Path to Journalism

Ever since I was little, storytelling has been the essence of my imagination. To this day, my mom still laughs at the memory of me begging her to recite Cinderella over and over again until I memorized the entire book before even knowing how to read. The simple act of writing words on a page can affect individuals in all sorts of ways—it can provoke emotion, resurface memories, and inspire creativity. Through the writings of others, I have been fortunate enough to encounter all of these reactions at various points in my life. In the future, I hope my words will both captivate and inform people in the same ways that I have experienced.

Two summers ago, I traveled to the Middle East for the first time. In fact, I have never been anywhere so culturally dissimilar from my home in San Francisco, California. Even though I live in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, everyone respects one another equally. Whether you’re straight, gay, black, white, wealthy, or poor, uniqueness is embraced and accepted. However, after flying sixteen hours across the world, I received an entirely new perspective regarding the ways that people of contradicting ideals treat one another.

During my travel, I gained the once in a lifetime opportunity of touring a village that also doubles as a bomb shelter, located near the border of two conflicting countries. Never before have I seen groups of individuals so prominently separated. As I gazed off in the distance to find the tall, chain link fence containing large coils of barbed wire at the top, I realized the separation of these opposing worlds is much more than a physical barrier, as the history behind these divided states dates back hundreds of thousands of years ago. Although weaponry and technology has advanced, the common argument of land ownership remains constant.

As I stood on the sandy, arid ground, I realized the surface beneath me has come to be defined by those who inhabit it. Acceptance and appreciation of diversity is crucial to be able to embrace the countless varieties of races, ethnicities, and cultures that surround us. At that moment, it became apparent that providing honest news to Americans, not to mention citizens all around the world, would be my primary goal in striving to inform and better future generations.

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As strange as it may sound, a newsworthy story and a renown fairytale share a common theme, in that they are both made possible by protagonists who act contrary to expectation; who would have ever thought Cinderella would have the guts to oppose the projected life of being a maid for her abusive stepmother, and instead, attend a royal ball where she meets her prince charming? Whether it is an enchanted myth or an article in a newspaper, a story is worthy if it draws the reader’s attention. People are the essence of storytelling—nothing would be communicated if there was not a daring individual to create a momentous headline and an eager watchdog to relay the occasion. Although I may never partake in actions that will allow me to star on the front cover of The New York Times, I hope one day I will be fortunate enough to write about a daring individual of that sort.

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If you don’t ski or snowboard…

This weekend, a huge group of my friends and me planned a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland through the program Bus2Alps. (For anyone considering using this company for travel in the future, I would highly recommend it! Other than having to wait 6 hours for our return flight due to the company only providing one bus ride from the hostel to the airport, Bus2Alps did a great job). Though I was staying in Bombers, the oldest hostel in Interlaken that was full of other study abroad students, I was still hesitant to go due to the fact that I don’t ski or snowboard. However, I quickly realized this didn’t once affect the amount of fun I’d have on this trip.

1.) Like me, if you aren’t comfortable with snow sports and have a free day in the alps, I would highly recommend going paragliding to anyone (even if you don’t have an adventurous edge, it was the best way to see Switzerland). I would recommend suggest using the program we went paragliding with—they were organized, calm and cautious of everyone’s safety. In fact, my friends and I were originally supposed to go on Friday, but due to the light snow and wind, the instructions moved all of our dates to Saturday for a safer fly. Coming from someone who easily gets nauseous from roller coasters and heights, my experience in the air this weekend was unforgettable and stress-free. The flight time was only 10-15 minutes, and provided the most breathtaking birds eye view of both lakes and the city.

2.) In addition to paragliding, I would also recommend visiting Lake Thun. Because the town of Interlaken is so small, walking and using the bus system are both doable/easy ways to get to Lake Thun. Not only are the views here crystal clear, highlighting the snow covered mountains and clear blue water, but it allows for an opportunity of pristine lighting and picture quality.

3.) If you start to get hungry or develop a sweet tooth throughout the day, a visit to Funky Chocolate will probably be necessary. Located on Jungfraustrasse St. (around a 10-minute walk from my hostel), not only does this chocolate store have the best hot cocoa I’ve ever had, but also it offers daily chocolate-making cooking classes. Not to mention, for 10 Frank’s, the store provided customers with bubble wrapped envelopes to express mail two chocolate bars of the customers decision.

So, even if you aren’t a skier or snowboarder, this won’t prevent you from having an incredible time in the Swiss Alps.

Madrid – A Must

For the first time this month, I actually managed to stay in Spain for the weekend, as I traveled to the capital city, Madrid. I originally planned to be in Barcelona for a relaxing few days, but last minute a few friends and I decided to take advantage of CEA’s free two-day trip.

I entered the weekend with ultimately no expectations—I didn’t know much about the city, and because the excursion was so last minute, I was unable to research popular things to do or places to eat. However, to my surprise, the past weekend in Madrid has been my favorite thus far. I’m not sure if it was because of the city itself, the people I was with, or a combination of both, but I can honestly say I was sad to pack my bags up on Sunday.

The train ride to Madrid is a quick three hours (and is so much more convenient than arriving at the airport early to avoid baggage and boarding pass issues). Upon arrival, the CEA group of approximately 100 students all trekked their bags up the street, as the hotel we were staying at was just a 15-minute walk from the station. We were checked in by the early afternoon, which gave us a full day to explore the city. I was shocked to find how delicious the food was, as I didn’t come across a single bad meal throughout the entire weekend. In fact, we ended up stumbling upon one of the best brunch spots I’ve been to in Europe, called Mür Café. Apparently this place is nearly impossible to eat at without a reservation, but luckily someone had cancelled right before we walked in. The café’s traditional brunch is 22 euros, which includes coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, delicious croissants, toasted bread and jelly and a choice of bacon, lox or spinach poached eggs—it’s safe to say you get your moneys worth at this place.

Of course, we knew we couldn’t leave Madrid without visiting the Royal Palace aka the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. All in all, the grounds were absolutely breathtaking and straight out of a scene from Princess Diaries 2. Although we didn’t pay extra to tour the inside of the Palace, just walking around the grounds was enough to see the magical architecture and breathtaking views of the city.

The last thing on my Madrid “to-do” list is to rent a rowboat at Retiro Park Lake, located in the heart of the park. Not only will this activity allow you to capture some great pictures, but it’s such a unique experience that isn’t offered anywhere in Barcelona.

So, if you’re in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you explore Madrid. With endless shopping, great nightlife (especially Kapital—Madrid’s seven-story nightclub) and plenty of greenery and parks to relax at, this city truly has it all.

Fresh off the Plane

It’s been exactly one month since I stepped foot on European soil, and I’m proud to say that I’ve yet to have my phone, wallet nor personal belongings stolen (knock on wood).

There has never been a question in my mind of whether or not I should leave my secluded comfort zone at the U of A and move across the world for a semester. I mean, when am I ever going to get another opportunity to eat, drink, study and travel for four months with ultimately no preoccupations? Unless I win the lottery anytime soon, this is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m so lucky to be able to experience in my early twenties.

Tips & trips thus far…

  • Language: Ignore anyone who tells you that you won’t be able to maneuver your way around Barcelona without speaking Catalan.
    • I can’t count the number of past study abroad students who told me my minimal Spanish would rarely come in handy—This statement is far from true, as I’ve never once been misunderstood due to a Catalan-Spanish language barrier.
  • Weather: It’s not as cold as you think.
    • Going to school in Arizona, girls are basically programmed to throw on a scarf, oversized sweater and boots in weather under 60 degrees. And, if you’re anything like me, the smallest gust of wind feels like Antarctica. So, I filled my suitcase with my heaviest sweaters and winter coats in an attempt to remain as warm as possible. Surprisingly, the brisk weather here is both refreshing and manageable—other than the early morning and late night, it’s rare that you’ll need more than two layers of clothing.
  • Phone Plans: Save your money.
    • In Barcelona, there is usually WiFi everywhere you go. Other than in the Metro and walking down the street, you’re bound to receive free service at most cafés, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. Before I began my travels, I purchased the cheapest international plan with my phone carrier. Though this has come in handy during the few times I’ve found myself lost in the city and needed to rely on Maps to make my way home, my iPhone is always on Airplane Mode and linked to the nearest WiFi connection.
  • Zara: A whole new world.
    • Before coming to Barcelona, you wouldn’t be able to find one item in my closet that has a Zara tag on it. In the States, Zara gets lost in the mix of Forever 21, Nordstrom, etc. However, you’ll quickly realize that, in Barcelona, a Zara store is located on each passing corner and is full of every essential clothing article that you’re missing from your wardrobe. I mean, it makes sense considering the founder of this corporation (who briefly overtook Bill Gates as the richest person in the world) started off right here in Spain.

Of course, these are only a small portion of the countless tips I’ll have gathered after months of traveling, so I hope you continue to follow along to find where the rest of my journey abroad takes me!