The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Brandon Penrod

Buongiorno! My name is Brandon, and I'm from Saint Louis, Missouri. I'm majoring in Neuroscience, Global & International Studies, and Political Science. I previously studied abroad in Thailand with the USAC program for my sophomore year, and I enjoyed my experience so much that I knew I had to study abroad again. So, here I am! Some unconventional things I'm excited for are visiting the Roman Cat Sanctuary at Torre Argentina, taking some weekend trips to Morocco and Turkey, getting to know the Rome public transport like the back of my hand, and finding the best iced espresso the city has to offer. As a dedicated polyglot, I'm hoping to officially add Italian to my rolodex of languages by December. Andiamo a Roma!
Where in the World is Brandon?!

Where in the World is Brandon?!

Ciao, Amici (Hi, Friends)!

My name is Brandon.

Perhaps you know me, perhaps you don’t. I’m basically a living version of “Where’s Waldo” since I’m usually on a plane, bus, or train to somewhere around the world. This semester, I’m studying abroad at Loyola University Chicago’s John Felice Rome Center (JFRC). This is actually my third study abroad experience. I spent my senior year of high school in Surat Thani, Thailand with the Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad program, and then my sophomore year of college in Chiang Mai, Thailand with the USAC program. Since then, I’ve explored about 40 countries and picked up a few languages along the way. I guess you could say the travel bug infected me a little too hard!

I am currently writing from Guelph, Ontario, Canada (say what?!). Since it’s fall break, I decided to spend the week here in Canada with my lovely partner. I am fully enjoying the beautiful & crisp air, vibrant leaves, sweater weather, and Halloween spirit that Rome sadly does not have. However, Rome has so many other things to fall in love with. It was pretty hard to leave for even just a week.

You may be wondering, “why did you choose Rome?”. Well, I can tell you it wasn’t for any cliché reason. I didn’t choose Rome for it’s impeccable food, unique coffee culture, rich history, immaculate cities, or warm climate. Those aspects are

all more than great, but I actually didn’t have much choice in where to study abroad. When I decided that I wanted to study abroad for a third semester, I jumped through several hoops in order to make it to where I am today. I knew I would need pretty specific courses to complete my degree plans since this experience would be during my last year of college. Thus, choosing a Loyola center (Rome, Vietnam, or Beijing) was my only option. I felt I had spent a lot of time in Asia respectably, so Rome it was. I will admit that I was not the most excited at first (I know! Hear me out). I am a person who thrives off adventure, the unknown, and very “out there” experiences. Rome felt “safe” compared to other possible study abroad destinations. In a way, I had a vendetta against European study abroad experiences… I always believed there was so much of this world to see that Americans too hastily overlooked. Once I was accepted to the JFRC, something sparked. It made my upcoming journey real. In the spirit of adventure, I looked at this semester as an opportunity to do what I love most: explore new countries, learn a new language, and make priceless memories. Any adventure is worth going on. And truth be told, I’ve been proven so wrong about Rome and Europe as a whole. This continent is fascinating, and is so rich with history that there’s no possible way to learn it all.

I started the semester off by leaving Chicago on August 10th. Between August 10th and the 29th, this was my travel path: Chicago –> Toronto –> Montréal –> Paris –> Copenhagen –> Malmö –> Bangkok –> Koh Samui –> Chiang Mai –> Kuala Lumpur –> Gold Coast –> Auckland –> Melbourne –> Los Angeles –> Chicago –> London –> Rome. My head hurts just typing that! Anyways, I found incredible flight deals that lead me to both familiar and unexplored cities. I connected with friends, ate awesome food, witnessed cool sights, and snapped the best pictures I could. Eventually I ended up in Rome and started this crazy semester.

This semester, I am taking 6 courses. I am taking: Italian 1o1 (ITAL 1o1), European Masterpieces (LITR 200), Emperors, Bishops, & Barbarians (HIST 300 TP), Italy in the 19th and 20th Centuries (HIST 324), The European Union (PLSC 347), and Ethics (PHIL 181). So far, I feel as though I’ve been able to truly dive deep into European studies and learn quite a bit that I normally wouldn’t. I highly recommend taking country/region specific courses during a study abroad experience!

I would be lying if I said my favourite part of this semester WASN’T all the travelling I get to do on the weekends. When a roundtrip flight to Morocco, Germany, Israel, or Turkey (or everywhere in between) only ranges from 20 to 100 dollars, why not take advantage of it?! So far, I’ve travelled to Romania, Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. I guess Canada counts too ;). After Fall break, I have plans to travel to Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Morocco, Spain, Israel, Palestine, France, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, and Colombia (the last two are on my way home in December). It is so fascinating to bring to life all of the knowledge I’m learning in my classes. I would say that Istanbul, Turkey is my favourite city I’ve ever visited. I think my next post will be dedicated to these awesome places I’ve been to. This post just can’t do them justice!

I may have actually just lied. How could I forget the lovely friends I’ve made so far? Study abroad has a strange way of bonding you to new friends so closely, so quickly. It’s almost as if we subconsciously understand that out time abroad together is limited and that we have to soak up every minute of it. I want to give a special shout-out to Kaitlyn, Midori, Alyssa, and my uber cool roommate Bruno. You guys make everyday hilarious. We’ve coined ourselves “the wine moms at the end of the hall” since we all live at one end of the hall of our hotel/dorm and highly enjoy the fabulous wine that Italy has to offer. They are my travel buddies, confidants, and joy makers. I love you, and I can’t wait for more adventures!

That’s all for my first post. I’ll be sure to write soon. Thanks for following along!


~ Brandon


No Thaim till Thailand

No Thaim till Thailand

When your countdown app reaches the single digits, you know it’s real.

Hi everyone! My name is Brandon, and I’m about to takeoff in less than 9 days for a wild year in Chiang Mai, Thailand with the USAC program! I’ll be spending my sophomore year at Chiang Mai University. CMU is one of the best universities in Thailand, and has about 50,000 students! I’ll be living in an apartment with another USAC student, but I don’t know who quite yet. This actually will be my second year abroad in Thailand, since I was previously an exchange student with the Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad scholarship program during my senior year of high school. I lived in the south of Thailand in a coastal city called ‘Surat Thani’ (soo-raht tah-nee) with an incredibly host family. I can’t tell you how stoked I am to experience nine more incredible months of adventure, exploration, learning, weird smells, strange foods, elephants, and constant smiles. This time, I will be way up north in the mountains, in Chiang Mai. From what I’ve experienced already, the culture in Chiang Mai is far more relaxed than Surat Thani (Surat Thani is known as a fast-paced city with a lighting-fast dialect of Thai spoken), so I’m interested to see how daily life differs. And, of course, I will blog the entire year just like I did the first year! Before I make it to Thailand, I’m going to Toronto, Canada, to spend a week with my best friend in the entire world, Vinny! I leave the USA on August 11th, which is coincidentally the same day I left for Thailand back in 2014. Summer classes are almost done, flights are booked, visas are ready, and all I have to do now is pack my bags and say my goodbyes!

Most of the classes that I will be taking this year will apply towards my Political Science and International Studies majors, so I won’t be doing much with Neuroscience until I return to Loyola in 2017. Here’s what I’ll be taking this semester:

– Diplomacy in Southeast Asia

– Global Health Issues

– Reading and Writing Thai Language

– Sustainable Development

– Thai Civilization

– World Economic Issues

I’m probably most excited about Global Health Issues and Sustainable Development! While I’m abroad, I’m planning on working with the Chiang Mai ‘Care For Dogs’ Foundation, where I’ll just be volunteering and taking care of some sweet pups. I’m also planning on interning with a local hospital and the U.S. Consulate. One of my goals this year is to occupy my time with any and all opportunities that are available to me. Last time, I wasn’t as progressive with going for opportunities as I was so swamped with college applications and preparation, exams, and other things. I know for sure that I will be doing things that I don’t know about yet.

As for how I’m feeling about leaving for another year, I do have to say it’s a whole lot easier. I’m not exactly feeling very nervous or excited either, I’m just ready. I am however, feeling pretty blue about leaving my friends and family. That part hasn’t gotten easier. BUT, I do get to see my host family a few times this year, and my best friend Ashley Cox is coming all the way to Thailand to backpack with me around Southeast Asia for Christmas break. Also, my roommate this summer, Noah, is coincidentally planning on doing the Chiang Mai program as well next spring, so I’ll get to see him! I’m sure I’m going to meet so many incredible people this year, and I absolutely cannot wait; that’s one of the best parts of living abroad in my opinion.

Possibly the best part of my experience this year will be all the countries that I will be visiting. I received an awesome travel grant to work with, so I’m excited to get exploring! Here’s where I’ll be going this year:

Canada, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, France, Netherlands, Germany, Iceland, and Canada (again)!

Some of these destinations will be random weekend trips, some will be during my winter break, and the rest will be part of an around-the-world trek I am undertaking by myself while on my way home from Thailand. I know it sounds astronomically wild and maybe a bit dangerous, but there’s so much world to see and I’m taking this opportunity and running with it! It’s going to be a blast!

I will write again right before I depart!

Until next time,