London 3/9 & 3/10

Friday I woke up early again to work out with my Dad and say goodbye. I headed down to Southwark for my meeting at a coffee shop, Scooter Caffe. Usually I wouldn’t spend time here to talk about my meeting spots, but this coffee shop was truly an English pub that happened to serve coffee and tea during the day. The décor was rustic, the room was dim, and the music was a medley of American ballads from the 50’s and 60’s. I was meeting with someone from Medact, a charity organization that partners with medical practitioners to address health issues in the NHS and with greater UK health organizations. Medact works at both the highest and lowest levels, trying to influence policy, interacting with practitioners throughout the UK, and hosting demonstrations within communities.

My conversation with the woman from Medact was fascinating. At first we simply went through the interview questions I had prepared, but as the conversation became more organic we talked more about the impact of attitudes and perceptions on the changes the UK has seen recently. We mainly talked about the two most prominent examples of the UK government actively increasing the informal barriers that migrants face in accessing healthcare – forcing them to pay upfront for NHS services and entering into a data-sharing scheme between NHS Digital and the Home Office. These two decisions are highly controversial in the UK, and Medact is one of the organizations at the forefront of the opposition. I really enjoyed this meeting because I was able to speak candidly with the woman, and she asked many questions about living in America, as well. I enjoyed how many overlaps there were between my meeting with PHE, because it demonstrated to me that the private and public sector aren’t always as far apart as they feel.


Following the meeting (my longest one of the week!) I walked from Lower Marsh over to Tate Britain. I spent almost 3 full hours at the museum, totally entranced by the diverse collection it houses. I wrote down some of my favorites and some things for me to check out: Tracey Emin’s Monument Valley, all David Hockney, and Atkinson Grimshaw’s Liverpool quay by moonlight. After the museum I headed to Covent Garden to meet my friend from BU’s younger sister who is doing the BU Study Abroad program, and had a delicious lunch at a place called 26 Grains. After a chat I walked back to the Sanderson, where I had stayed with my Dad and where my bags were stored.

I picked up my bags and went to check into my second hotel, the Holiday Inn South Kensington, which was surprisingly pleasant. I worked on some internship applications and rejoiced in the fact that I had completed all of my interviews!

That evening I went to dinner with my two friends from BU. We had some trouble getting a spot at any restaurant (it was a busy Friday night) but we ended up having amazing pizza at Rossopomodoro, and were seated next to the actor Josh Gad. I recognized him right away, and even though he’s definitely more well known for his role in animated films, he’s one of those actors that you know you know. We went out around the Oxford Circus area again, dancing to American music in a sea of Brits. Even though I love listening to the classic American dance hits, I really do love British music (especially rap) and hope that the next time I’m in London I can avoid places that rely on American radio to get the crowd going. It was a fun night and I retired to the lovely Holiday Inn!

Saturday we had an OUTSTANDING brunch at a place called Dirty Bones in Kensington. We had mac and cheese balls, lemon-drizzled donuts, truffle cheese fries, and our own respective dishes (I had the veggie burger). It was so tasty and the restaurant itself was cool, modeled after “NYC music clubs” with vintage décor and a funky DJ booth. It was pretty enjoyable until our waiter made a comment about how much food we ordered. He proceeded to say we “ate enough calories for the week” and that he “wasn’t even going to offer the dessert menu.” To put it in perspective – there were 3 mac and cheese balls probably the size of a golf ball, so we all had one. Same thing for the donuts. And the fries came in a small dish, which we didn’t even finish. AND none of us even finished our own entrees! We laughed a bit at first, but when I told him he was hurting our feelings by continually talking about how much we ate and he answered with “you knew what you were getting into” we were all fed up. I’m trying to forget about his unpleasantness because the meal really was good, but it’s just a perfect example of abrasive humor that needs to be kept in check.

We then made our way over to the east side of the city to see a photography exhibition, Barbican Centre. The tube was under a lot of construction, so it took a long time to get there. Once we did we had to wait for tickets then wait to enter the exhibition, but got to explore another exhibition and check out the loaded gift shop. The Barbican Centre itself is known for its brutalist architecture, and walking around and seeing everything the campus has to offer was really interesting.

The photography exhibit was amazing – focused on “photography at the margins” it looked at communities that had been marginalized by their respective histories. It had photographers from all over the world, and included pieces throughout several historical periods, sharing the stories and experiences of very unique communities. Again, I had some favorites: Bruce Davidson, Philippe Chancel, and really everything from “Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins.” I REALLY enjoyed this exhibit because I am so passionate about photography, and feel that it is such a powerful tool to represent someone’s unique perspective. It also struck me how many of the pieces and collections focused on America. Even pieces on a group of gangs of Paris in the 80’s drew a lot from American culture – wearing U.S. military clothing, naming themselves the Panthers after the Black Panthers, and listening to American rockabilly music. Thinking about my thesis I of course reflect on how the U.S. treats migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, and our lack of universal healthcare in any capacity. However, this exhibition reinforced for me that America will never lose its grip. Right now I am actively stopping myself from ranting about how everyone’s critical of America but yet idolizes everything we do.


At night we had dinner at a delicious Mediterranean place in South Kensington and headed over to a historical-themed bar called Cahoots. It was a fun last night, and even as I sit on the plane about to take off I can’t believe I’m heading back to Boston. The trip went by so quickly, and I planned for so long for it all to happen, I can’t believe it’s all over. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to travel to Brussels and London and speak with such influential individuals and organizations. I am so proud to be a part of Boston University and hope that my thesis project can reflect my ambitions, as I really would like to contribute a new piece of knowledge to the greater conversation on migrant integration. Now it’s time to buckle down and finish writing!


Brussels & London, 3/7 & 3/8

It’s been a crazy past two days! On Wednesday I had a meeting with a Political Advisor who works with the EU Commission as well as the EU Parliament’s LIBE Committee, specifically looking at policy for asylum seekers. I then had a meeting with the secretariat of the LIBE Committee, who showed me some of their current working documents on new policy for migrant integration specifically looking at healthcare. Both meetings provided unique perspectives at the EU level, and meeting with the secretariat provided very interesting insight on how the Commission, Parliament and Council all work together to promote a unified EU policy. Getting to see the different offices at Parliament was very interesting, as well, especially since their current debates are exactly what I’m most curious about.


I then took the Eurostar train from Brussels to London, where I met my dad at the hotel. Since it turned into a surprisingly nice day here – and my Dad’s calls with New York were cancelled because of the horrible weather there – we walked around the area for a bit. We’re staying right between Fitzrovia and Soho, about a 10 minute walk from Oxford Circus. Such a central location provides some great opportunities to meander, so we enjoyed the blue skies and fresh air and walked around for a while. We actually went to the John Snow pub in Soho which is where modern public health actually began! We asked to see the pump and were told to wait until the upstairs opened (where the pump used to be kept) only to be told 25 minutes later that they had removed the pump during renovations. Still cool to nerd-out over the public health historical significance of the place! When my Dad had more calls I went to meet Nina, who’s here with BU Study Abroad. We had some nice snacks and caught up over a couple of pints (lol) and then I walked back to meet my Dad for a late dinner.

Thursday I woke up early to take advantage of the clear morning and went for a run. I recently found out I was accepted as a charity runner for the NYC Marathon (November 4! be there! and please donate once I set up my page!) so I wanted to remind myself that I could run more than 1 mile (I ended up doing 3.5). Running down Oxford Street was stressful, but once I got to Hyde Park I was reminded why I chose that route. Hyde Park is truly so beautiful, and the sprawling grounds actually got me excited to start training again.

After breakfast I said goodbye to my Dad who was off to work for the day and went back upstairs to work on some internship applications and charge my devices. I then went to a lovely coffee shop near the hotel, TAP Coffee, which was the most perfect space to work. Fast wifi, good coffee and beautiful skylights made it the ideal spot to park myself for a few hours and try and get some non-thesis related things done. Before I knew it, it was time to head up to North London for my next meeting.

I met with someone from the Migration and Health team at Public Health England, which was extremely interesting. The woman I met with was personally impressive, but I also admire the work that her team has done related to migration and health. I appreciated her honesty about the limitations of working for an executive agency, and was totally fan-girling over the fact that I was at England’s Public Health organization! A very beneficial meeting.


PHE is almost at the end of the Northern line, so instead of taking it back into the center of the city I got off at Chalk Farm and walked around Camden and through Regents Park. I walked back to the hotel so I could charge my computer some more, work on more internship/miscellaneous applications, and regroup for the evening.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Nina’s internship (with Labour campaign organizers of Tower Hamlets) was hosting an event over in Bethnal Green. When I did my study abroad program in London I lived close to Bethnal Green, so I was excited to be back in the area. I didn’t get to see much of the even itself, but met some interesting Labour supporters, organizers and candidates. Community politics in action is always exciting!

I then walked through Bethnal Green and Shoreditch to meet my Dad for dinner at Blixen in Old Spitafields Market, one of my favorite places in London. I dream of the days I will be able to afford the stores that line the market (but really, it’s only a dream). The dinner was delicious and the space itself was very cool, a renovated bank with fancy booths and elaborate decor. We then walked through to the City of London to take the tube back to the hotel. I ended up going to meet Nina and other BU students at a bar only 10 minutes away from the hotel over on Wardour street, and even though it’s one of my least favorite bars in all of London (probably of anywhere I’ve travelled, really) it was nice to see everyone. If you did a BU program in London, yes, I am talking about O’Neills. Why would anyone want to go to a bar with only other American university students, that’s 21+ where they formally scan every single person’s ID?! So lame.


Anyways, I am so happy to be back in London. Arriving at King’s Cross brought a rush of emotion, with the love I have for the city and the sadness that I haven’t lived here for longer. I love the energy of the city, the true bustling nature of the streets, and the diversity you encounter with every block. London is one of my absolute favorite places to be in the world, and I’m excited to spend the weekend here, even if I do have another interview and plenty of work to do to pull together my thesis. I’m trying to make time to just enjoy the city, also!



Brussels 3/6

Yesterday was a tiring day full of research-related activities. I had 4 scheduled interviews, although only 3 of them ended up happening. I met with people from Bruegel, the European Public Health Association, and the International Organization for Migration’s Migrant Health team. I was also supposed to meet with Serve the City but they had a mix up with volunteering activities and weren’t able to meet with me or Pam from BU at our initial planned time.


The interviews went from about 9AM until 4PM (including walking time between the locations) although I did have time to meet my Mom for a lunch of some delicious Thai food. At the end of the day we had some time to enjoy the unexpected sunshine in the Parc du Bruxelles that we had visited the other day, as I gathered my thoughts from my interviews. We then walked around the shopping area of Ixelles, but since both of us were very tired we went home and had a snack and took a rest.

Last night we got ready to head out today, as my Mom’s flight back to NYC is this morning and my train to London is this afternoon after a few more interviews. We then walked down the street to a highly recommended Japanese restaurant, Little Tokyo, that had tons of delicious options, though I went for the unique Japanese curry over a rice bowl.

I’m sad to leave Brussels so soon but have really enjoyed my time here. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some extremely interesting people and be up close with some of the institutions I’ve been studying since high school. I hope to one day come back with an even more important reason for my travel, but I am very excited to head to London. I’ll be posting either later today or tomorrow to talk about the rest of my time here and my Eurostar travels.



Brussels 3/5

Today I woke up a bit later after spending all day yesterday walking around the city. The sun was shining and the sky was blue so I decided to go for a run at the central park that’s lined by museums, a palace and embassies. The park itself was beautiful, with people trimming trees and walking their dogs. After returning home we had breakfast, as my mom had navigated the grocery store on her own and picked up coffees for the both of us. We took our time getting ready for the day as we had no appointments until 2:30. We spent the late morning and early afternoon walking around different areas of the city, exploring and making sure I know where all of the offices are for my meetings tomorrow. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared!


After getting in our 10,000 steps nice and early, we met the BU Study Abroad coordinator for the Brussels program, Pam Dalby. We chatted about her background, connections in Brussels, and the work that I’m doing here. Pam has been extremely helpful in connecting me with individuals and organizations in the Brussels area, so we talked at length about the community here and the importance of networking. I’ll be tagging along with Pam at a meeting tomorrow with Serve the City where a BU student will be placed for an internship and who I can ask about how they serve the refugee, asylum-seeker and migrant populations of Brussels!

We then walked to a different area for my first interview, with a General Practitioner Dr. Jean-Paul Robberechts. He runs a private practice, but has worked in Brussels for over 30 years in both his own practice as well as hospitals. He grew up in South Africa and speaks 6 languages, so I asked him about his experiences with providing services to diverse populations. Although I tried to keep my predictions about my thesis research as separate as possible from my questions, I found that most of his answers directly related to my findings so far. He identified the most common informal barriers to migrants accessing care, as well as some of the health outcomes and their effect on health systems (notably his observation that refugees only seek care in emergency situations). Our conversation was brief as he had several other appointments that day with people who actually needed medical attention, but he provided great insight on how practitioners are affected by policy and what needs to change in order to provide culturally competent care.

We then walked around the surrounding area for a bit, and tried some famous Belgian frites with poivre. They were as crispy and delicious as we had hoped for, although next time I would probably go with the béarnaise sauce, instead. Tomorrow, we’ll have to try the famous waffles! We had time to kill before our next appointment, so we ended up visiting a cafe to recharge and check in with family and our responsibilities back home. We had been looking for a place to shop, since my Mom wants to get a sweatshirt so she can join me running outside tomorrow and I want to get a pair of pants to replace my ill-fitting jeans. After internet searches we found that there was no hope for us, as Brussels has very little shopping, and a huge gap between the swanky and the discount stores. So far we’ve only seen one H&M and one Zara, which seems to be our only options. Sorry if this is not interesting to you, but I find it surprising how little traditional shopping there is in a relatively well-known city!

My last appointment of the day was with Steven Hill, Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs at NATO. The connection was actually made through my mom and her work with Maeve Carr Design  , as Mr. Hill is originally from Greenwich, CT (next to my hometown of New Canaan). This meeting was not an interview for my thesis, rather a discussion of his impressive career and his professional interests. He provided me some interesting advice on how to forge my own path and certainly reassured me about the anxiety I’m feeling for summer opportunities (and what lies beyond my MPH). Truly a  wonderful conversation!

Now we’re back at the apartment for the night, making a standard dinner of pasta with sauce and a side salad. Hoping to head to bed early tonight after sorting through emails and prepping for tomorrow, as it is my big day of meetings. I’m extremely excited (and very nervous) to speak with the variety of impressive people tomorrow and hear their thoughts on migrant integration into healthcare. Also, tomorrow is our last full day in Brussels, so if you have any last-minute recommendations please send them to me ASAP! Would love to hear.


Brussels 3/3 and 3/4

The first 30 hours in Brussels have been great so far! Traveling here was an absolute nightmare thanks to the Nor’easter and frantic airline reps. In short, Brussels Airlines cancelled our flight and put us on a British Airways flight 3 hours later. After fighting through traffic it took us 2.5 hours to drive the 30 miles to JFK, we check in for our flight a full 2 hours early only to be told we don’t have seats (despite the fact we have assigned seat numbers on boarding passes on our phone). British Airways then tells us to “wait on standby” so we literally sit by the check in desk until 10:45PM, then run to board the 11:05 flight to London and are told we will be connecting through to Brussels. As my mom said, it felt like an alternate universe. If you want to hear more about this miserable travel experience (like the other interesting people on standby or physical altercation in the security line) I’d be happy to tell you about it somewhere else.

Once in Brussels, I rejoiced. My AirBnB is in a “cultural area” of Ixelles which means a lot of African Coiffure shops and African native food (literally the names of the restaurants). I gave my mom a hard time for saying there were a lot of Africans around until I saw the signs themselves. Several people have told us that a lot of young professionals who work at the EU institutions live here in order to save money. It kind of reminds me of Allston, the multicultural area where young people move in for cheap rents which eventually leads to gentrification.


On our first evening, we walked to an area called Flagey where we had a coffee, looked at the shops, walked around the main circle, then had dinner. We ended up eating at a vegetarian place even though I did NOT pick it (we stopped by a few other places first). It was cold but beautiful, and there were lots of people out and about. After a long day of travel we decided to head home early.

Today (Sunday) we woke up and headed to La Fabrique en Ville for brunch, which is a restaurant located in one big room in a park. It had beautiful decor, beautiful surroundings, and the sun was shining just warm enough for us to want to sit outside. My only problem with La Fabrique is a problem I have with a lot of Brussels’ fine establishments – BUFFET STYLE FOOD! La Fabrique had an independent crepe station were chefs made them for you, but everything else was laid out along a counter. You pay for your plate then can go up and take from the spread of dishes, fruits, cheeses, breads, meats, etc. As a public health student (and anyone who’s taken PH510 can definitely back me up on this) I do not understand the appeal of buffet style. How does anyone think it’s nice to eat food that’s been left uncovered, touch by strangers, in a room with little air circulation and everyone’s hot breath on it? It just sounds like a breeding ground for bacteria to me. La Fabrique is not the only place that has buffet style in Brussels. I’ve seen probably 5 or 6 restaurants on highly recommended lists that do buffets, including the top rated vegetarian restaurant. Disappointing, because I really tried to like La Fabrique (and thought the food was good) but can’t get over how skeeved out I feel about eating from a buffet (at a restaurant that was not exactly a bargain).

After brunch we walked to the Magritte Museum, which I really loved. Surrealism is probably one of my favorite kinds of art, and Magritte is one of the best! Tons of cool pieces with my favorite things (trees, clouds, moon, sky) and interesting facts about his life and career, as well. We went to the Bozar museum after, which had a ridiculous line for tickets that was very poorly planned. You also have to pay for each individual exhibition you want to see, and with some pretty steep prices that was discouraging. The museum is also weirdly lax so some of the exhibitions feed into other ones, for example, we went through a free exhibition to find ourselves on the side of the theatre for the next orchestra performance. We had to pass security to get OUT of the area, which was strange. We saw the Spanish still life exhibition which was intriguing. Even just seeing pieces that are from the 1600’s is staggering, and seeing paintings that look so much like photographs is something that always surprises me.

After the museums we walked around the area near the Grand Palace, which was nice because there were lots of people walking around and lively storefronts and areas to eat and drink. It was nice to see some activity because the city itself is a bit quiet, and finding a touristy area was a bit of a relief, surprisingly! We sat at a bookstore to have a coffee for the afternoon pick-me-up (jetlag starting to hit), then walked to a vintage market. It had just begun to rain so we hung out at the market for a while, checking out the stalls and listening to the enthusiastic band play. We then walked to a different area to eat at a well-known Ethiopian restaurant named Toukoul, which had delicious food. I’ve never had Ethiopian so I loved learning about the different kinds of spices and why some ingredients are used more than others, as well as eating with the injera (bread) as opposed to formal utensils. Delicious and much more reasonably priced than any of our other meals.

On the way home we stopped at a bar that was hosting Flamenco dance lessons “NY style.” We watched for a bit but after being approached to dance for the 3rd time, I told my Mom it was time to leave. I liked listening to the music but the jetlag was wearing me down and I was in no mood to learn flamenco.


Throughout the day my Mom and I were observing the city, from the streets themselves to the people, transportation, buildings, etc. There is much more diversity in Brussels than many other European cities I’ve been to, and I naturally compare everything to Copenhagen because I spent the most time there. Compared to Copenhagen the buildings themselves feel bigger and there are far fewer coffee shops. In general the streets remind me of London, with lots of cobblestone. In some ways it reminds me of Amsterdam, with tram-like buses and Dutch-looking row homes (definitely not the right architecture terminology here). It did remind me of Copenhagen around the palace areas and with the parks because of how the homes and buildings line the park, and the common practice of shaping trees to fit the design of the greenery around it. Brussels is also small and very walkable, which reminds me a lot of Copenhagen.

One striking thing I’ve noticed is that there is no water. I have a weird personal rule that I can’t live in a land-locked place. I think I’ve taken too many IR classes focused on security and defense, but I really don’t think I could feel totally safe if I wasn’t able to get out via water (and no, I’m not predicting any major land crisis or war anytime soon, like I said, it’s a weird personal rule!). Besides this small fact, Brussels is a beautiful city. Some people have spoken English, but many people only speak French. Most things are written in French and Flemish, but Arabic and Dutch are also common (as well as some English). Everyone has been exceptionally helpful and friendly, a trend that will hopefully continue with my interviews tomorrow!

I’m speaking with 3 individuals tomorrow, although they aren’t all direct interviews for qualitative research purposes. I’ll explain more tomorrow, but for now, I’m going to head to sleep. Hope everyone back in the U.S. enjoys the Oscars and the rest of their Sunday evenings.


Bye Boston, hello Brussels!

Tonight I’m heading to Brussels to conduct interview research for my International Relations thesis (if the storm decides to let us leave, of course). On Wednesday I’ll take the train to London to continue this research specifically for my case-study, looking at the NHS. For my thesis I am studying the informal barriers to migrant integration into the universal healthcare systems of the European Union. EU countries boast impressive health outcomes and all have some form of universal health care, which theoretically should be able to serve the country’s entire population, including diverse and vulnerable communities. However, even in countries where migrant populations are granted legal permission to use health services, they are unable access care. While the EU has published extensively on the topic, issuing countless reports and recommendations for developing “migrant-sensitive” healthcare systems, national governments are slow to respond. In some countries, such as the UK, recent government decisions actually highlight that greater exclusion may be on the horizon for migrants seeking healthcare.

Through a series of interviews with EU officials, government representatives, members of international organizations and nonprofits, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of these informal barriers. Where do they come from? Are they related to the “migrant crisis” that began in Europe in 2015? And in my opinion, most importantly, what can be done to overcome them?

In addition to these interviews I’m going to have some time to explore, so I will be publishing blog posts (hopefully daily) on my activities. I am able to complete such exciting work because of several generous grants from Boston University – the Pardee School of Global Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. I am so excited to get to explore a new city (Brussels) and return to one that forever has my heart (London). If you’d like to stay updated with my travels and interviews, check back in later. And if you have any pressing recommendations for either city, please send them to me at Thanks!



FullSizeRender 2Got all my blues and I’m ready to go 🙂 #Away #Awaysuitcase

Summary of Shanghai trip!

I want to begin with an apology for not writing while I was actually IN Shanghai, especially because it’s been several weeks since my return. It does allow me to make an important point though: trying to communicate and stay connected with my friends and family in the U.S. was pretty difficult, much more difficult than I expected. My wifi was never consistent, and when I did have a strong signal my VPN wouldn’t connect. I was always scrambling to get updates and feel like I knew what was happening outside of China, especially because it feels like there’s always bad news on the American airwaves.

A quick side story – after a few jet-lagged nights of laying awake I decided to take a Z-quill on the fourth night, hoping to pass out. Despite taking this miracle “non-habit forming sleep aid” I woke up around 4AM feeling anxious, and went to check my phone. There had been a shooting at a Los Angeles middle school, but I couldn’t get any more information. My sister, Grace, works in a Los Angeles middle school. After 20 minutes of panic I was able to get in contact with my family and Grace herself to confirm that it wasn’t her school and that everyone was okay, but it underlines my main point that feeling disconnected is HARD.

That is really the only negative thing I have to say about the trip. Although there were other challenges – the thick smog, lack of vegetarian food options, and surprising lack of English speakers (I’ve been spoiled in my travels in this regard) – I had an extremely wonderful time visiting Shanghai.

The city itself amazed me. Even though I have never seen Blade Runner, from my knowledge and Conna’s confirmation, I felt like I was in Blade Runner the whole time. The skyscrapers surround you, and surprisingly normal buildings dominate the skyline. Although the waterfront has the most well-known towers, an area known as the Bund, the entire city is dotted with 40 story buildings, most of them ordinary offices or apartment buildings. I was continually surprised by how expansive the city was, and how I always felt like I was entering a business hub or downtown district.

I can’t go any further without giving a special shout-out to my co-worker, Conna, who also went  to Shanghai to teach the program for Best Delegate. In addition to being a full-time member of the Best Delegate core team, Conna is a China-aficionado and speaks AMAZING Mandarin. I would not have had such a positive experience if Conna hadn’t helped me navigate the subway, street signs, and menus (making sure I didn’t accidentally consume meat). Conna was also great company, sharing her knowledge about Chinese culture with me as well as going with me on countless adventures to find out more about the amazing country. THANK YOU CONNA!

Most of these adventures revolved around food. Not just any food, but REALLY GOOD food. We tried to eat something different every day, except for the hotel’s free breakfast. During my week in Shanghai we had a traditional Shanghainese meal, Chinese pot-luck style lunches, tried a Japanese restaurant, visited a famous Szechuan restaurant, watched our chefs cook for us at the Commune Kitchen, tasted traditional Chinese vegetarian dishes, and ate at a Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant just down the street from our hotel. A lot of things seemed familiar from the Chinese food we eat in America, like bok choy or fried rice, but overall, the food in Shanghai was unreal. Keep in mind that I wasn’t able to participate in many of the renowned dishes since I don’t eat meat or fish, so if I could still give the food a 10/10, I can only imagine what meat-eaters would rate it.

There were so many small things that intrigued me about Shanghai and the Chinese culture. The city has parks all over, and at night middle-aged and elderly adults walk around doing line dances to loud music to burn off their dinner. How crazy is that?! Even more so, every morning students do a series of stretches and exercises before starting their day. None of these activities are especially strenuous, but it’s enough to remind people that activity is good for your health and obesity is not – good lessons to learn, if you ask me (looking at you, fellow Americans). At every subway entrance there’s a small security station, like the belt you put your bags through at the airport. If you have a bag that’s bigger than a small purse you quickly put it through before entering the station to catch your train. It doesn’t affect lines because everyone is so used to it, and I can only imagine how useful it is to eliminate crime on the subway. I could write an entire post on the efficiency of Shanghai’s subway, so I’m going to limit my comments about it here. The subway was clean, quick, covered the whole city, and was never too crowded. The ring system of subway designs has changed my views on transportation in expanding cities! Anyways, I want to briefly touch on my last point – the subway was never really crowded. We traveled at rush hour a few times, at all different points in the 5-7PM window, and we never felt claustrophobic or trapped like sardines. Even though Shanghai is one of the most populous cities in the world, I have to say that New York feels more cramped.

Overall, I am so grateful to Best Delegate for giving me the opportunity to travel to Shanghai. I loved being able to teach such bright students and meet our lovely hosts, and only wish that I could have stayed for longer than a week. I can’t wait to go back someday, but until then, I have other travels on the horizon…

I’m writing this on the train from Boston home to New Canaan, because tomorrow I’ll fly with my Mom to Brussels, Belgium! Check out my next blog post for what I’m doing when I get there (hint: it’s something I’ve never done before).


2018 Travel Update: Adventures to come!

I haven’t written anything on the blog since I left Copenhagen because I truly did not think that my life could be any more exciting than it was on my semester abroad. As I wrote about in various posts, it was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life thus far. But alas, it was not the end of my exciting journeys across the globe, as I have several more opportunities for travel coming up this semester.

Next week I’ll be traveling to Shanghai, China, to teach a 6-day Model UN program, representing Best Delegate. I’ve worked with Best Delegate over the past two summers as a Diplomacy Fellow for their Model UN Summer Institutes, but this is the first time that I get to work with an international client and actually host a Model UN workshop in another country! If interested, you can read more about Best Delegate and their expanding global reach here.

I am both extremely nervous and extremely excited to go to China. I can’t stop thinking about the 15 hour flight, because even though I love to travel, I’m not too fond of flying (I’m not thrilled by the idea of being in a confined space. In addition the lack of air flow and ease of germ transmission, thanks public health, I obviously worry about technical problems and the sheer fact that I have no control over what happens to me as I sit in a huge metal box that’s taking me across the world at 20,000 feet. Keep in mind, this fear of a lack of agency is something that defines me to my core. I will never live somewhere that doesn’t have easy access to the coast/relevant body of water, in case I ever need to escape). Anyways, I am also EXCITED! Even though I’ll be teaching most of the time I’m there, we have some free time to explore the city. Shanghai is dynamic and unique, and I can’t wait to absorb the city and all it has to offer. The food, the architecture, the history, the people – I am (hopefully) ready for it all! Well, everything except the air pollution, that is.

Just the other day I looked up the real-time air quality in Shanghai, and in addition the number (ppm) it said in bright red, all caps, “UNHEALTHY FOR ALL!” Not the most reassuring thing when you’re trying to get yourself pumped to see the city by foot! Regardless, the forecast is improving – now the air quality in Shanghai is only listed as “Unhealthy for sensitive groups.” I’ve included pictures with Boston’s update for reference.

I’ll try to write updates from my time in Shanghai, but I will be working 9-5 for the majority of the time I’m there, as well as trying to stay on top of my homework and thesis writing that I’ll be missing while I’m away. Which brings me to my next exciting update, my IR Thesis!

For my senior IR Honors Thesis I am writing about the informal barriers to migrant integration into the universal healthcare systems of the European Union. I’m hoping to look at what causes these informal barriers, what these barriers look like and how they’ve changed in response to the shift in migration to the EU since 2015, and what opportunities there are for change. I recently discovered that I was granted Research Travel Grants from three different sources at Boston University, allowing me to travel over spring break to conduct research to supplement my thesis. Thank you to the Pardee School, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program!

I am hoping to travel to Brussels to speak with international organizations and EU representatives about these issues, notably the disconnect between EU suggestions on how to provide migrant healthcare and how national healthcare systems are responding to these recommendations. I also plan to travel to London to use the British healthcare system as a case study. From my hypotheses I believe that many of these informal barriers arise from the securitization of migrants, health not seen as a political priority, questions of resource burden, and the active deterrence of migrants from a desirable quality of life. I believe that looking at the NHS will highlight how these hypotheses have driven the evolution of these informal barriers.

For that trip I will be diligent about updating the blog, because 1. all of my funding sources require it and 2. I anticipate it will be a whirlwind of events that I will have to document in order to properly synthesize the magnitude of what I will hopefully be doing. I’ll be going the first week of March during BU’s scheduled spring break.

Please follow along with my travels if you are interested, and if you have any recommendations for sights to see or people to reach out to in any of these cities, please contact me at I would love to hear from you!


Farvel København

This is going to be my last post from Copenhagen. Even as I write it, I can’t believe it! 6 months has gone by too quickly, although I’m extremely excited to see my family and friends. I have had so many amazing experiences here in Copenhagen, in addition to my wondrous travels throughout Europe. I have so much to be grateful for, and so many people to thank for making my time here so special. I am conflicted about what to write about in this final post, because this city and the people here have had such a profound impact on me. First, I want to thank the University of Copenhagen for allowing me to enroll directly as a student and immerse myself in Danish academia. I learned a great deal from my classes, my professors, and my peers, and feel that I have grown immensely as a student after being in such an open and relaxed school environment. I know that the insights I have gained from my time at KU will be valuable for me finishing my Bachelor’s as well as pursuing my Master’s. Moreover, I was able to meet countless other international students as well as Danish students, learning about their home universities and their unique perspectives on the topics we were discussing in my political science courses.

I would also like to thank the lovely people at Chora Connection. The opportunity to intern there was so gratifying, and I have never been part of such an inspiring group of people. Everyone at Chora has found their way to a career in sustainability through a dynamic path, and the welcoming atmosphere they have created in their offices is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I hope that one day I can foster such a feeling a community in my workplace, and I can’t thank them enough for their decision to take a chance on me and welcome me into the Chora family. I look forward to seeing all of the great work that Chora Connection will do in the future, and hope that I can translate such passion for sustainable change to my career in the U.S.

Thank you to the groups I have volunteered with this semester – Oxfam IBIS, DanMUN, and Distortion Neighbors team. Working with Oxfam IBIS has been an eye-opening experience to see how volunteer groups operate in a country that’s as liberal as Denmark, such as the demonstration at the Climate March. DanMUN provided me a new understanding on the utility of Model UN, contrasting greatly from how Model UN is perceived in the U.S. Learning about their conference logistics and ambitions also showed me how to scale the activities that I’ve completed for Model UN in the past. Lastly, volunteering with Distortion on the Neighbors team was an interesting experience for many reasons. Distortion itself was unlike anything I could have ever imagined, and is probably worthy of it’s own separate post. Most importantly, though, meeting other Danish and international volunteers then exploring the different neighborhoods and talking about the impact of Distortion was quite rewarding. I saw more of the city than I would have otherwise and met the people that make Copenhagen what it is. I am so happy that I chose to get involved with volunteering through multiple avenues, and feel that my time abroad has been dramatically improved by these experiences.

I would also like to thank the city itself. Your streets have come to mean so much to me, and your commitment to beauty and nature is one of a kind. How many days I spent in awe of the beauty of the lakes,  biking along tree lined streets or sitting in one of the countless parts. I regret that I was not able to explore every single corner, because I know that Copenhagen has so much to offer and even in 6 months I couldn’t cover it all. The city has a pulse to it, one that you can feel reverberating through all of the people that walk its streets. People from around the world are drawn to visit because of the spirit, the mentality, the appeal of “living like a Dane.” It’s certainly an unparalleled attitude, and I feel that I now understand what it means to adapt the Danish lifestyle. Now I have the challenge of mediating this Danish lifestyle with my real life in the U.S.

Writing this calls attention to the feeling that I’m unable to shake – that this is not my real life. This semester has felt surreal, like I’m on a holiday vacation from myself. That’s not to say that this semester has not been without its struggles – many a time I have felt lonely, homesick, wishing I could change my situation. However, my feelings towards this experience are overwhelmingly positive. I have learned a great deal about myself and what I value – how I want to spend my time, who I want to be around, what it is that gets me up in the morning. I have both challenged myself and allowed myself to simply just be. I know that I will never forget the amazing memories I have from my time in Copenhagen, and I can’t wait to see how my life will pick up when I get back to the U.S. Until next time – farvel, København!

Norway !

What a wild wild week it was in Norway! This blog post is more of a PSA that if you have ever considered taking a trip to explore the beautiful country of the North – DO IT. My trip to Norway was a once in a lifetime experience, and I don’t think there’s any way to do the trip “wrong” when it comes to planning or execution. Some of the things that I thought would negatively impact our trip ended up being the best parts – flying in and out of Oslo meant a much longer drive to get out to the Western coast to see the fjords, but allowed us to drive on winding scenic roads, snaking through forests, mountain tunnels, around rivers and lakes and picturesque villages. Moreover, going at the end of May meant that some of the bigger hiking trails weren’t open yet (such as Trolltunga), but also gave us the opportunity to hike in both snow and summer conditions all in the span of a few days. Preparation was key for the trip, and DNT was definitely a wonderful resource (even beyond their amazing cabin system that provided us shelter for the week). However, the mental prep couldn’t even prepare me for the natural beauty we encountered. Take a gander….


Some of the things that I don’t want to forget and feel that others will appreciate:

  • Hiking in the snow and mist to Langavatn cabin, leaving our car on an abandoned stretch of road that was blocked by piles of snow, carefully trying to keep our distance from the iced-over lake we couldn’t see but KNEW we were hiking beside (thank you, map!)
  • Meal times getting later and later each day, having rice and beans, pasta with tomato sauce, pesto pasta, different rice with different beans, tomato soup, peanut butter and jelly, nutella, and tons of biscuits
  • Trudging through the “rough scree” to get to Bakken Farm only to see that the 7-person cabin was being occupied by a 21 person group who weren’t even planning to hike
  • Driving from Oslo to Oyuvsbu on the first day and seeing all of the amazing natural beauty the country had to offer
  • The hardest hike I have ever done (and will probably ever do) from Bakken Farm to Preikestolen – 13 hours total, 12 km, countless variations in elevation (starting at 120m ending at around 800m though), and the feeling of taking a break after finally being done
  • The ferry ride from Lysebotn to Songesand, seeing all the isolated homes along the fjord, reminded me of the boat cruise around Lake Tahoe but far more lonely
  • Discovering the Flugeleiken cabin after mistakingly hiking for an hour but realizing we had a working stove and real beds to sleep on
  • Being in the Oslo Airport surrounded by people after not showering for 6 hours and wondering if other people could smell you (and were grossed out)
  • All of the BEAUTIFUL THINGS that Norway showed me!

Anyways, I could write a whole lot more about the wonderful experiences of the week but Norway TIRED ME OUT. I haven’t had a good nights sleep in over a week, because I was always stress dreaming about the trip before leaving! Now that I am safely back in Copenhagen and have tons to do, I need to get back on track with my sleep schedule, meaning keep this blog post short so I can cook dinner and do laundry (fun!). Here are some more breathtaking shots of the country: