Dear Barcelona,

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Ringing in the next year was always a very low-key affair in my family, with my aunts going to sleep before the historic Ball Drop in New York City and the lack of alcohol severely dampening the mood. Barcelona, with music that just makes your hips sway, flowing glasses of sangria, and world-famous clubs, sounded like the best place to spend New Years Eve. However, things took a turn on this trip so we weren’t able to hit the clubs at midnight, but partying on New Years Eve will now be added to the ever growing list of why I need to come back to this amazing city!

Monday:

12:00PM – Arrive in Barcelona

2:00PM – Meduza for Lunch

4:00PM – Park Güell

6:30PM – Casa Batlló

9:00PM – Cervesería Catalana for Dinner

Tuesday:

9:00 AM – Exploring

1:00 PM – Tapas, 24 for Lunch

3:00 PM – Siesta

5:00 PM – Ciudad Condal

9:00 PM – La Rambla

12:00 AM: Rooftop of Hotel for New Years Eve

Wednesday:

10:30 AM – Gothic Quarter

1:00 PM – Mall of Spain & Port Vell for Gelato

5:00 PM – Plaça Reial

6:00 PM – Les Quinze Nits for Dinner

8:30 PM – Flamenco Show

10:30 PM – Paella Stop

Thursday:

7:30 AM – Sagrada Familia

11:00 AM – Parc de Montjuic

1:00 PM – Milk Bar and Bistro for Lunch

4:00 PM – Flight to Poland

Dining Guide:

Continuing on from the London trip, I spent the the first couple of days in Barcelona by myself and then the next few days with my friend’s family. They say that the best way to experience a culture is through their cuisine and as always, I took full advantage of this! Being a “Party of One”, I was able to hop in and out of restaurants at my leisure, avoiding being on the waitlist for the entire trip. Each tapas bar brought variations of diners, dishes, and vibes. Here’s my take on the ones that I was lucky enough to visit!

As you read, you’ll notice that I only talk about the tapas restaurants that I was able to visit. The biggest disappointment during this trip was not being able to eat good paella. Most paella is portioned for two people so I had to stick to tapas when I was dining alone. Once my friend and her family came, it got so crazy (will be explained later) that we weren’t prepared enough to find a good paella place. The paella place that we did eat at was lackluster and not worth mentioning. (sorry!)

Cervesería Catalana

Something to note about Europe is that they generally use google reviews more than they use Yelp (which is much more popular in the States). Some restaurants may have hundreds of reviews on Google but only a couple of reviews on Yelp. This is significant because Cervesería Catalana has 11,000 reviews on Google and is still 4.4 stars AND they have 12,514 reviews on Yelp and they are 4.5 stars. I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of depending on reviews and what people say about a restaurant before I try it. But this place is not just hype. It’s absolutely worth it.

It’s my first night in Barcelona. I’d just visited two masterpieces by one of the greatest artists of all time. (more on this later) I’d been walking in and out of boutique shops for the last hour. In my eyes, the day had gone perfectly so far. My hostel was in the perfect location right off of Rambla de Catalunya, which seemed to always be buzzing with energy. A quick search lead me to Cervesería Catalana, which had a line out the door and a crowd of people inside at 8PM. As soon as I walked inside, I walked right on out because I thought there was no way I would be able to get a table. The host told the couple in front of me that it would be a two hour wait at least. However, I strengthened my resolve and braved the push and shove crowd until, just my luck, I saw a seat at the bar. Squeezing between a couple and a single diner, I couldn’t help but giggle a bit because I got a seat!

As the host handed me a menu and I ordered a glass of white wine (obligatory), I heard a voice next to me. “I highly recommend the Tapas Sampler. I get it everytime I’m here!”. I turn to my right and see a woman, about mid to late 30s, dressed to the T with a simple black dress but adorned with designer accessories. Two thoughts ran through my mind. One, she is speaking perfect, unaccented english. Two, where can I get her Gucci earrings but for only 20% of the retail price?

For the rest of the dinner, we shared stories of our travels over glasses of wine. She had just visited Armenia and Georgia, both of which she highly recommended. As she shared more and more about her life, I saw a glimpse of what I want mine to look like. Unlike many people, she actually enjoyed her corporate 9-5 job in San Francisco. I feel that as a business major, we resign ourselves to the idea of sticking to a desk for the rest of our lives but in her eyes, that desk brought her to an executive position in an accounting company and has given her the opportunity to travel the world. She shared about how her life went a direction she could have never expected at my age but nonetheless she took things as they came and worked with what life gave her. It’s a strange thought to let life take the wheel in certain instances. Of course it’s a balance that you have to find but I’m starting to understand how to be proactive with our goals but still embrace the chaos.

Launching into the food review now, the tapas sampler was a good introduction to Spanish flavors and was a safe choice for the first time. The sampler came with five items: clams, shishito peppers, sardines, croquettes and shrimp. I’m much more adventurous with my food so I was kind of bored with the flavors but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Though I wasn’t blown away by the sampler, I did enjoy my desserts…perhaps a bit too much. Between the two of us, we shared three desserts. A decadent chocolate cake with gold foil on top, an ice cream/cake concoction that balanced the line between too sweet and just sweet enough, and the most amazing churros with chocolate syrup that I’ve had in my life.

We spent over three hours wine-ing and dining, emphasis on the wine-ing. When I pulled out my wallet to pay for my meal and call it a night, she put a hand on my arm. “Don’t worry about it. I got it! You’re young! Another glass of wine for both of us please!” I was overwhelmed with gratitude but also awe. I want to be in that position where I can offer to pay for the meals of poor college students just because. Thank you Jenn for being a bad-ass and paying for my meal and being one of the best dinner partners I’ve ever had!

Tapas, 24

The next day for lunch, I decided to try Tapas, 24, a bar with equally rave reviews as Cervesería Catalana. The open kitchen and brightly lit space was unexpected for a basement level bar but was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. Luckily, I avoided the lunch rush by being a Party of One! Speaking in Spanish, I ordered a sangria and was busy putting my purse on the purse hook when I heard a giggle next to me. Confused, I turned to my right and my eyes went wide with surprise as I saw my friend from last night! Delighted, we gave each other a hug and shared in the pleasant surprise that our Party of One turned into a Party of Two once again.

Here, I ordered shredded chicken croquettes and this amazing creation that I forgot the name of. It sounded simple enough to make: a light baguette like bread stuffed with octopus, lightly drizzled with a spicy and creamy sauce. It absolutely blew my mind though. I did not expect such a burst of flavor. I blame it on the sauce! This is a must order. This was also one of the only restaurants that sold sangria by the glass and not by the jug, so take advantage of that, Party of One-ers!

Ciudad Condal

I think that the owners of Ciudad Condal and Cerversaría Catalana may be the same because the menu was almost exactly the same! This place was also showered by good reviews so I knew that it had to be good as well. I was a bit more adventurous with my order this time around. I’d never been a fan of razor clams but these were seasoned and grilled to perfection.

Horrible picture but YUMMY!

At this restaurant, I started chatting with the woman next to me who struck me with strong “The Alchemist” vibes. We started talking about our love lives and how she’s one of the few people that actually prefers the long-distance type of relationship. She is six-years strong with her Barcelona residing boyfriend, despite the fact that she lives in Florida for the majority of the year. Then we started talking about our relationships with our parents and how time and distance affects it. It was much more somber and a different type of enlightening than my conversations with Jenn. While I admired Jenn’s obviously hard-working nature and adventurous spirit, I really revered my current dinner date’s composure about life and the state of the relationships that she has with the people around her.

Les Quinze Nits

After a day busy with walking and exploring, our group of four was ready to finally sit down and have a full meal. We found ourselves at Plaça Reial, one of the most picturesque plazas in Barcelona. The string lights drape across the plaza that’s framed by palm trees and colorfully lit by the sunset. The restaurants in the area all have heat-lamp decorated patios with Catalan music drifting quietly from the inside. People sat around the fountain in the middle, some taking in the view while others scroll through their phones. We settled on eating at Les Quinze Nits, one of my favorite meals that I had in Barcelona. We ordered a good amount of food for our growing appetites: hummus platter, confit chicken salad, mussels, Pulpo Gallego (mini octopus), Patatas Bravas (potato wedges) and the largest pitcher of sangria.

I don’t eat red meat so Barcelona’s affinity for seafood based dishes fed exactly into my diet. I had been wanting to try Pulpo Gallego the whole trip and was excited to finally have the opportunity to do so. The mini octopus were juicy and the potatoes that they were simmered in exploded with flavor from the sauces. It’s hard to describe what it tastes like but it was sweet and savory and salty all at the same time but in a good way. If you like octopus, I definitely recommend trying this dish!

Milk Bar and Bistro

Before I left for Poland, we tried to fit in one last good meal. The thing about Europe is that there are so may restaurants tucked into little alleyways that you can almost always find a gem within the rough. Milk Bar and Bistro is one of those gems. One of the best brunch places that I’ve ever been to, the cozy restaurant was packed to the brim for Thursday lunch. I ordered the Chilaquiles that to my pleasant surprise was made with Doritos instead of corn tortillas. The freshly squeezed orange juice and the explosion of flavor from my dish was well worth the wait.

Barcelona just seems to hate us though…

One of the craziest stories, which I waited until I got back home safe and sound to America before I told my parents, was when I got pick-pocketed…but not really. On New Years Eve, while waiting for my friend to arrive, I wandered around the city center then eventually making my way to the Cathedral de Barcelona. My walk there was lined with fast fashion shops, one after the next, so I was pleasantly surprised when the alleyway leading up to the Cathedral opened up to a plaza. A guitarist played a melancholy tune, lost in his own world. Rows of canopies, underneath which antiques from Spanish culture sat on display, were crowded with locals and tourists alike. The Cathedral set a dramatic background, casting a shadow over half of the plaza. These scenes are absolutely foreign to me, having lived in Southern California all of my life, so I stood and watched the people meandering in and out, soaking in the pace of life so different from my own.

After taking the obligatory pictures of the Cathedral and a few badly angled selfies, I started to make my way closer to the entrance but then realized that the queue was for online tickets only. I moved to the side and sat on a nearby step so that I could purchase it on my phone. After two attempts with different credit cards but no luck, I settled on going back to the hotel and buying the ticket on my laptop for tomorrow. I sat there for a wee bit longer, content with just people watching.

I mean, how peaceful! So deceiving…

Then, a Spanish couple, probably 40 or 50 years old, approached me, with the woman sitting next to me and the man standing off to the side-ish. She asked me if I spoke Spanish, to which I replied with “just a bit!”. She then asked me about the ticket price, to which I explained to her that they were 7 Euro online but I was not able to purchase them on my phone, but maybe she can. During this time, she kept pointing in the other direction and saying that it says that they sell them in person for 24 Euro, to which I turned my head, without seeing any 24 on the signs in front of the Cathedral.

This was the first sign that something was wrong. Usually, if you ask someone a question, especially in a language that is not your native one, you really need an answer! She seemed incredibly uninterested in what I had to say and kept repeating the same thing over and over again, even though my Spanish was proficient enough to get the point across. It was then that I realized my purse was by my side, yes, but my hand wasn’t draped over it like it usually was. I stood up in an instant and felt inside my purse where my bulging wallet (because there’s way too many 10 pence coins, not because there’s tons of cash) was noticeably absent.

It was then that I noticed the husband’s presence for the first time. He was avoiding eye contact with his hands in his pockets. I looked at her and she had a smirk on her face. This was when I probably should have thought my response through a wee bit longer but I couldn’t hold it in. Without thinking, I throw out “Did you just take my f****** wallet?” I could tell that they were definitely not expecting that response from such a small, unassuming, stupid, American tourist. I may be a small American tourist, but do not ever underestimate me! They aren’t sure how to respond at first, so I helped them along. “Are you f****** kidding me?” I’m speaking loudly enough that the people near us can definitely hear me and I could tell that I’m making the pickpockets nervous by making a scene. If you’re a pickpocket, you want to slip in and out of crowds. Grab and go, grab and go. An Asian-American tourist in Barcelona with a very loud voice and very colorful language is not discrete. They start to apologize profusely and I stick out my hand, patiently (not really) waiting for my wallet to be returned to its rightful owner. Which it was. The husband was still apologizing as I walked away but the wife had that stupid smirk on her face, which I could have easily wiped off but calm-cool-collected is my 2020 mantra. Even now, two weeks later, I can barely comprehend that I was pickpocketed but then I told them to give me my wallet back – and they did!

So when I went back a day or two later with my friends, I was hyperaware of the people around me. The people that pickpocketed me blended in so seamlessly. They appeared to be so kind and genuine but of course, their intentions in starting a conversation with me were not. So, this is my lesson to everyone that is reading this blog right now. It’s not enough to be careful most of the time. You have to be careful all of the time, especially when you are traveling. Use your common sense. Use your intuition. And sadly, be even more vigilant when you are talking to strangers. I’d like to assume to everyone is kind, fine and dandy but it’s not always the case, so be ready when they’re not.

At the same time that this was happening, my friend was suffering from her own predicament. The hustle and bustle of the train station and bloody early flight that she had from Edinburgh to Barcelona took a toll and she forgot her backpack on the train…and realized it as the train was already rolling away. The loss was devastating: her laptop, her sister’s clothes, her prescription glasses, headphones and numerous other valuable things were in her possession one minute and then they weren’t. A loss as drastic as that is hard to recover quickly from, especially when the stress of traveling nonstop for four weeks, spending every minute of the day with your best friend and family, and going back to America is already weighing on you.

When my friend and her family questioned the employees at the train station, they were reluctant to help. When they filed a police report at the station, it became another lost-item report on the ever-growing pile. Barcelona has one of the highest occurrence rates of pickpocketing so the chances of her being reunited with her backpack were slim. It became an unshakable cloud over our heads for the next few days. But since then, we’ve tried to remain positive and proactive in learning from lessons like these.

Antoni Gaudí and his Wonders

To fully experience Barcelona, visiting an Antoni Gaudí site is imperative. Even if you don’t like art or museums or Gaudí, I think that seeing his artwork in person and seeing the reverence on the visitors’ faces is pretty cool. There are over 20 sites and museums so it was hard to choose which ones I wanted to visit since time was limited. However, I knew that Park Güell was absolutely on the list.

The pictures that I took do not do it justice. There is a free portion of the park and a paid restricted portion for 10 Euro a ticket. The free portion gives you a taste of the beautiful views that the park offers but much of the architecture that Gaudi designed and the various museums on site are restricted to only ticket-holders.

Creativity is always tossed around in academics. “He’s so creative!” “What a creative piece of work she made.” But whenever I walk around places like Park Güell, I see what being creative truly means. I could never in my wildest dreams design structures, rooms, and landscapes like Antoni Gaudí did. Sure, maybe I could mildly recreate it but I can’t create it out of nothing. The capacity of my creativeness is finding pictures on Pinterest to add onto my boards. This man stared at a piece of land and said I want this building to look like this and I want to use these materials. How absolutely astonishing! One of my favorite aspects of his art was his usage of mosaics. Using broken, discarded ceramics that people threw away, he repurposed the material to create something so beautiful that people will travel thousands of miles to see it in person. I wonder all the time if famous artists like him or Da Vinci or Rembrandt knew the magnitude of the impact that their art would eventually have on the world.

The other Antoni Gaudí site that I decided to visit was Casa Batlló. After putting the address into Google Maps, I found myself still walking along the main road and then suddenly, I was standing right next to the building. I looked up and I found myself at a loss for words once again. There was a huge crowd in front of the building, all seeing the building through the screens of their phones. I quickly snapped this picture then sat down on one of the benches out front and just studied everything. The unique skull-esque shape of the balconies, the signature mosaic tiling and the beautiful addition of color with the shutters. His art style is truly one of a kind and while I walked through the many floors of the building, this was further proven.

When I walked inside, I had to take a step back to take in the whole room. Then, I had to take a few steps forward to see the designs up close and to feel the texture of the walls under my fingertips. It was so hard to go through the house because it didn’t seem like a museum to me. The spaces were real areas where guests were entertained, people slept and stories were shared. I wanted to sit down in one of the very few chairs there to have a cup of tea and read a book. I wanted to stay and look out the windows and see the busy streets of Passeig de Grácia below me. I wanted to walk up the stairs and see the snow fall behind me. Yes…there was falling snow inside the building. It was magical.

Things on My Mind aka I Can’t Categorize These Blurbs

One of my favorite moments of this trip was on New Years Day. Rachel and I explored Port Vell, where there was a plethora of shops and restaurants for every time of vacationer. There we decided to stop. We grabbed some gelato and just sat there. We talked about life, boys, jobs, travel – anything and everything. Watching the sunset with my feet swinging precariously between me and the water reminded me of home and of how much I miss California. While I was in Europe, I very rarely missed home. I couldn’t afford it. I was always thinking of next stop this, gotta do that, prepare for this – it was always go go go. I was only in Europe for four months so I had to make the most of it. Sitting there with Rachel, my ice cream, and the most peaceful sunset I’d ever seen – I didn’t need to think about the next step because I was right where I needed to be in that moment.

That didn’t stop us from grabbing a few very beautiful pictures during the sunset though.


On New Years Eve, instead of a night out in town, we had a quiet night in. We got a pizza, rushed back to our hotel and watched the fireworks light up the sky from the rooftop. In Spain, the tradition is to eat a single grape with every ring of the clock once it hits midnight. Eating twelve grapes in twelve seconds is harder than it sounds! The hotel even gave us Cava, a spanish sparkling wine similar to champagne. While we were eating our pizza and sipping our wine, other residents at the hotel kept coming over and peeking into the pizza box, thinking that the food was provided along with the cava. We couldn’t help but giggle at how unexpectedly laid back our New Years Eve was. There was no midnight kiss. There was no booming club music. There was no crazy story about having to use my poor Spanish at the club to order a mint mojito. But that’s okay. It was still a New Years Eve to remember.


I’ve had hot and cold experiences with hostels. Some have been good at most while others were so bad that I shiver just at the thought (see Amsterdam post) However, I can say that Casa Gracia is one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at and perhaps may even be better than some hotels that I’ve stayed at. I didn’t take any photos of the building myself but I can attest to the accuracy of the photos that are posted online. I would have stayed there for a week without complaint! The lobby was pristine, with marble floors and brass accents everywhere. The bar literally glistened because of the sun’s reflection off of the perfectly polished glasses. The rooms had complimentary toiletries and freshly folded towels on every bed, but the part that I loved most about the entire building were the ceilings. High ceilings just make a space so much more elegant and airy, which is hard to do when you have six beds, six suitcases, and six people in a room. If you are traveling to Barcelona on a budget, Casa Gracia is the way to go! They have private rooms too!


You’re probably thinking, “I’ve read so much about food and Antoni Gaudi, but what about Sagrada Familia?” I genuinely cried a bit when I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to go inside. I was so disappointed in myself for not prioritizing getting tickets over anything else…It’s been my dream ever since I was 15 to see the inside of this building in person. It was a tough lesson learned when I put it off so that I could go with my friends. My advice in these situations is that if you really really want to do something, eat something, or visit a site as popular as the Sagrada Familia, it’s not worth it to wait for your friends to book together. Just book it as soon as you can. It’s worse to not be able to see it at all than to go alone. I woke up early, at 6:30AM on the last day that I had in Barcelona so that I could see it. It was tough to settle for just walking outside the cathedral because the doors were so close, yet so far.


To say that Barcelona went unexpectedly is an understatement. So many things happened that I still haven’t processed completely. Yet, it’s still on my list of top countries in Europe. The people that I met, the things that I got to see, the food…my goodness the food was spectacular! I wish that my friend didn’t have to go through her predicament, but I know that she’s taking it like a champ and has learned so much from it. I wish that I was able to eat good paella, go clubbing and see the inside of the Sagrada Familia but I just have an inkling that the next time I go to Barcelona will remedy all of the lost potential in this trip. Onto the next one…Poland!

Love,

Rosa xx

The Journey to Becoming Glaswegian: Part II

Study Abroad 2019

Cata reclines against her pillows, a steaming cup of tea on her chest and earphones in. I already know from her light chuckles that she’s watching her favorite chilean comedian, one that I’ve grown to fancy as well. Annoyingly, Spotify interrupts my French Bossa Nova playlist with an ad about sneakers. I google “must know italian words”, practicing my buon giorno and ciao, grazie! I’m going to Rome this weekend you see, but I’m going to Paris in two weeks so I have to multi-task. Though I probably should reconsider because the languages are mixing in my mind. Lately, my afternoons have been variations of this scene.

I’ve been calling Glasgow, Scotland my home for exactly 78 days now. It’s flown by but at the same time, it feels like it’s been forever and a half. Who would have thought that I’d feel at home so quickly in this city? Everyday as I watch the leaves fall and the frost blanket Kelvingrove Park, I grow more and more anxious about leaving. When will I ever be back to my weekly Tesco runs or my flat whites at Offshore until closing? Will I ever be back at all? Will I be forever stuck in the land of bikinis, sandy beaches and over-priced pressed juices in California? (admittedly, there are worse things to be stuck with but…) Glasgow’s taken my entire heart and I don’t think I ever want it back.

Wee Restaurant Review

If you go to Scotland and you don’t go to Mother India, did you even go to Scotland? Exactly 0.3 miles away from where I live, Mother India Cafe reels in tourists and locals alike. The smell of cardamom, tumeric and saffron wafts out of the front door as guests wander in and out. Before Mother India, I enjoyed Indian food but didn’t actively crave it. Now, there’s no better idea than having their Aloo Saag Dosa (potato and spinach stuffed in a rice and lentil pancake) or Butter Chicken with a side of Garlic Naan for dinner.

One of the best parts about living in Glasgow is that they are so inclusive for all different types of diets! The vegetarian food is out of this world. At one of my favorite restaurants, Serenity Now, I had a life changing (no joke!) breakfast burrito. I wish I had taken a picture of the cafe itself because I’d never seen turquoise walls look so good.

While walking around Buchanan, the main shopping street in Glasgow, I stumbled upon Cafe Andaluz. It took me a whole three seconds to decide that the leftovers I had at home could be eaten another day. I’d heard about this restaurant before but it’s just so hard to coordinate with friends when everyone is on a different schedule. That’s when I learned that “party of 1” is not so bad (and honestly preferred).

I’ve always been a fan of Spanish tiles so just imagine my excitement when I walked in a bunch of different colors, patterns and shapes adorned the walls. There were also these beautiful lamps hanging and there’s something about deep mahogany colored wood against all the color on the walls that was just amazing. Talking about it makes me quite excited as you can tell. I sat near the window, journal out, sangria half-consumed and the three-plate tapas lunch laid out in front of me. If I’m being quite honest, I think this was probably the best meal I’ve ever had in Glasgow. I went to my 2PM class half drunk (sangria hit me a bit harder than expected), but it was so worth it. Hopefully I get to go back for a dinner because I just know it’ll blow my socks off as well!

Wow this is a really bad picture but trust me when I say it’s 11/10

Okay, Bread Meats Bread is a solid option, but I don’t get the hype. Admittedly, it’s probably the first place I’ve ever been to where there’s been more than two vegetarian/vegan burger options. There are SIX different types and even vegan poutine fries! We LOVE options! But it doesn’t completely hit the spot. Not like In-N-Out does. There’s just something about having to wait 20 minutes in line, the pickled chilis, the paper wrapping that gets just a little soggy on the bottom – it’s a whole experience. On the short list of things that I miss about America, it’s the burgers.

I’ll be honest, I really did not like Nando’s the first two times that I had it. I ordered a 1/4 chicken with two sides and even choosing different sides both times, I really didn’t get the hype with this either! Compared to Boston Market back home, the chicken was too dry and the sides were lackluster. BUT THEN, I listened to a fleeting recommendation by a friend of a friend and my oh my, I am now the biggest Nando’s fan. The Fino Pitta took me to a whole ‘nother planet. Paired with the peri-peri salted fries? Wow I am shooketh. It’s one of those foods that you can’t converse and eat at the same time because you are not allocating enough attention to retaining all of the flavors. As you can see, I feel incredibly passionate about this pitta.

Around this time of year, if I was at home, I’d be going to Hakata Ikkousha or Boiling Point on the weekly. I’m not the biggest fan of ramen but I’m a really big believer in the comfort of piping hot broth and noodles on a cold day (so basically everyday in Scotland). Ramen Dayo is a seven table restaurant on Ashton Lane. The walls are plastered with old Japanese comics and Mempo Masks. The beer is good (Asahi is always a staple) and the ramen is full of umami and spice (I highly recommend “Devil” if you can handle the heat!) Love it.

As my friend said: “I feel it radiating heat”. Highly recommend though!

Wee Day in the Life

What I should have done was come over to the UK with empty suitcases because now, I have no idea how I’m going to bring back all of the things that I bought. Books, clothes, gifts – there’s so much. Since Cata did the Camino De Santiago, she’s already perfected minimalism. Her side of the room is made up of perfectly stacked books, neatly hung necklaces and color-coordinated colored pencils. My side of the room looks like a tornado and hurricane decided to simultaneously pay a visit.

There’s just so much that I have to remember to do so I keep everything on my desk. Put on my necklaces in the morning, write the postcards, read 20 more pages in The Salt Path, charge your book light, send that email, don’t forget your gloves or your hands will freeze to death! No joke, that’s my to do list. I call it “kReAtIvE kHaOs”. It’s art!

Would it even be my blog post if I didn’t talk about leaves falling?

Since I’m not working, I feel like I have so much time. I try to minimize the time that I spend sitting aimlessly in my room. Honestly, it feels like a waste of time to sleep sometimes. Why sleep! I can sleep when I’m dead! Whenever I’m not in class or on campus, I will always be doing one of three things.

One, shopping. Unfortunately for my wallet, the bane of my existence is simultaneously the light of my life. I find that I’m shopping at least once a week just because I deserve it! I worked my butt off for the past few years and now, without a job, I have so much time that it’s crazy. High street is amazing because there’s so many higher-end shops that I love wandering into, but on Byers Road in the West End, the charity shops are just as fun to explore.

Whenever I am on Buchanan, I reluctantly visit Monki. Not because I don’t like the store, but because each time I’ve been, I’ve bought something. The most expensive item that I’ve bought was my plaid scarf that has saved me these past few weeks. It was 15 pounds. Since then, I’ve bought a jumpsuit, black flare pants and a blue sweater. All of which was under 15 pounds each. The sale section is incredible to say the least.

In an ideal world, I would be able to furnish my entire house with products from the White Company. My aesthetic is all neutrals with small pops of colors; preferably with Turkish rugs or Portuguese ceramic tableware. (Yes, I know. Ambitious…but what’s a gal without a goal?) Lucky for me, there’s a store COMPLETELY dedicated to white and other neutrals. The first time I walked in, my jaw actually dropped. I never thought that I would be so close to heaven so soon. Initially when writing this, I was under the impression that this store was only in the UK. With some quick research, I realized that there is a store exactly 17.7 miles from my home in the US. I was excited for exactly 1.5 minutes until I realized that it’s just a small concession in the Nordstrom. My emotions have never been on such a rollercoaster. If all works out though, I’ll move to the UK, make enough money to afford the drool-worthy homeware, and find a husband who is also crazy into aforementioned drool-worthy homeware. Simple enough plan, no?

Oliver Bonas is the love child between Anthropologie, Madewell and J.Crew. Honestly, a dream come true. I’m the type of person that walks around a store and touches everything she sees. The weight of the necklaces, the softness of delicate cashmere, the durability of the leather – I’m absolutely obsessed. Everything is so beautiful that I find it so hard to pick one item to invest in but I’ll know when I see THE ONE!

If I’m not wandering around Buchanan or the West End, find me in a cafe somewhere! Studying in the library is incredibly distracting to me because the slightest noise disrupts my focus, but the low hum of noise in cafes is quite comforting. If I’m in need of coffee, I’ll grab a flat white at Offshore (which thankfully closes at 8PM so I can stay as long as I want), The Steamie Coffee Roasters or Artisan Roast. Sometimes though, I find myself really craving Acai Bowls (Blue Bowl invades my dreams more times that I’d like to admit) and that’s where Tinder Box’s Peach, Passionfruit and Mango smoothie comes in to save the day. It’s not quite Blue Bowl, but the fresh fruit flavor is so refreshing, especially on Mondays or Sundays when I’m likely nursing a hangover…

Last place to look for me – in the kitchen! My favorite part of the week has to be Sunday nights, where I meal plan and grocery shop for the week. Even when I’m stressed and tired, I push myself to cook meals and eat right because I just know that it’s so much worse when I’m stressed and tired but also hungry and sick. I’ve never had to cook much for myself before since I lived at home, so I couldn’t fully appreciate what a blessing it was to always have fresh cooked food. I’m going home with a newfound sense of gratitude that’s for sure.

Oddly enough, living on my own has actually improved my diet. I ate a fair amount of fruits and veggies living at home, but now I’m much more conscious of what I’m putting into my body since I’m grocery shopping and preparing meals on my own. While everyone was getting sick the first few weeks of school, I thankfully avoided all of that! I attribute it all to my biweekly dose of what I’ve dubbed my miracle juice and eating whole foods.

What is miracle juice, you might ask. It’s made up of five ingredients: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, honey and lemon juice. The list of health benefits goes on and on but I find that this combination doesn’t just help your body but it also tastes pretty darn good! Anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants, high levels of medicinal properties – there’s so much goodness in this mixture! This recipe is a very rough estimate of what I do to make my concoction. To be honest, most of my cooking is purely done by smell and what I’m feeling. Especially with this, I like to add in ingredients until I can smell a bit of everything.

Shoo Sickness Shoo! Recipe:
Step 1: Put 2 cups of water on medium heat.
Step 2: Peel and cut ginger into large cubes, then add to water.
Step 3: Add in 1 TBSP of Turmeric and 1 TBSP of Cinnamon.
Step 4: Squeeze in the juice of two slices of lemon.
Step 5: Add in honey according to taste. Stir!
Step 6: Keep on low heat, put a lid on it until it starts to boil (about ten minutes).
Step 7: Stir, pour and enjoy!
NOTE: Enjoy one cup now, refrigerate and enjoy second cup in the morning!

What are whole foods, you might ask. Whole foods are minimally processed before consumption. In my case, I eat as many fresh vegetables and as much of a variety of them as I possibly can. My favorite way to make sure this happens is making sheet pans of veggies and always having some in the fridge to enjoy when it’s late at night and I’m hungry. Another way that I love to make sure I have veggies is by making a soup! See below.

Falling for Fall Recipe: [3 servings]
Step 1: Peel and chop into small cubes: 2 Sweet Potatoes, 3 Carrots, and 1 Butternut Squash.
Step 2: Place onto sheet pan and drizzle with garlic salt, pepper and olive oil.
Step 3: Bake at 200 degrees, or until brown-ish and as soft as possible.
Step 4 [easy way]: Transfer veggies and some hot water to blender to create mashed consistency.
Step 4 [poor college student way]: Transfer veggies and some hot water to pot and use a masher and eat slightly chunky soup (but at least it's made of FRESH veggies and tastes like heaven!)
Step 5: Add coconut milk to taste. (healthier alternative to heavy cream)
Step 6 [optional]: Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. (health benefits!!)

I find that I really like the pace of my days here in Glasgow. Of course, I have no responsibilities, minimum classwork, and quite a sum of money saved up so I’m in an ideal situation to really have a good time but I’m excited to bring this motivation back to California. I want to look forward to everyday that I wake up, like I do here. I never know where my two feet will bring me, but I do know that if let myself enjoy things instead of being so intense all the time, life’s going to continue to be pretty awesome.

Wee Reflection

You know that you’re living a very privileged life when you have to choose between spending your time in one European city or another. Each weekend that I’ve been here, I’ve had to decide whether to spend it traveling around Europe or getting to know Glasgow. 2/3 of my weekends in Europe are spent outside of Glasgow. That’s more time outside then in. Of course, my weekends have been spent partying in Budapest or on a canal boat tour in Amsterdam, amongst other things that I can’t complain about, but I do wish that I did not feel so pressured by my four month time frame. I would love to spend more weekends having late morning brunches and walking around the park if I could.

I keep telling myself that I have so much time ahead of me after my study abroad to go back to Europe but it still feels wasteful to stay in Glasgow when I could be exploring a city I’ve never even heard of in Europe. It’s quite the dilemma for me, because as you can probably tell – I LOVE GLASGOW SO MUCH. Perhaps in the future, I’ll be able to return to this wonderful city and really take my time. I genuinely could see myself back here. Complaining about my 1.80 pound oat milk being too expensive, spending my Fridays off sucked into the buy 1, 50% off book sale at Waterstones, drinking my elderflower gin and tonic at Oran Mor with my work friends – I can see it in the future and my desire to make it happen is as scary as it is exciting.

Ashton Lane casually flexing.

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t bring my DSLR. Instead, I brought four pairs of shorts that I have yet to wear and never will wear because I live in Scotland where they have to throw salt on the streets in the middle of November because it’s dangerously icy. I’m quite upset at myself for being so irrational. Starting this blog, which has become more of a personal journal at this point, has been stretching the bounds of my creativity. I love writing and I enjoy taking pictures but I never thought it would feel like such a task to combine the two. It takes a lot of time and work to write these posts and it only gives me a greater appreciation for those that do it for a living. It would have been awesome to practice my photography skills with a DSLR but I guess I’m just going to have to come to Europe again to take pictures!

One of my proudest moments so far was when I was packing for Rome and I only used half of my carryon. With my first trip to Amsterdam, I used my whole carryon and an additional personal bag to fit all of my stuff. I’m by no means an expert traveler now but with each trip that I pack for, I find that I’m increasingly practical. I have to keep telling myself “No, I won’t need those two extra pairs of pants just in case it rains, or the extra pair of shoes. I’ll be okay!” Eventually, maybe I’ll be able to backpack around Europe or Asia! (Wishful thinking but again, what’s a girl without a dream?)

In the past month and a half or so, I realize that I missed home the most when I saw the kids. When I came to the UK, I broke my heart into four pieces and gave a piece to each of the girls I left at home. When I was facetiming my mom the other day, one of the girls, said my name more clearly than she had ever said it before, then she asked me out of the blue “Chi Thao, are you sad?” She could barely say I love you before I came to the UK. Now, she’s asking me how I feel because she knows that I am far from them and from home. I told her I wasn’t sad but I just missed them so much. I think about how much of their growth I don’t get to see but then I can’t imagine missing out on everything that I’ve done so far. It makes me feel slightly better to think about how I can show them this blog when they get to my age and they’ll groan about how I’ve already told them about Glasgow a million times but maybe they’ll look at the pictures of the delicious foods or perhaps it’ll be my list of destinations that’ll get them to follow in my footsteps. Hopefully this blog will solidify my cool cousin/aunt status too.

There are exactly 24 days until I leave Glasgow without a known return date. But I know that someday I’ll be back. I’ll bring my family here and show them all the places that I’ve written about. Maybe I’ll come back here for my Masters. Maybe I’ll even move here! I don’t know what will happen but I’m learning to be okay with that. Next time though – gotta bring my DSLR.

Scottish Humor…just going to leave this here.

Love,

Rosa xx

Dear Budapest,

Uncategorized

As always, but even more so with this trip, I wish I had more time! Three whole days in the beautiful city was not nearly enough. If you are looking for amazing (CHEAP!) food, stunning scenery and architecture as well as a raging nightlife, look no further than Budapest, Hungary. There’s nowhere in the world like it. (Very open to be proven wrong though). Disclaimer, some of the pictures in this blog post were taken by my very talented roommate Cata. Go give her Instagram a wee look!

This trip, I went with Cata (left) and Cata’s best friend from Chile, Clau (right)! Over the few days that we spent together, I grew more and more inspired by their creativity, intelligence and all around bad-assery. Cata did the Camino De Santiago in Spain BEFORE her three month study abroad trip and Clau CAMPED for a month in the Chilean Patagonia just because! Meanwhile, I scrub my body for an hour after a three day camping trip. My aunt has always said that you are a combination of the 5 people that you surround yourself with and I wish that Chile wasn’t so far because I think it’d be really cool to have some of their greatest attributes in my personality as well.

Sample Itinerary

Friday:

9:00 – Tesco Run

11:00 – Exploring Buda

17:00 – Drum Cafe

21:00 – Bars and Clubs

Saturday:

12:00 – Gozsdu Weekend Market

3:00 – Drum Cafe

21:00 – Bars and Clubs

Sunday:

11:00 – Vajdahunyad Castle

3:00 – Tukory Etterem

4:00 – Parliament Building

6:30 – Danube River Tour

Budapest is a city with a rich history, to say the least. One of the aspects of this trip that I appreciated the most was who I traveled with. While we were waiting at the airport in Edinburgh, Cata was getting quite frustrated with herself because she didn’t know enough about Hungary. According to her, traveling is meaningless if you can’t put any context to anything that you see. I can’t say that I disagree.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend a guided tour for any of the attractions that we visited. So to compensate for that, she would read from various websites about the ever changing political climate, or about how the food came to be, or how the buildings were built/sustained even amid the World Wars. She and Clau, my other companion, were so knowledgable in the history of the Hapsburgs, and in Marxism and in all these things that I can recognize from the classes I’ve taken but for the life of me cannot completely recollect. I truly mean it when I say that it absolutely changes your traveling experience when you at least have some form of understanding about the how’s and the why’s.

Here is my very brief and surface-level understanding of the city. Budapest is actually a merge of three settlements: Buda, Pest and Óbuda. Nowadays, it’s more recognized as having two sides – Buda (the left side of the Danube River) and Pest (the right side of the Danube River). Buda is where the royal town used to be, so therein lies the Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Castle Gardens, and various museums. Pest used to be a prosperous trading center and is where the majority of the city-life is – the delicious restaurants, the night clubs, and other touristy things. Going into our trip, we actually wanted to dedicate Sunday to a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. After Friday and Saturday though, we knew that there was way too much that we still wanted to do in Budapest to make that happen.

Making our way from our Airbnb to Buda was quick and easy. We decided to stay in Jewish Quarter/District 7, so it was a bit of a walk away but I’ll specify why this was the perfect place to stay later in the post. On our way there, we passed the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe, which is incredible considering which side Hungary was on during WWII. (well…it’s complicated…) It gives me so much hope for humanity. Unfortunately, the stars did not align and we were unable to visit the inside of the synagogue but someday, I hope I’ll be able to come back.

The streets were filled with tourists, especially since the Christmas markets were already being set up. We passed a small one, with no more than 20 booths, and I just know that I’ll love them even more if I see them at their full scale. Hand-painted ornaments waited to adorn trees. Piping-hot langosh passed from fryer to customer quicker than the speed of sound. Perfectly stacked sweets tantalized the children that passed by. Christmas markets were everything that I hoped they would be. They remind me of the Sawdust Festival, in Laguna Beach, California, something I could never get sick of, even if I go year after year.

As soon as we crossed the Chain Bridge, we were bombarded with tour promoters. Buda side definitely gives off a more “YOU ARE IN BUDAPEST” vibe, if that makes sense at all. The whole experience on Buda seemed very structured because there were only a few roads in the town and everything was centered around the attractions. We ended up succumbing to one of the promoters and for 7 euro each, we were able to get transportation to and from each of the four major points on Buda Side. We ended up only using it to get up and down the hill and not between places but it was worth it because that distance was quite far.

Buda

First stop, Buda Castle! Here’s the thing about Buda Castle. It’s not just one building. It’s an entire complex. We should have done way more research before going into Buda. The “castle” (singular) is made up of several (plural) buildings. There were three different museums, multiple-viewpoints and two buildings that I have no idea that they’re for. We walked around, confused and lost because of the sheer size of the buildings. This is probably the first country that I’ve been to that English is not a language known by most of the people. They primarily speak Dutch in Amsterdam but their english is also very good. We never had trouble communicating with broken english, pointing and lots of smiling but it was different being unable to understand the signs or what was being spoken around me.

This next story is incredibly embarrassing but I think it’s a really good lesson on the necessity of research! I’ve grown very lax in my travels and have paid the price for it. I’m all about going into a city and just figuring it out but now I really need to do more than just a bit of research. So long to free-spirited Rosa and hello again to planning expert Rosa!

So we were wandering around, trying to find the Buda Castle, which we assumed was one building. Finally seeing some security guards, army men and very professional looking cars, we thought that perhaps we found the front entrance to the castle. With confidence, we approached them and asked if this was the castle. They nodded yes and started to laugh. Unfazed, I plowed ahead and asked if it was open today. We had seen that there was a guided tour that came with the purchase of a ticket or something and like I mentioned, we wanted to learn! Because they didn’t speak much english, one had to translate to the other and they laughed even harder. They reply that they are closed. I persisted. Tomorrow? Sunday? Monday? They shake their hands and continue laughing.

We walked away, still confused. While explaining to them the situation, I was struck with the realization. Wait. Army. Security. Nice cars. Oh my goodness. I just tried to get into the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister of Hungary lives in the Buda Castle Complex. I just asked if his office is “open” and if my American tourist ass can come in. Might as well start writing my speech for stupidest tourist of 2019. So lesson has been learned, start planning things again! Life’s just been moving so fast that I’ve forgotten my roots in being obsessive with preparation. Now that this story is out on the world wide interwebs, I’m never going to be able to forget it, but hopefully you won’t either and you’ll learn from my mistakes!

Moving on from that, we went to Fisherman’s Bastion, which was built originally as a fortification system for the Buda Castle District as it was first being developed in the 1400s. The view is unparalleled. From the Bastion, you get a panoramic view of the Pest portion of the city and beyond. You see Margaret Island to the left, the Parliament Building and St. Stephen’s Basilica in front of you and then the rest of the city on the right. You look under you and around you and you feel the history through the stone. The Bastion was severely damaged once by nature’s abuse and then again during WWII. Each time, it was built up again and better than before.

Right next to Fisherman’s Bastion is Matthias Church. I have a big thing for churches but I have an even bigger thing for gothic churches with romanesque roots. From the outside, you are struck first with the unique tile placement on the roof. Then, when you go inside, your senses are overrun with color and light and shadow and how tall the church is and how perfectly the arches curve and enclose you in and it is just perfect. The style of architecture is completely unique to anything else that I’ve seen firsthand before. There is so much more color in Hungarian buildings that I thought there would be, but I’m not mad about it at all.

Our final stop in Buda was the Gardens. We weren’t able to wander around them too much because we started to grow a bit famished but as everything in Budapest – it was beautiful.

Pest

Before this trip, we only planned on having one night out in town. Nothing too crazy. I didn’t even pack clubbing clothes and I am usually always ready for a night out. I didn’t expect that Budapest would be so…for lack of a better word…lit. However, as soon as we made it to Szimpla Kert, one of the top ruin bars in Budapest, we knew that it would be impossible to truly experience the city without taking advantage of the raging night life.

Szimpla Kert is so weird but absolutely awesome. Honestly, I still don’t know exactly how to describe the place. I feel like it was a dump for all of those things that people throw out onto the street when they are moving house. There were random bathtubs everywhere, bike tires from the ceilings, typewriters attached to the wall – you name it, it’s probably in a nook or cranny somewhere there. Yet, it totally worked. The vibe was spot on. You could be celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary or going out for your mate’s 21st birthday and still have an equally amazing time. It’s just one of those places.

After that, we decided that we wanted to go for some dancing and boy oh boy. Instant Club: 2 buildings, 6 bars, 3 dance floors, 2 gardens. It doesn’t matter who you are or whether or not you like to party. JUST GO!! We stayed out until 4AM for two nights in a row. As someone who is very particular about dance music, I can confidently say that the best DJs that I have ever seen were at Instant Night Club. When my current favorite song by Meduza (give it a listen) played, I legitimately almost cried because it’s been on repeat for the past two months for me and I haven’t ever heard it played in Scotland. Glasgow needs to hire these DJs (or hire me) because Hungarians know how to properly party.

Remember how I said that staying in District 7 was a really smart move? We were at most a ten minute walk away from Instant Club and only around the corner from Szimpla Kert. Also, oddly enough, our street was not rowdy at all, even though we were so close to all the bars and clubs. Our Airbnb was in a complex with residents that seemed to all have families and jobs to get to so it was very nice happy medium. If you are going to party or go on pub crawls late at night, I’d really recommend looking for a place close to the bars that you want to go to, rather than close to the places you want to go during the day. In Ireland, it was a 30 minute walk from the last bar to our hostel. How we got home safely, I have no idea. However, both nights in Budapest, we barely had to walk half a mile to get home!

Because we partied both Friday and Saturday night, our mornings were a bit harder to get going. We knew after Friday night that we had to make the choice to party again or to have the energy to do many of the tourist-y things that we also wanted to do. We chose the partying and I don’t regret it because I think I’m at the age and point in my life where I’m not in too much of a rush to experience everything. At 20, I can physically and mentally keep up with the partying but I’m not sure if i’d be willing to do that if I’m traveling with my husband or with my kids. I’m really lucky to be able to travel right now with no responsibility, no long-term relationship and a fair amount of money in my pocket. It’s going to be a while before I’m able to up and go like this again, if at all, but I think that finding the joy of traveling so early means that I have years ahead of me to plan for it.

Of course, it would have been nice to be able to see inside the synagogue, Parliament building, or to go to the thermal baths, but both nights at Instant will forever be some of the best times of my life. Besides, I will do everything in my power for an opportunity to take my parents or my future family to Budapest again. It’s been my favorite destination so far!

Back to the wholesome content… After our first night out, we wandered around the Gozsdu Weekend Market, a passage way full of hand embroidered tea towels, soviet collectibles and jewelry makers. I love finding these small markets where you get to meet locals and really see what they’re passionate about. We saw an old man that collected stamps from every Olympics in the past sixty or so years. He had them in books and separated them from country to country, era to era. It sounds like a dream to spend your weekends people watching and sharing your passion with others.

Vajdahunyad Castle is straight from a fairytale. There’s the idyllic lake wrapping around the grounds, the bridge leading to the massive entrance, and of course grand staircases that lead to even grander rooms. It seems with all the castles that I see, I never expect them to be how they are. Like Edinburgh Castle, Vajdahunyad Castle is surrounded by apartment complexes and very close to the main road. It’s crazy for me to think that people live no more than a stone throw’s away from a whole freaking castle! I guess that’s the appeal of traveling/moving to Europe for me. You don’t have to look too far to find a piece of history or a beautiful castle!

The weekend that we were there, the castle decided to gift us with a beautiful Orchid festival. For someone with a black thumb, I sure love flowers. It was a massive affair, with different types of orchids (even carnivorous orchids) on display, brought to life behind a velvet rope and bright spotlights. 60 year old women stuck their phones right up to the orchids, ooh-ing and aah-ing at how strong and healthy the flowers were. It was as if I was seeing myself through a time-traveling machine 40 years into the future. The funniest part was that the husbands were all clustered around the few chairs available, holding floral print scarfs, Coach purses and jackets way too small to be their own. I think that’s a deal breaker for me. Are you willing to hold my things while I take pictures of flowers for hours and drag you along? Yes? You sure? Confirmed: soulmate.

While we were exploring the grounds, there were sudden bursts of very strong winds. As we are in the middle of Autumn (there are SEASONS here!), the leaves started to fall. I wish I had a higher quality video camera to capture the moment. It was the first time that I witnessed magic.

Quick! Funny story. Near the entrance, they were offering a view in one of the towers for 300 HUF, which is about 1 Euro. Paying the price, we climbed up some stairs and were lead to this room, where there were photographs and illustrations about the damage and subsequent renovations that the castle had to go through following the wars. My friends went through the door to the outside first and I trailed along at my own pace. Stepping across the threshold, I was calm and cool until I looked up and saw THIS:

Excuse my french but WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?? WHY IS THAT THERE??

I am still just so confused as to why there is a dummy on this viewpoint. I understand having a scarecrow in a field so that the crows don’t peck at the crop but we tourists are supposed to pay the 300 HUF to go to the top of the tower! Why is the dummy there!?! Also, why is the dummy fully dressed with tied shoe laces?! I’m just confused.

This was the view from the platform though. Quite pretty.

We ended off the trip on a very good note. Even though my nose felt like it was going to freeze off and my hair turned into a rat’s nest from the wind, the Danube River Tour was well worth it. It was only 10 Euro a person! We were given a glass of Vino Caldo (mulled wine) and a beautiful view of both Buda and Pest. I thought to myself: when are we ever going to get this view again? I don’t think it’s necessarily about making every second in your life matter but it’s about knowing which seconds do matter. You’re going to have the occasional day where all you did was make yourself a Cup Noodle and watch Mind Hunter. (I’ve had way too many of those but let’s not get into that) That’s okay! I’ve forced it into my head so much that every day has to matter and if it doesn’t, then I’m not living. That would require me to be on my A-game 24/7 for my whole life, which is just foolish! It seems that every year that I grow older, I have more of these seconds that matter and that thought makes me incredibly happy.

One of the biggest disappointments of this trip was not being able to go inside St. Stephen’s Basilica or the Hungarian Parliament. We were on our way to the Basilica but unfortunately found out that it was closed and we were unable to book a tour with the Parliament and they only allow in visitors via guided tours. I would have never been in this situation a year ago. I would have made sure that I had tickets for the exact time that I wanted. I would have made sure that I knew how much time it would take to walk to every site and about how much time I would spend at each.

I wish that I was like that on this trip. I had so much fun and I don’t regret any moment of it but I think, especially with my last few trips as well, that if I had only just taken the reigns and let myself plan instead of trying to match everyone else’s pace, I could have gotten so many more things done with the same amount of time. With my next trips to Rome, Paris and London, I’m trying to structure my time a bit more since those cities are so overwhelming. At least with the places that I’ve been before, I’ve done 85%+ of all the things that I’ve wanted to do so I can confidently say that I had a good trip. However, with the big cities, there’s no way that I will be able to do even most of the things on my bucket list so I just have to pick and choose and make sure that I choose the right things.

This picture doesn’t do Buda Hill at night justice!

Who would have thought that Hungarian food would beat out every other type of cuisine that I’ve ever had in my life? Cheese, paprika, bread, pasta, more cheese, paprika, pasta, bread, even more cheese, paprika. I’m drooling just looking at these pictures. We were trying to find an authentic Hungarian restaurant to try and for the three of us including drinks, our meal only cost about 35 Euro. We loved it so much that we ate at the same restaurant twice! So amazing. Phenomenal. See pictures below.

Here’s about a chart about Hungarian food/Drinks that I had way too much fun making:

FoodIn a sentence or two…My advice:
LangoshBREAD CHEESE SOUR CREAM BREAD CHEESE PAPRIKABREAKFAST LUNCH AND DINNER
GulashPeanut. Chicken. Paprika. Light Broth. Flavorgasm.EAT IT EAT IT EAT IT EAT IT
NokedliGnocchi but lighter and more egg-ySCOOP & CHEW SCOOP & CHEW
GyrosBest 4am decision I’ve ever madeAre you drunk? Are you tired? Are you in Budapest? Just get the damn Gyros.
Soproni#BeerwiththebrosWDYM YOU DON’T LIKE BEER
PalinkaSmells like rubbing alcohol but tastes like fruit. Take Caution.hard pass. never again. will die if consumed. steer clear. danger zone.

Ending Remarks

Budapest, I love you so! Your culture, your food, your people – everything! I hope that I see you again soon and by soon I mean tomorrow, preferably! I write a postcard to my parents with every city that I visit. I usually tell them what happened with excitement and they respond with an equal amount of happiness that I experienced what I did. Yet, as I wrote the words “one day in the future, I want to bring you here to visit this beautiful city”, I couldn’t stop crying. In Vietnamese, those words bring even more emotion because they carry a sense of longing and “far-awayness” if that makes sense. I wish so much to be able to share my experiences with them. I wish that I could show them that all of their hard work has not been in vain and that every wrinkle on their face and every ache in their neck for me has been worth it. If traveling for myself is not enough incentive for me to work my ass off for the next few years, taking my parents to places like these will be.

Wow this was an incredibly long post. Almost 4000 words! If you got to the end of this, you’re a true homie and you should go to Budapest. Everyone should! Goodbye for now, Budapest. Next stop, Rome!

Egészségére!

Rosa xoxo

Scotland & The Little Gems that Make it Great

Study Abroad 2019
Look at this handy dandy map designed by Clair Rossiter!

My past two weekends have been dedicated to exploring what Scotland has to offer: from beach cities like Oban and Inverness to the great outdoors at the University of Edinburgh Firbush Center. Arcadia University, who is my study abroad facilitator, hosted both of these weekend trips and I genuinely would have never been able to do the things that I’ve done without them.

For the first weekend, we did lots of “tourist-y” things. Starting in Glasgow, we went to Oban, a beach city on the western side of Scotland. For spatial reference, look for the two little green and white houses near the Inner Hebrides and Skye. Because I had morning classes, I had to take the three hour train to Oban by myself, but it was worth it! We passed by towns that had actual smoke billowing out of actual chimneys, lochs (ie. lakes) that peeked between mountains, and even castle ruins. Genuinely, I would make the trip to Oban again just for the sole reason to experience the wonder of seeing Scotland through the window of a train again.

Once I got there, we went to the Oban Distillery, where we got to learn about the four flavors they have in their whiskey and how it’s made. We were supposed to taste the sweetness of the honey, the vibrancy of the orange, the saltiness from the proximity to the sea and the smokiness from the processing. In an attempt to do exactly that, I followed our tour guide’s advice and drank the whiskey properly. I sniffed it once, then twice, then took a sip and tried to keep the liquid in my mouth for 14 seconds to represent the 14 years that it waited to be opened and consumed. To this day, my body involuntarily shivers at the prospect of having to consume whiskey in that way ever again. Nonetheless, I’m glad that I was able to experience the drink in a way I’d never done before! (Whiskey sours just make whiskey taste so much better…)

Next, we went up to McCaig’s Tower, which rests on a hilltop and gives sweeping views of Oban down below. This was one of the many moments where I was struck with wonder about the power and beauty of nature. My biggest worry once I am back in suburban California is how much I’m going to miss these moments of clarity about what I’m working towards. It’s so much easier to read my school books and to do my assignments when I have weekends like these to look forward to.

Hands down, my favorite part of Oban has to be Markie Dans. A small, unassuming pub on the outside, it exceeded all of our expectations. A large group of us started with beers and ciders, taking our time in one of the booths getting to know each other. Then, Gregor Hunter Coleman, started to tune his guitar. Curious, we grabbed our drinks and headed over to the other room to get a closer look and from then on, we were hooked! It’s not just the butterfly neck tattoo, or the multi-instrument performance, or the voice – it’s a combination of all three of those that had Victoria and I dancing and laughing the night away. Lucky for us, he’s based in Glasgow and plays frequently at various venues! (we’re not Gregor groupies, I swear!…)

The next day, while on the way to Inverness, every stop brought something different! On the map, it is all the way to the right on the East Coast where there is a castle-like building.

Our first stop was at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where the Hogwarts Express passes through in the movies! The picture is too far for you to see but the bridge is stunningly beautiful in person. I wish we were able to see a train passing by but apparently, they weren’t running on the day that we went. Scotland is such a small country but I’ve never felt smaller than when I go to the highlands and see just how far the mountains go and how the lochs are seemingly never-ending.

The lovely puppies that I am cradling in the pictures below are called sheep dogs. More commonly known as Border Collies, these animals are amongst the smartest that I have ever seen. Fiercely dedicated to their job, the older dogs barely noticed us when we were petting them but as soon as they heard the Shepard’s whistle, they were ready to do whatever the Shepard called them to do. With just a light whistle with slight variations in tone and pitch, the Shepard directed the dogs, left-right-faster-slower-forward-backwards, in a way that they would herd the sheep wherever the Shepard wanted them to be. Scroll to the fifth picture below to see him holding FOUR puppies in his arm. I want to be him.

During the demonstration, the Shepard suddenly used the hook in his hand and reeled one of the sheep in. At first, I was appalled by the roughness of the action but then he explained that this process of shearing the sheep actually really helps the animal. He laid the sheep on his legs and demonstrated that its body’s natural response to the Shepard is to lay its entire weight on his legs and to let the Shepard guide it wherever he needs it to be. With quick, precise cuts, he quickly chopped away half of the wool and wrapped it all in a wool burrito, which he tucked into his arm and continued to speak as if nothing had happened at all. I was struck by the thought that this is his job and that he does this everyday. He lives on this farm! He told us about how he only goes into town a couple of times a year, and very reluctantly. I can’t imagine being so far away.

Next, we went to the Urquhart Castle that – you guessed it – took my breath away! To think that there were people that lived here is insane. When I look outside my window at home, I see my grey car, the grey roads, the grey walls – everything is so monotonous. The view outside these windows is full of all the shades of green and blue in existence. The evergreen trees, the lime green of the grass and the steel blue of the Loch Ness River to name a few. The pictures below are of the Loch Ness river. Yes, where Good Ol’ Nessie lives! See her in all her glory in the second picture!

I’m much more of an art history fan than a king-war-conquer-nations history fan, if that makes sense. However, after being in Europe for close to two months now, history is one of the most interesting subjects to me. It’s tedious being in America and learning about European history because you feel so disconnected to it. But when I see the castles and the monuments paying homage to the lives lived and lost, I feel so much more interested in how we’ve grown as a human species. It’s no longer European history and American history. It’s a timeline of how we’ve grown as people and how we’ve solved and embraced our differences. How fascinating.

Overall, Oban and Inverness were great little towns to explore. We spent a lot of the time traveling on the bus and moving from attraction to attraction, so it was tiring but worth it!


The following weekend, we stayed in Killin. On the map, we were in the middle of Scotland, on the North side of Loch Lomond and West of Dundee. Our group stayed at the University of Edinburgh Firbush Outdoor Center, which was a massive building made to look like the coziest log cabin you’ve ever seen. The dining room was 180 degrees of windows and views out into Loch Tay. The window of my room opened up to the beautiful joining of two mountains with the sun rising right between them. If you ever have the chance to be in Scotland and want an outdoor experience that you will never forget, I highly recommend staying at the Firbush Center!

The good thing about the Firbush Center was that everything was provided to us. Hiking boots, waterproof pants and jackets, backpacks – you name it, they have it. Before our hike, they encouraged us to really dress for the elements. I looked down at my waterproof boots, which protect me well enough in the city, and up at the sky, which was deceivingly blue and thought that I’d be okay. However, thank goodness for peer pressure, everyone started to put on heavy duty boots so I did too. Thank God they had my shoe size. I asked them for the smallest pair of shoes they had and low and behold, they fit me perfectly! I had on four upper layers. A heattech turtleneck, a thick Patagonia fleece, a Patagonia down jacket and my Marmot outershell. And for the lower layer…well, a pair of black jeans, which happened to be very comfortable, thank you very much. With my “waterproof” backpack (which you will hear my qualms about in a bit….) and the hum of excitement in my bones, I set off to S’ron a’ Chlachain.

We went in with the expectation to do outdoor activities all weekend but we were perhaps a bit more “one with nature” than we hoped to be. The mountain’s name means “Ring Finger of the Nose” and what “Ring Finger of the Nose” means is lost to me, but there it is! Overlooking Loch Tay, the hill looks quite intimidating from the bottom. But I didn’t realize that not only were we hiking up to the top, but we were going to have to actually battle the elements and become mountain goats or we were going to fall off the side of the cliff.

This was the view after about 30 minutes of hiking.

The climb started off good. It was steep, my thighs were burning, my lungs were working overtime, but it was manageable. For the duration of the weekend, there was a group of five true Scottish mountain men that lead us through our activities. On the hike, each had a full 40L backpack with what I thought were snacks (at least that’s what they told us). Now looking back, I’m sure it was actually full of medical supplies and rain gear just in case any of us needed it.

We got up the the first of six steep stretches and that’s when it started sprinkling. Up until this point, the path was very clear to me. Now, looking up at the second steep stretch, there was no path. We were simply following one of the mountain men like a bunch of sheep. Through grass, mud, and slippery rock, we went at such a steep angle that it felt like I was lunging with every step. At first, I was keeping my cool, but then, it started to pour rain. Not California rain pour. Scottish highlands pouring rain. My hands were numb, my pants became a second skin, my lungs burned – my mental strength had never been tested in that way before. I had to test each step before I committed because the ground was growing more and more unstable and slippery as the rain continued to punish the earth.

About halfway through, we found a collection of rocks and huddled around to eat the lunch that we prepared that morning. Opening up my “waterproof” backpack, I found my plastic bag of lunch floating in a puddle of water. At this point, I couldn’t bring myself to care because I was soaking wet down to my fleece and knickers. But now that I’m reflecting on it, I’m so upset! Misadvertisement!

Also, I have a thing about algae. I don’t really like to touch, associate or even think about algae. There was algae on the rocks. I thought about standing and eating my lunch for a solid minute but then fatigue won over and I sat my wet butt onto the algae and ate my lunch. For the half hour that we sat, we all just looked at each other in confusion and utter astonishment that we were hiking through the Scottish Highlands like we were characters in Outlander. Who would have thought that our Saturday afternoon in October would be like this?

After finishing our lunch, we continued our way to the peak. At one point, at around the fourth steep stretch, we had to climb over a bunch of rocks with rivers of mud and water running down. Looking behind and all around me, I saw the thick clouds, heavy with rain with endless mountain peeking in between them. For the first time, I felt fear. Pure, unadultered fear ran through my veins. But the fear of having to turn around and go down the slippery side of the mountain that we came up on was more than the fear of going up. So up I went. I bit my tongue and continued to climb even though I almost fell more than once. Thinking back, if they had told us that our hike was going to be like this, I would not have done it.

However, once we summitted, it was incredible. It’s bringing tears to my eyes just writing about it right now. Who would have thought that I would be soaked to the bone, emotionally and physically drained, but the happiest I’ve ever been in my life – in the Scottish Highlands no less. The pictures do it no justice, but words don’t either. If you have a chance to climb S’ron a’ Chachain, don’t let my blog post deter you. Do it and tell everyone you know about it. It’s the true Scottish Highland experience that’s for sure.

On the way down, we were given the choice of either going down the way we can up or going down a different, more manageable way. Guess which one we chose? Yes, we took the easy way out. The way down was stunning. See the brief video below for our view the whole way down! We walked along side a stream, so you could hear the soothing sound of water running and wind rustling the grass while you panted your way down the mountain.

I walked along side one of our guides who kept giving me plants and telling me the story behind each one. The string-y looking white plant on the right tasted just like mushroom! I forget the stories (I swear there’s something wrong with my Hippocampus) but I remember thinking about what it would be like to actually live off the land like they did hundreds of years ago. The creativity and the trial and error that they had to go through to succeed and thrive is incredible.

As we were going down the mountain, I couldn’t stop thinking about the song that we sang during a summer camp that I volunteered at. It goes a little something like this:

Come fill my cup 'til it overflows
Come fill my cup 'til it overflows
Come fill my cup 'til it overflows
'Til it overflows with love

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was blind but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see

During the camp, I was blessed with an amazing group of boys that I think about every single day. While trekking through the grass, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I am. To be healthy, to be happy, to be able to travel, to be able to enjoy a sandwich, to be able to laugh with my friends – I’m so incredibly lucky and I’m so full of love for the life that I’ve lived and people that I’ve met. Crazy how life throws emotions at you and then you’re crying your eyes out while singing a children’s hymm while sloshing through mud down the Scottish highlands.

Before the tears started…

Surprisingly, the next day, I wasn’t sore at all! I attribute it to all the walking and working out I’ve been doing in Glasgow. We were given a choice of activities and we chose to kayak around Loch Tay. It’s different than in California. Usually, I’d just slip on a bikini and baseball cap and call it a day. Nope. We were required to wear wetsuits, fleeces, and rain jackets as well as helmets and life vests. It was pretty bad ass.

The views were spectacular as well. As we got further away from the Firbush Center, we passed by my dream home. It had to be about three stories, with goats casually roaming in the front yard and a plethora of fireplaces with actually steam coming out of actual chimneys. (I’m obsessed!) I asked our guide about how much it would be to purchase that house and he said about only 275,000 pounds. Of course, that’s a large sum of money but that’s about 1/5 the price of a house that size in California! At least now, I know what I’ll be working towards when I’m in my 30s.

After we got back from the kayaking trip, we all took a bit of a nap before the next round of activities. You see, I go to spin classes about two times a week. Of course, that’s not nearly enough to call me an “expert cycler” by any means. But I thought that biking into the town center would be fun to do. We struggled so much. There’s just something about combining balance, hilly terrain and tired legs that does not work well together. We ended up walking the bikes 30% of the time because we physically could not handle biking in the terrain. I usually love renting bikes and exploring places but this was another animal!

In 20 years, I’ve never experienced the changing of seasons. In the past month and a half, I’ve seen the green trees slowly change and I don’t think I can go back to having no seasons. It’s so subtle that you don’t even realize it’s fall until you’re ankle deep in yellow leaves . While we were biking, there was just enough wind that you could hear the leaves lightly scraping the pavement before they flew up into the air again. What an experience it was to bike with this view.

Both weekends with Arcadia University were incredibly worth it. We got to see and do so many things for a fraction of the cost it would have taken for us to plan it on our own. I’m so happy that we were able to fit in all the historical sites into one weekend during the Oban and Inverness trip. Though I felt my emotional and physical limits tested during the Firbush weekend, I’m so glad that I was able to make it to the top. Excited to continue to explore what else Scotland has to offer! It seems that the adventure never stops here!

Cheers,

Rosa xoxo

The Journey to Becoming a Glaswegian: Week 1

Study Abroad 2019

It’s been an insane first week in this beautiful country. Not necessarily because my schedule’s filled to the brim, but more so because I didn’t realize how restless I was for adventure. I had no idea what to expect but for the first time in 20 years, I feel okay with the unexpected. I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert with spontaneity now but I’m beginning to think that maybe one doesn’t have to plan out every minute of their life to feel fulfilled – a quality over quantity sort of epiphany.

First and Foremost – Food.

Le Petit Cochon – highly recommend the Flat White! Best I’ve ever had.

Eating out almost each meal this past week has taken a toll on my wallet but it gives me pride to say that almost every single meal in this town has been absolutely phenomenal. I would have never expected that I would find proper asian food in Glasgow but everything about the Pad Thai at Thai Siam reminds me of Thai Pepper. That was the closest that I’ve felt to missing home as of late. I’m not much of a ramen fan but the veggie ramen paired with an ice cold Sapporo at Mikaku was the perfect remedy to a long day. Surprisingly, T4, a popular boba chain even in America, is everywhere in the UK! I can positively say that the boba is even comparable in quality to Southern California boba. While out and about today, I discovered a Vietnamese restaurant about a 20 minute walk from home. Here’s to hoping that my positive asian food experiences continue!

In Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-bur-uh according to locals), I had the best salad I’ve ever had in my entire life. That’s a big deal in my eyes!! We were given a sampler of the five salads that one could order as an entree and wow the Cumin and Chili Roasted Carrot and Lentil was mind-blowing. Ransacked Black Oven is a must-eat in Edinburgh. No question about it!

The most important discovery in the past week that I’ve had in Scotland is that there is an adorable vegetarian restaurant that serves a meat-free Haggis option with perfectly caramelized onions on top. Best part? It’s just around the corner from my present humble abode. Safe to say that Scotland has officially stolen every bit of my heart, especially in the culinary sense.

Unfortunately, there was one disappointment. Nando’s. Considering that it is THE chain in the UK, I expected something more than dry chicken and sad portions. Maybe it’s because I’m spoiled with amazing chains in California that serve chicken like Raising Canes and Chick-Fil-A. Nando’s just didn’t hit the spot for me.

Exploring

My wanderlust intensified as soon as I got into the taxi to go the hotel. We passed seas of umbrellas, double decker buses and cathedrals filtering light through stained glass windows. It’s absolutely beautiful to pass through a city with so much vitality and history. Our schedule has been pretty relaxed with only a few mandatory orientation meetings in the mornings. Most of afternoons were spent wandering down alleys and strolling along charity shop lined streets.

On a whim, my friends and I decided to visit Edinburgh Castle one afternoon. At the end of the Royal Mile, the fortress looms over the city. According to my memory and a quick browse of history websites, it was built in the 12th century and has been everything from royal residence to military barracks. We took our time wandering the grounds, passing by lines of polished cannons, the glimmering royal scepter and crown, and exhibits detailing Scotland’s tumultuous history of battles and sieges. There were so many moments where I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude about the opportunities that were presented to me just in the past year. I knew when I completed the study abroad application a year ago that I would be going to Scotland but I never anticipated to be so enthralled with the culture and the people.

It’s incredibly bizarre for me to not have a minute by minute schedule of my days. At first, it bothered me that we were simply left to our own devices as soon the short daily orientation meetings were over. I wanted structure. My life already felt like it was in shambles when I packed everything into a suitcase and left the mess at home. Unbeknownst to me, lack of structure is what I need. It’s been incredibly liberating to wake up without knowing what the day will bring. Who knew that I would be downing Pints of Fun (It’s a UofG thing) on a Sunday night? Who knew that I would find a beautiful scarf on an impromptu trip to Buchanan Street? Who knew that I would be booking a trip to Amsterdam (LEAVING IN THREE DAYS!!!) with people I met less than a week ago? I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that the past week would lay itself out like this. But it did, and I’m not mad about it at all.

After settling into my dorm at UofG, I started to feel the same restlessness that I now associate with the itch to explore. Tying up my trusty running shoes, I made my way to Kelvingrove Park. The running part was absolutely miserable, but the fresh air and dog watching opportunities made the experience worthwhile. Several trees scattered around the park had leaves that were starting to turn the various colors of fall. Seeing those small signs that I will be living in a city with seasons made the butterflies in my stomach flutter once again. I’m going to be seeing the leaves change from evergreen green to ruby red to mandarin orange to mustard yellow and then eventually, the trees will be leafless and pale white snow will be blanketing the city. My excitement will kill me if the cold doesn’t first.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

Remember to bring a reusuable/canvas tote everywhere you go! Even when you don’t think you’ll use it! Just bring it! It took a few trips to and from Buchanan street for me to become permanently attached to my reusable bag. Without a car, it’s somewhat of a hassle to purchase anything at all because then you have to lug it onto the subway and on the 10 minute walk home, but it is so much easier when you have a single bag that can hold everything! Thus, the introduction of a collapsible bag that you can place into your small crossbody bag just in case you need to pop it out.

I should have known this since I now live in Scotland where it rains 70% of the time, but an umbrella is mandatory. Even when it’s sunny outside. Even when the forecast says there is 0.0000% of rain. Even if Glaswegians say it’s going to be sunny enough to go to the park for a football game. You need an umbrella. Or you’re going to be stuck walking through the rain with poofy hair, runny makeup and wet feet. But like the title of this section – lesson learned! See below for the cute outfit I was wearing before the heavens opened up and torrential rain escaped from the clouds and descended to the earth.

On the other hand, it’s only been a week but I’ve learned to savor as much time in the sun as possible. Since fall and winter are fast approaching, I took the opportunity today to wear a dress – something I don’t expect to be doing in two weeks time. Were my knees buckling from the wind chill for the first hour? Yes. Did I have to shave my legs before I scare half of Glasgow away? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. See below for pictures of the absolute blast of a day that I had while wearing a dress in 50 degree weather.

The Blessing of Company

Aside from a few trips out of town here and there, I’ve slept in the same bed since I was 2. I’m now 20! That’s 18 years of having my own space with uninterrupted “me” time most nights. In the past week, I’ve had to learn how to cohabitate, share kitchen supplies with four other people, and shorten my shower time significantly because there’s 12 people using 4 bathrooms. I expected a much harder transition into living with someone else but it’s been amazing so far. The kitchen is always filled with people, so it’s less lonely when I’m preparing my meals for the week. Catalina, my roommate, is one of the sweetest people I know. One of the first nights she was here, she and a few other Chilean students at UofG cooked a traditional Chilean dish of Sopapillas and a salsa type mix. Sharing it with everyone else, she created this sense of community that I really missed, having worked two jobs for the past eight months. I missed being able to choose to socialize instead of having to smile constantly during rush events or having to turn on my customer service voice during work.

Going into this study abroad trip, one of my primary worries was that my introvert tendencies would hinder my ability to make connections with others. Oddly enough, it’s quite the opposite. Through the Arcadia program, I’ve met quite a fair share of extroverts that balance out my quietness. Also, living in a fresher’s dorm environment with people constantly around encourages socialization in many aspects but I find that I can still find that balance between having time for myself in my room and being out and about with others. With a stroke of luck, my best friend, Becs, is my next door neighbor! We made the decision to not live together in an effort to push past our comfort zone, but it is incredibly comforting to have her so close just in case I need a reminder that home is not too far away.

One week down in Scotland, many more weeks to go! Stay tuned for more blabber about the foods I try and the places I see.

Cheers,

Rosa xx

Hogwarts? Goats? Men in Kilts?

Study Abroad 2019

“So why did you choose Scotland? It’s just…so random.”

Surprisingly, I hear that quite often. Out of the dozens of programs offered to me by Chapman University, I thought it was so obvious why Scotland was my number one and quite frankly, only choice.

When I was first considering what I wanted my study abroad experience to be like, I knew that it had to be different. It had to be away from the overwhelming city bustle, the tourist traps and I knew it had to put me in a position where I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t intend to travel 15 hours by plane, pay thousands of dollars more for housing and put an ocean between me and my loved ones to be in Orange County 2.0.

The first box that Scotland ticked off for me was location. It is only a two hour plane ride from Germany, one of the countries that I’ve always dreamed of visiting. By train, it would only take six hours to get to London. Admittedly, six hours is a long time, but the rolling hills outside my window and my new Kindle Unlimited subscription would make the entire trip completely worth it. If I decide I want to go to Paris from London, it’s only another two hours. Yet, it was isolated enough that tourists wouldn’t be able to say that they suddenly found themselves in Scotland after wandering around Europe for long enough.

My second concern was whether or not the surrounding area would be catered towards my interests. After deciding on Scotland as a country, the choice became more complicated. Edinburgh or Glasgow. Both cities had long lists of pros and very few cons. I think that I’ll be spending lots of time in both cities, but eventually I decided on Glasgow. For one, it’s absolutely beautiful. The university looks like Hogwarts! (Hence the first part of this title). For those that know me well, Harry Potter is one of those series that changed my entire view of life, fiction and creative writing. It inspired me to let my creativity wander from the darkest depths of the Chamber of Secrets to high up in the sky where dragons fly freely. To be able to roam the halls of a building with such a stark resemblance to Hogwarts makes my heart soar. Since I won’t have my car in abroad, I want to be near enough to places that I could see myself spending afternoons at. The university is surrounded by quaint areas filled with boutique shops, cozy bars and sprawling gardens. A bit beyond that, there are beautiful landscapes where I will see my first changing of seasons! Yellow, red and orange leaves! How exciting! There’s so much to do in the area but it’s also not quite the crowded tourist stop that Edinburgh is. Yet, it’s close to enough to Edinburgh (only an hour away!) in case I get sick of Glasgow.

The third box was the school itself – which is incredible. It is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world. You know Adam Smith, the super insignificant guy that basically created the concepts of capitalism, laissez-faire and absolute advantage? Yeah, he went to the University of Glasgow. You know Sir Robert Edwards, the casual scientist that made conception through IVF possible? Yeah, University of Glasgow as well. I mention the people that have graduated from University of Glasgow not necessarily to brag but to express the excitement that I have when I think about walking through the same halls that these incredible people walked through. It makes me wonder if my story is going to be detailed in history books for years to come like their stories were.

The cherry on top to seal the deal was of course, the uniqueness of the entire experience that I’m going to have in Scotland. According to the 2013 census, there are 6.57 million sheep/goats in Scotland and only 5.33 million people. See below for an excessive amount of pictures of me with goats. I have a feeling that I may be falling more in love with the goats than I will with the people! When mentioning Scotland, we can’t forget the loch ness monster. Oh how wonderful it would be to be scared out of my mind on a trip to find the loch ness monster. Then there’s the kilts! Would it even surprise you if I said one of my dearest friends bought me a calendar of Scottish men in kilts on his last trip to Scotland? (it’s true!)

Excitement wakes me up every morning as September 8th, my departure date, comes closer. There is so much about the beautiful country that I have yet to learn and I cannot wait for the lessons and memories to come.