Asia Trip 2016-2017

Reading the Globe will lead 15 students and three faculty-staff members on a study-travel program

reflective of the University’s international mission. 


The following students were selected to participate in this program:


Arriaga, Luis Daniel
Betancourt, Ramses
Franco, Yahaira
Guardiola, Cassandra
Herrera, Joshua
Montiel, Kevin
Mota, Luis
Perez, Breanna
Ramirez Ulloa, Alejandra
Ramirez, Angelica
Rendon, Aileen
Salazar, Nelly
Villarreal, Natalia
Walker, Emily
Ward, Jesse

Students Traveling to Asia
Standing, left to right: Ramses Betancourt, Emily Walker, Alejandra Ramirez Ulloa, Breanna Perez,
Aileen Rendon,Angelica Ramirez, Cassandra Guardiola, Kevin Montiel, Joshua Herrera, Luis Mota, Jesse Ward
Sitting, left to right: Yahaira Franco, Luis Daniel Arriaga, Natalia Villarreal, Nelly Salazar


Ms. Destine Holmgreen

Ms. Destine D. Holmgreen



Dr. Haley Kazen

Dr. Hayley D. Kazen

Assistant Professional

Ana Clamont

Ana Clamont

Design and Brand Manager

Photographer and Blogger

Their experience will be shared right here with regular blog entries being posted as they are on their travels.

The group will depart Laredo on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 and return Monday, January 9, 2017.

To see more photos, follow the adventure on Instagram - @TAMIUreadingtheglobe 

Ramses Betancourt

Ramses Betancourt

Receiving a letter of acceptance from the Reading the Globe program might have overwhelmed me, but reading that life-changing document a hundred times more couldn't prepare me for the indescribably exhilarating feeling of riding in an airliner crossing the Pacific Ocean; before today, I had never ridden an airplane, left the United States, or even left Texas. Even more, it feels so fulfilling to do this all on my birthday. We haven't even completed our trip to Xi'an, our first visiting city, yet I already can't help but feel grateful for the opportunities I have been given through this program, and I'm certain that my new friends feel the same. Today still feels surreal to us, and especially me, for we enjoy an unfamiliar land, in an ever more familiar day.

Angelica B. Ramirez

Angelica learning Chinese calligraphy

On our first day in Xi’an, we visited Shaanxi Normal University which, just like TAMIU, serves as an international institution for many students from all over the world. During our campus visit, we learned about Xi’an’s history, culture, and education through a series of activities with local professors and students. One of the activities I enjoyed the most was a lecture about the origins and history of Chinese calligraphy. We even had the opportunity to learn to write in this ancient art form with the help of the students. On each desk, there was graphing paper laid out, a small bowl of dark ink, and a brush. At first it seemed to be a difficult task to be able to write in Chinese, but the students helped us and guided us ever so patiently.

I learned that when writing in Chinese, the characters of the words are drawn from left to right, then top to bottom, before going on to the next syllable--a different writing technique compared to the English and Korean writing style. In addition to learning how to pronounce basic language, I was able to practice and learn to write small words such as ten, love, tree, middle, flower, and Xi’an. The students from the university were very friendly and patient in assisting us in our attempt to write calligraphy, an art that they themselves learned since childhood. I was very touched by Yolanda, a local university student, who had the tolerance to teach me how to write my name, and hers, in Chinese.

Truly, it was a very eye-opening experience to meet and interact with Chinese students, be part of a classroom setting away from home, and experience first hand what their daily life is like in China.

Kevin Montiel

There’s much misunderstood when it comes to this trip. Yes, we do get to visit and experience many of the major portions of China’s culture, yet we are truly here to LEARN the origins and foundations of this flourishing country. To fulfill this expectation, we had the exciting opportunity to visit Shaanxi Normal University. Xian’s local university and TAMIU are surprisingly similar when it comes to their International policies and student enrollment. Like our great International U, Shaanxi Normal accepts students from several countries throughout the world. As a result, a variety of scholars earn the opportunity of studying Chinese culture, history, and language. Because of this, the welcoming atmosphere felt familiar and almost like home.

For the today’s presentation, Professor Xuejun Feng shared information about China’s major expansion and flourishing era. The Silk Road, established during the Western Han Empire (202 B.C.E.—8 A.D.), was a starting point this expansion in power and territory. Han Wu Di (156 B.C—87 B.B), expanded the country through warfare. Throughout the presentation, we not only spoke about the Silk Road itself but many other events in history that lead or influenced the present state of the country. With Beijing being the current capital of China, instead of Xian, it can be said that much has changed. By the end of the presentation, the country appeared as having more to it than meets the eye.

Through countless rulers and many dynasties, China has evolved and grown to the country it is today. Without the Silk Road, China would never have been the same.

Following the lecture, we took a relaxing tour of the campus. Usually, tours are very limited in time and opportunity; therefore, they can be stressful. However, after a filling lunch at a nearby restaurant and an unspecific agenda for the tour, the students and I were able to take a well needed rest and walk. To assist our tour guides, Leslie and YJ, several students were selected to guide us throughout the campus. Fortunately, not only were the students wonderful but so was the scenery. With the chilling weather and soft sunlight, the campus grew a lovely personality and placed us at peace.

For our first interactive day in China, many of us found it very satisfying. We all appreciate the University for welcoming us with open arms. Learning the origins of the Silk Road and attempting traditional calligraphy brought us closer to the culture of China. An experience that surely, none of us will ever forget.

TAMIU students touring Shaanxi Normal University

Nelly Salazar

Today we visited one of ancient China's greatest treasure, the Terra Cotta Museum. The museum is home to hundreds of thousands of statues molded to represent Chinese warriors who served during the Qin Empire. The Qin dynasty is one of the most popular and significant dynasties that was established in Xi'an (along with the Han and Tang). It is often credited with being the first Empire to have a Emperor that wanted to unify China. 

Emperor Qin firmly believed that he would be resurrected again in the afterlife, and this belief is what led him to create the Terra Cotta warriors. It is said that 7,000 remains of the original statues can be found at the museum today; however, archeologist have only managed to restore and display 2,000. The most impressive fact about their work is that  they are not digging up complete figures, but rather statues that were purposely destroyed by the Emperor's Qin's unhappy subjects. The statues must be painstakingly put back together. These warriors were carefully crafted and constructed in ancient times to protect Emperor Qin. The emperor believed that if these soldiers were buried alongside him, they would follow him to his journey into the afterlife. Each and every statue is different. Their hairstyles, facial expressions, and postures are not one in the same, and these differences signify their different roles in Emperor Qin's army. Aside from warriors, Emperor Qin also requested that chariots and horses be built and buried with him as well. We were able to see the recreated moldings of these chariots and horses as well, but unlike the warriors these are not life sized. 

The attention to detail was marvelous, and the fact that we were fortunate to see one of the world's greatest wonders today was amazing. The Terra Cotta Warriors are a perfect example of China's efforts to preserve their history, which is inspiring. 

Nelly at the Terra Cotta Museum

Natalia Villarreal

Natalia at the Wild Goose Pagoda

Today's visit to the Wild Goose Pagoda was a truly breathtaking experience; the sights, the faith, the atmosphere once inside was completely different from anything I have experienced back home. 

The Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist worship temple located in Xi'an. It was built during the Tang Dynasty, later to be rebuilt and remodeled. It's a beautiful, wide, open area with many different buildings containing amazing art and figures of worship, the walls covered in scripture translated by Buddhist Xuanzang. The cold did not stop the amazement, as it only added onto the enchanting feel the area offered. Even though pictures were not allowed inside the buildings, the sight of a giant golden Buddha will never leave my head. An interesting fact about the Pagoda, is that the building is leaning, since it's made partly out of wood. 

As I write this, I can close my eyes and feel the cool breeze hitting my face, see the many tourists walking about, the Pagoda standing before me in all it's immense glory. I never would've thought I would have the opportunity to experience such devotion to a religion, specially on the other side of the world. Today was a definite life changing experience. 

Breanna Perez

Breanna's caricature

When I heard we would be visiting Muslim Street in Xi'an I grew curious about what it was. I found that it consisted of exotic foods sold by street vendors, and I believed I knew what to expect when we arrived. I was I greatly surprised! As we began to walk the street we were welcomed by an enormous crowd of people and a very distinct smell in the air. People were surprisingly calm in the midst of scooters and cars passing through the street. Huge lines awaited the most popular foods and trinkets. A variety of music was heard all throughout. I was mesmerized by the culture and unique treats being sold. There was cotton candy shaped like a flower, raw meat hanging and freshly cut in front of you, pomegranate smoothies, melted sugar molded into different shapes etc . As I walked I began to feel a sense of admiration for the culture. The vendors were very friendly and helped us out every time we had a question. It made me realize how great this world is and how diverse it can be.

Even though the highlight of Muslim Street may seem to be the food, I believe that the true highlight is the hidden shops and activities you can find. My favorite memory is when I entered a caricature shop and got mine done. As I was there people entered and watched the artist as he drew me. The artist did a great job, and it is an experience I will never forget. There is so much talent in Muslim Street and I wish others could have the opportunity to see. I now have an abundance of memories that I will never forget.

Joshua Herrera

Dumpling Time!

During our trip to China I mentally prepared to be open to eat the local food and the perfect opportunity arose last night when we went to a Chinese restaurant that specializes in dumplings! The night started off with a fun lesson on how to make dumplings by hand, and it was a very nice reminder of how great it is to experience a part of another culture through such a fun activity like cooking. After trying our best to mimic the beautiful dumpling shapes the chef was showing us how to do, a wonderfully crafted duck shaped among them, the whole group sat down for dinner to a barrage of different types of dumplings. I made sure to try all different kinds of beautifully crafted little balls of flour and love.

What I enjoyed the most out of this experience is that every different flavor reminded us of something from back home, and it just brought the world a little smaller in my eyes. And whether you are making dumplings or making friends there is always room for a little love and care.

Joshua and chef

Jesse Ward RTG

Jesse Ward

For our New Year's Day, we had the great privilege to bike the Xian City Wall. Originally built by the Ming Dynasty in the late 14th century, it is the best preserved wall in all of China. The wall is connected end to end and protects what is known as the present day downtown area. Stretching to be about 14 kilometers long (Roughly nine miles), the city wall surrounds what used to be the area of the city where government interaction would take place. 

In an amazing turn of events, it just so happened that a race was taking place while we were there! It was truly breathtaking to see the participants running around the wall all over (at much faster speeds than I could ever jog, mind you).  At this point of the trip, the wall ride has been my favorite activity we've done. I cannot explain the rush of riding as fast as possible with the air blowing through your hair as you admire the gorgeous sights. The architecture of the buildings in China is some of the most prestigious and astonishing artwork I've ever laid my eyes on. 

This trip has been amazing overall, but I cannot forget the thrill of biking the City Wall of Xian. The historic city and the memories I created there will stay with me for the rest of my life. But, these will not be my only memories of China because I will be coming back to this beautiful country some time in the future!

Luis F. Mota, Jr.

We passed the gates of the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing only to be met by the astonishing site of seven meteorites preserved and placed next to each other as if by divine authority.  Next, we walked through a path paved by the Ming Dynasty during the 15th Century that led us past an outgrowth of trees all glazed with ice.  On this path, one could observe monks under these trees practicing an ancient Chinese art called Tai Chi.  When we arrived to our meeting area under the trees, we were greeted by our Master for the day and began to line up and begin class.  There is something so incredibly soothing about Tai Chi.  The temperatures that day were frigid, but I wasn’t concerned about how I couldn’t feel my fingers; I was too busy taking in the movements that my master was displaying for the whole class to follow and replicating them as if I had attended class before.  I personally cannot dance to save my life, but in that moment my body moved as if on its own, and I performed a ballade between myself and the surrounding space.  I came out of the temple completely relaxed and in a sort of daze.  This was definitely one of those experiences that linger in your thoughts because they cannot be recreated, only remembered. 

Luis Mota, Jr. RTG

Cassie Guardiola RTG

Cassie Guardiola


Our first day in Beijing was quite a memorable one. After an adrenaline-filled morning of rushing through crowded subway stations and trains, we arrived at the Temple of Heaven, one of the most beautiful places of worship in the world. Built in 1420, the Temple of Heaven was once a place for emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to worship Heaven and offer sacrifices as forms of prayer. Its structures include the Circular Mound Altar, the Abstinence Palace, and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the latter being the most famous. As we entered the vicinity, we were welcomed by an array of trees, some which formed an arc over the walkways. This beautiful landscape provided an ambient atmosphere that made me feel like we were strolling through a forest. The ambience allowed a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Beijing, one of China's most heavily populated cities.

Accordingly, one feature of the Temple of Heaven is that it serves as a recreational area for retired people to stay active, and we had the opportunity to witness this lifestyle firsthand during our visit. Following our Tai Chi class, a handful of students including me joined a group of elderly Tibetan men and women for a dance activity. We stood in between the adults and danced in a circular formation, following choreographed moves to songs played on a miniature radio. Once the activity concluded, the elderly people eagerly asked to take pictures with us with beaming smiles on their faces. Witnessing their excitement and gratitude gave me the most heartwarming feeling. In essence, the intricate architecture, serene landscape, and direct interaction with local citizens altogether made our visit to the Temple of Heaven a truly wholesome experience.

Yahaira Franco

As part of the Service Learning Project within our trip, we visited Sunny Home for the Elderly, a nursing home in Beijing, where we had the opportunity to interact with the elders and the volunteers within the facility. The elders welcomed us with open arms and humbly asked us to sit with them to talk about our experience in China. After a lot of hugs and handshakes, the 15 of us began setting up the stage for a small show we had prepared in advance for them. As a group, we performed acapella versions of several classics and even had a small line dance. In addition, Aileen and Natalia warmed our hearts with some breathtaking solos. Despite the language barrier, the elders were cheering us on and clapping to the rhythm of the music.

Lastly, we all sat down to make greeting cards to give to the elders. Many of us wished them a happy new year and had our cards translated into Chinese with the help of our tour guides. The smiles on their faces as we handed them our cards will be a memory we will cherish forever. Furthermore, we are looking forward to raising funds to donate to Sunny Home for the Elderly in an effort to continue bringing them joy.

Yahaira Franco RTG

Alejandra Ramirez

Alejandra Ramirez

China is a place full of surprises. Being here made me realize what a small part of the world we are. Thanks to this trip I found out that the world is full of unexpected things and events that most people should experience. I can definitely say that these days I've spent in China taught me a lot of amazing aspects about its culture. To start, I have met many lovely people from this country since we arrived, and each one of them reflect Chinese culture through their behavior. Being foreigners in Xi'an meant that many locals would stare at us for a long time; sometimes they would even come near us to take pictures. This was a very funny experience, and something that I will definitely never forget.

A hard experience for all of us was communicating. Most people in China do not speak English at all, so most of the times we tried to communicate by signs. This was a very big challenge, but as I said before, we sometimes experience unexpected events in our life. Just like a day ago, while I was sitting in the bullet train speaking in Spanish, I suddenly heard someone speaking to me in Spanish, and it turned out to be a Chinese woman. Meeting her was really awesome because the possibility of finding someone in China who speaks Spanish is really small.

Another whole new experience for me was the food and restaurants, which are totally different from what I'm used to. Even though I am not an adventurous eater, I tried many different dishes, and I can say that Chinese food has a unique and delicious taste that people should try at least once. And that is one of the things I loved most about China--being out of my comfort zone forced me to embark on new adventures.

Aileen Rendon

There's only so much that history books can do for us. Besides being a source of information, I believe they expand our imagination. I can tell you that never in a million years did I expect for my high school day dreams to become reality so soon. Traveling to the Great Wall of China in itself was an impactful moment. It reminded me of the things that today, like many, I forget. We are blessed to live in a world where we have diversity. Think about it. There's isn't only one species of bird but rather about 10,000. Every branch on every tree is different among all types. Even buildings all have a unique structure. There's just so much to learn and experience.

Beijing has 7 sections to the Great Wall. The one my peers and I went to was Mutianyu. Mutianyu is located in Huariou District of Beijing. This is the section that is the most preserved. Here the watchtowers and passes are on a steep mountain. About more than half of our group took the chairlift to the Great Wall, but seven of us climbed it. When I reached the top my heart dropped. The landscape was just like those in the movies that you think are all effects. It finally hit me. I was now standing on history. Way better than what I had imagined, and nothing like the books. We then took pictures, walked for a while, and finally, after we were fully exhausted, we decided to head back down. Now this time we didn't take the steps. Instead we rode on the toboggan. This ride down was the most thrilling part of our visit to the Great Wall because the sleds were operated by us, and they had no seat belts. Thankfully we made it down safe with plenty of pictures and astonishing memories.

Aileen Rendon

Ramses Betancourt RTG

Ramses Betancourt 

It's a feeling like no other to visit a landmark that gave birth to an incredible nation, and with Reading the Globe's trip to Tiananmen Square we were able to experience just that. Even as a tourist, I felt a strong sense of pride for China when we walked through this area publicized for its well known and infamous accounts in all times of history. Thousands of miles away from home, it surprised me as a familiar sight when we witnessed soldiers overseeing the square and its monument dedicated to the nation's fallen heroes, which is a key value in our country as well. In front of this lively and historical lot hung the popular portrait of the historic leader, Mao Zedong. 

It may be my imagination getting the best of me, but that very portrait made me think of the People's Republic of China's founder looking down on Tiananmen Square, proud of this country's accomplishments from its citizens and appreciative of the country's visitors like us, who find a certain comfort in the new land around them.

Emily Walker 

The rich history of Beijing is diverse and abundant, and we got the opportunity today to see a concentration of a small portion of China’s history at the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was home to a long line of Chinese emperors with drastically different histories. Emperors and empresses of different backgrounds and stories came together in one place to rule over a great empire with a deep culture. With different approaches to their control, each leader came together to influence the country we know today. 

Today we entered through the Gate of Heavenly Peace through the arch where emperors and empresses once crossed. Afterwards, we walked a bridge over a frozen solid moat and approached the great palace after passing through two towers that once protected hundreds of people from their enemies. Being in front of something that stood so grandly and beautifully for centuries put the world into perspective, and I’m glad to have been in that moment.

Emily Walker RTG

Luis Arriaga RTG

Luis Arriaga 

We had just gotten back from the Forbidden City and we rode a bus to an area that was filled with rickshaws (a tricycle-like vehicle with a box in the back to carry at least 2 people) and a place with many Hutong buildings (Hutong is a living area filled with mostly one story buildings with multiple families living within each of them). We climbed  into the Rickshaws and we toured the area. Most of the buildings were slightly worn down and had really old vehicles parked outside. However we soon realized that the outside was not an indication of what the inside held.

We were dropped off by the rickshaw at a private residence where we met a woman who owned an entire courtyard and section of the Hutong buildings. The building had been owned by her family for over 300 years and had several vintage Chinese items. We had the honor of watching the owner play a Chinese harp, admiring a piece of parchment with calligraphy over 1000 years old and examined the rest of the house together.  When we left the house we had a better  understanding of Hutong buildings and the courtyards.  

Joshua Herrera 

This morning we had the pleasure of meeting Jake Laband. He currently lives in Beijing and works for the US-CBC(China Business Council). It was founded in 1973 and is a private and non-partisan organization consisting of 200 American member companies. The headquarters is located in Beijing; its main focus is understanding how the Chinese government works, and building beneficial US-China relations. His presentation helped me realize how much things need to change in order for relations to get better and for the RMB, or Chinese currency, to increase in value. 

Jake also shared with us his interesting experiences while living in Beijing. On a walk in the park with his girlfriend, he spotted a rickshaw and decided to buy it from the driver. He now drives his girlfriend around every weekend. Jake claims that he got to where he is today because of networking. Apparently being the minority here is beneficial as he was able to land his dream job within a year of moving to China.

Joshua Herrera RTG

Breanna Perez RTG

Breanna Perez

Today during our visit to Beijing Foreign Studies University, we listened to a lecture by professor Joyce Zhao. She talked about the education system in China and how it compares to the U.S. She started off by explaining how different ages go though the American equivalent of elementary, middle school, and high school. Chinese children must attend school for at least nine years, beginning with primary school and then going on to secondary school. Secondary school is divided into two parts, and only those students who want to attend a university attend the final two years. I found it very interesting that once a student finished nine years, any more schooling is completely optional!

My favorite part about the class was learning all about the extremely hard test that all students who want to attend college have to take. It is called "Gaoka", and it reminded my of how rigorous the preparation was for the S.A.T. However, the preparation for the Gaoka is even more strenuous as students prepare for it for an entire year! All and all it was beyond interesting.

Alejandra Ramirez 

Today's tour at Beijing's Foreign Studies University was very fun and interesting. We all got assigned a tour guide from the university. I really liked the interaction we had with these Chinese college students because we got to know their culture better. Everyone seemed so friendly and nice that I felt really comfortable and welcomed from the moment we arrived. The tour guide that I got assigned seemed very shy at first. She was feeling really embarrassed because her English pronunciation was not good, but I made her feel more comfortable by telling her not to worry because English is not my first language either. The smile that appeared on her face after I said that made me feel really good. She suddenly started telling me about her plans for the future and about her past when she used to live in a South Chinese province. It was really nice to know that I made someone feel comfortable by talking to me. We even followed each other on Instagram to be in contact.

While I was talking with this girl, she was showing me the whole university, which was incredibly big. The buildings were very tall, and it had some nice basketball and tennis courts. This university has a lot of international students, actually more than I expected, but the most amazing thing about that place was the library. It was the biggest library I have seen, but the thing that I loved the most about it was that it was really clean and organized, which gives a very good image about the university and its students. China and its people just never stop to impress me with their charming attitude.


Alejandra Ramirez RTG

Angelica in South Korea

Angelica B. Ramirez

During our stay in Seoul, we had the opportunity to explore and learn about the rich history and amazing treasures that South Korea offers. Our group had the chance to visit the demilitarized zone, known as the DMZ, to learn more about the history of the 38th parallel and have a closer look of the border that divides North and South Korea. It had all started on June 25,1950 when South Korea was invaded by North Korea whose ideas were influenced by the Soviet Union. This war is known as the Korean War where 3.9 million people perished from the attacks and concluded on July 27, 1953. To prevent any tragedy from reoccurring, South Korea established the Demarcation Line and came to an agreement with the North that the each was to stay on their respective side. However, a couple of years later, the South Korean government discovered underground tunnels created by North Koreans below the DMZ. North Korea had been planning to surprise attack several areas along the border to invade South Korea. The first tunnel was discovered on November 15, 1974, the second tunnel was discovered on March 24, 1975, the third tunnel was discovered on October 17, 1978 and the fourth tunnel was discovered on March 3, 1990, over a decade ago. We were fortunate to see the inside of the third tunnel by riding a cart that took us 45 meter underground. Being able to see the structure and great length of the tunnel made me feel a great connection to the history between both sides of Korea who still struggle to find unification between the two countries in the same peninsula. Additionally to seeing the third tunnel, the DMZ opened an observatory open to tourists to use binoculars and observe beyond the border a part of North Korea. The observatory is in a very safe distance and at any standing point, one can hear the North Korean propaganda play around their city. I was utterly stunned by this as what I read in Yeonmi Park’s book about the loud speakers projecting the propaganda of the North Korean government to the citizens’ surrounding was now going through my own ears. The song being played miles away from our position was loud and clear from the South side of the border. Finally, one of the last places we visited within the DMZ was the Gyeongui Railway Station, where the railroad line connects both sides of Korea. The North and South side agreed to connect this railroad that was broken by the Korean War on June 15, 2000 and then was connected to the DMZ June 14, 2002. It has since then remained closed for use as North Korean provocations have become more and more aggressive over the years. If it was to reopen, the train located in the DMZ would lead directly to the city of Pyeongyang in North Korea. Overall, the trip to the Demarcation line not only did it teach me more about the unfortunate history between the division of Korea but it also showed me that despite the conflicts between both sides, the desire for unification is mutual. I believe that this trip has expanded my perspective about the world outside of the United States and really understand that world issues such as Korea’s struggle to rejoice still exist in many places that simply seek to one day find peace.

Cassie Guardiola 

Having free time in Seoul allows for countless opportunities to interact with local citizens. The day we arrived, my roommate and I decided to take a walk around the shopping area by our hotel. We passed by a bake shop with tasty-looking delicacies displayed at its entrance, so we walked in and purchased a couple of sweet cream cheese pastries. Aside from the desserts' satisfying taste, the owner of the store, who spoke some English, made small talk with us and wished us a great trip as we left. My roommate and I continued to roam and explore the area, and each time we passed the bake shop, the owner would greet us with a cheery smile and wave through the window. This small and simple warm gesture made me feel welcome into this new city. 

Following shopping and eating, we walked back to the hotel and sat on a couch in the lobby to relax for a while. A young Asian boy then sat next to us and made small talk, asking simple questions such as where we came from. Then, he turned to me and complimented me, saying he would like to talk to me more. Therefore, we exchanged Instagram usernames and parted ways, exchanging casual messages with each other since the encounter. Who would have thought that an international friendship would be ignited during this trip? Within the first twenty four hours of our stay in Seoul, I have come to realize that local citizens can exhibit the most genuine kinship through the slightest actions.

Cassie in South Korea

Aileen in South Korea

Aileen Rendon

Our first day in South Korea was exciting and refreshing. Finally after gloomy weather days we had a little sun and clear skies. Upon arriving to the hotel we had little time to settle in and have a quick meal before heading to the US Embassy. Our US Embassy visit was very interesting. We had about two hours of lecture before we returned to the hotel and were given free time. For our free time a few of the ambassadors and I decided to explore around our hotel. About a block down we hit an area that had a downtown feel to it. There was a variety of stores and stands that really caught my eye. What I did notice was that there was a lot of beauty stores. I went a little crazy, but I didn't buy anything. Further on, we came across a "crepes" stand. There, all of us bought one. They were delicious! Then just across the street we saw a middle aged man with a small speaker playing the guitar and singing for money. He caught our attention because he was singing "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. To me it was amazing to see how he didn't let language be a barrier for his talent; he gave it his all. When we got closer to him we began to cheer him on. I could tell he appreciated it because he got up to greet us and ask us for our names. The next thing I remember is holding the microphone and singing with him! A crowd of about 25 people showed up to watch our duet. We sang "Someone like You" by Adele, "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, and "Oceans" by Hillsong. Before I knew it people were handing him money, applauding, and asking for an encore! I will forever remember this because it proved to me that wherever one is, there will always be something to enjoy with someone. 

Luis F. Mota, Jr.

Kimchi is one of the traditional dishes in Korea. It usually consists of fresh cut cabbage sprinkled with spices and other vegetables like red pepper, radish and ginger. This is a dish that has the potential to either make you slam your fork and knife on the dinner table begging for more, or on the slightly less fortunate side, make you spit out the dish the second it makes contact with your American taste buds. It was my experience, while in South Korea, that kimchi is an extremely overwhelming dish. Because kimchi comes in different flavors and styles, there were certain dishes I could not have enough of. The White kimchi had a very refined and fresh taste with a lingering sweetness that I couldn’t forget about even hours later. The cabbage, as the name implies, was almost exactly like taking a bite out of an actual cabbage with hot sauce, which fortunately for me, I love hot sauce; therefore, I enjoyed that one as well. Just like there were absolutely delicious meals, there were also some on the opposite side of the spectrum; hence, the vegetarian kimchi. Something about the mixture of spices and vegetables in the broth really didn’t sit well in my mouth. For the most part, eating kimchi was an extremely satisfying experience and although this feels like more of a review for a restaurant, it was a very pleasant experience and I will be eating kimchi more often now that I had this wonderful opportunity with Reading the Globe!

Luis in South Korea

Breanna in South Korea

Breanna Perez

As I walked down the streets of Seoul with my friends, I saw many unique Korean restaurants. There was one though that caught my attention. It was a restaurant that I had seen in many Korean television shows online. I knew instantly that it was where I had to eat dinner. We were greeted very kindly by the owner, and he recommended many interesting dishes that we all had to try. The owner even helped us when we didn't know how to eat the dishes. It was a great experience and a bonus that some of my favorite Korean stars had eaten there. 

The dish I tried was the spicy cold noodles. It was delicious, and if I could, I would have asked for seconds. We were served many side dishes that filled us up even before we got our actual dishes. I could say with complete honesty that if anyone were to ever visit Seoul, they should definitely check out this cute and unique restaurant. The kimchi was the best, or as they say it here, daebak!

Nelly Salazar
Today we visited the National Palace Museum of Korea. The museum is known for preserving the identity of the historical Joseon dynasty by showcasing the dynasty's palace and its "Gate Guard" tradition. We were shown around the palace and were able to see the buildings and living quarters that people from the Joseon dynasty once inhabited. 
In ancient times the palace was said to have had 285 buildings with a total of 8,000 rooms. This included the homes of the commoners and the living quarters of the king and his royal court. The palace was separated into two by a bridge, initially separating the king from his subjects. Despite the obvious class division, the Joseon dynasty was able to sustain itself for five centuries.
As we wondered around the palace, I realized that the architectural design of most of the structures found within the palace had a symbolic meaning to them. For example, in ancient times architects would use specific shapes (such as a sphere or square) to represent a certain concept or emotion. This could been seen in one of the palace's banquet halls, which stood on rectangular shaped pillars. These pillars represented the earth, while the spheres on top of them represented heaven. It all seemed very poetic in a way, and it was almost difficult for me to wrap my head around the amount of detail and patience someone had to put forth to create something with so much meaning. Architects from this era also imprinted the images of specific animals (such as a Phoenix) to explain the prosperity and harmony found amongst the kingdom. 
With the amount of time and thought it took to create such a beautiful and symbolic palace, it wasn't difficult to believe that the Joseon valued security. We were fortunate enough to see the Ceremony of Gate Guard Change, which was a small reenactment used to pay homage to the men who participated in King Sejo's regime during the Joseon dynasty. Here we saw the value that these officers and guards had in ancient times. Within the palace one can still see the memorials built towards well-respected generals. 
It was great to visit the palace and learn a little bit more about Korean history. My biggest take away from this experience was the detailed symbolism Korea has been able to incorporate into their history. Creating images and ideas and instilling them into their everyday lives by including them into their buildings and such was astonishing to see in person!
Nelly in South Korea

Emily in South Korea
Emily Walker
Upon entering the Jogyesa Temple, my eyes immediately were drawn to the vibrant colors that could be found coating the beautiful architecture and adorning the branches of a tree hundreds of years old. Red, blue, yellow, black, and white were the five main colors of lanterns hung across a gate surrounding the main temple and dangling from the treetops. There was never a spot that I could find that wasn’t detailed and intricate, so I could likely have stayed observing all of the sights for hours on end.
A group of locals gathered the inside the temple and could be seen kneeling to pray to three enormous golden Buddhas, comparable to the holy trinity of Christianity. A swastika, a symbol for peace in Buddhism, could be observed on top of another large drum building. This was a very serene place to visit packed with many new experiences and ideas that I hadn’t been exposed to yet.

Natalia Villarreal

After taking a tour of beautiful Seoul, we went into a museum which had "The Colors in Korean Life and Culture" exhibit. It was divided into several different sections which described and demonstrated different colors and their meanings. Several artifacts in each of the colors of life represented their different aspects.
Both ancient and modern artifacts took part in the beautiful scenery, from blue jeans in the 'Blue' section, to traditional Korean clothing in the 'Red' division. No words can begin to describe the feeling of walking into a purely white room--peacefulness and amazement were only the beginning. 
Getting to roam the halls of the museum, camera in hand, eyes wide open, and mind ready to soak in as much of the scenery as possible made the last full day in Seoul the perfect closing for this wonderful trip. 
Natalia in South Korea

Dinner in South Korea

Yahaira Franco

This afternoon we all attended our farewell dinner. We all knew this experience was only temporary, but I think one way or another we all wanted it to last longer. Mike, our guide in Seoul, took us to a cute little restaurant where our food was already laid out for us. We were each set with about 5 different main dishes and about 6 different side dishes. But hey, that was only the beginning because we had food rolling in all night. The ladies that were waiting for us were very sweet and kept encouraging us to try different types of dishes and believe me, there were plenty! In addition, I believe tonight was the night most of us tried weird dishes such as marinated octopus, dried anchovies, algae, rice tea and so much more.

During our dinner, YJ, another one of our guides, surprised us with gifts on behalf of the Asia Institute. YJ talked to us about her experience with us, about how she hoped we enjoyed our time in China and most importantly that she'd hope we would leave with an open mind and desire to return again. Although it is the end of our adventure abroad, I hope this may be the beginning for so much more for each and everyone of us in this trip. I personally believe the biggest take away from this trip will be the memories we've shared and the friendships we've made. So stay curious and keep the journey going, love you all.