The GoGlobal Blog

Month: February 2014



Rome for the weekend.

This past weekend a few of my friends and I stayed in Rome. We explored the city and spent the day soaking in the sun. We got to relax by the Tiber near Castel Sant’Angelo and have a picnic. Literally we bought fresh cheese, wine, and bread and had ourselves a romantic little picnic for Valentines Day.

To top it off there was a little man playing his guitar and singing… It was like we were in a movie. I absolutely loved it.

The next day I decided to branch out a little and try something new. I hopped on the train after breakfast and headed to the beach. I jumped on the train to Lido and spent the most beautiful relaxing day wandering around. The train that took me to Lido was called “freccia mare” literally: Sea Train. Omg… I was in love. So I spent the day around this little sea side town.

This weekend was nice because I made memories, simple memories, had so much fun, and everything I did was unplanned. It’s nice knowing that you don’t have to go to another country every weekend to take full advantage of studying abroad. Especially here in Rome.


photo 2 photo photo 1

Communism, Torture, and a Busted Knee

Communism, Torture, and a Busted Knee

First blog post of the semester!

I’ve officially been in Prague for almost a month and let’s just say it feels as if I’ve been here at least 2, but in the best possible way. The first days were  jam packed with city tours, pastries, illness, and an intensive course in the Czech language. But as a result, I have fallen in love with this beautiful place that is unlike any city I have heretofore experienced (and remember).

First of all, Prague has plenty of its own twists and quirks. The streets, for example, are set up in an unsystematic jumble. Some cities such as Chicago are built upon a grid with a neatly organized system, which makes finding your way around relatively easy if you have a general idea of where you’re going. Praha, on the other hand, is all, “Grid? Nah, sorry. Good luck with that. We prefer the winding, cobblestone set up of the 16th century”. I have wandered back and forth between my apartment in Praha 8 to Old Town in Praha 1 (which, fun fact, is around 1,100 years old) and still have no idea how I got there. Thankfully, my roommates have a better sense of direction than me.

Another eccentricity of this old city are the random English words spray painted in the most random of places. “Ladder” was plastered on a wall, “time” carved in the snow, but my personal favorite is “crab salad” on the side of a building seen on the way to class. There’s speculation as to whether the artists knew what those words meant or just decided to use random English in order to confuse the general population. But most of the younger generation speak English rather well.

Since I have been terrible with updating this blog so far here’s a quick rundown of the first month:

Since Prague doesn’t use the euro prices here are pretty fantastic. Well, at least when it comes to groceries. Walk through any of the touristy areas and suddenly a 35 Kr cup of coffee skyrockets to 85 Kr. I spent the past weekend in Venice and it nearly broke me. Seriously. I’m so happy I chose to live here.

Although our program directors insist that we aren’t tourist, we’re students, there are touristy attractions that are impossible to resist. The Museum of Communism is a big one for, as most people know, the Czech Republic operated under the Communist Regime from 1948 until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. It’s amazing how this centuries old city managed to retain it’s identity after years of oppression, including Nazis and Communists. The Museum of Communism runs through what it was like to live during the Communist regime and includes a video of demonstrations and the police brutal handling any sort of protest. Another more grotesque tourist museum I’ve visited was that of the Medieval Torture Instruments. Let’s just say I’m glad I live in the 21st century and not the Middle Ages. Some of the inventions were so simple, yet so terrible. The graphic pictures and descriptions are not for the faint of heart.

Prague is not a terribly large city, which means walking most places isn’t totally out of the question if you know where you’re going (I usually don’t). However, a lot of walking isn’t necessarily good on the knees if you aren’t accustomed to it because at one point I was pretty sure I broke my knee. Not literally but it wasn’t happy with me for about a week and a half and I don’t blame it considering I kept walking on it, up and down incredibly long escalators and uneven cobblestones.

One of my favorite parts about Prague though are the pastries. The best, in my personal opinion, is the koláč, which is a round pastry with fruit filling in the middle. I can’t even count how many I’ve had so far but I strongly recommend to anyone who visits this beautiful city to buy one in a bakery or from a street vendor because it will change your life. Well, maybe not but you’ll never be satisfied with a mediocre bread product ever again.

That was the TL;DR version of my first weeks here in Praha. As hard as it may be to live in a country where I have only a weak grasp on the language and in a city whose streets continue to disorient me, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Every stone and brick contains a secret story of rich history that maybe, with time, will reveal itself to me. 1013952_10151844347196883_153189941_n



The more things seem to change…

The more things seem to change…

In my time in Morocco, I’ve been so fortunate to experience many different aspects of life: Living with a different family. Eating different foods. Learning about a different culture. Observing a different religious tradition. Meeting different students from different universities. There are lots of differences here. However, today I’ve realized one important part of Moroccan life that is not different at all. In fact, it’s exactly the same… Sick days.

I won’t say that I have strep throat, because I haven’t been tested by a doctor. Or even seen one. But I do have some strep-like illness of the throat, rendering me mostly speechless and pretty much useless all day. However, I’ve been able to seek comfort in the familiar process of waking up late, practically begging my parents to let me stay home from school, sleeping, going to the pharmacy with my (host) mama, sleeping some more, taking medicine, and eating Nutella out of the jar (oops… slipped that in there, didn’t I?). The more things change, the more they stay the same, and all I want right now is a nice big bowl of soup. But it’s not chicken noodle that I’m craving, not even tomato. I asked my host mom for a nice, big bowl of harira, the traditional Moroccan Ramadan soup. I guess the more things stay the same, the more they seem to change as well.

I am kind of mad at myself, because I have so many amazing stories to tell from the past week including a trip to Fes, a ‘funky’ hostel, Western creature comforts, and some actual ACADEMIC-related stories (because, oh yeah, this is STUDY abroad). Alas, I will have to save those for when I have more energy. Perhaps post-soup…

Nella Citta Eterna

Nella Citta Eterna

Whoever said that taking a semester abroad is like being on vacation in college was slightly mistaken.

Although being surrounded by so much art, history, culture and great looking Italians has its perks, the workload that defines being a college student does not falter while abroad. Of course you do have on-site classes to look forward to which are necessary in order to fully understand what you are studying at the moment (in the case that the class pertains specifically to Rome/Italy). The ability to conquer sightseeing and enough study time is a fine art you will come to master during your semester abroad.

As for me, it truly is no lie that time flies when you are having fun. For a minute I could have sworn I had been here for barely two weeks and before I knew it has already been a month! I mean I know time is relative and all but could I be having that much fun or does the world turn faster in Europe? So far I have throughly explored my new hometown, the Eternal City, visited the Amalfi Coast for our orientation trip and went to one of the world’s smallest nations with one of the highest GDP per capita for a lovely party at the Italian Ambassador’s House in Luxembourg.

My advice to future J-Forcers: Definitely take time to plan trips out before arriving here in order to fully take advantage of your time here but leave room for spontaneous trips. You never know what life has in store for you. Plan on bringing clothes that aren’t so snug. Whilst living in Italy, it is NOT a good time to try starting a diet and I don’t care how many five-star Italian restaurants you have been to. It will never be the same as eating Italian food in Italy. Not to mention the fact that gelato is addictive and you will crave it at least twice a week. Enjoy the experience and don’t limit yourself. Also if you are set on not gaining weight here (HA), do plan on living at the Zone Hotel. That twenty minute uphill walk is no joke but the breakfast makes it totally worth it.

That’s all my advice for now. This weekend I’m off to London for Fashion Week so that should make for an interesting time. Until then it’s homework city for me.

The Vatican

The Vatican

I got to see the Pope.

Wait… what.

On Wednesday Loyola cancelled classes and got all JFRC students tickets to see Papa Francesco.

5 AM and my friends and I are beginning our 3 mile walk to the Vatican in the pouring rain. What time does the papal audience start? 10:00 AM. It’s ok though. When we reach the walls of the Vatican we are one of the first in line, which means we got the best seats. It paid off because Papa Francesco literally rode directly by us. All the while though, little old ladies and nuns became suddenly vicious and started throwing elbows to see the Pope up close…. Understandably so.

He spoke in 6-7 different languages, blessing the audience, our families, and any articles brought with us.

He truly is a contemporary Pope. When he passed a group of Loyola students, they got him to throw up some deuces for them. Talk about a cool Pope.

That’s it for this post.


Papa Francesco
Time Flies

Time Flies

Today marks being in Chile for one whole month. Let me tell you, it feels like it’s felt like so much less! Time has been flying by. The initial culture shock has gone away and I can see that my Spanish has significantly improved. Although sometimes I forget how to say some things time to time, I have noticed that I am no longer translating words that I hear. It just automatically clicks. This is especially helpful when I am exploring the city and need help with directions.

Last Friday, I switched host families. No worries though, it’s only because my first family is on vacation to their beach house. Since I couldn’t stay in their house alone, I am with a different family. I now live with just two host parents. It’s funny because they have the same jobs as my real parents. My host dad works at AT&T and my host mom is a professor. What a coincidence!

When I first arrived at their house, I was nervous. I really knew that I was going to miss my first family. I was greeted with a big hug from my host mother and a kiss on the cheek from both my parents. (A kiss on the right cheek is a typical greeting when you meet someone). Before I could even unpack my things, they told me that they had a surprise. We were going to Viña Del Mar that weekend! Surprised yet excited, I couldn’t wait to be in the beautiful city on the Pacific coast.

We left as soon as we could, arriving at their apartment that they own overlooking the sea at about 9:00pm. We simply ate dinner and went for a walk. We walked along the ocean in a place that reminded me of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. People filled the streets while venders tried convincing the tourists to buy their goods. The main attraction was the waves! The waves were so huge, I have never seen them that big! They were spashing up on the rocks so big that they were splashing over the sidewalk, over the road, reaching the other side of the street! It was an amazing sight!

The next day, while my host parents went to a family reunion, I explored the city. First, I walked down the main street where there was every single type of shop and restaurant, whose delicious smells filled the air. There were also music performers at every corner, differing in their style. I heard everything from traditional Chilean music, complete with dancers, to a Jazz Band singing songs in English.

After grabbing lunch somewhere, I walked the other direction, discovering the beach! It was a beautiful 85 degrees. Although I didn’t have my swimsuit on, I walked the length of the beach with my feet in the water. I have never been to the Pacific Ocean before, but I really enjoyed watching the waves and seeing people of all ages playing. On the way back, I walked on the sidewalk, discovering a large market made up of all artisan crafts! It was amazing!

After this amazing weekend of exploring a beach town on my own, I returned to my last week of the Spanish immersion class! Like any other class, the last week was filled with numerous tests, presentations, and papers. You could say that I’ve spent most of my week studying. Hard work always pays off in the end because now I have just under a month to travel. My next adventure starts Saturday as I make my way to Argentina and Uruguay for two weeks! I am so excited. I have heard a lot about Buenos Aires and I can’t wait to experience it.

I am so grateful of all the opportunities I have been given and I am so excited to discover and learn about other Latin American countries!

A Month of Vacation

A Month of Vacation

Tomorrow I leave for vacation for almost an entire month. I’m heading to Puerto Varas in the south of Chile to do some camping, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities with Theo. We’ll be there for about five days, and then we leave for the island of Chiloé to meet up with some of the other people in the program. From what I’ve been told, the island has a very laid-back culture and is completely different from the rest of the country. After Chiloé, I’ll head to Coyhaique with Theo. It’s a small town in the mountains that is globally known for its fishing. Finally for the last five or six days, I will be in La Serena with Dee and maybe Gaby. La Serena is a beach town on the Pacific that is north of Santiago. Once everything is finished, I’ll arrive in Santiago on March 5 to begin orientation.

Those are my plans for the next month, now on to some things I’ve done in the past two weeks. Probably the most fun and most authentic cultural experience I’ve had is when I went to a salsa club last Friday with some other gringo friends. We paid 4000 pesos to enter, or about $8. The dance floor wasn’t that big, but the place was packed with people. We were definitely the youngest ones there – most people seemed to be in their 30’s or 40’s. I had taken some beginning salsa lessons before, so I thought I would be okay and be able to blend in. What a joke that was! I spent most of the night bumping into people and trying to learn how exactly to dance. Despite the learning curve, the night was a ton of fun and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it.

Another memorable moment, this past Sunday a few of us went hiking in the Andes. The park was about ten minutes from my house and we completed the three hour loop. For the first half, we basically walked uphill and into the mountain range. Although there were still plants, the environment was the closest I have been to visiting a desert. The ground was dirt/sand and there were many dry plants and even cacti! At the halfway point, we descended into the valley and found a small creek running with much more vegetation than on the sides of the mountain. There we had lunch, ate some wild blackberries, and even drank water from the stream! It wasn’t my idea, in fact an employee there told us it was perfectly safe. After seeing others do it and her telling us that she drinks the water often, we filled our bottles with the water. After a long, hot hike, it tasted delicious!

Once again, I cannot thank God and my parents enough for this incredible opportunity. To those reading who have not traveled abroad before, I highly recommend it, even if only for a short period of time. Every day I am learning more about Chilean and Latin American culture. Hopefully I can figure out how to post pictures and allow people to comment and follow me. To everyone in the states, stay warm!

Nos vemos!



I Discover a Beach and Dragons

I Discover a Beach and Dragons

My last post wasn’t very long despite my warning to hold onto your underpants. For those of you still holding onto them, please continue. For those of you who lost faith and withdrew them from your clenching fists, shame on you, resume your death grip.

Despite popular belief, there is no nude beach in the Netherlands. All we have is a beach, a normal one, with sand and shells and water. Fascinating I know, but hey, the Ocean is still better than Lake Michigan. My roommates and I picked up our bikes and made the trek to see this mythical body of water. Riding there we discovered where all the parks had been hiding, and where all the suburbans had hidden themselves.

It was a gloomy day, most days here tend to be. The locals promise me it gets better, but that does not stop them from saying the Sun is a legend and we should stop asking about it.

My travel companions proceeded to go into Instagram mode and started documenting everything by blurring the truth of their images with filters and color schemes. I myself wandered. I took a picture here or there, but I wanted to see what this beach had to offer. I walked down the coast a ways before hiking up a nearby hill. Erosion is apparently a large problem here. All the grassy areas were barred off with barbwire, a local warned me there was a fine for taking shortcuts, but I reassured him I was here to walk the long path.

I would like to talk more about the beach, but at this point I feel I’d just be drolling on and would bore you. Instead I’ll tell you about all the dragons I found!

Chinese New Year fell on February 1st. Chinatown was the place to be, brimming with flags, dragons, and fireworks, it was a wonderful day to celebrate something I knew so little about.

Tourists were lining up and down the streets in wait for the promised New Years parade. I and a friend joined the fray as well before realizing that it wasn’t like any parade you’d see in the States.

Moving from shop to shop, Chinese dancers wearing dragon costumes performed, dancing to steel drums and setting off huge chains of fireworks. Each shop would put out a cabbage over their door and the dragon would proceed to do a ceremonial dance in front before devouring (reaching out a hand and grabbing) the cabbage, at which point they would move to the next shop.

It was a fun festival overall. A strange bit of color to a city I thought I had been close to figuring out.


Home Is Where Your Hat Is

Home Is Where Your Hat Is

Hold on to your underpants folks, this is gonna be a long one.


This is where trains go to rest their legs.

I have been told that there is a set of phases one goes through when studying abroad. I am expected to feel like I’m on a sort of honeymoon at first, falling in love with the city and culture around me. I can vouch for this feeling being accurate. I have fallen deeply and madly in love with this culture. It’s so relaxing, so breathtaking, I could not help myself when I stumbled into maddening attachment with this wonderful place.

As per Netherlands procedure, I bought a bike. I have named him Mr. Thundercleese, and hopefully he likes the name because I am unable to extract any input from him as of this time. Biking is the norm here in The Hague. There are more people on bikes then driving or walking combined. They are the gods of the streets as they ride through like a swarm of locusts, ringing bells is the equivalent of honking the horn here.

My first day being united with Mr. Thundercleese was a humorous one looking back on it. In short, I got lost. With more detail, I got lost for an hour and a half in the pouring rain at night. Most would find this a miserable experience and blame their trusty bike for leading them astray, but I do not fall to anger so quickly. The adrenaline was pumping through me as my survival instincts kicked in and I prowled the wet night looking for home. Taking mysterious twists and turns through the strange streets of the Hague left me more and more lost. I was not so shameful as to ask for directions, this was a test. I kept riding, and riding, and riding, hoping I might spot some landmark in which to locate myself, and to locate my home.

Just when I thought my wandering was to come to a fruitless end, I saw hope. Hope was in the form of a gigantic tower, lit up in blue lights. Oh Captain, my Captain. My lighthouse, my savior. Walking into my apartment, my roommates stared at me as I dripped profusely onto the floor. “Take off your shoes” they said, and continued whatever it was they were busy with.

It’s funny looking back on it. It’s not surprising for tourists to get lost, it’s even less surprising for me to get lost. My sense of direction might be compared to that of Columbus. I always find something interesting, but lord knows I’ve missed my destination.

Please excuse my photography in the future. The Chicago Sun Times has resorted to giving their staff iPhones as a replacement for a photography staff, so why should my standards be any different?

Weekend update…

Weekend update…

Oh man, what a weekend. It was pretty jam-packed starting with a delicious spaghetti dinner on Friday night and breakfast brought to my room on Saturday morning. My host mom made me a little tray with a pancake, cookies, and tea because I told her I was meeting friends at 11 to go sightsee. We ended up walking around for 6 hours! My legs were the best kind of sore after trekking through the city to the unfinished mosque and mausoleum where the late Hassan II is buried. Our group split up from there just before a Qur’anic reading. About six

of us headed downhill from the Hassan neighborhood to the riverfront and walked alongside one of Rabat’s busiest streets, almost reaching the bridge to Sale (Rabat’s sister city). We turned around from there and walked on the promenade by the river and watched the fishermen repair their nets and prepare their cobalt blue boats for a trip out to the Atlantic Ocean. There’s been an unusual amount of rain this winter, so everything around the city is green and lush, and the days have been overcast. Not exactly what I had in mind for Africa, but I’ve been reminded on 55 degree days that “this is the worst winter Rabat has seen for many years” (I can feel the death glares long distance from Chicago).

Sunday was another very special day. I got up early enough to head to 9am mass at the Cathédrale St. Pierre which is the home of the diocese of Morocco. There are so few Christians in Rabat that there are only two churches, one serving English mass and one serving French. So I chose the French option not really knowing what to expect. When I entered the cathedral, the huge space was empty but I was shown an area behind the main alter where a smaller chapel space was occupied by about 25 people. Two thirds in attendance were sub-Saharan immigrants and there were 5-6 French nationals but no Arab church-goers. The priest was super young and very enthusiastic, trying to get everyone to participate in the mass through songs, readings, and a very audience-participatory homily. Luckily I know enough about the feast of the presentation of Jesus that I didn’t miss too much to the language barrier. Maybe next week I will try it in English…