The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2014

Traveling 101: Take it from the Inexperienced

Traveling 101: Take it from the Inexperienced

Two posts in one day, woo hoo!!  I mean, I have to…I am a little too far behind to NOT.  Whoops.

Anyway, all of us here at JFoRCe (JFRC) are currently in all-out recovery mode from spring break.  I’ve never seen our IC/library so crowded, and everyone is only just now starting to complain about all of the homework hitting hard.  However, there’s always time to recount spring break stories and share some of the things I picked up about traveling while doing it!

First thing’s first, promise me that if you’re going to constantly move for 10 days straight, PACK LIGHT.  Don’t ever, EVER, pack more than you need to.  No, you don’t need that extra pair of jeans.  NO, you most certainly do not need to pack three sweaters.  I can tell you after lugging around a packed duffel bag with at least three outfits that I did not even bother to look at…it’s just not worth it.  Also, use something that distributes weight evenly (um, hello? Backpack!).  Otherwise, all you’ll have is one freakishly strong shoulder and one normal looking one.

Second, trains are definitely the way to travel in Europe.  Don’t get me wrong, I love flying, but on a train you can watch the country pass by outside of the window.  This is especially cool on the long train rides.  And, you have way more space to stretch out in a train…I mean, who doesn’t want that?

Third, as one of my fellow bloggers pointed out in her most recent post, nothing in Europe is free, and the Euro sucks when it comes to exchange rate.  For my spring break, a friend and I traveled around northern Italy.  We visited Bologna, Padova, Venice, Trieste, and Torino.  Without fail, in all but one place, we had to buy an entire tourist book in order to get a map.  Now, it all worked out seeing as we kept the books as souvenirs.  Nevertheless, an entire book just to get the map?  Really, Italy?  Also, dinner is EXPENSIVE.  Our solution?  Apertivi!!  An apertivo is just a drink (wine, beer, or even a soft drink) and a small appetizer.  And, of course, after that we found a cheap kabob place and had that for dinner because apertivi simply did not fill us up.  FYI, kabob here is not meat on a stick, it’s actually more like a burrito or meat wrap, and they’re SO good!  Also, you don’t need to buy every souvenir you see…okay, well, maybe THAT one, but that’s it!

Fourth, hot chocolate is better here.  Without a doubt.  It’s basically chocolate melted down and ladled into a cup for you to drink (or scoop out with a spoon).  I could get on board with this.


Fifth, learning is actually pretty cool sometimes.  Not only did I learn a lot going to various museums or visiting various royal palaces, but I also used what I learned in the past to make a cool discovery.  Did you know that writer James Joyce (author of Dubliners) lived in Trieste for part of his life??  Me either!  So imagine how cool I thought it was when I visited a pastry shop that he used to eat in, and the chapel he married his wife in!  Learning rocks.


Finally, Italy is beautiful.  This was certainly something I learned traveling all over this country for 10 days.  Every city is different, every scenic countryside has something new to show, and I will never get enough.  Venice was absolutely beautiful with canals winding through the islands that make it up, water everywhere.  Trieste is perfectly nestled between sea and mountains, that Austrian influence accentuated by beautiful buildings and straight roads.  Torino equally beautiful, situated along the Po river and demonstrating the French influence.  Even though most people try to see as many different countries as they can on spring break, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to see the country I’ve been living in these past couple of months.  I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend spring break.


Next on the travel agenda: Sicily and then Prague!  Hopefully I follow my own packing and spending advice for the remainder of the semester…

Ciao for now!!

Claddagh Rings and Gaelic Things

Claddagh Rings and Gaelic Things

Ciao tutti!

Or should I say, cheers and happy days!  I know it’s been a while since my last post (whoops!) but life abroad is a busy one.  Among my studying for midterms and trying to keep my head above water at school amidst my fun (don’t worry, I’m not neglecting school!) I made my way to Ireland at the end of February!  Let me just say…it’s going to be hard to beat that trip.  I didn’t want to leave!  We started our journey in Dublin and explored the city on Friday night, but my experiences on Saturday are the ones I want to remember forever.

On Saturday my two friends and I were up and out at 7:15 in the morning to head over and begin our tour of western Ireland, which included a visit to the Cliffs of Moher!  We took the tour with a company called Paddywagon, and it was honestly the best tour I have ever been on.  The driver and tour guide, Matt, was super friendly and incredibly knowledgeable.  As we drove throughout the day he recounted much of Ireland’s history and I learned so much more about Ireland than I ever have in history class.  We finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher around midday after making several stops along the way.  Let me just say this: if you want to experience the most beautiful sight in the entire world, go to Ireland, then get your booty over to the Cliffs of Moher.  Seriously.  They were breathtaking even with clouds in the sky.  I can’t begin to imagine what they would have looked like in the brilliant sunlight.

Despite covering 11 counties and over 400 miles of land, that tour ended far too quickly, and we spend the rest of our trip enjoying Dublin and the wonderful souvenirs it had to offer.  For those of you wondering, yes, the music in an Irish pub is amazing!!  We sat and listened to the music for hours and I regret absolutely nothing.  The following day we went souvenir shopping and I brought my piece of Ireland back with me in the form of a Claddagh ring, while my friends bought other Gaelic things (get it?!).  On the plane ride home I continued to experience the wonderful kindness of Irish folk in the form of a lovely gentleman who took pictures from the plane of the sky as we flew.

All in all….when can I go back?!?


Carnaval (Carnival) was celebrated in Madrid a few weekends ago. Carnaval is related to lent and involves a lot of dressing up and celebrating. You can read more about it here. Some friends and I headed out Saturday night to catch the parade. For being first-timers at the parade, we did pretty well. We showed up five minutes before the beginning of the parade and scored an awesome place to stand. We were right in front of Palacio de Cibeles which changed colors throughout the parade. It was the perfect backdrop for our photos. Parades in Madrid are much different from the U.S. It is obvious that people are not too concerned about getting sued. Parts of the floats would extend into the audience, barely missing people’s heads. We stuck around after the parade to watch the firework show. It was the best firework show I have ever seen. The fireworks were synced to the music of an electric guitar symphonic orchestra. I was absolutely blown away. Check out the short video below!

The weather the following day was absolutely gorgeous- a big change from Spring in Chicago. Everyone was out walking along the river without coats and getting pumped for the soccer game that night. I walked along the river to Atlético Madrid’s stadium to check out the pre-game festivities. Atlético Madrid was to take on Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid. The atmosphere in Madrid was incredible. Everyone was sporting the gear of their favorite team and trash talking. Later that evening, I met up with some friend’s to watch the game at a restaurant near the stadium. On my way there, I heard the stadium erupt with sound when a goal was scored. It was unreal! The game ended in a 2-2 ties, so there was not excessive celebrating by either side at the end of the game. This weekend Barcelona travels to Madrid to take on Real Madrid. It is the only thing people have been talking about this week!

Palacio de Cibeles

Firework Display



Honestly what can I say about Barcelona…

Here’s a quote from one of my idols who summed it up perfectly:

“A tourist to Europe hasn’t lived until they have visited Barcelona. The culture, the weather and the atmosphere is awesome.”

Anthony Jocius

Honestly, if I can describe utter perfection, that was my time in Barcelona. The people, the food, the culture, the weather, and everything else was impossibly perfect.

We were able to stay with some family friends who lived right by La Sagrada Familia…  Waking up and being in walking distance to the Barcelonetta, Parc Guell, Las Ramblas, and Port Olymic was incredible.

We were met with amazing weather and wonderful people. I was able to meet with friends who my family hadn’t seen in years and we were able to catch up and talk about Peru (which is where they were all from).

By day, my best friend and I explored and walked absolutely everywhere, and by night we explored the amazing Barcelona nightlife (which doesn’t start until 2am, which means it ends at 9am). It was intense haha.

The last day we spent the day at the beach, which was a nude beach. We were completely unaware we had stumbled upon one until we saw a man laying out in all of his pride and glory. It was a culture shock, to say the least.

But honestly, if there is any place I would recommend for anyone to go on their travels, it would be Barcelona.

I have held it dearly in my heart since the first time I went and the glory never died. This past time I went just emphasized my love for it even more.

Until next time my dear Barcelona





Spring Break couldn’t have come any sooner.

Here at JFRC we get to have spring break a week after our friends back at home at Loyola Chicago. It’s really nice though because a lot of LUC students came to visit friends here at JFRC. It was like a little piece of home coming to Rome. So after that week of seeing friends from home and getting midterms out of our way, we were finally able to pack up and leave.

Our first stop was the lovely little London Town. Of course London is a must-see for those who have never been and also for those of us who have! So, like typical globe-trotters, my best friend and I were on our way.

The first day we arrived we went to Windsor to “visit the queen.” The funny part is, the queen was actually there when we went.

We did all the typical touristy London attractions, but here are just a few highlights so I don’t bore you with the gory details:

  1. We found the queen’s secret entrance into Buckingham Palace.
  2. We took pictures with a black velvet Ferrari that later ended up getting featured on iFunny.
  3. We spent an entire day eating crumpets, scones, and fish & chips while watching the Grimm series on Netflix.
  4. And lastly, we made a Palace Guard smile



Slow Internet, Defenestration, and Other Adventures

Slow Internet, Defenestration, and Other Adventures

Midterms are bearing down upon us here in the Czech Republic (although you wouldn’t really know judging by the lax state of most of us in the USAC program), which means the semester is half way over. It’s odd how you can be in a place for such a short period of time yet, you can’t remember what life was like 6 months ago in your natural habit. I’ve learned quite a bit in this first part of my semester abroad, most of which comes from experiences outside the classroom (except for Art and Architecture). Here’s a list:

1. Slow internet is worse than no internet.

2. I would never have been able to survive 4 months living in a country with the euro or the pound. Thank the heavens for the exchange of 1 US dollar- 18 Czech Korunas.

3. Apparently ramen isn’t soup, just flavored noodles (I still haven’t gotten over the shock of this one. My whole life is a lie.)

4. Nothing in Europe is free. So, if you see a pamphlet on a desk at the Sherlock Holmes Museum, DO NOT pick it up and walk out assuming it’s for the taking. It’s not.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 4.47.43 PM
My trip to London was entirely a nerd moment. This was the icing on the cake (and apparently the beginning of my kleptomania).

5. British food? Not that bad.

6. It’s not necessary to buy 2 masks for Carnivale in Venice. Also, don’t buy a full- faced one. Your roommates will NEVER, EVER let you forget it because according to them, it’s so creepy that it’s hysterical.

Venice is one of the most beautiful and unique cities in Europe. With no cars are large streets, canals are a main source of transportation.

7. Going off of #6, don’t buy the first of whatever you see. Odds are, the touristy shop 15 meters ahead will have the exact same thing, possibly cheaper.

8. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have the proper transportation pass in whatever country or city you are in (Looking at you, Berlin). If you don’t, you will be fined and then it’s really awkward and embarrassing as the ticket police (not the technical term but close enough) herd you to the ticket booth and then proceed to bleed you dry (Yes, their just doing their job but it’s hard not to fantasize about them getting a really bad paper cut from your writing ticket).

9. Universal adapter= new best friend.

10. There’s a term for throwing people out of a window for political reasons, defenestration. Apparently, this has occurred enough times in history to warrant it’s own word.

11. Prague had 2 major defenestrations, the 2nd of which those that were expelled from the window survived by falling into a… well, think about the sanitary conditions of a city in the 17th century and you can probably imagine into what they landed (I think I learn more about history in my Art and Architecture class than my Modern History course). The physical injuries they sustained eventually healed but the bruises to their ego and dignity I’m sure followed them forever. This event was also a precursor to the 30 Years’ War.

12. Walking up all the way up Petrin Hill may seem like a good idea at the bottom but by the time you get halfway up, you begin to realize how incredibly out of shape you are and start convincing yourself the line for the funicular really wasn’t that bad. But the view of Prague from the top is breathtaking. Especially if you’re my roommate and are afraid of heights.

13. Going off the beaten path is the best way to stumble onto the hidden treasures you didn’t know city had to offer. Such as an orchard dedicated to a British man, Sir Nicolas Winton, who saved nearly 700 Czechoslovakian Jewish children from the Nazis. My roommates and I might never have found that if we hadn’t gone a less direct route down Petrin Hill (and by less direct I mean totally out of the way).

14. It’s impossible walk by a trdlo (or trdelník) stand in Old Town Square and not purchase a delicious, cylindrical pastry. I’ve stopped trying to convince myself that I don’t want one. I do. I always do.

15. Tea fixes everything and cheese ramen is the greatest broke, college student meal known to man.

16. No matter how long I live in Prague or how often I wander around, I will never understand how the street system works. Ever. Whoever said Prague isn’t a hard city to navigate is a liar. Apparently Wenceslas Square is a lot closer to my apartment than I originally thought. As in, it’s almost right down the street.

17. It’s not possible to find a new store, landmark, restaurant in any city in Europe without getting lost. Looks easy on the map? We’ll still end up wandering up and down the same street for 15 minutes before giving up and asking people for directions. Usually this process is repeated 2-3 times before we find what we’re looking for (Also, I’ve learned that putting me in charge of directions is a terrible idea).

18. Talking about dragons is a great way to relieve tension and make new friends.

19. Churches in Europe are some of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen. From St. Paul’s Cathedral in London to the church of Saint Nicholas in Prague and the Berlin Cathedral, I am ceaselessly awed by their beauty and flawlessness and astounded by the idea that humans have the ability to create such magnificent structures.

One of the most beautiful cathedrals I have every seen, the Berliner Dom, isn’t a cathedral in the technical sense. We walked inside during a service and the experience was hauntingly beautiful.

20. One semester in Europe is not going to be enough. There are too many amazing places to see and things to do that it’s not possible to pack it all into 4 months. The places I have been so far (Venice, Berlin, and London) are just the beginning of what I hope to be a lifetime of European exploration.



Las Vacaciones

Las Vacaciones

It’s been a long time since my last post, but in my defense, I’ve been very busy and on the move for the past three weeks. My vacation finally concluded on Tuesday as I arrived in Santiago, and now I am going through orientation before classes start. So obviously, I have a lot to cover this post, and naturally I will start in the beginning. By the way, I will be naming a lot of places so if you have Google Maps out and just punch in the names you can see where I’ve been!

Theo and I had planned to leave on Friday, February 7. We had bus tickets to Puerto Varas and our bus left around 10 or so. As it turns out, we missed our bus but thought the driver lied to us because we were foreigners. Fortunately, we were able to procure tickets for Sunday night. I sure was disappointed that we lost two days of traveling, but Theo didn’t mind much so I got over it pretty fast. To make the most of our night, we went to a bar across the street from the terminal that had a very cool, working-class vibe to it. There we met some Chileans (they were Mapuche, basically Chile’s Native Americans) and a Peruvian who were all very nice and friendly. We shared a table with them and talked for a few hours before dipping out, and they invited us to a party they were having on Saturday night before we left (we discovered they were joking after calling them Saturday evening, lol).

In Puerto Varas we met two Chileans, Simon and Bryan, who we camped with for a few days in Petrohue. Petrohue is beautiful. Our campsite was located on the beach of Lago Todos Los Santos, a picturesque lake surrounded by lush green mountains and Volcan Osorno (a volcano) towering over our backs. We also met another Chilean, Mathias, there and he camped with us as well. The time spent there was a lot of fun – we did some kayaking, trekking, saw some impressive waterfalls and rapids, and I topped my time off in the park by going whitewater rafting for the first time! That was a lot of fun, with water splashing in my face, cruising down a crystal-clear river as our guide shouted directions to us.

From Puerto Varas we went to Chiloé where we met up with Simon, Bryan, and Mathias again in a campground called Cucoa. Again we were on a lake, but this one didn’t compare to Petrohue. There I tried kuchen (Chiloé is known for its food), a cake with blueberries or some other fruit on the top as icing, and a soft bread on the bottom. I really like it, although milcaos were definitely my favorite food from the trip and right now my favorite Chilean food in general. Milcaos are like hashbrowns that look like pancakes, although they are much bigger and they middle is filled with potatoes and meat – usually chicken. They were amazing! When I was in Castro, I ate one every day (they only cost 1 mil, or $2 a piece). For those of you that might visit Chile, the best milcaos are in Castro without a doubt. Other places in the south sell them, like Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, but they’re not the same. Unfortunately, my host mom told me they only exist in the south and are not in Santiago.

Castro was a nice city with a cool vibe to it. The city located on the water, it’s basically an inlet, and has lots of sea influence. It’s well known for its old wooden church built by the Jesuits (and colored purple and yellow on the outside!) and the palafitos, which are houses that stand on poles built right up on the water. It was great to stay in a hostal there after some uncomfortable nights of sleeping in the tent. While there, Hayley, Brenna, and Dee came down from Ancud and we hung out for two days with them. Theo left for Puerto Montt where he would fly to Coyhaique. I decided to try and follow him but through a different and cheaper route, first going south to Quellón, then to Chaiten by boat. However once I got to Quellón, I knew I didn’t have enough time to make it down to Coyhaique and back to Santiago in time for my bus ticket to La Serena with Dee and Gaby. Because I got there a day early by accident, I was able to go to the end/beginning of the longest road in the Americas and maybe the world (there’s some debate), the Pan-American Highway, or Ruta 5 as it is known here in Chile! It stretches over 21,000 kilometers and runs from Chile to Alaska.

Right before getting into Chaiten, I snagged some pictures of dolphins close to shore. They were grayish and had small fins on their backs. Chaiten is unlike any other town I saw on the trip because a volcano erupted there in 2008. The town is still recovering from the damage, and it was harrowing to see some of the destruction in the town and in the adjacent Parque Pumalín, where I camped for four days with another American I met, Arthur. This park was sweet! While there, I saw some 90ft waterfalls, hiked through a temperate jungles, saw the second oldest trees on the planet (Alerces), climbed to the crater of the volcano that erupted in 2008, and did a 30 kilometer hike to see a glacier! All in four days! I knew my time was limited to get back to Santiago so I sure did everything and anything I could in the park. I loved my time there and wished I could spend more than just a few days in Patagonia (the park is at the northern border of the region), but I was extremely grateful to discover the park because I really didn’t know anything about it when I entered.

Those two weeks traveling the south of Chile were amazing. I have never seen so much nature and beauty in my life before, and in such a pristine state too, especially in Patagonia (for example, the water from rivers was see-through and perfectly safe to drink). I met so many wonderful Chileans and foreign travelers too, and I definitely know my Spanish improved throughout the trip. Obviously, God has blessed me incredibly and I cannot thank Him enough for the amazing experiences I’ve had down here.

That is part one of mis vacaciones! I will make another post describing my trip north of Santiago to La Serena because I know this one is getting long. Also, I think I have figured out how to allow comments so ask away. I’m still working on the pictures, but my Facebook account has a bunch you can browse through.



Traveling within Spain

Traveling within Spain

Madrid has been an absolute dream, but it has been nice to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. I have been lucky to have the opportunity to sneak away a few times since arriving in January. There are a lot of greats cities within an hour plane ride of Madrid.

My first excursion out of Madrid was a day trip to Toledo, Spain that was organized by USAC. I was excited to find out that the day-trip was included in the cost of the program. We started out the trip with a panoramic tour of Toledo. A tour guide then led us through the town. I really enjoyed learning the history of what I was seeing. There is an immense amount of history in Toledo.


A few friends and I planned our own day trip to Segovia, Spain. I would definitely recommend visiting if in Madrid. Segovia is a 30 minute train ride from Madrid- perfect for a day trip. It only took us about five hours to check out all the sites. Segovia is known for its Roman aqueduct, Cathedral (last Gothic-style cathedral built in Spain) and the Alcazar.


My favorite trip outside of Madrid was to Valencia, Spain. I absolutely fell in love with the charming city. Valencia is on the Mediterranean Sea and only an hour plan ride from Madrid. My friends and I enjoyed exploring the market, snapping pictures of all the orange trees, and trying the local paella.