The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2015

The Paree-fic Break having an amsterDAM good time CZECHing out Brussels & BERLIN!

The Paree-fic Break having an amsterDAM good time CZECHing out Brussels & BERLIN!

Everyone needs a break sometimes. Some breaks last for hours with a book at hand, others are for days when you simply go for a weekend getaway, while the best lasts a little more than 10 days taking you around the world, so you can see why it is you never needed a break in the first place.

Few hours in our lives are ones we will fully remember forever, fewer days can be told beginning to end, and even fewer weeks are what some would be able to call perfect for every second. March 5th began the start of what would be a trip no other could ever compare to. No matter what city I was exploring or if the sun was rising or setting, there was never a moment I wouldn’t always take with me and forever treasure.

My vacation was not meant to be spent lounging at a top resort located on a beach with a margarita at hand like the typical college student. Instead it was finally the time to cure the disease of being bit by the travel bug. Although all my weekends in the past and future would be filled with trips here and there an urge to travel and see new lands continued to remain within me, leading me to plan what would be my greatest adventure yet.

I’ve always had this mentality to travel as much as I can, as far as I can, and as long as I can because my life was never meant to be lived in one place. I’d already made the move to Rome, and realized after much reflection that the world was mine and I had every chance to see it. Nothing about it scared me, it just encouraged me to pack my bag and go because nothing was stopping me and my opportunities were endless. My dreams of experiencing, seeing, and adapting to new cultures always intrigued me, which was embodied in one trip many would call “Spring Break”. With my best friends, Allison and Zach, and new friends from my program, Ali and Roshni I was ready.


My long overdue realization that of being filled with wanderlust, lead me to find myself undergoing a trip that would take my feet to 5 famous cities within 5 countries during the duration of a week and a half! Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris weren’t ready for me and in return I wasn’t ready for the lessons they’d teach me. I witnessed the beauty and authenticity found within the walls of Northern Europe and was surprised to see just how much I’d crave to return again.

Every place in the world is unique and I feel as if it’s my task to find out why. Some are more difficult to discover, while others you know simply by first site. Prague was one of these places where automatically you’d found yourself walking through a fairytale. It took one stroll along the Charles Bridge and participating in walking tours of New Town, Old Town, and the Jewish Quarters, to realize this was where Disney got it, this is where dreams became a reality. Prague was the place.

I experienced first hand the impact and aftermath of what had once been a division of 5 towns and how each came together, but still remained to be completely their own seen through the preservation of their culture and landmarks. Within only a short period of time, one would go from seeing the Jewish cemetery of what holds more than 30,000 bodies placed within the Jewish Quarters in the center of their neighborhood to Old Town Square filled with vendors selling “turtle neck” dessert and tourist waiting every hour on the hour to watch the 12 Apostles Clock performance. Sites of the National Museum, State Opera, Old Town Hall, Petrin Lookout Tower replicating the Eiffel Tower, and the Prague Castel were followed by an 80s Dance Club, the Kafka Museum, John Lennon Wall and Charles Bridge, although so different it only took one a short walk across the river to go from feeling like you were the next Cinderella to being apart of what many would consider the greatest boy band of all time, The Beatles.

It was the perfect mix of liveliness and being trapped in a daydream. There was nothing like it, but the feeling it gave me only made me want more. It’s a place you simply can’t just Czech off your list, you’ll always want to go back not only to see it, but be reminded that life can be its own make believe place filled with joyous people, endless hardy food, and castles that tower over you. You don’t just see the city of Prague while walking the streets, you get lost in the daydream of fun filled energy.


After fully accepting my life as a dreamer, I was taken back to the times of Hitler in the city that shows one country’s ability to overcome a difficult past. I was transformed into a historian walking the paths of world leaders before me, being taken back by one place’s ability to make such an impact on the world. With a sausage in one hand and Haagen-Dazs in the other, I strolled the Flea Market found within Museum Square meeting the strong willed, yet kindhearted German people.

I later found myself directed to what I’d consider, the most fun and unique embassy I had ever seen and was proud to discover it was the United States’ placed directly across rows of grave tomb stone like statues making up the Holocaust memorial. Moments after stepping in, one realizes they are alone and gray like all that surrounds them allowing the piece to transform you and remind you of those who made the world what it is today, taking appreciation of all people. I later spent hours reading the stories of Jewish families described through artifacts left behind and admired current Germany’s ability to learn and grow from it’s past.

Berlin was seen and experienced through a tour of Brandenberg Gate, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, The Reichstag, Mitte Town, and Museums Island, followed by a shopping break at Potsdamer Platz and an afternoon strolling bits and pieces of what makes up the 100 mile wall created with the intention to divide East and West Berlin. Art liberated the people and brought visitors to awe over their mural talents communicating a message of freedom, equality and peace to all those who witnessed. As if the sites weren’t moving enough, the German people had this way of appearing intimidating, but once opening their mouths only filling your ears with love. The city and wonderful community was a reminder of anything’s ability to pick itself up and make it better, and how there’s always more than meets the eye.


The city of walls, sausage, and history was later traded in for bike paths, tulips, and canals leaving behind Berlin, for the city I thought I’d like the least, Amsterdam. Once hearing of places all over the world one has a way of creating an impression on it, some being positive while others disgusting you in more ways than you can count. Amsterdam was one of these locations that held three of my least favorite things: bikes, the Red Light District, and “coffee houses”.

Once arriving, I realized how thankful I am for one of my greatest traits, my ability to constantly be open-minded. This changed my whole view of Amsterdam, seeing more than what it was known for world wide and getting myself lost in the tulip market, I am Amsterdam sign, works of Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, and the most moving museum found behind a simple bookshelf, the Anne Franke House. I explored the city, unlike what guidebooks had suggested and found my own unique reasons to fall in love with it. When walking along the never ending canals, I couldn’t help but think that if I picked any two places in the world Nether land would be as perfect as where I was standing in that moment. I lost myself in it’s simple natural beauty and architecture not realizing that where I was standing was a place I had disliked for much of my life.

Amsterdam changed me. The one trip I thought would be a waste of money, was one I never could fully pay enough for. I walked into my hotel after immediately arriving saying I was done with the city, but left coming up with plans to be a resident in one of the narrow black brick painted buildings along the never ending canals. I lost my negative perception and got a friendly reminder that life always has a way of being filled with surprises. Who would of guessed I’d learn that in Holland!


As if I hadn’t eaten enough already in between the heavy meat and potatoes found within the previous three cities, I embarked on a journey to what I’d consider my personal “land of food” supplying me with the goodness of French fries, waffles, and chocolate. I had entered Brussels, Belgium with the full understanding that no matter how much I prepared my stomach it would never be ready. I strolled around the Grand Plac, a large square found within the center of government and retail buildings and was placed with the difficulty of having no hands due to the food breaks I continued to participate in.

Although my stomach was happy, the feeling and contentment of the environment was what was rewarding. I felt the calmness that was passed along the streets of the city and saw its beauty in its simplicity. Within minutes, I understood why it was the capital of the European Union because it simply made everyone happy. A few hours is all one needs to enjoy the small town found within two large countries, but if you could take its mentality and plates with you, you’d forever be lucky. It’s one that seems to be forgotten by many, but cherished by all those who find themselves at its’ coordinates. Brussels was the perfect break to prepare me for what was next, Paris!


It’s said that you’re always meant to leave things with a bang, with France as my final destination it was fulfilling it’s purpose by doing just that. Couture, High-Class sophistication, and romance surrounded me as I walked along the streets of Champs Elysee holding bags filled with my purchases inside, followed by eating nutella crepes and the best macaroons in the world, LaDuree in the parks alongside the Love Lock Bridge. To see the city from more than floor level I made my way to the top of the Arc du Triomphe, searched for the hunchback in Notre Dame, gained a new appreciation for art in the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay while catching up with Mona Lisa and the works of Monet, and couldn’t get away from the view of the Eiffel Tower regardless of where I was in the city. I enjoyed authentic French cuisine, the best meal I’ve ever had, when meeting up with other friends from our program and enjoyed nights that turned into morning in the city with my closest friends. As if enjoying Paris to its full capacity wasn’t enough, I made my way to Versailles to admire what is considered the most notable palace in the world admiring the gardens that go as far as your eyes can take you and entering rooms you can’t imagine only one royal family lived in. It was everything I thought it would be and more. They were right, Paris is always a good idea.

Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France were more than places I checked off the list, they were filled with moments I will forever remember, placing the Northern Loop and the greatest Spring Break in my heart forever. I found my future in the canals of Holland, love for food in Belgium, brought out my high end classy side in Paris, met the man of my dreams from Germany, and walked through the streets of Prague waiting to bump into Disney princesses. 10 days did more than make me fall in love with Europe, it confirmed that I’d be living here someday. It was more than a Spring Break, it changed my life path I’d always thought I’d be taking. My dreams of having the “American Dream” transformed into life traveling throughout Europe, taking the culture and energy forever with me. It was meant to be a break from life, but instead taught me why you always have to keep living. I vowed to myself to never take a break from seeing the world. I’ve been bit by the travel bug and there’s nothing that will ever stop me.


Ciao for now,

Gabriella Lunich

History in Our Backyard

History in Our Backyard

Ciao everyone! How are you doing? It has been a few weeks since I last wrote to you and to be frank, not much has happened! After a great spring break trip that you can read about here, I actually got a really random and bad case of Tonsillitis, so there have been a lot of bed rest filled days. This weekend however, after feeling much better, I went on a WWII study trip organized by Loyola.

Our trip was led by two wonderful JFRC alums who were at JFRC in 64′. They shared their expansive knowledge on the war, various historical sites, but also their experiences living in Italy at the time. My personal knowledge of WWII has always been from a textbook. But this weekend I was able to see first hand some of the remnants of the war. I apologize if I am unable to eloquently share my experience this weekend as I am still unable to grapple the history that I saw this weekend. Bear with me!

My favorite part of this weekend was visiting the WWII museum in Piana Delle Orme. This huge plot of land is filled with WWII artifacts. The first thing you see when you arrive are large planes, helicopters and trains that make for an incredible experience. WW2 Airplane

WW2 Tank

To be able to see and touch equipment used in the war made the experience more real and authentic. The various displays were not only detailed but incredibly insightful. Machinery worked and moved like it did when people were actually using it, tanks were parked right in front of you. It was truly amazing and the only words I could utter were “this is so cool!”. We were able to see a monumental period of history right in our backyard of Rome, this opportunity further supported my belief that Rome is the city of eternal history. There is so much to see here, regardless of what country you are from.

Agriculture WW2

Later in the afternoon we went to the Sicily-Rome American cemetery for WWII and this was an impactful part of the weekend. The image alone of tombstones being the same, perfectly aligned and filling large plots of land is both saddening but incredibly beautiful. Here we were able to visit the graves of some Loyola alum who fought in the war, and various other courageous men and women that served our country.

Sicily-Rome American Cemetery

One of the JFRC alums, Jim, explained how it was said that the WWII generation was the best generation. After visiting the Sicily-Rome American cemetery and hearing war stories of incredibly brave individuals, I truly believe that statement. The bravery, tenacity, courage and loyalty of the men and women who served America in WWII is truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring. There are no “thank you’s” that will signify the impact that these men and women made on our country. I listened to war stories filled with plight, death and tragedy, but regardless there was a determination to get back out their and fight in the war.  We were given the opportunity to retire the colors and looking out at the graves, at sunset filled me with such genuine appreciation.

To the men and women who have served and are serving their country, thank you for guiding your country with bravery, courage, determination and true heroism.

Till next time, friends.


Taylor’s New Jumper

Taylor’s New Jumper

So, it’s that time again for me to update you on all of my adventures over here.

Since coming back from Denmark, I’ve been keeping busy working on scenes and classes and that dreaded task of looking for an apartment and internship when I get back to Chicago.  But, I have had some fun, as well!

I did finally live out my childhood dream of visiting Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios.  It was actually magical.  We drank butterbeer, rode brooms, visited Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, and, of course, the Great Hall. To give some perspective of how much fun we had, we stayed for 5 hours.  I’m happy to say I will be returning with my parents when they visit.harrypotter

A few of us also took a day trip to Oxford where we explored some of the more famous colleges and landmarks there.  We found Harry Potter magic there, as well, ironically.  Much of the architecture for Hogwarts was inspired by colleges at Oxford or even filmed there.  You might recognize this staircase from the second movie 🙂  If we weren’t big enough nerds already, we worked on a Lord of the Rings puzzle as we ate lunch at the Eagle and Child pub, where J. R. Tolkien used to frequent with C. S. Lewis.


Oh! I almost forgot to mention that we went to Brighton!  Wow, we’ve done a lot in the last few weeks.  Despite it being a bit chilly, I was so happy visiting the ocean.  The best part was definitely the Pier and boardwalk.  We rode all of the carnival rides multiple times, ate sugary and fried junk food, played arcade games, and enjoyed just being kids for a night.  It was definitely a much needed escape from the stress we have been under recently.


In the last 7 days, I have seen a record 5 shows!  Started off Monday seeing Harvey. Tuesday was musical night with Miss Emily and Miss Saigon.  After a short break, I went to see 3 new monologues by Peter Barnes at Trafalgar Studios on Friday.  Saturday, all of us adventured out to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon and saw the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Jew of Malta.  And today will be the fifth of the last 7 days as my roommates and I see Kevin Spacey in Clarence Darrow at The Old Vic. I think I’ve fulfilled my quota of theatre.


Stratford was delightful.  It’s a rather quaint town with lots of small shops and tea rooms. It was relaxing to do some light shopping as we visited the historical houses and churches, including visiting the cursed Shakespeare grave at Holy Trinity Church.  Although out of all of it, I most enjoyed afternoon tea at the Anne Hathaway tea room, complete with dainty cakes, scones, clotted cream, and all of the finger sandwiches I could eat.


It’s starting to reach the end of the program and all of us are starting to realize we only have a few more weeks here. This next weekend we have a four-day break for the Easter holiday and I’ll be taking my last solo excursion to Edinburgh and St. Andrews to visit my friend Meghan. I recently learned that St. Andrews is not only the place where Prince William met Princess Kate Middleton, but is apparently where golf was invented!  There will be many pictures of golf courses.

Lastly, I got a new jumper from Primark.  It’s perfect for the drizzling spring days that are becoming more frequent as it gets warmer and warmer here.


Note: A jumper is a sweater.  A sweater to the Brits is a sweatshirt.  It’s confusing to me, too.

March Madness

March Madness

I know it has been awhile since I have last been able to blog but I have been slammed with both schoolwork and other crazy events. When I last checked in I was about to head off to Scotland. Scotland was 10 times more fun then I ever expected. To be honest, I had zero expectations for the weekend and I was completely blown away from my visit. The trip started with a scare, the scare being that I sat next to two Scottish businessmen on the plane and I could barely understand a single word they said. Both tried to make a joke with me and I laughed (hopefully appropriately?) and then they had to ask me about 3 times before I could understand that they were just wondering where I was going and how many of us there were. Getting off the plane, I turned to my friends and told them that this weekend would be a bit rougher than expected. However, as the next few days went by I realized that while I still had trouble understanding some words, those two men must have the thickest Scottish accent on this earth.

The reasoning behind the trip to Scotland was because our friend Kristen actually has two friends who live in Glasgow. As a result of this great luck, one of her friends was nice enough to pick us up from the airport and drive us to our hostel. My expectations for hostels has also officially sunk over time. When we arrived at our hostel we were a bit worried seeing as a Buzzfeed article had been published about the hostel and it’s not so great living conditions. Upon arrival, our hostel check in was actually across the street from where we would be sleeping. The room had 4 bunk beds, and since there were 7 of us we would only be living with one stranger–an upside compared to Dublin. However, I cannot begin to explain how wrong we could possibly be. Our roommate, who we named Pitbull because he was fat, bald, and annoying, was quite possibly the worst person you could ever share a room with. He snored louder than I have ever heard a person snore in my entire life. I don’t think he was breathing for part of the time. He would not only snore continuously and loudly, he would also shout in his sleep and make other disgusting noises. I maybe slept 3 hours the first night.

However, a bad nights sleep did not prevent us from having a fantastic first full day in Scotland. We woke up bright and early on Friday and took the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. It was a quick 40 minute train ride and we arrived with the whole day ahead of us. We first went to the Edinburgh Castle, which I once again knew nothing about, and was a little irritated when I found out I had to pay 16 pounds to get in. However, I was completely wrong as the castle was INCREDIBLE. It had about 6 mini-museums throughout the castle so I was able to learn about the history of Scotland’s military, the history of the castle, go into rooms where POWs were held, walk through a few war memorials, tour beautiful rooms, and see the crowned jewels (which later sparked the debate about whether you would rather have a scepter or a wand). We spent a few hours wondering around the castle and taking a number of photos. The castle also provided a gorgeous view of Edinburgh which has a perfect mix of both new and historical buildings. But just when you thought the day couldn’t get any better, something glorious happened– Harry Potter.


After lunch, where everyone in our group tried and actually enjoyed fried haggis, we ventured around Edinburgh to find a cafe called Elephant House. I am glad some people in the group were prepared because little did I know, but Elephant House is actually the cafe where JK Rowling first wrote the beginning of Harry Potter, on napkins. After wandering around a bit we found the cafe where we all sat down with a cuppa and pretended that we were as brilliant t as JK (we’re not). The coolest part of the cafe is actually the bathroom. Inside all of the walls, people have written notes to JK or quotes from Harry Potter. It was the first, and probably last, time that I took about 8 pictures of bathroom walls. Marypaz and I even wrote a note ourselves on the bottom of a wall. Some of our friends may have been embarrassed by how much Marypaz and I were fan-girling, but they were nice enough to not make it obvious.


Our day in Edinburgh ended with us shopping around and not buying anything because the pound is way too expensive. We went back to Glasgow and had a nice dinner and quiet night out at a local bar that had a live band. We went back to the hostel and tried to fall asleep (before Pitbull returned) so we could be energized for the following day. The next day we spent walking around Glasgow. We looked in a few museums, toured some outdoor sites, shopped, ate, and drank. It was a nice relaxing day and we were able to see all that the city had to offer, a special thanks to Kristen’s friend who was able to show us around. We left Glasgow the next morning, bright and early, to head back to Dublin then Cork, and reality.


The past week and half has been crammed with school work and days of fun. Saint Patrick’s Day was obviously exciting and Cork had a huge parade in the center of town with food stands all across the city center. Classes were cancelled for the day, as St. Paddy’s Day is considered a bank holiday, so we had the whole day open for drinking, I mean adventuring. While St. Paddy’s Day is very exciting in Ireland, it is important to understand that it really isn’t that big of a deal compared to St. Patrick’s Day even in Chicago. While there was a huge parade and downtown was packed, no one wore an obnoxious amount of green or Irish gear. It is instead a day of celebration but much more calmer than stereotypes may have you think. We woke up and ate a huge Irish breakfast, courtesy of chef Casey, and mimosas before we headed down to the parade. We were able to sit at a nice rooftop bar for a few hours during the day, since it was exceptionally pretty out, and just relax in the good atmosphere. We went out later that night and had a blast, but we did have class the next morning and real life waiting for us.


After spending the next few days writing a number of papers, I was able to take another day off and go up to Dublin to visit a friend. Allison, a friend who is studying at the Rome center, was in Dublin for 2 days so I was able to spend the day with her and show her around. Although I am no expert, only having gone to Dublin once before, we did do a lot. We walked through Dublin Castle, Saint Steven’s Green, ate some pub food, and, of course, went the the Guinness factory. I could only stay for a day so I headed back that night. It was, however, a nice break from school work.

Finally, two of Marypaz’s friends from Dublin, who we met last time we were up there, came down to Cork to visit. They arrived on Sunday night so we went out to dinner and then to a bar and tried to prove to them how fun Cork is (Dublin people aren’t the biggest fans of Cork). They seemed to have a fun time and we are in the works of making future plans to visit them again in Dublin in April. Since they’ve left, it has been a few days of heavy school work. This is the final stretch as I am trying to complete all of my papers before my parents arrive on March 31st. Super excited to see them and super excited to be done with all this work. As my mom said, it is rude that school is interrupting my 5 month vacation.

Where Have I Been?

Where Have I Been?

It’s been a very long time since my last blog post, and for that I am truly sorry. Too busy having the time of my life? I suppose. But now that my excitement has died down and I have major essays looming, I thought I could squeeze in some updates…


So, how great is London, you ask? It’s simply the greatest. I wouldn’t trade being here for anything in the world, and the thought of returning to Oak Lawn for an entire summer away from Europe physically pains me. And it’s not just London I’ve grown to love, either.


Over Queen Mary’s spring break last month I had the opportunity to take my first trip outside the UK! Two friends and I flew to Prague and then stopped over in Amsterdam before returning home to London (“home to London”—isn’t that just the best thing you could possibly say??).


Traditional Czech food! Sirloin, dumplings, and spinach
Traditional Czech food! Sirloin, dumplings, and spinach
The gorgeous city of Prague seen from the Charles Bridge
The gorgeous city of Prague seen from the Charles Bridge

I’ve seen some pretty beautiful places in England this semester, but I can now say with confidence that Prague is the most gorgeous place I’ve ever visited in person. I loved everything about the city, from the breathtaking castle views all the way down to our hilltop hostel. Experiencing Prague was honestly one of the best weekends of my entire life. We saw all the major sights like the Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, and the John Lennon Wall.


Since we were in Prague from Thursday to Monday, it felt like we had all the time in the world, which made it more of a marathon than a sprint. We had time to hit all the sights during the day and hit the town at night! On Saturday night we took part in the world-famous Prague Pub Crawl, which touted over 200 twenty-somethings to five of the city’s best nightclubs. (And if you think that’s a lot, the guide told me he was once in charge of 500+ people on a Thursday night tour… Try imagining that happening in Chicago!)


We made friends with other young people from Canada, South America, and the UK, just to name a few. That night was certainly a marathon, and also one I’ll never forget! Fun managed to lurk around every corner in Prague. After a long hard day of trekking up hills and across uneven cobblestone, we treated ourselves to traditional Thai foot massages, because we were on vacation and we could. And that might have been the most relaxing 30 minutes of my life.


Scenery in Old Town Square
Scenery in Old Town Square
Me with a chocolate crepe. Not particularly Czech, but totally delicious!
Me with a chocolate crepe. Not particularly Czech, but totally delicious!
The Astronomical Clock!
The Astronomical Clock!
The John Lennon Wall, full of amazing art and graffiti
The John Lennon Wall, full of amazing art and graffiti


Another highlight was walking far and wide to find a restaurant we heard referred to as “Monks and Beer” near the castle district. A few hills later we found ourselves at the foot of what looked like a private residence, but a few signs led us downstairs to a hidden but fully functioning dining experience in the wine cellars of an old monastery! We drank famous blueberry beer and sampled traditional Czech food like goulash and dumplings, all by light of a few candles. Everything about Prague was surreal, and I grew very attached to it in only four days! I didn’t want to abandon it for Amsterdam, but alas, our plane tickets beckoned…


Beautiful colored buildings outside our hostel along Nerudova Street
Beautiful colored buildings outside our hostel along Nerudova Street
St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle
St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle
Prague is all that and a bag of chips, basically
Prague is all that and a bag of chips, basically


Amsterdam was a SPRINT. We landed in “the Venice of the north” late on a Monday night, exhausted from travel and our weekend in Prague. But we only had until Thursday afternoon before returning to London, so we had to conjure up a second wind and get our butts in gear. And once we got going, Amsterdam became just as beautiful! It is definitely a city of museums, and we managed to see five in just two and a half days (six, if you count the massive seven-floor Openbare Bibliotheek Library). We could have spent two weeks wandering exhibits and galleries, but there was just too much too see.


I Amsterdam at Museum Plein!
I Amsterdam at Museum Plein!
The never ending Albert Cuyp Market. It had everything you can imagine
The never ending Albert Cuyp Market. It had everything you can imagine


On our first day we spent hours admiring every inch of the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the biggest collection of his works in the world. We followed up with a long afternoon wandering around the Albert Cuyp Market, widely recognized as being the largest daytime market in all of Europe. We sampled everything from traditional Dutch stroopwafels (a warm flat waffle filled with caramel and smothered in chocolate, also DELICIOUS) to spicy Tex-Mex street tacos. I even bought a wooden tulip!


Stroopwafels are a new passion of mine. So is posing with food.
Stroopwafels are a new passion of mine. So is posing with food.


But luckily, our day wasn’t over. We managed to book late tickets to the highly-popular and world-famous Anne Frank House. And as happy as I am with all the fun we had on this trip, visiting that house was the most important thing we did all week. You simply cannot go to Amsterdam without it on your itinerary. It’s one thing to learn about Anne and the Holocaust from the safety of a classroom and entirely another thing to physically walk through the annex and stand in those rooms. Absolutely nothing else can compare to it.


There's nothing like a canal at sunset!
There’s nothing like a canal at sunset!
Our new friend and awesome city tour guide, Kiel
Our new friend and awesome city tour guide, Kiel
Amsterdam is full of incredible street art just like this!
Amsterdam is full of incredible street art just like this!


We filled our Wednesday with still more museums and walking tours around the city. We even tried mixing with locals in the trendy Jordaan neighborhood, but I’m pretty sure they sniffed us out. Before we had to leave we managed to take a nighttime stroll through the infamous Red Light District and a morning boat cruise around the canals. It was so heartbreaking to leave, but I also couldn’t stop dreaming about my bed back home in London!


Amsterdam is all about the cheese, and I wanted to bring it all home
Amsterdam is all about the cheese, and I wanted to bring it all home
The city gets all lit up in the Red Light District!
The city gets all lit up in the Red Light District!
Canal cruises are the best way to unwind after a long week of travel
Canal cruises are the best way to unwind after a long week of travel


Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better spring break. I may never get the chance to see Prague and Amsterdam ever again, but I would go back in a heartbeat.

More astronomically long posts to come…



Scotland & Ireland

Scotland & Ireland

Hello there!

It’s been awhile, but I’ve been very busy traveling all over Western Europe! It has been quite the adventure and each place I’ve been has been so unique.

Two weekends ago, I spent a long weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh was full of history, local flair, so much nature. It was definitely my favorite city I’ve visited in my time here. Oh, and it was SO HILLY. After two days we had walked twenty three miles up and down the city. My legs didn’t recover for at least three days..

We also climbed up the very windy Arthur’s Seat (definitely a highlight of this semester), ate more than I thought was possible thanks to a Buzzfeed list of incredible food (, and experienced our first pub crawl! Following the kilt got harder after pub 6, but it was a great way to see the city 🙂

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Four days after I got home from Scotland, we flew off to Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! We spent the weekend in the sleepy town of Cork and then took the train in on Saturday to Dublin to see the festivities.

In Cork, we did some shopping and some authentic eating (as usual). We went to Blarney Castle, which is one of the oldest castles in Ireland, and climbed to the top to kissed the Blarney Stone in hopes of obtaining some eloquence (fingers crossed).

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We also spent a day in Dublin, Ireland. The morning was entertained by the Guinness Storehouse, aka the greatest beer house ever. If any of you ever find yourself in Ireland, don’t miss this fun!! We cheers’d to St. Patrick’s Day at 10am and then continued to roam the city, checking out quite a few pubs with the rest of Ireland and America. We even managed to fit in St. Patrick’s cathedral. It was a great and green day!!

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I’m heading off to Barcelona on Wednesday to spend my spring break in the sun (I hope!), wish me luck 🙂


The Best of the Balkans

The Best of the Balkans

Spring break is over and I have some mixed feelings about it. I am sad that I am ending my beautiful travels in Eastern Europe but also surprisingly happy to be back in Rome and on campus. The everyday hustle and bustle of Rome can be a monotonous and overwhelming at times and this goes for every city, not just Rome. I was happy to leave to get a change of scenery for a bit! I went on a Loyola facilitated study trip with the wonderful SLA Chandni and because we went to so many different places I thought I would write a little snippet about every place we went.

Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade November Man Park
Belgrade Fortress. FUN FACT: This is where one of the last scene of November Man was filmed.

Belgrade was the first stop on our spring break trip and I loved being in this city! I had no expectations going into this trip and Belgrade set the bar very high for all the other places we went. There is an incredible amount of history, war, sadness and resilience in the Balkans, and I got my first taste of that in Belgrade. Our tour guide Jelena was very young when the Kosovo War occurred and she shared some fascinating stories of her life. It is crazy to think that when I was four years old, people in a different country were living through war. You read about war in history books but when you hear first hand stories, the information is more impactful.

Belgrade Graffiti

Belgrade is a young city that has a vibrant art/graffiti scene and nightlife. Each building has beautiful pieces of art, some next to bullet hole remnants from the war. I do not know how to put this in a more eloquent way, but people in Belgrade are just so exceptionally cool. There is a sense of life and happiness that is refreshing! We also met with these Serbian exchange students that did a year of high school in America. After hearing all the history and the death that has happened in this city, they were interesting to talk to because they talked about everyday life in Belgrade. The things that they missed about America, (Mainly Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups) simply showed that love of culture has no boundaries.

Novi Sad, Serbia

Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, Serbia.
Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, Serbia.

Novi Sad is a small town about an hour away from Belgrade. We took a day trip and walked around seeing various churches, mosques and historical buildings. One of the important monuments in Novi Sad is this clock tower and I will not lie, it was a hike to get up here! This tested my lack of athletic skills a lot, but the view was breathtaking. Jelena was telling us that during the summer there is a music festival that is well known in Europe. How cool would it be to have a music festival in a fortress? Sure puts Lollapalooza to shame!

Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina 

Sarajevo Mountain View

Sarajevo is the definition of a beautiful ski town, it is about four hours away from Belgrade by car and the whole ride looked like a fantasy. Snow capped mountains and trees is always breathtaking. We went to an old military tank fortress on top of a mountain, it was all quite surreal, something you do not see on a normal tour. Sarajevo too was plagued with war in 1993 and our tour guide Skender was young when the war was occurring. When we live in this “modern world” it can be baffeling to think that ethnic cleansing occurred just 20 some years ago.

Sarajevo Mountain Selfie

In Sarajevo I also met my current new baked good obsession, Burek. Burek is this beautiful meat, croissant swirl and just thinking about not having it in Rome is making me feel some kind of way. Oh the memories of my love, Burek!

Delicious Burek

Split, Croatia

Marjan Split Croatia
Marjan, Split, Croatia.

Our last stop was Split, Croatia and it was perfect weather up until the day we left! For most of the trip it was cold, snowy and rainy but in Split, as you can see from this photo, it was nice and sunny out. The people in this city are incredibly dressed and I think it is because there is one main street that everyone walks down and you are bound to run into someone you know. A big thing to do here is island hopping, but we were advised to come back during the summer and do that then instead. Split is a popular beach town but is also a popular stop for backpackers. I would love to come back and see what this city is like during the summer!

That is all for now!


Warning: This Post Contains Pictures of Farm Animals

Warning: This Post Contains Pictures of Farm Animals

I apologize in advance for the short and potentially choppiness of this post. I am currently in the middle of writing a 2,000 word essay on the root causes in the Northern Ireland conflict, booking flights and hotels for spring break, and packing to leave for Scotland tomorrow at noon. Please bare with me.

The month of March off to a crazy and busy start already. I was able to spend this past long weekend on a true Ireland adventure. Thursday I took a Paddy Wagon Tour (which I would highly recommend for anyone if they were to ever come to Ireland because it’s just fantastic) with my roommate from back home, Alyssa, to the Cliffs of Moher. When I arrived I definitely had a fear that I would simply just fall off the cliffs by either the wind or me just tripping, however, it was a bit safer than I had thought. There was a stone wall that provided a small barrier from falling to my death, but I would be lying if I said that I stayed behind it the whole time. Alyssa and I ventured all over the cliffs, and pretty close to the edge, but I was more worried about her falling over the edge than me, but we both survived and took some pretty killer pictures.



The next day I woke up and embarked on a three day long trip of the Ring of Kerry. This trip was “paid for” by USAC (yes I’m putting that in quotes because technically “we” paid USAC when we booked my semester abroad (yes I’m putting we in quote because I really didn’t pay those fees)). The best thing about this trip was that we were staying in a hotel for the entire weekend and all of our food was paid for in advance. I do not think I can properly articulate how much bread I consumed in that 3 day period, but it was a lot. We arrived in Caherciveen, where our hotel was, just in time for a delicious dinner. After dinner we sat in a back room and sang some traditional Irish songs (think Galway Girl) and then participated in a trivia contest. The trivia contest was for teams of 5 and luckily it was the 5 of us girls who were in Kerry this weekend so we immediately formed a team and proceeded to dominate. Luckily the combination of the 5 of us provided us with a bizarre arsenal of random facts and information from major river’s names, the president of Ireland, movie facts, capitals of countries, and more. We were also the only team who seemed to be having fun and laughing the entire time, and add the one pint of beer on the table, everyone (including the Irish moderator) thought our team was drunk. So it was especially satisfying when we came in first. Our prize was two coasters made of Valentia Slate, so it was well deserved.

Transatlantic Cable Site


View from Valentia Island

The next day we woke up bright and early and spent the entire day roaming around Valentia Island and other small Kerry towns. We saw baby calves, walked up crazy high hills, saw the location where the first transatlantic cable was connected to Europe, ate more good food, and sang happy birthday to Kristen (who turned the big 2-1) three times throughout the day. That night the group received lessons in Gaelic football and Irish dancing. We learned dances to four traditional group Irish dances, which brought back memories. I definitely remembered most of the dances, and I was even complimented on how well I did, however my calves still burn.

On top of one of the Stone Forts
A bit windy on the top of Geoghan Mountain

Sunday was spent doing the full Ring of Kerry, and the highlight of it all was getting to hold two, 3-week old, baby lambs. (Yes I made a number of Silence of the Lambs jokes and my friends definitely wanted to feed me to Hannibal Lector by the end). The Ring of Kerry was simply gorgeous. It was beautiful rural Ireland, that we saw while driving through a number of small towns, and stopping at a number of locations. We saw so much in these three days, and they even gave everyone a flyer that laid out everything that we saw:

Some of the grounds of Muckross Castle


Crag Caves, Castelisland


Transatlantic Cable Cite, Valentia Island

Geoghan Mountain & Fogher Cliffs

Valentia State Quarry

Skellig Experience

Ballycarberry Castle

Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church

Stone Forts– Cahergal & Leacanbuaile

Cumakista Pass

Derrynane House & Beach

Ladies View, Ring of Kerry

Torc Waterfall

Killarney National Park

Muckross Castle


Overall, it was a fantastic weekend. So many sites and experiences crammed into one weekend. I arrived back in Cork throughly exhausted but completely content. Now, time to pack and get ready for a weekend in Scotland!

How to Choose Your Summer Music Festival

How to Choose Your Summer Music Festival


Spring is upon us, and as such, so is music festival lineup season.

If your favorite music festival hasn’t released its lineup schedule already, it will in the next month or two rest assured.

But what about those who don’t have a favorite festival? How do you choose between two festivals that have almost identical lineups?

If you don’t already know, there’s so much more to music festivals then just the lineups they host.

You need to take into account the culture of each festival, and the spirit that drives it.

If you want to make the most of your music festival filled summer you have to pick a festival that not only matches your music taste, but also your personality.

I’ve collected a wide range of information detailing my personal accounts and opinions of festivals I’ve attended, and festivals that some of my closest friends have gone to.

If you’re hoping for a cold analysis of each festival then you’re reading the wrong article.

This is a tutorial to help those who have no idea what they’re getting themselves into and need a guiding light before taking the musical plunge.


Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL

“Lollapalooza is a great place to start your festival career, a real beginner experience.

Ok so that’s no way to sell a festival, I know, but bear with me ok? Lollapalooza isn’t a festival I would undersell or oversell by any means.

It was the first musical festival I ever went to so it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

It’s an exciting feeling. You’re surrounded by downtown Chicago, but not to the point of being claustrophobic, and you have a great breeze coming nonstop from Lake Michigan.

What should you expect at Lolla?

Lollapalooza is a great place to start your festival career, a real beginner experience.

It always has a popular lineup, and the people there are pretty spread across the spectrum of personalities you’d see at a music festival.

You’ll see a healthy dose of ravers, frat boys, mid-life crisis dads, high school kids, and then some normal everyday people thrown in the mix.

It’s enough diversity to keep Lollapalooza from skewing into one type of audience direction, but enough that you’ll feel at home no matter what type of festival goer you identify as.

What’s the venue like? Should I have safety concerns at all?

The venues and stages are gigantic so you’ll never have to worry about being to far back, but there’s also plenty of room at each stage to lie down at the back of the ground and mellow out to your favorite band.

The police and security presence is very comforting. They’re there to help you, not to ruin your life, so just don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you.

Personally, I’m over the whole Lollapalooza hype fest that happens every year. It was a great first experience but my tastes have become more experienced now.

Bottom Line: If you’re new to the whole festival thing, have about $500 bucks sitting around, and don’t mind some debauchery, Lollapalooza is probably the festival for you.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: North Coast (Illinois)

Lollapalooza’s 2015 lineup has not been released yet, but you can listen some of my favorite tunes and bands from their 2014 lineup here.


Bonnaroo – Manchester, TN

“Also, the toilets were surprisingly top notch, had no fear of pooping or getting herpes.”

 Ahhh Bonnaroo, home of the hippies and land of the free. Bonnaroo gets a lot of bad rep for being a smelly, hippie ridden, and overall dirty festival, but it is all that and so much more.

Bonnaroo, or Roo (as it is lovingly called), is a magical land filled with some of the friendliest festival goers you will ever meet.

Honestly, I have some great memories of getting lost from my friends and for making new friends out of complete strangers.

Everyone is seemingly there for the same reason: good vibes and good music.

Two years ago I attended Roo with my good friend, Alejandro and he’s been in love with the place ever since.

What did you like most about Bonnaroo?

“The atmosphere, people, and festival grounds were incredible. Just such a cool vibe, everyone was extremely friendly. You could talk to anyone about anything.

Not really judgmental, not to many frat bros, real people that were really nice. Also, the toilets were surprisingly top notch, had no fear of pooping or getting herpes.”

What kind of advice would you give newcomers to Roo?

Bonnaroo is focused on the camping and immersive atmosphere that few festivals obtain. You go for 4 days, camp out surrounded by strangers, and go see your favorite bands throughout the day.

But wait, there’s more! There are also art exhibits, comedy shows, food vendors from around the nation, beer tastings, and the list goes on.

I remember this encampment next to mine, back in 2012, spending the entire 4 days building this open-air library and phone charging station for anyone to use. They made tire swings and cots for folks to enjoy, and man was it popular.

So what’s it like to go to the Roo for the first time?

“Surreal, like a kid at a toy store,” says Alejandro. “So many cool things and so many people.

I wish I had more time to explore and do everything that they had to offer. One day I’ll actually make it to the comedy tent for once! You just can’t find time to do everything.

Bottom Line: Bonnaroo will set the standard for your music festivals. It has an almost religious following amongst it’s goers, and is easy for any music lover to enjoy. As long as you like camping, Roo is for you.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: All Good Festival (West Virginia)

Bonnaroo’s 2015 lineup has been released! It’s pretty stacked and promises to be a grand time for all. Here are a few of my favorite tracks and bands to watch out for there, you can listen here.


Coachella – Indio, CA

“Sometimes it felt more like a fashion event than a music festival.”

 So now we begin to delve into uncharted festival territory for me. Coachella is a festival that I’ve always heard about, but never had the money to attend.

It’s set in glamorous California, and from what I’m told, the people organizing this festival know exactly what they’re doing.

The grounds are located on a gigantic polo field, so it’s really easy to get around and probably only a 5 minute walk from one side of the venue to the other.

I really have to back off of this discussion, however, and leave it to my close friend Jonny Swift, keyboardist and producer for local Chicago Electronic Rock band “Super Hairy,” to describe because anything I tell you at this point is just conjecture.

What did you like most about Coachella?

“We liked a lot about Coachella! We had an awesome time.

The lineup and music were great, some of our favorites were Pretty Lights, TNGHT, Purity Ring, C2C, Alt-J, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, the fact that it’s in SoCal in the desert surrounded by mountains, and so much more.

The food was delicious and siphoned off into one section of the festival grounds, although expensive, the art installations and decorations were really cool, there was a giant ferris wheel you could ride, and all in all the festival was just organized really well.”

Did you dislike anything though? I’ve heard some wicked rumors about the atmosphere.

“We disliked a few things actually. The drinks were extremely overpriced, the check-in people at the gates to the festival were very strict and thorough and rough and searched everything, the porta pottys were always disgusting and never stocked with toilet paper, I don’t think they cleaned them once all weekend, and overall the crowd was kinda rude.

Not a very friendly crowd at all, and it seemed like a lot of people weren’t there for the music, but just to try to see celebrities and get into the fashion scene.

That’s one of the main things I didn’t like- sometimes it felt more like a fashion event than a music festival.

Other than that, the only other thing I can complain about is that our camping site was a decently long walk to the festival grounds- about a 15-20 minute walk.”

So why did you choose to go all the way to SoCal for this festival?

“We chose to go to Coachella because the lineup was amazing and had a ton of our favorite artists, and because it was in SoCal!

And because it’s Coachella, duh. When we first got there, we were obviously super excited but also nervous because we’d never done a camping music fest before- only Lolla, North Coast, and Pitchfork beforehand.

After we flew in, we had to rent a car and stop at a Wal-Mart on the way to stock up on everything we needed for camping all weekend.

The coolest story I have from Coachella is that I got to meet all the members of both C2C and Alt-J after their performances on Friday afternoon.

Chatting with them was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.”

Bottom Line: Festival of the stars. Go for the culture, stay for the music.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: SXSW (Texas)

Coachella’s 2015 lineup is STACKED with good music. Seriously. I don’t think I could name another festival with a lineup this badass. Here are some of my favorites!


Electric Forest – Rothbury, MI

“There is a crazy strong spirit of reciprocity and respect flowing throughout the Forest, and it’s absolutely contagious.”

I’m so embarrassed. Another festival I’ve never been to before. However, this time I can say I’ll have Electric Forest taken off my bucket list this summer. Bought my tickets and could not be more excited. To help me explain my excitement I again have Jonny Swift of “Super Hairy” and also my close friend Philip Albers.

What did you like best about Electric Forest?

Jonny Swift: Electric Forest was one of the best experiences of my life. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! It’s gonna be hard to describe it in words but I’ll try.

By far, it’s the best music festival I’ve been to and one of the most amazing places I’ve been period. Coachella was awesome and I love Lolla, North Coast, and Pitchfork, all of which I’ve been to multiple times, but none of them can compare to EF.”

Philip Albers: Electric Forest is my most anticipated music event every year, partly because the lineup and music is so good, but mostly because of the people and the atmosphere.

The attendees are all considerate and friendly people, and give the festival a sense of unity and harmony that is unmatched in any other concert or festival I’ve gone to.

Also the venue is in a beautiful pine forest, and is looked after by the attendees.”

So was there anything to dislike?

Jonny Swift: There were few things I disliked, but they’re pretty nitpicky. Shower lines could sometimes be quite long, and it cost $10 per shower.

Other than that, the only thing I could complain about is that the festival grounds can sometimes feel quite large if you don’t know your way around, and it can take a decent amount of time to get from one side of the festival to the other.”

Philip Albers: “There isn’t much I dislike about the Forest. However, 2014 saw the first ticket sell out of Electric Forest, and it seemed as if the number of people really increased the congestion and anxiety of moving from stage to stage.”

What can be said about the atmosphere of the festival?

Jonny Swift: “There is a crazy strong spirit of reciprocity and respect flowing throughout the Forest, and it’s absolutely contagious.

I’ve never experienced a crowd at a music fest that was so friendly and respectful towards everyone and everything around them.

I usually hate crowds at concerts or music fests or large events, but nearly everyone I met, strangers, volunteers, everyone, was extremely friendly and helpful.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to more strangers or made more momentary friends that quickly in my life.

Everyone is just there to have a good time and make sure everyone else is having a good time as well!

My fiancé has said multiple times that she sees it as a utopian mini-society that gives a glimpse of how society could be if everyone treated each other with love and respect.”

Any good stories to share?

Philip Albers: “There are countless stories I could share about Forest. One in particular kind of epitomizes the atmosphere though.

In the Forest there is this sacred little place called the Giving Tree, the concept is that you take something and you leave something.

It could be something of great personal value or something completely trivial.

My first year we paid many-a-visit to the giving tree, offering up cigarettes and mysterious tokens we picked up on the way for things like lighters and other mysterious tokens.

The third night, after some vigorous dancing, our group convened and one member realized his necklace had come off.

This necklace was a simple sterling silver charm he got from his grandmother, though not completely vital to survive the Forest, he was understandably bummed.

We looked through forests of feet on the dance floor, searched lost and found, asked strangers, and finally paid one more visit to the giving tree.

There the little necklace was found totally in tact. This is not so uncommon in the Forest; things have a way of working themselves out there where everything just seems to go right.”

Bottom Line: An electronic wonderland filled with some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Come for the wub wub, stay for the love love.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: Shambhala (British Columbia)

The Electric Forest 2015 lineup is set to be mind blowing. Hold onto your underpants folks, you’re in for a wild ride. Listen to some of my favorite tracks from the lineup here.


Pitchfork – Chicago, IL

“Hipsters and kids everywhere, what has my life become?!”

 Pitchfork is most known for the music columns online. Everyday they release 5 to 10 album reviews, in-depth interview cover stories with big name artists, and are basically revered as musical gurus by most of the hardcore music fan community.

I went to Pitchfork for the first time the summer of 2014 and loved it. Real easy to navigate, very clean, and everyone was very friendly.

You could really tell that everyone was there for the music. They didn’t come to get trashed and they weren’t there to tell you your music taste was shit either.

They always have a great lineup, and even if you don’t recognize the bands you can be sure you’ll like them on at least a basic level.

My good friend Alejandro has been a regular attendee at Pitchfork for the last 3 years (mainly because his hipster roommate used to drag him there kicking and screaming) and had a few things to say about the festival.

So what did you like most about Pitchfork?

“Pitchfork has a nice lineup, real cheap prices, and the crowd is always interesting.

My first reaction when waiting to get in though? Hipsters and kids everywhere, what has my life become.

The festival is filled with the type, but if you are on the level, or can at least tolerate it, you’ll be fine. “

 Bottom Line: If you’re the type who is always up to date on the new hot album release, and loves discussing music in depth, then Pitchfork is for you.

Cheap and Similar Alternative: None. It really doesn’t get cheaper than this for the quality of the lineup.

Hosted by the highly regarded Pitchfork magazine, this festival’s 2015 lineup promises to deliver its audience fantastic up and comers, as well as some incredible veteran performers. Listen to some of the tracks here.

Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta

Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta

The Mekong River Delta in Southwest Vietnam is an exceptional corner of the world – the history, the scenery, and (of course) the food! I compiled several video clips from my weekend excursion to the Mekong Delta. The Loyola American students and our Vietnamese partners explored the Delta by bus, motor boat, wooden canoes, and even bikes! We learned how several Mekong dishes are cooked, including: popped rice treats, snake wine, rice paper, coconut candy, bánh xèo, and bánh tét – the Vietnamese lunar new year sticky rice cake. (Note: The following videos were recorded on an iPhone. Please dismiss the low quality.)

Email with any questions or recommendations. As always, thanks for reading!