The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Laura Manhardt

Ciao! My name is Laura and I’m a sophomore at Loyola. I major in English and Film & Digital Media and also minor in Anthropology. I chose to study abroad at the JFRC because I wanted to take advantage of the great opportunities for immersion into other cultures that Loyola has to offer. I’m very excited to get to know Italy as well as any other European countries I travel to throughout the spring 2016 semester, and I look forward to sharing those experiences on this blog. Stay tuned for lots of fun and adventures!
The Good, The Bad, and The Cross-Cultural Connections in Between

The Good, The Bad, and The Cross-Cultural Connections in Between

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Many apologies for the length of time it has been since my last post. Life abroad can get very busy very quickly! Since I last posted, I have traveled to Turin, Milan, Pisa, Bologna, Florence, Tivoli, and Munich. I’ve also been caught up in the crazy pre-finals week/end of the year mess of homework, papers, projects, and prepping for work for the summer. Surprise, studying abroad includes studying!

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My within-Italy trips (Turin, Milan, Pisa, Bologna, Florence) were all my first experience getting outside of Rome, while remaining in Italy, since the first few weekends abroad. I’m happy I got to take these trips, as they showed me different sides of the country I’ve been living in for over 3 months now! Bologna’s incredible food, Milan’s happening modern center, Florence’s vast history in art, Turin’s casual but fun atmosphere, and Pisa’s infamous tower were all exciting, new things for me to get outside of Rome and see. Each new adventure made me fall in love with Italy.

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That being said, my trip to Munich reminded me of everything I have missed enjoying about my home back in the states – and everything that Italy seems to fall short on. For one, clean, non-dog-feces covered, stable, un-cracked, and pothole-less sidewalks were a welcome change from the paths that dare to be deemed sidewalks in Italy. When you’re walking as much as you do in Europe, this is a big deal. In addition, the places we could go in Munich (and in truth, other non-European cities) were more diverse than ones in Italy, a notion similar to the “melting pot” of the United States. Restaurants of all kinds and stores selling many different things were available, whereas in Rome and other Italian cities, finding a good place for food or goods that aren’t Italian can be tough. That may seem like no problem because pasta and pizza is great, right? Yes, but after 3 months it  does start to get old, as does waiting uncertain amounts of time for public transport. I will never take the always-predictable “L” for granted again!

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All of this seems a bit like complaining, and sometimes I do actually complain about these things, but in truth the differences between various countries abroad, as well as my home country, all contribute to this experience of studying abroad. It’s not always supposed to be perfect, and every country or city doesn’t have to be absolutely amazing in every aspect for it to be a fun place to be. Rome can be pretty frustrating, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty incredible.

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If there’s any important thing I’ve learned from studying abroad, it’s this: life is pretty much the same wherever you go. There’s always good and bad aspects to any place. There will be good days and bad days. You can be ridiculously busy one minute and in the next be so free that you don’t know what to do with yourself (though the first is far more common than the latter). People are, essentially, the same at heart, no matter where you go. Studying abroad just magnifies the reality of it all. Ultimately, though perhaps for some it’s not a very exciting realization, life abroad is just as full of school assignments, work, and good times as life at home is. The good part comes when you recognize that this realization means you’re a citizen of the earth in the same way as these people around you who seem so different and so far away. We’re all here sharing this wonderful experience of life together as a world community, and that’s pretty exciting to me.

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Spring Break

Spring Break

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the Spring Break of champions. Over the past week, my roommate and I spent our Spring Break traveling through 4 countries and 6 cities, give or take a few extra pit stops along with way. Many told us it would be impossible and few imagined how we could possibly manage to do it all in one trip, but we persevered and managed to learn something about ourselves, and our study abroad experience, along the way.


We began in the Czech Republic, taking a morning flight into Prague and public transport toward a hillside park next to the city. We enjoyed a walk down the sloping pathways, taking in the gorgeous view of Prague below us before making our way to St. Charles Bridge. We picked up some mulled wine before crossing (think the hot, pumpkin spice-esque cousin to the red wine your parents let you try that one time at dinner) and stopped several times along the way to just take in the view of the river and the city. We tried those now-infamous (thanks to Buzzfeed) donut ice cream cones and spent the afternoon exploring the city before hitting up a local restaurant for some traditional Czech food. Overall, our visit to the beautiful city was a nice post-midterms repose, as well as a peaceful preparation for our next city.

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We came to Krakow for the same reasons as many others: to see a charming small Polish city and to make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Our tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau left our hotel early in the morning, and we were driven to the site of Auschwitz I first, spending about an hour and a half there, before we spent another hour at the death camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau.


I won’t get to into the details in a blog post concerning Spring Break and Study Abroad, as the camp not only deserves to be treated separately from such frivolities but needs its own post and then some, but I will say that visiting Auschwitz is an experience everyone should participate in. It is not so much about trying to mourn for the people lost there, though that is definitely a factor, but about witnessing the place where so many horrors happened so that we accept our faults as a human race and take responsibility for them in the form of proactive movements for a peaceful future. Reading and learning about the atrocities that happened there is one thing, but being in the presence and seeing with your own eyes the hair and belongings of those murdered, the ovens their bodies were burned in, and the places where they were hoarded together like animals, is an unforgettable and awful experience that reminds one of the importance of respect for all people, lest we let ourselves fall into the trap of persecution again.

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As we expected, it seemed out of place for us to do anything truly enjoyable after spending the majority of the day in Auschwitz, but we did our best to still go out and be present in Krakow while we could. We were glad we did so, because the area really is quite endearing. The little town square as a market that runs through the center of it, and there we found all manner of trinkets and goods. We ate some pirogies and a classic polish stew for dinner, followed by chocolates from a local chocolatier. All were delicious and enjoyable, but we still ended our evening a bit early so that we could reflect on the days events and process everything that we saw.


From Krakow we went on to Warsaw, the “Phoenix City” that rebuilt itself from the ashes. This could be seen plainly, as the typical European old-towns and quaint squares were in a rather confined area, with more modern and new buildings taking up a lot of space. This was both a little off-putting and refreshing, as we had yet to encounter anything like it in Europe. The highlight of Warsaw was the Chopin museum. Neither I nor my traveling companion particularly favor classical music or any specific composers, nor do we consider ourselves frequent museum visitors, but the Chopin museum was truly the best. It was high tech, interactive, and very informative! We ended up spending a good few hours wandering around and listening to Chopin’s famous works, and that experience made our time in his home country much better!


We traveled next to Berlin, Germany. We arrived late, following a mishap with our bus (we didn’t miss it, it never showed up), and were starting to get a little tired from our travels. We therefore sucked up our “travelers, not tourists” pride and succumbed to the 24 hour hop on/hop off double-decker bus tour. The guided tour was pretty cheesy, but it ended up being a great time! We got to relax and see everything we wanted to see while getting around the city fairly easily, which ended up leaving us with more time to explore on our own and get the feel of the city itself. Sometimes doing the tourist thing isn’t so bad.


We were back on our own when we went to Hamburg. This visit was an odd one. I had been pretty set on getting a hamburger in Hamburg, much to the chagrin of my roommate, and so that was one of my main goals for the trip, besides wandering around the city. Though our day did culminate in my long-awaited burger, which was honestly one of the best I’ve had in my life, we were surprised to find a random hidden gem near the river. Miniatur Wunderland, a huge indoor train and diorama, was one of the strangest and coolest things I’ve ever gone to see. An entire floor of a building was set aside for the expansive dioramas, which included Las Vegas, Hamburg, a fully functioning mini-airport, and much more! We felt like little kids running around and seeing all the little details put into the large models, which made for a pretty awesome afternoon.

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Following Hamburg, we made our final stop of our epic Spring Break in Geneva, Switzerland. I’m not going to lie, we came to Switzerland for the chocolate and Switzerland was happy to deliver. We walked around to several different shops and tried at least one piece of chocolate at each. Along the way, we stopped to see the Jet D’eau (a giant stream of water that seems like a dumb attraction until it goes off and you realize how large it actually is and it suddenly becomes really cool), the Opera House, and the United Nations Office. We also took a spur of the moment train to Montreux, about an hour away and on the other side of Lake Geneva. Montreux was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and that’s really all I can say about it. It was simply stunning.


Though it was a bit sad to leave the fun and the incredible sights along our trip, we were happy to make it back to Rome. Nine days of travel is tiring. I love my roommate and she is one of my closest friends, but being away from the JFRC and only having her to talk to could be a little frustrating – not because we ever had difficulty continuing conversation, but because she was literally the only person I had to talk to for 9 days who shared my nationality and mother tongue. This doesn’t sound like much of an issue, but even in a short time it can be a very strange situation.

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We also managed to pull through some tough situations. I spent a night and a nap at a corner table in a McDonald’s of the Warsaw train station (remember that bus that didn’t show up?) and slept on the floor of the Geneva airport along with other travelers who had early flights. We dealt with barriers with four different languages. We had to figure out public transport in three foreign countries for four different cities. We used four separate currencies, and had to adapt quickly as we moved rather frequently from place to place. All of this in just nine days was a lot to handle, but even while away from Rome it highlighted something important about our abroad experience: it is not all fun and games.

Studying abroad is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience, but it’s also extremely challenging. Picking yourself out of one culture/city/country/continent and putting yourself into another for an extended period is hard. Language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness are all roadblocks to be encountered. Interacting with new people, places, and circumstances is, more often than not, awkward and frustrating. However, the feeling of tackling these obstacles and learning to find yourself and your place in a new environment is unlike anything else. The happiness we felt upon successfully making our return to Rome, having completed an intense nine days of travel and enjoyed every second of it regardless of any minor mishap or confusion or awkward situation, was unparalleled. The bumps in the road have made me a stronger, more prepared person, and ultimately, I think that’s the entire reason why one should study abroad in the first place: to get lost amidst new places and find yourself along the way.

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If you want to watch a video of our travels, click here.

Ramblin’ Around Roma

Ramblin’ Around Roma



Surprise, surprise, being in Rome is fabulous and I’ve explored and had loads of fun and loved every second of it. I’ve seen Papa Francesco, been to an AS Roma game (vs. Real Madrid aka Cristiano Ronaldo & crew), and eaten enough gelato for a lifetime. However, I still am studying abroad. Contrary to popular belief, or at least what my friends and family’s think I do with my time, studying abroad in Rome does actually involve studying. Between the bowls of pasta and glasses of wine (with dinner, of course), school is the reason why I am here. I still take a full-time course load, my classes are still challenging, and I continue to work hard for my grades. Being in Rome doesn’t automatically make my academic life easier. However, as with most other things, classes in Rome are still a quite a bit better, and that is for one reason: on-sites.


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“On-sites” are classes that will meet on-site at a location somehow related to the material the class covers. I’m currently enrolled in Roman Catholicism, Writing Rome, and Honors: Encountering Europe, all of which are at least partially on-site. I cannot stress enough how amazing these classes are. Though it may be a little frustrating to make time during the day to get up early and take the hour-or-so public transport ride to the site of the day, on-site classes are the perfect opportunity to get out of the classroom and experience Rome while learning a bit more about it.


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Through my on-site classes, I’ve been lucky enough to visit several churches and basilicas (including the biggest one of them all, St. Peter’s), places where famous writers lived and worked, and sites with incredible histories. I’ve explored the trendy Trastevere, tasted new foods, soaked my senses at markets full of fresh foods, and had a blast learning at the same time. I’m also able to move away from campus regularly, which can be hard when you’re wrapped up in assignments and trip-planning, and get to know the city I came to enjoy. For any of my readers who are interested in studying abroad at the JFRC, or even another center with on-site courses, I highly recommend them. The ability to return to campus every other day with more stories to tell of the new things seen while just being in class is a blessing that should be taken advantage of.


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Still, beyond my beloved on-site classes, there are other opportunities to get out and experience Rome, its surrounding areas, and even other countries while getting a good education at the same time! Study trips, aka school sponsored and organized educational trips, are available to all JFRC students. I myself took a day trip to Ostia & Antica to visit coastal ruins and some of Rome’s most impressive catacombs. The chance to explore both and pretend to be Indiana Jones for an afternoon is one I’m happy I didn’t pass up. At the same time, I also got to learn about the lives of the everyday Italians of centuries ago and their burial practices, broadening my knowledge and understanding of my place in the world. If this doesn’t sound appealing to anyone going to the JFRC, don’t fret – there are plenty of other study trips offered that would offer a day or several days of enjoyment for someone with any set of interests.


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All in all, the studying part of studying abroad may continue to be as rigorous as back on my home campus, but there’s nothing like being able to learn and explore new surroundings all the time. Check it out for yourself in this video. Ciao for now!

P.S. to those going to/interested in going to the JFRC: Seriously, on-site classes are amazing. Take them.

Orientation Exploration

Orientation Exploration

Following my first night in Rome, myself and the other JFRC students entered into a few weekends packed full of Orientation activities. Between crash courses in Italian, general meetings, and community meals, we had the opportunity to go out and do some sightseeing in and around Rome, as well as on the Amalfi Coast. You can see it for yourself in these videos!

Our first excursion was to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Following a brief lecture about the history of the two sites, all of JFRC got onto a couple of buses and went downtown to explore. We stopped first at the Colosseum, taking a few pictures before entering into the ancient and ominous ruins. If they seemed large and imposing on the outside, that view was nothing compared to the interior. It is then that I realized just how significant a feat of architecture the Colosseum was for its time, and still is today. The fact that people who lived in a time without advanced things that we take for granted today (such as electricity or extensive indoor plumbing) were able to create a structure that has literally stood the test of time is truly incredible.

Once we had taken a sufficient amount of pictures and ambled around the large stadium for long enough, we ventured off to the nearby Roman Forum. At the Forum, we spent several hours exploring the ruins of Ancient Rome’s city center. There were palaces, temples, senate buildings, gardens, and plenty of other bits and pieces of Ancient Roman gathering spaces to wander around in. My favorite aspects of this area were the triumphal arches. Their details and massive structures made for an absolutely beautiful view.


Following our time at the Forum, we were set free to explore Rome as we wished to. Myself and a few others made our way into a church near the exit of the forum, taking a few photos before we went off to meet some friends for a delicious Roman meal of pizza and vino. Then it was time to rest up for our upcoming day trip!


For our day trip, we took visited the Palazzo Farnese. This papal-built palace was imagined as a fortress for the family of a former pope. It sits at the top of a hill, overlooking the town below it so as to see anyone who may be threateningly approaching. It looks rather formidable from the outside, but the interior is full of gorgeous architecture and art. The rooms are smothered in biblical frescoes, and the gardens are a beautiful place to wander around in or reflect upon while sitting near the intricate grotto. We only spent a couple hours here, but there was enough to see to fill a whole day!


The next weekend of JFRC Orientation activities led us to the Amalfi coast. We left early on a Friday morning and traveled four hours to our first stop: a restaurant right on the beach. We ate, enjoyed the scenery, and passed a few hours of time before continuing on to our next destination.


Our next stop was the archaeological sites of Paestum. This area was formerly a major Greek port city and now contains its ruins. There are ruins of several temples dedicated to certain Greek gods and goddesses, arenas for gladiator fights and the like, theater spaces for performances of famous Greek plays, and everyday homes and social spaces. We explored with a tour guide, who led us through the site and its museum before letting us get some gelato and head back to our bus!


We spent the night at a hotel with beautiful views of the coast before we began our Saturday adventures. The JFRC group split up for the day, and the group I was in went to a winery and olive farm first. We walked around the groves, tasted the wine, and ate bread dipped in the delicious olive oil made fresh from the olives on the farm. It was a short but delicious stay that prepared us for our next food-related tour of a Buffalo farm.

While at the Buffalo farm, we were taken on a tour to see how the buffalo were raised and accommodated, as well as how Buffalo mozzarella is made. The farm was extremely conscious of the happiness of their animals and offered them freedom to decide when to be milked as well as space to roam in and consistent food, water, and relaxing activities (rolling massage brushes, for example). We got to interact with a few of the buffalo before we left their space and went to watch a few workers go through the process of creating mozzarella from milk. We finished our tour by tasting the product of their labor, which was, in truth, the best cheese we had ever tasted.

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Our final destination of the day was Agropoli. This quaint and charming town on the edge of the water is home to an old castle, which we briefly explored before wandering into town to shop and enjoy the joyful local atmosphere. We arrived just as the afternoon break was ending and stores began opening up for the local Italians who were emerging from their homes. The scene was casual but cheerful, creating a great space to enjoy the evening before we returned to our hotel for dinner.

Sunday, the last day of our weekend trip, took us to Monte Cassino. The site was the first home of St. Benedict’s monastery and also the location of a World War II attack that injured and ended the lives of many. The monastery itself was beautiful, but it was made more so by its long and illustrious history. We were lucky enough to catch the last few moments of a mass occurring in the main chapel, which was a beautiful feat of art in itself. Beyond that, we toured a large portion of the building, its courtyards, and its museum. All were equally impressive and gorgeous, serving as a suitable end for our exciting trip out of Rome.


Stay tuned for my next post, which will feature the end of our Orientation (Mass of the Holy Spirit), our visit to Papa Francesco, and some adventures from on-site classes! Ciao!

Roma: First Impressions

Roma: First Impressions



They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, and likewise, neither was this blog post. My first two weeks in Rome have been exciting, overwhelming, and incredible. During this period of time, I have just dipped my toes into the the richness of Italy and its famed Eternal City, and have much to share about my experiences. With all the craziness that has pervaded these past weeks, it’s hard to sum up all of my experiences in a single post. Therefore, I’ll be starting this blog with a post about my first night on my study abroad trip (don’t worry, I’ll be sure to follow with all the rest soon). Here is the story of my first real meeting with Roma, Italia:


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My arrival (following a few days of travel that are documented in this video) was a blur of paperwork, meetings, unpacking, and settling into the John Felice Rome Center. As work hard play hard is a generally good model of activity to follow (within reason, let’s not get too crazy here), the busywork of the first day in Rome was followed by an evening getting lost in its cobblestone streets. Very, very lost.


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Myself and a group of new and old friends had managed to understand Rome’s public transit system well enough to make it to the downtown area, but couldn’t quite find our way once we left the bus. We had a goal of seeing the Trevi Fountain, which we did later on in the evening, but ended up getting lost trying to navigate the winding streets that are so unlike the grids of Chicago and other major U.S. cities. We wandered for a couple of hours, casually stumbling upon the Pantheon and the  Spanish Steps along the way, before we found our bus stop and headed home. Truthfully, in all the mess of discerning our proper path, there were some moments of stress and frustration, as is often the case when no one quite knows where to go but still has an opinion on which way is best. I took those moments as chances to be alone with my thoughts and reflect on the situation.


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I was lost in a foreign city with minimal currency in my pocket, poor language skills, and a phone without service, but I was in Rome. I was standing upon streets that have been walked by the greats of my time and the times before them, amidst structures that date back to the very first moments “Great” was even an earned title. I was tucked into a quiet little street, watching locals and tourists and students like myself pass in and out of doors holding freshly purchased gelato, or sit at teeny little tables on corners eating all the pasta the world has to offer. Under strung-up twinkling lights, between my fellow lost JFRC students, and above the roads that lead not just to Rome but to its plethora of contents, I took a moment to breathe in the city and recognize why it is dubbed “Eternal.”


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What Rome has to offer is unlike anywhere else – even places that try to emulate it. It is a city of beautiful contradictions between ancient and fresh and traditional and modern. It has been a catalyst for so much in the rest of the world, managing to find its unique niche in the past, present, and future. I am eternally grateful to be present as a part of life here in the Eternal City, and I’m excited to share the rest of my adventures in my upcoming posts. Stay tuned to read my next post about our orientation trips to some famous Roman sites, a papal palace, and coastal Italy. If you can’t wait, check out this video to preview some of what I’ll be discussing. Ciao for now!