The GoGlobal Blog

Month: February 2017

What It’s Really Like: Life in District 10

What It’s Really Like: Life in District 10

Not District 10 of the Hunger Games, but district 10 of HCMC. Before I left for Vietnam, I had no expectations, few prior judgments, and honestly no clue of what I would find upon my arrival. While I want to give an accurate picture of what the Vietnam program is like, at least from what I know six weeks in, the mystery of it all is almost half of the adventure. Overall, without spoiling some of the more meaningful details, here are some of the very basic, larger aspects of the program that make it what it is.


Awesome Core Staff.


Currently, there are three main people who run this program: our Director, Chris Albright, our Assistant Director, Wilson Potts, and our Student Life Advisor, Audrey Kelly. These three make the program what it is and offer incredible support, restaurant recommendations, and a professional yet down-to-earth program. From the time that they pick you up at the airport to coordinating service learning projects to working creatively with you to build your best time abroad, they’re willing to both challenge and support you through all of the ups and downs.


Vietnamese Partners.


This part of the program is unique and so helpful. Each Loyola student in the program is paired with a partner, although not limited to them. They are there as a connection to the local culture, a guide through learning the very difficult language, and as a friend. I have started to get to know several of the partners and they all have very unique perspectives. I had the chance to go home with one of the partners during the Tet holiday and meet her family and stay in her home, which was an incredible experience! While my visit got cut short and I may have been the only foreigner for miles, I was blessed with the chance to see what home life looks like for one of the partners, eat great food, and dip my toes in the sea. I also had the chance to go “camping” with many of the partners and members of BKDEC, the dorm’s English club. It was one of the most high-energy, non-conforming times I’ve ever had in my lifetime, but it was so fulfilling to see another side of these students. These students have helped with everything from catching Grab bikes after getting phones taken to getting ice after a pulled muscle from a soccer game to just solid friendship.


Small Program.


The Loyola Vietnam Center is the least populated program of Loyola Chicago’s three global centers. With 16, we’re an average sized group of students attending, although semesters have varied from 3 students to upwards of 20. This creates a great experience in many regards because it allows greater flexibility of the program, more individualized support, and the opportunity for deep connections. It also allows for an awesome orientation week, which included a visit to the AO Cultural Acrobatic Show, which was by far one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. What’s great is that we live in District 10, which is the equivalent of Rogers Park to District 1’s downtown loop, and we study in both Districts 1 and 3. Our core staff all live in District 1 and having everything so spaced out allows for continuous adventure and not getting stuck in one place.


Food. Everywhere.


You can’t turn the corner without being in sight of some sort of food, or motorbikes for that matter. There’s food for every budget and set of taste buds, ranging from $1 pho to upscale Indian food. Beer is cheap and everything from octopus to ostrich to funky desserts are available throughout the city. Now you just have to search!


Great Travel Opportunities.


The Vietnam program offers a combination of planned excursions and free travel weekends. We also have two weeks vacation during the Tet holiday, which happened early this year. Our semester in particular had one week of free travel, with most of us heading to Malaysia, and spending the second week all together for a planned excursion to Cambodia. With the cheapness of SE Asia combined with the close vicinity of many countries, it’s a perfect program if you want to experience several SE Asian cultures, intentionally explore, and up your country count (not that it’s a competition).


Language Barrier.


Being a tonal language, Vietnamese is much harder than learning Spanish, which I’ve been learning since 6th grade. Everywhere I go, I attempt to use my (limited) Vietnamese knowledge and have to rely on the fact that almost everyone I come into contact with knows more English than I do of Vietnamese, which is hard because I feel like I’m forcing them to sacrifice their comfort just so I can order food. Even within the country, locals have a hard time understanding each other because of the different accents. When I was home with one of the partners, she explained that her parents had the central accent, but when they came to the south of Vietnam no one could understand what they were trying to say. The time I felt most confident with my Vietnamese was during one UberBike ride where the driver and I only talked in Vietnamese the whole time (I literally used every single word I know). While I will keep attempting to learn more Vietnamese, I’m learning to accept the small victories rather than expect fluency in three and a half months.


The Challenge.


I came to Vietnam in search of a challenge and adventure, and I was met with more than I could imagine, all in a good way. It’s forced me to observe without judgment, make decisions based solely on my own inner compass (which if you know me is incredibly difficult), and face feelings I never have before. At the same time, I’ve already gained so much from my short time here, and I only expect that to continue to shape me as a person and my experience at Loyola. I traveled to the farthest part of the world from Loyola and picked probably the hardest program for me personally. If you’re desiring to be pushed out of your comfort zone of the Western world and are getting antsy for change like I was, this very well could be the program for you.


All in All.


While I still have two months to go, I already feel like I’m going to be changed for the better through this program. I’m excited to accept the challenge of making study abroad what I want it to be, whatever that ends up looking like.

Summer in South America

Summer in South America

I have now been in Buenos Aires for almost two weeks – Thankfully this program started late, giving me a little over a month and a half at home – and even though I know Chicago has had quite a few warm days since I’ve been gone, I can’t help but miss the cold. I spent over half of 2016 in Southeast Asia, battling 90 and 100-degree weather, and I don’t think I quite prepared for the heat that is Buenos Aires in the summer.

Besides adjusting to constantly sweating again, I have been having a pretty good time. I found that because I am only gone for 3 months this time, as opposed to 7, I was much better prepared for the goodbyes, the airport shenanigans and all the “where are you from?”, “what major are you?” questions that are unavoidable when interacting with a new group for the first time.

Having had a long list of negative experiences with Loyola’s Vietnam Center, I made the decision (back on September 10th if that gives any indication of how early on I noticed major issues with the program) to finish my degree utilizing as many outside programs as possible. After some searching, I stumbled across this IES Multi-Location Program entitled “Emerging Economies” that would allow me to split my time between Argentina, Peru, and Chile. The program did not require me to have any knowledge of Spanish (though I knew it was something I wanted to practice and improve in), and it focused on economics (which I haven’t taken in 5 years), but ultimately it appeared that this program would provide me the challenge, immersion and passionate staff that my last experience lacked.

Things have not always been smooth sailing, however, as nothing ever is. I find this to be one of the joys of traveling, though. I made my second of three flights just as they were closing the gates after having my Mom’s homemade cookies confiscated, both of my perfectly packed packs completely unpacked by TSA and the usual discrepancy of not having a visa, but I arrived safely in Buenos Aires only an hour later than expected.

I arrived at my host mother’s apartment to learn that she speaks very little English (no problem, more practice for me!), and that she is a wonderful cook and talented painter. She is an extremely generous person and made me feel at home immediately. My room – basic, but larger than expected – has no fan or air conditioner. After the first few nights, I finally realized that my window opens (I promise, I really am this close to getting my college degree). This discovery allowed me to sleep more soundly for a few nights, until it ultimately led to a bat finding its way in. If you were wondering, waking up to a bat flying at your head in the middle of the night is not the most pleasant experience. Looks like the window will stay closed from now on, and I will stay drenched in sweat. I learned last year that it at least builds character?

Last weekend all IES student studying in Buenos Aires took a weekend trip to an estancia to enjoy an asado (essentially a BBQ) where I tried cow intestine for the first – and only – time. This weekend, we have a few extra days due to Carnival, so a few friends and I are taking a ferry over to Montevideo, Uruguay. I am looking forward to exploring another city (and a new country) for a few days before returning to my studies and I am excited for the coming months and to experience a unique program design.

Camels, Crack, and the Cold

Camels, Crack, and the Cold

WOW IT’S BEEN SO LONG!!! While Liam Neeson hasn’t had to come rescue me yet, these past few weeks I have actually found myself in a way scarier predicament. Believe it or not, I have been in Spain for about a month and a half now, meaning that it is MIDTERM season. How the heck did that happen!?!?!? But anyway, due to this unfortunate situation that my professors have created with their grossly long and thorough testing, I have not found much free time to blog. So before I completely digress into a pointless tangent about midterms, here is my life-recap for the last 3 weeks!

During the last weekend of January, my friends and I traveled outside of Spain for the first time to Morocco! We booked our trip with a tour agency, who provided all of our transportation and other accommodations, leaving us with very little to worry about. After an extremely long bus ride to the Southern tip of Spain and a ferry ride over the straight, we arrived on the continent of Africa. We were herded (quite literally) right into our planned activities for the day, which included camel rides on the beach, a visit to the Hercules Caves, and a walk through a traditional Moroccan market. The camel rides were incredibly cool, and a little scary. Camels can apparently be pretty dang reckless when they don’t want people sitting on their backs. Who knew. However the bumpy ride was definitely an awesome experience and something that every tourist visiting Morocco should do in my opinion. Blooper: the wind was horrible on the beach that day, so any pictures you see of my friends or I on the camels were 100% staged and had a lot of behind the scenes effort that went into them. Please throw these pictures a “like” to show solidarity with our situation and efforts. The caves were next on the agenda and were also very cool. They were especially beautiful since we arrived right as the sun was setting over the ocean. Lastly, our stroll through the traditional market was very, um, interesting. The vendors could definitely sense the euros in our pockets and thus were very aggressive. Luckily, our guides were good at keeping us moving through the stalls and at pushing the locals away when they did become too eager to sell their goods to us. However at an exchange rate of 10 dirham for every 1 euro, the deals were very enticing. Everyone should expect to receive Moroccan oil from me as gifts for the next few years, as I stocked up big time. We ended the day at a Moroccan restaurant where we got to relax while listening to a live band and brought four courses of food. As someone who loves Mediterranean food, I was definitely in heaven during this trip as the food was both extremely cheap and served in huge portions with multiple courses. We retired to our hotel that night, eager to sleep in a real bed, as the over night bus ride the night before did not leave us feeling too well rested. The hotel itself was very nice, which was surprising to us as we were convinced that “4 Stars” in Africa might be a tad different than the “4 Star” accommodations we think of in the United States. But much to our surprise, we were wrong, and the hotel which was located right on the beach, was perfect. The next morning we headed to Chefchaoeun, nicknamed the “Blue City” for its blue buildings and walls. I loved walking the city, as the markets here were much more calm and friendly to visitors. We spent the whole day here shopping around, relaxing at restaurants, and admiring the aesthetics of the small city. The only negative aspect that I could find were the vast number of cats that roamed the streets. Now hold up. You might be thinking to yourself, “Becca complaining about cats? What has Europe done to this future cat lady?” Well don’t worry, as I still do have an unhealthy level of love for little kitties, but the stray cats in Morocco were honestly the nastiest. One, which we nicknamed Snaggletooth, could be the poster-cat for rabies. But other than the occasional need to run away from Snaggletooth or his gang of friends, the city of Chefchaouen was magical and was an incredible place to visit for the day. The next day we headed home, which included another 11 hour bus ride. While agonizingly long, this did give me much time to reflect on my brief visit to Morocco. It was my first time in a place in which I did not have the slightest clue as to how to read, speak, or understand the language. Communicating with the locals thus was very different and I was reminded that while, fortunate for us, English is spoken in many countries across the world, we can’t always expect this. As a visitor in Morocco, I probably should have researched some basic Arabic phrases that would have helped me communicate, instead of relying on the locals to understand my native language. Another thought I had on the long ride home was about how differently religion has shaped different areas of the world. While Christianity has pervaded the United States and most of Europe, it is Islam that shapes Morocco. The influence of this religion is apparent everywhere, from the more conservative or traditional beliefs,  to the more modest dress. While different, it was extremely interesting to experience.

The next weekend I ventured to Dublin, Ireland. I knew it was going to be an awesome time right away, as I received a huge welcome after a customs worker noticed my last name. This happened even after I tried speaking to her in Spanish, forgetting where I was and that, you know, they actually speak English in Ireland. Duh. Our first day in Ireland was actually not spent in Dublin at all, but on the opposite side of the country at the Cliffs of Moher. We booked a day tour that showed us historic and interesting sights around the Irish countryside on our way to the Atlantic coast. I was shocked at how green the countryside was, even in the beginning of February. I also found it funny that the Irish countryside looks exactly how you’d think the Irish countryside looks – complete with rolling hills, stone fences, small farm cottages, and pastures with grazing animals. The scenery looked almost familiar and like something out a movie, which we later learned, could possible to true as many famous movies were filmed around the Irish countryside. When we finally arrived at the Cliffs, it was an awesome sight to take in. Now, I had seen a million and one photos of the cliffs that past study abroaders had posted, so I had them pegged in my mind as something that would be cool, but mainly a necessary sight for tourists to visit. However I was absolutely blown away when I finally saw them in person. Pictures can not put into perspective just how massive the cliffs are and how beautiful they are with the contrast of the ocean in the background. We were told that we traveled to the cliffs on the nicest winter day imaginable, with relatively clear skies that made them even more impressive to look at. Our tour guide gave us a few hours to spend there, which you may think was unnecessarily long as I originally did, but believe me when I tell you that I could have sat there all day just walking the area and staring at the view. On the ride back to Dublin we all knocked out, as apparently sitting on a bus and looking at cliffs makes for an exhausting day. However upon arrival back in Dublin, we took the advice of our tour guide and headed to a restaurant/pub called The Celt, where we were in for an Irish culture shock. The restaurant was authentically Irish, which prompted my order of bangers and mash with a Guinness. Props to the Irish, because who knew some mashed potatoes topped with sausages could be so freaking good. And the Guinness. Wow. This was my very first Guinness, which being in Ireland, I deemed an appropriate time to officially try. Needless to say I was very happy with my choice, as it has become my new beer of choice. Halfway through dinner, a live singer emerged to entertain the now extremely crowded pub area which created a really fun atmosphere. When we finally did leave, I was happily surprised to find that most of the popular pubs included live music, which I thought was absolutely awesome. I really loved that the pubs in Ireland were laid back, which then attracted a huge diversity of people. In any particular pub, you could find an array of drunk 50 year old men attempting to Irish dance but also young people dressed for the club. The variety of people made people watching very interesting, but also made it acceptable for me to wear gym shoes on our second night out without feeling like a complete idiot. Not complaining at all. Our second day in Dublin was spent exploring the city. We visited Trinity College, Dublin Gardens, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Guinness Storehouse to name a few of the sights. One of the coolest things, in my opinion, was being able to find my family crest and read some information about the “Flynn” family origins. By the end of our stay, I had fallen completely in love with Ireland. From the laid back feel of the cities to the beautiful countryside views, I was completely in awe the entirety of the time we spent in Ireland. I must admit that I was so in love upon my arrival back to Spain, that I actually started looking up law and graduate schools in Ireland. Nevertheless, I am extremely excited to have the chance to visit again at the end of the semester with my parents, and am hoping to feel the same awe that I originally experienced.

Finally, this last weekend was spent Berlin, Germany. My friend and I met up with my cousin who lives in Germany, which was awesome as we got our own private tour guide who speaks the language. I must say that I’m incredibly proud that my friend and I were even able to find the hostel without my cousin, as the German language is quite intimidating to a foreigner. But we spent out first afternoon walking around the area near our hostel and got our first taste of the deep and complex history that the area boasts. We walked to a church named the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which stands today in ruin from bombings that took place during WW2. The church was purposefully kept in ruins as a reminder of the horrors of war, and while the church itself was very powerful, I think I was more intrigued by a recent historical development that happened in that spot. The plaza that the church sits on was also the sight of the 2016 Berlin terror attack, in which a truck drove through a Christmas market killing 12 people. There was a memorial that featured thousands of candles, flowers, and other tributes to the victims on the plaza, which was both beautiful and saddening. How awful, that such a horrible atrocity happened directly next to a monument meant to warn against the destruction of war and hatred. I thought that it was very powerful as it provided a glimpse of the sad reality facing our world today. The next day in Berlin was similarly thought-provoking and disheartening, as we took a walking tour around the city that showcased important WW2 sights. While I cannot say that this was the most fun three hours of my life, I believe it was incredibly important to see, learn about, and attempt to understand what occurred during that time in history. Some of the sights that stuck with me were an old apartment building that, like the church, had kept its original facade after the war. The building was completely covered from top to bottom with bullet holes, without even a square foot left untouched. Again, this is meant to remind the future generations, whom might not experience war firsthand, of its devastation and destruction capabilities. We learned that this building was rare in that it survived the war, whereas most of Berlin was reduced to rubble. It shocked me to learn that because of this, much of Berlin is very new, with some buildings intentionally being rebuilt to appear “old”. This should not have been a shock, but it had never clicked in my head that the need to rebuild virtually everything was another consequence of the war. We also were able to visit the Holocaust Memorial, which features hundreds of cement blocks of all different heights. As you walk between the blocks, they grow in height, leaving you feeling trapped and overwhelmed the farther you venture into the memorial. One interpretation that our tour guide offered us was that the blocks symbolize the organized terror that marked WW2. In the beginning of the war, or at the beginning of the memorial, you notice the blocks, but because they are small and you can still see an exit, you do not think much of them. However as you venture inside, the blocks grow, and an exit is not so easy to find. Eventually the blocks are so tall that you become disoriented and even a little lost, despite the fact that the blocks are organized in a logical, grid-like pattern. This is meant to symbolize how the Nazis were able to enact their terror during the war, as once people allowed them to get away with the “smaller” acts of hatred, their organized system grew until it was all encompassing. Our tour guide was great at pointing out and explaining the meaning behind the sights we saw, and gave us insight into the modern German mindset. She explained how younger generations are taught at a very young age about the atrocities that happened, and that the Germans have chosen to fully acknowledge everything that occurred. I think this is incredibly important and I applaud the modern German government in taking this path, as I believe it is now more than ever important to remember the past and to attempt to learn from past societal mistakes. In my head, I dubbed this day our “WW2 day,” and the next day in Berlin was our “Cold War day.” I feel stupid even admitting this, but I honestly had no idea how big of a part Berlin played during the Cold War. Of course I had heard of the Berlin Wall, but it never registered in my head that it was used to restrict as entire population of people from leaving or entering a section of the city. When we visited the East Gallery and some other sections of the wall, I was honestly a little shocked that I hadn’t learned about this in school, however it later dawned on me that this part of history is so recent that it might not even be written into text books yet. The Berlin wall was especially powerful in light of recent political events, and sections that had been painted with verses saying “NO MORE WALLS” in the 90s are conveniently very relevant again and sadly ironic. We visited Checkpoint Charlie and spent a few hours at the Topographies of Terror exhibit, learning about how the horrors of WW2 turned into the horrors of the Cold War. This could be the German in me, but I felt a little defensive for the city. Like couldn’t the whole Soviet-American face off during the Cold War have happened anywhere else other than Berlin, an already injured and depressed city? I will also admit that my inner history nerd was thriving during this weekend in Berlin, as there was so much to learn about and take in. You could barely walk to the local currywurst or bratwurst vendor without getting slapped in the face with some tidbit of history. Because of this, it might not have been the most over-the-top fun weekend of my life, but I thought it was very cool to stand in a city that hosted events that absolutely shaped the world we live in. While Ireland still has my heart, the history of Berlin along side the new modern vibes, great food, and fun people definitely made it my favorite trip thus far. EVEN THOUGH IT WAS SO FREAKING COLD, I MUST ADD. At one point I didn’t think my toes were going to make it through the weekend. Thankfully all ten were troopers and survived. It was around 20 degrees, which is actually really normal for February in Chicago, but as I have been spoiled and pampered with 50-60 degree weather in Madrid, it was absolutely necessary to complain during our three days spent in real winter temperatures.

While Berlin was obviously very insightful, I assure you that I also learned a thing or two in Morocco and Ireland as well! So here is the “I promise I’m actually learning while living it up in Europe for 5 months” list for the last three trips!
– In Morocco: 1) Arabic is written right to left, who knew?? 2) Morocco, while on the African continent, actually still receives snow. You can see it high up on the mountains while driving through the countryside. 3) Tangier is home to a Laughing Cow production factory. As such, I ate a ton of Laughing Cow cheese that weekend.
– In Ireland: 1) In Galeic, “crack” is synonymous with “fun” or “having a good time.” So for example, I can say that “I had so much crack in Ireland” without it meaning that I ingested really scary, bad drugs. Hence the title of the blog post. No need for concern or drug therapy. (Also if anyone brings up the title and does not know what it means, then I will know you did not read through this post entirely, and thus you will be exposed for being super fake and I will not like you anymore.) 2) St. Patrick was not from Ireland, but from Wales. 3) It take 119.5 seconds to properly pour a pint of Guinness. This was obviously the most important fact from the trip, and why I saved it for last.
– In Berlin: 1) While giving a speech in Berlin, JFK attempted to express empathy to the citizens and say something along the lines of “I am also a Berlin citizen.” Due to grammatical issues, he instead said “I am a jelly donut.” 2) Berlin has the second highest Turkish population outside of Turkey itself. As such food such as the “currywurst” have been popularized, something we can all be happy about. 3) The interior Reichstag, or main governmental building, is mostly made of glass so that citizens and visitors can observe their government while they meet and decide important government things. It is so open today because they messed things up so badly in the past, to say the least.

So I know I know I know it took me forever and a half to finally write this post, but I was obviously just building suspense. I like to keep the demand higher than the supply (can you guess my major???). But I do hope this was worth the wait, and thanks for reading everyone!

Guggenheim, Gondolas, and the Grand Canal

Guggenheim, Gondolas, and the Grand Canal

Words of advice: GO TO VENICE

I had high expectations for my trip to Venice, and I can safely say my expectations were exceeded. If you study abroad, Venice should most definitely be on your top 5 list! I arrived in Venezia, Italia at approximately 19:30. Right in front of my face as I walked outside of the train station, was the grand canal and beautiful, colorful buildings. Due to my lack of geography knowledge, I was not aware Venice was an island until I was planning my trip. My friends and I had to take a ferry down the grand canal to get to our Airbnb. Even in the dark and cold, Venice was beautiful. Seeing the lights of the buildings reflect on the water of the grand canal and breathing in the salt water air was quite the greeting.

The following day, my friends and I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection Museum. This is a must do when you’re in Venice!! As someone who is very interested in art, I was stoked for this. Peggy had gathered quite the collection of art in her life. She owned pieces by Salvador Dahlí, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock. Getting to see Dahlí and Picasso pieces in person was incredible! 10/10 would recommend this museum.

Later in the day, we visited the Libreria Acqua Alta. This is a famous bookstore in Venice that has many different books of all kinds, languages, and years. In addition, there is a very large gondola in the middle of the store FULL of books. And of course, in the back, there are steps made out of books that you can physically step on. The wear and tear from the books being outside and surviving the elements is visible but makes it that much cooler.

Of course, my favorite thing about visiting Venice was the gondola ride. It wasn’t until I was on the gondola in the middle of the grand canal with the Rialto Bridge behind me and the gondolier yelling Italian that it really sunk in that I am really here…in Italy…studying abroad. I am having experiences that I never thought I would have, and especially at the age of 20. I have learned to fully immerse myself in the Italian culture and love the things I didn’t at first. I am forever grateful for my parents, who made it and continue to make it possible for me to be here. I am learning to live more in the moment and appreciate my surroundings.

I am only a month into my study abroad experience, and I feel that I am already different than I was when I left Chicago. I highly recommend studying abroad to anyone who is able to. Everyone needs to be taken out of their comfort zones sometimes and view things from a different perspective. You learn differently when you study abroad. I am learning and experiencing things that could have not been possible sitting in a classroom.

Until next time, arrivederci! 🙂

venezia IMG_5791


Hot dogs

Hot dogs

After so many weeks, its me again! I guess I am not too great at this blogging thing. I’ll have to work on it…

I really wish I could narrow the focus of this post to my recent adventures because I’ve had so many. I recently spent an incredible 6 day escapade in Kraków, Poland with 5 friends. Then this past weekend I spent 4 days in Tromsø, Norway (in the Arctic circle!) with 11 other people. I really do have so much to say about those experiences, but there is something resting on my mind that I can’t push out. So instead of discussing my monumental tour at Auschwitz, or how I saw the Northern lights with my very own eyes, I am going to hash out something very different….

I feel lost.

Clearly, I don’t mean physically… I also don’t mean that I am lost within the meaning and purpose of my life, bla bla bla. Strangely enough, I almost am ok with not knowing what I want to do with my life anymore, even though that has tormented me since I was quite young.

No, I feel lost because I don’t know who I am anymore.

Here I was, within the first two weeks of arriving in Norway, hiking with 5 guys through the forests of Frognerseteren. It is on the hill of Oslo, at the end of line 1 on the metro. It was a clear day down in Oslo, but after the 45 minute uphill train ride, we starting to see snow building up on the ground outside the windows. When we finally arrived, snow was actually falling. I was overjoyed at the sight, because this is why I came to Norway! To hike and ski and explore the snowy, cold landscape!

The hike was beautifully frigid. As we were just about to get back to the metro, I heard some music. This wasn’t ordinary music though, it was practically bumping as though the forest was having a rager. Keep in mind we were in the middle of nowhere so I was highly confused and thought I was imagining it. I told the other guys to listen and when it was confirmed that I wasn’t crazy, I urged them to go with me to see where it was coming from, even though that meant staying in the cold longer. I’ll never forget my friend Will when he said, “Always follow the music, it’ll never steer you wrong.”

Low and behold, we literally came across a party in the middle of nowhere. It was the law students going wild the week before their classes began. They had a red bull truck blasting music, hot dogs on barbies filling the air with yummy scents, and for fun, they were throwing bricks to see how far they could get them. Right before a person would through the brick, everyone would be chanting and yelling in Norwegian. The person at bat would chuck the brick as far as they could, some reaching farther than others. The whole scene was absolutely ridiculous and awesome all at the same time.

My friend Sam was the first to go grab a hot dog without really asking them. When the other guys saw that the students were ok with us crashing the party, they proceeded to go grab one as well. Out of nowhere, and especially without thinking, I joined in. By the time that we left the party in the forest, I had eaten 2 of the most delicious hot dogs.

There is nothing inherently wrong about eating a hot dog, except for the fact that I have been a vegetarian for 8 years. EIGHT YEARS. Then all of a sudden, with no remorse or contemplation, I just ate 2 for no reason whatsoever. Heck, I wasn’t even that hungry.

I probably sound crazy, but that’s just one small example illustrating how I don’t even know who I am anymore. How could I be a certain way for 8 freaking years, and then just forgo it without a single care in the world? It is not that I am mad at myself, because I certainly am far from it. However, I am just confused with myself. How can I do something with not even understanding why I did it?

A big problem is that I think unconsciously I thought my experience in Norway would be similar to the two month experience I had when I lived in Iceland this past summer. I learned so much there beyond academics. The best way I would describe it to people is that I learned so much about myself, about other people, and especially about how I interact with the world.

To elaborate, I learned I could be a truly great listener and that I am amazingly talented at getting strangers to open their lives up to me. I relearned how much I love reading, and I read so much especially when I returned from Iceland. And finally, I learned just how independent I am. I loved being by myself, venturing off whenever and wherever I wanted to. It was so freeing, I couldn’t get enough!

Here in Oslo, it’s a totally different story. I feel like I talk about myself way too much, I never feel like reading, and I feel so dependent! I can’t travel anywhere or do anything without the little crew I’ve grown accustomed to being around, and this bothers me! It’s like I just changed out of nowhere and I don’t understand why or how.

Right before sitting down to write this, I just had a really good conversation with two of my roommates, Cami and Frances. Cami is from Argentina and Frances from Canada. I had just gotten back from the gym and on the walk home all of this had really started to wear down on me. Without showering I just went into the kitchen because I saw they were there. I asked if it was ok if I talked about something bothering me, and they genuinely said of course, and then we spent a few hours just talking.

It honestly made me feel better. I was partially getting frustrated that I am spending so much time here with people that don’t really even know me and vice versa. We never really have deep conversations about life, love, hardship, anything for that matter. It is all just fun and games. Frances, on that note, had a good comeback; why don’t I change that? Why don’t I start and encourage conversation beyond the surface? Damn, good point.

Cami, in response to my fears of changing, said that everyone changes. I used to believe though that the core of every person stays the same, despite changing a lot on the outside. Nonetheless, she had a good retort to that. How do you differentiate between the surface and the core of a person? I shouldn’t be worrying about whether I am losing the very heart of who I am because it’s just not even possible to tell if I am or not.

I guess at the end of the day, and with a good 4 hours of valuable studying time gone, I still feel lost. However, I think like Frances said, I need to stop worrying and stop overthinking. Me changing might be a slow process that I never saw coming but it’ll be ok. Besides this is exactly what people always said will happen when you study abroad. (How cliche).

For now, you can catch me sticking around Oslo for the next few weeks, probably eating some chicken and hotdogs while I’m at it. I’ll try to post soon some details about all the spectacular places I have traveled to already and all the wonderful people I have met.

Until next time, Lola blog…

Reiseziel: Berlin

Reiseziel: Berlin

Sometimes I don’t believe that Google translate is correct. Do you ever wonder what would happen if you were so sure you were saying something correctly in a foreign language but it actually means something entirely different? Luckily my friend and I were pleasantly surprised to find out that most people in Berlin do in fact speak English-which saved a lot of effort on our part when we both felt painfully disrespectful when even trying to pronounce the simplest of words. No matter, Welcome! to Berlin, Germany that is.

25 January marked the first weekend of travel freedom for the JFRC students. Being in the heart of Europe, it’s hard not to want to visit every possible country in this beautiful hemisphere of the world. Sitting in the coffee lounge after dinner hours you can hear the excitement as friends book their travel plans and the pitter patter of keys on a laptop as they fill out their itineraries. Though I try my best to be as put together and pre-planned as possible, this trip was a spur of the moment/ “wow flights are cheap on a Monday prior to the weekend we want to travel” kind of thing.

I never thought I would actually have the opportunity to travel to any of the places I have saved underneath my “Places to go” notes tab on my phone; let alone look at any of my saved Pinterest pins for traveling, but now I have 14 weekends to do so. The first trip I planned was Berlin, Germany- a 2 hour flight and polar opposite culture than Rome. Small difference include the language (English, German, French, Hindi, and so many others), the FOOD (different cultures=variety of delicious food!), and the scenery (no mountains?!).

Some bigger, more noticeable differences were the transit systems, which were very similar to that of Chicago or any largely populated city. Berlin had an above and underground rail system, buses, and a dart train-wow! It was surprising that still many people owned cars in a city so public transit friendly. The fast pace of the transit made me miss Chicago and the 147 outer drive express bus and dare I say even the L.

Another huge difference was the graffiti! Tags, paste-ups, wall art, murals, you name it! Walls of the most elegant buildings were juxtaposed with the signage on ground level. No matter what part of the city we traveled to, there was bound to be graffiti on every corner. Being the photo fanatics that we are, my friend and I decided to go on a graffiti tour to (1) discover the underlying stories about Berlin’s graffiti scene and (2) take some amazing photos of some of the rarest graffiti pieces. During our tour, we learned about the stories of famous artists who travel around Europe to display their art, Berlin being one of the most famous stops for most because of the inspiring culture. We found out that most Germans or people who live within the graffiti-stricken city find the art to be super cool! Artists often work together on pieces and most walls are dedicated to activism- which makes for a good explanation as to why Berlin seems like a really up-and-coming, proactive city. Most people would rather display the artwork done by others rather than spend lots of money to cover it up, which also explains why many new building are covered in art months after the build is finished–a new canvas! Despite what many may think of graffiti, having the opportunity to learn more about what some artists try to portray in their pieces was something I’ll always remember.

We also made a trip to see the ruins of the Berlin Wall along the East Side Gallery, where the most well preserved portion of the wall still stands and displays famous murals done by artists. It was a moving experience getting to see the wall that divided and conquered so many lives. Seeing the artists portrayal of the shared feelings among the world during that time brings about many parallels to our own society today. Though the wall is among the most visited tourist destinations in Germany, it was difficult not to understand what the wall once stood for. Pictures and trinkets do no justice to seeing the wall for yourself.

Besides the incredible art, Berlin also has some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had! From American inspired burgers, to traditional Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, should you ever find yourself in Berlin, here’s a couple places you MUST (trust me, and if you don’t, trust Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp which all helped us find these places) go try.

Roamer’s Coffee and Booze- A folky, Pacific North West inspired cafe that curated the most amazing homemade breakfast dishes. When I say “you could taste the love in each bite” I do not kid. From freshly squeezed juices, to mint infused–free– water (which they don’t have anywhere else in Germany!), to scratch made walnut apple cinnamon rolls, this cafe did every possible things to win my heart a thousand times over. We found ourselves grabbing the menu after finishing the last bite of what we had just before, because everything was worth trying. Fair warning that the restaurant storefront was quite small, but place is well worth a wait.

The Bird- American inspired (do you sense a theme here?) burgers with a German twist! Actually, Germany is known for their burgers and fries (maybe Americans are just copying them????) The meat was so tender and delicious, fries seasoned to your heart’s desires, and the nicest wait staff who couldn’t help but strike up a conversation with us, English speakers. The entire menu ranged from the most homegrown veggie burgers, to the juiciest bacon, ham, and meaty-meat burgers. I won’t forget to mention the delicious barbecue sauce at every table- the way to any Kansas City girl’s heart.

Though we stumbled on The Bird restaurant looking specifically for a burger, I would keep in mind that if meat isn’t for you, there were quite a few (or a lot of) options for vegans or vegetarian diets around Berlin. Signs that read “bio” (which meant organic) almost always corresponded with “vegan” which made me happy for my vegan friends back at home who would love to hear about the wide array of options they would have if I ever took them across the world for lunch. I may have even found a cute Vegan dessert spot: (Keep reading… I always promise donuts!)

Brammibals Doughnuts- Donuts in a foreign country? Wacky flavors? (This was a smoked coconut and maple donut…yum) I’m all for it. This small donut lounge was adorned with shabby decorations, and neon lights- one’s that I just wish I could have taken a photo of, but neon lights aren’t photogenic in broad daylight… The hipster vibe was the perfect destination for a quick coffee stop during our weekend exploration. Pop in for a delicious donut and sip on the most fabulous almond milk chai latte like the one I had- you won’t regret it OR the sticker you can grab on the way out with a cute pink donut on it.

Enjoy the art, enjoy the food, but most of all, enjoy Berlin and all that it has to offer.

This One’s for Sufjan

This One’s for Sufjan

Walking on the beach of Phu Quoc Island, looking distantly into the horizon of the South China Sea while listening to Oceans is an incredible experience. Less incredible was walking behind an older woman who’s bikini top was at her waist and her bottom piece was more nonexistent than existent, if you know what I mean. Over the weekend I spent 48 hours in retirement paradise amongst mostly people old enough to be my grandparents. I met up with a new friend, Kate from Canada, and shared laughs over the fact that we were the “young chicks” as one sweet older couple called us.

As she headed off to motorbike around the island, I headed off in search of clean beaches and time to reflect over the last 4 weeks of my life. As I walked, I strolled through street markets, to local areas, to dirt roads, to talking with local children just getting out of school, to accidentally stumbling upon and deliberately sneaking into a 5-star resort with a beautiful beach. Here’s the thing though: it worked. As I walked onto the beach and set up camp, I wasn’t questioned. I blended in, sitting there amongst the small crowd of variably tan white people, and was never questioned whether or not I belonged there. It was then that I realized that the privilege I have in the US as a white female is just as real here and everywhere else in the world. The whiteness of my skin is a ticket to not being questioned of my authority or belonging. So what do I do with that? How do I treat my privilege here or anywhere? These are the questions I’ve had for much of college and studying abroad continues to confront me with this, especially living in a district mostly populated by local Vietnamese. I still don’t have answers. I do my best to acknowledge my privilege and bias but I fail all too often. One important lesson I learned from an international experiential education conference I attended a couple of years ago is that there is a 100% chance that you will offend others at least one point in your life when trying to make cross-cultural connections and confront your own privilege. However, now more than ever you have to make room for brave space. Be okay with the fact that you will fail and try anyway. I’ve learned the most through conversations with others, and I’ve already had several eye-opening conversations here about race and what it means to be a foreigner in Vietnam.


Cassia Cottage


So switching gears a bit, I’m a month in and have been blessed enough to have done a ton of traveling and bouncing around within SE Asia. However, I’ve been yearning for something more, something more immersive. And yet, I’m the only one getting in my way. There are moments of motivation where I reach out to service organizations that are mostly Vietnamese run or have conversations with locals who don’t have English as their first language that push me outside of my comfort zone. And then there are moments that have me running to my cà phê sữa đá in English-speaking cafés and my bed with Netflix. I want to be happy enough with the progress I’ve made so far, the small victories, the lessons I’ve learned, but I can’t help but think that there’s more to this. Should I just throw my computer out the window, cut off all ties to the US and walk out my front door in search of solely Vietnamese company? Should I keep enjoying my status quo of classes, cafes, banh mi, and short interactions with locals? As I struggle through what it means to be in search of an immersive study abroad experience, any advice can be directed to 497 hoa hao, Phuong 4, Quan 10, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. At the beginning of the year I made a list of 17 for ’17 achievable goals for the year that would challenge me to open up my perspective of the world and enjoy each moment as it comes. While I’m happy that I’ve started to make progress on many of them, I’m realizing more and more how little I know and have experienced so far.


Fisherman off the coast of the South China Sea
 Fisherman off the coast of the South China Sea


So by now you’re probably wondering why I titled this post the way I did. For reading this far, I’m granting you the answer. So one thing that’s great about all of the flights around SE Asia is that they all play music while boarding and getting off. On my solo flight to Phu Quoc, excited for the weekend ahead, I knew it was going to be a good time because as soon as we landed, they started playing an anthem by the great hero, Sufjan Stevens. And not just any song, but “Chicago” of all possibilities. I took this as a sign that not only is it going to be okay, but I need to see each moment for what it is and accept each emotion as they come. Between signing myself up for an adventure race in April, joining a local church, and continuing to make a name for myself here in Vietnam, I’m slowly but surely learning who I really am and want to be, all the while experiencing things I never could have dreamed of before coming here.


Here’s my motto for the rest of the semester:


Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry. – Jack Kerouac


Catch you on the flip side.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park

Fun fact: There are only six national parks in Ireland.
Another fun fact: I want to all of them before I leave.
This past weekend I started and went to Killarney National Park. I talked about my needing to start my National Park Challenge enough that five other girls agreed to go with me. It was one of those trips in which you could plan and research it inside and out, but then have no idea what to expect when you go. So basically any international trip. The girls and I got on a bus bright and early Saturday morning, only knowing we had to get off in Killarney. Where exactly? We weren’t sure. The bus ride was around two hours long, but all of us wouldn’t have cared if it were five hours long. Our eyes were glued to the window and to the green wonderland that was passing by. Rolling hills covered in different green swatches, charming farm houses with sheep frocking in its field, and heartwarming towns that smelled like candies and happiness-we could have looked out the window all day. Although, about an hour and a half into our journey all of us were shocked to our core; there before us were snowcapped mountains. IRELAND HAS MOUNTAINS! All of us stared in disbelief at the scene and then started yelping for joy when we realized that we were going to those mountains. Those mountains were Killarney National Park! (Okay so maybe we didn’t plan and research this trip inside and out).
Getting off the bus, we found our way into the park and instantly were in awe. The monstrous mountains stole our attention as they guarded over the green valleys and forests of the park. The sky and trees had a morning mist, a thin layer of fog blanketed the grass, and you could feel the earliness of the hour in the air. Everything was dense, yet gentle. An overwhelming peace crept over us and it seemed as if we all entered a dream state. Dazed, we just started walking. We followed no path nor any sense of direction. Just go to the mountains. We walked  through the rain, the muck, and the grass until we came to a fence. We honestly did not know what to do and just kind of stood there waiting for it to open or something. In silence we stood for over a minute in the hazy surroundings, trying to snap out of it and gather a plan. Then a car drove up to us. I did a double take. Sure enough, in the middle of this green valley a white van was pulling up to us. Unsure how to even start comprehending this, I simply waved my hand and got the van’s attention. The white van pulled over and two nicely dressed Irish men politely gave me directions to a path they thought we would enjoy and then causally drove away into forest. This was easily the most bizarre scenario that could have happened but we all just went with it like it was normal. We followed their directions and sure enough found a mossy path along a gurgling river. The Irish men were right, we would enjoy this path.
The rushing blue river was lovely, but our main attention was on the trees. There were massive trees with branches eagerly reaching towards to the sky and moss scampering to cover any bare bark. There was not enough room for these trees to expand so the roots and branches became entwined and tangled together, creating an allusion of one overpowering tree. It was love at first sight and I never wanted to leave. But all good things have to come to an end, so we turned the corner.
I couldn’t feel much remorse, for leaving the woodsy enclosure for each part of the hike was a new type of mesmerizing. We walked through open green fields, looking at the now clear and wide view of the mountains; we walked through stone cobbled paths by the lake, listening to the luring lullaby of the water; and we walked through fairytale-like forests, smelling the fresh earthy soil. It was hours of pure bliss. Nature has an odd way of making me feel like my truest self, of making me feel like I belong, of making me feel like I am home.
We left Killarney with heavy hearts and our heads full of plans to come back. Walking around ten miles worked up an appetite, so we walked around the little city outside the park and found a place to eat. After a nice relaxed meal, we checked our phones and left the restaurant in a chaotic sprint trying to find our bus stop. We had twenty minutes before our bus left. Panicked, with ten minutes left, we scrambled aimlessly around the city asking anyone and everyone for help. Five minutes left, we were running distressed from street to street. Two minutes past the departure time, we see our green bus driving towards the exit of the city. Screaming and waving we run to it. The bus driver spots us, pulls over, waits for us to reach him, and then lets us on with a warm welcome.
What to take away from this article; Irish people are the nicest people on Earth, Ireland has mountains, and Killarney National Park is beautiful.

“Italy in the Spring is so warm,” they said

“Italy in the Spring is so warm,” they said

Benvenuto! I have survived almost an entire month in this beautiful foreign land and I have lots to share about the weather, the people, and most importantly- to me at least, the food. Though arriving here was a story to be told in itself, I’ve already made a home away from home atop the hill locals call Balduina, otherwise known as the “stairclimber” that houses the John Felice Rome Center. However you chose to stumble upon my page, I welcome you! Please stay, take a seat, make a snack-or two and pour a cup (of coffee) because I tend to write more than I actually talk in person. Obviously, I have lots to say during this new experience in my life, so I am so very happy you came to join in a little piece of my study abroad story that I choose to share with you.

GETTING HERE: My trip to the John Felice Rome Center was anything but ordinary. Choosing to fly without a group to a hemisphere of the world that I’ve never been to actually wasn’t the hardest part of my trip. It was, in fact the weather. Thank the Heavens for unpredictable Midwestern weather that caused Chicago int’l airport to limit all flights in bound and outbound to 2 lanes due to wind-yes, wind… gotta love the MidWest. This caused a plethora of cancelations including my flight to Chicago which is where I was to connect to London then on to Italy. Four delayed hours later, a grande iced coffee from Starbucks (which I had no idea would be my last…), and a few nervous sweats later I found myself on a flight to Chicago and on a rescheduled overnight flight to London. In London I met the nicest English people who showed me the European version of “Southern Hospitality” by giving me free food and coffee after I stress ranted to random strangers after they caught me staring up from my book… not sorry about it. And though I found myself enjoying listening to the soft whispers of many accents while in London, it was a strange and new relief to had finally made it to my final destination in Rome, Italy 3 airborne  hours later.

BEING HERE: When you’re first introduced to study abroad you think of all the luxuries you’ll experience while in another country. New people, new places, so much to see and experience. They however, do not share with you how to overcome the ever confusing language-speed barrier… I’m slowly getting through it with Italian 101 knowledge (and without a curling iron, because Google Translate does not tell you the various responses a hair salon can give you after you simply ask for “un ferro arriciacappelli”) or the drastic difference in transportation (public transit is everyone’s friend, except in Italy where it takes 45 minutes for your “arriving” bus to get to the stop) BUT that’s the point, right? I didn’t travel across the world to expect things to be exactly like America. Nonetheless, things take time getting used to and I’m all for it- give it to me, Italy!

Getting the opportunity to travel around the Eastern Hemisphere alone was something that really attracted me to applying for this program. I’ve always considered myself a soloist or at least someone who is perfectly content with being independent. But I didn’t realize how much “alone” time I would have until the first week when I found out that most, if not all people came here with a group of friends. As a Psychology major I know that people need established relationships in order to thrive. And though I love being alone it was a hard transition when I didn’t know many people. Like all new things though, I knew that people would be in the same boat as me, so I wasn’t completely discouraged to find fish just like me (ha ha). To make a long story short, I found some wonderful people– very deserving the long story, but will save for later– who love donuts as much as I do, pump coffee as much as I do, and listen to music that I figured nobody else cared for (WOW, the world works in strange ways, right?)

((I THIINK It’s always important to remember that no matter what you’re feeling, someone is also experiencing the same thing. So I urge you to have the courage to find them, share some food– in my case, pizza at a touristy restaurant- and be you… as complicated as it may all sound, it gets quite easy to discuss over a meal.))

This entire month has been jam packed with new experiences, some very hard, others so exciting and new, but I wouldn’t change it. As cheesy as it all sounds, the reality is that transition is tough, but we all need to do it- and I did! I can now truthfully text my mom that, “I’m okay” (she’s been worried, as you can imagine sending her golden child across the pond). I’ve now made a new home on a hill and the start has been 1) very cold outside, 2) full of endless bottles of wine (do as the Romans do -at dinner- right?), and 3) ready for me to take full advantage of the scenery, the culture, and the food, oh my, the food.

As my study abroad life continues, I will update this blog for all who can tolerate my run-on sentences. I hope each time you leave my page with some words of wisdom- or a laugh or two (laughing is good). We all need something to look forward to- so I’m looking forward to seeing you soon!

Here are a “few” pictures from Orientation weekend here at the JFRC to the coast of Italy. Enjoy and Arrivederci!

Win in Berlin

Win in Berlin

( I’m sorry … but … yes , I’m going to try and keep up with the ‘punny’ titles for all of my posts … just try to see past it if it really bothers you … )

This past weekend I went on my first independently planned trip of my study abroad semester !! Wohoo !!

— SO basically this post is going to be about my recommendations based on my trip to the said country and/or city , and I’m going to try and do this for every trip that I do in fact take part of in hopes that it might help you in your future travel whoever you may be … —

ANYWAYS … this past weekend a dear dear friend of mine ( lol we met each other on the orientation weekend trip a little over a week ago … PTL she hasn’t gotten sick of me yet !! ) and I traveled by the immaculate Ryanair to Berlin, Germany for the weekend ! And what an amazing weekend it turned out to be ! And let me tell you , it was not really at all like I thought it would be , which is always a good thing … life’s gotta keep you on your toes !

SO Berlin is an UBER diverse city . And it can be seen through a weekend trip of hitting all the highlights . It is filled to the brim with hipsters , tourists , various cultures (German , Indian , Turkish , Greek , Vietnamese , Cambodian , Sudanese , etc. etc. etc.) , homeless people , white collared business people , graffiti artists , punk rockers , backpackers , street vendors , AND SO MUCH FREAKING MORE !! Basically what I’m saying is that no matter who you are ,  Berlin has a place where you can feel loved . It has truly turned into such an accepting city and those are almost impossible to come by these days .

My top recommendations for if/when you go to Berlin are …

  • Take a couple hours and walk the East Side Gallery which is the longest open air gallery in the WORLD by stretching 1,316 meters long. This area of the remaining Berlin Wall is a monument to the fall of the physical separation of East and West, with Germany’s peaceful overcoming and still to this day is a symbol to many of reunification. Give yourself time to take in all of the 101 murals on this stretch of the wall and simply reflect. The messages that this wall delivers says so much about the past, present, and future that we all need to be reminded of daily.
  • Schedule a Street Art Workshop through Alternative Berlin Tours. During this 4.5-5 hour stretch of time you will be taken on a tour of the back streets of Berlin to discover truly amazing graffiti / mural / street art (and yes, all 3 of those are VERY different ). Your tour guide will either be a graffiti writer / street artist / or both and this is a very key part of the day because not only do they know where all the best stuff is …  they will also offer an insight to you about this culture of street art that you probably have never considered prior. AND THEN at the end, you get to go to their workshop and get a tutorial on both street art and graffiti techniques AND practice such with actual spray paint. My friend and I took this tour and it was without a doubt a large highlight of our trip to Berlin and now we find it hard to pass street art on the streets of Rome without pausing to appreciate it or even recognize the artist that was there based on what we remember from the streets of Berlin.
  • Pay your respects at the Memorial for European Jews. Although this memorial may seem slightly out of the way from all of the other things that you will want to do in Berlin, once you step into this memorial you will completely forget that. You will get lost in the vastness and solemness of it. It is incredibly hard to explain, I got light headed walking through actually it was that overwhelmingly moving that I had to sit down. AND please please please do not conform to the disrespectful tourists that will be around you running in and out of the memorial or posing for ‘artsy’ pictures and what not. Trust me you will have time for that elsewhere.
  • Explore the flea markets ( called flohmarkts there ) and street fairs that Berlin will have on the daily! We went to the RAW Flohmarkt , the Boxhanger Flohmarkt , and a street fair that just happened to be going on the day that we checked-into our Airbnb and was just down the street! Not only are the set ups of these markets fun ( RAW is set up in the former site of the largest railway reconnaissance station ) but you never know what you will find & this environment is great for basking in the culturally diversified population of Berlin. — I actually ended up buying a map of Chicago from 1894 for only 20 euros —
    • Brammibals Doughnuts
      • Do you miss the interesting doughnuts that are around found all over Chicago? Pop into Brammibals to go back home for a little bit. — Side note , yes these doughnuts are vegan but they are still amazing nonetheless. —
    • Wonder Waffel
      • Why do Germans love waffels so much? Because they consume them COMPLETELY different than how we do!! At Wonder Waffel you first have to choose your sauce … then your fruit … then your ice cream … and then your toppings … I got nutella, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, almonds, and chocolate ice cream. You MAY feel like you will explode post-waffel BUT you will be happy without a doubt. And you’re studying abroad, pounds don’t count until you step off that plane back onto American soil right? OH also they will write your name in chocolate sauce on your plate so if you like taking pictures of your food … here’s a perfect photo-op !!
    • Good Morning Vietnam
      • SO good … just trust me ! ( I had some kind of noodle dish … I could bet that they are all great though )
    • Restaurant Bastard
      • My friend and I went here for brunch and it was amazing. The vibe, the coffee, the food so so so great ! You won’t regret going here at all and you will probably feel cooler by going … at least I did … I can’t speak for everyone though.
    • The Bird
      • PREPARE YOUR ARTERIES !!! Do you miss the fatty and greasy food of the states yet ?!?!? Surprisingly enough, at least it was surprising to my friend and I, Germany is known and quite popular for their burgers and fries … and if you go to The Bird you will NOT be let down. And this is all coming from a girl that really only likes burgers in the states if they come from her dad’s bar sooooo maybe I’d say I’m a reliable source on this one? ( I got DA Bird which I HIGHLY recommend, you’re SO incredibly welcome in advance ) Oh and PLEASE don’t gip yourself and skip out on their fries … probably some of the best fries I ever have eaten … like I didn’t even ask for BBQ sauce to eat them with and for me that’s a HUGE deal.
    • Amrit
      • Walking the streets of Berlin the smells of spices from Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants alike tumble through the air and after a while you will find yourself craving either a falafel shawarma or some chicken curry. For my friend and I it was whatever we ran into first which happened to be this HUGE Indian restaurant that was booming with business. And their food attested to why it was ! — and don’t worry if your’e a spicy crier like me … there are enough mild foods that will satisfy your hunger.
    • Roamers
      • IF YOU DO ANYTHING ON THIS BLOG LET IT BE THIS !!!!! The environment , the food , the music , the staff , the drinks , literally everything will have you smiling from ear to ear … that is if you have a heart … yup … I went there. AND I have to admit that this is where I believe I have consumed the best meal that I will ever have the honor of receiving and consuming. ( there may or may not have been tears )  I had a homemade granola bowl ( homemade granola, yogurt, homemade berry compote, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, chia seeds, sesame seeds, honey, and bee pollen ) and my friend had avocado toast with a poached egg. Oh and … GET A CINNAMON ROLL !!!
      • Get some coffee , get some fresh juice , get your brunch , get a pastry , and hey maybe stay for your next meal !!!! ( I regret not staying 100 % )
      • If that didn’t sell you … here is how they describe themselves on their website : “Farm house charm with a breeze of California,woody & rustic, stuffed with plants & country music, handcrafted food adorned with a fistful of love.” AND MAN OH MAN will you feel the love !!!
      • NOW if that didn’t sell you … here is the quote that they basically live by : “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers” RIGHT ?!?! amazing.
  • DRINK UP ( I apologize in advance for you beer lovers …  I know I know Germany is known for their beer but c’mon … I’m a coffee girl whaddya expect ?! )
    • Silo Coffee
      • They also have food options but are always very packed.
    • Brammibals (again)
    • Roamers (again)

— ENDING SIDE NOTE — Bring a filled water bottle with you everywhere unless you enjoy the feeling of dehydration ! Berlinians ( I just made that up … creative huh?!? It’s why they pay me the big bucks !! jkjk I’m not paid for this … ) do NOT drink water !!!!!! When my friend and I would go to dinner ( namely Good Morning Vietnam and Amrit ) and ask for water as we always do back home we would sometimes have to order alcohol first and then get a shot glass sized water offering. And don’t even try to get a refill … we tried at a restaurant and the server said that was all we could receive. Like we couldn’t even pay for water. —

ANWAYS, anyways, bring a water bottle with you and simply go to Berlin and enjoy all that the very very cultured city has to offer you. Soak it all in man.