The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Amabelle Palomares

My name is Amabelle and I'm a food lover, beauty and skincare geek, and a newborn blogger from Kansas City, Missouri attending college in the busy city of Chicago, hoping to share some of my experiences with you. I chose to study abroad in hopes to step out of my comfort zone and experience the world while I have the amazing opportunity to do so during my time at Loyola.
Table for one, please

Table for one, please

The average college students Spring break is normally spent with dozens of their closest friends, traveling to a tropical place involving lots of sun, sleep, and partying- right? As the non traditional girl I am, I traveled to 50 degree weather – 18 degrees for the non North Americans- France with nothing but my laptop, camera, and tiny carry on suitcase. No travel buddies. No cell phone data. Nothing but me, myself, and I. Seems scary, right? WRONG.

My original plan was to meet my friend in London for the second half of my Spring Break, but I decided to take the off beaten path and leave early to do some exploring by myself. I was, in fact about to jump on a plane and travel to another English speaking country and I really just wanted a little time to myself- or an excuse to do something I had never done. I had never been to France, somewhere that has always called me to travel to, and I knew that even if I had the opportunity to travel to Paris in the future, the experience for seeing the country for the first time wouldn’t be the same if I saw it with friends. So, I booked a last minute connection from Rome-Paris and packed my bags for an adventure of a lifetime.

For context, I partially knew the French language- Thanks to my amazing high school French teacher, Madame Dykes (repos en paix, doux ange). Even with enough French to get by, I have never had the opportunity to speak it in a live situation, besides the few times I would translate simple words on makeup boxes for customers at Sephora (but believe me “eau de toilet” or “gel douche pour femme” doesn’t prepare you for social situations). It didn’t help that I would also confuse my newfound Italian knowledge when replying to waiters like, “si” instead of the obvious “oui”. No matter, I still mustered up the courage to order everything in the best American accented French that I could and it worked every time- expect the first few times when I would say “io… oops I mean je… uhhh scusi moi, je parle anglais”

So being in a city for a little over 24 hours wasn’t enough to immerse myself in its culture, but I wanted to try to gain as much French street knowledge as I could during my time so I booked an Airbnb Experience – a new creation on Airbnb’s websites that allows you to book tours, dinners, or excursions in the cities you’re traveling to. I decided to book an art gallery tour and dinner at Les Frigos, a famous art gallery from the 80’s and 90’s that still houses the studios and galleries of well renowned Parisian artists. I took a short tour of 4 amazing artist who answered all of my silly questions, like “what material is this made out of?” and even entertained me with stories behind some of their ongoing projects. I surprisingly was the only one on this tour- mainly because it was Thursday and it was Fashion Week, so I assume #priorities for locals and other tourist were elsewhere- but it made for a more intimate time with the artists which I appreciated. I even got to play with one of the artist’s dogs– a win in my book. One artist in particular was Italian and thought it would be fun to tell his part of the tour in Italian once he realized I was studying in Rome, which I somehow completely understood (I’m guessing Italian 102 really is retaining???) and even held a conversation with him- funny how small the world is sometimes.

I ended the night with a fantastic Parisian dinner, hosted by my new friend, Emilie of The Office, La Table d’Hotes. She owns her own dinner hosting service, where people are invited to share a classic 4 course French meal at her table that is housed inside her father’s old art studio on Les Frigos. We talked over wine, munching on real hors d’oeuvres and discussed everything from outrages American wedding proposals to French cuisine and culture and dined with two other guests who brought even more amazing conversation to the table.

I left Les Frigos feeling more cultured, very welcomed, and most of all like I accomplished something on my own that I never would have in the past. Never in my life would I have had the guts to book a plane ticket to Paris- let alone go there by myself. To travel on the tube navigating my way without data or Google Maps, more impotatntly. Walking into neighborhoods where I knew not one person. Seeing sights on my time. Exploring my new favorite place on Earth…until now. A Bientot, Paris.

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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.

“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!