The GoGlobal Blog

Month: December 2018



I never knew much about Amsterdam, but it had always been on my bucket list. I don’t know why I always had this gut feeling to go, but I did, and without doing any research on the city my friends and I booked a flight there for a weekend. If only I had known that a weekend was nowhere near enough time.

Our trip to Amsterdam came at a rough time. We conveniently planned it for the weekend before I had three final exams and three major essays due, and my stress was at an all-time high. The night before we left, I was in my room alone, grumpily packing my bag and wishing I could just sleep in in the morning rather than catch my early-morning flight. I almost didn’t even want to go, but I also had no idea what was coming.

While running on hardly any sleep, the ride to the airport, the wait, the flight, and the bus into Amsterdam were all a complete blur. It was a cloudy morning and I had not had a drop of coffee, so everything is a bit hazy. Our first stop was at an adorable breakfast restaurant where I finally truly opened my eyes after sipping on a hot cappuccino and taking my first bite of an authentic Dutch pancake. It was then that I realized I was literally in a dream world. The buildings all looked like they were etched out perfectly for a Christmas movie set. The people spoke with such eloquence in their Dutch accents. The weather was just brisk enough to refresh you but not cold enough to make you shiver. The streets were busy, with bikes whizzing past you in every direction all at once, but they did it so effortlessly it was almost relaxing. I loved how you could bump into a canal in almost any direction, and even though it made it made it a little confusing to get around, I didn’t mind getting lost one bit.

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Amsterdam, but every step I took I found something to admire. There’s something so quaint about a city that’s bustling with bikes and has tulip shops on street corners. We stayed across the street from the Van Gogh museum, and everywhere I looked, the people of the Netherlands paid homage to their beloved Vincent. A city that loves art, flowers, bikes, and canals is a city for me.

We, of course, had to make the touristy stop to the “I amsterdam” sign, where two very kind British guys helped me conquer my fear of heights and lifted me up onto the sign. We made our way around the city center, and even stumbled upon the bench that was made famous in the movie “The Fault in Our Stars”, where we encountered a line of teenage girls waiting to take a photo on it. It was cheesy but fun, because 16 year old me who absolutely adored that movie would have never thought I would ever actually see it. But the thing that really stuck with me was our visit to the Anne Frank House, where we got to enter the secret annex that the Franks actually hid in during the Holocaust. It really put things into perspective for me. There are no words to describe how I felt walking through that exhibit, and although it was not a super fun and exciting thing to do, it was necessary. You learn about things your entire life, but nothing is truly like being there in the place where it actually happened. After we went through the exhibit, none of us really knew what to say. It felt weird stepping outside and back into present day like nothing happened. But it did happen, and that’s the most important thing to remember.

We ended our trip by visiting the Heineken museum, where we learned all about the brewing process and got to experience some really interesting exhibits. As someone who has never enjoyed beer until this semester, I like to pride myself on all of my newfound knowledge I’ve acquired from breweries I’ve visited in Europe (But, obviously, Guinness will still always be my favorite!)

Although my time in Amsterdam was nowhere near enough, it gave me a glimpse into a beautiful city that I never thought I would fall in love with, and now all I can think about is how happy I would be if I could live there. Maybe I’ll never be a local resident riding her bike across town, but I know I will definitely come back for a longer visit one day.

Two More Weeks

Two More Weeks

Life as of recently has been stressful to say the least. It’s the end of the semester, which means that it’s time to turn in assignments and study for tests with deadlines that seemed like they were years away. Every time I check the calendar I am shocked to see that it’s yet another day later, and another day closer to my departure. For someone whose favorite holiday is Christmas, I’ve never dreaded it more in my entire life. It’s not that I don’t want to go home and see all of my friends, family, and (possibly the most important) dogs, because I really do, but I wish I could go home for a bit and then pack up my bags and come straight back to Cork.

The one thing I remember so strongly about my last semester abroad was the gut-wrenching feeling I had as I cried on the beach on my last night in Australia. Every time I said I was going to get up and leave, I couldn’t stop staring out into the water, fearful that this would be the last time I would ever take in that view again. But I know that for Ireland, this is not the case. I will cry, yes, but I know I will come back, which is comforting. I worry about how I’m going to feel the night of December 22nd, in my empty apartment after all of my roommates have left and we’ve said our goodbyes. It’s going to be like when I sat on that beach, wondering how I can go back to my old, normal life after such an amazing experience.

But I will. I will go home and things will be normal again. I’ll reminisce on the times I could take weekend trips to different countries and go listen to traditional Irish music in a pub after a rough class. I will look back and laugh, but I will continue on with my regular life in Chicago.

These past few weeks have been so crazy that I have to remind myself to breathe, but the stress and exhaustion is completely worth it. I wrote my final essays in airports as I traveled to Amsterdam, Budapest, and Paris. I fell in love with each city in ways that I was not expecting, and my heart aches for the times when I will no longer be able to travel so frequently and recklessly. I have always been a planner; I’d have details for any trip planned out months in advance, but not anymore. I’m leaving for Greece in three days and my roommate and I just decided we should treat ourselves for completing our exams and opt for a cheap hotel instead of our usual hostel. Not sleeping in a room with ten other strangers is such a luxury for a student studying abroad. We spontaneously booked $14 flights from Athens to Santorini so we could check off yet another place off of our bucket lists, and it hit me that this was my last trip before I head home. And my last ridiculously cheap RyanAir flight that I will anxiously pray doesn’t crash… Who knew fear of dying could ever be something I would miss?

I will miss the annoying parts of traveling too. I’ll miss running on no sleep and way too much coffee. I’ll miss the obnoxiously loud hostel roommates waking me up at 3am… And I’ll miss being that loud hostel roommate waking everyone else up at 3am. I’ll miss getting caught in the Irish rain when it was sunny 5 minutes prior. I’ll miss fighting with my roommates and hugging it out almost immediately after, because we’re all just tired and cranky but we love each other. I’ll miss the confusing school assignments and grading scale because, let’s be honest, I still don’t understand it. I’ll miss Ireland, not because it’s a perfect place, but because I’ve fallen in love with the not-so-perfect parts of it.

A Brew of Emotions: The Final Stretch (Last Week in Beijing)

A Brew of Emotions: The Final Stretch (Last Week in Beijing)

There is one week left of my study abroad adventure in Beijing, and I am feeling a brew of emotions.

The first, excitement. For the past two weeks, I’ve felt really homesick, more homesick than I have ever felt before during this semester. It’s probably because the power of the holidays is on full blast back in the States. Missing the Thanksgiving celebration with all my friends and family was already hard enough, and seeing all the Christmas-related stuff on people’s social media hasn’t made it any less easier. So the thought of coming back to the U.S. and being bombarded with that holiday cheer is very exciting to me. I’m excited to just exist in my house again. I’m excited to see all of my friends again and catch up. I’m excited to eat Vietnamese food again. I’m excited to continue developing the relationships and the projects that I left behind all those months ago. I’m just excited, and I can hardly wait to jump on that plane back!

A picture of my family’s Christmas tree that my mom sent to me recently. I think this is the first year that I have not helped put up this tree.

The second, procrastination. As you probably already know, this last week is finals week, and instead of studying for my Chinese language finals or working on final presentations/essays, I am writing this blog post.

So that basically sums up that emotion.

The third, sadness. For the past four months, I’ve created countless numbers of memories, and I’ve taken an equal amount, if not more, pictures while I’ve been here. Scrolling through the pictures I’ve taken so far, I cannot help but feel sad to leave China. Here is where I’ve grown spiritually. Here is where I’ve conquered fears time and time again. Here is where I’ve seen a rich and beautiful culture and discovered that this country has dimensions that I’ve never thought even existed. To leave something so profound in my life makes me feel… empty? I don’t think that’s quite the right word, but it’s the best I’ve got. It makes me quite sad to leave behind this life that has challenged me in ways that I didn’t think would challenge me. It makes me even sadder to think about the friends that I’m parting ways with. The friendships that I’ve established here are some of the most enjoyable friendships I’ve ever had in my collegiate career. The people here are so vibrant, and being surrounded by them has allowed for me to grow into a better version of me. I’ll be leaving all of that behind, soon.

The Fall 2018 TBC Family

At our monthly (the last one for the semester) community meeting last week, TBC Student Development Director Ryan briefly talked about the possibility of going through reverse culture shock once we returned home. At the time of the meeting, I didn’t think much of it (mostly because I was distracted with the idea that they were serving us pizza after the meeting), but now that I’ve sat down to write this blog and to reflect upon what this past semester has meant to me, all of the things he talked about on the topic of reverse culture shock seems to be entirely plausible for me. Maybe the pace of life back at home will be so alien to me that it’ll seem… I don’t know, boring in comparison to the life here? Maybe I’ll be so overwhelmed with the go-go-go pace of back home that I’ll shut down? Who honestly knows how reverse culture shock will affect me, if it’ll affect me at all.

That leads to the fourth emotion that I’m marinating in, and it is perhaps the most profound one.


I call this emotion the most profound because I never thought that I would feel a little anxious to go home. I mean, I’m homesick. I’ve been longing to snuggle my dog, to goof around with my brother, to chatter with my family at the dinner table, to play hours upon hours of video games on my Nintendo Switch, to laugh with my friends, and yet I feel this tiny nagging sense of dread to return home even before I’ve come home.

The truth is, around the middle of the semester, I had a little bit of a crisis. One of the Chinese roommates for TBC whom I’m pretty good friends with was in the middle of applying for graduate school and studying for the GRE. Talking to him and watching him go through this process made me realize something: I only have three semesters left as a undergraduate student. Suddenly, the entire world seemed to have laid its entire weight on my shoulders. Horrible thoughts and feelings of falling behind on my studies because I’ve studied abroad creeped in, and a sense of paranoia flooded my senses. What if my studying abroad set me so far back that I wouldn’t be able to prepare for applying to graduate school on time? I still hadn’t looked at what graduate programs I wanted to even apply for. I didn’t even know what kind of programs I wanted to apply for. I had a plan for after graduation, but that was only a vague thought, not even a game plan. And here I was, in China.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t regret going abroad, and I won’t ever regret my time here. I just suffered a little from this realization that life seemed to have kept going without me back at home.

Well, this is where all of my friends and family would remind me: slow down, Justine. Remembering that advice allowed for me to jump off of that Paranoia Rocket off to Planet Anxiety and continue to enjoy my time here in Beijing while I still could. I knew that my fears were blown a little out of proportion, and I technically still had plenty of time, I just needed to use it well once I returned. But, to be completely honest with you, I might be strapped in to ride that rocket again now that my study abroad semester is coming to an end. It is the final stretch.

I know now that what I felt in the middle of this semester was like culture shock part two, and it was completely normal for me to have gone through that. As I get ready for finals this week and continue to swim around in this brew of jumbled emotions, I realize that I just need to take a deep breath. I need to remember that while it feels like life zoomed ahead of me back at home, I’ve also zoomed ahead in many other aspects. I’ve gained a new skill in speaking some Chinese. I’ve gained a spiritual understanding of myself.  I’ve gained knowledge on China and Chinese culture, something that I’ll admit I misunderstood before I came. I’ve gained stories that I can share with everyone back at home. There are so many positive things that have come out of this amazing opportunity, and I have to keep them in mind as I come to terms with the experience ending.

Anxiousness doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. I can be anxious about a whole lot of different things in my life, and I figure that worrying about what the future has in store for me doesn’t do much good. It’s better to just sit back and enjoy the rocket ride rather than screaming the entire time.

I guess, what I’m try to say is that I’ll just have to see what’s in store for me when I return. I may not know what reverse culture shock will do to me, but I do know that I’ll treasure the least few days I have with TBC in Beijing and that I’ll return to the States ready to face the scary future more ready than ever.

Thanks for reading my blog this semester.


Sleepy, Sleepy Pandas! (Weekend Trip to Chengdu)

Sleepy, Sleepy Pandas! (Weekend Trip to Chengdu)

As a last huzzah before Finals Week, last weekend my friends and I hopped onto a 3 hour plane to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province of China and also known as the Home of the Giant Panda. We ended up staying there for two days and three nights, and by the end of the short-lived trip, we were very glad that we were able to squeeze it in before the end of the semester. It provided a last push for us to wrap up our study abroad semester in China.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. We must address probably the most important, and definitely the most cutest, part of the trip. The first day we spent in Chengdu was spent squealing over the cute, sleepy, and amusingly clumsy pandas in the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, which was about an hour shuttle bus ride from our Airbnb. We had met up with an old friend of my friend, who was her exchange student many years ago and generously served as our navigator for the day, as he was a student of a relatively nearby university in Chengdu. 

Our panda-watching group!

The park was filled with lush greenery that was mostly made up of tall bamboo stalks that at times towered over us and beautiful ponds and small lakes, where ducks and geese would literally swim up to you to greet you. It was magnificent to see all of that green. None of the zoos that I had been to before looked anything like the inside of this park, and the pictures don’t do it much justice.

Of course, it had endless amounts of designated panda enclosures, most of which were all outside. The pandas had plenty of room to roam around and to just… be pandas: all the enclosures had some sort of wooden playground structure that they could either nap on or lounge about and some trees that they could climb up and get stuck in should they please. It was just endless amounts of entertainment watching the pandas. For example, we watched one who was quite obviously stuck up high in a tree try his hardest to climb down but ultimately decided to just accept his fate for the time being. We also watched some adorable baby pandas stumble around, trying out their new paws. Whenever any one of us spotted a panda, it was instantly the greatest new thing we had ever seen. It’s a given that I bought a lot, and I mean a lot, of panda goodies at the various souvenir shops around the vast park.

Baby pandas!!!

After we had seen our fill of pandas (we probably spent a close to five hours or so at the park), we took the shuttle bus back to the area around our Airbnb, which happened to be near a huge shopping district filled with shopping malls. For an early dinner, we sat down and had the famous Sichuan spicy hotpot, where we ate a bunch of interesting meats, like stomach lining, duck blood, and liver, much to the insistence of our local friend. We were also served drinkable cold yogurt, in case we needed it to calm the fiery burn of that Sichuan spicy hot broth. Needless to say, we had quite the adventurous dinner that night!

Hotpot is a shared dish where there is a center pot with boiling broth. You are served raw meats and vegetables, and you basically cook the food in the broth. In the middle of this pot is the really spicy Sichuan broth, while the outside was the non-spicy broth. Yum!

To aid in digestion, we wandered into a random shopping mall and waddled around there for awhile with soup bellies. That was when my friend spotted a Vietnamese restaurant, and it was all over. We quickly made the decision to have tomorrow’s lunch there before we had dinner with my friend’s old math professor. It was a pretty easy decision, considering two out of the three of us were craving Vietnamese food and the third friend had been wanting to try Vietnamese food. Once night fell, we parted ways with my friend’s old exchange student, and we headed back to our Airbnb, where we played card games and talked for hours into the night.

The next morning, after sleeping in comfortably, we hurried over to that Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, stopping by to get $2 (you heard me) large brown sugar coffee lattes. I could barely contain my excitement as I flipped through the menu, feelings of nostalgia and homesickness and longing for home flooding my senses all at once. My friends were equally excited to have some Vietnamese food with me, sensing my eagerness, so we quickly ordered our food: two orders of pho (one chicken and the other beef), one order of bun, which is basically a cold noodle salad dish, one order of spring rolls, and one order of eggrolls.

The dish that brought me to tears.

Let me tell you, tears were shed all around that day. My friend, who for the first time ate eggrolls the Vietnamese way (wrapped up in lettuce and mint leaves), was also brought to tears at how good they were. But I cried for a different reason. The food genuinely tasted so similar to my mom’s home cooking, and the longing for home hit me harder than ever before. The sauce, nuoc mam, in particular was almost dead on similar. Just a drop of that garlicky, salty, sweet, and sour sauce by itself was enough to bring tears to my eyes, and it was a testament to how good the food was going to be. The refreshing bun dish perked up my taste buds, which, over the course of the semester, had slowly developed an unbearable craving of the fresh, floral, and bright flavors of Vietnamese cooking. It had taken me a trip to Chengdu to finally find some Vietnamese food in China, and the discovery of this restaurant made me that much more glad to have gone on this trip. Eating here was what gave me some energy to last for the rest of the semester. We were almost done, and I knew that I would be able to have that familiar and comforting Vietnamese food again.

We walked around the shopping mall until it was time to have dinner with my friend’s math teacher. He generously fed us a delicious Filipino dinner, and it was a pleasure to spend time at his wonderful apartment with his family. Before long, though, we had to go back to our Airbnb, pack our stuff, and then pull an all-nighter by playing cards and snacking on foods until it was time for us to leave for the airport. Our flight was at 6am, so we figured that it would be better to just stay up. We were back on campus by 9am, and after an emotionally and physically adventurous weekend, you know I passed out for a good while, dreaming of cute and cuddly pandas.

Thanks for reading! 🙂


Baklava and Baskets- My Weekend in Athens

Baklava and Baskets- My Weekend in Athens

Countless Aspects of Beauty
On top of Athens
Vegan Beat!

My final trip of my semester abroad (or shall I call it, my 3 1/2 month long dream) was to Athens!

My expectations of the city were very minimal– I had absolutely no idea what Athens had in store for me. But boy, was it amazing.

My plane landed in Athens late on Thursday night, and as a result of a semi-persevered taxi scam, a migraine, and a mile long walk to exit the Athens airport (thank goodness for moving walkways), my group and I were rather tired. As a result, we decided to order some take out and in the mean time I left to find a pharmacy for some Ibuprofen. Considering it was 11pm, no pharmacies were open, but as I was walking back I stumbled across our airbnb’s next door neighbor: a small restaurant with Christmas lights and high ceilings. I called my pals to cancel the take out and they met me at the back corner table. My ‘welcome to Greece’ dinner consisted of:

  • Fried Fish and Herb Balls
  • Beetroot Tzatziki
  • Spicy Cheese Dip
  • Saganaki
  • Greek Salad
  • Fried Peppers
  • Spicy Chicken Wings

And, the pièce de résistance, mushrooms carmelized with thyme and balsamic.

(we returned every night to get these mushrooms)

While I returned sans medicine, my stomach was full and my anticipation for a morning in Athens was high.

My friends and I woke up late on Friday morning and drank coffee together on a pull out couch while we planned our weekend adventures. Here’s how our planning played out:


Friday consisted of walking around the Athens flea market, buying street corn, old comics, and olive branch jewelry.

Food recommendation: If you are vegan or vegetarian, or even if you aren’t, the Vegan Beat (Pandrossou 7-15, Athens, Greece, 10556) is a must. It’s a small, attic-like restaurant perched above a shopping area in downtown Athens. It consists of pillows on the floor, a christmas light lit window, house plants, and super friendly staff. I ordered a mushroom gyro and it was absolutely amazing. Paired with house-made lemon, agave, ginger juice (sipped through a PASTA STRAW, we love environmentally friendly alternatives), you can’t (vegan) beat it.

Saturday followed a similar sequence- we wandered around the city, finding hidden nooks and artistic shops and overpriced cappuccinos (living in Italy has truly spoiled me). We found a plethora of stray cats sitting in shops, street corners, and ancient artifacts (they own the place). Athens is truly unreal.

A breathtaking experience we had was sitting under a heat lamp on the roof of a restaurant, drinking red wine, and gazing at the lit up Acropolis. This experience is offered at many restaurants around the city, the higher you climb the better the view, and I strongly suggest you do it if you visit.


Starting Saturday, we became short term regulars at Harvest Coffee and Wine  (Aiolou 64 & Evripidou Athens, Greece 10559), eating eggs and pancakes for the first time in (what seems like) forever. Sunday started the same way as well.

After brunch, we walked to the National Archeological Museum.

*tip- First Sunday of the month museums have free entry!

This museum was PHENOMENAL, I’m gushing just writing about it. There is so much packed around every corner and around every shelf, ranging from Cycladic mini sculptures (with a super interesting, super sexist history), ancient pots and pans, and hundred of stone and bronze sculptures found underground and underwater. The exhibition that was on display at the time I visited was called “The Countless Aspects of Beauty.” I was so mesmerized by this exhibition. Here’s an excerpt from a statement that was at the beginning of the it:

“Enigmatic and charming, beauty as a concept captivates the human mind and accompanies it through the century. Appealing and pleasing to the senses, beauty is perceptible in the art of all periods, sealing with its constant alternations and its countless aspects the human creation.”

It consisted of four parts in attempts to unravel beauty; aesthetics aeterna, the beautiful and the desirable, focusing on the body, and the endless quest. It included sensual statues, vats of perfume form the antiquity period (apparently, they smelled like sweet, red wine), and pottery and paintings embellished with gold.

We then ventured to the Acropolis area and sat on a cliff perched above all of Athens, it was exactly how it sounds like it would be.

Moral of the blog: go to Athens, you will not be disappointed, you will feel like your life is a movie.

Thank you Athens, for making my last weekend trip one to blog (and dream) about.