The GoGlobal Blog

Month: October 2014

I’ve Got 99 Problems…

I’ve Got 99 Problems…

… and they’re all about class registration

This post will be a short one, simply reflecting on my study abroad process.

I started doing research in early March 2014. There were requirements, times, regulations and other logistical information to confirm in order to successfully adhere to applications, deadlines, requirements, etc.

Also, I am temporarily enrolled in another school connected to LUC through another institution. That’s three different people that need to say yes to each step I take in this process.

Everyone did their best to step up and answer my questions, but as life goes, there were some mistakes made along the way.

From communication, misinformation, a rejection here and there, and need for correction here and there, postponed elaborating (that means I was told too late) and more, confusion about my classes and registration – which wasn’t complete until the middle of October or the second week of classes – was aplenty.

This was the case for many of my peers studying abroad. There was frustration, but eventually all worked out. We were able to make peace and finally enjoy our time. I would simply say to any future study abrad-ers to not expect things to be perfect and clear upon arrival.

Things will get lost in translation even if you speak the same language. I wish someone told me that.

Until next time,


Poland or Bust.

Poland or Bust.

Traveling throughout Poland during my fall break was most likely the best decision I’ll make this semester (besides anytime I decide to get gelato, of course). All three legs of our journey brought laughter, delicious food, and some much needed reflection. After visiting three of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in I am deeply in love with Poland.

In Rome, I’m clearly an American. I do not look Italian, nor do I speak it with any skill level close to being fluent. Although I know my way around Rome I don’t feel any innate connection with the city I’ve lived in for the past two months. The moment I arrived in Warsaw, however, I felt at home. We flew into a remote airport outside of Warsaw which is typical when it comes to RyanAir. The bus ride into the city center reminded me of driving through southern Illinois. Compared to Rome, Warsaw was a fall wonderland. The mid-western girl in me had been craving some colorful fall leaves and weather that actually permitted a scarf. It was extremely odd that people assumed I spoke Polish simply because of how I look. There was also the origin of my last name that caused major confusion about my nationality. While I am partially Polish, I do not speak it and mostly identify with the Irish side of my family. I can’t deny it felt nice to walk into a country for the first time, but be treated as a local.

My time in Warsaw cannot be summarized without mentioning Adrian. Adrian was a self-proclaimed “patriot” that showed us everything from the Jewish ghetto to how to ride the public transit system. He truly went above and beyond his job as tour guide and made our short, two day stint in Warsaw feel like so much more. Our next stop, and the focal point for our trip, was Torun for a human rights symposium that focused on the Rwandan genocide. Nicolaus Copernicus University hosted the symposium which featured a compelling commentary on the genocide from the last American left in Rwanda; Carl Wilkens. Local professors, JFRC alumni, Polish and American students alike discussed this tragedy and what measures need to be taken to prevent it from happening again. It was refreshing to be able to talk with local students from Nicolaus Copernicus to get their perspectives on the genocide but also on life in general. I learned so much about the Rwandan genocide, Poland, and myself while in Torun. We ended our trip in Krakow, where we toured Auschwitz and Berkenau. Yet again being hit with the realities of a genocide was life changing at best. Visiting a salt mine and a gingerbread factory completely contrasted and balanced the emotional toll the previous activities took on our group.

I’ll never forget my time in Poland. Our trip was indeed focused around a symposium that discussed genocide, but the delicious food and hospitality we experienced was just as life changing. I most likely ate enough pierogi, potato pancakes, and cabbage to last me a life time. In Krakow we also discovered that karaoke is a major past time in Poland. One of my favorite memories includes listening to “The Winner Takes it All” by ABBA and “Sex Bomb” by Tom Jones sang by the same German tourist at a karaoke bar the size of a small utility closet. Another favorite moment, which happened more than once on our trip, was the insane amount of food we were served for dinner. One night in particular, sausage, cabbage, and roasted vegetable were served on a bed of pierogi and potato dumplings presented to us on a huge wooden board. While in Warsaw, we got to experience Poland’s historical soccer victory over Germany. Most importantly I got to chant “Polska! Polska! Polska!” with the rest of Warsaw in the streets that night.

I couldn’t have asked for more from this trip. Polska, always.

Descending Cliffs in Dalat

Descending Cliffs in Dalat

Another week, another absolutely fantastic excursion to a new and exciting part of Vietnam. This past weekend’s adventure? A mini-trip to Dalat, a chilly European-esque mountain town located about four hours north of Saigon–so delightfully refreshing and pretty darn cool. I swear, every new place I go to in Vietnam, the more I fall in love with this gorgeous country. Have I said that before? Have I also mentioned that I’m never leaving? Okay, good. Great. Kisses, y’all, I’m living here five-ever.

All jokes aside, it was an incredible weekend–definitely my favorite excursion by far. We left on Thursday evening on a night bus … to be quite honest, it was the low point of the trip. The night bus was exciting for about the first ten minutes of our very first drive to Nha Trang–then we all realized it’s actually a huge pain in the butt and kind of sucks. You don’t get any sleep, you’re dehydrated, crabby, and feeling totally gross … but it gets you there for $12, which is kind of worth it, I guess. I’ll stop complaining. YAY NIGHT BUS!!

We arrived to Dalat bright and early at 5AM on Friday morning. We were completely shocked to discover that it was a chilly 60 degrees out. After being so accustomed to hot and humid Saigon weather (and just disgustingly hot Southeast Asian weather in general, literally kill me) it was so strange to pull on my favorite J.Crew sweatshirt and actually want a hot cup of coffee. I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s going to be like stepping off a plane to an ice-cold Dayton winter … I’m probably going to barricade myself in the house, not talk to anyone, and just cuddle with my dog on the floor for a week. Yeah, that’s a good plan. I’m such a lovely sociable person, obviously.

ANYWAY, (oh my gosh I am the reigning queen of tangents) we arrived to our cute little hotel, called the Pink House, and all took naps in our gloriously soft queen beds. I woke up at noon to a gorgeous balcony view; then I slipped on my comfiest cold-weather clothes and clambered down the creaky winding stairs to meet everyone for an afternoon spent touring the city. I had heard that the best way to see the city was by motorbike, so I hopped on the back of one and enjoyed the pretty sights and cool breeze. We all grabbed a quick dinner and were in bed pretty early … we had two very long days ahead of us!

Saturday morning I was up at 7 AM, getting dressed and enjoying a quick, yummy breakfast (with hot coffee!) before our “secret tour” with our hotel owner. My allergies made me feel quite stuffy (hello high altitude, I haven’t missed you AT ALL), but the piping hot coffee cheered me right on up. Then we all hopped on the backs of a fleet of motorbikes and headed for the mountains … literally! The whole day was absolutely amazing–we walked around little villages,  toured a local market and a silk farm, ate fried crickets … and mostly just enjoyed the incredible views. Our hotel owner had actually grown up in one of these local villages and spoke the dialect, so we got to interview some of the local women … it was overwhelming and slightly uncomfortable, but such a wonderful learning experience. Afterward, we sampled local fruits at our hotel owner’s home and then embarked on the 2 hour journey home, finally arriving at 8PM. We were exhausted; I had some pizza and went to bed.

The following morning we were up bright and early again, this time to go canyoning. To be honest, I didn’t exactly know what “canyoning” meant–I assumed hiking and maybe some swimming. I was in for quite the shock when I realized that it was a whole lot of climbing … have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of heights? Well, I am. We got into our harnesses and helmets and I was totally freaking out. I watched each of my friends repel down the first waterfall and I was wondering (per usual with most of my choices in Vietnam so far) what the heck I was doing. But as I jumped off the cliff into a beautiful rainforest oblivion, I was completely exhilarated. It ended up being a hilariously fun and very brave day … but I was so happy that I embarked on this little adventure and tested my fears. I’m continually growing as a person, every day I spend here, and I absolutely love it!

That evening, we relaxed at the hotel (I had a little catnap) and then took the dreaded night bus home. Not the best ending to such a fabulous weekend, but oh well. From this point on, our semester is just flying on by: this Wednesday, we leave for a weeklong trip to Thailand, immediately followed by a two-week excursion to the north (Hanoi, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Halong Bay)! I could not be more excited … and exhausted. But there’s no complaining to be done here–I am having the time of my life!!

Stay posted!!

roomies and I absolutely loving Dalat


Fall Break in Northern Italy

Fall Break in Northern Italy

A week ago I returned from my most exciting adventure in Italy yet! Taking the opportunity of fall break to travel across Northern Italy, I visited 5 cities in 7 days!

I started my adventure in Florence, leaving Rome VERY early to make it there in time to tackle all the major sites in one day. After checking into the hostel (my first ever! And a very good experience at that), my friend and I made our way into the heart of the town, across Ponte Vecchio to our first appointment of the day at the Uffizi. From there we wandered through the old streets to the Duomo. Best church yet! And believe me when I say I’ve been to a LOT of churches in Italy. The view from the bell tower, or campanile as they say here, was definitely worth the 400 and some steps to the top! From there we hit the Accademia where the David is held and finished off our experience with the best apperitivo plate ever at a place called La Prociutteria. I’m still amazed we fit it all in in one day and had plenty of time to explore the fantastic shops and side streets! We even caught a live performance at a piazza near our hostel before heading to bed fairly early to prepare ourselves for yet another early train the next day.


The next stop was Ravenna. The average tourist in Italy often overlooks this quaint little city yet it is home to so many amazing sites (8 UNESCO world heritage sites to be exact!) We were fortunate that our hostel provided us with bikes (the best way to get around in Ravenna) which allowed us to explore many of the churches/buildings who’s elaborate mosaics make Ravenna known as the Mosaic capital of the world. While all the famous sites are great it was the environment and Ravenna’s energy that made me want to go back the second I left! Since it is less traveled by tourists, it seems more authentic than many of the other places I have been and it had a great variety of shops and restaurants. Best off all, we happened to be there when a big festival was happening! Was it not for the rain there would have been live bands all through the night! Unfortunately for us, the rain forced us back to the hostel early. All the more reason to return to Ravenna in the future!


Venice was next and it is just as beautiful as you imagine it to be! Save for the expensive gondola rides, I think we I had quite the quintessential Venice experiences and it was just as I would have wanted the visit to go. The Doges Palace was very interesting but made me realize just how little I know about the very distinct history of the city! Saint Marks was great too but honestly I preferred the gothic style of the Chiesa dei Frari better (I really wasn’t kidding about seeing a lot of churches here). One of the best parts of my trip here was the surprising run-in I had with an exhibit of the Architectural Biennale. I knew little about the arts festival before going but very much enjoyed the very modern concepts of the exhibits. Modernity was a much-needed element after having spent the last couple months exploring ancient, baroque, and renaissance dated works! I wish I had been able to explore more of the shows!


From Venice we went to Milan. As great as it was, I feel I haven’t gotten very well acquainted with the city. I saw the Duomo and I saw the palace but I hope to return to get to know the city better over Thanksgiving break when visiting an old friend that lives there.

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Now for my favorite city: Turin! Something about this city really struck me as amazing. With so many colleges in the area it has a very hip feel and some fantastic places to eat and shop! I stayed very close to Piazza Republica, which is home Europe’s biggest market (a great place to get cheap and very delicious breakfasts/lunches)! Everything is in walking distance in the downtown area and the architecture is beautiful! One of the best parts of Turin is its location in the Mountains! Knowing that I’d be ready for some time away from the city, I stayed for two nights in Turin so that I could get out for a hike while I was there. What an amazing idea that was! Just a short train ride away from Turin is an old abbey called San Michele. It’s built on the top of a mountain and we climbed all the way to the top! Nothing could be more rewarding than the view from there! The morning before I left, my host brought me on a bike ride around the city, showing me all the best sites. He brought me to a great little café where Bicerin (a traditional Turin drink made with espresso, rich dark chocolate, and cool cream on the top) was first made back in the 1700s and it was unbelievably delicious! Of all places I’ve been, I definitively want to return to Turin most of all!

I had such an amazing trip and am so glad to have had so many great experiences! Italy is truly a wonderful place! However, all this running around has made me ready to get back to the way of the Romans. I hope to have many new adventures in Rome to report very soon!

Be careful, but not scared

Be careful, but not scared

Studying abroad is all about the experiences, adventures and friendships you make.

As said by D.H. Lawrence, “When one jumps over the edge, one is bound to land somewhere.”

This weekend, I did something I never thought I would, I zip-lined! This was an amazing experience, and sure, you can do this back in the states, but I had the experience of doing it for the first time with my friends in Costa Rica! As I walked up the hill my heart pumped so fast, but I kept walking. Once I got all strapped in, I still had the opportunity to back out, but instead, I took a deep breath and went down the first line! What a thrill! What a sight!

As we approached the last line, we had the chanced to do a Tarzan swing. For this, you literally just step off the edge of a tall platform and swing. Holy guacamole, was that drop scary! I can’t express how amazing this whole day was!

When studying abroad, you are faced with new experiences that may seem impossible and horrifying. My advice, take chances! Experience everything! Chances are, you won’t have that same opportunity again!

My philosophy; you only live once and you need to enjoy everything that life hands you, at the moment that it does. You don’t want to be 50 years old, sitting at your kitchen table, thinking what you could’ve done. You want to be that mom or dad that tells their kids what they DID do!

Don’t be scared to make new friends. The locals might seem scary sometimes, but it doesn’t mean they actually are. Traveling within the country of your study abroad, you will meet tons and tons of people from the US and from other countries. We had the pleasure of meeting some people from Spain and Canada just last weekend.

With that being said, when studying abroad, do it all! Be smart, be safe, but don’t be afraid. Keep your ears and eyes open to your surroundings, but don’t let any previous fear or any other person stop you from gaining YOUR experiences!

I leave you with Babe Ruth’s words, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Feel free to follow me and my adventures on Instagram! @dandyasia

Pura Vida!




Roommate Bonding

Roommate Bonding

My roommate is Caitlin Selvaggi from Pennsylvania. During our first weekend together in London, we went to Brick Lane market and discovered a plethora of vintage stores and street vendors. At night, though, we got lost. Our neighbor Paul captured this picture of us attempting to interpret Good Maps.
My roommate is Caitlin Selvaggi from Pennsylvania. During our first weekend together in London, we went to Brick Lane market and discovered a plethora of vintage stores and street vendors. At night, though, we got lost. Our neighbor Paul captured this picture of us attempting to interpret Good Maps.

Forced interactions with strangers can be very uncomfortable, especially if that first encounter has you and this stranger sleeping 10 ft away from each other. In college, the majority of students will have a roommate at least once, and the space shared may very well be very small. The adjustment of downsizing the square feet of your room is hard enough, let alone adding another person and their things. This is true in the States and when studying abroad. Luckily, most people who study abroad have been in college for at least one year, which means that they will have some experience with adjusting to shared spaces and new habits. The roommate situation won’t be a foreign shock. Student Sean Lechleiter says, “I’ve had a roommate for the past couple years now, so my current roommate is just like all the other ones pretty much. We respect each others’ space.” However, one thing is most definitely different when studying abroad, and it works to the advantage of new roommates. When far away from home, people can become very disoriented. Imagine the confusion of moving to a new country and trying to assimilate as quickly as possible before the experience is over. The classes are foreign, the street maps aren’t clear, the food is good, but you have no idea where to get it. You and your new roommate are in this boat together. Feel free to lean on one another in the beginning phases of this process. For the first week or twoit is okay to be a new appendage on this random person. When you want to explore, chances are they will too. Do things together because you may not know anyone else to do things with.

Caitlin and I joined a group of other students to take a day trip to York, England on October 11.
Caitlin and I joined a group of other students to take a day trip to York, England on October 11.

For example:

  • Get dinner
  • Make a Tourist To Do list and go places day by day
  • See a show! – Caitlin and I saw Gone Girl together and The Lion King (live). Both were so good!

Of course, after going to orientation, classes, joining extra-curricular groups and attending events around the city, students abroad will start to get busy and meet more people. With neighbors, friends from orientation, and people we see around campus, the list of who to call and hang out with grows. I enjoy the company of my roommate, but I am so excited to broaden horizons. Roommates do not have to go every where together. After a while, you can stop being that extra appendage and start to see other ways there are to explore the city you’re in.

Caitlin joined a group of my classmates when we went to see The Lion King live! It was a beautiful show.
Caitlin joined a group of my classmates when we went to see The Lion King live! It was a beautiful show.

In the past week or two (I am 1 month into school), there are more invites out from classmates and the same goes for my roommate. She went to Brighton with friends from orientation; I went to an open mic night with friends from class. When her friends invite her to wine and cheese night, I don’t just follow her out the door, and I expect the same when I am invited out. Of course every couple of days out of the week, we make plans to visit a market or something, but being social in wonderful, new cities should not have to rely on one person. In other words, don’t hang out too much because you’ll drive each other crazy!

Other students have said:

“Being a senior, it wasn’t fun haven’t a roommate because I’m used to having my own room and space, but it’s nice getting to know her. She’s peaceful and goes to bed early [laughs], so we get along.” – Anatasia C.

“There’s little things that he doesn’t like or things that I don’t like, but we communicated those so it’s fine. Like, he doesn’t like when I eat in the room, which is fine. I don’t understand why but I don’t need to know why.” Sean T.

“It’s really nice always having someone to talk, to and she gets along with my other friends here [in London]. There’s never an awkward moment. My roommate and my friends get along, so to connect my friends to school… that’s nice.” – Valeria D.P.

Until next time!,

Lydia D.

Incredible India

Incredible India

This week is the two month mark of my fall semester in Bangalore, India.  Two months?  Already?  I honestly could not tell you where the time has gone, but I’ll attempt.  I came here with a whole list of preconceptions, fears, and expectations — along with a whole bunch of butterflies, nerves and excitement.  The past two months have been some of the most incredible moments of my life.

Before arriving, I tried to put into words the five things that I thought would astonish me the most.

The crowds; India is the most densely populated country in the world.

The sounds; since it’s so crowded, and Bangalore is a huge city, I imagined it to be noisy and full of the bustling sounds of city life.

The smells; I imagined street foods mingling with pollution — you can’t have this many people without a few bad smells here and there.

The colors; I pictured vibrant colors, lush vegetation courtesy of monsoon season.

The complete and utter differences of a culture nothing like my own; no further explanation needed.

After two months of being here, these things have become my reality.  They have both fulfilled and exceeded my expectations; they have completely astounded me and left me speechless more times than I can say.  Let me explain.

The abyss; this was not something that I had even come close to imagining.  India is an up and coming country, and as such there are a certain number of infrastructural issues.  Like the sidewalks.  Eating/drinking on the go is not a part of the culture in any way here and the reason is simple.  If you don’t keeps your eyes on the ground as you walk, you will most definitely fall into the abyss that is beneath the already difficult to navigate streets and meet certain death.  Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not a theory I’m really willing to test.

The SOUNDS; I have the good fortune of living on the third floor of our apartment building, but still the noise can be deafening at times.  Honking is constant — it feels like drivers simply honk to say “hi!”, and they are overly friendly.  There are constantly dogs barking, motors revving, horns honking, people talking, cows (yes cows) mooing — the sounds are endless.  It brings a sort of vivaciousness to the city and creates a rhythm like I’ve never experienced.

The smells; I mentioned cows.  So just imagine that for a second when thinking about the smells of India.  The trash is definitely a problem, but it’s not all bad.  The street food exists, and the curry.  The curry is to die for.  Living in South India makes for a completely different style of food than what I tended to think of as Indian.  But, you can still get delicious North Indian curry and it is phenomenal.

The colors; exactly what I expected — but more so.  There are flowers everywhere.  The sarees are incredible.  The temples are vibrant.  Although the problems of poverty are evidenced everywhere, the colors make everything seem decadent.  Even through the dirt, the beauty of India is so apparent.

As I have adjusted to life here, there are things that I’ve grown to hate.  But more commonly, there are things that I’ve grown to love.  There are moments that I think, how did I go 21 years without this?  Each day is a new adventure, and I fall more and more in love with India with each passing minute.


Whistle while you work.

Whistle while you work.

Something has come to my attention in the last couple weeks. While studying abroad you really do have to study.  This week has been my midterms and I have two exams, three papers, and a debate in Spanish. Most of the students I am studying with agree that although the coursework is manageable, it is still more than they were expecting. At Loyola, grades received while studying abroad are calculated directly into your GPA, so slacking while abroad will show when you apply for jobs. Don’t let all of my beach pictures confuse you, this is still school.

That being said I am still very proud of my decision to study abroad.  I have made some awesome friends, and I hope we can plan a reunion after we all return to our regular universities.  My host family is still as sweet as when I first met them. They have been so kind to me over the last two months.  My host family and my new friends have made this experience overwhelmingly positive.

Last weekend was one of the few weekends I have stayed in Heredia and did not traveled to a beach, mountain or hot springs. My friends visited a carnival in Limon. I chose to stay because of the work to do for midterms, and my host family did not have the best things to say about Limon.  Thankfully, I got my work done, and (most of) my friends reported back pleased about their trip to Limon.

Although I did not travel last weekend, I still have a couple fun stories of local adventures.  About two weeks ago I have the opportunity to meet a friend of the USAC program director, who is an artist. I honestly was not expecting much of the art we were going to his house to see. I was absolutely blown away by what I saw.  The artist we met is a retired art professor, whose specialty is wood carving. Below are several pictures of his work, because a picture can say a thousand words and I am at a loss to describe the quality, quantity, and intricate detail of his carvings.  The artist’s name is Nestor Zeledon Guzman, and he refuses to sell any of his work.

This weekend we are visiting Tamarindo in the Guanecaste region of Costa Rica. I am so excited to be able to go spend a weekend at the beach after having a slightly stressful week of midterms.

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Climbing Temples in Cambodia

Climbing Temples in Cambodia

… And I’m back in Saigon again, relaxing on a much-needed day off, after an absolutely wonderful trip to Cambodia. To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this excursion–I wanted to see the temples, take a few pictures, and call it a day. I don’t know what I was thinking. I clearly underestimated the country and its stunningly beautiful environment, striking ancient sites, and ridiculously sweet people. I had such an incredible experience: one that I know I will remember for a long, long time to come.

We left Saigon early Wednesday morning; I grabbed an ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk) before we got on the bus and (of course) promptly fell asleep ten minutes into the ride. Talk about a caffeine headache. Anyway, six hours and a few passport stamps later, we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. The streets alone reminded me so much of my trip to India two years ago–between the reddish dirt everywhere, the strange script on the restaurant and street signs (Khmer looks so complicated), and the hundreds of tuk-tuks lining the streets, I felt like I was back in Amritsar. It was more different from Vietnam than I had expected; I am so comfortable and adjusted to living in Saigon that it was strange to feel like a tourist again. This city was not exactly my cup of tea, but it was fun to explore and experience regardless. I tried all sorts of funky Cambodian foods–weird pancakes, exotic sauces, kaffir-lime sorbet, and tarantula legs (YES, THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED).The restaurants we ate these local delicacies at were really fun too–one had a gorgeous pool right next to our table, and we obviously had to take a dip, fully clothed, after dinner! When in Cambodia, I guess. I definitely use that “When in …” excuse too much, but I’m not stopping anytime soon. #yolo

During our two days in Phnom Penh, we learned a ton about the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide that happened so recently … it was heartbreaking. We visited the S-21 Genocide Museum, an old high school that was basically used as a torture and killing factory during the late 1970s, and the Killing Fields Memorial, located right outside of the city. During our tours, I couldn’t help but compare what I was seeing to my visit to Auschwitz (located just outside of Krakow, Poland) a few years ago. My mom always taught me to find the good and beautiful things in humanity–but dear God, humans can do some really horrible and messed-up things. It’s even more awful to realize that these genocides take place everywhere, at any time: Eastern Europe, Rwanda, Cambodia … even what’s happening now in Iraq and Syria with ISIS. It’s difficult to process and cope with the emotions that come naturally as one walks through these places, yet it is SO important to bear witness to what occurred there. I left the city with a better-educated brain but also a very heavy heart.

Friday afternoon we embarked on a cute little Cambodian Airlines plane and flew to Siem Riep, a  rural tourist town located right next to the ancient city of Angkor, a complex which contains around 300 world-famous temples. We spent that night wandering the cute little downtown area, and did some serious shopping in the market (my friends are all going to be decked out in harem pants when I get home!). I had my first full-body massage in our hotel, a whopping $8 for an hour. Absolutely delightful. I also took a little dip in the rooftop pool–I had the entire place to myself. I felt so at peace with the world and so happy.

My goodness, all of these temple visits have got me feeling some kind of spiritual. All introspective revelations aside, our next day was simply amazing. We all woke up at 4:30 AM  (it was the WORST) and clambered into tuk-tuks bound for Angkor Wat, the largest temple in the ancient city. We hurried past the crowds and through the main gate; hiked the muddy, buggy field; and sat sweating in the balmy air, wondering what the heck we were doing at five o’clock in the morning in the middle of rural Cambodia. But then, the sun rose…and everything was simply perfect. Seeing the oh-so-familiar yellow ball of light float gracefully past the exotic, ancient towers was probably one of the most beautiful and memorable sights in my life thus far. I will never forget that view.

We spent the rest of the morning touring Angkor Wat (much stairs. such pictures. many tourists. wow sweat), followed by a ride to Angkor Thom, a nearby temple resembling a jungle gym with huge, smiling faces carved into each tower. It was super crowded, and by 10 AM we were all exhausted. Luckily, our tour guide got the hint from our fed-up facial expressions and took us back to the hotel, where we all took rewarding cat-naps and ate lunch. At 3:30 PM, we hopped back into our tuk-tuks and rode to my favorite temple of all–Ta Prohm. This moss-covered, tree-root-infested, jungle temple is eerily beautiful, and seems like it appeared right out of an Indiana Jones movie. In fact, certain places in this temple were used for a various scenes from Tomb Raider. So, so cool. I should’ve brought my little brother’s Disneyland Indiana Jones hat … it would’ve been perfect!! That evening, we watched the sunset from the highest point in the Angkor area. I couldn’t help but hum “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof to myself. Such an indescribable, absolutely incredible day.

The following Sunday morning, we all slept in (which was well-deserved after the long day before!). That afternoon, we toured a local village, silk farm, and went on a boat ride around a gorgeous lake. Everything was super fun and beautiful, but we were all exhausted … and to be perfectly honest, nothing we saw could compare to those temples from the day before. At 6 PM, we embarked on a late-night Vietnam Airlines flight and arrived back in Saigon. I got back to my room and dramatically collapsed into bed … international travel is just so exhausting and also I am the biggest spoiled brat you’ll ever meet. #lifeisgood

Anyway, we have about three days off and then we are off to Dalat, a small Vietnamese mountain town about six hours from here. We are traveling so much over the next month … what is school and homework again? I completely forgot. 🙂

Stay posted!!

angkor sunrise
angkor sunrise
Halfway there!

Halfway there!

It is very exciting and very sad to say that I have reached the halfway point of my study abroad here in Costa Rica. I have friends counting down the days I come back, and I won’t lie, I have a countdown app on my phone as well, but it’s bittersweet to think about leaving here.

Over the last few weeks, I realized I would wish I would have done these two things before I traveled 2000+ miles away from home. I would love to make this an opportunity to share some words of advice.

1. Plan out your financial spending!

Although this is mentioned in just about every handbook students receive, most of us don’t pay this any attention. I was so excited to be here and I wanted to experience everything all at once. BIG mistake. Enjoy your time, but spend your money wisely. Although things are less expensive here, they add up.

2. Don’t leave behind unsettled issues back home!

This is one of the worst things some one can do. Before you leave to study abroad, make sure that any disputes you have with friends are solved. Otherwise, this will take a toll on you and the fun you could be having while abroad. Leave at ease, not with lingering problems. Think about it, you are going to another country. This means for some things like language barrier, culture shock and homesickness are going to be problems. The ones back home don’t need to be weighing you down even more!

On a more positive note, last week we had a whole week off from classes. I had a blast during that week collecting more visa stamps for my passport! USAC gave us optional trips to either Panama ($600) or Cuba ($1,900) to choose from. The whole week was planned out for us from about 7am to 7pm, which at first was upsetting, but turned out to be the best mini-vacation ever! I chose the Panama trip.

In brief, our first 2 days were spent in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. It was densely humid there and most of the time was spent in a resort, relaxing by the pool. Then we traveled by bus, for 6 hours to get to the border of Panama. We crossed the border on a heavily traveled bridge (picture below), got on another bus and then a boat.

Our days in Bocas del Toro, Panama included beaches and snorkeling. This was easily one of the best experiences of my life! The clear waters, the coral, the sand. I couldn’t get enough. I was even brave enough to hold a starfish!

If your program offers an extra trip as this one, I highly recommend taking it! Save, budget, do what you have to do, but go on the trip! I heard from the students that went on the Cuba trip that they fell in love with the country and would love to have stayed longer.

Enjoy the pictures and PURA VIDA!


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