Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea

Last Sunday, I went to Boryeong Mud Festival, which is located 200 km south of Seoul, South Korea. As part of my personal learning experience, I want to be exposed to as many Korean cultures as possible. After going to many traditional Korean culture sites, I would like to be expose to their festivals and local events. I decided to join the mud festival with a group of both Korean and international friends after hearing the event. From Seoul to Boryeong we took about two and a half hours train to the destination. On our trip there, one of the Korean friends introduced us their traditional snack, Gyeongju bread, which is filled with red bean paste. He told us that was on of the traditional snacks Korean usually have when they are on a field trip.

Once we arrived in Boryeong, I was amazed by the amount of people that were there. Both Korean and foreigners were really enjoining the event. From young children to seniors, everyone was having fun and wasn’t afraid to get dirty. What’s interesting was that many Korean would initiate a mud fight with foreigners and foreigners would try to fight back. The atmosphere was filled with joy and laughter. The interaction between people and stranger was really new to me. People were having fun with not only their friends but also strangers. In the Boryeong mud festival, there were mud slides, mud pool, mud prison, and even mud soccer. There was also a live concert near the beach. Unfortunately, we did not get to participate in the tomato fight as it started later the day. I was told that people would be able to throw tomato to each other and dive in the tomato juice pool during that time. Through the experience, I was having lots of fun with the locals and I even got to take pictures with them. It was really new but fun for me to be able to have interactions with random local people.

#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroad


By Anne Hou


Summer in Seoul, South Korea


My study abroad experience in Seoul, South Korea was definitely one of the biggest highlights in my college life. I am so glad I made my decision to study in a completely different country. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. I enjoyed the most of my trip was the liveliness of the city. It was a fast past environment with many residents living in Seoul. During weekends, I like to visit Hongdae University Street. There, I could find many cheap clothing stores and could see many talented artists performing on the street. If you think the liveliness and busyness would die down at night then you are totally wrong! At night, Hongdae Club Street would become even more alive than early the day. Many college students would dress up and enjoy their nightlife at some famous clubs like mb2, n2 and many more. My biggest “wow” moment was when I found out the clubs would not close until 7 in the morning! Many people would dance all night and catch the first subway to go back home, which is around 5 am.

One misconception I had before visiting Seoul was that every girl looks the same. It was a big news on the Internet about all the Korean beauty pageants look the same because of plastic surgery. Before coming to Korea, I thought many people on the street would look identical; but after my trip, I realized I was wrong. There were some female that I could tell that they had gone under the knife. However, most of the Korean female have their own unique looks and look really nature. They all dressed in styles and had their own unique tastes. I learned from them how to dress fashionable. Doing this study abroad made me a person who is more aware to the global. I made many friends from over the world and through our interactions, I believed I observed the good values from the international students and learned from them. Now, I have a stronger understanding about myself and the world.

#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroadIMG_1104

By Anne Hou


Oh the Places You’ll Go… with IBIP Brazil! By Emily Bloemer

An anonymous person once mused, “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done”.  This quote can be directly applied to my experience with the International Business Immersion Program (IBIP) Study Abroad Seminar to Brazil!

This trip was a many of firsts for me, including my first study abroad trip ever.  Was I nervous to even apply for the trip? Perhaps. Apprehensive about being in a different country for over two weeks? Undoubtedly.  However, was I beyond excited to learn about international agriculture and experience a different culture? Definitely yes!

There wasn’t a single thing that I didn’t like about my experience in Brazil- I absolutely loved my fellow travelers, tour guides, locals, food, and research! Not to mention that I was able to see the Olympic stadiums and arenas being put up, along with the advertisements and crazy inflation of hotel rooms for August.

Words can’t describe how much I fell in love with not only Brazil as a whole, but with the agriculture there as well.  From Coodetec to Embrapa to Brazilian Chicken, there were so many companies we were able to visit, tour, and ask questions about.  Everyone was so welcoming wherever we went, especially in the larger cities like Rio and Sao Paulo.

During the trip, it was a perfect balance of touring and conducting research.  I cried when I saw the Iguazu Falls (see picture)- it was absolutely breath taking, and do witness it alongside wonderful fellow students that I now consider close friends, was phenomenal.  Being able to learn how to conduct interviews and think of questions to ask interviewees on the top of my head helped me step out of my comfort zone.

Speaking of comfort zones!  Throughout the trip, I also learned that I grow substantially more when I push myself out of my comfort zone than when I just stay in it.  For instance, I tried speaking Portuguese to locals, and ended up establishing some great relationships, especially at the BBQ dinner, and also bartering with local street vendors, where I found out that a husband and wife and their dog, Toby, travel and see the world through selling bracelets they create.  I could write on and on about various experiences because of stepping outside of my comfort level.

Likewise, I also learned within this trip to keep an open mind. There were so many things that I was doubtful about, yet I tried- such as food, companies, and personalities.  I am not a picky eater by any means, but it’s always hard to choose a new food to try when there is an option to eat foods that you know you like.  Mashed potatoes, for instance, was an option at one of the buffets that we ate at, but rather than eating that, I tried various Brazilian foods.  When we went to an Arabic restaurant, I tried literally ever food that they set on the table. After all, who knows when I will have another chance to try it in my life?


I could keep writing on and on and on about Brazil, because it was such a wonderful program.  Word of advice- if anybody reading this is considering studying abroad, especially with IBIP- do it!! I would go again in a heartbeat.  After all, Brazil and its people stole my heart ❤ #ACESabroad

By: Emily Bloemer, IBIP Summer 2016 Brazil


Yonsei University in South Korea

It has been a long time since I visited the motherland Korea! I lived in States from 4th grade and have always wanted a Korean college experience. The exchange student program at Yonsei University was therefore a chance to experience home country through college life. Interacting with students, professors, and school events enabled me to understand the exotic Asian culture. Even though students were all international, from other colleges such as UCSD, Iowa, and others, I was still able to roam around their campus which had a sense of Korean culture. I took two courses: Korean Cinema and Marketing. During Korean Cinema, I watched movies that exhibit Korean nationalism and other historical events such as modernization of South Korea. Not only earning insight towards Korean historical events, the movies also exhibited current issues dealt with in Korea. The movies were not only entertaining but also informative. The final exam was arduous, having to memorize all the theatrical devices but the course still provided a valuable lesson to be learned regarding how Korean culture is delineated in movies. Also, in marketing class, I carried out a project that incorporated marketing a product “Snapchat” to Korean citizens. From research I have realized that Snapchat popularity was only prevalent in English speaking countries such as the United States. Aiming for globalization of such product, we have interviewed Korean students in focus group interview (casual interview method) to eventually generalize results with online survey. Besides the courses, there were numerous school events such as Sinchon Beer festival and Sinchon water gun festival. The two events were even popular amongst local Korean citizens, enabling foreign exchange students like myself to be engaged in such festivity. Overall, being an exchange student at Yonsei University during summer break was a fun, unique experience I would recommend for non-Korean students as well!

#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroad #imagineaces #SouthKorea


Part 2: Internship in Rome

During the second term of my study abroad experience I had the opportunity to intern at a vineyard and winery just outside of Rome, located in Frascati. This was my favorite part of the trip because I was able to see what it would be like in the working world one day, but in a foreign country. Every day I would take the bus to the Termini train station in Rome, which was  a 30 minute ride and then from the train station I would take a train to Frascati and be picked up by my supervisor. This added up to be about an hour commute everyday and really taught me how to deal with people on the bus and how to communicate with others when I need directions. My job as an intern was to market the vineyards wines, increase their number of American tourist customers and enter the U.S. market to export wines in the Illinois area. I was so grateful that I was given such a large responsibility and so much freedom on how to achieve these different tasks. During the day, I would work with my supervisor on improving their social media platforms and contact several different touring agencies in Rome and different importers in back in the states. I formulated personal emails for each person that I was in contact with to make sure they knew how great the Merumalia brand was and how much we care about our products and customers. I was actually very successful in increasing their number of American tourists because I created a brochure that was then sent out to each American University in Rome that advertised different learning opportunities that were offered at the vineyard. One section of the brochure was dedicated to forming a partnership with the university and vineyard. I included a contact number and email that could be reached if the university was interested in forming a partnership with the vineyard. During this month of my study abroad experience, I was able to learn a lot about different marketing concepts and how to form successful relationships with customers. I cannot wait to see where this internship will take me and who I will be put into contact with from the different networks I made.


Here’s a picture of me working on the vines at Merumalia.

During my internship, my supervisor asked if I’d like to go with her to Milan for a networking event at a Sommelier Convention. I was absolutely thrilled to take part in this opportunity, and not to mention, I would be in Milan! It was an all-day event and each winery was set up at a booth, that was categorized by the different regions in Italy. The sommeliers poured wine for people who were interested in maybe purchasing these wines and selling them through their own businesses. This was such an incredible experience, and not only did I learn so much about the different wines throughout Italy, but I was also able to see how professionals interact in a social setting and how important it is to form relationships and networks with individuals.

I was obviously kept very busy with my internship during the week, but on the weekends I was still able to travel with my friends that I had made during the program. I can gladly say that I was able to travel almost every weekend and see a large part of Italy. It is crazy to see how different it is in each region. I learned that Italians even have different dialects and accents in different parts of the country and I thought that was really interesting. One weekend, we traveled to Perugia which was only about 2 hours away from Rome and this was one of my favorite trips. Perugia is known for their truffles and chocolate. I have never tasted such good chocolate in my life, and the truffles that were placed on the pasta were absolutely amazing. I think I liked Perugia so much because it was the least touristy location I had visited along my travels. It was just Michelle and I, and we went without a plan of anything to do. This almost made it more fun because we got lost a countless number of times and were on streets where no one else was. I liked this because we were really seeing how Italians lived, without the tourist aspect of traveling. We walked through the village and ran into this stray dog that was probably one of the home owner’s nearby, but it was just walking up the stone paths like it owned the whole village. By visiting Peruguia, I was able to see a whole other side of Italy, and I am so grateful for that.

The second term of my travels were my favorite by far. I wasn’t just learning about Italy in classes, but I was actually experiencing it on my own. I learned how to work in another country, where I did not speak the language, and immerse myself into a culture that I had never experienced before. I miss this country so much, but am grateful for the amazing opportunity that I have now experienced. One day, I plan to go back to Italy and share my experience with others.


-Gabriella Kreissler

#ILLINOISabroad #ACESabroad


ACES-ENG China Summer Research | Zhejiang University, Hangzhou | Michelle Yin | Part 2

The joys of weekend excursion trips spent exploring the vast treasures of different Chinese cities, the unidentifiable emotion of spending my summer days in research lab and writing papers, the unforgettable gratefulness for hospitable friends and family, the odd oxymoronic feeling of being comfortably at home yet at the same time being unfamiliar and shy … This summer’s China research internship has confirmed, if it wasn’t apparent before, that I am definitely not a robot because I definitely have a large pool of human emotions to dabble in.

This is a part 2 to my previous blog post, so picking up where I left off, the latter part of my study abroad trip consisted of research, weekend excursion trips, and exploration of identity (lol jk, we’re not that deep) Hangzhou. Amidst the weekday research days, one weekend activity included us going to Yiwu and exploring the Great Shopping Mall there, as well as Movie City and the wannabe Forbidden City. The name Movie City really is justified because we saw multiple production crews filming on the sets there.


Another excursion led us to Tianhuangping, which is a pumped power station at a water reservoir mountain. Unfortunately the weather for this whole month has been pretty sad so when we got there it was rainy, isolated, and foggy. Nevertheless, we hiked on, but the mountains did not welcome our enthusiasm. The rain started pouring down and we soon realized that this fog we were walking in was a big storm cloud with a mission to leave us drenched, cold, and salty. We might as well have been carrying around paper cocktail umbrellas because our umbrellas were useless against the blowing wind and directionally-challenged rain. The ultimate drawback from this resulted in my stomach being upset to food and sensitive to the cold for 15 days straight, triggered by this one cold, rainy experience. It was pretty painful and definitely quite a big obstacle because it was disappointing, frustrating, and inconvenient to deal with, but I went to the hospital to get medicine, and after a while, it returned back to normal.

On a brighter experience, we got to travel around Hangzhou and see the West Lake, a tea museum, and the Song Dynasty Show. The Song Dynasty Show was located inside a big park area that we explored. For me, it was my second time there and seeing the show, but it still left me in awe of the acrobats, lighting and production effects, the costumes and dress, and the elegantly-delivered stories.


Other trips included going on company visitation tours to Inventronics, an LED energy company, and Wahaha Group, a drink and beverage manufacturing company. They led us through their buildings and different departments to see how they function. At Wahaha, they even had a museum detailing their history and startup products. We got to see their whole process of the production line as well. AND they gave us 2-3 free drinks of our choice, because all that walking made us thirsty right?

Also, since I have family in Hangzhou they took me out to Shangyu for a weekend to go blueberry picking. We brought back 27 small boxes of organic, self-hand-picked blueberries. They tasted really good and sweet! Since the blueberries clearly outnumberd the abilities of our family of 4, my aunt turned a good chunk of the blueberries into blueberry jam and it tastes amazing. I like to eat it plain in spoonfuls or as a topping to my plain yogurt. Homemade just makes everything taste better. I feel extremely grateful to have family here, living a mere 10 min walk from my dorm or lab. They lovingly take me out to dinner, visit me in my dorm or buy me things to use.


Now to address the unidentifiable emotion of spending my summer days in research lab and writing papers:

As of this point, we have already concluded all the lab work and have spent the past week writing the research paper. We are in charge of writing the introduction for the research paper and it will be used it in the published paper, printing our names onto the paper in the Bioresources Technology journal. We also have to write the other portions like results, discussions, and conclusion, as required by the research internship course I’m technically under, so that is what I’m procrastinating doing by writing this blog post right now, because science words are hard L. I have to research other studies so I can make comparisons of literature, gather supporting evidences for my explanations, and analyze my results with justified claims. It sounds so hard when I talk or think about it, but when I really get working on it sometimes I get the hang of it and I feel unstoppable. That is, until the internet disconnects … an all too familiar recurrence.


The program technically ends today, since the UIUC students went back to Chicago today, while all the Chinese students traveled back to their hometown. Yesterday, as a send-off, my grad student declared an impromptu lab photoshoot and we all went out for dinner after with the lab students. My grad student has been such a blessing to work with; she explained everything to me from the beginning. She gave us time, at first, to watch her work and learn, then, slowly started integrating us into helping with her work and assisting. By the end, we knew the procedure and understood all that was going on. It seems that we came at the perfect time to intern with her since she was just about finishing up her experiments so we were able to get a taste of the lab process as well as the research paper writing process. Plus, we were able to produce final conclusions during the time we were here, so that we can leave with our hearts full and minds satisfied with the work that was done.


I remember a few areas of concern I noted coming into this trip that included lack of research experience and a possibility of too much Chinese experience that might result in dull sightseeing moments. However I feel that that was not a hindrance at all. I’m pretty satisfied, to say the least, with how the research internship experience has turned out. I didn’t experience culture shock or anything extreme, but my time here in China was definitely not boring and I appreciated all the touristy things we did. Although this trip has ended, I know I will keep on learning in these areas even beyond the program date of this trip, I will explore the applications this experience has taught me, and I will most definitely be looking out for more chances to partake in trips that open up my perspective on life! Look out World: Here I come~


This is my story,

Michelle Yin | June 29, 2016 | 7:30pm



ACES-ENG China Summer Research |Zhejiang University, Hangzhou| Michelle Yin | Part 1

For the past two and a half weeks I have been home. Prior to that I was also home.  And even before that I was also home. What do I mean? Well, I am a Chinese-American-Canadian so home is where I have family, where I have legal residency, where my blood traces back to, but most importantly where I feel like I belong. This Chinese-American-Canadian is a rising sophomore majoring in Food Science and goes by the name Michelle Yin, or more recently Yin Dong Hui. I arrived in China on May 19th where I started my tour of Shanghai and Beijing for a few days then transitioned into a university setting again at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. The main purpose of my being in China is for a study abroad trip in which we do a research internship at Zhejiang University, starting on the 25th of May. The days spent exploring in Shanghai and Beijing were more for a cultural immersion and to play a little before we start working. Nevertheless, it already and still feels like home to me. I am comfortable here, am well adjusted, and always enjoy a challenge and a nice riské element to life.


In Shanghai we explored Nanjing Road, Yu Garden, Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and Huangpu river by cruise. I also met up with a friend to go to the best karaoke place in Shanghai. We sang Roses by Chainsmokers literally 5 times.


The TV Tower was amazing, being a 1,536 ft. tall tower; it had a beautiful view of the buildings, a perfect outlook over the city, and a breathtaking overview of Shanghai’s architecture. Not to mention, the glass floor section made me look like a complete daredevil who is either reflecting or contemplating life.


~~Insert High Speed Bullet Train Transition to Beijing~~

In Beijing we climbed the Great Wall, posed for pictures at the Olympic Park’s Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, visited Tiananmen Square, and toured Old Beijing. Oh don’t worry, we made sure to rep UIUC while we were there.


For someone who’s already been to China four times, this was still only my first time seeing and climbing the Great Wall. Over 20k steps according to FitBit. What can I say? I love a good workout.


And what’s better than 20k steps in one day? Over 25k steps in one day! Plus being 1,860 METERS up in the air.That’s right. We went to Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) over the weekend and hiked from 7am to 4pm, nonstop, except when taking touristy pictures. The fog stuck close to us all morning like a tiger mom sheltering us from the beautiful yet dangerous mountain world. But our sweaty faces and jelly legs weren’t for nothing; by 3pm the shining sun stood up for us, forcing the fog to fade and we were left awestruck. One moment we had our heads low, staring at the bumpy rock stairs in front of us and the next moment we couldn’t stop taking pictures, hoarding the beauty as if we could make up for the hidden treasures we missed all day.


Although it looks like we just run around all day with our mouths gaping at everything we see and eat, we’ve really actually been working in the research labs for 8 days already. I’m in a Food Science lab researching under a PhD candidate student who is the sweetest friend, role model, and sister. She introduced me to everyone in the lab team and they are all as friendly as she is. We play relay games outside, eat hotpot together, solve escape room puzzles, eat lunch together, oh and also do research from 9am-3pm. Her research involves working with sodium alginate beads in a calcium chloride solution combined with the enzyme peptin to try to immobilize the peptin that can be found in fruits. Her research has already been going on for two years and this month will conclude her research paper findings. On the sixth day of interning with her project we were able to finally immobilize the pectin and find varied results compared to the control. It was pretty exciting to make progress, in our own nerdy little way, since the other five days were us just doing the same experiment day after day with new modifications after finding out at the end of the day that it didn’t work through the way we wanted and expected.

The other parts of her research include using ultrasound to immobilize the pectin as well as other functions to play around with the intensity and prime peak of each variable. Since this is a blog and not my actual research summary presentation, I’ll leave it at that. My PhD student has already published two other papers and after this one will have another paper in the making. I truly love working with her, even though I’m not working on a project of my own or not doing much hard analytical work. As we’re almost approaching the halfway mark of this trip I look forward to what I will continue to keep learning, what I will eagerly explore, and how I will further develop the meaning of home.

This is my story,

Michelle Yin | June 6, 2016 | 7:29pm

P.S. For more pictures follow Instagram @meeshyin I promise, nature does not disappoint. Also, more pictures to come on Facebook. Also also, I’m publishing a copy of this on my own blog at michelleyin.weebly.com fyi fyi 😛