The GoGlobal Blog

Month: January 2015

A Blog Post Made Up of Lists

A Blog Post Made Up of Lists

Things Making Me Feel European: 

1. Grocery Shopping— No, it is not the fact that I have to be a self-sufficient human and shop for myself, it is the process that is grocery shopping. I have begun to develop a bit of a routine to buy my groceries but it still is much more of an ordeal than in the States. There are 3 (sometimes 4 if you are feeling fancy) main stops you must make in order to stock your pantry and fridge. First, there is Sean B. Murphy’s (the butcher) where I have pretty much just been buying chicken every week but I may be branching out soon. Next, is Con’s (the produce stop) where you can get your milk, eggs, and any and all fruits and vegetables. It is a cute little stop, just one room, that is super well priced. Finally, the real trek, Tesco. Both Sean B. Murphy’s and Con’s is about a 2 minute walk from my apartment. Tesco, however, is down in the city center and at least a 20 minute walk. Tesco is where you can by your cheese, spices, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen pizza, ect. Normally that’s all it takes, unless you want some real goodies. Then you need to stop by the English Market in the city center as well, where you can buy realllllly good bread, meats, cheese, pastries, ect. So after all of those stops, you finally have your kitchen stocked, and will go through all of that food in one week easily, and will be back shopping soon. While this is a bit of a process, and when it is raining I don’t exactly enjoy it, I do like the feeling that you are mostly shopping in little mom and pop shops and are really buying and eating high quality meat and produce.

Entrance into the English Market


2. Drinking Tea— I drink some tea at home and school, the occasional cup, which I am more likely to drink when my mom is the one making it. However, nothing can compare to the amount that I drink here. I easily drink 1-2 cups a day, which has been helping keep me warm, but has not helped me get over my sickness. The tea is delicious, and just one fun fact (although not so fun) is that they do not have strings for their tea bags, it’s just a little bag of tea. I am sure most people take the tea bag out with a spoon, but I am always too impatient (and I don’t want to have to wash a spoon) so I pick the tea bag out of the mug and hope I don’t burn my fingers too bad.

3. Walking up Hills— You know the saying “back in my day, I had to walk uphill both ways to school” well that is how I feel (although not entirely accurate). Going to school and to the city center is fairly quick and easy, the walk back, however, can be a bit brutal. I am talking some steep hills on the way back. Having class 4 days and week, and going into the city center at least 4 days a week, ensures that I am getting my fair share of hiking. Every time I come back from the city center I am amazed that I make the same walk back to the apartment on nights when I am wearing heels and not exactly 100% sober. I have yet to fall so far, and hopefully that will continue.

Up from the City Center
Up from the City Center


Things That Are Harder Than They Should Be: 

1. Laundry: The first time I did laundry was just embarrassing. In order to be able to do your laundry you have to go to the front desk and buy laundry tokens (in order to do one load it costs 5 Euro aka a rip off). This seems easy enough, but the guy who works the front desk only works until 2:30 everyday and I normally have classes during that time, and he doesn’t work on the weekends. So as soon as I purchased my tokens, I made my way to the laundry room where the laundry machines looked extra foreign and took me a solid 5 minutes to read the directions and put my clothes in. Finally, a little number pops up on the machine which I assume is the time of how long it will take to wash the clothes. However, when I returned 25 minutes later, the machine then read 35 leaving me very confused until a roommate explained to me that those numbers was the temperature the water is in the machine. So I am still clueless as to how long it actually takes to do laundry, a mystery I am not sure I will ever have the patience to solve.

2. Thinking Of Meals To Cook: I would say I am fairly confident in my cooking abilities. However, I only seem to make the same 4 meals (or variations of them) day after day. I will either eat pasta (with chicken or other meat), some form of a sandwich, eggs of some kind, and chicken and potatoes. That’s pretty much it. When I then get hungry later I just eat toast and Nutella or yogurt with granola. I can’t seem to come up with any other things to cook, and am feeling especially uncreative. I did buy a frozen pizza to mix it up a bit but I don’t think that is exactly the change in diet I need. So if anyone has some few-ingredient meals they want to throw my way, feel free!

3. Walking Up Stairs: Sometimes the stairwell is just a free for all, and there is no clear direction. Yesterday, Marypaz and I were walking to our Irish Politics class, and it became clear that we were in a foreign land when we were directly running into people on the stairs. It took me a few seconds to remember that their way of traffic is not the same way of traffic that we have which explained why we were clearly walking on the wrong side of the steps.


Questions Everyone Is Asking:

1. Do You Even Go To School?: Yes and no. Yes I do attend all of my classes, although total hours I am at school every week is only 8 hours  and I don’t have class on Fridays. Classes here are very different, I don’t have any little assignments or even assigned readings every week. Instead, I have an average of 2-3 essays due throughout the semester and that’s about it for my final grade. I have no complaints, although the few weeks when all of my essays are due may be a bit of a pain. This schedule allows for a very relaxed atmosphere and encourages extra time for me to do things that I normally don’t have time to do, such as make weekend trips, see the city, and even just read some novels that have long been on my “to read” list.

2. Have You Made Any Irish Friends?: It is harder than it seems. I have met some Irish people who are super friendly and nice (a bartender at a local pub, my friend Kristen has two Irish roommates, and one or two people I have met at a club/pub). However, to truly make an Irish pal is a bit more difficult for a number of reasons. One, most of my classes are all visiting students or if there are Irish students it is very segregated, Irish students in the back, visiting students in the front. This is because the way the courses work here, it when you go in seeking a degree in a subject you only take the classes for your degree, so many of these students have been in the same classes for a number of semesters and have their pals all situated. The second reason why it is harder to befriend the Irish is that when we go out, we have a group of about 8+ people, clearly American, which can be somewhat off putting when we are in pubs and clubs. This hasn’t stopped everyone, but as we tend to dance or talk in our own, not so little, circle it doesn’t leave much room for others to join in. Lastly, the students here go home almost every weekend and have a much heavier course load than us, which limits their free time during the week. Sometime it is just simply harder to make the time to see people. But I have become close with one of Kristen’s roommates who is French and a German student in my Irish politics class, so it’s not all Americans!

3. Have You Met A Cute Irish Boy?: See answer to number 2. That and (prepare yourself for a bit of a rant). I did not choose to study abroad in Ireland to meet and marry the man of my dreams. I decided to study abroad to become a more independent person, to experience new things, see new places, learn to think differently, appreciate new cultures, and more. All of this I can do by myself or with some friends. While meeting a cute Irish boy would be an amazing experience, it is in no way a priority, or something that will hold me back from having the time of my life. So no, I have not yet met the cute Irish boy that my mom will love, and that doesn’t mean that I won’t and it doesn’t mean that I want to. All I want is to soak up as many experiences as I can that I will remember for the rest of my life. Rant over.

Some of the Crew


Things I Am Looking Forward To In The Next Week:

1. Tomorrow, we will be heading to the Jameson Experience where at the end of the tour I will become an official whiskey taste tester (my dad will be so proud)

2. On Saturday we have a day trip to the Rock of Cashel but unfortunately we will not be able to see the Cahir Castle because it is under renovation. This is supposed to be one of the must see castles in Ireland so we will maybe return on a later date to check it out.

3. On Sunday we are having a big Super Bowl meal followed by going to a club where they are showing the game.

4. On Monday we might go on the night tour of the Cork city jail which will be cool and spoooooky.

That’s all for now!


Cultural Notes:

~The pharmacist is called the chemist. A super sweet woman has been my knight in shinning armor this week when I finally decided to take some medicine to get rid of my 2 week long cold. At the chemist you just walk up to the counter, tell the person your symptoms, and then they give you options for medicines you can take and advice on which one is the best. Not only are they SUPER helpful, but the cost of medicine is ridiculously cheap. One friend bought cough medicine for 2 euro and I bought a decongestant medicine for only 5 euro. Yay for cheap healthcare!

~Convient stores are a huge place for people to go grocery shopping or pick up something to eat. Back home, I know I would never go to UDF or 7-11 for some lunch let alone actually shop there.


China: Adjusting to an Extraordinary and New Environment

China: Adjusting to an Extraordinary and New Environment

It is a privilege to study here; I feel truly honored and humbled by my first several weeks in China. I have been so hospitably received that I feel that 对外经贸大学 (University of International Business and Economics) has already become my home. These past weeks in China I have experienced new things every minute of every day. I have tried new food each day; most notably there was something in a soup I was told to eat and not ask any questions about. When our host for lunch was asked if he liked what we tried, he laughed and said he definitely did not. Additionally, I have tried delicious traditional beef noodles from Gansu, hotpot, Chinese style Italian spaghetti with tomato sauce, and 永和大王 (Yong He King)—a Chinese fast food chain for breakfast. At Yong He King I tried Taiwanese soymilk, which is excellent—this is surprising for me because I do not like milk. I have been awed by the grandeur of the Forbidden City—the abode of the Son of Heaven and his court for many hundreds of years. I have seen the Olympic Park and reveled in feats of modern Chinese architecture. I have made many new friends here, and learned so much more about China in the weeks I have been here than the year before, in preparation for my arrival here.
The first night here was overwhelming. On that first night I wondered if I was ready for this experience. I wondered whether I could make it through four months. I was plagued with self-doubt that I had never before experienced. For over a year, I had been ecstatic at the thought of coming to study China and there was not a single moment when I questioned my convictions. Over time, I had a realization. There was no way for me to be ready. Nothing could have prepared me to fly across the world, visiting a different country for the first time, to become 外国人 (a foreign person), and to settle in to live here—and in rural Yunnan for two weeks in February—for four months. The only thing that matters is attitude and perspective. On the second day here I woke up remembering the vertiginous excitement I have had for over a year in relation to the prospect of experiencing the historical and cultural wonders of China. On that day I realized that everyone I have met here—Chinese roommates, tutors, and other students in the Beijing Center—have made the greatest effort to be friendly, welcoming, and kind to me. In that moment I was ashamed that I had ever doubted my convictions to come here even for a moment. I recognize now that I know I can already call my roommate 我的朋友 (My friend). I know that he will cheerfully help me through absolutely any challenges (as he has already done so).




More tea, please!

More tea, please!

If I thought I was busy the first week in London, my goodness, was I mistaken! The last week and a half, the London Drama students and myself have seen three more shows, made a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath, and visited Platform 9 ¾!


The city, while particularly gloomy this time of year, has been relatively splendid for all of my adventures thus far. Stonehenge was magnificent! For a bunch of really old rocks, they held a beautiful prestige that was fascinating to learn about. Definitely a place worth visiting when traveling to the United Kingdom, if just to learn a little about the incredible history of the land.


A place I also look forward to returning to is Bath! If I hadn’t known I was in England, I would have thought I was walking down the streets of an Italian city. The 18th century Georgian architecture was beautiful in its simple elegance. We made sure to make stops at the Royal Crescent, Circus, and Abbey of Bath, but waited to see the Roman Baths later when I return with my parents. While in Bath, I treated myself to a traditional English steak pie at the Georgian Teahouse with Elli and Emily, two women who are rapidly becoming my very close friends.


Oh, and the tea! I now understand what all the fuss is about! I have gone from a two-cups-a-day coffee drinker to not being able to function without my habitual cup of English breakfast tea. Before I know it, I’ll be eating scones and clotted cream every day. Of course, coming from Wisconsin, I’ve always been a fan of fish fry, but it is true; the English know how to do bloody good fish and chips.

Apart from London, I am happy to have finally booked most of my travels around Europe. I will be traveling to Scotland over Easter to visit my friend, Meghan, at St. Andrews, Denmark over spring break to visit a longtime family friend Karoline and her beautiful family, and in about ten days four friends and I will be making a quick jaunt up to Amsterdam! We’ve already booked our tickets to the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh museum, two places I have always longed to see. And, if the weather is nice, we will hopefully be either renting bikes or traveling along the canals to see all the different sites.

I can’t forget about classes… They have been amazingly insightful. By far, my favorite classes have been Shakespeare, Voice, and Stage Combat. My Shakespeare teacher, Zoey, casually dropped the bomb on us yesterday that her mentor was Woody Allen… WOODY ALLEN! And she’s a mentor at RADA, the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts, just the premiere school that any actor worth his salt would kill to attend: no big deal. Since I’m on the topic of teachers, my audition tutor also has an impressive resume, having performed at the Globe and mentored Eddie Redmayne, the star of the new film, the Theory of Everything. LDA has really brought in the best of the best and I am so ecstatic to have the opportunity to learn everything I can from them during the next 12 weeks!


Until next time,


For those who are interested, here is the running list of shows I’ve seen in London so far:

  •  Hamlet at the Baron’s Court Theatre
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers at the National Theatre of London
  • Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the Gielgud Theatre
  • Islands at the Bush Theatre
  • The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios

…and we will be seeing The Bull tomorrow night!

Let’s Talk About Impact

Let’s Talk About Impact

In just two weeks since arriving here I’ve seen the Roman Forum, The Temple of Poseidon, The Colosseum, The Vatican, and spent a weekend on the Amalfi Coast. Just let that sink in for a second. Photos and blog posts alike are incapable of describing what it feels like to watch the sunrise on the Amalfi Coast with your best friends. These are places I’ve seen in textbooks and movies for the last 15 years of my life, and in just two weeks I have experienced all of them in person.


I’ve noticed the culture shock of being in a totally foreign environment slowly diminishing as I become more comfortable with my surroundings through each new experience. I can confidently say I’m not the most traveled person in the world, and I used to stray away from breaking out of my comfort zone. This past weekend on our final orientation trip, all the JFRC students congregated in a small conference room to hear a speech from the program directors before dinner. They promised us that in one way or another, our experience in Rome at the JFRC would transform us. It wouldn’t change who we are completely, but rather make us more rich in culture and open a new world of perspective. In just two weeks, I’m beginning to see this transformation take shape. I’m more hungry than I have ever been to experience new things, and make an effort to embrace every new individual around me.


In the next four weeks I will be traveling to London, Paris, and Barcelona with my friends. I’ve only scratched the surface what is possible in terms of fostering community and gaining knowledge while out of the states, and I can’t wait for the next adventure. I truly mean it when I say all students should study abroad if possible, as I’ve seen the same changes in myself occur for countless others in only 14 days.


To stay up to date on all the photos I’m taking while here, follow my instagram @scottjzimmerman. If you have questions or doubts about the JFRC, feel free to reach out to me via email:


Week One and Done

Week One and Done

Hello there!

I have officially been a temporary resident of the UK for a week and a half (although, it feels more like a month and a half) and so far nothing but good things to report!

I spent my first full week being a tourist and seeing everything. Okay, not even close, but I DID see many of the classic tourist spots via two walking tours , a boat tour, and (perhaps the most effective method) walking everywhere and getting a little lost!

This is just a little snapshot of some of the things I have seen and done since my arrival.

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 [From top left to bottom: evening view of The London Eye and the Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben), a look up at Westminster Abbey (although pictures can’t give due justice to the detail), Taylor in Chinatown, street art near Brick Lane, a panorama of the Grand Court in the British Museum, a snap of a beautiful afternoon in Regent Park, and finally the three other fantastic people from Loyola Chicago and I in front of Tower Bridge]

Now we need to have a frank discussion about food in London. Countless people, as I told them of my planned trip over here to the UK, expressed some distress at the lack of “good food” in London. Let me be the first, but not last, person to disprove these delusions. EVERYWHERE I LOOK I WANT TO SAMPLE. Whether it is the artfully designed fudge at the Spitalfield markets, the streetview tables of authenticity in Chinatown, the pub food in the very trendy Soho area, beer flavored candy on Oxford Street (incidentally, not good, but I had to know), fish and chips at Poppies on Brick Lane, or the countless window displays of meringue the size of my face all over the city, you must try it all. And please. Don’t get me started on the bread.
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Until next time!



El Gato Diablo

El Gato Diablo

In case you didn't believe me that he looks like Grumpy Cat. is proof.
In case you didn’t believe me that he looks like Grumpy Cat. is proof.

My friend Maya (who is also an LUC student) lives with Jake the Cat, otherwise known as Grumpy Cat’s twin. When I first met this cat, I thought he was the cutest and most behaved cat I’d ever met. Not only did he just lounge around the pool all day, but he let everyone pet him! When Maya and I told her host mom about the famous Grumpy Cat in the states, she proceeded to explain to us how Jake the Cat is never allowed to leave the house because he’s too expensive to lose. Also, that if Jake the Cat were ever lost they would not buy another cat to replace him because of how expensive he was, so pretty much all I know about this cat is that he’s expensive and his name is Jake. Anyways, last week Maya’s chilean family went to the beach all day, so after class a group of us went to Maya’s house to plan our trip to Argentina and the family told Maya to keep Jake in the mother’s room until everyone left so she did.

As soon as everyone left at around like 6-ish, we let Jake out because we felt bad because he’d been trapped in there all day and then we started working on our presentation that was due the next day.While we were working outside on their patio, which is next to their mini backyard with tiny pool,some tall trees, and a fence separating their yard from their neighbors. 20 minutes into working on our presentation, Jake the Cat sees a bird and begins to scale the tree. Remembering the previous conversation about this expensive cat, Maya and I freak out and coax him to come down from the tree. After a couple failed attempts, Jake the Cat finally climbed down and nonchalantly walked away from us as if nothing had happened. This is where Maya and I should’ve learned our lesson, because 15 minutes later, Jake the Cat sees another bird and scales the other tree and decides to jump over the fence into the neighbor’s backyard. Immediately, we begin to hyperventilate and start screaming ideas out on how to retrieve the cat. The first and foremost one being to go to the neighbor’s house and ask politely if we can retrieve the cat. However, while working on our presentation I plugged in my laptop charger into an outlet on the patio and blew a fuse. (Chilean outlets are different from US ones, and you need a converter in order to use anything electric.) This comes into play because the front gate to Maya’s house is usually buzzed open electrically. We came to figure this out however, when I tried to buzz myself out and the door wouldn’t open, preventing me from reaching the cat. We finally find the keys and i’m trying to explain to Maya’s neighbor that there’s a cat in his backyard and that I need to retrieve him but he’s completely ignoring me and not even listening to me because I obviously am not speaking spanish very well and that is when the cat finally makes its way to the front of the neighbors house. But the story does not end there, nope, Jake the Cat will not let anyone grab him and after 20 minutes of chasing him around the front of the house, I finally grab Jake, put him upstairs and close all the doors to the outside world, so we can finally fix the electricity. Their neighbor came over and fixed the electricity and the world was good again. Until…

5 minutes into working on our presentation, we hear a ton of crap falling like someone had knocked it over huge dominoes. Our immediate first though: WHERE IS JAKE?!

Frantically, I’m looking under the couches and dinner table etc and then I hear Maya screaming, “NOW I KNOW WHY MY HOST MOM CLOSES THE BATHROOM DOOR!?

Chileans don’t believe in screens, like no screen doors, no screen windows.

Everything is just open. all. the.time.


I make my way upstairs and there are shampoo bottles and conditioner bottles all over the bathroom floor and I look out the window and Jake is on the roof.

His eyes are glowing red and I wanted to murder him.

I run downstairs, climb up on a chair, and reach out on the roof to retrieve this cat.

I finally coax him with food to come to me and we stick him in the mother’s bedroom.

We did not do s*** that day.

Maya and I got our a**es kicked by a cat.

Like round-house kicked by Jake the Cat.

China: First Impressions

China: First Impressions


China. It didn’t seem real. As the plane landed, the grogginess of my jet lag, slowly faded away. Am I really here? Is this really where I will be for the next semester? Waves of anticipation and nausea hit me, making my stomach churn. The weeks of preparation and studying, slowly vanished as I took in my surroundings. Swarms of people filled the airport, some visitors, some coming back home. As I sat in the bus, going to what will be my new campus, I felt overwhelmed with sensations. There was so much to look at, so much to do, and so many people to meet. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I felt the excitement of not knowing what was waiting around the corner, where tomorrow would take me. After being in Beijing for a week, I have realized that nothing could’ve prepared me for this wonderful and always surprising country. Its been only a week, and I have slowly realized how little I know of this country. Everyday is a new adventure.  Last weekend, I went tea tasting, and tried almost 40 cups of different teas. The next day I went to a karaoke bar with Chinese students, and sang Taylor Swift. The following day, I had to pantomime to a desk receptionist in order to get my mail. It is so surprising how different, and yet how familiar China can be.  There isn’t one moment of my day, that I’m not experiencing or having another adventure. Just surviving in this country i.e speaking and talking with people, ordering food, taking the bus, buying school supplies, provides new and exciting challenges. Even something so small as doing laundry, is an experience in China. I can’t say that China is anything that I expected it to be, in fact most things are not what I expected. I can say, however, that studying abroad in China, so far, has been the one of the best and most exciting decisions in my life. I look forward to sharing the rest of my journey with you.

Until then, 再见!

ForbiddenCityHannah cropped copy

SEAing Life’s Truest Meaning, Thanks to Amalfi!

SEAing Life’s Truest Meaning, Thanks to Amalfi!

There is so much beauty in doing things you’ve never done before, but there’s even more beauty when you realize you didn’t force it, it’s simply how you’re living. It may only be the start of my time abroad in Rome, but within this two-week period I’ve already learned that this experience has enabled me to leave my comfort zone and explore. It’s forced me to dive into the world and see it unlike ever before, in a rare and exciting form. This new sense of exploration has been placed in the palm of my hand by professors who have assigned curriculum that has never even crossed my mind and has been experienced through the places my feet have lead me. Whether it be sitting in the comfort of my dorm room with my wonderful best friend and roommate Allison or along the Amalfi Coast, all is the same, it takes me to places I’ve never been before and leads me to doing things far better than my dreams.

A large part in my exploration has allowed me to spend my time learning about Italy through more than just every day experience. By attending the John Felice Rome Center, I’ve been given the opportunity to actually study the wonderful country I’m beginning to call home. I have enrolled in classes specializing in the fields of Italian language, art, philosophy, and literature, all of which have allowed me to take the curriculum I am absorbing and applying it to the new life I live. Due to the Italian emphasis within each field, a drive to educate myself within these departments has been established. Through this education I have been given the opportunity to learn about Italy within the pages of the book of my wonderful life, as well as, books published by historians far beyond my time. It’s now more than just a place I’m living, it’s a huge part of who I am becoming.

The more I explore this beautiful country of Italia, the more I find myself falling in love with it. Each location has something beautiful to offer the world, whether it be the small towns along the winding roads of the mountain side or the cities along the coast mistaken for paradise. I’ve seen both and can tell you, there truly is no greater site. This past weekend I was given the opportunity to visit one of the most famous vacation spots in the world and can finally relate to everyone’s hype about it! If you’re human you simply can’t help, but fall in love with the region known as the Amalfi Coast. It’s colors, its clear sea, and its city pride of Italian culture leaves you teary eyed and speechless.


What many don’t realize is its views can’t compare to its history. Along my three hour journey south of Roma a pit stop was made to explore the linkage between the Greeks and Italians with guided tours provided of Paestum temples and museums before arriving to the beautiful cliff side, Lloyd’s Baia Hotel, where we would be staying (and taking over) for the weekend!

After a night of much needed bonding and celebration, a day spent at farms and small villages followed. Saturday began by focusing on the food and wine of southern Italy, teaching us the process behind what we have been enjoying at our dining room tables every day. We had a day filled with some of the world’s best cheese and wine at Vini Marino Vineyard and Caseificio Vannulo Mozzarella di Bufala. The Italian belief is that if you treat something well, it will reward you with something even better in return. Due to this mentality, we got to experience the high life of not only the Italian people, but that of their buffaloes who were massaged multiple times a day and had songs of Mozart as backgrounds to their lives. People may think it’s crazy, but after tasting their life changing gelato and mozzarella I firmly believe it worked!


As if the farms didn’t fill us up enough, lunch followed with the classic pasta dish with a form of meat and potatoes, and an alcoholic dessert. I can beat you anything that no matter where you go in Italy, a meal similar to this will be served! Following this was an afternoon filled with guided tours of Castello and Agropoli, where we later enjoyed a community mass at Santa Maria delle Grazie Church by the wonderful Padre duo known as, Father Al and Father Bohr. As if mass wasn’t beautiful enough, Italians from the community joined us in prayer showing me that no matter where you are in the world people can come together to praise God. After stepping foot outside of the church, I automatically asked to join the young Italian school boys in the streets for a game of Calcio where I got to let loose with my director and be reminded of how simple it is for strangers to connect.

It was a perfect day that just kept getting better. Later that night, I learned the greatest lesson of all, why I’m here. It took a surprise of Italian folk dancers and hours of making a complete fool out of myself in attempts to learn to Italian dance to realize I’m studying abroad not to escape life, but for life not to escape me. It was the first experience in my life where I was so happy my cheeks hurt from smiling so much the entire next day and where not a care in the world crossed my mind. It was me, my amazing friends in my program, and an Italian band that took me to truly live life. In that moment, I was the happiest girl in the world, there was no doubt about it. Memories like these are only found while studying abroad, where moments turn into reasons for living.


Before returning to Roma on Sunday, we took a last stop at Montecassino where we visited the Abbey of St. Benedict. It was jaw dropping to see such beauty and inspired me to be an example for others, just like he is. Overall, if the weeks coming up are anything like the one’s I’ve already experienced, I couldn’t be more excited to see where they take me. My trip to Amalfi has taught me that the greatest gifts in life are given to you when you explore, that you really must eliminate the idea of a comfort zone and just go for it, and that life should be spent doing things that make you convinced you’ve hit the highest level of happiness. One weekend, two weeks in, is all it took for me to find my reason for life directing me to Italy. Due to this, Amalfi will always be with me and there’s no doubt I’ll be returning again. Until then, I’ll be practicing my Italian dancing for the next time I’m at Mediterrean Sea of Southern Italy.


Ciao for now, I’m off to continue enjoying the wonderful life I’m living.

Gabriella Lunich

Livin’ la dolce vita

Livin’ la dolce vita

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here for a little more than a week. I’m already overwhelmed by how many people I’ve met and how many incredible places I’ve gone! The shock of living in a different country is definitely beginning to set in. I can sum up the better part of this past week by saying I’ve been lost. A lot. Actually, each and every time I’ve left the JFRC (also colloquially known as “J-Force”) I’ve ended up lost at some point during the excursion. But really, it’s not so bad to be lost in Rome.

Classes began this past week. I’m taking Italian 101, Art in Rome (an on-site class), The Church in the World, and Beginning Acting. I can tell that each of the classes will be challenging in its own way. Thanks to some useful Italian phrases I’ve learned, I’ve been practicing the language every chance I get. I’ve managed to order food and drinks in Italian, introduce myself to random people, and have little fragments of conversation! For my acting class, we’ll soon start preparing monologues and gearing up to present A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the end of the semester. I’m completely excited and terrified about it, but as a good friend reminded me before I left for Rome, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

One night, my friends and I ventured out to see the Vatican and the nativity scene all lit up at night. I’d never seen it before, and it made me do some weirdly deep thinking (bear with me). Watching all the birds circling around St. Peter’s Basilica, I thought about how they’re so lucky that they can fly wherever they want to go and perch on top of these magnificent buildings. And they don’t even know how important the building is that they’re sitting on. They don’t know even how much of a miracle it is that they can soar through the air. But then it dawned on me that I’m kind of bird-brained in that sense, too. I can fly wherever I want to (hypothetically), and most of the time I get too caught up in everyday life to realize how lucky I am. I somehow ended up in Vatican City, standing in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, a place that most people on this earth only dream of seeing in their lifetime. It occurred to me that in every sense of the word, it’s a miracle that I not only get to go to college, but that I get to do it in a completely different country and learn about a vastly different culture. It put into perspective all the stress of planning weekend trips, and the anxiety I’ve felt about being away from home. I’m sure this is only one of the profound — and profoundly cheesy — moments I’ll have during my time abroad.

St. Peter's Basilica all lit up at night
St. Peter’s Basilica all lit up at night

After spending some time around the Vatican, we wandered down the street into this adorable little place called Bukowski’s. We split a bottle of wine amongst us and played a fun, wholesome game of Italian Scrabble. After a lot of laughing and, on my part, attempts at bending the rules, we set out to find the 24-hour “Secret Bakery” we’d been hearing so much about from other students. I’ve never seen more pastries in one place, or a bigger variety of them! It was like descending into Wonderland.

The weekend was full of adventure that deserves a separate post, but I’ll try my best to condense it into this one. We took our final orientation trip, and stayed at Lloyd’s Baia hotel in Vietri sul Mare. The place was absolutely gorgeous —  a hotel right on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the water — located at the starting point of the Amalfi Coast. I watched the sunrise over the water/mountains Saturday morning from my bedroom’s balcony. It was hard to tell whether or not I was still dreaming because it was both insanely gorgeous and ridiculously early in the morning.

Though incessant rain and an unintelligible tour guide made Friday feel long and dismal, it was great seeing the temples and ruins of Paestum. Saturday was by far my favorite day of the orientation trip. We took a tour of a buffalo mozzarella farm and got to do a wine tasting/tour at Vini Marino wine farm. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, people. The buffalo were adorable in their own nasty way, but you could tell that they were enjoying their lush lifestyle at the farm. They get daily massages, their own beds, and simply saunter in to be milked when they felt the time was right. Oh, and the farmers play classical music for the buffalo some mornings to free them of stress. I never thought I’d be jealous of a buffalo, but, well…here I am. We sampled some of the cheese (which is very fresh, with an odd aftertaste, and would be delicious with tomato and basil), and had fantastic gelato that was made with buffalo milk.

Hanging out with the buffalo -- no big deal.
Hanging out with the buffalo

At the wine farm, we were walked through the process of wine-making and learned how it differs for red wines and white wines. The vineyard was as picturesque as you’d imagine, tucked away in a corner of the hillside. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I can assure you that the wine was smooth and flavorful (are those appropriate adjectives to use for describing wine?) and I enjoyed it immensely. Later in the day, we went to the beautiful town of Agropoli and I attended mass at the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church.

Sunday, we packed up our things to head back to the JFRC and took a tour of the Abbey of Montecassino on the way. The Abbey is a monestary located right at the top of the hill (more like a mountain, from my Ohioan perspective) that has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since it was first established in the 11th century. Not only was the place huge with an amazing view, but the history was fascinating. If you ever have a chance to go there, it’s well worth the terrifying twenty-minute drive to the top of the hill, even if you’re afraid of heights like I am!

View from the central cloister of the Abbey of Montecassino
View from the central cloister of the Abbey of Montecassino

Well, I won’t bore you all by going into detail about the several four-course meals I ate over the weekend…or by describing how when 250 college students are thrown together to stay in a hotel on the bay for two nights, those nights are going to be quite memorable. All in all, suffice it to say I had a wonderful and totally exhausting weekend.

Ciao for now!

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?

People tell you a lot of stuff when you go abroad.


“Buy plug adapters”

“Watch out for pickpockets”

“Get to know the locals”
But trust me, there’s a whole lot they don’t tell you. I’ve got a few big points to share at only 3 weeks in, so I’m sure the list will be a mile long come June. But here are the basic 4 things no one told me before coming abroad.




This might seem like common knowledge, but it’s really not. The first two weeks in your new country are going to BURN YOU OUT. You’re thrust into a new environment full of strange people, rules, and food to adjust to. You’re at the beginning of your program, and you obviously need to make friends. It’s like the first week of college all over again, and we all remember how much fun that was. It’s exhausting trying to be friendly and nice to everyone you meet, and you find yourself running around all the time.


Trying to cram sightseeing an entire city into the first week of your stay is not possible, but also exactly what everyone does. You have multiple months to see it all, so don’t try running around the whole town while you’re still jet-lagged. Take a step back, spend a little time making your room feel like home, and try to aim for doing one new thing every day. Everyone in London may always be in a rush, but trust me, they’re never as frenzied as a visiting American. Brits do whatever they want on their own time, usually abiding by no schedule you’re familiar with. So, similarly…




This may not be true for every country. Right now, I can only speak for England. And more specifically, college-age kids in England. But since I’ve been here, I don’t sleep, eat, or go out the way I used to.


When most collegiate Americans head to Europe for a semester, one of the biggest things on their mind is the lower drinking age. But the drinking culture in the UK is NOTHING like back home. For one thing, Europeans are much more used to the concept of alcohol at an earlier age than Americans, so the novelty of binge-drinking has largely worn off by college. But that doesn’t mean there’s no drinking, because there’s still  A LOT.


At a typical American university, students drink recreationally on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Sometimes, even less than that. This complies with the fact that most Americans have class 5 days every week. But the average Brit only has class for 3 days per week, so they go out whenever they want. Pubs and nightclubs are open in London every single day, and a Tuesday night can be just as much fun as a Friday.


My point is, don’t feel bad for taking some time off to get adjusted. Europeans may go out to the bars upwards of 4 times a week, but they drink far less at a time than most Americans are used to. At Queen Mary it’s totally normal to catch up on homework on a Saturday night after you’ve already been out Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday of that week. This also means Brits tend to sleep and eat on similarly relaxed schedules than you’re used to. Weekends are still fun here, but weeknights get a little more love in the UK than in the states.




Yeah, all those new friends you’re making? You can’t hang out with them literally all the time. You’ll have different classes, schedules, and responsibilities at some point. This is when people start to freak out, because as human beings we tend to cling to the familiar. Even if “familiar” means a group of Americans you met for the first time 2 weeks ago.


Don’t be afraid to walk around by yourself. Take a bus somewhere new and get lunch alone. Ask locals for an obscure recommendation. Don’t confine or restrict yourself to what you think you should be doing. You’re in a new country, so do something different. But if you’re going to explore alone, be smart about it! Bring a little extra cash for a cab in case you get REALLY lost, and always remember a map. Because Google Maps just doesn’t work without WiFi.




Seriously, people, I cannot stress this enough. Nobody recommends a vaccination before you travel to London, but guess what? Your immune system will still betray you. It might not happen right away. In fact, it will probably take a few weeks for your body to realize you aren’t on temporary vacation and these foreign germs flying around you might just be here to stay. I’m not someone who’s prone to sickness, but I’ve had a terrible sore throat for the last week.


At first I thought it was just bad luck, but I slowly started to realize that almost every American I know has been ill in some small capacity. We’ve all been traveling through germ-infested airports and crowded tube trains, so I guess we should have seen it coming. But I really didn’t.


It sucks, but you can’t let it ruin your first few weeks abroad. Chug some orange juice, take a nap, pop a throat lozenge, and get back out there. Because as tempting as it is to skip class when you’re feeling under the weather, the last thing you want to do is get behind early in a brand new school system you’re not used to.


**This list is by no means exhaustive, I am an expert in nothing, and this is really just me complaining. London is worth all the struggles.