If You're Gonna Study Abroad, Study Way Abroad

If You're Gonna Study Abroad, Study Way Abroad

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If you're going to do it then do it right.

I want to start this article by stressing that EVERYONE should do everything in their power to try and study abroad. No matter where you go it will be an exhilarating and rewarding experience. With that said, I want to make a case for taking classes that are not traditional for American college students. I'm talking about skipping on London or Paris or Madrid and going somewhere a little less first-world. Instead, take some classes in Southeast Asia like I have (I'm currently taking MMW14 in Bangkok). Jump off the beaten path and into cultures that are nothing like our own and explore a part of the globe that a company like National Geographic regularly visits. Why venture here? I've got four reasons: its cheap, its a doorway to religions and cultures misunderstood by Americans, it gives perspective, and it's a hell of an adventure.    

When I say things are cheap I mean dirt cheap. I'm currently writing this article from my hotel room in downtown Bangkok which is almost identical to a room that you stay in when visiting a decent casino in Vegas. Its fifteen dollars a night. Everyday I eat the most delicious pad thai, garlic fried chicken, and dumpling soup for about a buck fifty a meal. One night during a weekend trip to Cambodia me and my friends went out and I had three courses of Khmer BBQ, picked up three pitchers of beer and a round of shots from my group at several clubs, and then took a tuk-tuk taxi home; the whole night cost me seventeen dollars. I spent less than a hundred bucks on a long weekend of bar hopping and snorkeling on the paradise island of Koh Chang. The amount of bang for your buck you get in these countries is absolutely ridiculous. I'm having the time of my life, not skimping on anything, and I'm barely spending anything.

Moving away from the financial benefits, studying in Southeast Asia has introduced and better explained Buddhism and Hinduism to me. Not many people in America know anything about these two religions and I'm sure if I asked a bunch of random people on the street the general consensus would be that they are people who don't eat cows, are from India, and pray to a fat guy. These ignorant blanket statements don't give any credit to these sophisticated beliefs. Over the last few weeks I have visited holy places like Angkor Wat, read sacred texts, and had conversations with monks. I now see how beautiful these religions are. Sure, many of the ideas and details are odd to me but these religions have motivated masterpieces and are an integral part of a friendly and considerate society. It behooves an "educated" member of American society to learn something real about the religions that a third of the world's population subscribe to because we can better ourselves and become more refined intellectuals when we are exposed to viewpoints different from our own.

Although most of Southeast Asia is exciting and gorgeous, there are darker areas as well. In the more run down areas of San Diego we are often exposed to a large homeless population wandering around trying to bum money off of people or score drugs. I see them all the time and don't think twice. What I don't see all the time in San Diego though are impoverish orphans, three and four years old, living in gutters and begging me for anything. I don't usually see large families living in mold soaked shacks that line the putrid klongs of Bangkok. I don't usually see desperate men toil and scrape by with their families unable to make more money because of a strict caste system that keeps them in submission. All of this is shocking but it causes one to look at themselves and at their own country. During my time here I have gained more compassion. I am reminded, and have become more appreciative, of the fact that I live in a country where all men are equal. Those God given natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness really mean something when you see someone who has none of that. It is not common to be exposed to people in Europe with nothing but their families, their religions, and their unending inequality. This alarming reality and subsequent introspection is life changing, is life improving, and is only available far away from the West.

The sights of the poor and suffering are painful but they do not define the experience in Southeast Asia. This place is beyond beautiful, and studying here is above all a terrific adventure. During your stay you will spot elephants and monkeys in traffic. You will drink and eat in florescent bars where you will meet people from all over the world who came here with the sole purpose of having fun. You will journey to paradises like Koh Chang and Chiang Mai and take snapchats on the beaches where the screensaver photo on your phone was taken. You will explore the jungles and temples built by ancient civilizations. You will learn new words and to love the muggy heat that intensifies both the atmosphere inside a dance club and casual strolls around the busy cities. Most importantly, you will learn about yourself. You will learn that we inhabit a world not all the way Westernized, and how you can fit into it. You will learn that reflection on societies and ideologies different from your own make you a more enlightened person. You will learn to make the most of this life and go on every adventure that it offers.           

      

Cover Image Credit: anotherheader.wordpress.com

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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4 Breakfast Spots Near The University of Kentucky That Will Actually Get You Out Of Bed In The Morning

These places will satisfy all of your breakfast cravings.

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If you're a breakfast foodie like I am, you know that is an absolute priority to find the most popular breakfast spots despite the city you may be in. You don't want to visit the touristy and basic restaurants that everyone else goes to, but instead, you are determined to uncover the locations that are the best of the best. Most foodies will go to great lengths to discover these places. As a University of Kentucky student and major foodie, I have searched all over Lexington to find my favorite places to visit on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This took my entire first semester and many trips to the ATM, but today, I am now blessed to say that I am a regular at all 4 of these incredible breakfast spots.

1. The Great Bagel

The Great Bagel is one of my all-time favorite restaurants to visit on Sunday mornings. The restaurant offers a variety of bagel sandwiches and freshly squeezed orange juice, and it makes for the perfect early morning start to a day filled with homework or relaxation.

2. Chocolate Holler

Though not a true restaurant, Chocolate Holler is one of the most popular coffee shops near the University of Kentucky. Because it is only a 3-minute drive from campus, Chocolate Holler is always buzzing with UK students who come to socialize or study. The coffee shop is most well known for its chocolaty drinks and the music is great there, too!

3. Stir Krazy

Stir Krazy is a local smoothie bar down the street that serves protein shakes, smoothies, and tea. Though It only consists of these three beverages, the shakes at Stir Krazy are enough to fill you up for breakfast or lunch. Each shake or smoothies range from 200 to 250 calories and serves as the perfect energizer before a workout or a filling recovery drink after a workout.

4. La Madeleine

La Madeleine is a French breakfast and lunch cafe conveniently located on campus (and only a 30-second walk from my dorm). Their breakfast is served all day long and their croissants are to die for. I highly recommend building your own omelet for the most fulfilling experience. Not to mention, their iced caramel macchiatos are a great refresher on the side.

No matter which city, state, or country I am currently in, I make it my mission to eat as a local would. In Lexington, Kentucky, these four breakfast spots are guaranteed provide you with a plethora of different types of food to get you through even the worst cases of morning hunger. Though these places are my current favorites, I am now looking forward to containing the search for more breakfast restaurants, cafes, and juice bars throughout my next four years in this city.

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