Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bienvenido a Madrid

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Like many abroad-ers, I’ve decided to start a blog to chronicle my many experiences here in Europe. Where do I start!? I moved to Madrid, Spain one month ago, and I have already seen the most breathtaking sights, eaten the most heavenly food, met the most incredibly kindhearted people, and made some of the most unforgettable memories of my life. Cliche, I know, but it’s true.
First things first: Spain is very different from the United States and Hawaii. Some differences I noticed right off the bat are: everybody smokes, cars are very small, dinner is eaten at 10pm, food is muy importante and treasured to them (for good reason), and their party lifestyle is on a whole different level. To my surprise, there are palm trees in freezing cold Spain, which made me super happy because I am missing my Hawaiian warmth! Also, English speakers are far and few between (understandably), which has been the cause of some funny obstacles for me as I improve my Spanish. My go to reaction in conversations: nod, smile, and say “mm-hmm.” I will learn, though, poquito a poquito.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing boyfriend who happens to be from Madrid and who has helped me, along with his extremely considerate family, with every trial and tribulation I have encountered. They set me up with a bank account, a Spanish phone number, helped me learn the metro system, pretty much guided me through the first few very confusing weeks that every student abroad can feel overwhelmed by. Javi and his family’s support has been invaluably helpful. If you’re reading this, muchísimas gracias!
After one month of living with Javi's family in Fuenlabrada (a suburb of Madrid), I have officially settled into my flat. I love the neighborhood and the flat itself is really cute, but it's super old. I have to turn on a gas tank and light a flame to get warm water for a shower! I love it nonetheless. 
While Javi was still here in Spain (he has since gone back to HPU), he, his family, and I traveled to Granada & Sevilla in southern Spain and Rome, Italy. We drove down to Granada and stayed in a historic, traditional Islamic-architecture-style bed and breakfast. Andalusia (the southern region of Spain) is highly influenced by Islamic culture because it was occupied by the Muslim empire from the 8th to the 15th century, which was so interesting for me to observe. In Granada, we walked around the beautiful streets, ate Paella, and (my fav part) visited La Alhambra. Below is a photo of the incredible detailed 13th-century architecture from the inside, and the view of the palace on the outside. Every single space inside of the massive palace was completely covered in detailed designs. The floor, ceiling, walls, columns, pools, gardens, EVERYTHING was so beautifully detailed, I was in awe for the whole visit.
After 3 wonderful days in Granada, we drove to our próxima parada, Sevilla. There we walked around the city, ate muchas tapas, visited La Giralda, the Sevilla cathedral, and La Plaza de España. I loved this city so much and wished I had more time to explore! We headed back to Madrid just in time to celebrate the Day of the 3 Kings with all of the family.
About a week and many cervezas y tapas later, me, Javi, his sister Azahara, and her boyfriend Pirri went to Rome!! We saw ALL the sights: the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, the Vatican w/ the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and countless old, beautiful churches. I think we walked about 14 miles per day, but we were able to see the entire city in just 3 days. Here are some photos of Rome’s historically mind-blowing beauty:
This weekend I am going to Barcelona, and the weekend after that I am going to Paris, both of which I am super stoked for! It is called studying abroad though, so I should probably mention that I’ve started classes at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I’m taking 4 super interesting courses: Africa in the 21st century, Current International Issues from a Spanish Perspective, Spanish, and Political System in Spain. They are taught in English with highly interesting professors and some cool classmates from all over the world! Luckily, I only have class on Tuesdays & Thursdays, which gives me more time to explore.
I am so thankful and excited for this opportunity that I have ahead of me to live and learn in a whole new culture!
xoxo, Allison

Friday, January 22, 2016

Concluding Adventures in Taiwan :(

Above on the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial one last time
Ladies and Gents, before I tell you how awesome my time at Taiwan was, let me first tell you to study abroad once you get an opportunity or are considering. No matter where you go in this world, know that every place, and every person you meet, there is a story to tell and create with. It is a vast world yet it is also a small world (much thanks to technology). Not only have I travel while studying a foreign language (Mandarin Chinese) , I made wonderful friends I have never thought I would share a kindred spirit with in a distant land that most people hardly hear of. Contrary to my or anyone else expectations, studying abroad here in Taiwan would blow my mind on what I only heard of. Taiwan is not just another island inhabited with Chinese or Taiwanese people. It is a diverse place with many opportunities to grow as a scholar, travel, experience different cultures, and be embraced by the warm hearts of its local people.

Riding through Taroko Gorge in Hualien county
 When I first came to Taiwan, I had many expectations. I had thought it was much like a Taiwanese drama with beautiful actors and modern skylines. It was to some extent, but it was quite different. It was a modern yet old metropolis with wide roads but with more condensed older buildings. The garbage truck played Fur Elise like a Ice Cream truck coming down the road, and the traffic was more than just cars as mopeds, motorcycles, and bikes competed for the road. In the beginning there was heat, and a lot of it. And did I mention rain? A lot of that too...

On my own for the first time, I attended National Taiwan University (a most prestigious university located in the heart of Taipei) and conducted my studies on Chinese language and international studies there. While there, I made friends quick and developed a bond with them as we traveled and tried our best to master Chinese together. Among this university, I met people from all over the world. Don't be afraid if you will stick out as the only foreigner there. Believe me, Taiwan is very hospitable and the school is filled with Taiwanese students that are eager to make friends.

With friends waiting for the Ali Shan Express

My roommate from Hong Kong, Felix "the cat"

Food and lodging is affordable here. As well traveling from place to place is both affordable and convenient thanks to the efficiency of Taiwan's High Speed Rail, Taipei Metro (MRT), and local train networks. Getting from my school here in Taiwan to the central business district where Taipei 101 is located is an astonishing rate of 25NTD, which is practically less than $1 US dollar.

But I prefer my bike... just kidding I don't own this one unfortunately

Oh I'm going to miss the convenience of high speed service in less than half-an- hour per city

As to the last events of my travels in Taiwan, I have done much since my last postings. Besides meeting my heroes in a Taipei downtown cafe from my favorite YouTube channel, Wong Fu Productions , I had the pleasure of hiking and riding through Taroko Gorge, seeing millennium old trees and scenic spots at Ali Shan, visited Taiwan's beaches, boated through the tranquil ambiance of Sun Moon Lake, and even got a chance to see the new Star Wars movie there.

Hiking through a perilous bridge!

The beach at Hualien

Behold my power!
This tree in Ali Shan lived during the time of Christ! It's over 2,000 years old.
A proposal from my friend

Sun Moon Lake

Yups... I met them, West and Phil from Wong Fu!
I got to see some Star Wars fans right before I saw the new Star Wars movie here... I was so happy!

 Of course, what I will miss most about Taiwan is the well-prepared and affordable food. I swear, there are so many dishes I can choose from and the best thing of all it doesn't burn a hole in my pocket.

Barbecuing all I can eat! Unlimited  meat and drinks, and includes desserts! All for $500 NTD or $15 USD!
That is one fancy Loco Moco!
The best event however that had best concluded my trip was seeing the new year open with fireworks among crowds in the vicinity of Taipei 101. My friends and I had a picnic as we count down to the new year. We made new year resolutions to see each other again someday.

It was magical....
In my last week in Taiwan (just one week before HPU started class mind you), I said goodbye to my friends and we had our last get-together dinner after our exams. After of which, I looked back at how far I had come and the people, and culture I have encountered. It was a great adventure and it was a great study abroad experience. I can only look back now.... it was worth it and something I will do over again if I can.

Saying goodbye to my dorm (my other home)

(At the Peace park)Goodbye Taiwan
(At the thermal springs) Goodbye Taiwan

To all those who have followed me, be sure to contact me if you have any questions studying abroad or wish to travel to Taiwan. My email:

zàijiàn 再見! (farewell and let's meet again)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Countdown to Departure

The best analogy regarding travel I was pondering is if you stay somewhere for an extended period of time, one will in a sense “grow roots” where they become more attached as time progresses.

I just realized not too long ago that I have been to enough places to be considered a traveler (aka a person who regularly travels). Now, that doesn’t make me an avid traveler. Even so, I’ve been to enough places and have traveled more than enough times to have that title.  I started to get that feeling as my time in Australia was drawing to an end. I would have to say that I had that feeling for the past few weeks prior to departing; missing home. Not only was I missing home but I was also going to miss being here or rather I miss some things about being there. So, as I was typing this, I was a bit emotional.

They say “home is where the heart is”. Somehow I can relate even not having any special person to go back to. In fact, if anything my heart could be split between two places. However, even not considering a romantic relationship, I still have most of my friends back here in Hawaii as well as the rest of the United States. And so, as my time in Australia drew to a close, I was compelled to contact those friends of mine to notify them of my arrival. From there, I’m thinking to myself that things will never be the same again. I have come to realize that I have some work ahead of me. The time of relaxation (or more time) is over for now, and thus I have returned to the grind I once worked prior to leaving here.

The night before leaving, I was nearly all packed up everything. I had already anticipated having very little sleep only mere hours before my long day began. I said my “good-byes” and “farewells” for now. My roommates even hosted a farewell dinner. For that I was very grateful. They’ve been some of the best hosts and housemates I’ve lived with. I got to see my lady friend as well one last time. She stopped by to pick up some of the things I was giving away. We talked for a bit before seeing each other off one last time for a while. A while may be a while. Even so, I’ve been aiming to keep in touch with her, other friends I’ve made, and come back to visit within the next two years. This is especially true for my lady friend.

While it’s not possible to maintain a proper relationship, we planned to keep in touch and take care of what we each need to take care of in our own lives to even consider anything more if that’s “in the cards”. Sure, I like her but does she feel the same way? I have a feeling she does but I could always be wrong. Regardless, there’s some sort of connection there, and I just believe I must do my part at the very least. Perhaps one day, something great will come of it. I realize she just can’t allow herself to, and that’s fine. Nor can I for that matter. However, I have to be strong just like her and maintain our friendship through both time and distance with the possibility of something more.  That’s the least I can look forward to for now.

It’s been nearly a month and a half since I started writing this. For the most part, much of my life that was has returned to normal. However, I’m already planning on going back sometime next year. In what capacity? That’s still in the works, but the only thing I know for sure is that a trip is in the cards. And so, I’ve made sure to inform my mates currently there. Now, I have something else to look forward to, and while there’s still much time and planning between the time I’m writing this and the time I return, perhaps it will come faster than I expect. If there’s anything I have learned is that much can happen in a year’s time and plans could always change. And so, until my next countdown to departure begins, I’ll continue to plan for my next journey as well as keep the newly made connection with my friends and new family alike alive.

25 November 2015 - 19 January 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Verzögerten Frohe Weihnachten

A very late Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! :)

Since the semester ends in the beginning of February, Christmas has gone by incredibly fast, with a 3 day visit to my home in Denmark to celebrate it with my family.

I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a soldering iron from FH Salzburg, so I could get my Christmas decoration ready for my room.

New Years Eve was spent with some of all the new friends I made here in Salzburg.
Here we are at midnight, watching the fireworks from one of the many bridges over the river Salzach which runs through Salzburg.

Time to get serious again came all too soon, and this Friday I completed my first exam which was in Robot Kinematics. One of the projects we worked on throughout the semester, was writing a program that would tell the KUKA robot how to build a tower.
Here, my lab partner Martin is in charge of the Teach Pendant during a test run.

Next exam in line is for Parallel Computing. Here is an image of the classroom environment, which is really great. Unfortunately, I have to use the University computers, since installing a virtual machine to run Visual Studio on my Mac failed.

For a time we had some snow here, and it truly looked like a Winter wonderland! However, we are in the plus degrees again, and it has melted away. I would not be surprised to wake up to snow again however.

I prefer the milder weather, since it means that there is still a chance to go for a hike, if there is time... This is the Fuschlsee from a hike I did over Christmas.

Though I can hardly think about anything other than exams at the moment, I am also really looking forward to returning to Hawaii Pacific University, and get to catch up with my classmates :)

Wish me luck for my exams ;)
See you in a month Hawaii!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Vina del Mar and UAI

Vina del Mar

    Vina del Mar is often called the garden city and is located on the central Pacific coast of Chile. Vina del Mar or simply Vina is absolutely beautiful. There is a long beach that stretches to the neighboring city of Renaca to the North and later to Concon. There is also an old and new part of the city of Vina including a newer touristic part as well as a lively older side. The newer part is along the ocean and on San Martin,with all of the restaurants and resorts along the ocean. There are also three large shopping malls (larger and more packed than Ala Moana) that have everything you could find in the shopping malls back home. So do not be afraid, you will still have Starbucks, McDonalds, Nike, Adidas, Lider (Walmart), and everything else you could desire. The older part of the city, resides 15 blocks down on Calle Valpo, this is where you can find the less expensive and more local shops. Such as music shops and souvenirs.

The beach four blocks from my house
The view of Vina

Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez

UAI sits on top of a large hill overlooking vina and the ocean.

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The view from the University was especially beautiful during the sunset. 

The professors are also very well trained and the University is very prestigious. It is a private University and is well known as being the upper class University within the region. UAI is known for business, but also has a wide range of Latin American history and culture classes for international classes. There are also different Spanish classes available. I took Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism within Latin America, Latin American Culture and Identity (both with Prof. Casanueva), Chile and Human Rights (Prof. Wilson), Latin America on Film (Prof. Salinas), and Latin America in the age of Globalization (Prof. Barros). I would highly recommend the Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism class for politics as you deeply analyze the different political systems over a wide range of Latin American countries and learn where the corruption began. Latin America on film was also an excellent class that showed the history of Latin America very well through film. Prof. Casanueva and Salinas were my favorite professors but Barros and Wilson were also excellent professors. The coursework was rigorous, but after the classes I feel like I truly gained significant knowledge that I will not forget such as other coursework I have done within the United States.

taken from

There are many different sport classes you can take including yoga, body pump, trekking, weights, swimming, and many others  and you can even join sports teams within the University. The University is large and consists of four different buildings. One building is for the classrooms, common spaces, and the gymnasium, another is for the offices of the professors, the library and auditorium, and the last is for the cafeteria. The gym is located in the first building and is very large. The food within the cafeteria is also nice and affordable. 
The library
Outside of the cafeteria
The view from campus

Dieciocho de Septiembre
Dieciocho is the independence day within Chile. (Similar to the 4th of July) There are two days celebrated known as fiesta Patrias. There were large festivals known as "ramadas" or "fondas" that lasted throughout the weekend.Chileans spend the afternoons with their families having large asados and then head out to the "ramadas" and "fondas" to celebrate for the night
My host mother and I dressed in Chilean attire

The festival
 The Fondas At the fondas there are countless stands with food such as antichuchos, empanadas, terremotos,and much more. Besides the countless booths for food there are also carnival games and rides. There is also a large stage that had live music and there was a separate tent with music and a dance floor.

Valparaiso, Chile

     Valparaiso or simply Valpo is located South of Vina del Mar on the Pacific Coast as well. Valparaiso is known for being a large port and city filled with a unique culture, artists, and musicians and is often referred to as the Jewel of the Pacific. Valpo is also the location of the Congress in the country, so there are many different political demonstrations as well. Such as when the congress passed a law for same sex marriage in October. 


  Valpo is a city that runs all night long and is always filled with people. There are always different festivals that take place within the city and Valpo is the cheapest city to go out in. There were salsa classes every Wednesday night and there were always other places to go out dancing to reggaeton, bachata, and cumbia or as the Chileans say “Carretes”. There were countless live music events as well with a variety of music.

The streets of Valpo were also filled with street art that was beautiful but also gave large political statements. 

Below will be a paper I wrote for my Latin America on Film class of my thoughts on Valparaiso. 

The Jewel of the Pacific
     The scent of the ocean breeze and piscola brushes my senses as I climb up chaotic "escaleras" through the beautiful city of Valparaiso. The "paseos" and "cerros" within the city of paradise provide stunning views of the sea and vibrant colorful houses below. The sun radiates downward on the grand port beneath and street performers, vendors, and tourists assemble throughout the streets. The wall of every structure within the city is filled with radiant street art, graphic stencils, and deep messages that captures the eyes of any foreigner. The individuals roaming among the street art appear rough on the outside, but in an instant show warmth and friendliness towards the foreigner. Valparaiso is said to be “The Jewel of the Pacific” and she truly is. Valpo is a city within Latin America that demonstrates a type of life that cannot be found elsewhere. She is chaotic, raving, alluring, captivating, and charming. She demands to be looked at and to be enjoyed.

    Valparaiso is truly a beautiful, chaotic mess. She is a clash between rapid industrialization and the Latin American soul that is dying to be heard. The people of Valparaiso are restless and captivating, but the city is quickly becoming exhausted and weary. The night life of Valpo is filled with raving "carretes" that illuminate every dark corner within the central part of the city. The sounds of dancing, laughter, live music, and howling of the people can be heard in every "cerro" above. Life fills the streets and provides a certain charm that is foreign to anywhere else within the world. Discotecas and piscolas dominate the nighttime and allure any person who passes by on the stone streets. The image of people who have consumed one too many piscolas, crowded roaring streets, the beautiful tone of the Latin tongue, and the aroma of completos and empanadas after a night full of dancing and laughter will be the memories I will always recollect from my nights spent within the city that refuses to rest. Valpo is truly a ¨Jewel¨ for the young soul that desires an alluring, charming, and captivating lifestyle that does not emerge elsewhere in Chile or Latin America.

    Valparaiso appears young, alive, and thriving in the eyes of a newcomer. Within the first months of my arrival in Chile, I was captivated by the beautiful street art, endless festivities, loud nights, and holds a certain charm that no other city within Latin America showed me before. The streets of the city allured me and were filled with a new sense life that was foreign to me. The people I was introduced to within the streets were lovely and the city provided scents of richness. My first experiences within this beautiful and breathtaking city appeared almost as the mystical and luring as the place of ¨El Dorado¨. The city never appeared to run out of excitement and was my main destination for nights out in Chile. Although, the sight of the moonlight kissing the sea that sweeps across Valparaiso and the piscola kissing my lips within the night left me in a delusional type of love that I was rudely awakened from the following mornings.

    Although, when the sun rises and provides morning light, Valparaiso revealed her exhaustion to me. The streets were filled with trash and sorrowness. No person within the dead streets dared to look after or care for the beautiful city that lured them in within the night. The people instead roamed the streets deceived with filthy expressions stuck on their faces that sent chills down my spine. The moment I stepped foot outside of the tourist centers and into the residential parts of the city, ¨The Jewel of the Pacific” rapidly became less desirable. The chaos and raving of the city became unbearable and the alluring, captivating charm of the city I felt so intensely before immediately disappeared. The street art plastered on the structures began to provide a deeper symbolism of resistance and oppression the central government forced among the people. The streets of the city appeared hideous and the brilliant colors of the houses dwindled. The endless parties, street art, and charm was nothing more than propaganda to deceive foreigners of Valparaiso's beauty.

    ¨The Jewel of the Pacific¨ is currently encountering a constant struggle to overcome the oppression she faces. She has become exhausted and has become a disaster that is alluring to the foreigner. As she is beautiful within the nighttime but with the rising sun her true expressions of misery are revealed. The colorful houses that are stacked within the "cerros" are falling apart, the "escalares" are rapidly aging, and the "paseos" are filled with people who are in a constant battle for survival. The scent of "piscola" hinders on the breath of locals as they use it to drown their own sorrows within the city they once believed was ¨The jewel of the Pacific¨. The wall of every structure within the city is filled with graphic messages and meaning of oppression and miseries that the foreigner is blind too. Valparaiso truly is a city that demonstrates a type of life that cannot be found elsewhere but the type of life is a form of trickery. Beautiful within the nighttime but ugly within the day. The city and her people are chaotic, raving, and the fake propaganda within them is alluring and charming to the foreigner.