Italian Views

For the past 5 weeks I have had the experience of a lifetime. Italy has been nothing short of amazing in every way, and I am definitely not ready to say goodbye. The people are welcoming, the food is WOW (coming from the 10lbs of pasta I have consumed), and the view here is unreal.

I am studying business at the Università degli Studi di Torino, or simply The University of Torino in Torino, Italy. There has not been one moment I have regretted my decision to come to Italy, which was mostly based on the whole “food” factor, SHOUT OUT TO GELATO!

I knew the Italian cuisine would not disappoint but I was not prepared for what I was going to see here. I’ve been to places you only see pictures of on Google or Pinterest (heavy Pinterest user right here), and now I am the one standing right in front of it and taking the picture. Although my program ends in less than a week (finals Monday ew) I am going to continue to travel around Italy for 2 weeks and take in everything, I am not ready to leave just yet!


Portofino, Italy


Vernazza, Cinque Terre


Manarola, Cinque Terre


Nice, France (not actually Italy but go cards)

Ciao dudes,
Leslie

Shanghai Recommendations!

Hello, my Name is Nicole Miro and I have been in Shanghai for almost 5 weeks.  I’m currently studying at Shanghai University. First of all, my overall experience here has been wonderful. I got a Chinese roommate who speaks english and mandarin fluently, so she has been helping me a lot. Further, having a Chinese roommate have given me the opportunity to learn a little more from their culture, language, places to visit, clubs and restaurants.

If you are in Shanghai or you are planning to visit it, here are some recommendations that can make enhance your experience.

Places to visit:

  • The Bund: is the famous waterfront that is regarded as the symbol of the city. From there, you can see all the main and iconic buildings of Shanghai. The best time to visit it is between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm, when all the lights of the city create the perfect environment for a picture. If you don’t get a picture there at night, then your trip to Shanghai doesn’t count. Also, at this place you can find “the Bund Valentine Wall”, a wall covered with flowers which makes it a perfect spot for pictures.  
  • Oriental Pearl Tower: is a 468 meters high television tower consider one of the tallest buildings in Asia. Unlike any other building, the most important attraction of this tower is not really it’s high but instead it’s unique architectural design. Besides this, it offers different activities and tourist attractions in its inside: from restaurants, a virtual reality roller coaster to an incredible view of Shanghai. It is IMPOSIBLE TO MISS.
  • Shanghai Ocean Aquarium: this aquarium is really small compare those ones in USA. However, Its exhibitions are really unique and different from any other. I LOVED IT.
  • Fake Market: if you come to China, you need to go this kind of market. There you can find everything you ever imagine, from luxurious brands to technology products for a cheap price. Don’t pay more than 600 CNY pear each thing. Try always to bargain and get the lowest price as possible. BTW: it is located inside the metro station at the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum station in Line 2.
  • Yuyuan Garden: is one of the most famous garden of the Republic of China designed in the years of the Ming Dynasty. The park occupies about five acres and contains the basics of Chinese gardening.

 

Food and Restaurants: this area have been a little difficult for me because I’m allergic to sea food and I can’t eat spicy. So, in my efforts to find good places to eat, I have found several and these are a few of them:

  • 1001 Nights Restaurant: it is a good place is you like Arabic food and hookah! They have different salads, meats and dishes to share if you go with a group of people. It is located in Hengshan Rd., Line 1. (Accept VISA and MasterCard)
  • Bodeguita del Medio: A Cuban restaurant in Hengshan Rd., Line 1. The food is just amazing and if you are Latino or love Latin/Caribbean food as me, this can be your perfect option. I recommend you to order ropa vieja and rice with beans. Oh! don’t forget the piña colada.
  • Pizza Express: located in K11 Art Mall, has the best pizzas of Shanghai. The best of this place is that its menu includes different flavors and styles that fits different tastes. It is really cheap, around 60 CNY per person! (Accept international Cards)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope everyone is having a great experience, if you want to know more about mine follow my personal blog on Instagram @piccolomondoblog . SEE YOU THEN!

China- An underrated gem.

Ni Hao! Hello! I am Santiago Salazar and I am studying at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China. This will be the first of a three series posts I will share. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

Breathtaking pilar like, floating like mountains formed more than 1,800 years ago. Detailed to the millimeter ancient architecture wonders. Hundreds of different flavors in your palate and an extensive, strongly shaped for more than 5,000 years rich culture and history that makes it all happen. I would love to share with you, my experiences in China. I want you to be able to have the feeling and visual representation of what I have lived and someday for you to first hand enjoy it.

So, without further due, I would like to first ask you. Have you seen the movie Avatar? Regardless, let me take you there! Imagine you are walking up steep wooden steps in the side of a mountain. Going up, you can only see trees, greenery, and nature side by side. You can only hear the birds chirping and the wind crashing against the leaves. You are reaching the top of the mountain when you take a deep breath of fresh natural air. You now get to the top and set your eyes forward to one of the most majestic landscapes you have ever seen. From side to side in full panorama, you see a series of single mountains of different shapes and sizes, they look like pillars and they seem to be reaching out of the clouds and sky to individually seem like they are floating. In short, this was my experience in the breathtaking Zhangjiajie, the first national park of China, one of the most surreal places to visit on earth and the film site of the movie “Avatar.”……

Breathtaking Avatar mountains at Zhangjiajie, China.

Ni hao from Shanghai!

I have been in Shanghai for a little over a week, and I have already been positively surprised in many ways. The city is bigger, cleaner, and more organized than I ever imagined.

Shanghai is the most populated city in the world with a population of more than 25 million. The city is located on the East Coast of China, and is today a global financial center and transportation hub. Even though Shanghai is an extremely big city, it has the largest underground system in the world, which makes it easy to get to different places. I will admit that coming to China without knowing the language has at times been challenging, but it has improved my acting skills and quickly made me learn some important words and phrases.

The food here is incredible and very different from Chinese food in the United States. Shanghai is known for having sweet food, but there are several restaurants that serve food from all over the country. The ingredients are usually very fresh and natural, and cooked with many different types of oil. Another thing that is fresh, is the juice. I love all the different types of fresh juice you can get, orange, watermelon, pineapple, and mango juice are just some of them. Two of my favorite types of foods are Hot Pot and Dim Sum. Hot Pot is a very social form of eating. The table shares different types of boiling broth, where you cook many types of meat, vegetables, and noddle’s. Dim Sum on the other hand are different bite-size portions served in small steamer baskets. Dumplings are probably the most known type of Dim Sum internationally. I did not know how to eat a dumpling properly until my Shanghainese friends told me that you are first supposed to bite a small hole and drink the soup before eating the whole dumpling. Attached are some pictures from my first days in Shanghai.

Katrine

4 (Easy) Day Trips from Paris

Versailles

Since Versailles is only 30 minutes away from Paris by the RER, it is an accessible sight to visit right outside of the city.  Versailles is most famously known for the beautiful palace and the extravagant gardens.  My favorite part was just walking around the gardens and finding hidden treasures in the vastness of the beauty.  Versailles can easily take you the entire day with its great size, so make sure you bring your comfortable walking shoes, water and your camera, of course!

Loire Valley Region

Loire Valley is known for many things.  Their weather, the wine, but most importantly the chateaus.  There are over 300 different chateaus in the Loire Valley, which makes for a great day trip or a long weekend.  All chateaus are within a 2-hour range, making them easily accessible based on your route.  Personally, the chateaus I got to visit were Amboise, Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau.  The trip was split up in between two days, and I was able to explore and spend the night in Tours for pretty inexpensive.  Tours is a great little town which encompasses the culture of Loire Valley and could also make for its own great day trip.

Nice, France

Although I was in Nice for a weekend, it was still an easy excursion to take when visiting Paris.  For the cheapest option, you can take the train round-trip for about 120 euro easily.  The trip by train is a little over 5 hours, or you can take the night train (like me), if you want an even cheaper option.  While train is usually the fastest way around Europe, Nice does have the second largest airport in France, so there are flights from Paris to Nice daily.

Once there, you can easily embrace the beauty and tranquility of French Rivera.  Most of my time was spent enjoying the beach (since there are none in Paris!) and relaxing.  With warning, the beach is all rock instead of sand, so make sure you invest appropriately! While the coast is very alluring, I also recommend wandering the streets of Nice.  Exploring this quaint town will reveal the colorful French style buildings, a café on every corner, and gelato to die for.  Overall, the trip was a great experience to reveal what typical European coastal city life is like.

Brussels

If you’re looking for a quick way to escape France for a bit, Brussels is the perfect way to explore a new culture.  Since it is only an hour and a half away by train, it’s the ideal day trip.  If you don’t know already, Brussels is famous for waffles, chocolate and beer, and luckily you can find one of those three on every street.  I have never seen such extravagant waffles and so many chocolate shops in my life! Majority of the day was spent walking around the Grand Place are admiring the beautiful architecture and roaming the streets of the city.  It was a lot of walking, but it definitely came along with a lot of fun and memories!

Shanghai, China Arrival Blog #1

May 20th, 2017

First day in Shanghai,

Transportation: Getting to your destination

When you come out of the airport or train station, make sure to look for a “real” taxi or other transportation like subway. I believe taxi would be your best choice for the most part since you are new to the city and have your luggage with you. To look for a real taxi, you may follow the signs in the airport or train station, or go outside and look for a car with a sign in front of the car showing “??” (Kong Che, Empty Car). Avoid the people that coming up to you, they are not real taxi drivers. They are what is called “Black Taxi,” also known as illegal taxi. However, if you are able to speak Chinese pretty well, you might get a better price than a real taxi by talking down the price, but to be safe, go with a real taxi.

Once you find your taxi, show the driver the address. Then pay him according the meter inside the car.

Good Luck.

My First Week in Torino

When I first signed up to study abroad this past November, I was excited. Excited about the unknown. Excited about all of the possibilities of what I could experience while abroad.

But, as time got closer to my departure, I was beginning to get nervous. I had never been this far away from my family and friends before, and never had I entered into a situation where  I knew no one. I was reasonably nervous, but I knew that I did not have any reason to be. Everyone around me was reassuring me that this was going to be the best time of my life, and they were right.

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Torino, I felt at home. While it was a vastly different environment than what I am used to back at home, it was something that I could definitely get used to. Immediately upon my arrival, everyone was so friendly, helpful, and welcoming. I never felt nervous asking for help, because I knew that someone could point me in the right direction.

In my first week here, I have had many firsts, whether it was my first Gelato, my first authentic Italian Pizza, trying Kalamari, Squid and Mussels, and seeing sights that I never dreamed of being able to witness.

I am excited to see what the rest of my journey will entail, but I know that it will be nothing but great, fun memories.

Xiamen: China’s Hidden Paradise

When you think of China, what comes to mind? Many people would say massive cities, dense smog, and even more dense subway trains. Those things are true about certain cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai. But somehow one of China’s greatest gems, the “small” city of Xiamen (population of about 3 million), has been conveniently hidden from the world.

Located on an island along China’s subtropical southeast coast, the city of Xiamen feels a lot more like Miami than stereotypical China. The island is about seven miles in diameter and lined with beach most of the way around. Xiamen even has a French colonial heritage and still retains some European style buildings. However, despite a somewhat western feel, few outside of China are aware of Xiamen and almost no one speaks English (perfect for someone studying Mandarin, but perhaps a little inconvenient for an American tourist).

In recent years, Xiamen has become a go-to destination for wealthy Chinese looking for an island escape. The island is highly developed with towering high rise condominiums and high-end shopping malls. Still, it has an alluring, almost laid back charm. A wealthy local explained to me that throughout the 90’s, Xiamen residents were disappointed to not benefit from the wave of factories being built throughout China. But now, as China’s economy becomes more advanced, Xiamen has a comparative advantage over much of China — here, residents have the luxury of blue skies and acid-free rain.

Perhaps that is why it was selected to host the BRICS summit this Fall, featuring the heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The Chinese government is apparently spending $15 billion USD on various infrastructure and public works projects in preparation for this 24-hour meeting. One could say BRICS is the Chinese government’s great unveil of its hidden gem.

Xiamen has another valuable asset in Xiamen University, a top-10 Chinese university. Some of China’s brightest students call this city home and perhaps will choose to remain here after graduation. By all accounts, this costal paradise is poised for major success in the near future.

There are no direct flights from Xiamen to North America, and just one flight to outside of Asia. Unlike Shanghai and Beijing, which have been built largely by foreign investments over the past three decades, Xiamen’s development belongs entirely to China. And in September, China will reveal its masterpiece to the world.

A tower at the late-Qing Hulishan fortress.

A nice day at the beach just outside of Xiamen University’s Siming Campus.

Zhongshan Road maintains its French colonial facade with modern shopping malls hidden behind.

Top 5 things to know about a Spanish homestay

I have loved having a homestay experience in Spain and would highly recommend it to anyone going abroad. I got an authentic cultural experience and even had my room and laundry cleaned for me. My host parents were very nice and accommodating, but there were a few things I wish I had known ahead of time.

  1. Quick Showers – You are going to have to take quick showers  (10 minutes or less). If you are shaving your legs or something and know that it is going to be longer than ten minutes, it is respectful to turn off the water when you don’t need to rinse. You also shouldn’t take more than one shower a day. My madre never said anything to us about shower time, but I know a lot of other people’s host parents brought it up.
  2. Turn off lights – Electric, like water, is very expensive in Spain. Because of this, they use natural light and open blinds/windows whenever they can. It was hard at first for me to remember to turn lights off when leaving a room or open blinds instead of flipping the light switch, but eventually I got in the habit of it.
  3. Be ready to speak Spanish – Very few of the people I study with have host parents that speak English. I came over with the view that everyone speaks at least some English, but I have found this to not always be true. If you don’t know any Spanish, don’t panic. I had a limited Spanish background, but was able to communicate with gestures and translations apps just fine. I caught on to a lot of Spanish really quickly as well. Also, in regards to Spanish, some places, such as Sevilla, do not use the formal tense (usted).
  4. Space is tight – Unlike the United States, there is far less space in most cities in Spain. With this in mind, don’t be surprised if your shared bedroom is half the size of your freshman dorm room. In addition, be mindful of clutter. Everything in our host parent’s house had a purpose (if not 2 or 3 purposes) and was very tidy. There isn’t room for junk drawers or misplaced objects.
  5. Estoy lleno(a) – Spanish host-moms will try to push more and more food on you during meals and won’t stop until you stop them. The easiest way to do this is say, “Estoy lleno(a)” aka “I am full.”

Top 5 things to do in Sevilla, Spain

I have been studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain for over two and a half months now, and I have absolutely loved every second of it. I thought I would compile a list of my favorite things to do for people that also want to study abroad here or just come visit for the weekend. Enjoy!

1. Plaza de Espana/Parque de Maria Luisa – Plaza de Espana is one of the most well-known spots in not only Sevilla, but all throughout Spain. This incredible building was built in 1928 for the World Fair and is surrounded by beautiful fountains, tile mosaics, and horse drawn carriages. In addition, it is located inside the Maria Luisa Park, which is Sevilla’s main green area. The park is huge and absolutely breathtaking. You can find exotic plants, birds, sunbathers, and even brides getting their pictures taken here.
2. Mercado Lonja del Barranco – My friends and I go to this market about once a week. They have a great assortment of local and international food as well as drinks. Best of all, it is located right on the river. This modern market is always full of life and has live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. There is also a really good churro stand about 20 feet away from it!
3. The Real Alcazar – The Alcazar is the royal palace in Sevilla. It is a bit deceptive because you can’t tell from the outside how gorgeous it is. Every room is filled with beautifully tiled walls and the garden is so pretty. You might even see a peacock roaming around. I recommend buying your ticket online in order to avoid the long line!
4. Cathedral – I am not a huge cathedral person, but Sevilla’s cathedral is truly beautiful. It is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and it hosts the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Unlike many of the cathedral’s I toured, I got to go through many meeting rooms that are still being used today and through a museum area with beautiful gold and silver artifacts. In addition, you can go up into the tower of the church where you get amazing 360 degree views of the city. As with the Alcazar, I recommend purchasing your ticket online in order to avoid long lines. Also, the cathedral and the Alcazar are located right next to each other so I recommend visiting them consecutively!
5. Las Setas – Las Setas is technically named Metropol Parasol, but everyone in Sevilla refers to it as “Las Setas.” It is a huge modern structure that offers amazing panoramic views from on top. In order to get to the top, you need to purchase a ticket for 3 euros. The price of the ticket includes a free drink so it really is an unbeatable deal. I highly recommend going at sunset, but it is beautiful at all times of the day. In addition, there are ancient roman ruins below Las Setas that you can tour for about 2 euros. It’s an interesting thing to check out while you are there!

Plaza de Espana