The GoGlobal Blog

Month: October 2014

Blogging on Hiatus

Blogging on Hiatus

Hey guys-

I know it has been awhile since I last posted.  Unfortunately, I have been caught up with midterms and mid-semester projects for the last two weeks, so I have been unable to keep y’all updated with the state of my journey.

Since I have a bit of time before I leave tomorrow for Fall Break, I thought I would offer a couple of thoughts that I have accumulated during my last few weeks of traveling and studying.  First off, I have visited both Munich and Stockholm since last blogging.  My initial reactions to both these cities were just how clean and colorful they both were.  Although both are modern cities with modern architecture, both incorporate classic European design, including rows of cute shops all painted different shades of pink, yellow, orange, and red.  At the same time, both cities tended to be much more “Americanized” than other cities that I have seen thus far in Italy.  By this, I mean that both Munich and Stockholm have numerous American fast food shops to eat in, convenient stores such as 7-Eleven (particularly in Stockholm), and are more likely to accept credit cards instead of cash, unlike Italy which is very much a cash country.  In fact, in Sweden, there were stores that only accepted credit cards instead of cash, since right now in Sweden, there is a push to go paperless in all consumer transactions.

Now that Fall Break is upon me, I will be traveling with other members of JFRC to Greece for a study trip.  This trip will not only include visiting several Greek islands, but also the archeological and historical sights around Athens and Greece.

Most likely, there will be another blog post in about two weeks, since I will be fully done with midterms and other examinations by then.

Ciao da Roma!



Versailles at night is a must

Versailles at night is a must

So I apologize for there being no recent updates on my trip… But I have finally downloaded all the picture from my camera to my computer. The weather has been amazing. We are truly lucky to have such warm weather here for the start of fall (it’s been 60-65 degrees and sunny which apparently never happens). Also, I haven’t stopped eating at different boulangeries because I have to try all the pastries. Who else is going to recommend you the best of the best? My host family is great and I find myself speaking a bit more french in the dinner table and I socialize more with Lola the monkey. We took a selfie the other day.

Just to let you know, I went on a school trip to Versailles a few weeks ago and when we finished touring the gardens we were informed that there would be a lights and firework show that very night and that it was the last one of the year. So me and a group of friends decided to stay behind and experience the Sun King’s marvelous gardens at night.

The Gardens of Versailles! I should have rented a golf cart…







The gardens and fountains are even more beautiful at night! All the fountains were turned on at night too and they illuminated the gardens and even set up fire machines that would flash a burst of flames at random times throughout the night. It was quite exciting.

Tomorrow I will be traveling to Giverny! Here we will visit the house of Claude Monet and view the environment that inspired him to paint the Lilly Pads (Les Nymphéas) that are on display in the Musée de l’Orangerie.

Until next time!


The London Packing List

The London Packing List

Keep Calm and Carry On signs and post cards can be found everywhere in London.
Keep Calm and Carry On signs and post cards can be found everywhere in London.

Anyone who has traveled to another country can explain the benefits of packing light. Most international airlines have baggage charges that can get pretty expensive. Normal struggles of getting through TSA and customs multiply when traveling with many, and often heavy, bags. Most importantly, though, you don’t want to have five bags worth of clothes and forget that you’ll probably bring home a number of souvenirs from the country you’re studying abroad in. How are you going to carry it all home? Shipping? Might as well study abroad twice in a row – because the pricing would be about the same.

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A whole new world

A whole new world

Culture shock was, thankfully, not a huge problem in my transition to Costa Rica.  Although nothing was too shocking to me, there are a good deal of differences between Costa Rica and the United States.  Please note that these observations are neither good nor bad, but rather just things I have noticed that vary from the culture I grew up in.

1. The Food

– I was thankfully placed in a host family where both the host parents are amazing cooks, and college cafeteria food pales in comparison.  Rice and beans are staple foods here, but I have not gotten sick of them at all.  Rice and beans are served with almost everything, but I feel like there is enough variety of main courses to go with them that they do not become tiresome.

-The oranges are green here! I’m pretty sure everything I knew about fruit is a lie. The bananas are three times smaller here, but more flavorful. My favorite flavorful discovery here goes by the name of “Mamon Chino”, it is small, red, sweet fruit, which looks like it should be a pulsing alien egg as opposed to a delicious snack.  (picture below)

2. Family Dynamics- Living with a host family has given me a snapshot of family life in Costa Rica. Every family is different, but one cultural difference I have noticed is that it is very common for adult children to live with their parents. Children live with their parents until then they get married in order to save money, compared to the US where kids try to move out asap.

3. Routine- I initially stated that their is no good or bad, only different when comparing cultures, but this may be an exception.  In Costa Rica, an afternoon siesta followed by an afternoon snack with coffee is a common, almost daily occurrence. Respecting nap time (or at least a quiet time) is an art, and it remains strong in Costa Rica, and I believe that is an excellent tradition.

4. The Weather- Now, this cannot be helped, nor is it specific to Costa Rica, but I feel it is worth mentioning that it rains everyday here. Not just for twenty or thirty minutes, but after 3pm until dark everyday without fail.  A joke my host dad is particularly fond of is “In most places they have four seasons in a year, Costa Rica has only two: rain and waiting for it to rain.” Please note that August-December is the rainy season here, and next semester it should be considerably drier.

Those are just a handful of the differences between Chicago and Costa Rica. As I previously stated, culture shock was not a huge problem for me, but that being said, I would encourage everyone to find their piece of home they can take with them.  For me, it is song in English, preferably familiar, but even an old time ballad in English reminds me that I not fallen off the map.the blog of us

“Very Vietnamese”

“Very Vietnamese”

My Basic Vietnamese professor, Mister Truc, uses this phrase to describe his “beautiful” American students, whenever our pronunciations are on point. He praises our attempts at speaking the language with the biggest smile on his face, saying, “Ah, you sound very Vietnamese! So lovely!” It’s hilarious, because in truth we sound quite awful, but the compliments are nice regardless. Anyway, after a weekend spent exploring the city’s culture more deeply and getting to know several new friends, I felt “very Vietnamese.” That’s kind of the point of studying abroad, I guess. I feel like a local … and I absolutely love it.

I went into this weekend with a simple plan to relax and unwind, as this was our last free period until late November … we are traveling so much! On Friday, a few of the other students on the program left for Malaysia, and others for a home-stay in the Mekong Delta–I just wanted to sleep and read my book. However, I quickly realized that (1) I get bored easily and (2) there is so much more of Saigon that I want to experience before I run out of time. So, with that in mind, my friend Ashley and I kicked off our “homestay in Saigon,” with a goal to experience the city like the local students do. We never could have known what a funny, wonderful time we would have!

After class on Friday, Ash and I had lunch in the canteen, or the school cafeteria. It’s cheap, quick, and really freaking good–my favorite dish to get there is mi xao, or stir-fried noodles with veggies and a fried egg. Ash had rice and pork because she’s goofy and doesn’t like noodles … crazy girl! I’m obsessed with them. We soon embarked for District 1, with the intent to go shopping, but it started to downpour (what a shocker) so we planted ourselves in a coffee shop, drank really good (and expensive!) tea, and talked about life for like two hours. I adore little friend dates like this one.

Anyway, once the rain stopped, we spent a few hours shopping and exploring District 1. We got tired eventually (shopping is just exhausting … sigh) and tried to find a way home. Ash was all for taking the bus, but I was already negotiating with a xe om driver to take us both home (it’s so much more fun!). We ended up smooshed together, three people on one bike, Ash’s legs wrapped around mine and me without a helmet. It was hilarious and dangerous and incredible all at the same time. But we got home. Somehow.

We had a pretty chill Friday night, but while I was eating noodles (and Ash was eating broth, of course) we met a huge group of Vietnamese boys who live in our dorm. Their English wasn’t great, but they insisted on taking us to find sweet soup (Ash is forever on a quest to find this dessert, kind of like coconut milk with yummy jelly stuff in it). We ended up sitting with them for a few hours, drinking iced coffee and mango smoothies, and attempting to navigate our blatant language barriers. It was so much fun, and they were so excited to have new American friends. Ash later said that the evening made her whole semester … I wholeheartedly agree!

Saturday was a pretty laid back day … I slept for almost 12 hours, and it was delightful. Later, Ash and I explored a mall near our dorm, and we had peanut butter and good strawberry jam on a baguette for lunch … while blasting Anaconda in my room. Typical college (even halfway around the world). That evening we took our host students, Hannah and Thao, to dinner–our treat. They spoil us both rotten and take us everywhere on their motorbikes, so we wanted to take them out on our own terms! We ate banh xeo (my favorite vegetarian Vietnamese dish) and it was absolutely delicious, of course. Then we took them to Dairy Queen, which just opened in Vietnam. It was so funny–Hannah and Thao both got Blizzards, and they were so excited to flip them upside down! Over brownie sundaes and banana splits, Ash and I were a little homesick, but it was so lovely to be able to share our culture with our host students. Hot fudge, M&Ms, and soft-serve ice cream are just about as American as you can get!!

Then, Thao and Hannah drove us to the main park near Diamond Plaza and Reunification Palace, where we sat on slips of old newspaper with other young people and listened to live music. The four of us talked about life and culture and Disney and prom and all sorts of things. It was so much fun …   I just kept thinking, I’m in Vietnam right now. I am just so in love with this city and this country and with life. I’m can’t stop smiling as I write!

On Sunday, I went shopping with a new friend of mine, miss Soo. We met at DRD, where the Loyola students help with English tutoring. She’s super sweet and adorable, and she’s moving to the United States in a few months! Her husband currently lives in Virginia, and she’s both excited and nervous to leave her home country. She’s led an incredible life and I just love getting to know her more. We went out to eat, shop, drink iced coffee, and chat … and five hours later, I felt like I had just spent the day with one of my dear friends back home! She’s totally my cup of tea, and I can’t wait to have her visit Chicago when she arrives in the States. #friendsforlife

Last night, we had dinner at Chris’s house (our program director). He’s so kind to have us all over; he made us buttery mashed potatoes, garlicky green beans, hot fried chicken, and moist chocolate cake–we were all slightly homesick and so wonderfully full. It’s crazy how much I miss American food. Then we watched The Killing Fields, a movie about the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide … it was so good, and I am very interested to keep learning about the atrocities there, which occurred so recently. We leave for Cambodia early Wednesday morning, and I am so excited to see the temples, cities, and genocide museums and memorials. I still cannot believe that I’m here, in Southeast Asia, experiencing so many things and traveling my heart out.

Life is pretty amazing sometimes.

Stay posted!!

soo date

Communication is Key

Communication is Key

One thing I have repeatedly taken for granted in the U.S is the ability to communicate with almost everyone I came into contact with. Questions like:  “How much does this cost?”  “Where is the bathroom?” “How do I get to ___?”  are easily conveyed in my native tongue, English. I can even manage to ask these vital questions in Mandarin Chinese, the second language I learned in high school. However, choosing to study abroad in Europe, rather than Beijing, presented a few obvious setbacks in the realm of communication.

Upon arriving in Italy, I became quickly aware that I did not know any Italian besides “la donna mangi la mella” which translates to “the woman eats the apple.” I have been here for a month now and that phrase hasn’t been used even once! I wonder why… Instead, I have found myself more in need of basic phrases that my Duolingo training this summer had left me without.

One particular day, I was coming back from the city center and was taking the bus by myself for the first time. Being as idiotic and paranoid as I tend to be, I was convinced I needed to get off the bus about 20 minutes before I needed to. This rash decision left me on a section of Balduina (our local neighborhood) that I had never seen before. Mistakenly believing that I had gotten off the bus too early, I turned around and walked in the direction the bus had come from. Soon I found myself walking up and down the same hill over and over again, and let me tell you, these hills are no joke! I was sweating, tired, hungry, and so lost. Naturally, I thought I should ask someone for how to find Via Massimi, the road the John Felice Rome Center is located on.

Stepping into a small, but quaint cafe (oddly called bars, here) I slowly approached the counter. A smiling older woman greeted me in Italian, “buongiorno!” “Good,”  I thought, “I can totally do this. I know some Italian.”

However, knowing a basic greeting like good morning and knowing how to say “I’ve been lost for an hour and half on this godforsaken hill, can you tell me the fastest way to get to Via Massimi?”or even just “where is Via Massimi?”proved to be far more difficult than I would have ever imagined. Soon enough, I was leaving the cafe having received no information other than a collection of confused looks that conveyed this woman did not know English.

Eventually I made it back to campus by using common sense and the check and guess method we learned in elementary school. I was exhausted, but felt triumphant nonetheless, and went into Italian class that afternoon armed with questions on how to ask for simple directions.

Communication barriers exist outside the realm of Rome, too. My first trip outside of Italy was to Paris, France, to see my Loyola roommate and best friend, Arantxa. Not realizing I didn’t know a lick of French (not even “the woman eats the apple, which we now know is essential to traveling around any foreign city), I walked into the Rome airport with confidence and gusto. Soon enough, I found that French was even a larger communication issue than Italian had been for the past month.

The first issue was with the gate. Initially I was very pleased to be early and at the gate more than an hour in advance. Smooth sailing has hardly ever been the phrase to describe my life, though, and before long Ryanair decided to let a flight to Madrid board using the gate intended for our flight, effectively putting us almost an hour behind schedule. Not understanding what was going on, I attempted to communicated with the people around me, only to discover they were all very French and spoke zero English. Instead, an old man and I communicated with a series of smiles, head nods and shakes, hand gestures, and a lot of expressive eye movements. Soon enough, we were communicating in language everyone around the world is familiar with: laughter.

The delay caused more issues for getting on shuttle buses to Paris and then more problems with speaking to cab drivers arose, but we all made it to Paris, safe and sound! Thankfully for the rest of my journey I had Arantxa with me who actually speaks French. The only other communication oddity was speaking with her host madame who truly believe I could understand French despite Arantxa telling her I don’t understand even a little of it!

In the end, it turns out communication is more than just words. We can speak with our eyes, our hands (the Italians especially love that method!), and with our laughter. Even if you don’t know what a person is saying to you, you can still understand and feel what they mean.

But it still comes in handy when you’re in a fix to be able to say “Dove è il bagno????”


Girls Just Wanna Have Fun(ghi)!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun(ghi)!

“Oh, when the working week is done, oh girls just want to have funghi! Oooh, girls just wanna have funghi!”

My very own version of that feel good classic was swirling around my head the entire weekend as we climbed our way through the mountainous terrain around Cuano Mutri to devour some mushrooms. All Cyndi Lauper puns aside, this weekend was most definitely the best I’ve had in awhile…and I’ve been living in Rome for the past 5 weeks so that’s saying something! There are so many differences between Cusano and Rome, it’s almost like comparing apples to oranges. In a way, Cusano Mutri felt more authentic. I was not greeted in English, but *gasp* Italian! You would think living in Rome this would be common, but the constant tourist population definitely hinders any Italian language exchange. I fell in love with the small town atmosphere immediately and embraced the full mushroom menu I enjoyed all weekend. I am not exactly the outdoorsy type, so this was definitely an adventure in more ways than one.

Most of the weekend was planned around what were described as “novice hikes,” AKA: something even this athletically challenged, city-goer could handle. Well, what started as a leisurely stroll through a forest preserve on day one suddenly shifted gears into an intense, rocky climb on day two. Our guide for the second climb was hardly breaking a sweat as our group ascended 1,500 feet up hill. I’m convinced that this temporarily closed ski slope we were traversing was at least a 75 degree incline at all times, or at least that’s what my calves were telling me 15 minutes into our hike. Where were we climbing to you ask? To the top of the world:


A view like that was worth every bead of sweat and rock I tripped on getting to the top.

Throughout our trip, SO MANY mushrooms were eaten. I’m convinced my fellow JFRC members and I cleaned out the entire harvest ourselves. Each course we had included mushrooms in some way, from mushroom gnocchi to polenta in a tomato and mushroom sauce. There was no shortage of funghi that’s for sure! This fungal feast continued into the small vendors throughout Cusano Mutri. There were mushroom and truffle cheeses to be enjoyed! Cured sweet and spicy sausages to be devoured! Nutella doughnuts and various cakes to conclude our meals! And most importantly regional liquor to be tried, including fragolino. What was described as a strawberry wine, would be a closer relative to limoncello in my opinion. Now I mentioned previously that breakfast is not a huge deal in Italy contrary to what every American mother preaches. Being a breakfast connoisseur, I was initially weary of being without eggs and a huge coffee to start my day off. However, this weekend I was fully converted believing in an Italian breakfast. I’m convinced the woman who ran our cabins was a saint. Each morning, at 8:30 precisely, she would open the dining room and serve us a breakfast of freshly made cornetti (chocolate, cream, and marmalade filled), juice, and individually made cappuccinos and espresso. Divine intervention was surely the cause of such a magnificent spread.

Small town Italian culture is something I’m incredibly happy to have experienced first hand. The feeling of an entire town coming together to celebrate a harvest is overwhelmingly beautiful. Wine makers, farmers, local cooks, and townspeople all come together to celebrate the mushroom harvest as well as their own local products. Cusano Mutri wholeheartedly welcomed our group and treated us like members of their community, which I am grateful for. I’ll never get the insight to such an integral part of Italian culture as I did this weekend. Here’s to mushrooms and memories made at Cusano Mutri!

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