The GoGlobal Blog

Month: November 2014

Grazie Roma!

Grazie Roma!

With Thanksgiving last Thursday, I had an extra long weekend here in Rome to celebrate everything the city has given me so far and explore some things I had not yet discovered. In fact, that has been the theme of every day recently as the unfortunate end of my journey draws near. Having had my first Thanksgiving away from my family has made me realize just how fortunate I am to be having this experience.

Last weekend I went to the Modern Art Gallery. This was by far my favorite museum experience in Rome! They had such a terrific collection! Unfortunately I don’t know much about Italian artists after the baroque period. I think I’ll have to do some research because I was really impressed by the dada and futurist works! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures inside or out. But the building was pretty spectacular as well. I was really tempted to go back and go through the gallery again, but money is a little tight as the semester is coming to a close. Better spend that chunk of cash on a nice meal or some souvenirs instead!

Pomodoro sculpture at the Pinecone Courtyard of the Vatican Museum.

With my Art In Rome class I visited the Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel. I had just started to worry that I would not make it before I left! The Vatican has an interesting collection of art. I didn’t get to explore as much of it as I would have liked since we were led by our professor restricted by time, but the general variety they had was quite intriguing! It was definitely another place that I wouldn’t mind taking a second trip through (there was even a whole room of egyptian artifacts that I missed!)

Thanksgiving Roma style


Despite not being in the States, I was lucky enough to have two Thanksgiving meals! The first was on Wednesday night and it was put on by our dinning hall (or as we call it, mensa). It was so much fun because all of the staff, faculty, and administrators come as well. Since so many of them are Italian and don’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving, they bring they’re families along to partake in the American holiday! Then on Thursday a group of friends that weren’t traveling for the weekend got together for another meal downtown. The food was absolutely amazing (all roman style dishes) and the company was even better! I truly had so much to be thankful for this year.

Turkey Trot
Post Turkey Trot cheers.

Early on Thursday, a couple friends and I woke up early to do a turkey trot 5K around the Vatican. And by early I mean the race started at 6 am to avoid the tourist crowds! Even though I was fully prepared to crawl back in bed when my alarm woke me up, I am so glad to have gone through with the race! Not everyone can say they have run around a sovereign nation! After the race the sun was just coming up and we were able to see some silhouettes of Rome’s most famous monuments against the pink sky. It was truly beautiful and something you just can’t capture on camera! We topped off the morning with a trip to the market for some food to hold us over until mensa started up again on Sunday night. I never feel more European than when I get to shop at the market!

At Cinecitta Studios. Film prop in Fellini’s Casanova.

That afternoon, a couple friends and I went out to Cinecitta to tour Italy’s famous film studio! I just love Italian film and relished every exhibit! I especially liked the Federico Fellini room that had costumes from some of his movies and his journal of sketches. It was also interesting to hear about the construction and history of the studio. Cinecitta is a must for any film buff going to Rome!

I am not ready for my time in Italy to end! It has been such an amazing semester and I have had the most wonderful experiences, I feel quite prepared to stay quite a bit longer. Nonetheless, it will be good to see my family again and touch base with my roots. After all, to quote one of my favorite Italian movies, La Grande Bellezza, “Roots are important.”


Making it Big in Bollywood Dance

Making it Big in Bollywood Dance

I’ve finally found my claim to fame: Bollywood Dance.

Ok, so maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but just yesterday I got to perform along with the rest of the USAC Bollywood Dance class on the main auditorium stage filled with incredibly talented dancers.  Christ University hosted a dance competition, and graciously allowed us to perform during the intermission.  All the dancers were incredible!  Each dance had a deeper significance — they were beautifully performed and offered a beautiful message to the audience.  And then there was us…all smiles, boldly going where I’m sure no one of us had ever dreamed, with nothing in mind other than trying to remember the steps that we’d spent months practicing.  Midwest girl makes it big in Bollywood.


I’m  not going to lie, this has definitely been my favorite class here.  All of the early morning practices were totally worth it once we were on stage dancing along to the cheers of the audience (was it only the small group of USAC students sitting in the front?).  Nonetheless, it was an unforgettable experience.  It felt great to really be a part of something.  Not only were we being exposed to the culture of the place in which we were studying, but we were actively participating in it.

Studying in India has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone in ways that I didn’t even think was possible — Bollywood Dance being a perfect example.  I’m so grateful for my time here, all of the opportunities that I’ve been able to take advantage of, and all of the connections I have made that I’m sure will turn into long lasting relationships.

A Humbling Homestay with Hannah

A Humbling Homestay with Hannah

Too many H’s for ya? If you haven’t noticed, I am quite the fan of alliteration in my blog post titles (I often spend more time coming up with these cutesy phrases than writing the actual post … whoops!). Regardless of my ultra-fabulous writing creativity, this weekend’s mini-trip to my Vietnamese host partner Hannah’s hometown of Tay Ninh was moving and enlightening. Sometimes life hands you 24 hours which can singlehandedly change your world view … and help you to realize how truly amazing it can be!

Miss Hannah picked me up at the dormitory around 1PM on Saturday, and we set off for the bus station. Upon arrival, I was delighted to discover that the bus we would take on the two-hour trek to Tay Ninh was bubble-gum-pink. Kind of a silly little observation, but I was excited nonetheless. We clambered into our tiny, cramped seats (leg-room? What is that? This is VIETNAM. This does not exist.) and napped the entire ride there–it was quite nice, actually. When we drove into the bus station, Hannah told me that her aunt’s home was only a short walk away, so I was all ready to walk there … but then I got off the bus. It was so. freaking. hot. I mean, Saigon is hot. This was … boiling-lava-I’m-going-to-die-right-now hot. Hannah saw my horrified facial expression and quickly snagged a cab. We drove to Hannah’s aunt’s house, where we dropped our things off and washed our faces. Their home was small, but very clean and tidy–two bedrooms, a living room, and a tiny little kitchen. I met both her beautiful cousins (an 18-year-old and an 18-month-old) and her ever-so-jolly uncle. Her aunt sells eggs at the market each day, so I was to meet her at dinner later. Hannah then asked if I wished to go exploring, and I said, “Of course!” So off we went (by a borrowed motorbike, of course!).

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Hannah is an active Cao Đài, a relatively new faith tradition that has strong roots in Vietnam. Tay Ninh, Hannah’s hometown, is the epicenter of the Cao Đài religion: a walled-in complex of religious buildings that is surrounded by the homes of the faithful. Within the main facility, there exists the main temple (called the “Holy See”), a Mother Goddess worship temple, a primary school, a secondary school, the “monkey forest,” and a hospital. There are eleven gates to get inside the complex; that afternoon, we entered one and spent the next two hours exploring. It was all so incredibly stunning; the colorful buildings were illuminated by the setting sun, and the lingering rain clouds surrounding the nearby mountain added an air of mysterious tranquility. Yet what was even more beautiful was Hannah’s sense of utter peace that came upon her when we entered the grounds. It was simply inspiring. She quietly described her faith to me as we wandered the manicured gardens of the temple, and I peppered her with questions about the history and values of the faith. I watched her pray in front of the Mother Goddess altar alongside her fellow Cao Đài members, most in their traditional all-white áo dài. I caught her little smile as she described her childhood memories, playing in the field in front of the Holy See with her friends. Her nostalgia and simply joy that she received from returning home made me so indescribably happy. I felt at peace knowing that even across the globe, all people have that same sense of “home” that I miss so dearly.

After some more exploration of the surrounding town (and a sugary snack of Vietnamese sweet soup), we returned to her aunt’s home. To my surprise, there were about twelve people packed into the tiny house: Hannah’s other aunt and uncle came over, along with her cousins and their boyfriends. Everyone smiled and nodded at me … and that was pretty much the end of our greetings, as Hannah is the only person in her family to speak English. When I asked her why there were so many people over, Hannah smiled at me and said that it was normal for her “big family” to eat dinner altogether. And before I knew it, we were all sitting in a circle on the pristine tile floor with the most delicious assortment of food before us. Huge, green lettuce leaves, an assortment of aromatic herbs, crunchy white bean sprouts, and stiff rice paper sat piled on one platter, in the center. Then Hannah’s aunt delivered a steaming plate of little fried goodies: hot vegetarian spring rolls and salty shredded jackfruit fritters. Hannah and her cousins began quickly rolling all of this food into perfect little rice-paper-rolls … when I tried to make one, it literally fell apart, much to the amusement of everyone in the room. I laughed and shrugged, and then Hannah proceeded to make the rest of my meal for me. I was slightly flustered by my complete idiocy, until I remembered the Hershey kisses I had stashed in my bag (so American, no?). The family was delighted by my dessert, and I realized I had nothing to be embarrassed about. I was having the most amazing meal that I think I’ve had in Vietnam yet … good food, but the wonderful people I was eating it with made it all the more lovely.

Hannah and I went to bed early that evening, as we were both exhausted from our long day. We awoke the following morning at 6AM and headed straight for the market, where we saw Hannah’s aunt in action, selling duck eggs like nobody’s business. Hannah told me that she sells almost 5,000 eggs a day. I was very impressed! We grabbed some delicious (and super cheap!) iced coffees and headed for Hannah’s mom’s shop and coconut farm. Even though Hannah doesn’t live with her mom, she helps out at her outdoor store where her mother sells everything from áo dàis to fresh coconut water. We spent some time talking with her mom (Correction. Hannah chatted with her mom. I nodded and pretended I understand Vietnamese.) and then she showed us around. Seeing Hannah interact with her mom made me miss mine even more!! (#2moreweeks) But soon, we were headed off again … this time for the “Black Lady” mountain. Hannah had planned for us to spend the majority of the day climbing this gorgeous rock formation … I made it about an hour before I was too sweaty and exhausted to continue. It was only noon; I felt awful, because Hannah was a little ball of energy. But she understood; her lazy American friend could simply not handle the disgusting heat. Instead, we had a delicious lunch of vegetarian rice and fried tofu, and took an afternoon catnap.

Around 5PM, we set out to catch the bus back to Saigon. However, we got to the bus station and there were TONS of people … all of the scheduled buses were delayed for at least four hours. Hannah said that this was normal for a Sunday, and perhaps we could just try again tomorrow. But all of a sudden, a woman that I recognized grabbed my arm and started speaking in rapid Vietnamese to Hannah. She took our bus tickets and disappeared … Hannah had a shocked look on her face. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “Nothing is wrong. This woman is taking a cab back to Saigon and she’s taking us as her guests, for free.” It turns out this woman, who is Hannah’s neighbor, and her husband didn’t have time to wait for the bus … so they were paying for the expensive cab back to Saigon and invited us to come along. On the ride home, she told us her incredible life story and showed us videos of her adorable 1-year-old son. They dropped us off at my dormitory; Hannah and I agreed that we were incredibly lucky. My goodness, I’m going to miss how sweet the Vietnamese people are … even strangers here can be so kind.

Well. Another amazing weekend in Vietnam, done. I now have just under two weeks left until my family arrives and the program is finished. I can’t even begin to think about leaving … I’m going to ignore that final departure date until it actually arrives.

Stay posted!!

Querida Costa Rica

Querida Costa Rica

Dear Costa Rica,

You are one of the most beautiful and welcoming countries out there! I have been here for about 4 months now and you are making it very hard to leave you behind. I realize that I only have 2 weeks left with you, my dear, and it makes it hard to think saying goodbye.

As I walk down your streets, to school, to the bank and so on, I can’t help but think of things I will miss about you. I will miss your beautiful nature. The wonderful sounds of birds and chickens in my neighborhood. I will miss your warm sun and amazing breeze at night. I will miss all the beaches and mountains, oh how I love the view of the mountains! I will miss your amazing coffee and the fact that I can get a very good cup for a $1.50. I will miss the fresh fruits and veggies. I will miss the amazing campus and the very cheap bus ($0.50) I take to classes. But most of all, I will miss all the wonderful people you have.

During my time here, I got to be a volunteer with an amazing English teacher and meet many adorable and intelligent kids. I spent my last day with them, this past Thursday and already miss them! As a goodbye, I received a book of pictures and a poster of their little signatures. 🙂 I hope you treat them well in their years to come! They all deserve the best.

Having been blessed with, hands down, THE BEST host family has also made me fall more in love with you. My host mom is a superhero. She works, goes to school and takes care of her family and house. My host sisters are both really smart and my little host brother is a cute little trouble maker. During my time here, they all cared for me like I was part of the family. Nothing more could have made me feel at home and feel sad about leaving. It’s sad to think that I have such a short time left with them!

You made me fall head over heels for you, and now I fear saying goodbye will be too hard. Thank you Costa Rica for everything I have learned and everything I got the chance to see and experience. Thank you for all the new Spanish I learned. I will miss you so, dearest Costa Rica! I promise to find time and money to return to you one day.

With all my love,





I found Poland in Costa Rica!

I found Poland in Costa Rica!

Hola readers!

So I don’t think I mentioned in my bio that I am a daughter to two immigrants from Poland. I love my Polish culture and couldn’t be more proud.

My host family was really interested in the language when I told them and we even spent a whole day together where I taught them some words in Polish, including how to say their names. It was a blast. At school, we have an amazing professor who studied abroad in Poland when he was younger and then decided to live there for 2 years. I was so happy to have met him and be able to speak Polish to someone here in Costa Rica.

I decided that I wanted to find the Polish people. I set out to find a neighborhood, as we have in Chicago, or maybe just a restaurant. I had trouble finding the neighborhood, but with some help from the professor, I was able to locate a Polish owned restaurant near San Jose.

I embarked on this trip with two friends and we got to see so much on the way. We discovered new parts of San Jose that we haven’t been to and even passed through another university here in Costa Rica. We had tons of fun. The restaurant had delicious food and I felt like I got to connect with my culture by going there!

The trip turned into a day spent in San Jose. We got some souvenir shopping done and then of course got lost trying to find the bus back to Heredia, where we live. The thing is, at this point, getting lost is not as nerve-wrecking as it was when I first got here. I feel so happy having reached a point where I can get into a taxi and say my address out loud, not have to show the driver the piece of paper. So when we walked down the street in search of the bus, we knew we didn’t have to worry, we calmly asked around and found our way. What’s really interesting is that ticos (Costa Ricans) will always give you a direction, even if they don’t know. They feel it is rude to not help someone, so they would rather give you any direction than not one at all.

Until next time,
Pura Vida!





An Open Letter to My Family

An Open Letter to My Family

Dear family

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who hated wearing jeans, loved animals more than anything, and dreamed of travelling the world everyday. She would look at maps of the world and wonder when she could go to the places that seemed only finger lengths away on the map, but where she knew was truly thousands of miles away. This little girl would sit on the edge of her seat listening to the stories her grandmother would tell of travelling to Russia, the tales her mother and godmother had from their time in Africa, the magical fairytale her aunt told about her 16th birthday in London, and her father’s stories about driving through Germany and the rest of Europe.

Soon, this little girl, no more than five feet tall, started to grow up. As she entered high school and began taking Mandarin, Chinese, she wondered if the day would ever come when she could actually go to China and use the language and experience the culture. At night, when she couldn’t sleep, she would go on United Airlines’ website and search for flights to Taipei, Seoul, or Barcelona. She dreamed and dreamed, but was never really sure when she would make it to these beautiful and mysterious countries. She was content with her day dreams, but she always yearned for the day that she would be able to get herself there.

Then, in the summer of 2011, a miracle happened. Thanks to her generous, wonderful, and loving family, she had the privilege of  flying across the world to China. That summer, she got to taste what it was like to travel and what it was like to experience something entirely new; a culture so different, she was sometimes overwhelmed, but always excited. She knew, when she touched down in Chicago after 10 days in a country that would take up a special place in her heart, that she would forever be fighting off wanderlust.

Now, a little over three years later, this little girl is all grown up and is sitting at a desk in Rome thinking about how she got here.

I knew from the beginning that my family was incredible. We have been through good times and bad times together, and I know we have only grown stronger. It is all thanks to them that I was able to fulfil my major life long dream of studying abroad. I could not have done this without their constant support of every kind and never ending belief in me.

I am so grateful for all I have been blessed with that it is extremely hard to put it into words. Everything that I have been given, all the opportunities that I have had here that I know not everyone will get to experience, all of the love that I have been given every day of my life, it is all thanks to them. I have been given so much more than I could ever ask for, and I owe it all to my personal cheerleaders, my own collection of people who have loved me through my good moments and my bad ones.

So, thank you to my mother and my father! Thank you to my brother and my sister! Thank you to My godmother, my grandmother, and my aunt! Thank you to my cousins and my other aunts and uncles who have supported me!

I do not know how I could ever repay all of you for the impossible amount of priceless gifts you have given me, but I will try every day to show you how grateful I am and how much I have grown as a person because of you all. Every step of the way, I wished all of you could be there with me.

Thank you so, so much for giving me something so incredible, most would say it’s impossible: thank you so much for giving me the world!



I Left My Heart in Hoi An

I Left My Heart in Hoi An

What. A. Week. It’s been an incredible, exhausting, hilarious, crazy, and absolutely wonderful ten days. I’m so tired but also so delightfully fulfilled. This past week was our North and Central Vietnam excursion, planned and led by the Loyola program. It was so much fun, but so much traveling … We flew into Danang, spent a few days in Hoi An and then drove to Hue, the imperial city. And then we flew to Hanoi, took a day trip to Halong Bay, and ended with a weekend in Sapa, a northern mountain town. It was a lot of moving and schlepping our bags, but we saw so many beautiful things and hit so many famous tourist sights. To be completely honest, I don’t even know how to fit everything we saw into this post–but I’m going to try!! Here we go …

We flew into Danang on Thursday morning, and then drove about an hour to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An, where we had a delicious lunch and checked into our cute hotel. We spent the next four days touring this wonderful little village … biking the winding roads, sampling local street food, shopping in the most adorable boutiques, making multicolored lanterns, and relaxing on the sunny beach. It was so much fun to just chill and appreciate the lively, happy culture that just seeps from every corner of this little town. I fell absolutely in love, if you cannot already tell!! We also took two morning excursions–one to a local organic vegetable farm (YUM!) and one to My Son, a cluster of ancient Cham ruins located in the nearby mountains … both were absolutely gorgeous. Hoi An is also world-renowned for its incredible tailor shops … I had my absolute dream J.Crew navy blazer made overnight! So convenient, so cheap, and one huge item on my (already extensive) wish list checked off! Sunday was our final day in Hoi An, which we thankfully had “off.” I spent the day relaxing by the pool and biking around with miss Ashley (and maybe doing some more shopping. Who knows.)

We checked out of our hotel on Monday morning, and drove four hours north by bus to Hue, the imperial city. Another UNESCO World Heritage site, this city was a lot less touristy than Hoi An, but not nearly as adorable. That afternoon, we saw the ancient imperial citadel, followed by a evening boat ride down the Perfume River and a tour of a beautiful tiered pagoda … it was all so beautiful. Sadly, I had a slightly bad taste of Hue–quite literally! Hue is known internationally for its local delicacies, but after sampling some dishes, such as bun bo hue, both in Saigon and Hue itself, I was totally grossed out. Not my favorite. Oh well, Tuesday afternoon we were off to new places (and better foods) … this time on a flight up north to Hanoi!!

Bright and early Wednesday morning, we drove four hours to Ha Long Bay, where we embarked our own private boat and spent the day cruising. I had been looking forward to seeing this UNESCO World Heritage site (what, another one?) during my entire semester in Vietnam … the mossy rock formations are exactly what I picture when I think of Southeastern Asia. It was everything I had expected and more–I was in my element, sitting on the top deck of the boat, enjoying the cool breeze and taking in the beauty around me. It was so wonderfully quiet and peaceful. I couldn’t stop smiling!! Throughout the day, we made a few stops, including a trip to one of the famous caves and an hour spent kayaking through the rock formations. It was a lovely, calm day compared to all of other time spent traveling and sightseeing. I was sad to leave the bay; but I happily welcomed a very deep sleep, back at our fancy hotel in Hanoi (hello white cotton duvets and air conditioning).

Most of Thursday was spent touring the city of Hanoi. This French-influenced, chilly capital of Vietnam definitely has its own unique flavor compared to Saigon … I loved it! The streets were more crowded, but the food and shopping was fabulous. We saw the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Ethnology Museum, and the Presidential Palace. Everything was beautiful, per usual; but by 4PM, we were all completely exhausted. We had done a lot of traveling (and were nowhere near done!). Luckily we sat down to a water puppet show, a Hanoi specialty. It was pretty cool, and it was the perfect opportunity to chill for a little bit. The down time was appreciated … afterwards, we were off on the next leg of our journey–a night train to Sapa, a northern mountain town close to the Chinese border. The train experience was so freaking awesome–the train cabins were so old-fashioned and cool. We had four people to a cabin, and we each had our own bunk … we brought snacks and giggled as we watched the bright lights of Hanoi disappear into the night. All I needed was a fur stole, pin curls, and maybe some diamond chandelier earrings, and I could’ve been a starlet from the 1920s on her way to Hollywood!

The next two days (Friday and Saturday) were spent in this chilly little mountain village. Our hostel was nice, but certainly not a place to hang out … we wandered the tiny main drag and outdoor market of ‘downtown Sapa’ and were finished within an hour. It was super foggy outside and we were so cold … the 40-degree weather was simply shocking after three months of Saigon heat and humidity. Friday night, Dan, Tori, Ash and I snuggled into a cute little restaurant and ate pasta with mulled, hot wine and then went to bed early–the four of us had planned a trekking tour for Saturday morning. Thank god that we did, because I honestly don’t know what we would have done in that tiny town for another full day. We spent most of the day wandering local villages and hiking the rice paddies, and getting really freaking muddy. It was hilarious, but so worth it–with mud caked on my shoes and feeling completely exhausted, I felt like I had truly experienced Sapa.

Saturday evening, we took the night train back to Hanoi, and crashed in our hotel at 4 o’clock in the morning. Sunday was pretty relaxedand we caught a flight back to Saigon in the evening. Altogether, an absolutely incredible vacation. Which was also so completely exhausting … I’m heading off to bed now, darlings.

Stay posted!!

It’s been a Jolly Holiday

It’s been a Jolly Holiday

It is the final stretch. I have 19 days left in Costa Rica. It is amazing to me how fast time really does fly by. All of the people I know call my friends I just met three months ago, and sooner than we know it we will go our separate ways. I am so grateful for all of the people who make me excited to go home. I have not seen most of my friends at Loyola since May, and I cannot wait to see them again. This will be the first Thanksgiving that I have ever been away from family. I can take comfort in knowing that I return the week right after Thanksgiving with enough time to get into the holiday spirit before Christmas.

Our adventures in Costa Rica have become increasingly more laid back compared to the first few months, during which we traveled almost every weekend.  Last weekend we spent our time playing basketball in a nearby town and visiting local bakeries. This weekend we took a day trip to San Jose to go souvenir shopping for our families and ourselves.  Getting to know the area we live in is just as important as discovering the rest of Costa Rica, and to be honest I think we all got a little tired of traveling.

In the upcoming week I have a presentation and two papers due. We do not have class on Friday so that we can meet with the other study abroad groups in Costa Rica and have an end of the year fiesta. I have been promised futbol and BBQ, so needless to say, I’m excited.

The thing I miss most about home, besides the people, is everything that makes home unique. The variety in restaurant choices, Chicago’s skyscrapers, and dare I say it, I miss the snow. Costa Rica has been a wonderful experience for me, and I would not change a thing about my decision to study where I did. That being said, I cannot wait to go back and step outside into a cold that takes your breath away. (I will then quickly run inside and hide in a snuggie for the next four to five months, but that’s as much a part of living in Chicago as anything else.)




A London Tourist on a Student Budget

A London Tourist on a Student Budget

'Hahn/Cock' by Katharina Frisch in Trafalgar Square
‘Hahn/Cock’ by Katharina Frisch in Trafalgar Square

One of the obvious expectations of studying abroad is constant traveling. Being in Europe puts a person near so many beautiful and cultured countries. I had this image of myself on a bus every weekend, ending up in the Netherlands, Germany, or France, coming home dazed and with an artifact on my lap from each city. Over the summer, I couldn’t imagine there’d be any limitations to this beautiful plan. My class schedule isn’t too full. Why not?!

I realized ‘why not’ when I started booking tickets to these romanticized places. Prices add up and a trip every weekend hits hard on the bank account.

Two weekends ago, I visited a friend in St. Andrews, Scotland and there was an error with my train ticket into the country. When I thought the original price was 39 pounds (About 63 dollars), it was 130 (About 209 dollars)!

My heart broke.

The following week, I booked flights to Spain and Paris during Reading Week – our Fall Break equivalent. Flight after flight I began to lose my excitement for taking future trips solely because I’m feeling sure that I won’t be able to afford them. I’m thinking of going on two or three more, but I’d hate to come home with no souvenirs and feeling defeated because airline companies ate all my money.

And so, to make up for the realization that fun isn’t always free, I decided a full weekend in London, doing things like a tourist would be perfect. I should get to know the city I’m living in anyway!

But there’s a catch and a challenge. Everything I did had to be free! I found this to be a challenge indeed, but here we go.

A continuously updated List of Touring London on a Student Budget:

STEP 1: Go to a Museum

THE Rosetta Stone!
THE Rosetta Stone!

I went to the British Museum expecting to spend an hour or two absorbing the usual museum painting and statues, but the British museum is huge. I visited maybe 5 out of the 32 (if I recall correctly) displays. The exhibits had art and cultures from various time periods and each different continent, sometimes individual countries. Almost three and a half hours later I forced myself to move on.

Step 2: Realize your original itinerary may change

The Westminster Abbey is large, beautiful, famous and highly suggested for all tourists. Also, entrance is  £15.00 for students. I’d really like to go see this renowned church and I was also hoping to get to the Tower of London (which was also on my To-see list for  £18.70). At this point I had to re-evaluate. My tourist weekend should be filled with popular sites in the big city that I should write home about! But I can’t afford all of these big city things in one day.

The 888,246 poppies

UPDATE: 888,246 ceramic poppies are set up outside the tower of London to honor each life lost during WW1.

Step 3: Realize there are always free events to attend

After rerouting from Westminster Abbey, I went to Trafalgar Square, known for its contemporary art installments and hosting lively events. I went for the view and stumbled into an American Football rally! IMG_0447The entire Atlanta Falcons team was there, so cheers to the NFL coming to England once a year and keeping my day spontaneous. That night, Thrill the World took place, encouraging zombie dressed persons to dance the famous Michael jackson ‘Thriller’ dance in Covent Garden for Halloween.

Step 4: Treat yourself!!

After saving some many, I’m hoping it’s okay to buy a think here or there. Turns out Trafalgar Square is a very short walking distance from Covent Gardens, which is home to shops, food, and more events. On the way, you’ll pass by some other enjoyable things, such as the theatre. London is very well known for it’s live arts, but it didn’t quite hit me until every magazine, tube station, street vendor and more brought up tickets to a new show. And since student prices are so tempting, I bought ticket! The following week I saw The Scottsborough Boys, a musical detailing the real lives of 9 black men convicted of raping two white women in the 1930s. Deep topic, but an entertaining night out.

Step 5: Research

There are always events going on in large places. There are people. There are holidays. There are people who want out the house. Join them! Don’t know where to go?  A quick google search or look on Time Out or Thrillist will help you out. I ended up at Apple Day, a local fall celebration, as well as an art installment further down the road. Local artist, Alex Chinneck, created a full sized two story house made out of wax. It was very interesting to see it being melted away.

A pound of flesh for 50p (The Melting House) by Alex Chinneck
A pound of flesh for 50p (The Melting House) by Alex Chinneck

Step 6: Call a friend!

After spending a month and a half here I’ve of course met some locals from my classes. I went bowling the other day! While it wasn’t exactly free, it’s cheap and you can spend quite some time having fun with people who are happy to show you around.

Theres fun to be found around every corner! So keep turning them and enjoy the foreign day. I’ll keep trying to explore London in my last month. More to come!



Pizza and Calcio– What more do you need?

Pizza and Calcio– What more do you need?

After this weekend I have truly experienced most of “must do” activities of Italy! On Saturday a group of friends and I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch an early train down to Naples for a day trip. Once there, we hopped on another train that took us out to the ancient roman city of Pompeii. So many of the ruins were in such amazing condition! There were still many frescos on the walls and it was very easy to picture what the town might have looked like back in the day before the famous explosion of Mt. Vesuvius. The weather was great; my only wish was that I knew more about what I was looking at! The best part of the whole experience was getting to hear one of the tour guides sing opera in the ancient theater. I would have been extremely bummed had I left Italy without seeing Pompeii!


In the afternoon we headed back to Naples. We knew very little about the city, we just knew we had to get pizza! Right off the bat, we headed over to L’antica Pizzeria da Michele to wait in line for the best-rated pizza in town. If you have ever seen Eat, Pray, Love staring Julia Roberts, this is the same place she ate at! Let me tell you, it was the best pizza I have EVER had. You wouldn’t think a simple margarita could taste so amazing, but every ingredient was spot on!


Naples is known for a variety of other foods and we sampled them throughout our day. They are the birthplace of espresso, so stayed well caffeinated with delicious cafes done in the Neapolitan style. We also had lemon granite that was SO GOOD. Granita is a slushy like dessert made of ice and flavoring. I don’t know exactly what it looks like in its traditional form but the modern day electronic slushy-maker style still tasted amazing to me!


Naples is a beautiful city! Since it can be a little sketchy at night the city has gotten somewhat of a bad name, especially at our Rome campus. We weren’t there for long but I enjoyed it enough to want to go back! I don’t think it is totally deserving of its bad reputation. The location is too beautiful, the food too good, and the culture of the buildings, churches, and everything else to unique, to pass up.


In addition to my excursion down to Naples, this weekend I attended my first AS Roma soccer game! Since soccer is such a big deal all across Italy, it is an important part of one’s Rome experience to cheer on our home team. I was not disappointed by the excitement of the fans! Everyone is so into the game, the excitement is entirely contagious! Big games, especially against they’re rival Lazio, can get really out of hand; Fortunately we won against Turin 3-0. All in all, I would definitely go again! I would love to go with some native Romans that can teach me all of the cheers that the crowd chants!