The GoGlobal Blog

Month: April 2016

Feria de Abril

Feria de Abril

I could just sense the anticipation and excitement of the Spanish students in my classes for this week of dancing, drinking and eating. Considering it only comes once a year and it’s a tradition that dates back more than 150 years, which most of these students’ families have participated in, I could sort of understand where they’re coming from. But at the same time,was it really that necessary to cancel 3 days of university classes for it (Some students couldn’t even hold themselves back from going to the Feria during Monday and Tuesday’s class).

Sure, it’s a beautiful event to encounter, with the colorful “trajes de flamenco” that women wear and dance in and men dressed in their Sunday’s best but to go everyday of the week and partake in the repetitive action of drinking, eating and dancing, I simply couldn’t fathom. But then again according to the locales it’s one of the most exciting times of year.

The feria takes place every year on the same grounds in the Remedios neighborhood of Sevilla. “Casetas” or little houses that each family or organization sponsors is set up. Inside these casetas there are usually two sections. In the front you will find tables set up to eat and in the back resembles a small disco tech with a hardwood floor and a bar, where people dance Sevillanas. These “Casetas” are usually decorated on the inside with paintings, scarves and objects that represent the cultural history of Sevilla. Also, each facade of the Caseta has a distinct name or image that differentiates it from the rest.

As you walk out of a Caseta you will find yourself in an area called Real de la Feria, where many other families have Casetas. In the streets you will see people chatting in groups and horse drawn carriages and people riding horses. It seems a bit like you’ve been transported back in time with everyone wearing their traditional costumes.  As you walk west you will run into the “Calle del Inferio” or hell road. This area has numerous amusement rides, a circus, and other entertaining fair games. This area also included bumper cars which I partook in with a friend and it had been probably 10 years since I last sat in one. In addition, later in the evening you have impromptu “rebujito” stations composed of a cardboard box and the ingredients that make a “rebujito” on top, which is the official fair drink. The complicated cocktail contains sherry wine and usually 7-up. It’s a sweet and refreshing drink that can ONLY be consumed during the Feria.

In addition, if you are interested, in the center of the city, there are bull fights going on in the official stadium, Plaza de Toros. Though, I was interested in seeing a match they were not only too expensive for my budget but they were also too violent for me to handle.

As I walked the streets of the Feria, observing people from all ages dancing to the sounds of the sevillanas, I could just sense their pride and joy in partaking in these events. La Feria was more than just a once a year fair with tapas, roller coasters and lots of horses, it was a demonstration of their passion, honor and commitment to their rich history and culture.

The Good, The Bad, and The Cross-Cultural Connections in Between

The Good, The Bad, and The Cross-Cultural Connections in Between

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Many apologies for the length of time it has been since my last post. Life abroad can get very busy very quickly! Since I last posted, I have traveled to Turin, Milan, Pisa, Bologna, Florence, Tivoli, and Munich. I’ve also been caught up in the crazy pre-finals week/end of the year mess of homework, papers, projects, and prepping for work for the summer. Surprise, studying abroad includes studying!

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My within-Italy trips (Turin, Milan, Pisa, Bologna, Florence) were all my first experience getting outside of Rome, while remaining in Italy, since the first few weekends abroad. I’m happy I got to take these trips, as they showed me different sides of the country I’ve been living in for over 3 months now! Bologna’s incredible food, Milan’s happening modern center, Florence’s vast history in art, Turin’s casual but fun atmosphere, and Pisa’s infamous tower were all exciting, new things for me to get outside of Rome and see. Each new adventure made me fall in love with Italy.

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That being said, my trip to Munich reminded me of everything I have missed enjoying about my home back in the states – and everything that Italy seems to fall short on. For one, clean, non-dog-feces covered, stable, un-cracked, and pothole-less sidewalks were a welcome change from the paths that dare to be deemed sidewalks in Italy. When you’re walking as much as you do in Europe, this is a big deal. In addition, the places we could go in Munich (and in truth, other non-European cities) were more diverse than ones in Italy, a notion similar to the “melting pot” of the United States. Restaurants of all kinds and stores selling many different things were available, whereas in Rome and other Italian cities, finding a good place for food or goods that aren’t Italian can be tough. That may seem like no problem because pasta and pizza is great, right? Yes, but after 3 months it  does start to get old, as does waiting uncertain amounts of time for public transport. I will never take the always-predictable “L” for granted again!

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All of this seems a bit like complaining, and sometimes I do actually complain about these things, but in truth the differences between various countries abroad, as well as my home country, all contribute to this experience of studying abroad. It’s not always supposed to be perfect, and every country or city doesn’t have to be absolutely amazing in every aspect for it to be a fun place to be. Rome can be pretty frustrating, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty incredible.

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If there’s any important thing I’ve learned from studying abroad, it’s this: life is pretty much the same wherever you go. There’s always good and bad aspects to any place. There will be good days and bad days. You can be ridiculously busy one minute and in the next be so free that you don’t know what to do with yourself (though the first is far more common than the latter). People are, essentially, the same at heart, no matter where you go. Studying abroad just magnifies the reality of it all. Ultimately, though perhaps for some it’s not a very exciting realization, life abroad is just as full of school assignments, work, and good times as life at home is. The good part comes when you recognize that this realization means you’re a citizen of the earth in the same way as these people around you who seem so different and so far away. We’re all here sharing this wonderful experience of life together as a world community, and that’s pretty exciting to me.

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Scared to go back to my American data plan

Scared to go back to my American data plan

The most valuable thing I have learned while studying abroad hasn’t been how to plan trips, the Italian culture, or nine different languages at a two year old level… The most valuable thing I have learned while studying abroad is how to live in the now, how to be present.

The other night fifteen of us went out to dinner. We stayed at this dinner for about two hours. We talked the whole time and never once mentioned social media, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Except for the occasional SnapChat at the beginning and at the end of dinner, I didn’t see anyone’s phones.

This has never happened to me in America. Everyone checks their phones while eating out, everyone scrolls through Instagram when waiting for their food to arrive, or at least everyone mentions something that someone posted on some social media site.

Not just young adults either, almost everyone in every age group.

Why? Are Instagram pictures more important than having genuine conversations with the friends and family around you?

Here in Europe I can only use my phone when I have Wi-Fi. In Rome the only places with Wi-Fi are our school library and dining hall. When I am traveling the only places with Wi-Fi are places we are staying, which we are only at late at night.

And it has been incredible.

At first this gave me anxiety. What if I get lost? What if I can’t speak to a local when I need help? What if I just really want to call my mom?

The answer: be resourceful. And, calm down.

I have learned how to use a map, how to rely on my source of direction, different ways of explaining things, gotten over my fear of talking to strangers, and that I don’t need to ask my mom what to do in every little situation.

I often just leave my phone in my dorm when I go out, I can’t use it anyway. I don’t have a problem going all weekend not checking social media. It get’s pretty boring anyways.

I have learned to look around me, to observe the mannerisms of people in other cultures, to look around at the scenery in 18 different cities, to be present in what is happening right now. I have learned how incredible it is to communicate with friends for hours at dinner with no mention of irrelevant social media gossip or interrupting Snap Chats or texts.

I’m honestly scared that once I gain back the freedom of using my phone anywhere, anytime, I will get absorbed back into my iPhone. I will go back to constantly texting, constantly checking social media, constantly talking about social media, because everyone else will be.

Social media, texting, and calls absolutely have their advantages but, just for a day try to turn your phone on airplane mode, or go out to dinner with friends and leave your phone at home.

Let’s get back to living in the moment; because once you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.

Semana Santa in Sevilla

Semana Santa in Sevilla

Even though it was 3 weeks ago I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about it since it’s kinda a bit deal here. So what is it right? Semana Santa means Holy Week in Spanish and it’s a very religious celebration the whole week before Easter.

This week is celebrated all around the world in Christian cities but no place does it like Sevilla. Everyday during this religious week there are what they call “pasos de cofradias” in which a team of “costaleros” (sack men in spanish) carry on their backs heavy lifelike wood or plaster sculptures of individual scenes from Jesus’ arrest and his burial and images of the Virgin Mary showing grief for the torture and killing of her son.

In Sevilla, and many other Andalusia cities, they close down the main streets in the old center and place barriers so that people can’t walk in front of these processions. This creates a maze for pedestrians to try to navigate the city because it forces people to venture into the back alleys and hidden streets of the center to find an alternative path. In front of the cofradias walk the “penitentes”, who dress in long purple robes and they are the ones who are deeply asking for forgiveness. There are also people dressed in white robes with pointy hats which are referred to as “Nazarenos” and these costumes are hard to ignore given their resemblance to what KKK members in the US wear. But of course this tradition has been going on for hundreds of years so we must respect the cultural relativism. The “Nazarenes” sometimes walk barefoot and even have chains around their ankles to resemble their attachment to Jesus during this time. Also, some processions have music accompanied by a Capella choirs while others are quiet and somber.

This is really peaceful time in Sevilla. Most shops are closed and people gather in the streets to pray and pay tribute to churches and the bear witness to the cofradias making their way through the streets. This is another unique cultural celebration that shouldn’t be ignored during your visit to Sevilla.

Tongariro Crossing–Easter Break Adventures

Tongariro Crossing–Easter Break Adventures

Alrighty, kids. The word of the day is “planning.”

First, if you book a bus with InterCity bus, it is non-refundable. Do not have that be the first thing you book. If you’re looking to book a spot in a hostel, book that first and THEN the bus. Or you’ll end up like me and my friend needing to scramble to get a hostel to make sure that we have a hostel together. Also, please make sure that you know where things will pick you up and drop you off. The Crossing is not a loop. You are dropped off in a completely different area than you are picked up from. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

The Tongariro Crossing is a feat of endurance and seeing just how well you can breathe in thin air. Oh, you’re from Illinois and are getting over a chest cold? Good freaking luck.

The views are absolutely spectacular, and unless you’ve actually gone mountain climbing with a moderate amount of risk involved, you haven’t done anything like this. There’s a sign saying “Are you SURE you’re fit for this?” They don’t just mean this for pregnant women and the disabled like on a roller coaster or something. They’re not playing around. You need sturdy hiking boots, enough water, food, and (of course) a camera. Layers are essential, as well. The weather on the Crossing is HIGHLY variable. It can be blistering sun and heat one minute and high-speed winds the next. Like, actually. We were blessed with phenomenal weather that didn’t vary a bit. Lucky for me because I would have picked up and turned around if things got out of hand.

My experience speaks to quite a few things to keep in mind when traveling overseas (especially when it’s your first time, like yours truly). PLAN. It seems straight-forward but make sure that everyone involved knows where you’re going and when. My friend and I had different ideas of what was happening, so we both packed differently. Sleeping bags are super handy to have. Invest in one that is small and warm (or borrow one from a neighbor like I did). A lot of hostels have linens for hire, but 1) I’m cheap; and 2) There’s a chance they could run out of them during a high-traffic weekend. That didn’t happen with us, but it’s still good to expect the worst.

Another thing to keep in mind when traveling is to be open to meet new people! My friend and I met a girl from Australia (originally from Brazil) at our bus stop in Auckland, and when we got off at the same stop, we figured out that we were all going to the same hostel! Cool, right?? My friend and I could have stayed at the first hostel, but (for whatever reason), we went to the hostel we originally tried to book for the remaining 2 nights of our adventure (the Crossing Backpackers). There, we met a girl from the Netherlands (Rebekka), and we all ended up hiking together! Rebekka had been in a car accident (not her fault lol) 2 weeks prior and broke her collar bone. I carried her stuff along with mine in her really nice backpack (another suggested investment). I’m glad I helped my friend, but, boy, did it slow me down. I essentially had an extra 20 pounds (9 kg) on my back for 19.5 km (12 miles), over half of which is up steep hills. I mean, you are on a mountain, after all. I wouldn’t take it back because I was able to help a friend, but I probably would take more water. Apples were my saving grace for that quick simple sugar pick-me-up and hydration mechanism. I had 3. I could have eaten 10.

Also, know that this thing is going to take you longer. People say that it takes folks 6 to 7 hours to complete. I don’t know who they’re basing these estimates on, but it must be people who have done this before. It took me a bit over 8 hours to do. I took a lot of breaks because of my congestion and added weight, but still. Most people I’ve talked to said that their first time took around 8 hours. It’s not uncommon to take that long, so if you’re trying to catch a bus back to your hostel, keep your watch handy.

I took a lot of breaks, so I was super embarrassed and told my friends to go on ahead of me. They were hauling ass while I was dragging ass. It was discouraging, but they did stop at the tops of cliffs to wait for me and take their own breaks. It would have probably been nicer to have someone to chat with during the walk because it can get a little lonely being inside your head for 8 hours. Giving yourself pep-talks out loud helps, though. This is the one time that you can talk to yourself and not look crazy.

Another thing to note: the bus isn’t going to wait for you. My friends trekked on far ahead of me to get the bus to wait for me. That didn’t work because they didn’t know how far behind I was because there was no cell reception (big surprise). But I hitched a ride with another van that was going to National Park Village. Ask and ye shall receive.

Overall, it was a great experience. It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience…mainly because I wouldn’t want to do it again! My cup of tea that night was well-deserved.

Also, want to know how wonderful my host family is?? When I got back from my trip, they had a little party waiting for me with a cake and gifts! The kids made a big birthday sign for my door, made me a card, and made up a dance for me! How nice, right?? I really don’t think I could have been placed with a better family. I’m so thankful!


“There’s a great big hunk of world down there with no fence around it!”

“There’s a great big hunk of world down there with no fence around it!”

-Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Swooning from Shakespeare's sonnets..."Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
Swooning from Shakespeare’s sonnets…”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

This week, London Dramatic Academy was bomBARDed with Shakespeare. Get it? BARD. Hah.

On Wednesday, we were treated to a performance of Cymbeline at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (an indoor version of Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre). First of all, the space was incredible! It was a thrust stage with audience on the ground standing in front of the stage, and then two tiers of seating in a U-formation around that. The back half was backstage, but the balcony held musicians-two cellists, a drummer, a violinist. Entirely lit by candles, it was gorgeous! The chandeliers had the ability to lower or raise from the stage so that the scene could be set in a dark or light room. And, in the scene where Jupiter appears in Posthumus’s dream, a HUGE gust of wind blew from the tiring house, extinguishing the candles in a flurry of smoke and wind. Then, Jupiter descended from a hole in the ceiling. It was absolutely fabulous. I didn’t know much about the play itself-other than that it has one of Shakespeare’s most convoluted plots-but the actors made sure to keep the audience constantly engaged and on track. They rolled with the funny bits, played up the cheesy scenes, and threw themselves into emotion when it was called for. One audience member’s phone rang during a scene that was supposed to be sneaky, and the actor onstage turned to the audience and shushed them, “Turn that thing off!” Everyone cracked up! It was hilarious. OH! And guess who played Cymbeline himself! Anyone a “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fan? Geoffrey, the butler, played him! Joseph Marcell! Once the students noticed that, our attention to the play was turned up to 100. He did smashingly!

NEXT, we went to Stratford-upon-Avon! Shakespeare’s birthplace and home town. We woke up super early on Saturday to take a train down there for the Matinee showing of Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company. (RSC) Despite almost missing the train because I was getting coffee…(HEY, a girl’s gotta get her caffeine fix!)…the ride was simple and quick. When we stepped out of the station upon arrival, I felt like I was on some sort of movie set! No building was over two or three stories high, everything was walkable, the streets were intermixed with cobblestone sidewalks, 400-year old buildings, Starbucks, outdoor market stalls, and tourists! My professor called it “Bard-Land” because most of the pubs, restaurants and stores are named after Shakespeare’s characters. (Personally, I’d avoid “Iago’s Jewelers”, but that’s just me.) In the center, the Avon river (which translates to “River river”) intersects a beautiful green park. On the far end of the park, rising out of the greenery, is the ugliest brown building in the whole town-The RSC! But, hey. It’s what’s on the inside that matters when it comes to theatres. We visited Shakespeare’s church, where he WAS christened and IS buried! (with a CURSE on his coffin should anyone disturb it!) We saw his schoolhouse, his daughter’s home, and his house! It was so strange to see that old, crumbly building and think…’The man who wrote KING LEAR was a baby running around in diapers RIGHT THERE.’ Madness.

The show we saw at the RSC was a FOUR HOUR production of Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. So, picture everything you’ve ever thought of about Hamlet (even if that is just The Lion King) and THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW. The director decided to set THIS Hamlet in a undisclosed West-African location. That lack of specificity upset a lot of my classmates, understandably, but as I’ve stated in my blogs before-I go to the theatre to FEEL things, not to analyze their cultural authenticity. To me, it seemed like they made up their own fantasy location to include lots of interesting, beautiful, and fun West African elements. The color scheme, beautifully patterned warm kente cloth, the insane percussionists, the ritual battle at the end with sticks and wrestling instead of a swordfight….I was transported into their world. Even if that world doesn’t exist in real life. The man who played Hamlet (first black Hamlet ever at the RSC by the way!), Paapa Essiedu, embraced Hamlets feigned madness by splattering paint all over and laughing and sassing. It was an exciting approach to a character that’s usually taken so obviously dark. This way, Essiedu’s moral dilemmas were at much higher stakes because we, as an audience, could see how much he was struggling. Visually, as well as physically, he embodied madness by smearing himself with paint and feigning giddiness. Then, when he took off the facade and confided directly with the audience in his soliloquies, we could see how much inner pain he was going through and therefore the outward display made sense. ….OK, now I’M not sure if any of what I just wrote is understandable…but trust me! Hamlet KILLED IT. (Spoiler!) I enjoyed the production THOROUGHLY. I can’t believe I sat through four hours of it…it MUST’ve been good!

Well, anyway. Now that I’ve returned from Bard-Land, I definitely think I have a new appreciation for the intricacy and genius that are Shakespeare’s works. To see the very town that cultivated this guy’s mind blew my own. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE walked these streets. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE stood by this river. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE learned about Julius Caesar in THAT ROOM RIGHT THERE. Then he wrote an ICONIC PLAY about it! GOSH. WILL I EVER GET USED TO THIS?! Nope. I don’t want to. I love traveling. I’m learning that there’s so much out there that you didn’t even know would benefit you from seeing until after you’ve learned your lesson from it.

Until next time!





It was officially my half way mark yesterday. Three months have past and three months to go here Santiago, Chile!

It’s crazy to look back on how the time is flying and how much I have already done. It is about a month into school now and the work is starting to pile up. Papers, presentations, tests ect. But, there is still a lot of time to explore!

Things to know before you arrive:

  1. Chileans speak really fast and really “bad” or incorrect Spanish. In some cases it is described as speaking Spanish or speaking Chilean. So, learning a word like, ¿cachai?  is very helpful. ¿cachai?  is essentially saying “do you understand?”or “get it?” after explaining something.
  2. Winter exists! After the summer which is so extreme compared to Chicago, forty degrees is freezing. There is no central heating and we are all dreading the winter as it is starting to get cold.
  3. Santiago is beautiful diverse city with amazing places to explore

Things that have stuck out to me in Santiago:

  1. The amount of smog in Santiago is unbelievable and somehow it is possible to go without noticing it. However, after some rain (which is very rare) you can see things that did not seem to exist before.
  2. Respect for the elderly is extremely prevalent. There is no questioning, if an elderly person boards the bus or metro at least three people will get up for them.
  3. No matter where you are in Santiago, metro, parks, streets, stores or homes PDA is present. At the beginning none of us study abroad students could believe it.  However, at this point I do not even notice it.
  4. The pick pockets are real. Before arriving many people warned me of it, but of course I did not believe it could be as bad as they said. The good thing is that there is not a huge presence of other violence. It is just necessary to be constantly aware of your surroundings.
  5. Café culture is so prominent here and it is amazing! Every café has a different atmosphere, but they are great places to study and have amazing cakes or gelato!
  6. Chileans love their protests! Whether its a “protest” celebrating international women’s day. Or participating in the annual Dia del Joven Combatiente.

Regarding school at Universidad Alberto Hurtado:

  1. Time is a different concept. You may only get part of your schedule for the semester the night before and figure the rest of it out during the first week!
  2. Books are not bought. Instead you have to pay to make copies of documents, books ect.
  3. The campus culture reminds me of high school. Everyone commutes so in between classes people socialize, play guitars, juggle, and play ping pong. Not a lot of people study on campus.
  4. Group projects are very common in curriculum.








Spring Break 2016

Spring Break 2016

I realized that after booking my flight to Milan and Paris for Spring Break 2016, every single previous Spring Break of my college career I traveled abroad, so it was no surprise to me that I was going to travel again this time around. During my freshman year I participated in the Rome Start program and I went to Amsterdam and Berlin. Then during sophomore year, I booked a flight to Tel Aviv using a $400 credit I’d received for being bumped off a plane during Christmas. And this year, I decided to go to Milan and Paris. In addition, I had the opportunity to travel to Gibraltar.

This time around, though, I was fortunate to travel with my girlfriend, so it made the trip much more comforting. The first place we went to was Gibraltar, which is nothing like Spain in which it is connected to but that makes sense because it’s actually part of the UK . I could go into a long history of why its part of Britain but I’ll spare you the bore and instead summarize with it: Spain ceded the land in exchange for an agreement to have the monopoly of African slaves in 1704. A.K.A. brilliant British imperialistic move. Highlights of Gibraltar were the spectacular views of the coat facing Morocco and visiting the wild monkeys on top of the massive rock, which you simply cannot miss. Besides this, unless you enjoy British food or miss reading road signs in english, there isn’t much to do and one day there is plenty.

Next, we flew to Milan with Ryanair for under $60 and stayed the first night a few blocks away from Il Duomo, the centerpiece of Italian gothic architecture and also main landmark in Milan. Milan is a hustling and bustling city with people dressed nicely but with little tolerance for tourists. Clearly the largest city in Italy right when you step off the plane and take 35 minutes to get into downtown and all you see out the window are harrowing concrete apartments and billboards for FIAT cars. Again, Milan is a one day city, tops two. Given its reputation for fashion, I researched some shops that sold surplus designer clothing and found a few. But again, its high end designer clothing so even 50-60 percent off is still far more than I would spend on a t-shirt. Of course, the architecture in Milan is gorgeous and should not be taken for granted, so if anything I enjoyed walking around the city.

After the first night in Milan, we took the train to Turin and spent a day exploring the charming and friendly city. I received great vibes from this city and would like to visit again in the future. Everywhere we went people were as flighty as they could get. The man working in the pizza shop joyfully inquiring about us to the drivers stopping for us even when there were no stop signs. The friendliness was palpable compared to other Italian cities in the south and Milan. In Turin, there seems to be more to see than Milan and much easier to get around (by foot). There is the Mole Antonelliana (a massive spire that formed part of a former synagogue and now is National Museum of Cinema), the Turin Cathedral in which you can find the world famous Shroud of Turin, the Royal Palace of Turin and finally the second largest Museum of Egyptian antiquities in the world. All worthwhile destinations.

We then took the train further south and west to a little town called Bra. This was where would spend the night and get some fresh country air. But to be honest, we came here to visit my sister who was studying at the nearby University of Gastronomic Sciences. But I deeply missed the countryside and longed for it once we left the next morning. Also, the train system in Italy is good; nothing like the train in Spain that is monopolized by the government so they charge ridiculous prices for short trips. In Italy, it is much different, there are two big train companies that offer many options for time and price. So for a round trip ticket from Milan to bra, it cost me $25, with a 7 hour layover in Turin. I would highly recommend taking the train to get around Italy.

After our countryside adventure and visiting two of Italy’s largest cities, we headed to Beauvais from Milan for around $36 (again Ryanair). We actually did not fly into Paris, I would like to make this completely clear,  Beauvais is a town in the north of France (50 miles from Paris) but Ryanair claims it an airport that represents Pars, trust me it’s far from it. This transfer of settings no problem thanks to blabla car and an online website that provides a seat in someone’s car. This was perfect for two travelers searching a cheap ride to the real Paris. When we arrived to Paris we had to take the metro a few stops to arrive to our hotel which was conveniently located practically right in the middle of map of paris and just smudge to the north. This was all too convenient that the plethora of transportation methods. The hard part was choosing what to do with only 3 days. This was far far too little when you consider what this city has to offer, you could spend your whole life here and still not see it all. Since I had been to Paris a few times in the past I wanted to dedicate this trip to the not so seen neighborhoods of this fine city. So one of our days there, we rented velibs or the bike renting service which is only 1.70 euro per day for the first 30 minutes, and explored the part of the city that was off the beaten trail. We hit up the Rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement and also the Canal St. Martin. Both very worthwhile areas that few tourist were found in. And for dinner we went to the world famous Chipotle Mexican Grill. Yes, I know what you may be thinking, “what the hell are you thinking?!”. Well I’ll tell you exactly what. The fact of the matter was I simply was craving far too much to not go and my palette simply wasn’t into the french cuisine not was my wallet.

All in all, by the time Monday rolled around, I had forgotten all the places I had been because time went by so quickly. But as the old saying goes, all good things don’t like forever. My only hope is that I’ll be able to follow this past break with one in 2017 that will be just as action packed and thrilling.


北京再见 Goodbye Beijing…서울에 오신 것을 환영합니다 Welcome to Seoul!

北京再见 Goodbye Beijing…서울에 오신 것을 환영합니다 Welcome to Seoul!

After the excursion, sadly I got the flu. I had to go to the hospital multiple times to get medicine and whatnot. For that next week and a half I didn’t really do much since I was pretty out of it. After my recovery, we then had midterms week.

During midterms week my Chinese Medicine class took a field trip to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Hospital. It was so interesting to see how the hospital ran. In TCM hospitals it is very crowded, and not very sanitary. Most people go to the hospital for acupuncture, cupping, moxa, massage treatment, and medicine. We even got to see patients and see them get acupuncture. It was so different from Western hospitals I’ve been in. in the states, you would only be able to go see procedures if you were a medical student. We all just crowded into a room and watched and listen to individual’s medical problems. It was so interesting to see all the patients being treated with such different methods than western methods. We also got to see the hospital pharmacy. That was very cool because they have tons of small drawers filled with dried herbs, nuts, you name it. They would then eyeball with a simple weight balance, then put the dosage in a big pan. All the herbs in one pan would then be sent to another section to be mixed together to create an herbal supplement meant to drink X amount of times a day.

It went pretty well, and the best way to celebrate being done with midterms was to take a flight out of China to Korea! Kaylee, Leia, Brittany and I took a plane to Seoul early Saturday morning. It was so exciting! Once we arrived in Seoul, we took the train to our hostile. The Korean subway system is very different than the Chinese subway. Even though the trains aren’t automated, the technology is great! The subways were super clean and everyone was really polite!

Korean culture is very different than Chinese culture. The first thing that surprised me was how clean the city was. In China there’s garbage around the streets, especially around restaurants, and there’s spit on the ground. In Korea, I never saw anyone spit on the street. Everything is Korea was orderly as well. When going on escalators everyone stayed in a single file line on the right side so people could walk up on the left side without disturbing anyone. No one barged to get onto the train when the doors opened, everyone waited for the passengers to get off the train before they boarded. Little things like that amazed me! In China it’s more of the culture “you’re on your own”. People mind their own business and don’t really go out of their way to help, unless asked. People tend to do things the way they want to, even it if means pushing people or cutting lines, etc. it’s just the culture, which makes sense since there are so many people here in Beijing.

Another interesting thing about the Korean culture that is so different than Beijing culture is that you see a lot more of young parents playing with their children. In Korea we always saw kids with their parents; whereas in China it’s usually the grandparents who are with the children.

The hostile we stayed in was very nice! It was right next to one of the subway stations, and was very comfy. There were couches and tables around, and the bedding wasn’t too bad. We stayed in one of the rooms that had 10 beds arranged like bunk beds. It was pretty comfortable besides it being hot and a little stuffy. We also got free waffle breakfast every morning! Usually we would get up in time to get breakfast (before 10 am), get ready for the day, then explore, walk, eat, walk, and keep on walking! We walked so much in Korea! Korea is also pretty hilly might I add. We went to the 4 major palaces, tourist sites, shopping malls, and more hipster places. One of my favorite places we went to was a graffiti/mural village. Another place we went to that was equally as fun was the famous fish market! It’s famous for its 1 AM fish auction! Sadly, we didn’t stay until then because we went on a weekday, but my friends got to hold a live crab!

Korea was so much fun! I would definitely go again! It was such a fun environment and I went with great people! I would definitely go again, and recommend others to go as well!

“I will fly, chase the wind and touch the sky!”

“I will fly, chase the wind and touch the sky!”

I could've lain there forever...
I could’ve lain there forever…

-Brave (2012)

What better than a quote from a Scottish Disney movie to preface my Scottish adventures last weekend?

Once again fleeing from the bustle of London, me and two friends hitched a bus ride to Edinburgh, Scotland last weekend. The bus was the whole day Friday, (10 hours!!), but it was the most scenic, sheep-filled bus ride I’d ever been on! It went by in a snap! The best part (besides the sheep) was when we got really close to Edinburgh and began to see the North Sea over the cliffs we drove on. ABSOLUTELY beautiful. I really felt like I was in some sort of fantasy land.

The most fantastical place- and that’s saying something for SCOTLAND- was the hike up and view from Arthur’s Seat in the center of Edinburgh. We woke up and got to the base of the dormant volcano by 9AM so we could beat the rain (and the crowd!). It’s strange to see such a bare, green mountain rising out of a completely urban area, but Arthur’s seat is higher than any of the buildings, so you can always see it. As we began our trek up, the wind grew stronger and colder, but the effort of scaling the uneven stone steps warmed us up good. There were a few paths up to the top, but we chose the steepest and quickest because we were anxious to reach the top. (And honestly, I wanted to act like Merida from Brave and climb up rather than walk up!) Every time we reached a valley on the way up, the wind created a tunnel and the breath would be knocked out of us, but we all lost our breath completely when we rounded the last peak. The views were like nothing I had ever seen before! You can see what I saw in the picture above, but the feeling of the cold, damp wind blowing off the North Sea cooling the sweat off my face after the climb was downright marvelous. I felt like if I put my arms out, I’d fly away! I understood the sentiment of the song from Brave, corny as that sounds, but I really was touching the sky! And I wanted to RUN for some reason; I wanted to spin and laugh and jump and RUN! The air up there was different, it was invigorating-like an applause at the end of a show. When you’re on stage and all you can do is look out and beam into the expansive space before you. That’s what it was! After all this time in the city and getting only stolen moments in secluded gardens, a taste of nature like this was much needed.

After we scaled our way down the mountain (just as it began to rain!), we headed to our walking tour at the Royal Mile. That’s the main street in the old part of Edinburgh, which means cobblestones, billions of shops and pubs, small alleys, a cemetery, a church, and a castle (no biggie). On the tour, which had a guide from America (lol, of course), we learned about the spooky past of Edinburgh. Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired by a local man, Deacon Brodie, for his book “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The writer of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was born in Edinburgh! Also, the Heart of Midlothian, a small mosaic heart on the ground outside St. Giles’ Cathedral. Because this marks the spot of an old prison/tax collection house, people have been SPITTING on this heart as they walk by for hundreds of years! Of course, I couldn’t look at the thing without gagging from the nasty spit all over it, but it was a cool tidbit of history! Our guide told us of capitol punishment in Edinburgh and how fond the Scottish were of hangings. We stood on the spot of the gallows and discussed many interesting serial killer/wrongly accused/famous hanging stories. Then, we went to Greyfriar’s Cemetery just off the Royal Mile. Cemeteries in Scotland are less sacred places than they are public parks. People picnic, read, sleep, and even just hang out in them! One woman who may sound familiar even wrote quite a bit of her novel series in Greyfriar’s Cemetery…one J. K. Rowling! She must have been inspired by her surroundings as well, because names like McGonagall, Moody, and TOM RIDDLE can be found on gravestones around Greyfriars. And the situation of Edinburgh Castle perched on the cliffside of a dormant volcano just might have inspired another castle perched on a cliffside- Hogwarts! I was incredibly honored to be standing in the same place of a woman who has touched so many lives through her work!

All in all, Edinburgh gave me, Maddy, and Jen a weekend away from the neverending rush that is London. Edinburgh is the one place I’ve visited that really stood out to me as a place where I could live one day! I felt so comfortable there, so welcome, and it had everything that I love! (Hiking, a city, nearby suburbs, a harbor, happy people, Scottish accents, sheep,

I could've lain there forever...
I could’ve lain there forever…

etc) Maybe I’m just longing for the forest preserve back home… Either way, I LOVED Edinburgh, Scotland. It was magical, and friendly, and spooky, and exciting, and relaxing-ALL AT ONCE! Such an astonishing city…I’m really going to miss it.

And now, I quote the song from Brave that was stuck in my head the whole weekend and can actually say that Edinburgh is really like this!!-

“When the cold wind’s a a-calling
And the sky is clear and bright
Misty mountains sing and beckon,
Lead me out into the light

I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky
I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky

Where dark woods hide secrets
And mountains are fierce and bold
Deep waters hold reflections
Of times lost long ago

I will hear their every story
Take hold of my own dream
Be as strong as the seas are stormy
And proud as an eagle’s scream…”

I know this is lame, laugh all you want, but I felt the magic of Scotland when I was in Edinburgh, and I really REALLY want to go back and experience it more!

GAH. Okay, I’ve embarrassed myself enough, off to bed! Goodnight and goodbye my friends!