Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Australia, Brisbane, SHUO-TING HSU

Hello everyone, I am Shuo-Ting Hsu go by Sophia. I come to Australia to study abroad in spring semester in 2016. I study in Griffith University Nathan campus in Brisbane. The school has many campus located on different places. If you choice Griffith University you should think about what is campus you want to stay and what is your major is because different campus provide different majors . Griffith University has Gold Coast campus, Logan campus, Mt Gravatt campus, Nathan campus and South Bank campus. Such as South Bank campus provide art class and music and like Gold Coast campus and Nathan campus distance 2 hours by car. Next I want to introduction to everyone is “go card”. In Queensland, when you want to take bus and train you can use go card or pay cash. In here, when you pay cash, the driver can give change to you. When you get go card you should login your information on TransLink Website and you can login and see you schedule and if charge unfair you can write a letter to the company and they would refund to you. But if today, you go Sydney would use different card is call “Opal card”. In Sydney use different company so should be careful which city you want to go. Thank you for your reading.
opal card us in NSW

Adult                                                         Child

Image of blue adult go card                                Image of orange child go card
15 years and over                                               5 - 14 years old (inclusive)
Expires 10 years after day of issue                     Expires on the child's 15th birthday

Senior                                                      Concession
Image of dark red senior go card                           Image of bright green concession go card
Current Australian Senior Card holders                 Full-time secondary and tertiary students,
Choose a Senior go card or Seniors Card +go         pensioners, veterans

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Short Trip to PARIS

My friends decided to go to Paris during our Easter break because… because why not!? Austria is located in the centre of Europe so it is very convenient to travel around. We could have taken a train too, but took a plane because it was cheaper. It only costed around 80 Euros for a round trip. (I am sorry for uploading late, but I went there at the end of March.)

Paris was gorgeous. I definitely could see why this place is called the “City of Love”. The city was magical and just being there was exciting. The atmosphere there was different and made me doubt I was living in the 21st century. The city was full of art. They have great museums everywhere and you can see a lot of famous and historical paintings you would recognise, and those are so powerful. I never thought one painting or one artistic object could be this powerful before. Especially when I went to Louvre Museum, there is this hallway with two wall-full of huge paintings on the both side. When I walked down there, I felt the power of art and it slowed down my steps. There were also people singing inside of trains, playing instruments at stations. Art was everywhere in Paris and it felt magical.

They say French people do not speak English, but actually they do. They are pretty good at English but I do not think it is good to expect everyone to speak English. If you have ever learned at least one foreign language, you should know how hard it is. In my experience, it is also good to know some words in their language beforehand. When I was in Japan, it made me so happy when foreigners said “thank you” in Japanese because it sounded very polite so I felt like they respected our language. For the reason, I always try to remember how to say at least “Thank you”, “Hello”, and “Goodbye” in their language before I go to some other countries.
Their croissant was amazing!!

One of the most amazing things of being in Europe is that when you go to different countries, even though the countries are next to each other, you get to hear different languages. I want to talk about a bit about German now. It has been two months since I got here and I am learning German. I personally love their language so much. I do not know if you have heard about it or not, but German language is sometimes known as an aggressive language. I have seen some videos comparing different languages and trying to show that German sounds more harsh than other languages. I remember a celebrity once said on a famous American TV show that when she went to Germany, everyone sounded like they were angry even though they were saying sweet things. To be honest, I have never thought like that. German is a very gentle language and has got a lot of beautiful words. Those videos on the internet are exaggerated and once you hear a real conversation in German speaking countries, you would think it is such a beautiful language. I just want to inform that maybe information you will find on the Internet is not always true.

When you study abroad in Europe, you can go into most of the museums and attractions for free. They take discount for students in EU. For example, I did not have to pay anything when I went 
to Louvre Museum because I have my student ID of FH Salzburg. However, if I only had my American student ID, I had had to pay. There are a lot of other places that take EU student discount. I have heard some hostels also take EU student discount. You can save more money when you travel during studying abroad, and I believe it is a huge benefit of studying in Europe.

Other than a student ID, there is this card called International Student Identity Card you can use in a lot of places, even in the US. I got around 20 Euro discount for my Disneyland Paris ticket. I have been to Disneyland in California and Tokyo Disneyland but I loved Paris one the best (It is actually outside of Paris, but Tokyo Disneyland is not in Tokyo either, so whatever). It was not crowded at all even though I went there during my spring break. There are two parks, Disneyland and Disney Studio, like California has two, and I highly recommend to go both. You can go both for the same price as one park ticket when you use the card anyways, and one day is enough to go see around both parks. Disneyland Paris has a Sleeping Beauty themed castle and it is PINK (who cool is that?!)!!!! Disney Studio has a Ratatouille themed ride because the movie is about France, and it was amazingly fun. Disney park is definitely one of the most amazing places in France.

Unfortunately the day we arrived there was the day the attack occurred in Belgium so the security check was very strict. We got checked everywhere we go, even at MacDonald’s. To be honest I felt unsafe during my stay in Paris. Police was everywhere and they all got guns. I am not trying to scare you but you should be aware when you go somewhere unsafe. I think it is good to search dangerous area or not-to-go places before you travel.
Eiffel Tower lighted up as the color of Belgium flag 

However, at the same time, this travel made me believe that there are so much more beautiful things than tragedies in this world. My favourite time in Paris was this one night when I was watching the city lights and Eiffel Tower shining from a bridge across Seine River. Cruise ships were running through the river slowly and it was so peaceful and I was so happy being in the moment. I will never forget those moments and cheerful people in Paris. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Clet Abraham—A Florentine Street Artist

While taking a stroll through the lovely streets of Florence it is easy to get lost in the beauty of the historical buildings, shops, and galleries. You may not even notice something gone astray with the traffic signs. But if you look up you might just see that a dead end sign is transformed into a Jesus crucifixion and there’s a silhouette of a man trying to slyly carry away the white bar of a no entry sign. 

Who’s behind this sneaky street art? The answer to that question is none other than French artist Clet Abraham.  Ever since the summer of 2010 he has been revamping street signs in Florence and across Europe into works of art. 

His artwork is given life mostly in the middle of the night when he applies his pre-made stickers to the chosen street signs. He props his bike up against the sign and then stands on the seat to apply his art. “It literally takes 10 seconds,” says Clet. 

While Clet’s work is not entirely legal he takes care not to alter the function of the road signs. “I don’t damage the signs because I use stickers, but I wake up attention and create dialogue,” says Clet.

Not everyone has the same view as Clet or sees the alterations as art. Some even classify his art as “vandalism” saying that it’s a distraction and doesn’t belong in the historical and beautiful city of Florence. In October of 2010, just a few months after he began, Clet also received a 400 euro fine because the altered signs violated traffic laws.

However, this didn’t stop Clet, but instead encouraged him to think bigger. On January 20, 2011, a fiberglass life-size sculpture known as Common Man appeared on Ponte alle Grazie. It was installed by Clet without permission and seven days later it was removed, but not before it drew much attention and appreciation from the community. 

Clet explains how in a renaissance city like Florence he only intervenes where elements break with history and contrast with the city. Both the Common Man and his altered street signs dialogue with the city where modern invasions, like street signs and the modernly designed Ponte alle Grazie, have taken over.


While authorities for the meantime have mostly turned a blind eye to Clet’s art it’s unclear what the future holds for Clet and his clever street signs, along with the many other street artists who depend on urban backdrops as their canvas. With growing appreciation it’s hard to imagine a world without your local street artist. Keep an eye out for Clet's art next time you just happen to be in Florence! ;) 

 “Street art, when done well, is a gift to the city and it’s residents.” 

Clet Abraham

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Overcoming Language Barriers

Here is a conversation I’ve had approximately 50 times ((slight exaggeration)) since coming to Italy:

“Gabriella Marzullo…your name is Italian and you look Italian, are you half or something?”
“Yeah I’m actually 100% Italian! My dad was born here.”
“Oh cool so you’re fluent!?”
“Haha no…not yet anyways.”
“Wait what?”

Every time I have this conversation with someone, I just have to laugh. Obviously my name is Italian and I look Italian, so it’s natural for people to assume that since my dad was born here, I speak fluent Italian. I then have to go on to explain that we never actually spoke it while I was growing up and I’ve only been learning it for a year. Although I’m not close to being fluent, I have to say that my Italian has vastly improved since I first arrived. From taking an intensive language course my first two weeks here, to taking a cooking class where we can only speak Italian, and visiting relatives in Southern Italy who speak little to no English, I’ve really been pushed out of my comfort zone to think of different ways to say something so I can say it in Italian. Although I may butcher it sometimes with broken Italian, I’ve found that about 85% of the time, people will understand what you’re trying to say, and more importantly- they appreciate that you’ve tried. 
Buona Pasqua! Enjoying Easter dinner with my relatives in Southern Italy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about Italians being rude to them. Sometimes that can definitely be true, especially in a metropolitan city like Milan, but usually those same people who are complaining are people who only speak to Italians in English and expect them to understand. I’m not saying you have to be fluent in Italian to live here, obviously I’m not, but making the effort and even pulling out google translate in times of need makes it easier for the locals to understand you so they can help you.
Can we just appreciate these lush green hills? I wanted to dance around like Julie Andrews but I restrained myself.
First time meeting my 2nd cousins! 
Conversely, the first time I went to the cafĂ© next to my apartment, my Italian was just awful and I ended up saying everything English. Ever since then, they only speak to me in English. Although I love to practice my Italian any chance I get, I think it’s really sweet how they go out of their way to make me feel comfortable by speaking English. Which reminds me, I haven’t been there in a few weeks... I miss their pistachio cream filled croissants... BUT I DIGRESS. Just try your best, anywhere you go. When I went to Paris and said a few phrases in French, everyone was so kind and told me how cute they thought my accent was and appreciated my sad attempt at French.
See, they even put a smiley face in my cappuccino!

Also, I’m not sure how often these happen in the United States, but if you’re studying abroad in another country where you’re learning the language, I suggest going to a language exchange! I’ve gone to a few, and even though it’s intimidating at first, it really helps me practice my Italian. Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people from all over the world! :D

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Top of the World

Mount Toubkal: Located in Marrakech, Morocco. Altitude of 13,671 feet (4,167 meters). Tallest mountain peak in Morocco and North Africa. 2nd tallest mountain peak in all of Africa behind Mount Kilimanjaro.

September 2015: Picture this, my friend had a crazy idea to hike the tallest mountain in all of North Africa which was conveniently located in Morocco, just a few hours from our homestay city. Of course I agreed because, once in a lifetime chance, right? When was I going to be presented with this opportunity again? Realistically, never. So I did some research, booked a tour guide, and bought some gloves from the Marjane near Sale.

October 2015: I'm traipsing around a little Spanish territory in the north of Morocco with my friends. We're steady looking for the nearest pub that's open at 10 am (not much luck) and we walked everywhhheeerrreeeee. There were too many hills for my liking and I was lowkey pissed about the whole situation. I was hungry and wanted food. Every time someone started complaining, we'd all say, "This is your training for Toubkal 2015."

November 2015: THE MONTH OF TOUBKAL. Y'all, I knew I wasn't prepared in any way. I didn't have enough snacks, I didn't have the proper clothing attire to climb a mountain covered in snow. I packed for Morocco with the idea it was going to be hot because Africa, yeah? Sahara desert. Both are hot. I was so so so so wrong. My host family had the intent of making me fat while I lived in their home and they succeeded. I was so out of shape trying to climb a mountain over 13,000 feet above sea level. Sometimes I think I'm a crazy person but then I tell myself I'm just a person who takes advantages of her opportunities.

Here's a rundown of how the climb went:

Day 1. We wake up in Marrakech crazy early to meet someone who is going to drive us to the mountain for us to begin our climb. We were staying right in the medina of Marrakech so very much in the city. We get to the base of the mountain and start climbing. We had to pack our bags on the back of a mule which then took all of our belongings to the refuge we would be staying at for the night. The beginning wasn't too bad. I felt like I was just taking a walk on a slow incline. The beginning of our hike was ascending very slowly because we had to walk through the mountain range to even get to the base of Mount Toubkal itself. Let me just tell y'all. For someone who lives on an island AT sea level, hiking 13,000 feet above that is killer for the lungs. My lack of physical ability wasn't even the issue. It was my lungs never feeling like they had enough oxygen to keep going. We finally made it to the refuge at the base of Toubkal after 4-5 hours. The refuge was somewhere around 3,000 meters (idk what that translates to in feet)and it was freeeezing. A solid 30 degrees and the refuge didn't have any heat running through it or hot water so a shower was totally out of the question.

Day 2. We began our ascent up Toubkal itself. Talk about D-E-A-D. This ascent kicked my ass in the worst way because it was very steep and got that way very quickly. But I did experience a pretty magical moment. We had taken a break because I was dying and needed a second to breathe. I'm standing there, looked up, and saw a shooting star (my first one EVER) at 5 am and the sun hadn't even risen yet. I felt very free and so thankful to be literally exploring our earth. I was there, in Morocco, IN AFRICA for God's sake, climbing a mountain before the sun had even woken the earth yet. It was such a beautiful and humbling experience. The rest of the climb up Toubkal went a little like this: We climb for a bit, I was in the back, huffing and puffing away, taking a break what felt like every 30 seconds. I got so tired at one point that I literally just laid in the snow and told everyone to leave me there. I was so over it. I didn't want to climb it any more. I didn't care. I just wanted to die because my body was in so much pain, now because of my lack of athleticism and because my lungs were so confused about what they were breathing in. It sure didn't feel like sea level air anymore. We finally saw the summit and it was only a 15 minute climb to get there, but very dangerous because of the snow and the ridge was quite small. We finally made it to the top and I just collapsed in the snow and straight diedddddd. I have never in my feel felt so accomplished and proud of myself. I had finally made it to the top of a mountain I thought I would never be able to climb. It took about 4 hours to ascend from the refuge. We finally started going back down but we were going all the way back to the bottom where we started. In total, we spent 16-17 hours on our feet ascending and descending Mount Toubkal.

Mohammad, our tour guide. He nearly dragged me up the last part of the hike
and to him, I basically owe my life. I cannot say enough good things about this man and
how much he cares about each and every person he gets to share this experience with.
Mount Toubkal summit reppin' HPU

 Still to this day, my most proud moment is climbing that mountain because I never thought my body could physically do it and it did. I encourage each and every person to have faith in themselves no matter what it is because you can literally do whatever you put your mind to.

Feeling Small

I feel very small, as a person, whenever I travel to another country. Granted, I've only been to 6 countries but I still have the sense of being a world traveler. Feeling small isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually quite liberating. I realize how little impact I have on this world and how insignificant I am but at the same time, I was there in Morocco with this family and I knew that after my time there was up, I was going to have some sort of impact on these people who offered to share their home with me. We bonded so well and created pretty solid relationships. I learned so much from them and I hope that I have something special enough to offer them in return.
I went away for an entire weekend to another city about 2 hours from Rabat and when I got home, my brother told me that my whole family missed me so much over the weekend and they were glad I was finally home. I became the 6th member of a family of 5 and compared to the entire world, that’s not very many people. Just the fact that my absence made a difference to them helps me realize that no matter how small and truly insignificant I am, I’m also such a big part of these people’s lives as they are in mine. It’s okay to feel small and to recognize it.
I knew that leaving Morocco after 4 months was going to be one of the harder things in my life and I was oddly okay with that. I’ve always heard that people should stop trying to make sadness a beautiful thing but when you realize all the things you have in your life, it really is beautiful to have something important enough to be so sad about.

Guess This is Goodbye: Final Month in Review

Hi there! It's been a great time sharing with you...

If you haven't notice, well this is my final month abroad in Thailand. I know right! That fast...maybe it's because this was a trimester instead of a semester (555 - that's a Thai slang for haha). Now before I get all emotional and start drowning myself in tears, let's just look at the bright side and smile that it happened. 

Trip to Myanmar, Yangon (03/17-20/16)

Mingalaba! from the Shwedagon Pagoda
One of the best things I got to do while abroad was traveling to another country. I have to admit but this one I didn't really plan nor thought that I would be going to another place besides Thailand. "Yup, expect the unexpected." It was a requirement for our Visa, meaning that either we pay an amount to renew our stay or go out of the country and then come back. I chose ADVENTURE! Just another perfect opportunity to expand my global views of the world and it sure was worth it.  

My Japanese friend Rina who took two trimester in Mahidol and is one of the residents in Chaiyapruk International House was my travel buddy. We had a three day trip to Myanmar, a country that borders the Northwest of Thailand. I have no idea why Myanmar but what I do know was that I wanted to go to places that I have never heard of and Myanmar was one. My friend and I stayed at the City Star Hotel that cost us about 176, 452.50 kyat which is only 150 US dollars for three nights. Not bad compared to other countries. 

Myanmar is a whole other story that I would probably have to write a novel since it totally defeated my expectation of what it will be. I went there thinking that it will just be like Thailand but boy was I wrong. I was mind blown by the people and simply everything. If you happen to go there you will mostly encounter locals who speaks multiple languages and are very fluent. To name a few: English, Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Spanish...etc. Funny thing is, I always mistaken saying thank you or hello in Thai to Burmese people. 
taking a break from our tour (our taxi driver on the left, Me in the middle & Rina on the right)

Rina paying her respect (a mini version of the Golden Rock)
We ended up visiting so many beautiful and breathtaking places. My personal favorite was the Golden Rock in Kyaiktiyo. To get there we had to take a 2 to 3hr taxi ride early morning and then a 45min truck ride up the mountain. Although it was a disappointment when we got there because the Golden Rock was under construction, the trip up the mountain was amazing. It was like a roller coaster ride that I could feel my stomach twist and turn as the truck continues to ascend to the top. In short, we had a wonderful time learning a new culture, trying their delicious food and getting a glimpse of the lifestyle in Myanmar. If I knew more, I would have definitely travel to more countries and I hope you will take this into consideration. Once you are there, the possibility of going to other places is very possible. 

The Reclining Buddha at Bago, Myanmar

Entrance to the Shwedagon Pagoda

Just another busy day in Yangon, Myanmar

MUIC Farewell Party for Exchange and Visiting Student (03/22/16)

Chaiyaprukers and Phoenix (Nithiphat) taking our last farewell photo

I already made up my mind that I will not be joining the farewell party since exams were around the corner. On top of that, I was not ready for any goodbyes. With much persuasion, I reluctantly gave in to the pressure from my friends. I'm glad I went though because it turned out to be my luckiest night. Normally I don't win anything but that night was a night to remember. I won some cool prizes and ate lots of food as well as playing some entertaining games. We all enjoyed spending our last night together and sadly have to say our farewells as we part ways. When this time comes, you would definitely need to make sure you bring along some tissues. 

Happy Holi from Jane and I! (03/27/16)

meet my ajuma Jane 555
While things were slowly winding down, my friend Jane took me to celebrate Holi (a Hindu Spring festival) in Bangkok. This is a must go event if you are taking a semester in Spring. There was music, bubbles, colors, water, food and the entrance fee was free. It was the best times of our lives, and what was more rewarding was meeting one of my favorite Indian actor. We stayed there for almost five hours or more because every time we told ourselves that this will be our last song before going home, yet, we always ended up postponing our decision. The last song becomes two more, three more, four more, and later on it was not until the event was officially over. It sure was fun and memorable to immerse ourselves in the Indian community. Khop Khun na Kha to my friend Jane, I got to experience the Holi festival since I will be missing out on the celebration of the Songkran (Thai New Year) and I hope you don't miss out on that one too. 
this is us when we were looking clean before the party started
...and then here we are

I did a great job of making sure I don't count the days I have left in Thailand. As months become weeks and weeks become days, there was no escaping the fact that I'll be leaving soon. I guess this is the part we say goodbye, but for now I'll just stick with...Until Next Time!