Category Archives: Study Abroad

Did, Doing, Will Do.

A thing I did in 2011…. TEDxMidwest

I went to the TEDxMidwest conference in October in Chicago and it was just the coolest thing. A whole day – and more – of “riveting talks by remarkable people” and I got to go for free! I was selected to be part of the ThinkChicago program as part of Chicago Ideas Week, so in addition to going to events at Threadless and Accenture and hobnobbing with folks from Groupon and Google, I got to spend a day at TEDx.

TEDx is a local version of the big TED conference, which is held annually in Long Beach, Cal. The four-day conference been described as “the ultimate brain spa,” which I can imagine is totally accurate, since I was so excited and curious after just one day in Chicago. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design, and the conference is based on short talks from a variety of disciplines, a diverse audience, and the opportunity to mingle, network, and share ideas with other attendees and speakers alike.

At TEDxMidwest, I got to hear talks by Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway), John Hodgman (comedian and Daily Show correspondent), Alexis Ohanian (founder of Reddit), Wes Craven (director of “Nightmare on Elm Street”), Phil Zimbardo (psychologist who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment), and John Ondrasik (lead singer of Five for Fighting), among many others. And it was awesome. The full list of speakers is available on the TEDxMidwest website.

A thing I’m going to do in 2012… Listen to NPR

I went to a taping of NPR’s news quiz show “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” this summer when I was living in Chicago. Each week, the show does a segment called “That’s Not My Job,” and the host Peter Sagal asks a famous or semi-famous person about something completely unrelated to their field of expertise. For the show I saw, the guest was former president Bill Clinton. Sagal asked him about My Little Ponies. Clinton called in and chatted for nearly 30 minutes before Sagal got around to asking about the ponies.

I met Sagal at TEDxMidwest in October and told him that I had been at the Clinton taping. “The producers were in my ear telling me to wrap it up because Clinton’s people were furious that the interview was running so long, but he just kept talking!” said Sagal. NPR clipped the interview for the Wait Wait broadcast, but the full interview is available online.

The rest of my family has listened to NPR for a good long time, but I’m just now getting on the bandwagon. I love to read magazines, and listening to NPR is pretty much like reading a great magazine piece without having to do the reading yourself. Instead, someone with a nice voice tells you a cool story and you get to learn things while driving to the grocery store or walking the dog. How’s that for multitasking? And then, after you’ve heard about a great new book or figured out what exactly is going on with the housing market, you can tell other people about it and sound plugged in to the world. Win-win-win.

A thing I want to do someday… Go to TED Global

The TED Global conference is held in Edinburgh, Scotland – my favorite city. I spent not quite 48 hours in Edinburgh in March 2011 and left my heart there. It just felt right. I think I connected to the city because I did Edinburgh on my own. At that point during my spring break, I was traveling with four boys who were eager to experience the Scottish nightlife. Since I was more curious about the cultural and historical aspects of the city, I got up early and spent my time there exploring solo. I loved it – as evidenced by my enthusiastic trip report.

The city has such a fantastic literary history and is home to an international book festival each August. Recently, a mystery artist left sculptures made of books in a number of bookstores around the city – read an NPR blog’s account of the saga of the library phantom.

Anyway, I’m planning on going back to Edinburgh during my travels this summer, but I don’t think I’ll be able to swing the $6,000 registration fee for TED Global at the end of June 2012. That particular trip will have to wait a few years.


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Filed under Chicago, Education, Literature, NPR, Scotland, Study Abroad, TED


Last week marked my blog’s one year anniversary.

When I started blogging, I intended for the site to serve as a journal of sorts during my trip to India. I didn’t really think anyone would read my blog except for my parents and the handful of friends I had emailed about it. I wrote mostly about football when I returned to Notre Dame in the fall.

Things changed when I wrote about my reaction to a Mass held for a classmate who was killed in an accident on campus. Because of Twitter and Facebook, the post quickly made its way through the ND alumni network. The comments people left on the post are truly astounding – a real testament to the power, strength, and compassion of the ND community. I never responded to the comments because I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.

In January, I moved to Rome for my semester abroad. I had all kinds of fun blogging from Italy and writing about my experiences traveling around Europe and living in Trastevere. Now, I’m back in the U.S.A. and I have a summer of intern adventures in the Windy City ahead of me before I kick off senior year.

Things are still just as unsettled as they were twelve months ago. I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing a year from now, but I’m eager to find out.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for a great year.

Here are links to some of my favorite posts so far:

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Filed under India, Italy, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Study Abroad


Since I returned to the United States, I’ve been putting off writing about the end of my semester in Rome.

It’s hard to summarize four months and do justice to all of the cool things I did and places I visited, and it’s even more difficult to succinctly recap my experiences without being trite or cliché. Yes, the semester abroad changed my outlook on the world. Yes, I recognize the value of cultural immersion. Yes, I learned another language and made great friends and had all sorts of fun hopping around Europe. Those are the big things. But I think the real value of studying abroad comes from participating in daily life in a foreign place and becoming part of a community of regular people in another part of the world.

The vivacity and energy that the Trasteverini give to the neighborhood is perhaps what I miss most from my time abroad. The sense of community was palpable in Trastevere. I learned quickly that it’s a place where people look after each other. Over the course of the semester, my morning routine in the neighborhood became one of my favorite things. I loved the outdoor market, the winding streets, the sunny piazzas, the grand palazzos – all of it. It was comforting that the folks at the coffee shop knew my order, but I really began to feel at home in Trastevere when I began to recognize the other residents: the mail carrier on his motorino, the hat-tipping accordion player, the gypsy who limped pitifully in Piazza Santa Maria but walked just fine inside the grocery store, the knife man and his bike with a grindstone tied to the handlebars. Describing it, Trastevere sounds like a caricature of an Italian neighborhood, but I swear I’m not making this up. I feel so lucky to have been able to live and work and play in such a wonderful place.

Coming home to North Carolina was pretty much like I expected it to be. I don’t have reverse culture shock because I know how America is and I didn’t expect it to change very much while I was away. People drive big cars and eat dinner early and drink soda with ice. Fine. I’m finding it amusing to compare certain aspects of life here to life in Italy (like appropriate church attire, for example), but I’m not disgusted with the American way. It’s just different.

It’s good to be back home – as much as I loved my time in Rome, I was ready to come back to America. And now, in just a few weeks, I’ll move up to Chicago for the summer. I’m interning at an advertising agency downtown for nine weeks, and then I will move straight from Chicago to Notre Dame at the beginning of August for RA training. I don’t know if I’ll be back in North Carolina before Thanksgiving, so I’ve had to unpack my Rome things and simultaneously repack for Chicago and for school. That’s the other thing – this is my last time packing for school, what with starting my senior year in college and all. Senior year means graduation and (hopefully) gainful employment. It’s odd to think that this month that I’m spending at home between Rome and Chicago might be the longest period of time I’m ever “home” again.

My year of adventures abroad has come to a close, but the coming year promises to be pretty exciting, too.

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Filed under Italy, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Study Abroad


Places I went in Italy:

Places I went outside of Italy:

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Filed under Italy, Study Abroad


“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at the time and this place, because you’ll never be this way again.” —Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

Ciao, Mario the Motorcycle Cat.

Today, I’m making my way back to the United States after a fantastic semester in Rome.

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Filed under Italy, Notre Dame, Study Abroad

Bucket List.

I have just over a week left in Rome, and it’s starting to feel like the end. Everyone is acting as though the semester is already over, but that’s probably because it basically is. I’m starting to think about packing and souvenirs. I’m beginning to clear out my shelf in the refrigerator. I’m trying to use up things like the bottle of shampoo that has inexplicably lasted all semester.

As eager as I am to get home, there’s no sense in rushing these last few days. I can walk slowly and sit in the sun and drink coffee and read for hours because I don’t have anything particularly pressing to do. I like that.

Musicians in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere

I don’t really have anywhere to be, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing things.  Continue reading

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Filed under Food, Italy, Notre Dame, Study Abroad

Fava Beans.

It is shockingly cheap to buy fresh produce in Italy. Eating locally and seasonally is so inexpensive that it’s practically inexcusable not to do so.

Vegetable Stand

Most days, I make my way over to the outdoor market at Piazza di San Cosimato. Continue reading

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Filed under Food, Italy, Study Abroad