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“No more bags from Frankfurt”

Two days ago marked 2 weeks of being here in Verona, Italy. It seems as if we have been here longer than that, however, because we have been able to see and learn so much already!

Day 1/2 ( it all seems like it happened in a matter of couple hours to be honest)

Our trip began the way most things do…not as we planned. We took a plane from O’Hare airport in Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. There we had a small layover, which then took us to Verona, Italy. The trip over here went pretty smoothly, not counting all the babies crying throughout the flight to Frankfurt or the fact the Frankfurt airport is absolutely nothing less than a maze. The real adventure began once we arrived in Verona. We were all so excited about meeting our host families; all that was left to do was to pick up our checked bags.  We waited for them…and waited for them.  Bag after bag came out Gate B … but I never so mine.  Then a little woman came towards our group and said “ No more bags from Frankfurt”. At first I thought “ Wow, she’s so funny. She will probably say to just be patient and they’ll be here soon…”. Slowly I began to realize that she truly meant there were no more bags. This is probably the right moment to mention that at the beginning of the trip I had One big bag that I checked in at the beginning of the trip, a small carry on suit case, and my other carryon bag. However… back in Chicago they has asked me to check in my small carry on because the flight was full…There I stood with just my black Jansport backpack…which contained my computer, phone, passport, credit cards and cash, some toiletries, and one clean change of undies and PJs.  At least I have what’s really important with me I thought. Everyone ran towards the lost & claim window and began demanding for their bags. Most of our group didn’t move and just stood there staring at each other.  One by one we moved towards what seemed to be an everlasting line of pissed people.  While in line I looked down at my phone and saw that by some miracle I had WIFI. I saw that my host mom, Chiara, had send me a message through FB saying that she would be waiting for me at 1:15 pm… I looked at the time…it was 2:30 pm. Dear God, she had already been waiting for me for an hour and now she’d have to wait even longer because of this baggage mishap. After what felt like forever, we were able to fill our a “report” describing our bags and giving personal information to the poor airport workers who seemed to have been dealing with this for far too long.  As soon as the last person in our group filled his report, we all ran out. Everything happened so fast, I looked for my host mom ( I had seen pictures of her on FB so I had some sort of idea of what she looked like).  Little petite woman with dirty blonde hair. There she was waiting for me and welcoming me with a bigole’ Italian hug and kiss on the cheek. Everything happened so fast we said hello, then said goodbye to everyone in the group, and then headed over to what would be my new home for the next 4 months.

– Pia Gomez

ANSC Class of 2016

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Not your mother’s zip lining, Costa Rica

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Besides the amazing veterinary experience we all acquired, VIDA made sure we had fun in other ways. We were taken on an outdoor adventure I’m sure we will all remember forever. In between seeing a sloth just casually passing by you as you zip lined, scaling down a waterfall, or crossing a suspended bridge, I’m sure we all had a semi-decent (I’m kidding, it was totally amazing) time. We had the chance to meet amazing tour guides, get pretty soaked by the waterfalls and face some fears along the way (some girls probably did not appreciate that part). I think one of the things I definitely wanted to do in my life was zip-line in a place as beautiful and biologically diverse as Costa Rica and I am so excited to say that I finally did it. Even though I was very scared at times, I decided to complete every single part of the day, and I do not regret it. It was very nerve wrecking, but never in a bad way!

Additionally, we were all able to purchase some cool pictures.

Another day that we all enjoyed, although still experiencing the consequences was our beach day at Playa Hermosa. This, was something I was personally waiting for the entire trip. I’ve always loved the ocean and just the fact of being at the beach. We snorkeled, had a great lunch and laid by the sun. This, may have been where made our mistake. Once we got our new hotel, the one we would be using to be closer to the airport, all of us had turned red. Not slightly, moderately or kind of red. WE WERE RED. It is safe to say Aloe was a very well purchased item that weekend.

On the bright side, we all came back to campus with a great tan for the winter. No pain no gain?

-Nicole A. Lopez

#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroad #imagineaces

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VIDA: Winter Study Tour, Costa Rica

10930156_10204941259344644_1479685272460373400_nAs an Animal Science Sophomore, I had no idea what to expect from my very first study abroad trip. The truth is I came in with the mind set that I would probably get some experience in veterinary medicine, but I never in a million years expected to get as much experience as I did. It was definitely an unforgettable experience. In between helping out the veterinarians ourselves, doing both consultations and the surgery aspect of our clinic days, I can say that it was more than I ever expected.

The VIDA volunteer program provided us with a very organized layout for our clinic days: intake, surgery and recovery. Each person would be assigned a partner (and that occasional group of three people) and then you would receive your patient. You would follow along with their procedure, whether it was consultation or surgery and then make sure it went home safe after recovery. Animal handling was of major importance with our nervous (and large) patients, we had the occasional puppy, sassy kitties, and then there was the chubby and adorable dogs.

The veterinarians constantly made sure we were not only learning, but did things efficiently and safely. We mostly took care of the intake area. Taking pulse, weight, and looking at mucus membranes was just a part of it. We also had the chance to assist the veterinarians in surgery. One partner would do anesthesia monitoring and one would directly assist the veterinarians (being sterile was a must, no touching anything with those gloves!). Afterwards, the animal would be taken to recovery, where we kept monitoring its vitals, and finally sent it home with prescriptions when it was happy and awake!

I think everyone (all 25 of us) on this trip enjoyed themselves so much. Not only was the veterinary work great, but we all got along extremely well!

-Nicole A. Lopez
#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroad #imagineaces

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Exploring and Experiencing Culture in the Pearl of the Orient aka Hong Kong!

Hong Kong is where my dad is from, yet I did not know much about the Chinese culture and traditions because I was raised in the United States. Sure there were Chinese holidays that we would celebrate with other Chinese families in Illinois, but it is nothing like the celebrations they have in Hong Kong. I also had no idea how important holidays like the Mid-Autumn Festival was. In fact, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China because this festival is symbol for harmony and family reunions. This holiday is celebrated by eating mooncakes, watching the moon, and lighting lanterns. I left the festival early because the weather was so hot and humid at Victoria Park, the place where the festival was held in Hong Kong. (Supposedly after the Mid-Autumn festival, the weather is supposed to get cooler…).

I also went hiking while I was in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has many hiking trails, each with its unique scenery and difficulty. So far, I hiked part of Dragon’s Back, which was voted the “Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia” by Time. I did not have the opportunity to go paragliding, but it is a popular activity that many people do while hiking Dragon’s Back. The best time to go hiking is in the winter, and I probably went during the worst time when the weather was still really humid and hot.

During my stay at Hong Kong, I also got to experience probably one of the most important protests in history. Problems with the governing and voting system led to a protest from the people in Hong Kong. I was affected by the protest through the transportation system. Because the protest blocked Central and one of the pathways to Kowloon, a lot of minibuses and city buses were diverted. In addition, there were MTR subway stations that were closed. There were bus stations that I would stand and wait for, only to find out that the bus did not pass through. It made transportation really hectic. I would also have to ask the driver if it stopped at a certain place I was heading, but the problem was that none of the drivers I encountered speak English. (To communicate, I would take pictures of the address and eventually learn the places in Cantonese.) At the protest, college students were giving out free food, supplies, umbrellas, and much more to help out the people who were camping/protesting on the highway.

Hong Kong is a great place to explore. Plus, it is extremely lively at night…compared to Urbana, Illinois.

Peace out for now!

Karen Chiu

#Exploring&ExperiencingHK #BeingpartofHKhistory #ACESstudyabroad

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VIDA: San Jose, Costa Rica

I am a freshman at the University of Illinois in Animal Science with my concentration in Pre-vet. I heard about this pre-vet trip to Costa Rica from a friend who is a junior and went on the trip the year before. I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to apply because I was only a freshman and I have 4 years to study abroad! But my friend kept telling me about the trip and finally I applied. I was accepted shortly after and then I started to get excited. I have never been out of the country without my family, let alone study abroad through a university. Little to say, this trip blew my mind. I was expecting to watch the veterinarians during the surgery but the students actually got to help out! This trip was totally worth it! VIDA is such a great organization! They have volunteers in different countries to help with animal overpopulation. I was so happy to volunteer my time and learn while doing it. I learned that I definitely want to be a veterinarian and maybe even a VIDA vet! I would suggest taking this trip if you want to pursue a career as a veterinarian. Also I would definitely suggest studying abroad your freshman year. Not only did I get to meet some upperclassmen who have helped me with my future classes but I also plan and taking this trip again!  #uiuc #studyabroad #costarica

– mkaprau2

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Costa Rican Adventures: Part 1

When I first went to sign up for this study abroad program, I only heard wonderful things. I was so excited but also extremely apprehensive. I was going for my first time out of the country besides Canada with no family, several allergies, and a bunch a people I really did not know. I knew one thing though, I was going with VIDA. VIDA, also meaning life, is a volunteer organization that offers medical, dental, and veterinary care to communities who do not have access to these services. I went on the veterinary service trip. Although I was frightened, I knew veterinary medicine was my passion and was excited to jump into anything. When we first arrived there it was a nice change from the negative temperatures we were getting here. As we traveled to our first sites for clinics, the air became cooler due to affects coming from the United States’ blistering cold. Apprehension was building as we readied ourselves for the first cliIMG_2986nic day! Our patients, like the one on the left, were the cutest throughout all of the clinics. Each second of this trip, whether I was recovering a patient or observing surgery, I learned not only about animals but about the Costa Rican culture. As the clinic days winded down and we got ready to travel back home, a lot of us on the trip reflected about what we had learned about ourselves. How we had to get used to the food, the language, the culture, the people, and the weather. We learned tolerance and strength. I would recommend this trip to anyone who would want to not only learn about medicine but also about new and exciting cultures.

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Exploring and Experiencing Culture in the Pearl of the Orient aka Hong Kong

Full Moon

Karen Chiu

Hong Kong is where my dad is from, yet I did not know much about the Chinese culture and traditions because I was raised in the United States. Sure, there were Chinese holidays that we would celebrate with other Chinese families in Illinois, but it is nothing like the celebrations they have in Hong Kong. I also had no idea how important holidays like the Mid-Autumn Festival was. In fact, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China because this festival is symbol for harmony and family reunions. This holiday is celebrated by eating mooncakes, watching the moon, and lighting lanterns. I left the festival early because the weather was so hot and humid at Victoria Park, the place where the festival was held in Hong Kong. (Supposedly after the Mid-Autumn festival, the weather is supposed to get cooler).

The crowd during the celebrate of Mid-Autumn Festival was PACKED!

The crowd during the celebrate of Mid-Autumn Festival was PACKED!

Exchange students from Japan, Finland, U.K., China, Korea, and the U.S. visiting the festival!

Exchange students from Japan, Finland, U.K., China, Korea, and the U.S. visiting the festival!

The Mid-Autumn Festival had a lot of lanterns. It is their way of celebrating the festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival had a lot of lanterns. It is their way of celebrating the festival.

I also went hiking in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has many hiking trails, each with its unique scenery. One week in Hong Kong, and I already hiked Dragon’s Back, which was voted the “Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia” by Time, during the hottest time. I could not believe how many people were hiking Dragon’s back that day because it was so hot! One of my Hong Kong local friends told me the worst time to hike was during the summer because it is scorching hot and humid. To make matters worse, mosquitoes love the humidity, so you can expect to get bitten a lot if you decide to hike in the summer. Winter time is the best time to go hiking because the weather is cooler, and there are less mosquitoes. To be clear about one thing, mosquitoe season never ends. The entire time I was in Hong Kong, I was bitten by mosquitoes, especially during the summer.

Dragon's Back

One of the views on my hike on Dragon’s Back trail. If Hong Kong wasn’t so smoggy, the view would be even more vivid.

#IlliniStudyAbroad #ImagineACES #HongKong

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