Wanderlust and Nostalgia


Almost exactly one year ago today, I left my beloved Alcalá de Henares and headed home. It was the end of a magnificent and life-altering four month stay, and though I was excited to reunite with family and friends, I was devastated to leave. These seem like very dramatic words, and they are, but it’s difficult for me to avoid bold terms when describing this particular adventure of mine. I had been dreaming of studying abroad in Spain and living with a host family for YEARS before I did it, and when the time finally came to actually get on a plane and go live the dream, I was terrified. It seemed like an insane leap of faith, and I was not at all confident that it would be as awesome as I’d been dreaming it would.

However, faithful readers of the blog (if any exist!) will know that I faced my fears, got on the plane, and lived the dream. And it really was like living a dream – during that semester, I saw incredible places, met incredible people, and created memories that I will forever cherish. It is one of my accomplishments that I’m most proud of. I realize that seems odd – getting to live in Europe and travel the continent for four months in a country that values siestas doesn’t sound particularly difficult. However, in going, I overcame a great deal of personal trepidation and reached way outside of my comfort zone. I crossed the ocean, made friends, took challenging classes during which I debated interesting current events and learned a great deal, all in Spanish, built a relationship with my host family, also in Spanish, made great friends, became a more capable traveler, and got a great deal bolder and more confident.

My time in Spain was a time filled with learning. The joy of the trip was interspersed with mistakes and stress. To say that every moment was enjoyable would be a lie, but to say that every moment was valuable is the complete truth. Studying abroad taught me so much, about the world around me and about myself. I fell in love with the city of Alcalá and the country of Spain, and it all still feels as though it happened yesterday.

Ever since I returned, I’ve felt periodic pangs of missing Alcalá, but this semester has been particularly hard. Many times, I look at the calendar and think, “This time last year, I was roaming the medina in Rabat (Morocco).” “This time last year I was watching the sun set over La Alhambra while I listened to beautiful music and was engulfed in dancing and merriment.” “This time last year I was exploring the Sunday market in Madrid.” I absolutely love my life in Norman, but it’s impossible for me not to miss the grand and glittering adventure that was my semester in Spain.

What all this boils down to is that I’m itching to go back. A large part of me wants to continue to branch out and see more of the world that I haven’t yet, but another large part aches to return to my second home in Spain. I would love to get to hug my host mom, eat tortilla and drink some tinto in Indalo, to paddle across the lake in el Parque Retiro, and to get to revisit all the places that are so close to my heart.

Sadly, my days studying abroad may be over, but there is a silver lining – graduation is coming soon, and once I get a job and start saving, I can begin to save and scheme my way back to Alcalá. If anyone is reading this who hasn’t studied abroad yet, please do me a favor and seriously consider it. Everyone who has studied abroad sings its praises, and they are absolutely telling the truth. Go, explore, learn, and don’t be surprised when you come home and immediately want to go back.

Islamaphobia and the West


Throughout the past several months, I have been disheartened to see that the fear of Islam, and of its practitioners, seems to be getting stronger and stronger in the United States. We like to think of our country as a cultural melting pot, accepting of people from all races and religions. Anyone willing to work hard who dreams of a better start will be embraced. Except that they definitely won’t, especially not if they’re wearing a hijab, it seems.

In reality, Islam is quite similar to Christianity. In my eyes, the moral basis of both religions appears to be very similar, and the Qur’an contains much of the Bible within it. Much as Christianity considers itself to be a continuation of Judaism, Islam considers itself to be an extension and perfection of Christianity. All three of these religions are Abrahamic, and I believe that if you look their past practices and into their specific beliefs, you will find many similarities – I certainly have.

None of this is to say that two groups need to be similar in order to get along. Mutual respect should not hinge upon similarity. However, it does make it look to me as though Christians and Muslims have much more to commune about than to fight about. It feels as though it should be easy for the two groups to get along, considering how much they have in common.

And yet. So many Americans, many of them Christians, fear and are threatened by Islam. More and more lately, I’ve been pondering this and questioning why. Part of it, I’m sure, comes from the fact that people feel comfortable pitting another group against their own – you feel closer to your ingroup when you belittle an outgroup. However, I think that a lot of it comes from politicians and public figures playing up the fear of Islam in order to make themselves seem more powerful and to get themselves elected.

I’ve had several conversations with a professor of mine, and we both agree that there’s more here than even meets the eye. I do not believe by any means that these politicians are creating this fear of Islam in many Americans. I think that this fear has existed all along, and they are simply stirring it up. Mistrust of Islam runs very deep, and I would like to investigate how exactly it all began. Because of this, I have decided to conduct my honors research project next semester on the roots and contemporary manifestations of Islamaphobia in the west. I would love to educate others, and myself, on the fact that Islam should be respected, and not feared, and that Muslims are just as valuable a part of this American melting pot as everyone else.

With many good books and articles by talented, engaged people, I hope to get at the roots of this problem. Hopefully, armed with this new knowledge, I can put a good foot forward and start combating Islamaphobia in any way that I can.

Epcot: the World Showcase


Over this spring break, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Disney World with my family. It’s funny, because I pride myself on going off-the-beaten-path and taking care to experience more than just the touristy side of new places. I want to immerse myself in the real culture and to blend in, not to stand at-odds with the amazing places I visit. Walt Disney World, in all honestly, stands a little at-odds with these tendencies: as vacations go, it’s up there on the touristy scale.

However, despite it’s cheese factor, to me, Disney really is magical. For one thing, I’m a fairly high-stress person, and the opportunity to spend a week at Disney with my family and best friend meant getting to take a week off of responsibility and to just focus on fun. That’s rare for me. For another thing, I think there’s something admirable about a place dedicated entirely to bringing people joy. From the perfectly engineered details of the place to the friendly employees to the massive media presence that they whole place is founded upon, it’s clear that Disney is carrying out their mission well. It was an amazing week, and it gave me some wonderful memories.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’ve decided to ramble on about the wonders of Disney and what exactly this has to do with international events. We’re getting there! Because my favorite Disney park has always been Epcot, and my favorite part of Epcot has always been the World Showcase. If you haven’t been, the World Showcase is a long, circular walkway around a lake that features miniature versions of eleven countries from around the world. Each country’s area is themed to that country, filled with its cuisine, music, and even employees from that country. Walking through the showcase is like taking a mini trip around the world, all in a day. Obviously, it doesn’t beat experiencing these countries in real life, but there is something so cool about strolling from country to country and feeling immersed in so many exotic places so close together.

Some could, justifiably, argue that this showcase is guilty of reducing massive and diverse countries into a limited number of their most famous traits. This is true, but I like to think that Epcot is celebrating what makes each of the eleven countries they’ve chosen unique in the world. After having been to the U.K., Canada, France, Italy, and Morocco, I can honestly say that Disney does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of these places, and the fact that the employees in each country’s section are residents of that country makes it all the more awesome. Many people don’t have the means or opportunity to get to places like Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, but a trip to Epcot can help them better appreciate all of these places, as well as getting to meet people who’ve lived there.

One of my biggest passions has always been learning about other cultures and traveling to new cities and countries. I love my own culture, but I’ve always been hungry to experience others. To me, Epcot is the best of this – it gives people a taste of what lies outside the U.S. and celebrates foreign countries for being uniquely great. I like to think that Epcot inspires other people to love and celebrate the international community. I know it inspires me.

4.1 Miles: The Modern Refugee Crisis


Sorry for the radio silence! This semester has been a bit of a beating, but I’m learning some awesome things and staying busy! Tonight, I had the immense pleasure of attending a screening of the documentary “4.1 Miles” and the panel talk that followed. “4.1 Miles” is a documentary about the refugee crisis in Europe, focusing on an island in Greece that sits just 4.1 miles across the sea from Turkey. The main focus of the film is one Greek man who takes several trips by boat into the see each day to rescue refugees.

This film brought tears to my eyes. The refugee crisis is often on my mind, but as a westerner with little actual exposure to it, it’s often easy to forget just how horrific the crisis is, as awful as that sounds. While watching this film, it was impossible for me to feel anything but deep sadness: sadness for the refugees fleeing brutal civil wars and losing family members in the process, sadness for this Greek man who is bearing so much of the weight of this crisis on his shoulders, and sadness that my country, like many others, is so apathetic in the face of this tragedy.

The film took place mainly on the man’s boat during rescue missions. It was harrowing to watch the soaking and terrified refugees flood the boat, clinging their children to them, crying for people that had drowned. It was heart-wrenching watching the Greek man’s eyes fill with tears as he lamented the world’s lack of response in the face of this tragic situation.

The film left me, understandably, shaken, but the three speakers did a magnificent job of transitioning from the emotional to the more analytical side of the crisis in a way that was tactful and engaging. Dr. Mitchell Smith, Dr. Mark Raymond, and graduate student Stefanie Neumieir all spoke eloquently about different facets of the crisis. Dr. Smith outlined the fact that, in the West, this crisis is often framed as a security issue, rather than a humanitarian crisis. Populist politics shape peoples perceptions, and nationalists play to people’s fears. All of this means that people view refugees as threats, rather than human beings who need help. Dr. Smith also spoke to the EU’s values of peace, tolerance, and rule of law, and of helping refugees. Some EU member countries, such as Germany and Sweden, have taken these values to heart, but many others are avoiding helping.

Dr. Raymond spoke about the fact that in the past, there were no such things as tightly controlled borders. Immigrants to the US simply had to cross the border. Sometimes, he said, if things were really strict, some immigrants might have been asked their names. He gave an impassioned speech about the fact that the world is NOT sharing the burden of this crisis equally – the countries accepting the most immigrants are often the poorest countries who are least equipped to help them. Many rich countries sit by and let them bear the burden themselves. This apathetic attitude forgets the fact that if the extreme influx of refugees becomes too much for these fragile countries to take and they fall into chaos, the problem is further compounded. Wealthy countries have the ability to do so much more than they are doing, but we seem so often to turn a blind eye.

Ms. Neumieir spoke specifically about the reception of refugees in Germany. Under Angela Merkel, Germany has been the most accepting European country toward immigrants, but that even their generosity is straining. Most notably, she mentioned the fact that most violence related to refugees is actually violence AGAINST refugees. This number, of course, is rarely reported on – people are much more content to see refugees as the enemies.

It is hard to find the words to describe how moving this film was, and how inspired I now feel to do everything I can to help refugees. These are people fleeing for their lives, relying on the help of strangers, losing friends and family members on their journey to safety. And they are facing slamming doors everywhere they go. I refuse to be afraid of them, and I refuse to turn a blind eye simply because I am far from most of the action. I am a citizen of the world first and a citizen of the United States second. Refugees, from any country, race, or religion, are people who desperately need our help. I’m going to do my best to lobby hard for the United States to provide that help.

Global Engagement Day: Study Abroad Story Time


Now that I have studied abroad twice, I was called to participate in a panel during Global Engagement Day! It’s only a little alarming to think that I’ve already made it here (we’re rounding out year three of this blog, which makes me feel old…) but an honor nonetheless. The panel I participated in was named Study Abroad Story Time, an informal panel of students who’ve been abroad mixed with students who have yet to go, swapping stories and advice. If there’s one thing I really love, especially now, it’s reminiscing about Spain. This panel was made for me!

Throughout my time abroad, I’ve generated more than a few transportation near-horror stories, and I told one or two on the panel. I had a great time listening to the stories of others – everyone has been so many amazing places, and several GEFs are incredibly gifted story tellers. And of course, I loved getting to share some of my tales from Spain and England. My favorite thing about the panel was actually the reactions I got to some of my stories. I had many great experiences in Spain, and one of the most unique was my time shadowing a resident in the emergency gynecology and obstetrics ward of the hospital in Alcalá. I’d forgotten quite how remarkable it was to get to see C-sections and babies be born in Spain until I got a stunned reaction to the story. I was feet from the king of Spain at one point. I had to wait to see the doctor until a criminal, flanked by two policeman, was finished in the one room in the free clinic. Getting to tell my crazy stories to others was a great reminder of how unique and amazing my experience was, and it made me ache to go back.

My other favorite part of the talk was getting to share my stories about my host family. I ended up being the only one at the table who had lived with a host family, and people were eager to hear about how it was. This was another element of my trip that I’d grown to take for granted – I forget that not everyone has the amazing opportunity to live with a sweet host mom and sister for four months in a cozy apartment in Madrid.

My travels have taken me to so many places and given me so many memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Getting to spend a small part of my week sharing those sweet memories with other fellows was an absolute treat, and I can’t wait for more story-swapping next year!

If It Scares You, It Might Be a Good Thing to Try


We are now nearing the close of my first semester back from Spain, and the end is coming alarmingly quickly. Facebook gave me my “year in review” video today, so apparently we are wrapping it up (we still have SEVERAL weeks left in the year, Facebook, but thank you for the reminder). 2016 has been a year for the books, certainly, and it’s hard for me to believe how quickly it passed by.

On the Wednesday of dead week last year, I was in the ER in extreme pain (it ended up being appendicitis. I had an emergency appendectomy, it went poorly, I stayed in the hospital for five days, I had to push back all my finals, and I ended up being in too fragile a state to travel for Christmas like my family had planned. It was not the jolliest Christmas season, but it was memorable). Thank goodness this dead week is going smoother and the pain I’m in is only mental! (Just kidding. Sort of – finals are rough, guys).

After my surgery and my delayed finals, I recuperated at home until pretty much the minute I hopped on my plane to Madrid (the day I boarded the plane was actually the first day I was cleared by the doctor to lift things over 20 pounds again). It was a little bit of a triumph for me – in 30 days, I’d gone from struggling to sit up or walk without extreme pain to starting a life for myself in Spain that I will never forget.

One blessing of having emergency surgery right before I went to Madrid was that it took my mind off the hugeness of the leap that I was about to take in going abroad. Everyone talks about how amazing studying abroad is, and how it’s an experience you’ll never forget, and they are not wrong – going to Spain is quite possibly my favorite thing that I have ever done. As soon as I stepped back onto American soil in April, I was itching to return to Alcalá.

However. What no one talks about (and maybe this is because no one worries quite like I do, but I find that hard to believe) is how scary it is to embark on a journey that long. I have dreamt of studying abroad in Spain for YEARS, but as I got closer to actually doing it, I got more and more terrified. I started to wonder if maybe I didn’t really want to do it, and that it would just be a huge mistake. Many upsetting thoughts like this swirled around in my brain for much of the fall semester.

You already know this, but it was NOT a huge mistake. It was, arguably, my best decision to date. And my experience reminds me of a quote I love – “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” I’ve talked about this a bit in a previous blog post, but to me, it merits repeating: just because you are afraid of something does not mean you should not do it.

I wish, before I’d gone abroad, someone had told me that it is very okay to be scared out of your wits about leaving the country for four months, and that this fear is BY NO MEANS an indication that you should not go. This time last year, I was feeling MOSTLY fear and VERY LITTLE actual excitement about going abroad. The dream had seemed so rosy from far away, and up close it seemed so formidable. But I took the leap anyway and I will be eternally grateful that I did.

Now, I find myself getting caught up daydreaming about sipping café con leche and eating delicious pastries while I chatted in cafés with my friends. I miss roaming the streets of Madrid by myself, wandering through the parks, stopping in museums, and browsing any shops that caught my eye. I miss hearing Spanish around me always, and feeling powerful every time I interacted with a stranger and got to use my Spanish in casual conversation. I miss my classes, learning about Spanish history and art and medicine, and having debates about the European Union (all in Spanish, of course) with my wicked smart professors. I REALLY miss the friends I made – some, blessedly, go to OU, and I get to see them from time to time, but many are scattered across the country and we can only text. I miss my host mom and sister, sitting at our little kitchen table and discussing current events and Spanish vs. American culture, or sitting in our living room watching Gran Hermano. I miss all of the trains and busses and metro cars. I miss the weekend trips to new and exciting places, with adventure around every corner. I miss feeling the history in every building I passed and every cobblestone I walked on. I miss the trivia and karaoke nights, the tapas, and the laughter.

I miss quite a few things, but mostly, I am grateful. Grateful for SUCH an incredible experience. Grateful that I attend a university that encourages study abroad as much as it does. Grateful to be a Global Engagement fellow, an opportunity that has added so much richness to my time at OU. Eternally grateful that I did not let my fear win out and that I completed my spring semester at la Universidad de Alcalá. At the end, 4 months didn’t feel nearly long enough.

Part of my heart will always reside in Alcalá de Henares. And I would not have it any other way.

If by any chance someone happens to read this blog who is currently apprehensive about studying abroad, I hope that you will take my words to heart. If it scares you, there is a distinct possibility that it would be an excellent thing to try. Please never let fear talk you out of something incredible.

Being a Global Engagement Mentor


This semester, I met my international group requirement by becoming a mentor to several new fellows. I have loved my time in OU Cousins over the past several years, but the interest in the club is so high that I thought it was time for me to step back and let others have a turn to see what an amazing club it is!

I have participated in several other student mentoring programs on campus, and I was eager to be able to pass on my study abroad knowledge to younger students who could benefit from it. I feel that I have learned a great deal during my two years as a Global Engagement fellow and my five months studying abroad, so I was eager to share my newfound knowledge.

At the beginning of the semester, I was given a list of names and email addresses and I went from there. I reached out to each student individually, and those emails inspired some awesome in-person conversations. Unsurprisingly, these students are all very on top of it and in control of their schedules, so they haven’t needed much general school advice, but it has been nice to be able to share my journeys applying for study abroad, timing when I went, the packing, and how I conducted myself while traveling, because these things were all new to them.

It has been lovely to meet with them and hear about their goals for their international journeys. They are all so excited to travel and to expand their horizons, and their enthusiasm inspires me. It is bittersweet to be on this end of the process, sharing my knowledge of my travels rather than getting ready to embark on them, but I couldn’t be happier for these freshmen. Being a Global Engagement fellow, and the opportunities that it has afforded me throughout my time at OU, has provided me with many of the highlights of my college career. I could not be more excited for these new fellows – I know that this amazing program can do the same for them.

Talking About Spain: What’s Not to Love?


My third international event of the semester was a lovely Global Engagement event at Second Wind. This was the second of the semester, and the theme this time was Spain and Latin America!

If you couldn’t guess, I was thrilled – talking about Spain brings me great pleasure now that I am home and unable to experience it, and I ordinarily hold myself back in order to not come off as arrogant and annoying (because we all know the “Well, when I was in Prague…” person, and this is not a person that I ordinarily enjoy). This event was an actual invitation to meet with other students who love to travel and talk about my experiences as much as I like! Basically, it was a dream come true.

The event boasted a great mix of students who had been abroad and students hoping to go, and it was incredibly gratifying to swap stories with the fellows who’d had similar experiences and, in doing so, give advice and recommendations to those fellows who had yet to go abroad. Now that I’ve been home for several months, discussing my travels in Spain feels a bit like reminiscing about the glory days. I do get a bit of a pang of jealously at the thought of students who have all of their time ahead of them, whereas mine is behind me.

However, these dreary thoughts do not allow for the possibility of traveling abroad again after my college days are over, and as such, I don’t pay them much mind. I have always had the travel bug, and going abroad has only increased my wanderlust. I may have studied abroad as an undergraduate for the last time, but I have many dreams of graduate degrees and many more travels abroad.

One thing is for certain – Spain hasn’t seen the last of me.

Clinton and Trump’s Foreign Policies


This is going to be an interesting post to make without getting political, but I’m going to try! I’m a fairly firm believer that most politics does not have much of a place on the internet outside of well-researched news articles. The digital screaming matches and name calling that I see so often, on both sides of the political aisle, are disheartening and largely unproductive.

In a perfect world, I think that we could have respectful political discourse online. But we are not living in a perfect world. It is so difficult to convey tone through text, and many people arguing their points and leaving empathy at the door spend most of their energy tearing into their “opponents,” willfully ignoring the fact that everyone, regardless of political orientation, is trying to improve our country and our world.

With the election coming up so soon and the truly bizarre and terrifying road that has brought us this far, it is easy to see why the country is in its current state of political frenzy. What’s more, most of the frenzy seems to be dedicated to the character of each of the two candidates, rather than to their actual policies. To combat this, I decided to go to a talk on the foreign policies of Clinton and Trump that was held on campus recently.

The talk featured five speakers, each of which focused on one aspect of Trump and Clinton’s policies. They each elucidated the positions of each candidate with as little bias as possible before including some of their own thoughts on the subjects. Their topics were all related to foreign policy – handling foreign policy is a duty that takes up roughly half of the president’s time, and as such, it is EXTREMELY important.

Foreign policy is a topic very close to my own heart – good international relations are one of my big goals for the U.S.. and because of this, I loved getting the chance to sit down and learn about each candidate’s views.

The topics discussed were oil and the environment, trade, China, relations with the Middle East and Russia, and Latin America. Each topic was presented by an expert in that topic, and I was glad to hear their thoughts. I like to think that I stay fairly well-informed about politics, and because of this, I knew the basics of each candidate’s position on foreign policy going into the talk, but I learned more information in greater depth in the course of this presentation, and it was great to hear. I also considered several topics from new angles that I hadn’t before, which was refreshing – I like to know exactly why I have the views that I do, and to frequently challenge my political opinions to make sure that they hold up to scrutiny. I never want to become complacent and start to think that I know it all – that seems like a dangerous game to play.

That said, there are certain views that I will always hold that I will leave you with now. I will always respect and admire the citizens of this country from all walks of life. To me, the diversity in the United States is our greatest asset, and it is cause for celebration, not fear. We have SO much to learn from each other, and to let fear-mongering get in the way of that learning and cooperation between diverse groups would be a tragedy. Especially now, in this tense political climate, respect and empathy are of the utmost importance. We must not allow ourselves to be driven apart by the divisive voices of an angry minority who seek to turn us against each other. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and I hope that we never forget it.

Back to the Old Grind – Sort Of

Tangier Rooftops

Hello all!

My apologies for being absent for so long. As the end of my Spain trip neared closer, I spent less and less time posting and writing up my adventures and more and more just out exploring and soaking up as much as I could. While I don’t regret it one bit, it did lead to a bit of a lackluster blogging period. But not to worry – I did manage to do trip write-ups for a great deal of my travels and I will be converting those into posts whenever homework and school activities let up long enough to give me the chance (if that time ever comes).

I come to you today to talk about the first international event I attended, and to fill you in a bit on my transition back into life in the U.S. Upon arriving home, I didn’t experience any of the “reverse culture shock” I was warned about while I was abroad. I was back with my family, which was very familiar, and I was working two jobs, so I was keeping pretty busy and also living in a very different situation than when I’d been at school.

The weirdness came when school started up in the fall. I had been so excited to get back to my friends and to life at OU, but for the first week or so, things just felt… odd. Everything that I’d been so excited about was feeling a little bit overwhelming, and I was distinctly aware that I’d been off for four months, traveling and living my dream but not focusing too hard on the future or possible careers. Meanwhile, everyone I’d left behind was working full steam ahead toward their goals, and I suddenly felt very behind.

What helped a lot, it turns out, was a simple coffee date with two of the girls I’d studied abroad with. Many of my friends I made in Spain were from all over the United States, but a handful went to OU, and thus are still accessible to me now. After school one day near the end of the first week, we grabbed coffee and caught up – we talked about our summers and lamented the lack of café con leche in the states and reminisced about Alcalá. We talked about how transitioning back into life at school had felt a little bit strange and was a little bit more difficult than we’d anticipated. Speaking to other people in the exact same situation was a breath of fresh air for me. It helped me put all of the puzzle pieces together – my whole week had felt a little off, but until I’d talked to my study abroad friends, I hadn’t realized that this was due in large part to the reverse culture shock that was finally hitting me.

I had only anticipated struggling to adapt to life in Spain – I’d never expected to struggle to adapt to life in the U.S. again! But, as in all things, time, and good life chats with friends, worked wonders. I miss Alcalá a great deal, but it is wonderful to be home and reunited with friends and family!

It is also fun to swap stories of my travels with people, which is why the first international event I attended this year, the Global Engagement Middle Eastern-themed talk at Second Wind, was such a great one. It was an informal gathering of around 15 people sitting, sipping coffee and snacking on doughnuts, and sharing stories of time spent traveling and studying in the Middle East.

If you are a loyal follower of this blog (if anyone is!) you will know that I went to Morocco for a weekend while I was in Spain. This amount of travel paled in comparison to the journeys of others at the event, but it was nice to be able to share my perspective and relate to what they were saying. I love discussing different cultures and different experiences, and this event brought me right back to my time abroad. It was fascinating to hear from students who had been to countries I had not, and to compare Morocco stories with others who had been. I got to see the world through many different eyes, and it was such a treat!

I will always be on board with any event at which I get to share and hear travel stories, and this one was no exception. I look forward to a Spain-themed event in the future where I can share more in-depth knowledge with people who might want to travel there!