Why You Should Take The Trip You Have Always Wanted

Why You Should Take The Trip You Have Always Wanted

Laying by the beach with a side of history.
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I like to say my mom was born with a travel gene. That something in her DNA drives her need to see the world. It's the best gene I "inherited", always making for one hell of an experience every summer. We started small, staying within the country, venturing to the staples, like The Grand Canyon and Los Angeles. Then escalating to the Caribbean and South America, giving our passports a little ware and tear. Finally the big leagues: France ,Thailand, Israel, and more. Suitcases were always over flowing, neck pillows were common holiday gifts, and bum status look for the 24 hour plane ride ahead was always on point.

Every vacation was like a well balanced diet, a little bit of fun with a helping portion of touring and history. We relaxed pool side in Thailand, post six am tour of the Wat Rong Khun Temple. Toured Israel for 12 hours a day, to then snorkel the shores of Mediterranean Sea.

It went like this on every adventure, and as much as my legs hurt and my brain from information overload, I would never trade it for anything. There are some things history books, geography class, or your Instagram feed cant teach nor show you. Only experience can.

I thought I understood the world around me, but what my ignorance was shading me from was, how wrong I was. You never know how much you have until you see people with nothing. In Thailand, I met multi-generational families, people living with both their parents and their children under one roof in tiny, wood and metal homes, with dirt floors, with a shared bed and no running water. People with absolutely nothing were inviting us, total strangers, into their home. They were not embarrassed at how little they had, or how primitively they lived. They were gracious hosts, happy to welcome us in and share what they had.

In Ecuador I experienced cement houses with paint peeling and an overwhelming stench. Children in ripped, unwashed clothes desperate for attention. Loud and unruly children fighting for my hand and willing to break the rules to get a hug. The few toys available were filthy and broken. Children on small mattresses with thin, unwashed bodies undoubtedly trying to fill voids of love. This was the scene I encountered when I spent a week volunteering at an Ecuadorian orphanage.  

I could summarize what I learned from every country but I'd lose you and my fingers from typing so much. If you have an opportunity to travel, 100% take it. It is the most eye opening, fun, and exciting experiences of your life. Don't you ever wonder why everyone says studying abroad changes their life?

Cover Image Credit: Sophia Teicher

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5 Struggles Everyone Studying Japanese Can Understand

Majoring in "otaku" has never been so difficult.
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Ah, Japanese--the language of a beautiful country (and self-proclaimed anime fanatics). It's been a huge part of my life for a very long time, and I am so glad for the influence that it's had in my life. However, it's one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn, which means that there are quite a few struggles that come with learning it. Here are some of the struggles that Japanese learners are bound to know.

1. Counting systems

Honestly, counting to one hundred has simultaneously never been easier and harder. Overall, counting is not bad in Japanese--instead of English's ridiculous "eleven" and "twelve," Japanese just counts very simply. Fifty-five, for example, would translate loosely into five tens five (五十五. One hundred and thirty-eight is just hundred, three ten, eight(百三十八). Simple, right?

Wrong.

That is simply the basic counting system. If you're counting small living things, you have to add a suffix. Ichi, ni, san, turns into ippiki, nihikki, sanbikki. Counting long, cylindrical things? Ippon, nihon. And if you're not sure what you're counting, or if you're counting roundish objects? Forget ichi, ni, san, because your life is now hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu. There are so many more systems too, and though you don't have to learn them all, native speakers will use them.

2. Hiragana/Katakana

Overall, these two writing systems aren't too bad. They're not kanji (which we'll get to later). For the uninitiated, hiragana and katakana are systems of forty-six characters, much like our alphabet, that are combined phonetically to form words. Overall, definitely not bad. But there are definitely challenges. For example--when do you use one over the other? The rule of thumb is that if a word comes from a different language, you use katakana, and if it's Japanese, you use hiragana. For example, もも(momo, peach) is written in hiragana, since it's a Japanese word, but バナナ (banana, banana) is written in katakana.

But as with everything else, it isn't so simple.

なまえ (namae) means name, and it sounds like name a little bit, but it's a Japanese word that by coincidence sounded the same. And アルバイト (arubaito)? It means a part-time job. How does that sound like a language we're familiar with? But alas, it's a katakana word. And then sounding out words you know are katakana into the proper spelling is a mess of its own.

3. Kanji

So, imagine every word having a completely different pictorial character to represent it. Imagine having to learn all of them and having to wade through different pronunciations and different contexts.

Welcome to my hell.

Yes, there are patterns in kanji (the pictorial representations of words or parts of words), but sometimes they're just ridiculous. And there will always be mnemonics to remember them, but overall they cause stress, annoyance, and wondering why they exist in the first place (seriously, who thought 食 was easier than た? And honestly にもつ will always be easier to write than 荷物).

4. Identical characters

Callout post for katakana: your characters look too dang similar. ソ and ン (so and n)? シ and ツ (shi and tsu)? Please stop. I beg you, for the sake of my sanity.

And don't even get me started on kanji. Why are these things (閣、聞、間、問)with completely different meanings so similar?? Please, for the love of everything, stop this. I don't understand.

5. Levels of respect

Within the Japanese language, social status relative to the listener is completely ingrained. The way you form sentences says something about your relation with the listener, your distance from the listener, your status relative to the listener, and your attitude toward the listener.

As someone who's very anxious in social situations already, this creates a new level of hell. Because what if I get it wrong? I tended to use the super respectful form as a blanket term and generally, in Japan, they got that I was a foreigner and didn't take offense, but I've recently learned that using the respectful form for people your own age can add artificial distance. But using the short form too soon can have negative consequences as well. Honestly, it's a new level of social calculus that I'm not prepared for.

But for all the complaints I have with the Japanese language, it honestly is something I adore and am glad to spend four years studying. It's pretty amazing to see how it evolves and to see the nuances of everything.

And in comparison to English, I can't give it that much hate. I mean, at least there aren't silent k's!

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Cebull

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All The Glory Of Singapore I Learned On My Trip Out Of The Country

Leaving the country has lots of perks!
Pear B
Pear B
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My first trip out of the country was quite successful – except for one small glitch, which I’ll get to later.

During a four-day weekend, I flew to Singapore for the first time. It is a beautiful city, super clean – I have never seen any place cleaner – with a lot of culture. There are small pockets of multiple ethnic groups, mostly Asian, dispersed throughout the city. These include Little India, Chinatown, Arabic Street, and others. Every neighborhood I went to had great food – it was some of the best Indian food I have ever had.

There are also traditional events that showcase the variety of cultures that live together. For example, the first night I stumbled upon an Indian celebration. I am not sure what they were celebrating but everyone was having so much fun and the music was amazing.

My hostel wasn’t the best I’ve ever been to, but I was able to make friends and we had fun exploring the city together. The glitch I mentioned earlier came when I had some stuff stolen from my room, and the people in charge weren’t very helpful. Fortunately it wasn’t anything vital, like my passport, but the lesson was invaluable: always ask for lockers or a safe.

It wasn’t until after my stuff was taken that I was informed there were lockers for guests. Overall, I would say that The Blue Jazz Hostel is not worth staying at: It smelled and the photos on Booking didn’t represent what I saw.

Treetop Walk







Aside from this unsettling experience, the weekend was amazing. Singapore is not like any city or country I’ve been in before: it’s an interesting combination of nature and city, with their beautiful bays, forests, and incredibly tall skyscrapers.

The first day I was there I went on a Tree Top Walk with someone from the hostel. This “walk” is an awesome suspension bridge, hung in the trees, crossing through a spectacularly green nature reserve. We were able to see monkeys, hear animals, and enjoy beautiful views. The monkeys were super cute, adorable and seemingly friendly. I wanted to pet one, but I knew better. The last thing I needed was to go to hospital for a rabies shot! (Helpful hint: If you visit the area, don’t try to touch the wildlife.) The rest of the walk around the reservoir was beautiful and extremely peaceful.

Marina View from Level 33

Gardens by the Bay



Marina Bay Sands



Merlion

The next day I spent time visiting other great sites, including the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Merlion statue. The Gardens by the Bay were amazing! There were so many flowers, trees, and creatures everywhere that you couldn’t figure out where to look first. I’d recommend going on their skywalk, too, with its breathtaking views encompassing the garden and the bay. What fascinated me was that the trees which held the skywalk were fake – you sure couldn’t tell by looking at them.

A visit to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was also worth the time. You can take an elevator to the top floor for a fabulous view of the city – from the bay to the gardens to the skyscrapers. It’s interesting to note the contrast between the industrial side, with all the buildings, and the tourist-y side, with the gardens and bays. Both are noteworthy in their own way.

The Merlion is cool-looking, but I thought there would be more to it than just a large white statue spitting water out of its mouth. It is beautiful, this sculpture of a half-mermaid, half-lion, but, for me, it was a bit disappointing. I just expected there would be more to see. However, I topped the day off at craft bar called Level 33 that overlooked the marina. Always a pleasant way to end a day.



I spent Saturday at Universal Studios and that was not disappointing at all. (After this visit, I spent part of my next week watching Universal movies, such as "Shrek", "Jurassic Park," and "Madagascar".) I love going on rollercoasters and spending time at amusement parks so being able to spend a day at Universal Studios was a delight. I went on all the rollercoasters (with minimal wait lines) and just acted like a kid again. Great day!

I would recommend a visit to Singapore to anyone in the vicinity with the time. It is a beautiful city with amazing food. Plus, everything was super clean, people speak English, and there are fun things to do – both for city and nature lovers. It is a wonderful place to visit and you don’t need to stay there long to see great sites.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash
Pear B
Pear B

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