The GoGlobal Blog

Month: February 2015

Authentic London

Authentic London

Hello my lovely readers!

       Well, I’m making a go of becoming a true Londoner and I think I’m making some real progress! I’ve started to feel true annoyance at those who stand on the wrong side of tube escalators (the left side is reserved exclusively for those willing to risk their lives on the incredibly long and steep escalators to be on time), I now wear scarves as stylized, belted blankets in order to fend off the damp chills of February, and I have tried every type of cider I can think of at every type of pub. I also eat sandwiches multiple times a day, I am addicted to Cadbury chocolate Oreo bars (& had a moment of genuine panic at the Cadbury ban in America), and I have blown the dust off of my two years of Deutsch, much to the entertainment of a few German friends. But perhaps, most importantly, I have finally started discovering the fun, authentic, and commonplace pasttimes of my British neighbors!


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Midway through the week, I ventured out to appease on of my favorite guilty pleasures at an independent bookstore. The London Review Bookstore is the most wonderful place- no one tried to rush me out the door once I found what I was looking for, there are chairs in the basement to sample your reading material, and, most charmingly of all, I happened in on one of their monthly Late Night shopping events and was offered a complimentary glass of wine for my trouble. It was the perfect way to spend a Wednesday night.


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I also spent quite a lot of time at the V&A Museum with my sister, which is often skipped during short visits to London; however, Taylor and I both found the museum and its exhibits to be truly incredible- so much so that we will be headed back soon to see what we didn’t have time for.

On a slightly more important note, we also tried our first authentic dessert at the beautiful cafe. The scone I ate (my first one!) certainly would have been life-altering, had the stain glassed windows and luxurious atmosphere of the cafe itself hadn’t already done it. Not to mention I almost shed a tear at Taylor’s perfect Victorian sponge cake. 10/10 would recommend making this stop a priority.


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Finally, I am a true sucker for the ambiance of a building; therefore, I have begun my search for the perfect study space.

So far the Reading Room of the Wellcome Center is taking first with its plush staircase littered with pillows and its interactive distractions. If you need a break from Tolstoy, there are truly terrifying dentistry tools to examine, straightjackets to try on, and a postcard table to tell your mom about all the fun you’re having.

A close second is the British Library, where one can ogle original Charlotte Bronte manuscripts, Leonardo Da Vinci notebooks, and unfinished Beethoven pieces. I just went through the rather rigorous process of getting my own Reading Pass this afternoon -I had high hopes that the countless esteemed individuals whose work is on display would give me the strength to focus on the “study” in study abroad 😉


Tomorrow I am heading off to Cambridge to see what else the UK has to offer! Stay tuned 🙂


Top Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Attractions

Top Ho Chi Minh City Tourist Attractions

We’ve all been there. We have all been a TOURIST at some point. While I loathe the idea of being targeted as a tourist anywhere, unfortunately in Vietnam, this association is inevitable. I stick out like a sore thumb. Fortunately, however, the locals are very welcoming and willing to accept my broken Vietnamese and frantic hand gestures. I have learned that being a tourist is not always bad. In Vietnam, I have been told on numerous occasions that many Vietnamese people are glad American students a) want to study their history and culture and b) help fuel the cultural tourism economically.

Grab your fanny packs and digital cameras. These are the top HCMC tourist attractions I have discovered:

Reunification Palace


Independence PalacetankThis building is directly associated with the fall of Saigon in 1975. On April 30, 1975, communist tanks arrived in Saigon – barreling through the iron gates surrounding the palace. Many photojournalists captured this event. From the footage I have seen, everything has remained in tact, as though nothing has changed.

This building was home of the South Vietnamese president and the central location for wartime efforts. The palace includes familiar items but it is odd to see them all in one place such as the following: tanks, palm trees, a bamboo-like facade, a helicopter, and a serious war bunker.

Ben Thanh Market

Inside Ben Thanh Market

A classic tourist attraction. This market stands in a French-style architectural building in the heart of District 1. Be prepared for tight spaces, potential wallet/purse nabs, and bargaining your price. Not my favorite. Saigon Square is nearby (only a 5-10 minute walk) and offers the same experience but less overwhelming.

Rooftop Bar

View from Chill Sky Bar

You really should go to a Saigon rooftop bar, especially at sunset – at the golden hour. This is a glorious time of day to see the city. Drinks are more pricey so it’s better to hit a rooftop bar at happy hour (usually between 5:00pm – 8:00pm). Be warned that dress codes are common. No open-toed shoes. No tank tops for men.

OMG! Bar has both indoor and outdoor seating with a relaxed vibe. The outdoor seating area is limited, but you can’t go wrong with either inside or out.

Chill Sky Bar is my favorite – with its panoramic view of the city and delicious drinks. There is indoor and outdoor seating, but the outdoor seating area is much larger than OMG! and must see!

Bui Vien

You should spend at least one night walking along Bui Vien street (also known as the “Backpacker District” due to all of the backpacker tourists who visit this street). Similar to Bourbon St. in New Orleans, one visit is enough. Drinking, Fire eaters, Michael Jackson impersonators, “massages”, and even drug paraphernalia occurs on this street. I am actually not a fan of this street because it is a tourist oasis – providing a bubble for all tourists to partake in familiar, Western behavior that is unlike typical Vietnamese culture. While this street helps increase tourism, the exploitative behavior is not true to Vietnam.

Walk Along the Water


Take your pick – either the Saigon River or a canal. My favorite is Kênh Nhiêu Lộc – Thị Nghè near Phu Ngang district. I love seeing the restaurants and homes tucked into the river bend. Strolling along a river or canal reminds me of Paris–there’s something so magical and serene about an evening stroll along French canals. And, equally so in Saigon.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral 


I learned that French influence is more prominent in the southern region of Vietnam because they were allies with the South during wartime with the Northern communist region. Only 8% of the Vietnamese population are Catholic, yet it is interesting to see how long lasting French colonialism has lasted and in small ways.

Post Office post office

(directly across the street from Saigon Notre Dame)

War Remnants Museum

war remMost of the American students in the program agreed that our knowledge of the Vietnam War was very limited. More often, high school history classes teach specific dates and players but very rarely understand how American soldiers were affected or even how the Vietnamese were affected. I feel fortunate to have a Vietnam War section in my senior Honors English class. We studied war photographs and read American solider perspectives for a better understanding of what occurred. While I learned how Americans were affected, I only learned a glimpse of how the Vietnamese were affected. For example, no textbook will discuss the inhumane torture techniques in American prisons. (If you are interested, research “tiger cages”). This museum depicts the war’s affects on the Vietnamese.

The Vietnam War is the most documented war due to photographs, live broadcast footage, and increased war journalism activity. While this is the most documented war, The Vietnam War, to date, seems to be the least understood war – many questions to date have still gone unanswered both by American citizens and Vietnamese alike.

The museum dedicates a section to the worldwide protests against the war, including American citizen’s protests. Otherwise, the exhibits are fairly one-sided and can be very uncomfortable for Americans.

In the end, I am grateful for this experience because it helps me to understand more about the past and to appreciate this unique study abroad opportunity in Vietnam.


Beyond Tourist Attractions

I recommend experiencing the tourist attractions but also taking the time to do uncomfortable things. I have learned that hidden gems are worth feeling totally vulnerable while not knowing where to go or only being able to communicate very minimally with locals. It is impossible to really understand a place or culture without some sense of uncertainty. We must struggle first in order to grow.

Athens RUINS Everything

Athens RUINS Everything

There is no guide stating the greatest way to live my life, but somehow my spontaneity and constant sense of adventure continues to be on my side. I never know where an hour from now will take me or what will come next. I have no set planner or to do list, just the intention of making a difference. This unknown in my life has caused me to replace my fear with curiosity. Through this I’ve gained knowledge I never thought I could obtain and have experienced moments that will change the course of my history, whether it be making the decision to spend an afternoon in the center of town at a Piazza or to book flights to countries I’ve never been to three days prior to my departure. I could search for days as to what I should be doing abroad, but the story I’m creating for myself is so much better.

I have come to misunderstand how my university thinks fourth months in Rome are simply enough. Three weeks have flown by without me even noticing and it scares me to think the others will be the same. I have taken every moment in, but ironically continue to feel like there are never enough hours in the day, although time is of no concern in Italy. I’ve become accustom to hang drying my clothes, eating hours after sunset, and using my hands every time I speak. I may not be fluent in Italian yet or know the name of every street, but I’ve come to recognize changes in me and that in its self is exciting.


Being one with an abundant amount of wanderlust, I find myself trying to fill hours with festivities and enjoy the wonderful city I live in to the best of my ability. I spend a lot of my day studying, but attempt to explore or try something new each day I’m here. This past week I’ve been exposed to the wonderful Karaoke Bar’s downtown study abroad students are crazy about, Cathedrals stuck between apartment buildings for the Mass of the Holy Spirit, and what could be the best pasta in the world thanks to our program dinner outing where we were exposed to the life changing pear pasta. Expecting an experience with a sense of religious context, academics, and a whole lot of fun is only natural in Roma. Every moment I have here is life changing.

As if the city isn’t enough, the community I have become a part of here is one others could never compare to. I have met travel companions that are ready to plan and have their bags packed in any moments notice, karaoke partners interested in performing in front of hundreds of strangers dancing and singing to my personal favorite Sweet Caroline, and have been invited to almost every outing whether I’m close to the group going or not. This atmosphere makes it hard for me to leave them in order to explore much more of Europe, but gives me a sense of excitement that I have 250 people to come home to every Sunday or Monday night to share stories with of our great adventures.

Having it been my first weekend without Orientation, I was given the opportunity to plan a trip of my own, leading to something so frightening, yet thrilling. The world was in my hands and I had anywhere to choose from. When realizing this, I literally placed the words “Rome to anywhere” in my browser in hopes that it would lead me somewhere. To my surprise, Athens was my answer. I never expected it to be apart of my abroad experience, but was told once by a professor that every person needs to see the ruins at least once in their life, she couldn’t of been more right.


All you’ve ever heard, all you’ve ever read, and all you’ve ever researched never compares with the real thing. Athens, the Capital of Attica and the Capital of Greece, is one of history’s most influential cities and I was given the opportunity to breathe its air and step foot in history. I may have not been invited to participate in Greek’s most prominent Games of the Olympics or live in a time before monotheistic beliefs, but I did eat the world renowned food that’s simply too good, you can’t help but get two and stepped foot in the ruins that take you to a whole other place.

They say to never expect that you’ll be able to see and do everything you want in a weekend, but I hit every point on the travel guide and then some! Everything the city was known for, I was able to see. I started my days bright and early, even before the sunrise, with nine other study abroad students in my program. We strategized to start at the highest point of the Acropolis and worked our way down throughout the weekend, hitting sites, like the Parthenon, Erechtheion, Heod Atticus Odeon Theatre, Temple of Athena Nike, and Propylaia. All differing in stages of preservation and history, we were given the opportunity to see with our own eyes the world thousands of years ago and the impact it has on today. We spent hours roaming the Acropolis Museum and looking at artifacts in the National Archaeological Museum where art statues from 500 BC still remained. I was in awe over how well things were taken care of, especially because in our culture today, that seems to continuously be forgotten.

Between the culture and educational aspects of our trip, we paid respect at the forecourt of the Parliament to honor The Tomb of the Unknown Solider and witnessed the Pom-Pom Parade, also known as the changing of the guards. In between it all, we ate everything in site, as the food was so delicious, you’re mouth couldn’t help but water. Whether it be the Gyros from street vendors or baklava from an exquisite bakery, you simply couldn’t resist. As if the food and sites weren’t enough, the beauty I was surrounded by was overwhelming. Not only the historical landmarks like that of the National Gardens centered with The Zappeion, but also that of the Greek people who were simply enjoying their nights as typical youth do in Gazi, a neighborhood very similar to Soho. Beauty was all around me. Due to this, I didn’t mind that I walked so much, I could of done a marathon!


The sites are one all individuals should see in their life, and the streets of Plaka, a neighborhood in the center of the city constructed to be a lively and colorful mix of old and new Greece placed around an Orthodox Church, is something all should have the pleasure of walking down. Although this beautiful trip was interrupted with unsafe situations my group had to experience due our titles of being Americans, it taught me to always be alert of my surroundings and stand up for who I am regardless of the setting. The typical independent study abroad experience came full swing as safety was much of a constant concern, but it educated me in a way I never really had, teaching me that regardless of where I am, situations happen and you must always be careful.

Pericles said it best, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others”. Athens is so much more than a city of ruins. It’s filled with people of a deep-rooted culture, a complex language and endless amounts of history. It makes you look at the big picture and remind you that you are who you are because of your past. I strive to now live a life not worried about what monuments could someday be made of me, and focus on what monuments I should be sculpting through the lives of others, like that of the Greeks. This lesson is a souvenir I take with me and will bring back when I return to Santorini and Mykonos someday. I learned many lessons on this trip that may now be a part of my history. It was one for the books in good and educational ways, but is something I will always treasure because its part of me.

I look forward to another crazy adventure, where great lesson comes my way. I’m beginning to experience first hand the different dynamics in the world. It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Athens ruined everything, it took me back to where I started and reminded me of life’s greatest treasures, regardless of the century.


Αντίο για τώρα.

Gabriella Lunich