The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2019

Begin Again

Begin Again

Rebuilding something after a shatter is quite the undertaking of a project. It can be a mess when trying to fit all the pieces back together as they once were before. After the shatter, some parts may be too small, like tiny, annoying crumbs within the fibers of a carpet, and other pieces just too big to match with any of the small ones. So what I have learned from my past and my recent spring break trip, is that rebuilding is not trying to put all the pieces back together exactly, in the same shape and same form as before, but it is simply more like starting over, starting again, and starting new with different pieces, different materials, and different approaches. It is never forgetting what once was, but realizing the magnificence of what is beginning again, and that is starting over.

Over my spring break, I traveled to Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina and then I ended my trip in Hungary. Each of these three places taught me something new, but Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina specifically broke my heart, but would put it back together again and again with its people, faith, and culture. Sarajevo taught me what it means to have strength in love, and never fear. It taught me about what it means to rebuild a city, a community, a home, a faith, a heart, even while everything around you has been horrendously taken away. Before arriving to Bosnia-Herzegovina, I had little to no prior knowledge about the Yugoslav wars of the 1990’s. After learning through various museums, tours and personal stories from people who actually went through the war at the time that they were happening, I became increasingly aware of the extreme magnitude of trauma, pain, heartbreak, and violence these people have endured, and unfortunately still have to carry with them as a part of them everyday. The horrendous violence and genocide of the ‘90’s wars proves the extremely dangerous and inhumane rhetoric and acts around ‘ethnic cleansing’ and territorial revenge. The extremely difficult and traumatic stories of those who have survived are a testament to the need of educational awareness surrounding this war, and others so it never happens again.

Although the people of Sarajevo remember, honor, and commemorate their past frequently, they have show me what it looks like to remain strong and kind, even after the unimaginable. Their architecture is a beautiful mix of old and new with historical remnants of their tragically violent past. The food is their breadth of family and community, while their present faiths are a reminder of peace between peoples themselves, not simply their beliefs. The people, and culture, of Sarajevo are indicators of how the past will always be a part of you, but rebuilding the heart requires a will to move forward. It does not mean you move on, it simply means you start over with the knowledge that the broken old pieces will never be whole once more, but that the different new pieces can create something fully, completely, wondrously, beautiful.

Thank you Sarajevo for sharing your broken, and new, pieces with me…

London Calling

London Calling

When my best friend and I decided to go abroad at the same time, I was ecstatic. I’d imagined we’d meet in Paris for brunch or go to Ireland and explore the cliffs each weekend. It wasn’t until move-in got closer that i had to start being a bit more realistic. She was going to live in London, and I’d be in Rome. People always tell you that everything in Europe is so much more accessible than back in the States, but they tend to oversell it a bit, especially when you’re as far south as Rome. When I finally booked my tickets to London, a good month and a half into the semester, I was understandably excited. London would be my first flight in Europe, and I’d get to spend the weekend with my best friend. What more could you ask for?

I have to say, seeing a friendly face, especially your best friend’s, after months away really does live up to the hype. Although I’ve been loving my time here, the further I get into the semester, the more I start to miss family and friends from back home and the comfort of a familiar culture in the city. In that respect, London was exactly what I needed.

London is a big city and the first I’ve been to in Europe. The atmosphere, while completely different from Chicago, reminded me more of my home city than Rome or Venice. It was, admittedly, nice to see some chains and stores I was familiar with; never has walking into a Starbucks been so therapeutic. Even the food – burgers, fries, tacos – was a nice call back to my life in the US.

The comfort of familiar things aside, London was a fascinating city in its own right. Travelling with a Londoner had its perks; she knew all of the best spots, foods we had to try, and how to get around on the Tube. We took a whirlwind tour, passing the Globe, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and countless double-decker buses in a matter of hours. The whole weekend was a balance of sightseeing and spending time doing the things my friend would usually do – going to pubs, the Borough market, hanging out around Soho. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip – something to cheer me up with the dread of midterms looming around the corner.

While London was a beautiful city that I’d wanted to experience since reading Harry Potter and listening One Direction as a child, by far the best part of the trip was seeing someone I loved and had missed since we went away. Even seeing Platform 9 ¾ couldn’t compare to laughing with her over pork sandwiches on the street. Being separated from loved ones can make studying abroad difficult, but it also makes the reunions that much sweeter.

Solo Travel in Ljubljana

Solo Travel in Ljubljana

The prospect of travelling alone both excited me and terrified me. Back home, the closest thing I’d done to a ‘solo trip’ was taking the train from Chicago to the suburbs alone. Still, it was something I’d wanted to try. When I’d decided to take a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia, I knew I’d be going alone.

It was important to me to experience the country that my family is from, hear the language my last name comes from, and eat the food we only have at holidays back home. Needless to say, however, Ljubljana isn’t on most people’s European bucket list. After experiencing this city for only three days, I can say with certainty that it’s a great trip for anyone looking to be immersed in nature, architecture, and the culture of a capital city that lacks political statues, instead favoring to memorialize their national poet.

Ljubljana was the perfect place to explore on my own. The city’s center is extremely walk-able, and there’s always a cultural event or a castle to explore. Travelling alone gave me the opportunity to talk to locals about their love for the city, great places to eat, and about our shared Slovenian roots. I learned that my last name is spelled Jurjevčič – it was Americanized when my family moved to America. I also had the opportunity to learn more about the country’s history, and the people’s pride in their relatively new independence.

(The famous pink church in the center square of Ljubljana)

The food was comforting to say the least. Sausages and cabbages were all over every menu, along with some of my favorite desserts like potiča, a sweet nut bread. Eating alone was an interesting experience; it’s not as lonely as one might suspect, especially with the anonymity of a crowd. It was an opportunity to take in my surroundings and listen the language more than an embarrassing or rushed event.

Ljubljana was also a sort of spiritual experience for me; one I’m not sure I would’ve had if I’d been with a group of people. Little things, like the accordion players in the town square, brought me back to memories with my grandfather. It was bitter sweet to be in the place he’d wanted to visit without him, and, I’ll admit, I was a bit emotional at times. I don’t know if I’d be able to work through and appreciate the weight of the experience if I’d felt the pressure to move along to the next thing that accompanies group trips.

Solo travel allowed me to do what I wanted without regard for the group’s idea, which was a nice change. While I love travelling in groups and don’t have a strong desire to do many more solo trips, being alone and deciding things for myself was what I needed after weeks of being surrounded by other people.

(The Dragon Bridge –  the dragon is Ljubljana’s city symbol)

In my opinion, everyone taking their time abroad should plan at least one trip alone. Whether it’s a day trip to Florence or the eight hour hike to Ljubljana (worth it, by the way), a solo trip is a breath of fresh air between the chaos of school life back at the JFRC. If you are considering Ljubljana, between the art at places like Metelkova, the food, and the beautiful hikes both in and just out of the city, it’s the perfect getaway.