner the day after when we were all able to stomach our food again and luckily the air was finally vibrating with the energy put into what we could do. What can you do? Well, that’s exactly the psychoanalysis we began to undergo.

From Poland I traveled to Prague. On the way there I met a woman who, back when she was younger, worked as a nurse in Northern African countries. This further fueled my realization that I could do something and I could do something big.

Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic

Then, being in Prague and turning 22 it began to hit me that I am maturing and now is the time to change whatever I can for the best. I began my morning with a more self-indulging gesture by getting my nose pierced. Ultimately it symbolized the change I was undergoing. Sometimes a change in appearance helps to solidify an internal change. I spent the rest of my weekend in Prague vacationing with friends and taking a small break from the difficulties I had experienced vicariously through my fall break trip.

Upon returning to Rome (now I can call it home, though) I opened up my Peace Corps application and started even more intensely to finish it as soon as I can.

I hope everyone can have an experience like I did during fall break because it is eye-opening. If everyone could go through that and come out with the positive outlook that I have now, the world could be a better place.



Fall Break and stuff

Fall Break and stuff

So yes, I realize I am the world’s worst blogger at this point but you’re just going to have to forgive me because not only has Rome captured my heart it has also captured most of my spare time. That, and it’s midterms week(s) so yeah, sorry everybody.

Fall break was absolutely amazing. I met my lovely parents in Venice to kick things off. Don’t get me wrong, I love living here but it was really great to see my parents- seeing them made me realize how homesick I am at times but also how much I have already grown throughout this adventure. Day 1 of Venice we spent avoiding the rain, touring the insanely gorgeous San Marco Church, trying some strange cuisine (pasta with cuddlefish ink sauce anybody?), and traveling by boat. everywhere. Venice is absolutely beautiful with it’s waterways, singing gondoliers, and beautiful art. While I kind of felt seasick the entirety of the time, I fell in love with how romantic this city is, particularly at night when all the lights reflect down the canals.

We spent 3 days in Venice and then took a highspeed train to Florence. Florence was an entirely different kind of beautiful and gave me another reason to love Italy. Florence is very much how I imagined Italy to be, it’s a quaint little town with gorgeous scenery and even more astonishing works of art. The highlights of this trip were the Uffizi Muesuem, Michaelangelo’s David (breathtaking), and the LEATHER. Determined to get ourselves some gorgeous Italian leather, my mother and I scoured the leather markets for a good half of the day in search of the perfect bags and I can very happily say we found them. I’m starting to get more comfortable haggling prices with the vendors so I put my skills to use and knocked the prices of our new purses down quite a bit. It was an extremely sastisfying day. We also checked out the impressive Duomo, enjoyed the Chianti Classico that Florence is known for, and walked around Ponte Vecchio.

As much as I loved Venice and Florence my favorite part of fall break was showing my parents ROME (we spent the last few days here). I have come to consider this place home and I enjoyed showing my parents all of my favorite spots.

that is all.



Chicago, Home Away From Home

Chicago, Home Away From Home

For many of Loyola students, no matter where from, Chicago is another place they can call home. But what is really “home” anyway? What do we really mean when we ask someone where they are from? Do we want to know where they were born? Where they grew up or where they are currently living?

For my part, home is where the heart lies. I know, it’s really cheesy and cliché but it is also very true. I have called many places home at the same time. I was born and raised in France, my mom is from Benin and my dad is from Congo. I have studied abroad in Spain, Canada, and China and this is my last semester as an international student in Chicago. In this sense, to me home is at the same time the place of origin and the place where you find comfort. I call Paris home because it is where I grew up and where my family is but I also call Chicago home because I have been here for the last three years now.

Studying in Chicago I have found many friends that I hope to keep around me forever, and familiarized myself with places that were unknown to me three years ago. You need to be away from home to know you miss it but then you make another one without ever forgetting where you came from before.


Barcelona!!!!! + more

Barcelona!!!!! + more

SCHOOLWEEK: Earlier this week for my Spanish Medical Class we took a trip to the Centro de Salud in Madrid, which is located a couple blocks away from the Prado in the downtown area. Spain currently has public healthcare, and since it is broken into autonomous regions, each region has its own “Centro de Salud,” or health center, that all citizens can access for general healthcare. At the Centro de Salud, people are assigned to a family doctor, pediatrician, social worker, etc. We received a tour from the director of the center, who was very nice and welcoming of questions. The biggest surprise of mine was that due to lack of space, the patient check-up rooms were in the same room as the doctor’s offices. I immediately thought of the germs circulating from the sick patient to the doctor’s desk…

BARCELONA: On Thursday night I took an 8 hour overnight bus with 7 other people to Barcelona, and arrived early Friday morning. After checking into the hostel, we headed over to the immensely beautiful and intricate La Sagrada Familia, designed by Antoni Gaudi. It was my main mission in Spain to view this marvel, and we were fortunate enough to have bought tickets to go inside and explore. The inside of the church is quite different from the outside, but equally as beautiful and ornate. Later in the night we went out to the bars/discotecas, which turned out to be an interesting experience. On Saturday, we bought hop-on-hop-off bus tour tickets to explore the city most efficiently, which I would recommend to anyone wanting to visit Barcelona. Along the bus ride, we saw Parc Guell (a Park that Gaudi designed), Las Ramblas (where Gaudi’s house is located and is the main shopping center of Barcelona), Plaza Espanya (home to beautiful architecture and important government buildings), and many other famous sites in Barcelona. On Sunday I visited Montserrat (thanks to the recommendations of many), which essentially a city on top of a mountain, and is the site of a beautiful monastery, great views, good eating, winding (and steep) trails, churches, and plazas with beautiful architecture! This unique adventure started with our mode of transportation to access the mountain- We rode on a small tram-on-a-rope vehicle (basically a pulley) to the top of the mountain! I was very impressed as to how clean the city was, and I had to keep reminding myself how high up I was. As we were walking on the trails, one of my friends pointed out that as we looked out, we could see each individual cloud and the whole shadow it cast onto different areas of land below us…A very unique perspective on our altitude.

During one of the weeknights this week, I went paddleboating in Retiro Parque with 3 of my friends, 2 of whom were visiting from Rome. Even though it required arm strength I do not have, I enjoyed many laughs and a great time. In order for my Rome friends to completely enjoy Madrid, we took them to El Tigre later in the night for massive mojitos and yummy, greasy tapas. To my delight, we went for churros and chocolate as well!

Friday I am going on a day trip to La Mancha with my USAC progam, which is the location of the book “Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes. I am planning on staying in Madrid for the remainder of the weekend, and revisiting/re-appreciating the famous sites Madrid has to offer.


-Barcelona is part of an autonomous region called Catalonia, which is trying to become its own, independent country.

-Catalon, (the language spoken in the Catalonia area, including Barcelona) is NOT the same as Spanish.

-People wear shirts with American sayings, and I don’t think they fully understand what those sayings mean…

-People walk slow, everywhere.


-I’ve had churros y chocolate three times since I have been here.

-I am craving paella.

Modern Art in an Ancient City

Modern Art in an Ancient City

Took a trip to the 798 Art District yesterday. It was a slice of Beijing that was a beautiful mixture of the modern generation transforming the ancient China into a cultural, colorful and creative country (so many C’s!). It was very similar to American street fairs and urban areas. There were plenty of modern art, and some pieces of old art that have been revamped. Also, there was an area dedicated to spray painting where anyone could buy spray paint and contribute to the ever changing murals.

There were many shops and cafes all with individual flair. Numerous retro pieces from the Cultural Revolution and Communist Takeover. A majority of the population was my age or in the 20’s range. It was definitely a place that we all could fit into. It takes up a few blocks and and is very easy to get turned around in the alleyways and galleries.


成语, Cheng yu, a Peek into Ancient China

成语, Cheng yu, a Peek into Ancient China

The Chinese culture is very rich in history as one of the oldest civilizations in the world. A few days ago my Chinese tutor decided to teach me a few cheng yu’s after our lesson. Cheng yu’s are four character phrases that summarize stories from history and can be substituted in sentences as adjectives. (Almost) Every Chinese person knows and understands these phrases and can be used in literature and everyday conversation. The closest English translation would be Chinese idioms. Here’s the four she taught me:

望梅止渴 (Wang2 mei1 zhi3 ke3): Literally translated means “anticipate plum stop thirst”. The story behind it goes on one summer day a commander in the San Dynasty was on a distant campaign and on that particular day it was extremely hot. Nobody knew where to find water and men were dropping all around. To raise moral the commander shouted that there was a plum forest ahead and made the soldiers mouths water. They had arrived at the battle ground in good spirits. The underlying meaning in this phrase is “Living on hope.” Meaning in plain terms that it is mind over matter when you are faced with extreme difficulties.

草船借箭 (Cao3 chuan2 jie4 jian4): Literally translated means “grass boat borrows arrow”. There were three kingdoms and one area was more financially successful than the other. The rich kingdom could afford to make many arrows while the poor kingdom could not. So, the leader of the poor kingdom had many boats made of grass built and sent them out on the river that separated the two areas. The rich kingdom was ordered to fire as many arrows as possible at these grass boats however, the arrows simply stuck in the grass boats. The boats were brought back and the poor kingdom took all of the arrows stuck in the grass. They then used those arrows to defeat the rich kingdom. The over meaning of this idiom is “means of achieving one’s goal by wisely making use of others’ manpower or financial resources.”

卧薪尝胆 (wo4 xin1 chang2 dan3): Literally means “lay grass bed taste bitter.” The state of Wu launched an attack against the state of Yue). The king of Wu died and his son Fun Chai became the new king. Fu was determined to revenge. Three years later he led an army and captured the state of Yue’s king, Gou Jian and kept in in the state of Wu. Fu made Guo Jian live in a shabby home to raise horses for him. Guo was loyal to Fu but never forgot his humiliation. Many years later Guo was set free and he secretly accumulated a military force after returning to his own state. In order to make himself stronger he slept on firewood and ate a gall-bladder before having dinner and going to bed every night. He prepared the people of his state and eventually seized a favorable opportunity and wiped out the state of Wu. The overall meaning of this one is that “One who endures self-imposed hardships to strengthen one’s resolve to realize one’s ambition.”

东施效颦 (dong2 shi1 xiao4 pin2): Literally translated “[name of girl] frown”. There were two concubines and one was extremely beautiful with a retched  personality and one who was extremely ugly with a pure personality. The beautiful woman was so beautiful that even when she frowned people believed she looked even more beautiful. Seeing this the ugly woman imitated the beautiful woman, but in stead only making herself appear more ugly from frowning continually. The underlying meaning of this idiom is “Copying someone’s action to benefit from it, but end up with the negative result”. Or more simply put, “blindly imitating someone”.

Cultural Differences

Cultural Differences

I guess you can call them “cultural differences,” but there are some aspects of England that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. First, when you walk into a building you are on the ground floor; and when you walk up a flight of stairs you are now on the first floor…? It seems like it could be logical to some, but how can you have one floor on bottom and one floor on top, and the second one be the first floor? So confusing. Second, how can an entire dialect refrain from using the letter Z (Which, by the way, is called “zed” here, not “zee”)? I don’t want to “realise,” maximise,” or “organise.” I just want my z’s back.  Third, England doesn’t have real lemonade. They call it lemonade on the menus, but it’s really just Sprite 🙁

My first week of classes has been just okay. I think it will take a while to get the hang of things. My school doesn’t have a bookstore, so I’ve ordered books from 3 different stores in London and have to go pick them up at each location because I’m skeptical about the mail delivery to my building. Also, my teachers, or “lecturers” as they’re called, go by their first name, which is odd for me. But what’s most odd is that my classes are surprisingly small, and everyone knows everyone else, because all the students studying the same major have a set schedule of classes. They basically only take classes with the other students in their major. The school doesn’t have a core curriculum or general education classes, the students just study their major. Unfortunately, this alienates me and the other international students in my classes. Hopefully we will learn to fit in.

My favorite class is definitely “Developing Creativity.” We began our lecture with everyone taking paperclips and discussing how many ways a paperclip can be used. Our homework for next week is to bring a special bag to class filled with obscure items that impact our lives. Every week is a new activity/project! It’s my earliest class and my furthest one away, but it’s certainly going to be one worth waking up for.
This weekend I went on two day trips, one to Canterbury and Dover and another to Portsmouth to visit the Royal Navy Museum. Both were excellent! I’ve also booked trips to Germany in 2 weeks, and Paris in 3 🙂 I’m so excited. It’s wonderful to have so many new things to see and do all the time. Being here is really great!

The beautiful town of PortsmouthLoyola Royalty at Dover Castle