The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Heather Cigas

My name is Heather Cigas and I am a junior studying Exercise Science with a minor in Business Administration. I’m thrilled to be spending my fall semester at The Beijing Center in Beijing, China! I’ve grown up speaking Mandarin, but have lost a lot of my ability since coming to college, so on a personal level I’m hoping to regain that skill, but I’m also excited to gain more of a global perspective especially in a culture so different from the United States. I’m the kind of person who will try (almost) anything from eating new foods to running half marathons in random places, so hopefully that keeps this blog interesting. Whether this adventure to Beijing becomes my own version of Eat Pray Love or whether I end up in unforeseen places, I’m excited to share it all with you!
The 12 things I love about you.

The 12 things I love about you.

  1. Chinese is hard!! You’d think that even after being surrounded Chinese here and there for at 10 years, I’d get around better than I do. Speaking aside, there is literally a character for every single word you can imagine AND it’s not based off sounds like English is. As much as I love being in a foreign country, the complexity of the language makes it a lot harder to read and get by than I originally thought I would. Probably explains why everything I eat either is a dumpling (because I can recognize the word) or has a picture attached to it. And I can guarantee you by the end of this semester, we will still not know anything.
  2. You get a good squat workout from going pee. The Chinese toilet is one that everyone should be aware of before they arrive to China. Despite it being physically better for you, it smells bad since people continually don’t aim quite right.squat-toilet
  3. Pollution isn’t everything. Everyone has this stigma about China and the pollution. While I’m not going to lie there are days where the pollution is horrible, it is not everything. There are days where it is bright and sunny and you do not even notice a speck of pollution in the air, and others where it feels like you are walking through a haze. I suspect in the winter I will get sick of it, as they burn more and more coal to heat our freezing bodies, and the pollution gets worse, but for now, I’m enjoying the pretty fresh air.
  4. Physical Contact is real, whether you like it or not. In some ways it’s cute. You can walk hand in hand with your friend, and it’s completely normal. But, then you also have the pushing in crowds. Chinese are fearless when it comes to lines. Cutting isn’t a thing, it’s a lifestyle with no shame.
  5. People people everywhere.
    Yes there are billions of people in China. So if you’re the kind of person who needs time away from masses of people, the only time to do that is in the dead of night when there are no lights.
  6. Americanized Chinese is not American.
    You can go to an Americanized restaurant and order nachos, and you might get a plate of fried chips with no cheese (because Cheese isn’t a thing here). Probably how the Chinese feel when they come to America and are forced to eat crab Rangoon. Which is something I still have yet to find in China.
  7. Fascination galore. People here are fascinated by the smallest things in China whether it be Michelle Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, or even High School Musical. AND, they’re fascinated by us, especially when we’re working out. Not even kidding, I’ve had women come over when I’m doing abs and just mimic my actions.
  8. WIFI sucks, accept it. Almost every shop or restaurant here has WIFI, however it is not good. It’s one of those things that I’m trying to embrace, and probably good to cure my snapchat addiction.
  9. Cheap Meals. As a foodie, this was perhaps the biggest bonus to coming to China. Now in one day, I can treat myself to at least three meals full of fresh squeezed juice, dumplings, steamed buns, bubble tea, pancake wraps, noodles, rice, or whatever I’m really feeling for around $10 a day. The downside, the food here, at least in Beijing is very oily. And, the food is also very carby. I love my fresh fruit stand just down the block from my dormitory, but that’s about the only way I get in my 5 fresh fruits and veggies a day.
  10. Cheap Thrills. If/when you live in China, you start to see everything in RMB. There are about 6 RMB per dollar. Thus, my wallet is rolling in bills, literally.
  11. TaoBao is addicting. Taobao is pretty comparable to American Amazon, but it’s even better. You can get just about anything from TaoBao including eggs, clothes, phone chargers, or even white noise machines. The only catch? The website is entirely in Chinese. Thank goodness for my Bing Translator (because Google doesn’t work here) and pictures. But if you spend hours on it and search well like I do, you can get very very good/cheap deals on whatever you’re looking for.
  12. Time flies when you’re having fun. As cliche as this sounds, it is just setting in that I’ve been here for a month already, and there is still SO much of Beijing alone that I have left so see. It’s hard when you want to establish a routine to get out and explore, but it’s one thing that I have to consciously make an effort to do.
The ‘ight’ wall in a Great City

The ‘ight’ wall in a Great City

It is hard to believe that it is already September and we are already done with our first week of classes. As each day passes, it becomes more and more like home here, as the sights and gates and sounds become more and more a part of who I am. My ability to speak and listen has gotten exponentially better in the short time I’ve been here, and will only continue to grow as I decided to take Chinese class that is 10 hours a week.

Yesterday, some of us decided to take a field trip to the Great Wall of China aka one of the 7 wonders of the world. I’d been there once before when I was younger, but obviously did not remember most of it. Some of us chose to walk to the wall which required walking up a pretty steep mountain via stairs (stairmaster: real life). Ironically, once we reached the top, we were presented with even more stairs as the wall it self travels the path of all the mountains in the area. What is really interesting to me is that the stairs on each wall to get to each tower are not the same size, which was to prevent intruders from being able to attack as easily when they arrived on the wall. The guards of each tower would memorize the pattern of the stairs so they could quickly notify other towers if an intruder were to actually get atop the wall.

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After enjoying a wonderful picnic lunch of subway atop the wall, it was time to return to the base. A lot of my friends decided to take a sled comparable to an alpine slide down the mountain, but 2 other people and I decided to stair master it down the mountain to enjoy the sights and sounds. Safe to say, my legs hurt very bad today as I’m writing this. It’s hard to imagine that this wall that is so old is still standing today for tourists like us to walk on and enjoy.

Then, at night, we decided to rally and go to a pub crawl. The amount of international students here is actually amazing, and it’s weird to think that I’m finally a cool international kid. The pub crawl was for the Beijing Ardvarks, which is a rugby team, and went around one of the expat areas of China. We got to go to a rooftop bar for one of them! Despite the fact that I got us lost. In one of those moments where you realize how hard Chinese is to learn, I had the taxi drop us off somewhere, and then we walked the wrong way. Then we decided to get into one of the pedicabs (or cabs on bikes) and he definitely over charged us. To dodge traffic, he drove on the sidewalk, and then dropped us off about 3 blocks in the wrong direction. After walking for 15 more minutes, we finally made it to the first bar. Interesting experience for one of my first nights out in China, and I may or not have been convinced to join the rugby team, but hey, when in China.


I’ll save the day in the life blog for another post, as I’m still trying to figure out exactly what classes I want to take and I’m still trying to find my day to day routine. Trust me though, the difference of life here in all aspects from food, to mannerisms, to working out are some that are worth mentioning.

— Finally got my American number working, so I actually can text now. Technology baffles me, and I feel like I’m growing so old. Anyways, I love to hear from people so stay in touch! If anyone is actually reading this 🙂

Until next time.

This is war: Airplane Arm Rest Edition

This is war: Airplane Arm Rest Edition

Hello from sleep deprived me. We just finished our 13 day trip across China to follow the Silk Road, which I have to say was one of the coolest trips I’ve ever taken. I don’t think I ever would have traveled 2 hours from the Pakistan border on my own.

It was our last night in Kashgar, the final city on our trip, and a group of us wanted to hang out so we decided to venture next door to get icecream (my common diet here has been kabobs, dumplings, and icecream). Across the street from our hotel was a giant statue of Chairman Mao, and a huge park called the People’s Park. We decided to sit under the shadow of Mao to eat our icecream. To the left of us in the huge square there was a couple of young men playing with a remote controlled car, with 2 little boys chasing after it. On the right, there were 10 soldiers sitting watching the statue. And in front, there were at least 5 military/police cars. And we just sat there on the bridge casually eating our icecream, all while telling ourselves, “we’re actually in China.”

Getting to Kashgar is also a story of it’s own. We got to the train station in the middle of Turpan, only to find out that there was a sand storm and our train was indefinitely delayed. The only hotel nearby was in my opinion rated a half of a star, but we stayed there anyways. My roommates pillow was yellow, and my bedframe was completely broken. Safe to say, I sat on the steps outside of the hotel from 7pm to 1 am. At 3am, we were woken up to get on our 16 hour train, and proceeded to spend the next 16 hours on an overnight train to Kashgar.

It’s almost impossible to detail the entire trip and all the memories in one blog but here’s a few:

Xi’an: Bustling city with Muslim Street. Great for bartering (I’m getting really good at it). Here we biked on the city wall and went to see the Terracotta Warriors.


Lanzhou: Famous beef noodles, though we ate them for breakfast – still getting used to eating non breakfasty things for breakfast. Also my birthday was here. We went for hotpot (accidentally got spam and vegetarian chicken), tried to go to a music bar which ended up being another hotpot restaurant, and then went to a pub.

Xiahe: See my previous post about Tibet!

Dunhuang: Mogao caves were actually really cool. They are holes in the rock with tons of painting and hidden statues on the inside. Of course it only rains like once a year in this desert town, and of course it rains while we’re there. We got to ride camels in the morning to see the sunrise (except not really because it was so cloudy) BUT riding a camel and climbing the sand dunes was very very cool. I named my camel “Cami.” IMG_3003

Turpan: Where we discovered real NAAN. As a bread lover this is the best discovery ever.

Kashgar: Giant Mao statue and second largest Bazaar ever. Also lamb kabobs – these will now be a thing when I return. I didn’t think I would like lamb. Also since I said I’d try everything, we tried Lamb feet, safe to say I’m not a fan. IMG_3083

And now about the title of my blog – On the 6 hour plane home, I dumbly chose to sit in the middle seat so I could sit by my friend. Of course, a random person sat in the aisle seat. I have no problem sitting next to strangers, however I do have a problem if they sit in my part of the seat. This man was lounging so hard that he was half in my seat and I was not having it. So we were at war the entire plane ride to claim the armrest and everytime he’d get in my space I’d gently nudge him back. Also, I enjoyed making the flight attendant laugh because everytime he’d ask me if I needed something in English I’d respond in Chinese and it’d catch him off guard.

After spending hours on buses and trains, I feel so close to the 40 people in this program. Now that our main travel throughout China is done and classes are about to start, I can finally focus on getting routine back, and my Instagram won’t be as crazy.

Until next time: peace.


SIDE NOTE: If you texted me on my birthday I didn’t get it because I didn’t have my American SIM card in a phone. Message me on WeChat or What’s APP or facebook if you wanna talk (LOL).

China: Yak Style

China: Yak Style

Our trip has finally calmed down enough for me to get to sit down and blog and sleep (!!) and think about what I’m actually doing aka studying abroad for 4 months.

Yesterday was by far the most “zen” and top 10 days that I’ve had in my life ever which is why it gets it’s own post. We traveled to a town in the GanSu province called Xia’he, which, is a significant Tibetan monastery town.

We started off the day by waking up at 6:30 am (well some of us) and walking to the Labrang Monastery, which attracts Tibetan pilgrims in the thousands. Here, we joined a local pilgrimage by circling the 1.5 mile long Monastery wall and turning the thousands of prayer wheels. While I didn’t go the entire way, it was amazing to see people in their element. To think of all the work that goes into making each wheel and even just the dedication of people who walk that route every morning is astounding.

Then, after eating breakfast at our hotel, we went back to tour the inside of the Monestary. While we were not able to take pictures inside each temple, I can assure you that each temple was so colorful and elaborately decorated.

Then we had some free time to roam the city and barter for clothes and eat. This brings me to my interesting point: the Yak. This city had yak everything from yak milk to yak meat, seems to be their staple which has lead to our running joke of yak style.

After family style lunch we visited a nunnery again near the monastery, except this time we were able to hike up to where they would do a sky burial and all the way back to the city. While we didn’t see a sky burial (which consists of chopping up a body, sprinkling it with spices, and letting it sit so that vultures can eat it and then poop it out all over the world) we were still able to climb up very high and look out over the entire monestary.

Then we treated ourselves to a nice snack of homemade dumplings (my favorite) and went for a picnic/ Tibetan pop party and bonfire in the grasslands. I’ve learned how to channel my sound of music self, but unfortunately cannot dance Tibetan style.

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That’s all for now. Until next time ✌️



Hi it’s me. Literally one week ago I boarded a plane to China and since then I’ve been going nonstop. Currently, I’m sitting in the middle of  Tibet, 5 days into our 13 day trip to follow the Silk Road route.

To say coming to China would be a culture shock is an understatement, but it is an experience that I’m greatful for. The amount of people in all the cities especially Beijing is almost overwhelming, and makes Chicago seem like a rural town. We walk around each city and are constantly stopped because everyone wants to take pictures with us. Funny story: when Josh and I landed at the airport, we were immediately caught in a crowd of young teens and paparazzi trying to get a picture of a famous young Chinese star. Still wondering who exactly it is, but I guess I can say we met someone famous.

The trip we’re on right now has taken us to Xi’an where we biked the 6000 year old city wall, to Tibet, and we still have a trip to the Gobi desert where we are going to camp and ride camels to watch the sunrise. Each city and experience makes me appreciate the cultural differences I have to overcome by coming to such a foreign country.

I’m currently blogging from my phone in a coffee shop because I left my American SIM card in Beijing and wifi is spotty. More pics and details to come when I get wifi or when we return in 8 days.


I still don’t know how to use chopsticks

I still don’t know how to use chopsticks

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

Jawaharlal Nehru
1st Prime Minister Of India

This is my pretty generic first post:

I am currently sitting here wondering what I am about to do with my life. In just over a week I will be on a 13 hour flight to spend the next 4 months of my life in the vast country of China. Don’t mind the fact that there are over 1.381 billion people living there or that the entire country is covered in vast and diverse landscape or the fact that China has the largest economy in the world. Or, alluding to the title of this blog, that I literally don’t know how to use chopsticks and the chances of me finding a fork in China are slim, yet alone if I were to find some I would be hard core judged.

I’ve only been to China once before, but I was 8 years old and we were only there for 2 weeks. Now, instead of vacationing with my family, it will just be my newly purchased Go-Pro and I, and the lucky few who have decided to venture to The Beijing Center as well.

For anyone who chooses to read this blog, you’ll quickly learn that I’m obsessed with food, running, and visiting cool landscapes and historical sights. Besides hitting up all of the major tourist destinations including the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, I’m hoping to run a half marathon in the Yunnan Province.

I’ve given myself 4 goals for my trip:

  1. Try everything (to a reasonable point) & Live in the Moment
  2. Don’t be so negative
  3. Work on my Mandarin
  4. Appreciate culture and learn more about my Heritage

I guess the last important thing to mention is that I chose to study abroad in China because I have about 50% of Asian roots. I’ve grown up speaking Mandarin, but unfortunately I’ve lost a lot of my ability because I never have to speak it at Loyola. So I want to just go and enjoy China, but I also want to learn more about myself, and their culture in general because it is tied into who I am.

Hopefully this trip will either be my own version of Eat, Pray, Love or my own version of the Lizzie McGuire Movie, but whatever it is, I’m ready (kind of) to be pushed out of my comfort zone.

Until the next blog post which will probably occur during or after our 2 week trip to follow the Silk Road …. Peace.