The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2016

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere!”

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere!”

Amsterdam has some PRETTY BIG shoes to fill!Beauty and the Beast (1991)

…and I got it in Amsterdam this past weekend!

Okay, it wasn’t great and wide, the streets and canals were actually quite narrow…but it was an adventure!

After one of the most stressful weeks in the history of stressful weeks, (I’m sure I’ll top it soon) me and four friends packed our bags and headed to Amsterdam!…on an overnight Megabus….which stopped halfway through the night to get on a ferry across the English Channel….and then back on another Megabus…But eventually we got there! What I’m getting at here is that travelling is hard. There were many points during that busride that I imagined how much easier it would’ve been to stay home and remain cocooned in a nice warm bed. Even once we arrived in Amsterdam, since it was about 5 degrees and the line for the Anne Frank House was outdoors for two hours, I continued to dream about getting back home to the familiar and comfy. I couldn’t feel my toes!

This was my sentiment as I stepped into the Anne Frank House…and it quickly dissolved. I had heard of Anne Frank, sure, everyone has. I even read some excerpts from her diary! But until you climb the steep staircase after staircase, clamber up behind the bookshelf, and breathe in the dank air of Anne’s attic, you don’t understand her story. All along the journey up to the secret rooms, the museum was decorated with images and videos of the family and those that helped conceal them. They had interviews with people who had known the Franks before they went into hiding, and some who had met them in the concentration camps they were eventually sent to. When we finished climbing the third narrow staircase, we were led through a secret entrance that opened up into two rooms. These two small rooms plus the kitchen around the corner were all that Anne and her family knew for two whole years. Quotes from Anne’s diary line the walls, “I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I am free, and yet I can’t let it show…” “During the day our curtains can’t be opened, not even an inch!” This fourteen-year-old girl was locked in an Annex for two years of her life in constant fear of being caught and killed an I was whining about one uncomfortable night aboard a Megabus! She was a hero. But the thing that struck me most about Anne’s house was her bedroom. There were magazine pictures, postcards, and images from newspapers of celebrities, babies, models, and animals glued to her walls! She was just a regular teenager who wanted to decorate her room with pretty things! I found that so interesting. And kind of adorable. This girl who has been created by the world to be such a legend…liked to tape up pictures of cute couples and puppies next to her bed!

At the end of the tour, a video was shown about how Anne’s story has affected people and pop culture and society. They showed a short clip of John Green reading from his book, The Fault in Our Stars, which has a scene set in the Anne Frank House.  At the end of one of the rooms in the house was a book with the names of all those killed in the Holocaust from the Netherlands. He wrote, “The book was turned to the page with Anne Frank’s name, but what got me about it was the fact that right beneath her name there were four Aron Franks. FOUR. Four Aron Franks without museums, without historical markers, without anyone to mourn them. I silently resolved to remember and pray for the four Aron Franks as long as I was around.” That hit me hardest about the tour. Seeing that book. And seeing the four Arons and the pages and pages of names of people we don’t know. But those peoples’ stories are just as valid as Anne’s, but they just didn’t leave a diary for us to remember them by. I don’t know what to say about it other than that…but I haven’t been able to get that book with all those names out of my head.

Amsterdam doesn’t have a sense of time. The streets are always packed. The pubs? Always packed. The museums? Packed. Market? Packed. Red light district? (YEAH, I AM SURPRISED I WENT TOO.) Packed night and day. It’s crazy! It was fun, of course, because my roomie Chisom and I people-watched the HECK out of that city. We wandered and shopped and art-galleried and ate food and thrifted and had a relaxing, fabulous time. Bikes EVERYWHERE. And if you see something that looks too narrow for a car to fit through…joke’s on you-a car is definitely about to come down that road. Or a Vespa. I’m also pretty proud that I didn’t fall into a canal from all the upward-gazing I did! Amsterdam was something out of a movie. At night, it was even more glorious! Streetlamps glittering along the canals, smoke wafting out of the Coffeehouses, water lapping against the boats, crowds murmuring along the alleys…It was such a sensuous experience! I’m gonna miss that city…

It was JUST as challenging to get home on the overnight Megabus, but this time as I sat in my cramped seat and tried in vain to get comfortable…I remembered all that I learned at the Anne Frank House and thought of those four Aron Franks who don’t get museums. And instead of grumbling into my makeshift pillow, I decided to pray for them.


Sports Day and All-inclusive Vacation

Sports Day and All-inclusive Vacation

A few weeks back I received an email from the sports coordinator of Loyola in Sevilla inviting all the international students to a sports day hosted at Universidad Loyola’s Cordoba campus. I participated realizing the travel was covered. But to my surprise only about 5 other international students accepted. I was able to have my ass handed to me in tennis and failed miserably at playing basketball. My skill level in both sports were at a terribly low level, especially in basketball where I can’t even handle the ball at full speed nor shoot the ball without being off by more than a foot.

But to my surprise I received another email from the same sports coordinator at Loyola a week after the sports day, asking if I wanted to join the team and play in a national Jesuit tournament. I accepted, again, because everything was paid for, including the hotel room and all the meals. Easily a no-brainer and an excuse to see another town in Spain.

The tournament took place in Úbeda. Also, in Andalusia like Sevilla but a much smaller town feel to it. Also, it was situated on a hill. The bus ride was 3 hours and a rollercoaster of comfort. When we first got onto the bus it was hot but as I feel asleep I was awaken by cool air blasting through the vents. Then hot again and the process continued for the majority of the trip. But once we got there I was ready to rumble. Wearing my Nike running shoes and asics shorts, I was ready to play. There were two sets of teams, like any team, the starters and the second string. I formed part of the second string in all sports. I would only come on for short periods of time if one of our main team members was tired or got injured. It was a rough game, both because my teammates kept getting tired and for me because I played a lot more than I anticipated. The match ended with the other team beating us by at least 15 points. But I wasn’t sad because I kept looking forward to the fine hotel we checked into later that evening, which I would later find out was a four star establishment.

My objective on this trip was not to win games but rather bath in the freeness of the weekend. I did accomplish this all without spending a dime. Later that afternoon, there was an award ceremony which Loyola won handily in the majority of categories. I was then truly proud to represent the Loyola Andalusia basketball team. Then at night a group of students went out to what I was told the only club in town and of course the only genre of music they played was reggaeton. But by now I need to assume that if the club is located in Spain then they will only play that kind of music.

The next morning we all left Úbeda on the school charted bus and headed home. It turned out to be a relaxing and enjoyable weekend without having to spend anything. I thought about if this could be realized at Loyola in Chicago and I thought never would the school pay for everything of this sort of club teams, even if we were regional champions and fortunate enough to have the opportunity to represent our school at the national tournament as the club soccer team did. But anyways, another reason to study here and bath in the glory of automatically making the basketball team by just showing up.

Gothic Opulence

Gothic Opulence

Here we are, almost halfway through our biggest group excursion. Over a course of 10 days, the 22 Vietnam students will be traveling through the central and northern regions of Vietnam. As of today, we have visited the ancient capital of Vietnam, Hue, as well as the historic Hoi An.

During our one-day stay in Hue, we managed to visit a number of historical sites, including the tomb of the penultimate emperor, Khai Dinh. I think it is fair to say that we’re quite the tomb-and-temple experts by now, but Emperor Khai Dinh’s tomb was still something special. Perhaps it was the surprise that awaited us inside the tomb.

The exterior of his tomb is made of black concrete. The dark color, made more prominent by the rain and the gloomy skies, created an ominous air. Its dark carvings and intricate towers were beautiful, but foreboding. The interior seemed like another world entirely. No more were the dark colors, instead we were surrounded by light and colors and a gleam that covered the entirety of the interior. This contrast of gothic and lavishness was not lost on me, or on anyone else. No photos could do it justice and capture the full extent of opulence. Truly, from floor to ceiling, every nook and cranny was filled with glistening jewels or perfectly painted stonework. While none of us were fans of the historical figure himself, his tomb left a very different impression on us.





The Family Visits Ireland

The Family Visits Ireland

Sorry I have not posted in a while, but there has been a lot going on for me in Ireland. Since I last posted I have seen significantly more of the country and have a lot of good times with friends and my family. Yes my family did visit and they were here for two weeks. They stayed at a Mill Cottage in a town called Bruree, which is about 25 minutes away from Limerick. It was a wonderfully charming little cottage with warm water and wifi, so were were very happy and comfortable. The woman who ran the place, Jessica, was very nice and accommodating and gave my family their first taste of Irish charm.

On our first full day, we decided we would start with Dublin, so we took the train and spent two days and a night there. We got to see the Guinness Factory where we learned the history and the process of brewing the beer. My sister, brothers, and his girlfriends also took the Guinness Academy class where we learned to pour a perfect Guinness and then we went up and enjoyed them at the Gravity bar, which overlooks the whole city of Dublin. Next, we went to Trinity College where we were truly amazed at how beautiful the campus and even more amazed when we saw the famous Book of Kells and the Long Room, which is Trinity College’s Library which was a magical thing to see. We also visited the Oldest Bar in Dublin, which is called the Brazen Head and had delicious food accompanied by live music. We had an amazing time.

I also visited Cork twice, while my family was here and I finally got to see Blarney Castle and kiss the famous Blarney Stone. It was a gorgeous castle and there was no line, so we were easily able to explore it thoroughly. We then did the Jameson Experience where we took a tour of the Distillery and I even volunteered to be a certified Whisky taster. Maybe something to put on the resume. We also visited Galway, (I have been there three times now) where we splurged on more jewelry and actually found a pub with the best live music yet and they actually played Galway Girl.

Another important thing my family wanted to do while they were here was to visit County Mayo, particularly Achill Island, which is a place where our family is from. It was tiny, but it was absolutely breathtaking. And, most importantly, my sister and I made a puppy friend and we played with him on the beach. An important observation I have made here is that the animals are all very friendly and playful. I rarely see one on a leash.

For St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, we decided to stay in Limerick and go to the parade, visit a few pubs, and just eat and drink all day to enjoy ourselves. We had a blast. There was a little fountain in the center of the city that was dyed green that reminded us of the river in Chicago, we saw a few friends march in the parade, we went back to the apartment and played games and we ended the night at O Dwyers pub just like every Thursday I have been here, but we were in full celebration mode. Now I am getting ready for Easter break and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the week. IMG_5891




European Travels!

European Travels!



For this blog post, I figured I would let you all in on the exciting European travels I have been able to take part in so far!

The first trip I took was to Dublin, Ireland in order to explore my Irish heritage a bit. I went with my friend Nick and we had a pretty open agenda for the weekend aside from our Jameson Whiskey and Guiness tours we signed up for. My first thought after stepping off the plane was…cold. We were certainly not in Italy anymore. We first met our Airbnb host’s girlfriend at her café to retrieve our key to the home and then set off to explore the city centre a bit. The first thing we did was indulge in a big, meaty burger and hearty pint of Irish beer. I figured my ancestors would expect nothing less. Italian cuisine is great and all, but all they eat are carbs and starches for every meal. Following this, we walked along the river and took in our surroundings. Ireland was a great change in pace and scenery from Rome. Overall, things were just much more casual and I loved that. The timing of our visit happened to be during what seemed to be the equivalent of the World Cup. The pubs were packed with fans. We found ourselves caught up in the excitement of it all as we visited different pubs and listened the Irish music playing in the background. It was an absolute blast. We finished our day by meeting up with three of my close friends from high school who are all studying abroad in Maynooth, a city just outside of Dublin. The next day was our tours. We first walked through the expansive Phoenix Park before making our way to Jameson. Nothing like a little whiskey at 11:30 in the morning to get your day going. We followed the Jameson tour with the Guinness tour, which proved to be a great time as well. We learned the process that goes into making the beer, how to properly taste the beer and finally how to pour the perfect pint. I am proud to say that I passed out of the Guinness Academy and can now craft the “Perfect Pint”. The remainder of the day included more delicious Irish food and beverages, a walk through Temple University and a stroll around Dublin Castle.

The next trip I took was to Budapest, Hungary with seven friends. Our first stop en route to the apartment was Starbucks! Now don’t get me wrong, Italian coffee is some of the best around, but this American gold card member missed the mermaid a bit. Hungary operates on the forint as opposed to the euro, and it is essentially monopoly money. What I mean by this is that my grande Starbucks latte came out to around 1,100 forint. When we would get our checks for meals, they would be upwards of 10,000 forint. Although it seems like a staggering amount, food and drinks were quite cheap there. You could get a main dish, side and a beer for about the equivalent of $7.00. My bank account liked this trip. One of the first things we noticed was that the Hungarians didn’t really seem too fond of us Americans. Some of the employees at the stores and restaurants would be totally rude to us and then completely different to the Hungarian behind us in line, so that was interesting. The nightlife in Budapest was so much fun though! Our first night we went to these bars and clubs that were created in old, bombed out buildings from war activity that had taken place there. The following day we woke up, grabbed some Subway (we missed our American food, okay?) and headed to a free walking tour of the city. The tour took us to some of the prettiest lookouts in Budapest, all the while teaching us some really interesting facts on the history and current state of the city and country. The next day we went to one of the largest thermal baths in Budapest. Thermal baths are essentially massive hot tubs, and Budapest is very famous for them. This particular complex had two large out door ones in addition to several smaller ones indoors. It might seem a little gross, but it was actually so relaxing and all of us really enjoyed ourselves there. Following this, I visited the House of Terror, which is a museum with exhibits related to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes that existed in Hungary during the 20th century. The basement of the building has the cells where victims of the regimes were held, interrogated, tortured or killed. It was a very eye-opening and informative experience.

My next trip took me to the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands with six friends. This was one of my favorite trips up to that point. This trip also happened to be my first time staying in a hostel and it was…interesting. Okay, so it wasn’t bad by any means, but it is definitely different sharing a room with 19 other people. After getting settled in at our hostel, we set out to go venture through the city. One of the first places we stopped at was the iconic bench from the movie “The Fault in our Stars”. We then grabbed some dinner and prepared to take on the night. For those who are not aware, Amsterdam is a city where a lot is legal including marijuana and prostitution. One of the famous neighborhoods of Amsterdam is the Red Light District where you can find rows and rows of scantily clad women standing behind glass doors, tapping on their windows if they like you and trying to get you to make a deal with them. Rest assured, I did not take part in any dealings but it was still an interesting visit. That night ended with some fresh churros sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled in Nutella. The best desserts ever can be found in Amsterdam. We woke up early the next morning to get in line for the Anne Frank House. This was probably my favorite thing I have visited since being abroad. You got to walk through the annex where they lived in hiding for over two years. The original bookcase that hid the entrance was still there, the pictures Anne cut out from magazines and stuck to her wall were still hanging up, you could see up into the attic where her and Peter would sometimes go and look out the window when it was safe to do so and at the end you got to see the original diary Anne wrote in. It was a very moving and emotionally draining experience. I got chills every time I walked into a new room. After this, we walked down the street to indulge in the best pancakes ever. The remainder of that day included walking through an Amsterdam market, taking a canal boat tour and getting some waffles with ice cream and Nutella on them (these desserts though…). Our final day in Amsterdam took us to the area of the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum (we didn’t go in either because we were broke. The desserts didn’t come cheap) where the famous giant metal iamsterdam sign is located. We took some pictures there, walked through a nice park and headed back to Rome.

My most recent trip was easily one of my favorites, Spring Break with the family. My dad, brother, cousin and uncle came to visit and do some Italian travels. We spent our first few days in Rome doing the Scavi Tour (contains the tomb of Saint Peter), a tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, walking by the Colosseum, visiting the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon, and wandering into the many churches in Rome. Our next stop was Positano in the Amalfi Coast. We did a private tour that took us to some of the prettiest lookouts of Amalfi and the surrounding areas. Our villa was located towards the top of Positano, which made for a pretty lookout from our rooftop terrace, but a terrible walk back up from the beach-front restaurants at night. It is still considered low season for these touristy areas so we had the town primarily to ourselves. After spending two nights here, we made our way to the beautiful city of Florence. We spent some time haggling in the leather market, climbing to the top of the Duomo and Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, visiting some of the Jersey Shore season 4 sites (they filmed that season in Florence and my reality TV junkie self was dying), walking across the Ponte Vecchio and looking at the many sculptures scattered throughout the city. Our last stop took us to the town of Monterosso, one of the five towns that are a part of Cinque Terre. We were blessed with a beautiful day for doing some hiking. Cinque Terre consists of five towns and the thing to do is hike to and explore each of the towns. Because we only had one shortened day, we only hiked to the neighboring town of Vernazza. Once our tired and sweaty selves made it, we grabbed some pizza and a cold drink and sat by the water to take in the view. I can’t say that I am Mr. Outdoorsy by any means, but the hike was incredible. (And I only took a huge fall in front of people once! Yeah, coordination isn’t necessarily my strong suit either…) The next day we took the train back to Rome and I had to say goodbye to my dad and brother after an amazing week filled with so many laughs and memories that I will cherish forever. I am so grateful to both of my parents who have allowed me to embark on this crazy semester-long journey! I’m so glad I was able to give my dad and brother a small glimpse into what I have been fortunate to be living in for the past two months.

Italian Fun Fact: Italy is not a tipping culture. The price you see is the price you pay at the end of a meal or service.

Until next time,

云南 Part 2

云南 Part 2

I’m sorry for it being so long since my last post! I survived midterms week and spent this past week in Seoul, South Korea for spring break! I will be doing a blog post about my travels later on! This blog is about the second half of the Yunnan excursion. I’ll try to keep it a little shorter this time.

Part 2

              Day 7- Feb 7- Dai Village

After a 3-hour drive, we finally arrived at the Dai village. When I looked out of the window, I was a little confused. There were tour buses everywhere; however, once I stepped off of the bus, I was bombarded with hot air. The weather was amazing compared to the cold weather we’ve been staying in. I immediately had to shed the 3 layers of sweatshirts and jackets I was wearing. Once we were paired with our homestay families, we headed towards their house. I was with Megan, Silvia, and Jessie. On our walk to the house, I thought it was weird when tour groups with loud tour guides would pass through yelling into their microphones. Why did there need to be tourists? That’s one of the things I didn’t like about the Dai village. It was such a tourist destination, that it wasn’t like any of the villages we had gone to before.   

The Dai houses are amazing. They are made completely out of wood and are on stilts. Their houses are raised, historically, so that in wet damp areas the living spaces don’t get ruined. Our host grandma was very nice. We were given fruit and a knife to peel the apples, and they were the best tasting apples I’ve had in China! We were given a simple lunch with really good beef and sweet peas. After lunch the shopping began. I ended up getting a full Dai village outfit consisting of a white top with embroidered blue flowers, and a long blue skirt with peacocks on it. I really bended in, and if felt good to be “fully Asian” by looks. A lot of other TBC students bought white embroidered shirts and apparel.

In the evening, for the Chinese New Year we had a community party. Everyone living in the village and the tourists gathered on the basketball court. The Dai people preformed many songs and dances, and we sung “You are my sunshine”, Ally and Russell did an amazing hip hop routine, and we all danced to the cupid shuffle and soldier boy. After wards, the best part was that we invited people up to dance with us. We taught them the two group dances, then we all danced together! It was so much fun interacting with everyone and even seeing Father Gene dance with us! We played a fun relay game where you were partnered back to back and had to run and pop a balloon. My group won, so we got traditional colorful umbrellas!

At the end of the community party we had a mini mash-pit of dancing with a bunch of the villagers and tourists. It was one of my favorite nights of the Yunnan trip! Afterwards, our host family went to bed, so some of us went to another host family to wait until midnight to celebrate the new year. Some of the students’ host families brought them to a lantern releasing party. Sadly, I didn’t get to go, but I hung out with friends playing games and talking through the night. To signal the new year we set off firecrackers!

Day 8- Feb 8- Dai village/ Lijiang

We had some breakfast, were given a ton of bananas and banana chips (which are amazing!!!), boarded the bus, and headed to the airport! After arriving in Lijiang and getting into our hotel, we unpacked and get ready to tour the Old town of Lijiang. After dinner Dominic (fellow TBC student) and I hung out it the hotel courtyard, then decided to go wander the town. There were so many little shops, things to do, and food to eat! It was so much fun exploring, that we got lost… it was ok for a while, but once the stores started to close, it was harder to figure out where we were. We finally made our way back, but it took a long time. There’s nothing like getting lost in China with no cell service, data, and can’t communicate clearly; nevertheless, we made it back ok!

Day 9- Feb 9- Naxi village/ Lijiang

We started off the day visiting the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Dominic, Saeger, Kasey, and I hiked towards the mountain, but didn’t have enough time to climb it.

We then went to the Naxi village. After we arrived Aly, Carlyn, Father Gene and I measured a traditional Naxi house for our architecture class while everyone else played basketball with the locals. Afterwards we had dinner at the local shaman’s house, then started our community party. This was also another fun party! There was a lot of dancing and a lot of old men trying to get everyone to dance. It was a tight space, but a lot of fun dancing with the locals!

Day 10- Feb 10- Lijiang/Dali

We went to the Zhiyun Monastery toady. It was amazing to climb all the stairs and view the temples. I sat outside the highest temple with Dominica and Molly just staring out into the mountains taking in the beautiful views and the peaceful area.

Afterwards we went to a traditional Bai house to have lunch. There I gave my mini presentation on Architecture in Yunnan. Everyone was required to research a topic about Yunnan, and I chose architecture. After lunch, we drove to our final destination for our excursion: Dali.

Day 11- Feb 11- Dali

I started off the day with taking a nice bike ride with friends to the lake… which turned into an all-day bike ride. Saeger, Alexander, Kasey, Andrew, and I all loaned out mountain bikes and rode around Dali. Probably wasn’t the best idea to ride our bikes on country highways with no helmets (they weren’t given), but it was so much fun! Towards the late afternoon, Saeger and I biked to the closest pagoda, which was an uphill adventure. 

Day 12- Feb 12- Dali/ Kunming

For our second and final day in Dali, we had to check out at 11 am, then we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We decided to walk around and buy souvenirs and explore Dali more. Some students biked like I did the previous day. We walked around for hours eating street food, snacks, and soaking up the sun.

At the end of the day, we made the 20-minute walk from our hotel to the bus, then departed to the train station for our 8-hour overnight train. We departed at 9:00 PM. Sadly, one of my friends was really sick, so I stayed up to help her through the night. We had quite an odd experience with the doctor who came with us for the trip. I would not recommend him for anything.

Day 13- Feb 13- Kunming/Beijing

The overnight train was rough getting up every hour or so to help my friend, but I was glad I could help. We arrived at the airport at 5 AM and waited for our 7:30 AM flight. I fell asleep in line waiting to get our tickets, and again on the plane.

When we arrived in Beijing we tried to get food, but the only places open were 7-11, a 24-hour noddle place, and a few convenience stores. It was still the Lunar New Year break, so everything was still closed, and remained closed for the rest of the week. We got noodles to go, and hung out at the dorm for the rest of the night.


Overall the Yunnan trip was amazing! Truly a once in a lifetime experience. Being able to do homestays and immerse myself in the Chinese culture is indescribable. I had so much fun and was able to reflect on myself during the trip. Through the trip I realized that it’s not hard to go outside of your comfort zone. My mindset for this trip studying abroad has been to do and try everything I can. I thought it would be harder to push myself to put myself out there and do things I would never have done, like learn and preform dances on the spot, trying new foods, and volunteering for anything. That’s something I am grateful to learn about myself. It’s not hard to do something new, even if it’s uncomfortable. I have found myself longing for more adventure and to try new things throughout my time in China and in Yunnan, and I’m glad I have that longing. When my semester is over, I’m going to keep that longing for adventure and trying new things because I realize there is so much in the world, and even in Chicago, that I haven’t experienced or have tried.

The TBC program did an outstanding job in planning this amazing excursion.

Spring Break

Spring Break

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the Spring Break of champions. Over the past week, my roommate and I spent our Spring Break traveling through 4 countries and 6 cities, give or take a few extra pit stops along with way. Many told us it would be impossible and few imagined how we could possibly manage to do it all in one trip, but we persevered and managed to learn something about ourselves, and our study abroad experience, along the way.


We began in the Czech Republic, taking a morning flight into Prague and public transport toward a hillside park next to the city. We enjoyed a walk down the sloping pathways, taking in the gorgeous view of Prague below us before making our way to St. Charles Bridge. We picked up some mulled wine before crossing (think the hot, pumpkin spice-esque cousin to the red wine your parents let you try that one time at dinner) and stopped several times along the way to just take in the view of the river and the city. We tried those now-infamous (thanks to Buzzfeed) donut ice cream cones and spent the afternoon exploring the city before hitting up a local restaurant for some traditional Czech food. Overall, our visit to the beautiful city was a nice post-midterms repose, as well as a peaceful preparation for our next city.

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We came to Krakow for the same reasons as many others: to see a charming small Polish city and to make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau left our hotel early in the morning, and we were driven to the site of Auschwitz I first, spending about an hour and a half there, before we spent another hour at the death camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau.


I won’t get to into the details in a blog post concerning Spring Break and Study Abroad, as the camp not only deserves to be treated separately from such frivolities but needs its own post and then some, but I will say that visiting Auschwitz is an experience everyone should participate in. It is not so much about trying to mourn for the people lost there, though that is definitely a factor, but about witnessing the place where so many horrors happened so that we accept our faults as a human race and take responsibility for them in the form of proactive movements for a peaceful future. Reading and learning about the atrocities that happened there is one thing, but being in the presence and seeing with your own eyes the hair and belongings of those murdered, the ovens their bodies were burned in, and the places where they were hoarded together like animals, is an unforgettable and awful experience that reminds one of the importance of respect for all people, lest we let ourselves fall into the trap of persecution again.

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As we expected, it seemed out of place for us to do anything truly enjoyable after spending the majority of the day in Auschwitz, but we did our best to still go out and be present in Krakow while we could. We were glad we did so, because the area really is quite endearing. The little town square as a market that runs through the center of it, and there we found all manner of trinkets and goods. We ate some pirogies and a classic polish stew for dinner, followed by chocolates from a local chocolatier. All were delicious and enjoyable, but we still ended our evening a bit early so that we could reflect on the days events and process everything that we saw.


From Krakow we went on to Warsaw, the “Phoenix City” that rebuilt itself from the ashes. This could be seen plainly, as the typical European old-towns and quaint squares were in a rather confined area, with more modern and new buildings taking up a lot of space. This was both a little off-putting and refreshing, as we had yet to encounter anything like it in Europe. The highlight of Warsaw was the Chopin museum. Neither I nor my traveling companion particularly favor classical music or any specific composers, nor do we consider ourselves frequent museum visitors, but the Chopin museum was truly the best. It was high tech, interactive, and very informative! We ended up spending a good few hours wandering around and listening to Chopin’s famous works, and that experience made our time in his home country much better!


We traveled next to Berlin, Germany. We arrived late, following a mishap with our bus (we didn’t miss it, it never showed up), and were starting to get a little tired from our travels. We therefore sucked up our “travelers, not tourists” pride and succumbed to the 24 hour hop on/hop off double-decker bus tour. The guided tour was pretty cheesy, but it ended up being a great time! We got to relax and see everything we wanted to see while getting around the city fairly easily, which ended up leaving us with more time to explore on our own and get the feel of the city itself. Sometimes doing the tourist thing isn’t so bad.


We were back on our own when we went to Hamburg. This visit was an odd one. I had been pretty set on getting a hamburger in Hamburg, much to the chagrin of my roommate, and so that was one of my main goals for the trip, besides wandering around the city. Though our day did culminate in my long-awaited burger, which was honestly one of the best I’ve had in my life, we were surprised to find a random hidden gem near the river. Miniatur Wunderland, a huge indoor train and diorama, was one of the strangest and coolest things I’ve ever gone to see. An entire floor of a building was set aside for the expansive dioramas, which included Las Vegas, Hamburg, a fully functioning mini-airport, and much more! We felt like little kids running around and seeing all the little details put into the large models, which made for a pretty awesome afternoon.

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Following Hamburg, we made our final stop of our epic Spring Break in Geneva, Switzerland. I’m not going to lie, we came to Switzerland for the chocolate and Switzerland was happy to deliver. We walked around to several different shops and tried at least one piece of chocolate at each. Along the way, we stopped to see the Jet D’eau (a giant stream of water that seems like a dumb attraction until it goes off and you realize how large it actually is and it suddenly becomes really cool), the Opera House, and the United Nations Office. We also took a spur of the moment train to Montreux, about an hour away and on the other side of Lake Geneva. Montreux was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and that’s really all I can say about it. It was simply stunning.


Though it was a bit sad to leave the fun and the incredible sights along our trip, we were happy to make it back to Rome. Nine days of travel is tiring. I love my roommate and she is one of my closest friends, but being away from the JFRC and only having her to talk to could be a little frustrating – not because we ever had difficulty continuing conversation, but because she was literally the only person I had to talk to for 9 days who shared my nationality and mother tongue. This doesn’t sound like much of an issue, but even in a short time it can be a very strange situation.

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We also managed to pull through some tough situations. I spent a night and a nap at a corner table in a McDonald’s of the Warsaw train station (remember that bus that didn’t show up?) and slept on the floor of the Geneva airport along with other travelers who had early flights. We dealt with barriers with four different languages. We had to figure out public transport in three foreign countries for four different cities. We used four separate currencies, and had to adapt quickly as we moved rather frequently from place to place. All of this in just nine days was a lot to handle, but even while away from Rome it highlighted something important about our abroad experience: it is not all fun and games.

Studying abroad is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience, but it’s also extremely challenging. Picking yourself out of one culture/city/country/continent and putting yourself into another for an extended period is hard. Language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness are all roadblocks to be encountered. Interacting with new people, places, and circumstances is, more often than not, awkward and frustrating. However, the feeling of tackling these obstacles and learning to find yourself and your place in a new environment is unlike anything else. The happiness we felt upon successfully making our return to Rome, having completed an intense nine days of travel and enjoyed every second of it regardless of any minor mishap or confusion or awkward situation, was unparalleled. The bumps in the road have made me a stronger, more prepared person, and ultimately, I think that’s the entire reason why one should study abroad in the first place: to get lost amidst new places and find yourself along the way.

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If you want to watch a video of our travels, click here.

“A day spent with you is my favorite day…”

“A day spent with you is my favorite day…”

“So, today is my new favorite day!”-Winnie the Pooh


HEY PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET!! Remember me? Yeah, I know. I’ve been slackin’. It’s been crazy these past few weeks, but I’ll catch up. I’m about to wow you with my MID-SEMESTER BREAK ADVENTURES.

Okay, so first of all, I was blessed with the arrival of three of the most wonderful women on the planet- My BEAUTIFUL mother and her two FAB friends Ann and Carole. (I liked to refer to them all as my MOMS) I had been counting down the days until they finally arrived. When the day finally arrived, I bolted from class, hopped on the 28 bus, and scurried into their Holiday Inn as quickly as I could! Seeing them here, seeing my MOM in LONDON, was just so surreal! This place, which had been so disconnected from home, was being combined and finally everything seemed perfect! I knew what I’d been missing this whole time, why London was amazing, but not perfect: I needed my family and friends here! So, if you haven’t picked up on what I’m suggesting it’s this: GET YO BUTTS OVER HERE PEOPLE, I MISS YOU ALL AND I NEED TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU. xoxo, Gossip Taylor.

I felt so proud of this temporary home as I led the ladies throughout London. We took a bus tour (VERY COLD), but it was amazing to see the city all at once-how all these historical and iconic landmarks are blocks from one another! We went through Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace, the Borough Market, the Tower Bridge (and London Bridge), the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrod’s, we saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace…GOSH. We knocked it all out in three days! We were EXHAUSTED. The legendary free breakfast at the Holiday Inn was a godsend, though. (THOSE CHEESE PACKS, AMIRIGHTLADIES?!) And sneaking around the hotel was fun since we would have to pay extra for me to stay. Gosh, I wish I could go into more detail of what we did….let’s add a few bits:

We slummed it “off the beaten path” (ANN) and ate with the locals at pubs all over London! We became a part of the secret of the London whodunnit “The Mousetrap.” We stopped at almost every Starbucks in London(Free wifi!). We went to Hillsong’s London church which was BEAUTIFUL. We walked like 8 miles each day. We saw Billy Elliot! We got killer souvenirs for the fam back home. We got nasty paella from the market…We took FUN pictures with silly poses and gestures! We only got lost a few times…GOSH it was amazing. I hope you ladies had as beautiful a time as I did.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. We went to PARIS for half of the week, too! Let me detail our arrival for comic relief. We took the high speed train to Paris. We bought a Paris Pass on the train to get us into museums and on the bus tour. We got off the train. We had to walk with our luggage to pick up our Paris Pass at the check-in point. The check-in point was like 10 blocks away. We DRAGGED our luggage to the check-in point. We got our Paris Pass. We dragged our luggage 5 more blocks to the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour. We took the tour around with our luggage. Once we saw everything-PARIS IS BEAUTIFUL- it started to drizzle, so we decided to get a cab to our hotel. We hopped off the bus in front of Notre Dame. It started to POUR SLEET AND RAIN AND SNOW. This was a STORM. We had our luggage. And, thank goodness, some rain ponchos. We ran in the billowing sleet across the steps of Notre Dame dragging our luggage through the cobblestone and puddles toward the nearest cluster of cabs. I remember squinting up through the rain at the breathtaking facade of the Cathedral thinking-“I am NEVER going to forget this moment.” That madness is the kind of madness that only happens this this crazy bunch of ladies! It was hilarious! And when we finally got a cab and got into the hotel, the rain and snow had stopped!

Anyway, Paris was so elegant. We popped into the nearest restaurant that evening and had a great time chatting with the manager, Mina. He was very proud of his English translation of the menu that he had recently completed! The dinner was like nothing I’d ever eaten. Like Lumiere says in Beauty and the Beast, “After all, miss, this is France and a dinner here is never second best!” We got churros (of all things) from a market down the street for dessert and then prepared ourselves for the next day, which was MY favorite day of the whole break!!


I’m not gonna go into it because I’ll discuss it for years, so if you want to know about it specifically, call me. Let’s just say: it was MAGICAL. My heart is pounding just thinking about it, I have to wrap this up!

The last day was spent in Versailles, France! The Palace of Versailles was built on the outskirts of Paris by King Louis XIV as a way to keep his visitors in a sort of ‘guilded cage’ while discussing affairs of state or even just while popping in for leisure. The whole palace is built in a sort of radiating design from the center room-the King’s chambers. See, Louis was pretty full of himself and called himself the Sun King. He basically believed that Apollo was the most powerful and important Greek god because he controlled the sun and everything relies on the sun and rotates around the sun and needs the sun to exist. Yeah. He thought he was that important. So, the whole palace and the gardens around it are representative of that idea-SUNS EVERYWHERE. The place was UNREAL. It was so ornate and guilded and decorated to the very last detail, I couldn’t believe someone lived there! I took a class that focused a lot on the details of Versailles at Loyola (HONR102 heeyyy), so it was crazy to see all the information I’d studied at school IN PERSON.

I was so heartbroken to see my ladies go on Saturday morning, but it was the very best week of my life! I regret not a minute of it! (except maybe the part where I was travel guide…XD) My Mom, Ann, Carole, you were all the perfect adventure companions. I don’t know how I could ever thank you all enough for such a fantastic experience!! Like Carole said on our last night- “Same time, same place, ten years?” I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such a wonderful Mom that she’d let me do all this, but I’ll spend the rest of forever trying to deserve her! I love you three! I miss you like crazy, but I’ll be home soon!








I never would have thought that holding a plane ticket to Rome would feel like holding a place ticket home. Every weekend I get the amazing opportunity to explore a new city and every Sunday morning I can’t wait to be back home. Which is Rome. How crazy is that!?

I say Ciao, Si and Grazie in every country I go to instead of Hi, Yes and Thank You. I could walk the 913 bus route with my eyes closed. I am now the one that forgets about giving others personal space instead of just being the one not receiving it.

There is such a routine here now. But not an every day, hourly routine. Every day is still incredibly different. But now, that’s what is routine. Every day I wake up having no idea what the day’s challenges will be. Every night I reflect on the crazy experience I had trying to speak Italian or the cool new piazza I found. Every day I am put out of my comfort zone. Every day I try something new. That is the kind of normalcy I hope to hold on to for a very long time.

I never thought it would feel normal to travel to a new country every weekend. But, every Thursday  night I pack my small NorthFace backpack with similar items that I packed last weekend. I print out my boarding pass and feel normal every Friday morning waking up early, battling the inefficient public transportation and flying to a new country.

Every weekend it is normal to feel completely lost in a new country on a Friday afternoon and then be able to give directions to others by Sunday morning. How has this become normal in just 9 weeks? I have no explanation, but I know I’m going to be sad when it’s gone.

It feels normal to only have wifi twice a day, or even go all day without checking my phone. It’s been so refreshing and is something I want to carry back with me to America.

Everything that was so hard just a few weeks ago is now so normal. I can’t even imagine how this normalcy will change again in the next six weeks. But, I also can’t wait to find out.


Literature: A Universal Love

Literature: A Universal Love

At the tender age of 3, I was an avid reader. Before I was able to comprehend the magic of words myself, my parents would spend hours reading to me. I read Anne of Green Gables when I was six years old, after previously finishing all the Junie B. Jones and Magic Tree House books. When I misbehaved, my parents would hide my books, rather than limiting time in front of the TV or on the computer.  In fact, I attribute much of my growth – intellectually and spiritually – to the beautiful gift of literature.

That being said, visiting bookshops in foreign countries has recently become one of my favorite activities while studying abroad, whether I am able to understand the language or not. So far, I have had the privilege of visiting a bookstore in Brussels, Belgium, where French is widely spoken, London, England, where I was luckily able to purchase a few books thanks to the fact that I actually speak English, and Amsterdam, Netherlands, where most books are in Dutch, with a limited selection of English books.

Perusing bookshelves full of beautiful masterpieces by renowned authors is nothing short of euphoric. I am absolutely weak for the beauty of words and their ability to tell a beautiful story when strung together in a unique and heartfelt way. This is my nirvana. For an instant, I experience true artistic beauty and I am devoid of any further wanting or desire. I find myself happily wandering from book to book, always searching for translations of my favorite books or anthologies by authors including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Kate Chopin, and more.

Literature has and forever will be one of my greatest passions, my dearest love, and the comfort I long for when I am a wanderer in an unfamiliar city. Miles from home, and often in places where I do not understand the language, I have found a light that warms my soul and feeds my heart’s desires.