Spring in St. Petersburg 2018

David Bushhouse
Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University 2018

Only two weeks of my Russian study-abroad experience remain, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t missing home. I miss my family, my bed, and of course the rolling hills of Central Virginia. I miss the giant oaks and the fresh air and the rural night sky. Like any city, St. Petersburg is far from nature, covered in concrete, and shrouded in smog and light pollution (plenty of regular pollution too!).

Some animals have learned to tough it out in the city. Pigeons and seagulls are ubiquitous, and every night I fall asleep to the sound of stray cats fighting outside of my window. Some brave ducks appear every time a downpour floods a shallow field in the dvor, the central courtyard of the apartment complex. Even so, these slivers of nature are mostly sad: the pigeons are fat from the low nutrient bread diet that babushkas feed them, the seagulls are much the same (only meaner), and the ducks paddle through muddy water full of plastic bags and cigarette butts. At right you can see these ducks trying to eat actual garbage. Still, in my travels I have been surprised and delighted by a couple encounters with nature in St. Petersburg and abroad.

We’ll start abroad. Two weeks ago, I travelled to Helsinki for the weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the coast of the Finnish Gulf—Finski Zaliv in Russian—while touring the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The granite boulders lying in the cold, clean water led up to patches of stubby grasses and small trees and bushes capable of braving the Finnish winter. A variety of seabirds paddled through the shallows and perched on rocks to preen themselves. I even saw a swan doing a weird neck dance that looked very silly. After months in a big city, that afternoon I felt like weeks of heaviness and mundanity had been lifted. I felt refreshed.

Then, just last week, I discovered a park not far from my apartment complex. I live northwest of the city center, in a spalnaya raiyon—which means “sleeping district”—inhabited mostly by commuters and retirees. Sleeping districts make up most of the area of St. Petersburg, and they all look about the same: rows and rows of identical, soul-crushing soviet apartment buildings interspersed with grocery stores, bakeries, and shaverma stands, of course. Don’t get me wrong—after a while the brutalist architecture and industrial wasteland becomes almost charming. Just a few days ago some friends and I noted how an abandoned electrical substation next to the institute where we study, with its massive rusted machinery and otherworldly aura, makes us feel oddly at home whenever we see it.

But despite these charms, I was overjoyed when I discovered Sosnovka Park just a few blocks south of my apartment complex. At nearly 750 acres, the park is massive, and most of those acres are covered with birch forest and meandering trails that cut between wider gravel pathways. These trails (one can be seen at right) are perfect for working up a sweat and getting a little muddy. Small ponds sans the garbage dot the eastern border of the park, and in the forest I can hear the chirping of songbirds, the rustle of small rodents and hedgehogs in the dry leaves on the ground, and the drumming of an occasional woodpecker. Make no mistake—it isn’t Eden. Still, it means a lot to find little bits of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle.

Spring in the Czech Republic 2018

Nate Dracon
Charles University 2018

Hello again from Praha!

It’s been almost two months now since I left the states. Everything seems to be going well, and I have finally started to travel to places that are outside the Czech Republic.

St. Patrick’s Day is not a very big holiday in Europe. From what I have seen, the partying and drinking is an American construct. That weekend I decided to visit a friend in Salzburg, Austria. First thing I noticed was how cordial the people were, and more advanced the country was verses the Czech Republic. That being said, everything was much more expensive.

Zach Wiggin, Nate Dracon and Blake Martin

The week after that, Blake Martin and Zach Wiggin came to visit me since they were studying in Dublin, Ireland. For the first time, I went to see Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. We saw the actual window where the third defenestration of Prague took place, which started the 30 Years War. I was able to show them around the city, and for a day trip, we went to Pilsen. The pride and joy of the Czech Republic is the invention of Pilsner and their award-winning beer, Pilsner Urquell. We toured the town, which like almost all European cities, has a large square with a cathedral in the middle. Pilsen is also home to the third largest synagogue in the world, Great Synagogue. We also toured the city’s massive underground, where people created pubs to avoid drinking laws in the 15th century.

This week is Easter, which is a much bigger deal in central Europe than in America. No, they do not believe in the Easter Bunny, but have much better traditions in my opinion. Prague, being a large city with western influences, does not participate in many of these traditions. Instead, the city sets up large Easter Markets for the weeks leading up to Easter. In villages, people walk around to their neighbors’ houses where the men receive shots, and the women collect chocolate Easter Eggs. Additionally, Easter Whips are created by weaving small twigs together. These whips, are used by men to tap women, to promote fertility during the whole next year.

My parents are coming this weekend, and I am excited to go to Dresden, Germany and Vienna, Austria with them.

Spring in St. Petersburg 2018

David Bushhouse
Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University 2018

Today was the first day I saw grass in Russia. Even though we’re halfway into March and celebrated the official start of spring two weeks ago, the daily temperatures here in St. Petersburg are in still the mid-twenties. Take it from me, everyone in Peter is eager to see when spring will actually arrive!

This spring is special because on Sunday, March 18th, The Russian Presidential Election will be held.

Election adverts are all over the place: bus stops, billboards, shop windows, the YouTube homepage, on the radio, and even text messages that the Russian government sent out to every single Russian cell phone. Just today I saw a flower stand covered with five identical posters advertising the election.

You can see some examples pictured at right. The billboard says Nasha Strana, Nash Prezident, Nash Vybor!, which means “Our Country, Our President, Our Choice!” The bus stop says Vybirayem Prezidenta—Vybirayem Budushee!, which means “We Choose the President—We Choose the Future!”

It may seem odd to Americans that the Russian government spends enormous amounts of money advertising the election, while the candidates hardly advertise at all. The reason we have the opposite arrangement is that Americans and Russians view elections in different ways. In America, everyone obsesses over presidential elections: they consume every news story, fill every personal conversation, and are unavoidably touchy subjects at Thanksgiving dinners. In Russia, things are quite different. Even though the election is just days away, no one is eagerly awaiting election results; everyone knows that Putin is going to win, and most people will not bother to vote.

It’s not the Russians are so disheartened by the Putin regime that they think voting is useless. In fact, most Russians want Putin to win, but the lack of competitive alternative candidates and the massive public support for Putin makes most people think that voting is a waste of time. One professor of mine told our class that “Why would I vote? I know Putin will win, of course, so I will stay at home.”

However, there are also many Russians who will deliberately boycott the elections on Sunday. These are supporters of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and primary opponent of Vladimir Putin, who has been banned from running for president because of felony charges against him. Navalny supporters insist that the trumped-up charges against Navalny are politically motivated, and that the election is sure to be rigged. These supporters held large protests in over a hundred Russian cities in late January to call for an election boycott; they are also likely to hold reactionary protests after the election.

I will be in Moscow for the election, and am really looking forward to the experience. After that, I will be flying to Tbilisi, Georgia—where daily highs are in the mid-sixties—for my spring break.

Spring in the Czech Republic 2018

Nate Dracon
Charles University 2018

dobrý den from the city of Prague, Czech Republic!

I have been in the Czech Republic for almost a month now, and the differences between here and the U.S. are striking. Getting over wasn’t a problem, even for
a 6’4 student. I would just say that I am accustomed to never having enough leg
room. We first stopped for two days in London before taking a short flight to
the Czech Republic. The first thing that made me appreciate that I was in a very
foreign place was arriving at the airport and being unable to read anything
since it was all in Czech. From there, it was straight to the dorms, and the
next day I started my Czech language class. I never realized how good I had it
learning Spanish until I took on the Czech language which doesn’t use vowels.
During that two-week, 5 hours a day language class, I was able to use my spare
time to travel the Czech Republic. The first week, I went to Czechy Krumlov and
visited an ancient castle. The second week, I took a two day trip to Monrovia. I
had a great time on this trip as our group was able to visit Brno, have a
private dinner in a wine cellar dating back hundreds of years, and visited The
Battle of Austerlitz Memorial. My study abroad group is comprised of about 40
kids from all over the U.S., and we are all getting along reasonably well.
Classes at Charles University just started so they are pretty uneventful so far,
but there is so much that I have already learned from living in Prague that I
will try to break it up into categories!

History
Being a History major, I was excited to visit a city that has been virtually
untouched for almost 600 years. In fact, my school, Charles University, was founded in the 14th century. I never realized how young America was until I learned about the statues on the Charles Bridge. I was initially disappointed to learn that they are not original since they are made out of sandstone. Therefore, they need to be replaced every 300 years, and I realized that the current
statues might be older than America itself. The fact that the bridge has
replaced its statues multiple times since the 1300s is amazing to me.

Social Interactions
It was hard to imagine how much we take for granted in America until I visited a
country that was communist until the 1980s. Communism affected, and still
effects, the lifestyle and culture of the Czech people. It seems that the Czech
people have real trust issues with one another rooted in their fear of the
communist secret police. No one talks to one another, and no smiles are
exchanged in public. Any common business transactions, such as buying food, is
done with borderline rudeness from my perspective growing up in North and South
Carolina. Same can be said for the interaction between men and women. Prague is
truly a man’s world where women need to be careful about what they say and how
they dress, especially when it is late at night. It has been difficult for many
of the girls in our group to adjust to this since America is a very
forward-thinking compared to an eastern European city when it comes to
interaction between men and women.

Living in Prague
Prague is a beautiful city, just not particularly where I live, which is in a
large dormitory. That being said, I mostly buy my food at the grocery store
except for the burrito place I frequent called Burrito Loco. I have been going
there every day since I got here since it’s close to the gym I joined. I think
that I am their only American “regular”. On Wednesday, they actually smiled at
me and gave me a free brownie, so I must be making progress! My dorm is about a
15-minute commute by metro to city center. I live in an area of the city that
was built by the communist, so it’s just what you might imagine; dark, grey, and
everything looks the same. In fact, it’s so bland that our guide told us that
after the communist left, the city had to paint each building a different color
since kids could not tell the difference between them and would get lost trying
to get home after school.

Food
A great thing about food in the Czech Republic, as compared to the U.S., is that
everything is cheap. I eat three meals a day for under $10 each. Czech
food is good, but there is little variety. It mostly consists of some stew with
meat and dumplings. It is straightforward, and I got tired of it quickly.
Thankfully Prague has excellent international food, and as long as you stay away
from the tourist areas, the food is reasonably priced.

Being in Prague has been a great experience so far, and I look forward to
sharing more in the upcoming months.

Spring in St. Petersburg 2018

David Bushhouse
Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University 2018

I’ve been in St. Petersburg for less than a month, but have quickly noticed that шаверма, shaverma, is the most widespread and popular street-food in the city. In St. Petersburg, Shaverma stands are everywhere: next to every Metro Station, down nearly every alley, and in every clubbing district. Since shaverma stands are open 24 hours, it is the go-to drunk food for St. Petersburg locals, who call it ‘korm,’ which literally translates to “animal feed.” It’s unhealthy, always comes with a stomachache, and, as the locals say, will give you food poisoning every fifth time you eat it. But boy is it good.

Chicken, lamb, and goat is stacked onto a vertical spit and slowly grilled, creating a column of meat that is shaved then into smaller pieces. This method of cooking was originally developed in Ottoman Turkey in the 19th Century and quickly spread to the surrounding region, giving rise to the Turkish doner kebab, the Greek gyro, and the Arabic shawarma. Incidentally, the names of all these dishes reference the rotational grilling method—the most obvious being the Greek gyro (think gyroscope).

In shaverma, the shaved meat is served with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and a kefir-based sauce (similar to tzatziki) in a large tortilla-like Caucasian flatbread called lavash. Russian shaverma was invented by Central Asian immigrants, and is both greasier and less spicy than its distant Arabic cousin. Shaverma is cheap too! For 150–200 rubles (~3–4 dollars), depending on the stand, you can get a giant meal-sized shaverma that would cost at least 8 dollars stateside.

Shaverma stands are often run by Central Asians like Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs—the nearest shaverma stand to my dorm, shown in the picture, is run by a Tajik family. In Russia there is a good deal of racial discrimination against Central Asian immigrants, who can often only find work in low-skill sectors of the economy. However, in the same way that Chinese restaurants enabled Chinese families to enter the middle class in the face of racial discrimination in the United States, many Central Asian families in Russia have been able to enter the middle class by opening shaverma stands.

As I mentioned before, Russian shaverma does come with an uncomfortably high risk of food poisoning. In 2016, Moscow city officials threatened to ban the sale of shawarma, and physically removed a few stands, due to the high percentage of stands that failed safety standards. The public backlash against this “Shawarmageddon,” as newspapers called the crackdown, was massive, and shawarma stands in Moscow remain open for business despite the public safety concerns. The truth is that for most Russians shaverma is a guilty-pleasure food, and they simply do not care about the safety concerns; they love shaverma. And, speaking for myself and my fellow exchange students, Americans love shaverma too!

“Bon Voyage” 2017

Semester at Sea Experience
First and foremost, I would like to say Thank You for providing me funding that allowed me to participate in the Semester at Sea Program. With the scholarship, I was able to obtain my passport, visas, and travel expenses. Semester at Sea was an extraordinary experience to say the least. Even though I was only in different countries for an average of 4 days, the experience I had is invaluable. From being able to visit the Taj Mahal to hiking the Great Wall and from trying different foods to, most importantly, talking to the local people, I am extremely grateful. Also, I am extremely grateful to explore my roots in Africa; I visited Slave Castles in Ghana and I visited Nelson Mandela’s Jail Cell in South Africa. Even though this was a dark road to travel, it was imperative that I explored all of my history, and these experiences have helped me grow in my own culture. Even though I traveled to 11 different countries, I learned that there are two similarities that are the same in all of them. One is that everything is “Same, Same But Different;” the other I learned from a Trader in Ghana named Stephen who said, “No matter where you go there will be good people and bad people.” These two things taught me that people are one in the same everywhere; however, they just may have different ideals and ways of doing their daily routines. I have learned to be more understanding and try learning other peoples’ ways instead of enforcing my own, and I learned how privileged I am, and I want to give back to everyone.
God Bless

To Whom This May Concern:

I, Mr. Shemar Mandell Blakeney, would like to truly say thank you for providing me funding for the Semester at Sea Program. This program was invaluable, and to be able to participate in it is amazing. By God’s Grace, I was able to attend. Being an African American male from a single parent household, I do not even know how blessed, humble, and privileged I am to have been able to participate in the Semester at Sea program. I am truly grateful and thankful for the scholarship you granted me.

Blessings and Love,
Mr. Shemar Mandell Blakeney

London in the fall 2017

David Arias Hernandez
UCL 2017

December was the last month of this amazing opportunity to study abroad, and I really took advantage of it.

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral

At the beginning of the month I went to Moscow, Russia, where, I was able to visit various iconic places. On the first day, I went to the Red Square, where I was able to visit The Iberian Gate, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Kazan Cathedral, Kremlin Wall, Lenin Mausoleum, and GUM. The ones I liked the most were St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin Mausoleum, and the Kremlin Wall, although GUM, a Harrods-like shopping center, counted with several souvenir stores with tons of beautiful products. Clearly, St. Basil’s Cathedral was the highlight of the Red Square, as its architecture would attract any tourist                                                                                      regardless of his/her origin.

Lenin's Mausoleum

Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin Mausoleum was also a really interesting place to visit, as it provided me with an opportunity to be incredibly close to one of the most iconic characters in world history. Nevertheless, one of the most interesting things about the Red Square, which genuinely caught my attention, was to see how some locals would dress as Stalin to charge tourists for taking pictures with them. Tourists, excluding me, would get really excited about such picture, and therefore, would pay a considerable amount ($20). On the next day, I took a tour around Moscow’s metro. Moscow’s metro is known for the beauty of its stations. Each station has a different architecture, and tourists, just like me, often take some time to take a tour around some of the most important stations.

Display of Russian Nesting Dolls

Matryoshkas ( Russian Nesting Dolls)

After the short metro tour, I went to a Russian market 15 minutes away from the city center, where I was able to purchase very famous souvenirs like matryoshkas and eggs. It was also really interesting to see how many of the t-shirts sold in this market had Putin’s face printed on them. The president is really popular amongst citizens, and such particularity was evidenced on the merchandise sold not only at this market, but also at many other souvenir shops located in the Red Square. On that day, I also went to Gorky Park, which is the equivalent to Moscow’s Central Park. The park was neatly decorated by Christmas lights, and most of it was turned into an ice skating rink. On my final day, I visited the Kremlin, where I was able to see wonderful cathedrals, the palace where Putin lives, and the Senate, apart from several sculptures from the period before the Bolshevik Revolution.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

After coming back from Moscow, I was able to attend my first UEFA Champions League game. It was a wonderful experience, as I had dreamed my entire life as a kid to listen the Champions League’s anthem live. The game was an easy 3-0 win for Spurs, and it was a great opportunity to visit one of the most important stadiums in football’s history: Wembley Stadium.

 

 

 

Countdown to the World Cup in Russia

Countdown to the World Cup in Russia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concluding my entries, I have to say that there are many things that I will take from this amazing opportunity. It is true that I had already experienced studying abroad when I decided to leave Colombia for the U.S., but the magic of studying abroad is never lost. This period in London taught me that studying abroad is never an opportunity one can miss, and I will definitely recommend studying abroad to every H-SC student that is doubting about taking this opportunity. Experiences like the one I’m about to finish are the ones that make us grow as a person, and definitely the ones that help us becoming good men and good citizens.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Shemar Blakeney
I have learned so much on this voyage. My experience is different than what I expected in some ways because what I “thought” a country would be like was completely different; I stereotyped a country before I even visited it due to my “Single-Story Ideology.” I expected to meet astonishing people along the way; however, I did not expect to meet and see so many amazing people. I stereotyped that most of the people on the ship did not have to work as hard to get here, but in actuality, everyone made some type of sacrifice to come on this trip.

I categorized Africa to only be food, wildlife, and poverty, but Africa is Extraordinary! It is everything all in one, the good and the bad. There are major cities all the way to rural countryside, so you see the extremely wealthy and the poorest poor, but Africa is an experience I wish everyone could have.

Visiting the Great Wall of China

Visiting the Great Wall of China 

While in China, I attended an Acrobatic Show in Shanghai, and it was extraordinary. It was amazing to see so much talent and skill in a single room. For example, there were some people jumping from bicycles onto their partner’s shoulders, and I saw a man on stilts do back-flips through the air and land in the middle of a target. I also saw people hanging from other peoples ankles while they were 20 plus feet in the air! Also, the food here is amazing. I would say that “Traditional Chinese Food” is all about what region of China you are in because they all have their own styles of food (like different parts of the USA are known for different foods). The Great Wall of China was breath-taking. In either direction you looked, the wall just stretches for what seems like eternity. The people in China are so friendly, and they are happy to help you if needed. It was a lot of fun having a language barrier and trying to talk to people, because everyone was laughing at how we couldn’t understand each other. Yes, the language barrier can sometimes be frustrating, but if I was completely comfortable and did not experience any type of difficulties while I am on this trip, it would be a waste of time, because I am supposed to embrace this culture and opportunity fully and learn from the experience.

My general advice for future study abroad students, and travelers of all kinds, would be to go talk to all of the local people, especially the locals around your age group because they can give you the best ideal of how the country is; however, do not make their one opinion your only opinion on the country. Also, you can never have too much money; one of my coaches from high school who studied abroad in Spain said, “Whatever number you think you will need for the trip, double or even triple it.” This was very true.

My experience from traveling and studying abroad has highly changed my thoughts on my place in the world and my identity. Even though I am not home yet, I would say the thing I am looking forward to the most will be to eat my mother’s cooking and spending time with my friends and family. The hardest part of going home will probably be not being able to spend time with the people I have bonded with for the past 4 months. I will miss the amazing friends I have made on the ship, and the experience of waking up in a different country every other week.

London in the fall 2017

University College London 2017
David Arias Hernandez

It’s been another month living in this amazing city, and so far, this has been the busiest month not only for the workload of my courses but also for the different trips I’ve completed.

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

Parthenon in Athens, Greece

With less than a month of classes, the deadlines for my different courses have come closer, and with them, the stress of putting sufficient effort to excel in my classes. I have already presented the business I created with my group for my New Venture Creation course and I have also completed the individual assignment for that class, which allowed me to focus on my other courses. Out of the other three courses, I have already started the assignment for Economic History and Ideas, and I have also planned the outline for the other four assignments I have to submit for Emerging Market Economies and Politics and History of Central Eastern Europe. Although courses at UCL have been very demanding, I have enjoyed them and learned from them the most I’ve been able to, and I can’t wait to go back to H-SC to share all I’ve learned in the courses I will take next semester.
During this month I’ve also enjoyed my time with the boys from the UCL Football Club, apart from the four matches I played, the club carried a series of events, like the initiation night, in which I had a great time, full of laughs and joy, with my teammates and the guys from the other six teams the club has.

Nico and I visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

Nico and I visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul

However, the most interesting part about this month was all the traveling I was able to do. During this month, I went to Istanbul, Athens, Bruges, Brussels, and Amsterdam.
I went to Istanbul for two nights and I was able to visit important places like Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Hagia Sohpia, and the Grand Bazaar. The food of this amazing city was clearly the highlight, as apart from being really cheap, it was delightful. After Istanbul, I went to Athens and stayed at this amazing hostel for two nights, where I was able to have a great time with people, apart from visiting tremendously historic places like Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. The highlight of this city was the amazing people I was able to meet, who I’ll probably see again in the future. After Athens, my next trip was Bruges. This town in Belgium is probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and although I only stayed there for less than one day, I was able to make the most out of it by walking through its beautiful streets and tasting a delicious Belgian beer at the main square. The next stop was Brussels, where I stayed only one night. Here I visited important places of the city like the European Union Headquarters, the Grand Pace, and the Cinquantenaire.

Delirium Pub in Brussels

Delirium Pub in Brussels

The highlights of this city were not only the beautiful sights, but also the amazing beer I had at Delirium Pub, said to be the best beer in the world, and the street waffles I had next to the Manneken Pis, which are also very famous. After Brussels, I went to Amsterdam, and although the weather was terrible, I was able to have a great time. I went to many places including the Heineken Experience and the I am Amsterdam sign. The highlight of this city clearly was that I was able to visit some family that I had not been able to see in almost five years.
Although this month was full of great experiences, I am looking forward to December. It will also be a great month, as not only I will get done with my classes but also I will visit one of the cities I have wanted to visit since I was a kid. Such trip could be the highlight of December, but it will compete really hard with another important event, as I will also be attending my first UEFA Champions League match at the mythical Wembley Stadium. However, I am extremely conscious that December will be the last month of my study abroad experience, and that makes me feel really sad, as all the experiences I have had and all the wonderful people I’ve met, will make it really hard to get on that plane heading back to the U.S.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Jack Weaver

Blog Reflection on South Africa and India
2017-10-12-PHOTO-00000050After experiencing the sheer beauty of South Africa combined with the abundance of exhilarating activities, I honestly thought that no country on this trip, or likely any country I would ever visit could top my experience here. In South Africa, I went on the most beautiful hike of my life, had some of the best meals I have ever had, went paragliding, went shark cage diving, chartered a yacht for a fishing expedition, toured some of the most beautiful wineries, and stayed at a luxurious safari. I did this for around one thousand dollars. Then, I encountered India. I did not go to an animal safari or soar through the air in a parachute like I did in South Africa, but that was okay, because India amazed me on an entirely different front. Where South Africa was identical to the United States in many ways, such as food offerings, language, nightlife, and availability of goods, India was like no place I had ever been.2017-11-06-PHOTO-00000076 I will never forget looking out the window of my airplane, only to see grey, not because of the clouds, but the smog, the air pollution. Then upon touching down, seeing people use the restroom in the streets, drive without lanes on the road, sometimes fitting 5 vehicles in a space equal to about two lanes, or even share their streets, their homes, their cities with a whole variety of animals. Accepting that there are people just as happy as me that live day to day in these conditions that not even the poorest of poor Americans face was mind provoking. Understanding that many of these indian people lived in shacks, so that they could give the majority of their wealth to construct these giant temples with unrivaled beauty was a wake-up call to how collectively Indians think. This collective religious ideal was even stronger in Myanmar where thousands upon thousands of pagodas were built from even poorer communities.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

I don’t know if I will ever witness a structure more majestic as the Taj Mahal. When I walked under the arch, and the Taj Mahal came into sight, I was overwhelmed with awe. In conclusion, India taught me that the goal of traveling should not always be about chasing a thrill, but more often about discovering a unique culture.