The GoGlobal Blog

Month: January 2017

Perfect Travel Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Perfect Travel Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Here we are, just a couple of weeks into the semester and I’ve already crossed the border several times, doing so once again tomorrow morning as we leave for Cambodia. I’m in love with Kuala Lumpur, would absolutely take a job in SE Asia if offered one, and have officially caught the travel bug with hopes to visit Thailand, Indonesia, and hopefully some more of SE Asia over the next few months. I didn’t realize how little I knew about international travel until I became faced with constantly learning as I’m going. Preferably read while listening to Nobody’s Perfect by Hannah Montana, here’s what I’ve learned so far:


Fake it ‘til you make it.

So cliché. So real. Whether it’s getting through public transportation, deciphering new social situations, or just trying to enjoy each moment as it comes, I’ve learned the art of faking it solely to improve my own self-confidence and realize that I can in fact do what it takes, even if I’m on a greater learning curve. I’ve fallen up stairs so many times, have made a complete fool of myself, have been wrong about directions, and have had to ask for help more than I would like, along with a longer list of mistakes. However, it’s okay to not be okay! I’m excited to get better at traveling, but I also hope to get better about not being the perfect traveler who just posts cool Instagram pictures about how “perfect” life is without showing any of the flaws.


Famous statue outside of the Batu Caves
Famous statue outside of the Batu Caves – it’s even more impressive in person.


Finding your niche abroad is so important.

I hit just a patch of homesickness early on and I realized it was because I wasn’t connected to any of the kinds of communities I was used to. Once you find similar groups abroad, it makes all the difference, and the mutual interests make it worthwhile to overcome language barriers and push outside of your comfort zone. While it could be easier if everyone in the program all had the same interests and were all best friends, it wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful or satisfying when the authentic connections were made. While I’m an oddball in many ways in this program, that’s a good thing since it’s pushing me to not be comfortable or just sink into a single community when there’s so many things to do and people to meet here.


Prayer flags found at the top of Broga Hill.
                     Prayer flags found at the top of Broga Hill.


Comfort Zone. Learning Zone. Panic Zone. Repeat.

As a challenge course facilitator, one of the biggest philosophies we teach participants is that of these three zones. Your comfort zone is just that, comfortable and not a challenge. Imagine you have the whole house to yourself for the day and no responsibilities, just getting to enjoy the day however you want. Next is the learning zone, where you want to be most of the time. This is where you are growing but not pushing yourself to a panic. It’s kind of like when you’re at the gym and in order to build up muscle you have to tear it down by doing hard workouts. However, you don’t want to push yourself too hard, less you pull a muscle or in this case, fall into your panic zone. This is where you are not comfortable whatsoever and experiencing anxiety, terror, the like and need to return to your comfort or learning zone ASAP. I’ve experienced all three of these abroad already and even though I like to challenge myself, it’s important to realize that you’re allowed to be in your comfort zone, and when you’re ready you can push yourself back into your learning zone. Whenever I’ve gotten close to my panic zone, my favorite thing is to walk around the city by myself to a new coffeeshop, as this is what I do all the time in Chicago. I love working out by myself too, so sometimes I do that as well. And sometimes, I really need to escape for a bit and the great thing is that Netflix not only works in Vietnam, but also has shows that you can’t get in the US. I stay in my comfort zone for however long I need, and then move back into having fun and adventuring in new ways.


The best coffee in Kuala Lumpur can be found at Merchant's Lane in Chinatown - can confirm
The best coffee in Kuala Lumpur can be found at Merchant’s Lane in Chinatown – can confirm.


Find the right travel buddies.

This one is definitely important! With all of the things to see and do around SE Asia, it’s incredibly important to find the right people to travel with. There’s really no hard feelings about not being perfect travel buddies with everyone, so you just need to know yourself and figure out who you travel well with! Every trip should be enjoyable, not high stress past the usual, and have at least a little bit for everyone. It may take a period of trial and error to find the right crew, but once you do, it makes it all the better. For me personally, I’m very go with the flow but definitely have weird ticks that make it hard to be travel buddies with everyone. That’s true of every person. One thing I know about myself is that I prefer to go through airports by myself or with very specific people, so I don’t mind booking flights that are the same time but different airlines. Outside of that, I love getting to see what everyone else wants to do and tag along for the ride! (As long as I eat some food and preferably get to hike in the mountains, I’m set). Communication is key, especially early on.


Find people who are willing to tag along with what you love to do, and vice versa.
Find people who are willing to tag along with what you love to do, and vice versa.


Enjoy the moment and say yes.

A few years ago I don’t know if I would have said yes to studying abroad in Vietnam, but I’m so glad that I am where I am in life right now and get to say that I’m studying abroad in SE Asia. I’m excited to look back at this in 20-30 years, and when I do, I want to make sure that I enjoyed it to the fullest and have no regrets. Sometimes this means saying yes to not being in control or saying yes to things you may have pre-judgments about or don’t think that you’ll like. What I hope is that I’ll leave here knowing I said yes to everything I wanted and needed to and was able to say no to what I absolutely didn’t. I want to be completely authentic, letting my yeses be yeses and my no’s be no’s. Let this semester be one full of life lessons, mistakes, and challenges. Besides, what good story ever becomes of someone doing everything exactly right?




Added Bonus: Food for thought (who said I never gave you anything?)

Vemödalen – “the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist”.

“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” -Frederick Buechner

Mi Casita Nueva

Mi Casita Nueva

I have spent three weeks in this new home of mine. Three weeks filled with lots of sunshine (and lots of bloqueador del sol since there is a hole in Chile’s ozone layer), español with more slang than I can keep track of, climbing hills (read: mountains) to get those nice views of Santiago, and a ridiculous amount of bread. While it hasn’t all been easy and smooth, I feel as though I am finally settling into a life here in the Southern hemisphere, and I am truly enamored.


The semester doesn’t actually start until March (it’s summer here right now), but I am taking an intensive Spanish course through Universidad Alberto Hurtado (pictured above), which is technically broken up into three different classes: gramática y poesía, cuento hispanoamericano, and cultura y expresión oral. Basically, we do a lot of grammar, a lot of reading, and a lot of talking for three hours each day. It is challenging, but I am lucky to have really great classmates/friends to learn alongside me. The great part about this being a program through a Jesuit university is that I already have so much in common with mis compañeros. There are six other students with me: four from Saint Louis University, one from Loyola Maryland, and one other from Loyola Chicago (go ‘blers). In the short time that we have known each other, we have done a ridiculous amount of laughing, held heated discussions about social justice issues/politics, and had some true bonding experiences (refer back to my previous comment about climbing hills/mountains). I am truly blessed by these incredible, passionate, and hilarious new friends.

Mi familia Chilena is really wonderful as well. In my cozy little apartment, it is my host mom, my two siblings (one brother and one sister), and me. They are so fun and lively and although I cannot always understand what they are saying, they make a conscious effort to speak slowly and clearly and correct me when I need help. Our apartment is located in a really hip and safe neighborhood and is a short walk to the metro station, which I take to get to school and various parts of the city.

“But Maggie, we don’t care what your family and friends are like, how’s Santiago?????” Great question, dear reader. Santiago is a huuuge city with a population of a little over five million people, meaning it accounts for just under a third of the entire population of Chile. It is considered a very safe city, although theft is wildly common and you have to be incredibly conscious of your personal belongings at all times. The city itself is very developed with a nice mix of old and new architecture and lots of colorful buildings. However, there are also very impoverished and underdeveloped regions, which can be seen while driving in and out of Santiago, as well as from the many hilltop views (like other cities and countries, wealth is not necessarily evenly distributed here). Flanking the metropolitan area are the Andes mountains to the East and the Chilean Coastal Range mountains to the West, views I never plan on getting sick of.


“And what have you been doing when you’re not trying to master the horror that is Chilean Spanish????” Another incredible question. Here’s the answer in an easy-to-follow list format:

Cerro Santa Lucia – a little hill/park in the center of Santiago. Not only is it a beautiful park, but it also has incredible views of the city.


Cerro San Cristobol – a larger hill (984ft above the rest of Santiago) on the north side of the city with a beautiful church at the top, as well as a large statue of the Virgin Mary. It’s unbelievably peaceful and offers great panoramic views. While my friends and I had quite the difficult time hiking up (the straightforward, paved path would have been too easy – always take the road less traveled), the peace and beauty at the top was well worth it (vale la pena, one of my favorite Spanish phrases).

Museums – the Centro Cultural Gabriela Minstral (which had an amazing exhibit about Haitian migration) and a Picasso exhibit at La Moneda (the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile with a cultural center underneath)

A visit to Costanera Center, which just so happens to be the tallest building in South America (980ft). It is six floors of mall, fifty-some floors of largely empty office space. It is also home to Emporio La Rosa, which is apparently one of the 25 best ice cream shops in the entire world (I can attest to this, it’s really good).

A day trip to Isla Negra and one of the casas of Pablo Neruda, the late, great, Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet. Not only was this a great glimpse into the life of this amazing poet and a huge part of Chilean culture/history, it was also a lovely way to spend a day right along the Pacific Ocean and eat some really good, fresh fish.

So there you have it, a snapshot of my last eleven days. While it’s finally starting to hit me just how long six and a half months is (don’t think I don’t miss you, friends and family, I most certainly do!), I am beyond excited for the adventures and challenges I will face during the remainder of my time here. If the last week and a half is any testament to what the rest will be like, I am surely in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Un besito a todos, ¡chao!

One Country, Two Weekends, Three Trips

One Country, Two Weekends, Three Trips

Hola amigos y familia!

To make good on my promise for frequent life updates, I am currently coming to you live from a bus traveling back to Madrid after a long weekend away. These past few weeks have been insanely busy with both school and traveling in full gear, and so I have only now found the time to write this update as I sit here grumbling over the eight freaking hours I have left on this bus. *Sigh,* life is hard. Anyway, before the semester starts to speed on by, I want to recap the first couple free weekends that I have had in Spain. So without further ado, here is my review on the Zaragoza Province, Toledo, and Barcelona.

On the Saturday of our first free weekend, a group of us traveled to the Zaragoza region of Spain on a pre-organized trip to see the Monasterio de Piedra. The Monastery was a long two and a half hour bus ride from Madrid, and brought us into a rural area of the country with beautiful scenery and backdrops. It was a cold and rainy day, even snowing at one point, however we still loved walking around the old Monastery and learning the history of the region. The highlight of the trip, though, was actually the surrounding gardens of the Monastery, which featured a huge number of beautiful waterfalls. We spent the day hiking around the picturesque garden area and admiring all of the immense waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and vast caves. It was a wonderfully organized trip, that left us feeling as though we had stumbled upon a hidden jewel in the heart of Spain.

The next day we traveled to Toledo with the same prearranged group. This too was a very fun trip that offered loads of information about Spanish history and specifically the medieval town itself in relation to this history. We visited the huge cathedral and the various religious quarters that are situated around the center of the city. Eventually, a smaller group of us wandered off to explore the city for ourselves and hiked around the winding, cobblestone streets. The day trip was incredibly relaxed, and we took our time eating lunch and sampling the locally-produced sweet, marzipan. Toledo was extremely interesting to visit due to its turbulent history involving the coexistence of Christians, Jews, and Muslims all within the city’s boundaries. Evidence of such differing religious preferences is still very evident within Toledo, thus producing a very unique culture set within the context of a visibly ancient city. Now, because I have been cursed to live a life characterized by an endless string of embarrassing moments, it was only a matter of time before this was transferred over to my life abroad. The most notable embarrassing moment from this particular trip, (note that I say the MOST notable, signifying that I could actually write an entire blog entry on embarrassing moments from these first few weeks alone), occurred when we were visiting a synagogue that had been converted into a museum. After walking in the entrance, I spotted a trash can in the corner of the room which I proceeded to dump a pocket full of tissues in. This was immediately followed by an angry security guard yelling that it was not in fact a trash can as I had originally thought, but an umbrella holder. Feeling super flustered and embarrassed, I did the only thing that seemed logical in the moment, and ran away to hide in the middle of my tour group. I spent the rest of the museum tour simultaneously admiring the old synagogue and hiding from every security guard that passed, as I was SURE that they were all after me for my tissue debacle. My American education failed me, as it did not prepare me for culturally-superior Europe where umbrella holders are apparently a thing. However don’t worry about my self-esteem, as I will continue to blame my great country for all of the failures that I have already experienced and will surely continue to experience overseas.

While the two previously described trips consisted of short, day excursions, our trip to Barcelona required a full Thursday-Monday block of time. After traveling seven hours by bus to reach the city, my roommates and I spent the weekend exploring the different neighborhoods and attractions by foot. We visited the city’s infamous tourist sites, such as the port area, the busy La Rambla street, the open air La Boquería market, and the Gaudí house, Casa Batlló. We later realized that we had walked over seven miles this first morning in Barcelona, definitely justifying the 15 Euro haul of candy I had bought earlier in the day.  After a much needed siesta and late lunch, we hung around the hostel that we were staying in for the weekend and received our first taste of hostel-living. Much to our surprise, the hostel was not a gross, cesspool of random people, which definitely defied my initial expectations. In reality, the hostel was a fun living space which both motivated us to explore the city by offering special activities and facilitated interaction between the guests. We met travelers from around the globe, including from Scotland, Germany, Australia, Panama, and Egypt to name a few, and spent the rest of our weekend with these once random strangers. One of the girls we met in our hostel clicked so well with our group that not only did we spent the rest of the weekend sightseeing with her, but she actually came to visit us in Madrid a few days later. After this trip I feel confident in saying that I now truly understand the appeal of hostels and am looking forward to booking more during my travels. The next day in Barcelona was spent visiting La Sagrada Familia and the gothic neighborhood of the city. Both areas were very interesting, though in my opinion, only necessary to visit once in a lifetime, and for a short amount of time. We eventually found ourselves in need of caffeine and warmth, and so found a local Starbucks (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) to spend some time recuperating in. I am NOT exaggerating when I say visiting a foreign Starbucks has been the largest culture shock I have yet to receive in my time abroad. Drip coffee in Spain is not popular, but never in a hundred million years did I imagine that a Starbucks would not prominently display the “normal” coffee offerings that I have grown so lovingly accustomed to in the States. Please take a second to empathize with my situation, as I was unable to order my grande, blonde roast coffee with room for cream. I understand if you immediately feel disgustingly horrified, just as I did, at the fact that a young, culturally-stupid, American could not order her usual coffee beverage. Such a shame. I will say, though, that what Starbucks lacked in coffee offerings, they made up for in pastry options. They offered a huge selection of unique selections that I had to literally walk away from in order to resist the temptation. Now before I completely digress into this Starbucks tangent, I will stop myself and return to the deep, worldly, and thought provoking experiences that I am supposed to be having and that you actually want to read about. However while I am on the topic of food, we did end the night at a great tapas restaurant, where we ordered a huge selection of small plates to fill our food-deprived bellies. On our final day in Barcelona, we visited the famous Park Güell that had been designed by Gaudí. The park was a very great end to our trip, as it offered amazing views of the city. Our overall impression of Barcelona was incredibly positive, with all three of us roommates agreeing that we needed to return later in the semester when we could fully enjoy the beaches and warm weather that is typical of the city.

To end this post, I want to prove to my parents and any other haters out there that I am actually learning a thing or two in my travels.  Here is a compilation of fun facts that I have learned about/from the places I have traveled to thus far:

  • From the Monastery:
    • Drinking wine and eating pork in public areas were very important in medieval Spain, as it signaled that you were a “good” Christian. This was especially important during the Inquisitions, and is one of the reasons why butchers hung pork in the windows of their shops.
    • The alters of medieval churches are always oriented to the east. This is because Jerusalem is located to the east of these European countries, and so the alter was used to point the way toward the holy land.
  • From Toledo:
    • There are only three medieval synagogues left in Spain, which two located with Toledo. Much like the alter in the Christian Cathedrals, the Holy Wall of the synagogue was ornately decorated and always oriented toward the east to signify the direction toward Jerusalem.
    • The river that surrounded most of the city acted as a natural moat that protected Toledo from foreign threat. Walls were erected around the area of the city that was left exposed.
  • From Barcelona:
    • Park Güell was originally meant to serve as a backdrop and private park for the extremely wealthy families that would eventually be living nearby. However a lack of interest and money lead the park to be given to the city of Barcelona, who then opened it as a public park.
    • Gaudí is buried in the crypts of La Sagrada Familia, as it was deemed as his most cherished, life project.

Thanks to everyone who completed reading this week’s blog! I promise they will not all be this extremely long, but I am a little behind and ask you to bear with me as I attempt to catch up in my entires. Please check out my pictures which I have uploaded to Facebook as well, I promise they are probably much cooler to look at than reading this blog is. Lots of love for you all, and stay tuned for entries detailing life in Madrid, trips to Morocco, and other random abroad experiences!

The Start

The Start

I walked on, sat down, and walked off. It was so simple. I walked on, sat down, and walked off-but when I did everything was different. The air was heavy with moisture and held a earthy tin smell. Everything in sight was green and bursting with life, except for a road that had cars zooming in a manner that was wrong or backwards to me. There was no noise to be heard except for the yawning wind and the gentle murmur of people chatting. The people were all unfamiliar, with different voices, appearances, and behavior. I felt my heart putter softly but quickly. I tightened my hand around the handle of my bag, trying to contain my excitement, but a smile escaped and spilled across my face. It always amazed me that entering, what seemed like another world, could be so simple. I walked on an airplane in Cleveland, Ohio, sat down for six hours, and walked off in Shannon, Ireland. This was it. My semester abroad, my adventure, was starting.
I have been in Limerick, Ireland for nine days. In these past days I have met extraordinary people from all over the world, have seen beauty of all types, have been introduced to a new culture, and have fallen in love with Ireland. I walked out of the plane having no preconceived expectations or really any knowledge of what this journey would entail. The idea of living and studying in Ireland for fourth months was something too large to really wrap my head around and dissect, so I left it at “I’m going to Ireland.” I was clueless of what people I would be with, what conditions I would be living in, what the city would be like, what my education would be, what I would be doing, what I should expect-I just knew what time my plane was leaving.
Starting out clueless worked out for me because everything has been a wonderful surprise. I was like a child in an amusement park the first time walking through the city of Limerick. I fawned over the quaint shops, admired humble charm of the architect, and jumped at the endless rows of restaurants, cafes, and pubs. There was emerald ivy growing up old stone buildings, twinkling lights struggle across small side streets, and Irish flags waving softly in the wind-my heart was bursting with joy. I didn’t think it could get better, but then we turned the corner. There stood the King John’s Castle, standing tall and proud on the lip of the water’s edge. The grainy stone of the castle contrasted with the rushing blue river beside it and the rolling green hills behind it. I was speechless. This was going to be my home for four months-how did I get so lucky?
Although, I could be living in a dusty city with nothing to do and still be enjoying it, simply because the people I am with are amazing. The first couple of days here it was only the international students on campus. There is about forty of us and we are from all around the world. France, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Austria…the list continues. Everyone has such different stories, social norms, accents, and ideas, and we are all interesting in finding each others out. I have never had such constant enlightening and beautiful conversations. I have been in awe. Sitting and talking has become favorite thing to do simply because there is so much to discuss. Other than having a diverse background, everyone in the group has great personalities. We all seem, somehow, on the same page with what’s important and how to handle things. Becoming friends with everyone has been the peak of this experience thus far.
It has only been nine days, but it feels like I have been here so much longer due to the immense about of stuff I have done. I have been to a numerous amount cafes, restaurants, and pubs. I have moved into my flat and have actually gotten settled in. I have explored the city. I have gone into the castle. I have seen live music and Irish dancing. I have watched a rugby and hurling game. I have gone to classes. I have learned a decent amount of French, Gaelic, and Dutch. I have planned five trips to different countries. I have gone to the Milk Market. I have tried my first Guinness. I have danced with strangers. I have made lasting friendships. I have been happier than I could imagine. And the adventure has merely just begun.

The Smallest Big City

The Smallest Big City

Hei hei! (As one would say in Norway to greet someone)


I honestly have no idea what to write in a blog, so bear with me. In fact, I never really wanted to write one, especially one with the possibility of others reading it. What changed my mind, is perhaps a mixture of events… First, everyone raves about the importance of blogs during their time abroad, which seems to be an indicator that I should change my stance on creating one for myself. Second, my memory is horrid and this may help me to account for many of my experiences soon to be had. And lastly, writing a blog is outside of my comfort zone, just like my study abroad experience–so why not? Here I go!


 If you haven’t read my bio as of yet, I guess I should introduce myself! My name is Shayna Milstein, a junior math major at Loyola who is originally from Colorado. I always knew I wanted to study abroad but the location kept changing until, by chance, I settled on directly enrolling at the Universitetet i Oslo (University of Oslo) in Norway. I arrived on January 6th, and since then have barely begun to catch my breath–but in a good way!

First few weeks:

First things first, I am so glad I decided to choose a program where I directly enroll at a university! Last summer I did a program for two months in Iceland that was completely organized. We were with 22 other students, our days were primarily planned, and our classes fixed. While that was an incredible experience in and of itself, I am super independent and therefore get a certain thrill from just being a regular student who happens to be studying in Norway. I get to do all the usual student activities: travel, explore, join organizations and sports, especially choose what I want to study.

I don’t ever have class on Fridays, which is a first for me. In fact, I feel like I rarely have class. Norwegians structure their classes very differently than in the States, and most work is to be done outside the classroom. Something to get used to I guess! I also went super outside my comfort zone yet again by taking not only courses needed for my graduation, but a Norwegian Language class as well. It is something I didn’t need or ever thought I’d want to take, but immediately upon arrival I felt this strong desire to learn the language. Forgetting the fact that it is 3 hours long, twice a week, it is probably my favorite class. I am utterly happy I took advantage of that opportunity despite the fact that now my course load senior year will be inevitably be denser.

It’s freeing that I can travel every weekend if I choose (I won’t because, well, money). So what I have been spending much of my time doing is meeting with friends, going out, and hiking. Everyone is so fit, healthy, and into nature here. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to come, so I am glad my expectations in that aspect were met and even exceeded.

Buddy Groups:

The University is split up into faculty, and given that I am studying math, I registered under the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Here we are then split into “buddy groups”. These are groups of exchange students from around the world and about 3 Norwegians, all of which are studying the same subject as you. So in my case, most of us study math. The purpose is to create friendships between various exchange students. I truly lucked out with mine because while my friends’ groups no longer talk, most people in my group have become some of my good friends here. In future blogs I wouldn’t be surprised if I continue to mention my group so I wanted to explain who they are for ease of reading!

In Closing:

That’s all for now, I really don’t want to write too much at one time, even though there is so much more to say. I’ll try to check back in sometime next week because tomorrow (bright and early!) I am traveling to Krakow, Poland for 6 days with 4 guys I’ve met here and one of my flatmates! Still can’t get over that in less time than it takes me to travel between Colorado and Chicago, I can be in a different country here, with a completely different language, history, and culture! I just love it!!

See you next week! Takk for i dag! (“Thanks for today”)

P.s. sunsets here are among the best I’ve ever seen. Even though the sun sets super early (around 3:30pm when I first arrived, now more around 4:30pm) it lasts for like an hour or two. This photo was from my walk home from the gym recently…

The sunsets of Norway
The sunsets of Norway
May The J-Force Be With You

May The J-Force Be With You

Wow hi all !!  (or whomever happened to stumble across this page… STAY !! I’ll try to make it interesting)

My name is Arianna Georgette Vranas and I’m a sophomore currently studying abroad at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center AKA J-Force. I am an Advertising and Public Relations major with a double minor in Marketing and Visual Communications SOOO I may be decently creative (sometimes) BUT – I am by no means a Journalism major and I basically write like how I would talk… So I apologize in advance if you have decided to check out my blog and can’t follow it… Just try and picture a short-haired girl sitting cross legged in front of you with an oversized t-shirt on and is talking a mile a minute (probably stumbling upon her words) with her hands doing most of the talking because well I am 100% Greek.

ANYWAYS —  exactly 14 days ago, I said goodbye to my mom as I entered security at O’Hare and flew across the pond to join a group of 219 strangers in a country that I had only studied their language for a semester.

— BACKSTORY : I  transferred to Loyola for the Fall 2016 semester, meaning that when I went on my transfer student orientation at the beginning of the Summer of 2016 and heard all about the study abroad opportunities that Loyola offered, I literally went home, hopped on the computer, and applied to JFRC for kicks genuinely not expecting to get in right away. A week later my family just so happened to be going to Europe for our family summer vacation and amidst the Alps in Switzerland and visiting family in Greece we had decided to plop Rome in the middle. And, of course,  the day before we left for Europe, I found out that I had been accepted into JFRC for the Spring of 2017. ( crazy how amazing and quickly things can happen if you just go for it ! ) BUT , why did I tell you this? What freaking relevance does this have with me being abroad now ? This has SO much relevance becauseee it shows how amazing Loyola University Chicago is in SO many ways… but I’ll only name a few so maybe you’ll actually read this whole post —

1 — I am a TRANSFER STUDENT studying abroad. For most people that transfer schools life is a mess and credits are a mess, the thought of studying abroad can’t even cross their stressed out minds because they are too focused on the fact that they may have to graduate a year later than they thought they would. But for so many people (and I would confidently guess all students) that transfer to Loyola, it’s not a question of possibility but rather a question of when. ALSO, not only am I a transfer student but I changed my major as I transferred. And not even like a switch within the same school, I didn’t switch from Communications Studies to AD/PR… Instead I switched from Non-Profit Entrepreneurship (which is a Business major at my old school) to AD/PR (a Communications major at Loyola). The possibilities that Loyola gave to me even before I started school in Chicago were endless. Amazing.


2– I applied, got accepted, committed, and left for JFRC without knowing a soul out of my 219 new peers in Rome. (( okay this is a small fib… I came in knowing 3 familiar faces that I could put a name to, my friends back home had tried to introduce me to all their friends that were going BUT I wasn’t friends with anyone )) Which for most people is a SUPER scary thought. We like to be comfortable and I totally 100% understand where you come from! Especially if you’ve been at Loyola for a full year or two, you have your people back in Chicago so why would you leave them and be surrounded by strangers for a semester or a summer? But truly, these people will only be able to be strangers to you for so long. Just 14 days in and I am going to Berlin this coming weekend with a girl I became friends with just a couple days into getting here. How the heck does this happen? It simply happens by coming here. The community that Loyola has set up here is so incredibly inclusive to everyone. You may come into a program at JFRC not knowing anyone but I PROMISE you, you will not leave without becoming friends with handfuls of others that you have shared amazing experiences with.


3– The way I look at college is more flexible. At JFRC, since the whole campus is one building (yes you read that right, one building), this means that you live in the same building as all of your classes, the gym, the library, the dining hall (mensa), the coffee shop (rinaldo’s), and literally everything that you need… it for sure feels like school sometimes. You still have to go to class (STUDY abroad), you have dining hall swipes, you pay for your laundry, etc. etc. etc. BUT at the same time classes are formatted differently (some of them are onsite or literally just once a week), classes are only Monday through Thursday, you can participate in study trips with your professors or SLA’s ( who are kind of like RA’s buttt don’t tell them that, because they do a heck of a ton more than that ), oh yeeah and you are in freaking ROME! What?!? Literally, walk 5 minutes outside of the gates and hop on a bus and you can get to the Colosseum, Vatican City, and some dang good gelato. If you thought that going to school in Chicago would help you mature faster, imagine going to school across the pond in Rome. Right? What better way?! ANYWAYS — Loyola has made the idea of college more attractive to a person like me who doesn’t really get fired up about fraternity parties, attending sporting events, or trying to find a spot at the pack IC. And how do they do that? Through study abroad opportunities like J-Force! Heck, I’m highly considering studying abroad again next year and last year I had a ‘what’s the point of all of this’ mentality! Shoutout to Loyola am I right?!


ANYWHOOO this is just a simple introduction to my study abroad experience here at J-Force… I will try my hardest to keep this as updated as possible with all that is going on as I attempt to do as the Romans do!!

Until next time !! May the J-Force be with you !!

Is This Real Life?

Is This Real Life?


I have stared at beauty in the face. She has been my loyal companion and guardian. I see her in every corner, through every blink, I see her—beauty even lingers within my dreams. I must confess, it feels like I am dreaming, though no dream has been as pleasant and good to me as the one I have been dreaming on for the past 2 weeks.


I feel so afloat. My abode is now Madrid, and it’s funny to say but I feel so at ease. I feel so free and so much like myself. If ever there was a time to love and discover yourself, it is through travel and exploration. Throughout my stay in Madrid I have come to acknowledge yet of another beautiful thing I have before me—myself.


I have allowed myself to be completely and utterly present in the moment while in Madrid.


When I was a child, about 4, I used to ask my mom, “what will we have for dinner tomorrow”, and she would hastily reply, “we shall see, for tomorrow has not come yet”. I would never understand why she just wouldn’t tell me, she was to make dinner, not God, how would He know what tomorrow would bring. Though now, as I see interchangeably see beauty and God within all things more than ever, I now see that all good things are worth the wait. All good things come at do time. Tomorrow has not yet come today, and so I live my days here day by day. I enjoy every second of this air. I often look at the sky and for a few second I allow myself to get lost in the sea of blue. I warmly whisper to myself of how my parents are looking at the same sky, and this brings joy and warmth to my heart.


I know that my time here is not to be wasted, and so I find no time to sit around and not enjoy the grandiose opportunity that has been given to me.


I kid. I do sit around and enjoy the mere sight of people hurrying to their various (clueless) destinations. I often enjoy sitting by myself, merely enjoying my own company. I feel as though I have taken myself for granted for too long. I have let the skin I walk around this Earth with become so ordinary to my sight. I have not noticed, or have not noticed for a long time now, that my cheeks can extend quite beyond my face (may the occasion arise). I have found that I walk with my left foot following my right—always. I have found that I enjoy taking the long route home and admiring how much green I see before me. I frankly enjoy myself—I quite pleasantly confess.


Self-discovery is such an odd thing to talk about, at least for me. I have never been one to even take a second look at myself, but today I became vulnerable to myself. I now truly look and I see my mother, I see her eyes, for they have taught me what true love is. I see my father, I see the expression he makes the instant he spots me within a crowd, he has shown me what complete joy looks like and where to look out for it. I have discovered so much of myself these past few weeks. Never before had I felt so vulnerable, and yet so relieved in my life. I wake every day thankful and willing to take and seek chances.


After all, what is going 4,000 miles away from home without a little mischief.


Madrid, you are my wonderful home now. You have been quite the host. I have seen only but a fraction of what you have to offer and still I think that when I do see you all I shall crave more and quite possible never want to leave you.


I would love nothing more than to eat hot chocolate with churros for the rest of my life, though tomorrow has not come yet, and I have no clue as to where I shall be. And that brings great peace to me. I know that for whatever tomorrow brings shall be whatever shall be.




Hola from España!

Hola from España!

I am so happy to report that I have successfully both survived and thrived during these first few weeks in Spain. While the trip from Chicago to Europe began with many headaches due to seemingly endless flight cancellations, delays, and reroutings, the time has already begun to fly by here.

These first two weeks have been spent exploring my new surroundings while simultaneously attempting to fit in with the locals and orient myself to the European/Spanish lifestyle. “Becca,” you might ask, “who cares if literally everyone within a 10 mile radius can tell you’re not from Spain???” Well I would answer that with the sad fact that I have probably already used up the acceptable amount of “lo siento, soy americana”s x100. That being said, I am desperately attempting to drop all the signs of my Americanness in order to gain the full access to the Spanish culture. One of the biggest adjustments that I have run into thus far has been switching over to the Spanish eating schedule. The day begins with a small breakfast, followed by a normal sized lunch around 2-3pm, and finishes with a dinner around 10pm. While I had been warned about this schedule, putting it into practice has resulted in an embarassingly huge amount of necessary churro and bocadillo snack breaks throughout the day to save my starving stomach. These snack breaks were made even more enticing after I learned that a cafe con leche and pastry combo is sold at most cafes for less than 2 euro. Dinner is an especially important part of my daily routine in Spain, as my roommates and I sit down with our host family for an authentic, homemade Spanish meal. Our host family, to our surprise, does not speak English. While my broken Spanish skills have definitely helped bridge the language barrier, it can be quite difficult and intimidating to speak at lengths with them. Regardless, my host family is extremely caring and thoughtful, always making sure that my roommates and I have what we need and giving us advice about city life in Madrid.

I suppose this is the part that I should also mention that I am usually able to find time in my day to attend class (that’s for you, Mom & Dad)! My schedule for this semester consists of four academic classes and a piano class, the earliest beginning at 2:30 pm. I truly am roughing it this semester. I am very happy with my professors thus far, all of whom are not only vey intelligent within their given fields, but also truly understanding of our unique situation as students in Madrid.

Although I am loving Spain, I do admit to feeling homesick and the occasional FOMO. One thing that has definitely helped is that I have met a crazy number of students from my home university in Chicago, all of whom I had either not crossed paths with or whom I had never had a chance to talk with before this experience. It truly was the best feeling on the first day of classes whenever another student introduced themselves as “blah blah from Loyola Chicago.” This was usually followed by me yelling across the room, “omg me too!” Already these semi-awkward introductions have lead to travel groups being formed and plans solidified. This month has and will keep me extremely busy in terms of travel, as we have already visited the Monasterio de Piedra and Toledo on the first weekend and Barcelona on the second weekend. I have future travel plans to Morocco, Ireland, and Germany in the coming weeks, and to France and Italy over the coming months. I am slowly beginning to realize that I won’t have the time to see half of what I would like to, as I accidentally filled in every single weekend while making a tentative travel itinerary for this semester. I have attempted to block off at least one weekend a month to remain in Spain, as I am nervous that my travel plans might restrict me from truly experiencing life as a wannabe Spaniard. Again, should probably also block off the weekends before midterms and finals, because in case you are like me and keep forgetting, school is a thing here.

If you made it this far into the blog post, you must truly love me because this was really freaking long. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my thoughts, and am hoping to post at least once a week. I am so incredibly grateful for the love and support I always receive from my friends and family, even during some of my more crazier endeavors (ya know, like flying off to live in Europe for 5 months). Lots of love for you all, and stay posted as I attempt live the vida loca!

Culture Shock is Real

Culture Shock is Real

When I first heard about “culture shock”, I truly believed it wouldn’t happen to me. I was extremely excited to leave the U.S. and immerse myself into a new country and culture. Today is my 12th day in Rome, and I have been proven wrong. Here is a list of 5 things I am struggling to adjust to the most:

Italians are never concerned about time. There is no such thing as a bus ETA. The buses are never on time and you could wait as much as 45 min at a bus stop. Coming from Chicago, where I have lived my entire life and where buses/trains are always on time, this was difficult to adjust to. However, this experience will encourage my type A personality to learn how to “go with the flow.”

Coffee culture is drastically different. I love my Starbucks just as much as the next person, but I also love my daily normal brewed black coffee. Italians call that an “Americano.” In Italy, they really only have 3 major coffee drinks: a cappuccino, an espresso, and a macchiato (and no not the caramel sugary thing from Starbucks). Coffee is also never taken “to go.” Setting aside the time to sit and have my morning coffee is so different from my normal routine and may encourage me to enjoy the little things more!

Carbs, Carne, and Cornettos. Don’t get me wrong, Italians are serious about their food and it’s delicious. I truly believed I could never tire of pasta and that I would be stoked to eat it for the next 4 months. However, I have tired of pasta. During a meal, the first dish is always pasta, second is meat (usually pork), and last is dolce (dessert). Italians also don’t eat a full breakfast like Americans. Breakfast is usually some sort of filled cornetto (croissant) and cappuccino (my favorite part of the day). Let’s not forget delicious bread is served at every meal. Better hit the gym, am I right?

The language. This is my first time being in another country that is not Mexico or the U.S. I am Latina, and I am a fluent Spanish speaker. I have never been in a situation where I didn’t know how to communicate with others, how to read a menu, or understand what others are saying. This has truly been eye-opening for me and is pushing me to learn Italian and use it as much as possible throughout my time here.

The time difference. Rome is 7 hours ahead of Chicago time. Although this isn’t really culture related, the time difference has been something I have found difficult to adjust to. Trying to communicate with friends and family back home is difficult because they’re just getting out of class/work by the time it’s 11pm in Rome. Also, when I’m waking up around 8am it’s only 1am in Chicago and everyone is (typically) asleep. However, my friends and family have made a serious effort to plan phone calls/face times/texts to keep in touch, and I am so blessed to have these amazing people in my life.

The transition from living in Chicago my entire life to living in Italy was not initially easy for me and has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone. However, this experience has already changed me for the better and I am excited to see where these next 4 months will take me. Until next time, ciao!


Home Away From Home

Home Away From Home

My new location: Prague, Czech Republic
I left my wonderful home state of Michigan, exactly a week ago today. After a full day of travel consisting of not one, not two, but three three flights. I touched down in Europe. Since then, it has been a whirlwind of meeting people, learning a new language, and exploring my new environment.

I live on a wonderful pastel street with tons of people from the states. USA should step up their game and make their buildings just as cute! I’ve already learned that the conversion rate is truly confusing, 25 crowns

I’ve already learned that the conversion rate is truly confusing, 25 crowns is about 1 dollar, and dogs here are crazy well trained. They walk without leashes! All together Prague or Praha, if you’re local, is truly amazing and full of wonderful places to find at every turn.

That’s all for now!


views from above
views from above
Airport number one - ready to go
Airport number one – ready to go