The GoGlobal Blog


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,




Walk with me: First Impressions

Walk with me: First Impressions


Against all odds, I MADE IT TO LONDON!! So far, I have seen incredibly beautiful buildings, walked over fifteen miles in two days, eaten some ridiculous food, had my bank card shut down (oops), discovered many websites that don’t work in the UK (get it together Pandora), and met some very charming people. In fact, as I write this, a delightful woman has walked in and is telling me about her life in Egypt and offering me half of her KitKat (incidentally, more delicious here than in the States). So, feel free to skim to your interests, but here are my first impressions about this lovely place.

1. Food– What am I eating?? Is this for one person? Is a sweet tooth nonexistent?!

Food is different anywhere you go, but British people take their food very seriously. Portions are huge, tea time is real (although tea often just means coffee), and you have to be very aggressive at the bar to order your food at all. A steak does not mean a juicy, red meat with A1 sauce on the side. Instead it’s likely to be pork based (we think- will report back). The grocery store has an entire aisle devoted to various flavors of crisps (aka chips)(Say that word out loud more than once and try not to cringe at the “sps”), but processed desserts appear to be against nature. However, the best thing I’ve discovered is the Cadbury Creme McFlurry. Finally, McDonalds does something right :,)

IMG_2619    IMG_2621    food

2.  Transportation

The tube is so.nice and so quiet. As someone who is used to the CTA, hopping on the tube is completely disarming. No one singing along to their iPod on speakerphone, no one jangling cups, no rowdiness of any kind. Although it is very nice, I almost miss the bizarre conversations people have with themselves on Chicago transportation. Also those two-story red buses? Not a mere tourist attraction. They’re everywhere and function the same as any city bus would. Finally, walking. It’s possible to walk anywhere and everywhere in the city (although it might take awhile). It’s 7:40 PM and I have already walked 6 miles today (thank you FitBit).


3. Culture

I have experienced so much culture shock since I got here, and the English have a very distinguished way of life; however, I have also noticed a lot of parallels! As I was walking out of a store today, Mark Ronson serenaded me with ‘Uptown Funk’ and when I had to ask the front desk woman to repeat herself despite the fact that she was already speaking English, Taylor Swift was there telling me to ‘Shake It Off’. My sister took a friend and I to a place called Primark today in a shopping district and it was very similar to any outdoor collection of stores in the U.S. Primark itself reminded us a lot of Forever21 and its five stories of clothes and home goods rival the flagship on Michigan Avenue. We also have seen many places that remind us of home such as a Burton ski and snowboard store (in London?!), Burger King’s, Subway’s, and McDonald’s of course, and a Pret A Manger on every street. Perhaps what has delighted me the most is that the brand of wine, Barefoot, is seen as an imported delicacy from the States. Experiencing a completely different lifestyle is incredible, but it’s also nice to have some comforts of home! 🙂

street        IMG_2629

(I loved this street with its beautiful and apparently completely commonplace buildings and fun street art!)

Until next time lovely readers- wish me luck!!


Incredible India

Incredible India

This week is the two month mark of my fall semester in Bangalore, India.  Two months?  Already?  I honestly could not tell you where the time has gone, but I’ll attempt.  I came here with a whole list of preconceptions, fears, and expectations — along with a whole bunch of butterflies, nerves and excitement.  The past two months have been some of the most incredible moments of my life.

Before arriving, I tried to put into words the five things that I thought would astonish me the most.

The crowds; India is the most densely populated country in the world.

The sounds; since it’s so crowded, and Bangalore is a huge city, I imagined it to be noisy and full of the bustling sounds of city life.

The smells; I imagined street foods mingling with pollution — you can’t have this many people without a few bad smells here and there.

The colors; I pictured vibrant colors, lush vegetation courtesy of monsoon season.

The complete and utter differences of a culture nothing like my own; no further explanation needed.

After two months of being here, these things have become my reality.  They have both fulfilled and exceeded my expectations; they have completely astounded me and left me speechless more times than I can say.  Let me explain.

The abyss; this was not something that I had even come close to imagining.  India is an up and coming country, and as such there are a certain number of infrastructural issues.  Like the sidewalks.  Eating/drinking on the go is not a part of the culture in any way here and the reason is simple.  If you don’t keeps your eyes on the ground as you walk, you will most definitely fall into the abyss that is beneath the already difficult to navigate streets and meet certain death.  Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not a theory I’m really willing to test.

The SOUNDS; I have the good fortune of living on the third floor of our apartment building, but still the noise can be deafening at times.  Honking is constant — it feels like drivers simply honk to say “hi!”, and they are overly friendly.  There are constantly dogs barking, motors revving, horns honking, people talking, cows (yes cows) mooing — the sounds are endless.  It brings a sort of vivaciousness to the city and creates a rhythm like I’ve never experienced.

The smells; I mentioned cows.  So just imagine that for a second when thinking about the smells of India.  The trash is definitely a problem, but it’s not all bad.  The street food exists, and the curry.  The curry is to die for.  Living in South India makes for a completely different style of food than what I tended to think of as Indian.  But, you can still get delicious North Indian curry and it is phenomenal.

The colors; exactly what I expected — but more so.  There are flowers everywhere.  The sarees are incredible.  The temples are vibrant.  Although the problems of poverty are evidenced everywhere, the colors make everything seem decadent.  Even through the dirt, the beauty of India is so apparent.

As I have adjusted to life here, there are things that I’ve grown to hate.  But more commonly, there are things that I’ve grown to love.  There are moments that I think, how did I go 21 years without this?  Each day is a new adventure, and I fall more and more in love with India with each passing minute.


Bienvenidos a Madrid

Bienvenidos a Madrid

¡Hola! ¿Qué tal? Greetings from Madrid–Spain’s capital city and the heart and soul of its vibrant culture. My first 10 days here have been filled with incredible sightseeing, countless new encounters and unforgettable experiences, and some less glamorous communication fails as I continue to learn about and adjust to the Madrileña way of life.

My first discovery was that Madrid is truly a city that never sleeps–a lesson made particularly difficult to cope with due to the jet-lag I was battling the first week of my travels.  From the shops and flea markets in the morning to the tapas and discotecas that continue all through the night, the city is literally teeming with life at every hour of the day.  Out of self-preservation, I have learned to fully embrace the traditional Spanish “siesta,” aka taking a much needed afternoon nap!

I’ve also slowly been learning to fit in with the Spanish norms of behavior and experienced my first bit of success just this morning when I was mistaken for a local (I proceeded to give the poor woman false directions in broken and heavily accented Spanish). However, my first few days were full of confusion and social blunders as I might as well have broadcasted to all of Madrid that I was an American tourist.  Here in Spain, blatantly staring at strangers is seen as perfectly acceptable, yet offering them a friendly smile is considered too forward. Needless to say, this took some getting used to, as I spent my first few days awkwardly smiling at everyone who looked my way on the Metro!

Along with making these discoveries, I have been busy familiarizing myself with the city through visiting many of the famous parks, monuments, and museums such as Retiro Park, the Palacio Real, Catedral de la Almudena, museo del Prado, and Reina Sofía in addition to starting classes at La Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, moving in with my host family, and taking daily excursions to various surrounding areas.  This past Saturday, USAC took a day-trip to Toledo, the historic capital city of Spain.  Only an hour away from Madrid by autobús, this trip offered a great opportunity to learn about the rich history of Spain and its mix of religious cultures as well as to take stunning pictures of the ancient city!

With events such as the much anticipated World Cup starting on Thursday as well as the recent abdication of the Spanish King Juan Carlos, I couldn’t have asked for a better time to reside in the hub of Spanish culture. I’m excited for my weeks here to come and can already tell that it will be muy difícil to leave at the end of the month!

Until next time, ¡adiós!

The beautiful city of Toledo!
The beautiful city of Toledo!