Carnival, Rio de Janeiro

As many may know, the celebration of carnival in Brazil is the biggest event of the year. It starts Friday, the week before Lent and goes until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The majority of people travel all throughout Brazil to their desired location to spend the holiday. For myself, I was extremely fortunate to spend carnival in the best place in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro.

Hard to see but Christ the Redeemer

Hard to see but Christ the Redeemer

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Sugarloaf Mountain

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Due to the traffic of Carnival, our 6 hour trip took more than 12 hours, making our arrival time at 4 AM. Since many of the streets were blocked off due to the festival, our GPS could not find the house we were staying at. Instead, it kept taking us in a small circle around one of the smaller favela. After seeing the panic on my roommates face, I decided that paying a cab driver to direct us to our place of stay would be the best option. Thankfully we did because their was absolutely no way we would have found it on our own.

Besides this first mishap, everything else about the trip was phenomenal! Every morning we had this amazing view of Rio that was almost surreal.

View of RIo

My first monkey/lemur. I don't know which one it was.

My first wild  monkey.

After overlooking this view for a bit every morning we would go straight to the bakery 6 houses down and buy some awesome bread for breakfast. Actually, one thing that Brazil really lacks credit for is how amazing their bread is. From there on, absolutely every moment was an awesome and exciting adventure. The first day we walked for miles around the city getting the chance to see some of the more famous landmarks in Rio de Janerio.

Steps Selarón

Steps Selarón

In front of the Steps Selarón

In front of the Steps Selarón

Everything throughout the city and most of Brazil is extremely vibrate with colors. One thing I have come to love is the Graffiti. It truly is an awesome form of art and if done with permission, it’s encouraged!

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Since I went to Rio with all Brazilians who have been there before, I did not get the “touristy” experience of Carnival I was expecting. The main celebration  takes place in the Sambadrome but it was to expensive for the others to go. However, we did do what over a million others were doing, celebrate in the streets. This to me was still a great time! Everyone dresses in the most outrageous clothing with hundreds of local bands that play the famous Samba music from Rio.

Street Carnival

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IMG_1085 (1280x956)What I found to be so amazing is how nice and controlled everyone was. Their were times were we walked for literally 25 minutes, shoulder to shoulder, to have enough space to move. For having such enormous crowds I did not see one bad incident the whole trip. Everywhere you turn there is someone something. Fortunately their were many people also selling Brazilian Barbecue which was delicious!  With absolutely no complaints, for three full days this is what during the day carnival consisted of for us.

My roommate Marcelo

My roommate Marcelo

One of the nights we spent at Copacabana beach which was a blast. The streets again were flooded with people and everyone followed a float that had a band playing Samba on top of it. The people on the beach were playing volleyball but only with their feet and head. How they were able to do it, don’t ask. We then slept in one of their friends high-rise that was located right next to the beach. The view was spectacular, overlooking the lit up favela to your far right and  the beach to your left. However finding our way home at 7 in the morning dragged out to be a two hour adventure.

Copacabana beach the morning after

Copacabana beach the morning after. I was very curios if people were sleeping in those tents.

 

Finding our way home. The city was covered in trash the next day following Carnival.

Finding our way home. The city was covered in trash the next day following Carnival.

Like any other normal human being, be the forth day of Carnival our bodies need to recuperate. So instead of joining the party we had a beach day and  went back to Capacabana. The beach was packed with people who indeed did where Brazilian bikinis. This was the first true culture shock I have had this whole time in Brazil. From what I was told, Rio is one of the few beaches that this is a norm and plays a large role in its popularity. Merchants would walk up and down the beach selling awesome beach towels that I found to be great souvenirs for my family.

Following my trip to Rio, I most definitely am going to revisit the city before I leave Brazil. There are so many more adventures, sightings to see, and activities to do that I missed out on.

The great beginning of Brasil!

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From arriving here in Piracicaba , Brasil around three weeks ago, I can easily say traveling abroad is the best decision I have made in my life. The difficulties I have faced are nothing compared to the experiences I have been able to obtain in only the three weeks I have been here. The first few days were a struggle because I came to Brasil with only the memorization of about 5 phrases of Portuguese. At this time there were only 3 roommates in the Rupublica, a fraternity house in the United States, that spoke no English. However it was nothing that Google Translate couldn’t fix. They were still extremely welcoming and took me everywhere they went. This is when I started to become obsessed with the Brazilian culture. Everyone I have met, doesn’t matter from what background, has been extremely nice. They greet everyone personally and care for others more than themselves. From getting a litter of Brahma during dinner to water at the Futbol game, everything is shared among each other. Everyone is happy to live life and that’s what I love about Brasil. I have also been very fortunate with my academic adviser, Dr. Martines, who has already done so much for Kelly and I here at ESALQ.

Kelly and I walking to ESALQ!

We personally meet with all of our Professors before classes started and thank god they are in English! We were even lucky enough to sit in a meeting with the Dean and directors of all the departments here at ESALQ.  It was amazing to see how even such important people at EASLQ communicate in such a personable way. Another amazing part of the Brazilian culture is that they love to have fun. In only three weeks of being here I have been to…

The XV Piracicaba vs. São Paulo futbol gameFutbol Game

The pre-carnival in Piracicaba

Pre-Carnival

3 Brazilian barbecues which are amazing

Brazilian Barbecue

 Rua do Porto which is a huge market district by the  river

Rua do Porto

…shopping at the mall in Piracicaba and a high school get together in Riterao Preto with my roommates. To talk about all of these things would be way to long but trust me they were all phenomenal! For carnival I am lucky enough to go to Rio de Janerio and will have more than enough to talk about when I get back!

Upside Down and Backwards: My First Week in France

Wow. I live in France now. This place is crazy. Not crazy like “OMG this is cah-rayyy-zayyy”, but crazy like EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

I don’t know why this took me aback so. I mean, I was more than prepared to deal with culture shock, and of course, I understood I would. But this week has been intense. I have created a list of all the differences (some, opposites) between my home country/state (the US/Ohio) and my host country.

1. The weather is the same here every. single. day. Wake up: cold, dark, probably rain. Lunch time: sunny, warm. Night: cold, dark, rain. This is not Ohio where Tuesday you’re laying out and Saturday wearing your parka.

2. There are no baggers at the grocery store. The clerk and all the people behind you literally watch you bag your items and you wonder why you bought so much. (AKA efficiency is not prized)

3. Oh! Another grocery thing: they have NO plastic grocery bags. You either bring your own or buy their reusable ones, so now I have 4 grocery bags . . . (My city, Nantes, prides itself on being one of the greenest cities in France).

4. THEY DO NOT EAT PEANUT BUTTER HERE. IT IS NOT A PRIORITY, AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS. You have to pay roughly 8 USD for a tiny jar of Skippy (the only brand they have). Where the PB should be in the grocery, all you see are shelves packed with Nutella and cookie butter.

5. This leads me to: everything is sweet! They put chocolate in everything, and I am 100% okay with it. I have become obsessed with this amazing dark chocolate chunk granola. It is really difficult to find a cereal without some kind of chocolate component. They have chocolate chip bread right there with the sandwich slices. They have chocolate yogurt, rows and rows of every kind of cookie/chocolate combination imaginable, and a truly sinful treat: chocolate stuffed croissants, or, pain au chocolat.

6. Their sandwich bread has no end pieces. So what does that mean? Do they make super long loaves of bread and just sell us sections of a loaf? Or do they throw away every loaf’s end pieces?? These are the things keeping me up at night . . .

7. Another food thing: the largest pack of lunch meat I can find has 4 slices. 4. What am I supposed to do, buy lunch meat every 2 days? What do they eat for lunch?? BAGUETTES. The stereotype is SO TRUE. People literally walk down the street eating baguettes. I did it. It was fun and yummy.

8. Their coffee is amazing. If you order a small black coffee. They give you the teensiest cup of espresso and a wafer. It literally woke my jet-lagged butt UP. It was also incredibly delicious, and I’d drink it every day if I was sure it wouldn’t give me a heart attack.

9. They sell their milk warm. It sits on the shelf like any other beverage. I’ve seen this before in other countries, but I just think it’s so weird.

10. They have pink toilet paper. (Yeah, I bought it)

11. Nothing is open past 7pm during the week or at all on Sundays. There is literally NOTHING to do on Sundays. Even our university closes.

12. They take 2 hour lunch breaks.

13. The people are quiet in public. It’s so quiet here. People rarely talk on trains or sidewalks. They dress in all dark colors and neither smile at you nor excuse themselves when obstructing another’s path. In class though, the students talk over the professor while he’s lecturing, and over each other when we present projects. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

 

That is what I’ve noticed so far. Mostly food/grocery related things. Oops.

 

Keep checking up on this blog; I will try to post weekly/biweekly depending on how many exciting things I have to tell you! Thanks for reading et au revoir!

Winter Wonderland Annual Cultural Event in Milan

In Milan, every year around Christmas time, the city transforms itself into a winter wonderland.  The busiest centers of the city are decorated in beautiful Christmas lights of all colors and shapes.  Also in the central plaza of the city by the famous cathedral, an enormous Christmas tree is placed in the center.  The tree is several stories tall and glittering in lights.

Gigantic Christmas Tree! “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…”

In addition to all the decorations, there are annual Christmas markets set up all over the city.  These Christmas markets open in the beginning of December and have hundreds of different vendors either selling food, trinkets, or other holiday gifts and products.  It definitely gives me a warm feeling as if I am living in a winter wonderland inside a large snow-globe.  I really wish that Christmas markets like the ones in Milan existed back in Ohio.

Christmas lights decor, and Christmas Market

Since Italy is one of the central locations for the birth of Catholicism, and Christianity, it makes sense that Christmas is highly important to Milan, and that it is widely celebrated throughout the city.

Cultural Festival In Milan

Today, I went to a cultural festival in Milan.  It was a huge event where countries from all over the world came together in a large convention center to showcase the highlights of their countries.  There was an incredibly large amount of people, probably thousands upon thousands of people, at this festival enjoying the amazing mix of cultures from around the world.

There was plenty of food being served from all the different countries and the booth owners were also selling different merchandise from their respective countries.  It was a fun experience to be in the midst of a large crowd looking at hundreds of booths with thousands of products.  It was also very lively and loud since the vendors were open to bargaining for prices with customers.

seafood paella from Argentina! yum yum!

When I was roaming around this festival, I felt like I was not in Italy anymore but rather in one of the famous street markets in India, or Asia that are always portrayed in movies.  Also it was interesting to come across the United States section of the festival, because they were selling many stereotypical American Western merchandise such as cowboy hats, cattle boots, cow hide, fancy old style rifles, etc.  They were also playing a lot of country music in the North American section.  It was amusing for me to see how the world outside of America portrayed our culture.

Stand selling dolls

This festival kind of reminded me of Taste of OSU, except about one-hundred times larger.  I loved this experience and I hope that I will be able to go to a similar festival in America.

Business Culture in Italy

Business etiquette and culture are different all around the world, and it’s these subtle nuances that make a huge difference.  In Italy, they would much rather have face-to-face communication rather than meetings via email, or video-chat.  This is because, Italians want to know one another and trust one another before doing any business with you.   An example would be Luxottica Retail.  It is an international company Headquartered in Milan Italy as well as in America.  However, employees’ desks set up in Italy does not have cubicle walls whereas the ones in America do.

Also, Italians are not as time oriented as Americans.  If a meeting is scheduled for a certain time, it is not uncommon to expect the meeting to actually begin about twenty to thirty minutes after the scheduled time.

In addition, Italians put a large emphasis on their personal appearances.  If you want to be successful in Italy, you have to dress the part and act the part.  It is only common to see professionals go to work in designer suits, and elegant dresses.  Nothing but the best is acceptable when it comes to attire and appearance.  This is somewhat different from American culture where Americans don’t put as much emphasis on clothing and appearances but rather on one’s determination and hard work, which embodies the ideal picture of the American Dream.

These are just a few of the differences in the business cultures between America and Italy.

Weekend in Kyoto-Japanese Autumn and Red Leaves

Last weekend, I had a very short but memorable trip to Kyoto, the old capital city of Japan from more than a thousand years. Before Japan changed its capital city to Tokyo, Kyoto was the center of Japanese politics, economics and culture.

We were taking the Shinkansen (the high-speed railway network in Japan) from Tokyo to Kyoto. It took around 2 hours, and on our way there, we met the Mount Fuji, famous for its snow-white “hat”.

In Kyoto, there are a lot of traditional Japanese Shrines, or Jinja, and temples.  Many of them exist since the ancient times. When we were visiting the Yasaka Shrine, there was a conventional Japanese wedding held inside the shrine (Shown on the middle of the picture above).

Kyoto still keeps the traditional side of Japanese culture. Unlike Tokyo, which is more modern and westernized, people living in Kyoto are more likely to wear Kimono, the traditional Japanese clothes. At first, I was curious to see so many people wearing Kimono walking on the streets. I asked my friend whether there was a festival these days so that people wear Kimono. My friend told me that this is their life style.

Also, we saw several Geigi on our way to a temple, shown on the lower left corner of the picture above.

The natural sight in Kyoto was so breath-taking! It made me feel as if I were in the ancient time of Japan.

And… we also tasted the food in Kyoto. I just think that is is art rather than merely food!

Cultural Events

Football is a huge part of American identity and much of our entertainment and community comes from events revolving around football games such as tailgating, super-bowl parties, etc.

AC Milan. The name and logo for the soccer team in Milan, Italy

In Milan, and most of Europe, the national sport is “football” or what Americans would call, soccer.  There is a huge appreciation of soccer in Milan and there are bitter rivalries in this sport much in the same way as Ohio State University feels towards University of Michigan.  Milanese people dress in the colors or jerseys of their home soccer team as they excitedly rush to the soccer stadium.  Once inside the stadium, the crowds are wild and highly enthusiastic, cheering, swearing, and engrossed in the game.  However, unlike in America, there is no tailgating, which I believe is mostly just an American practice.

soccer stadium in Milan

Attending a soccer game in Milan was a great adventure.  It made me nostalgic of the football games back at the Ohio State University, because although it was a different sport, the energy, the cheering, and the atmosphere was exactly the same as back home.  I feel that although the sport itself is important, the most important part of a national sport is the community it brings together, and the shared enthusiasm to support your home team.

6 Reasons To Study Abroad in Singapore

Asia usually gets overlooked as a study abroad destination as most American students pick European or Australian destinations. However, as I come near the end of my study abroad experience here in Singapore, I’ve come to the conclusion that Singapore might be one of the best places to study abroad.  Here are 6 reasons why –

1.The weather is an amazing  85-90 degrees all year round

Sentosa Island, Singapore

What can beat perfect beach weather? Coming from OSU, this weather in Singapore in November is a dream come true. It’s hard to feel gloomy or stressed when the sun shines almost everyday. Also, Singapore is built around the heat so this isn’t like summer in NYC. There’s air condition everywhere, even in the MRT stations (luxuriously comfortable compared to the NY subway stations).

2. Singapore is an English speaking country

Most people probably aren’t aware that Singapore has four national languages and one of them is English, along with Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. It’s incredibly easy and comfortable to get around since there is no language barrier. I have to admit, I had no idea Singapore was an English speaking country before I Googled it. Actually, most of my friends weren’t even know where Singapore was on the map when I told them I was coming here! (It’s wedged beneath Malaysia, in case you weren’t aware either!) Since Singapore is such a small country, I think it often gets overlooked. Singapore is roughly the size of NYC, maybe a bit smaller. There are 5 million people living here compared to 8 million in NYC.

3. The business education at SMU is top-notch

If you’re a business major, then there’s no better place to be than in Singapore. Singapore ranks No.1 worldwide for being most business-friendly. Singapore knows how to do business and that trickles down to SMU (Singapore Management University) where I study. The business school is extremely engaging and really tries to prepare its students for success in the business world by making participation and presentations a must in it’s curriculum. The smaller classroom settings at SMU compared to the lecture halls at OSU has been a nice change of pace as well.

4. The ease of traveling around Southeast Asia

This was taken during a 10-day recess week trip to Burma!

Traveling out of Singapore to other countries in Southeast Asia is extremely easy. Cheap flights out of Singapore are made possible by budget carriers like Jetstar and Tigerair. Since I’ve started school here in August, I’ve traveled to 6 different countries already (Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and even Australia!) I’m really surprised with the amount of traveling I’ve been able to do here (and very grateful too!) because traveling was a priority for my exchange experience. My round-trip tickets for weekend getaways have never cost me more than 260$ USD and that one was to Australia! It blows my mind that a round trip ticket from Singapore to Australia (8 hour flight!) could be cheaper than a ticket from NY to LA. Not only are the flights inexpensive, traveling around Southeast Asia is extremely cheap as well. For a typical local meal, I can expect to pay 2-3$ along with accommodation priced around 5-10$. What more can you ask for when you’re on a student budget?

5. Singapore is an extremely safe city

Most people have an image of Southeast Asia as dangerous. And it’s true, some parts of it is dangerous but the majority of the places I’ve traveled to are not nearly as bad as some people make it out to be. However, when the rest of Southeast Asia’s safety standards are compared next to Singapore, it comes nowhere close. Singapore is one of the safest urban cities in the world. I am not joking, you can walk around at 4 AM and not have to fear getting mugged or assaulted. Drug laws are strict here and poverty hardly exists on the streets. And this is all because Singapore has very, very strict punishment for crimes such as heavy fines, long imprisonment, and even caning.

6. Opportunities to meet exchange students from all over the world

Roommates!

Although Singapore is not a popular study abroad destination for Americans, it’s actually a very popular destination for students from Europe. As a result, American exchange students are rare here (maybe less than 6%). The rest are from Europe and other parts of the world. I’ve met many incredible people on my exchange who have taught me so much more about the world. I’m currently living with five girls— three from Finland, one from Germany, and one from Brazil. It’s sort of our own little melting pot—everyday we get the opportunity to exchange stories about our country and culture to each other, and as a result we learn so much from each other.

 

Although these are all great reasons to study in Singapore, the truth is, anywhere you choose to study abroad will be amazing and life changing. The most important thing is to not be scared and just go for it!

Encounter with Jinja

When I was hanging out with my friend today in Tokyo, we just had a unexpected and surprising encounter with a traditional Japanese Jinja. Jinja is the Japanese name for Shrine. It is the place where people come to make wishes to Gods. Most Jinja’s in Japan were build in old times and are kept perfectly almost in the same way until nowadays. We never thought about that there could be one there, because it was a really modern area where we were walking along. The Jinja itself is located between modern buildings in a small street.

These are wish-paper that people tied on the ropes, expecting the Gods can know and help them to achieve their wishes.

The atmosphere in Jinja was really amazing, because it made me feel that I was taken back in old days. Through the marks by the time left on the building and wood, I can imagine how many years has passed along with this Jinja. The Jinja never seem to be unhomonized with other modern surroundings, rather, it is a place where I can get closer to the tradition and culture of Japan.