Europe, Uncategorized

Spring Break Outside of Belgium!

I had never been to Europe, let alone backpack in Europe before, and was ecstatic at the opportunity to travel for two straight weeks. I was supposed to fly out of Brussels National Airport to Milan on March 25th, but the airport was unfortunately bombed by terrorists three days before. The airport was closed, but we, and the airport staff, were optimistic that the airport would be open for our flight. About a day before our flight, we decided to book a ticket out of Paris instead. We had a few hours to kill in Paris, which we spent meeting with a friend and roaming the streets of Paris This improvised plan would foreshadow our actions during the rest of our holiday.

My friend and I picked out cities to travel to, but our itinerary there was not yet set. We had already bought tickets and Airbnb’s in cities around Italy, Greece and Hungary. We had three days in Rome, but saw everything we wanted to in only two days. On our second night, we spontaneously bought train tickets to Naples and Pompei for our last day in Italy. We took an early train to discover the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii and the beautiful coast of Naples. While I enjoyed every second of the excursion, I do wish I had more time to explore more of both cities.

Pompei Art

Pompei Ruins

View from Naples

In Greece, there were two locations that we were to with very little planning. While in Athens, we decided to travel to Souniun, Greece, where Poseidon’s Temple is located. The temple was beautiful and offered spectacular views of the sea. Our second expedition led us to Lindos on the island of Rhodes. While here, we saw the Acropolis, relaxed at the beach and walked around Lindos’s white colored buildings.

Sounion, Greece

Lindos, Greece







In Hungary, we stayed in Budapest for almost four days. Here, we traveled to Vienna, Austria, a two hour train ride from Budapest. Vienna is known for its famous composers and orchestras. It was interesting to see Vienna’s musical culture and way of life during the 12 hours I was there. Plus, I was able to add another name to the list of countries I have visited.

One thing I learned from my spring break is that spontaneity can lead to fun adventures as well.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

China (ACES/ ENG)

ACES/ENG Cultural Immersion and Research: Part I

May 25, 2016

Hangzhou, China

So I’ve been in China for a bit over a week now for the ACES/ Engineering Study Abroad program and it is definitely different from what I was expecting.  Before the trip, many would tell me about how awful the smog was in the country, how “extremely different” the culture is, how hard the language is to learn, and how difficult it would be to find safe food I could eat because of my peanut allergy. All of these statements were wrong in their own ways. Culture shock never truly hit me since daily life is not as different as I expected it to be. On top of that, the group and I surprised ourselves with how quickly we could learn Chinese. So far we can all count, order food, make purchases, ask where bathrooms and objects are, and read some basic characters. Additionally, having a peanut allergy in China has, so far, been just as much of a hurdle as it is in the US.  Today was also the first day I could successfully vocalize that I had a peanut allergy without help and ask if the food I wanted had peanuts in it. It was an exciting step towards vocal independence!

In addition to cultural and safety adjustments, we have also visited Shanghai and Beijing to learn more about city life, and history. Within the first few days, we visited the Shanghai TV Tower, Yuyuan Garden, a history museum, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Old Beijing, and the northern section of the Great Wall. The sights were beautiful and a great set of first stops for what is my first time outside of the United States! I also was able to meet up with one of my friends from UIUC who lived in Shanghai. He took us to a Karaoke Bar and a snack market!

All in all, it was a great first part of the trip! Sure, a bit of homesickness set in, but luckily the group who came with me from UIUC is some of the best people I could have to join me on this adventure! I can easily call them all friends now. This week, I begin research at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou on the topic of Bio-gas energy production using applications of cellular biology! Wish me luck!


The group in Shanghai! (Yufei, Me, Ryan, Lucy, Juliet, Michelle, Sandy)

Family and friends back home; I’ll see you in a month!

~Allen Bell