Girl Meets World: Nigeria

As a graduate student at Bentley University, Dami is using her education to educate others. She works with The ARISE Africa Foundation to help break “the stigma around STD testing in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.” Here, she opens up about other stereotypes surrounding Nigeria.

GXC: What is the hardest part about living in a US?

Dami: For the average person, the hardest thing maybe not being able to see their family from time to time, but it’s different for me. I’ve been independent from a young age (boarding school at 7), and it’s less of a struggle for me. The hardest part for me, despite this independence, is trying to make ends meet on my own with limitations like: finances, ineligibility for internships in college (need a US citizens or permanent resident), ineligibility for jobs because employers do not want to take on the responsibility of sponsoring the H1B working visa etc. Basically, it’s harder seeing the opportunities and not being able to get most of them (despite one’s qualifications) due to being an international student.

GXC: What do you miss most about Nigeria?

Dami: The food! Nigerian foods are savory and spicy, similar to Indian food. Nonetheless, there have been an increase in the number of African stores in the US, offering Nigerians groceries to make our traditional food. That has been very helpful!

GXC: What is the biggest misconception about Nigeria?

Dami: When I came for college, one of the biggest misconceptions was that Nigerians, just like every other African, are uneducated or not intelligent- perhaps due to media portrayals or a strong and different accent. However, that changed very quickly because it became apparent that this was not the case, as Nigerians not only surpassed their classmates, but tend to be among the most diligent and top performing students (and Africans) in the States. Big ups to those that keep putting us on the map!

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Nigeria?

Dami: It is not as dangerous as the media portrays the country to be. Yes, there are ethnic conflicts, Boko Haram kidnappings and acts of terrorism for example, but that is not the norm of the day and the latter only happens in a particular region (Northern part) of Nigeria.

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about Nigeria?

Dami: That we live with wild animals or have them in our vicinity (safaris). Another stereotype is that most people live in rural areas although a majority of our cities are akin to American ones. We also tend to live in bigger houses and have more space.

GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in the US?

Dami: If you work hard, advocate for yourself and take opportunities as they come, you will be successful.

GXC: Lastly, how has this experience changed your perspective on the world?

Dami: In contrast to Nigerian culture, I’ve become a more open-minded thinker to cultures and people different from me. I’ve also learned to be more respectful of people’s time, space, and career choices. It’s more about what a person wants to do rather than what society expects of them. 

Interestingly, I’ve also learned to be less materialistic/vain and more aware of it in others when I visit Nigeria. Since I never was the materialistic type growing up, I’ve become more averse to, and aware of the vanity of trying to impress people with one’s appearance. Nonetheless, I am a fashionista, but I don’t let it define me nor ascribe my worth to my external appearance. I invest more in books and I’m eager to expand my thinking on various subjects. An example, was when I went home last Christmas, and my family was surprised to see me handing them unconventional gifts – books/cooking spices instead of clothes or shoes.

Sweet Spots: Boston

When you think of Boston, you may think of the wicked harsh accents, sports legends, or uber intelligent young professionals. However there is something that is massively underrated- food!  Forget the chowder. This beautiful city has something for every food lover. However, if you are looking for the classiest places to dine or the booziest brunches, this article is not for you. Now, if the thought of rich cream, decadent chocolate and hand made gelato makes your mouth water, then step up to the plate…or dish, or cone for that matter.  Here are some of the sweetest spots in Boston.

1 & 2: Clash of the cannoli

“It’s my first time to Boston, what should I do?” The majority of time the answer to this question will be Mike’s Pastry, or Modern Pastry.  The combination of handmade Italian cream and flaky shell from Modern would make any true Italian happy. However, the flavor options at Mike’s lends a little diversity to the classic cannoli. People love to take sides, but honestly why choose?

Travel tip: Be prepared to stand in line, and pay with cash. 

3. Maria’s Pastry Shop

If you are in the North End of Boston, you must stop at Maria’s Pastry Shop. This bakery was actually recommended to me by an Italian man while I was in Italy. Case and point: he knows what he is talking about! The traditional baked goods range from pignoli cookies to marzipan to napoleon. Because it is an authentic Italian bakery, the sweets are not Americanized and loaded with sugar. Funny enough, you can taste how real the ingredients are. This is an excellent spot for the semi-sweet tooth.

Travel tip: Be prepared to pay with cash. 

4: Flour

Located in Back Bay and Cambridge, Flour Bakery + Cafe is a petite shop known for their breakfast and baked goods. One of their signature items is the sticky bun. This famous cinnamon bun is glazed in ooey-goodness and topped with roasted pecans. Chef Joanne Chang also recommends the pain aux raisins. Find one of their many locations near you.

Travel tip: For a seat, visit during off-hours. 

5: Tatte

Another well-known shop known for their baked goods and breakfast is Tatte Bakery & Cafe. They too have several locations dispersed around Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline. While their breakfast options, like the breakfast sandwich, are just as good as their baked goods, we are here to talk sweets! I highly recommend any of their tarts. They offer fruity selections like a raspberry, blueberry, or even raspberry chocolate. However, staying on the nut trend, one of Tatte’s most longed after treats is the pecan tart. In a sweet syrup mixture and short-bread-like crust, this pecan tart will send your tastebuds flying.

Travel tip: For a seat, visit earlier in the morning on weekends or during off-hours. 

6: Omni Parker House

You know how some may say that nothing beats the original? This is the case for Omni Parker House– home of the original Boston Cream Pie. According to the hotel, this creation was first served in 1856. Unlike other replicas, this spongey cake is a combination of cake and cream. What this “pie” lacks in a middle layer of cream, makes up for in bursts of other flavors. Surrounding the moist center are flakes of coconut and accompanied by the infamous chocolate topping and drizzle.

Travel tip: While this treat is offered in the Omni’s fine dining areas and bar, this sweet treat is also offered on the go. Stop by the hotel’s cafe to take one for the road. 

7: The Chipyard

Located just down the street from the Omni Parker House, The Chipyard is nestled in Boston’s Quincy Market. These traditional baked cookies are perfect for munching walking around the city. For a decent price, you can choose between six or twelve bite size morsels. Including chocolate chips in all of their flavors, this is a stop for the chocolate lover.

Travel tip: Be prepared for large crowds, as Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall are popular tourist stops. 

8: Emack & Bolio’s

This. place. gets. me. Emack & Bolio’s slogan is “ice cream for the connoisseur.” First, let’s start with the ice cream itself. Handmade ice cream and unique flavors help to set this shop apart, like “deep purple” chip, peach, and maple walnut. Order it in as a shake, a cup, or (my favorite) a cone. But, not just any cone! Covered in melted marshmallow, the cones are then dipped in your choice of Oreos, Rice Krispies, Fruity Pebbles, and Fruit Loops.

Travel tip: If you get a crazy cone, ask for a cup to make sure all of the goods stay together.

9: Amorino

Try a taste of Italy in Boston. Amorino on Newbury creates fresh gelato and constructs flower-like cones. Choose one, two, or three flavors and top it off with a macron. If a cone is not your first choice, try one of their frappes, granitas or sorbet drinks.

10: The Cookie Monstah 


Last, but certainly not least is the monter…I mean monstah of them all! The Cookie Monstah truck moves around Boston spreading the cookie ice cream combo love! Even if you’re not in the mood for the combination, they also sell their cookies and ice cream separately. The truck was so popular, that they now have a brick & mortar shop in Danvers, MA.

Travel tip: Check their Facebook for updates on their whereabouts. 

Something missing? Let me know!


Girl Meets World: Greece

While beautiful, Greece may lack political structure. KT has experienced this first hand. In addition, she has learned that despite the hardships, there is a big lesson to be learned from the people.

GXC: What is the hardest part about living in a Greece?

KT: First, the language barrier. The second is getting accustomed to their culture and way of life.

GXC: What do you miss most about the US?

I miss my family and friends. But, I also being home for the holidays.

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Greece?

KT: No photograph can justify how beautiful Greece is. It is very picturesque.

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about the US?

KT: I was in Greece during the Presidential election. People could not believe that Americans would vote for Donald Trump. Many people I spoke with assumed it was a joke.

GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in Greece?

KT: I’ve learned to appreciate being a citizen of the U.S. Greece lacks structure overall and I’ve learned to really appreciate that about my country. However, I love that Greek people put relationships first. Like many other European countries, Greek people spend long periods of time at the dinner table and live a more relaxed life overall. They put people before work, and I think that is something that Americans could work on.

GXC: How has this experience change your perspective on the world?

KT: Every time I travel to a different country I grow. After living in Greece, I’ve realized that not all countries are as fortunate as we are. Greece recently went through a financial crisis and it shows. Many people are still struggling to make it financially. There is noticeable homelessness and frequent theft in the city of Athens.

Girl Meets World: Taiwan

Moving to a new country, away from family and friends, shows courage. However, moving to a new country to pursue a master’s degree in a second language, shows resilience. Yolanda, a native of Taiwan, is finishing her M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University. As an avid traveler, she has had the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world. Here, she recaps her experience moving to the land of the free.

GXC: What is the hardest part about living in the US?

Yolanda: I can speak from my personal experience of growing up in Taiwan for most of my life. One of the hardest parts of moving to a new country is cultural differences.

For example, saying “How are you?” when you see the other person. In the U.S., you say ‘hi/hey’ first, and then you say, ‘how are you?” You both nod your head, or say ‘good, great’ and go your merry way.

If you stop and talk about how you have been, people might get impatient or confused.  Why are they literally telling me how they have been?

Also, Taiwanese and Americans definitely have different concepts about “space.” If you grew up in a crowded city like mine, where millions of people shared a tiny island, you are used to squeezing on public transportation, shoulder-to-shoulder. You probably don’t mind sitting next to strangers in small restaurants. However, in the U.S, people take their personal space seriously. When you are talking to people, be sure to keep some distance. If you talk too close to their face, they tend to back up a bit, and that is a clue that you are entering their space.


GXC: What do you miss most about home?

Yolanda: Having been in the U.S. for almost two years, there are many things that I miss the most about Taiwan. First of all, the amazingly convenient High Speed Rail (HSR). Travel in Taiwan is quick and convenient with the HSR. If you’re on the west coast, you can easily get from the north to south in just a few hours.

Second, the tea stands. They’re everywhere. Most famous for serving the addictive and calorie-packed Pearl Milk Tea (Bubble Tea), you can also get any variety of fruit or Taiwanese style teas and juices. My favorite was the green tea with no sugar. With a large cup only costing less than one US dollars, I basically had at least one large cup per day. Next, the night markets. Our night markets are abuzz with life. They are famous for various delicious food stalls and beyond. It’s always packed with people, especially during weekends and holidays. And you can find so much cheap and authentic Taiwanese food there.

The last but not the least, the convenience stores. They are literally everywhere. You can sometimes find three stores at one corner. They are called convenience stores for a reason. When you feel hungry or feel like having a drink at 11 p.m., step out and walk for 3 mins and you’ll find one nearby.


GXC: What is the biggest misconception about Taiwan?

Most people who have never been to Taiwan think Taiwan is just like China. I must say, despite the politics of it all, Taiwan and China remain two distinct places, each with their own history, culture, government, people and food. Although Taiwan has a friendly and hospitable culture influenced by the Chinese, it’s also deeply influenced by Japanese, European, American and local Aboriginal cultures such as music, fashion, and TV shows.

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Taiwan?

Yolanda: For people who plan to take a trip to Taiwan, I want to tell you that Taiwan has everything you need. Taiwan isn’t some backwater country with nothing in it. Rather, it is an extremely developed and relatively wealthy country and you will be able to find almost everything you could possibly need. There may not always be the selection that there is in the West, but in general you can find something suitable for whatever you need.

What is more, Taiwan is small but full of fun. Taiwan has so many fun things for people to enjoy. It is hard to get bored there. Whether you’re searching for cosmopolitan cities, ancient temples, beautiful beaches, lush mountains, or dramatic river gorges, Taiwan has it all.

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about Taiwan?

Yolanda: During my stay in the U.S., many people have asked me if Taiwanese eat cats, dogs, bugs or other “strange” food. First of all, we DO NOT eat cats and dogs. Bugs are not on the menu either, although they seem to be more popular in China and Thailand. However, some Taiwanese cuisine (which is quite good), might make visitors a bit squeamish such as pork blood cake, pig knuckles, chicken feet, and even parts of a pig, cow or chicken that Americans, for example, would not eat, such as the cartilage, fat and marrow, which are considered very healthy in Chinese medicine. Taiwan is especially famous for Stinky Tofu, which smells like dog poo, but actually tastes quite good if you can get past the smell.

Also, some people think Taiwan is a developing or under-developed country. Taiwan is quite highly developed. Taiwan has an excellent transportation system comprised of highways and freeways, buses, trains and a high-speed rail system. There is also a strong Japanese influence in the design of cities, transportation and some architecture. Furthermore, Taiwan has an abundant array of businesses from all over the world from Starbucks to Costco to IKEA to Zara, as well as very modern and well-designed shopping malls and other buildings. Even the latest car makes and models are well-represented with Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Toyota being the most common.


GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in the US?

Yolanda: I think the biggest lesson I have learned is the real meaning of freedom. While you are free to wear, pray, worship, eat, look and behave the way you want, you are always expected to follow rules and obey the law. The application of the law is one of the things that I deeply respect about this country and in most cases (there are exceptions of course) it is applied on everybody whether you are a CEO of a major company or a small worker in a factory. Freedom does not mean to cut roads, burn cars, not stopping for a lawful order, but it means that you can take the mayor to court if he did something wrong to you and win your case.

GXC: How has this experience changed your perspective on the world?

Yolanda: I believe when you’re living abroad, your life takes on a whole new take. People start to have more meaning. Places I used to go every day seem like the first time. Moments get carved and I hold on to them a lot more. I don’t live in the past or in the times I’m back home. But, I live it more intensively every time I’m there.

Most of the time I feel like I have a purpose and I’m here to do something. I actually discover a lot of things about myself during the time I am a foreigner. I realize I am and can be more resilient than I think. I’ve become tougher as time goes by and small things don’t matter anymore.

Travel Essentials: Italy

As a green-eyed, freckle- faced blonde, I am destined to stand out from a group of dark haired, olive skin beauties. But, in Italy fashion is a large piece of identity.

In most tourist destinations, anything flies as far as apparel. However, if you want to “do as the Romans do,” here are a few tips on dressing like a local.

In a few words, when it comes to Italian style- the trendier the better.

What you will see…

-Dresses/ Skirts- mid thigh to knee length
-Light colors and blush tones
-Sandals and sneakers
-Wedges or heels (not recommended on cobblestones road)
-Light, airy materials

-Short sleeve, button up shirts
-Nice jeans
-Dress shoes

What you will not see…

-Yoga pants
-Neon colors
-Short shorts on women

Know before you go…
1) When it comes to packing, keep in mind that many locations -even tourist areas- are ancient cobblestones streets. Depending on your travel plans, a rolling bag may not be the most conducive piece of luggage.

2) In churches, the common courtesy is to cover your knees and shoulders. Even on hotter days, bring a light sweater or scarf to cover up. If not, out of respect for other visitors, locals may ask you to leave.


3) Italy, like many known tourist locations, are known for their gypsies. When it comes to day-to-day luggage, find a sturdy cross body bag with inside pockets. When walking through large crowds, keep the bag in front of you. Use the inside pockets to store your more valuable items.

4) All gelato is good! However, shops with the words gelato artigianale mean that the gelato was hand-crafted and homemade.


5) Bring the bug spray. Mosquitoes come in abundance searching for fresh blood…literally.
6) Key phrases

-Ciao: While this technically means hello. It is more commonly used in terms of saying hey to someone you know well.
-Grazie mille: Thanks a million!
-Buongiorno: Good morning/ good day, said only until afternoon.
-Buonasera: Good day, good afternoon, good evening, hello- This is a more formal way to say hello. This greeting can be said at any time throughout the day.
-Buonanotte: Good night, said only to someone when you are heading to bed and will not see them the remainder of the night.

Where in Italy are you heading? Enjoy your stay! 

Girl Meets World: Dubai

From big sky country to the country with the biggest skyscraper. Victoria is now living in a very new environment. Traveling for her husband’s work, the couple first moved across the pond to London. Now, they find themselves in Dubai, where religion and culture play a very large role in day-to-day activity. Here is her take on living in the Middle East.


GXC: What is the hardest part about living in Dubai?

Victoria: The hardest part about Dubai was getting settled in a new and foreign country with a new and foreign system. Things that we are familiar with in the United States such as getting a residence permit, driver’s license, cell phone, or renting an apartment, have completely different procedures and often different requirements here in Dubai.

For example, most of the things I listed above require explicit written approval from your employer. The process may take much longer, or require pieces of information you would never have to provide anywhere else. In order to get my emirates ID, I had to have blood tests done, a chest X-ray, finger printing etc. In order for my husband, John, and I to live together, we had to prove we were married with validation of our marriage certificate from the US government and the UAE government! Also, women are not allowed to drive without the approval of a spouse or a business. It was a new and tedious process that took a lot of time to figure out and to actually go through!  

GXC: What do you miss most about the US?

Victoria: Honestly, there are a lot of things. There are the obvious ones, like my family and friends, my hometown, and the four seasons in Montana. I miss the fresh crisp Montana air, for sure. Those dust storms? They are very real. On an even slightly windy day, you inhale a mixture of dust, sand and dirt. Sometimes I catch myself missing how easy it was to communicate with all native English speakers, but that has been a great challenge for me to learn to be better at! But, I also miss small comforts like Kraft mac n’ cheese, Target, Walmart (surprisingly!), my favorite restaurants (there are no Taco Bells here!?!?), and when I could order chocolate milk and not have something totally different brought to me.

GXC: What is the biggest misconception about Dubai?

Victoria: Dubai is often described as the most glamorous and wealthy city in the world. They boast the biggest and best of everything. While they do have a great deal of wealth here, and the world’s tallest building, biggest mall and largest aquarium, there is (like any metropolitan city) a large range of wealth distribution. The glamour and novelty of the city is overwhelming and exciting at first, but then you start to see the construction workers who have a minimum 12 hour shift in the blazing heat, and then ride a cramped hot bus home to their labor camp shared with five other men in one room. I’ve encountered so many hard-working men and women from Pakistan, India, and the Philippines who have left their families in order to make a better living here in Dubai. They send almost all their money to their family in their hometown. They are underpaid and overworked. Part of their working contract requires their company to send them home once a year to see their family. It puts an entirely new perspective for me on working hard, providing for my family and how truly blessed the average family in America is.

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Dubai?

Victoria: That it is “unsafe” for women. I get asked all the time when I’m back in the US – “Oh my, you live there? Is it even safe?” Actually, it feels safer for women here. There are pink taxis if you only want a woman driver and feel safer requesting that. They have women only salons and even women only lines at the store, if you prefer. They have several carriages in the metro where only women and children are able to sit. Of course, you don’t have to sit in that area, but if you prefer to only have women around you then that option is available. The crime rate here in Dubai is one of the lowest in the world. They have security in all buildings, and there is always a police presence in the metro stations and malls. I also really appreciate that there are absolutely no billboards, ads or posters that sexualize women. Modesty is highly valued, mostly because of the Muslim culture, but it truly feels like a higher respect for women’s bodies and privacy. While I personally try to respect the culture by dressing modestly – Dubai is a heavy tourist destination, so a woman can basically wear whatever she prefers and there wouldn’t ever be an issue. However, generally it is recommended to have your shoulders and knees covered. So all of that to say, it’s safe here for women and for all. It is actually a really fun vacation destination.

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about the US while abroad?

Victoria: I recently just finished an interview where the individual blatantly stated that all American’s were cocky and entitled. She stated that while we were generally more intelligent, we didn’t understand the importance of working hard. I have also found that in both London and Dubai, individuals are shocked at the US’s gun control policies. I have also found a majority of individuals I meet feel the need to ask about my opinion of President Donald Trump, and the need to clarify that diversity, immigration, etc. are important to a country. I say this as a stereotype because it always seems like they are automatically afraid that you are the same as [President] Trump.

GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in Dubai?

Victoria: This is a personal realization for me. I thought I had an understanding of world religions prior to moving to Dubai. But, there was a part of me that didn’t understand many of the beliefs and values existing around the world. I remember the first few weeks living here in Dubai. I couldn’t get used to the call to prayer, the salat. It is piped five times a day through the loud speakers of mosques everywhere, resounding throughout the entire city of Dubai. It made me unsure at first and even distracted. I couldn’t believe it when cars on the freeway would pull over, pull out their prayer rugs, and pray on the side of the highway. I also thought Muslim women were forced to wear a hijab and an abaya. Also, I knew nothing about halal meat.

But the lesson I learned was (1) It was vital that I correct my naivety and know the true facts. For instance, the women here have made the personal and religious choice to cover up. They value it. Now, I deeply respect that, because I do things for personal and religious reasons too. They matter to me, and covering your hair and body matters to these women. I admire them. (2) I realized the hypocrisy that I didn’t know I had and the need for that to be fixed. I often pray in public and never thought twice of how it might make another feel. How was this any different for the salat here in Dubai? I made it a point to educate myself on what it means, and to appreciate the dedication they have for their religion.    

GXC: How has this experience changed your perspective on the world?

Victoria: I’ve learned so much about the different cultures and values that make up our beautiful world. Dubai is so diverse – it’s rare to find yourself in a room with less than 5 countries represented! The Middle East in general is predominantly made up of expats of different nationalities. I used to be one of those individuals who thought they understood and appreciated all cultures, but I didn’t even know the half of it! I must be honest and say that I was completely content with the culture I was living in back in Montana, and didn’t feel the need to surround myself with anything else. But now, I recognize that as a mistake. I would only be limiting myself from the wonders and beauties that each culture contributes. The richest environment is one made up of different people, from different places, with different beliefs. It has made me fall more in love with humanity, broadened my views, opened my eyes to new values, and helped shape me into a better person. So, now my perspective on the world is to travel to new places and meet more and more people – and never stop!

Girl Meets World: Russia

Twice a year, Russian native Julia Kazantsev travels back to her home country. She visits her family and catches up with friends. However, she is always grateful to return home to the United States. Julia and her husband moved to the states when she was 26-years-old for her husband’s medical career. They are living what many might call the American dream.

This, however, was not always the case. When asked about their experience leaving Russia, Julia said she was excited and looking forward to new opportunities. Her husband, who was already considered a medical professional in Russia, would have to go through nine more years of American education.

“We were living on the poverty line,” Julia said. “My friends told me to get food stamps, but I didn’t want that.”

Julia was not convinced that, that was the way she wanted to live. Despite the fact that she was raising her daughter and living in a foreign place, she got a job which paid $7 an hour. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get by.

Russian ballet. Photo by Julia Kazantsev

“If you want to do something, and you apply yourself, you can achieve that goal,” she said. “In Russia, you must have connections.”

After the long nine years, the Kanzantsev’s were well on their way. Julia is very grateful for her life. She is humbled by the hard work it took to get there.

She does admit that she misses her family and friends. Come to find out they might not be as different from Americans as we think.

“[Russia] used to be kind of scary,” Julia said when asked about the country’s biggest misconception. “Believe it or not, we are so similar to Americans. People are so mixed there, and so many people are mixed here. I am 50 percent Armenian.”

From there, she explained that Russia is rich in history. One thing she wished people knew about the country is how friendly the people are. According to her, more and more people are learning English. As in most countries, however, it is always encouraged to learn a few of the native words.  

Photo by Julia Kazantzev

The United States is truly her home now. She knows how to appreciate the little things, like public education and asking a neighbor for a cup of sugar. This country has given her and her family to try new things they never thought possible, to dream big, and to not fear failure.

“I always knew of the world outside of Russia because of my dad. My dad would tell me stories. I personally knew more than than anyone else around me. I was so excited about everything! Whether it was difficult or simple, I was excited. I was lucky! That’s why we push our kids to travel.”

Sweet Spots: New York

There are few foods I enjoy more than sweets. While exploring New York this week, I came across two locations that were just as colorful as they were tasty.

The first is The Bagel Store in Brooklyn. Known for creating the original rainbow bagel, this small shop has fun when baking their carb-loaded creations. During my visit, they also had a black, purple, red, and blue swirled bagel inspired by the new movie Power Rangers.

Top your bagel off with one of the unique cream cheese spreads. Choosing the fruity pebble topping, I was far from disappointed. They also have flavors like maple walnut, birthday cake, and Nutella.

Stop number two is much more fitting for lunch or dinner. The Black Tap is known for their burgers. And while The Mexico City burger did the trick for me, I was more interested in the crazy shakes. These shakes are enough to put you into a sugar overload. What would have been a perfectly good strawberry shake, was also topped in blue and yellow cotton candy, blue and pink rock candy, a pink lollipop, and pink, white, and blue chocolate malt balls.

If chocolate is more your speed, they also serve a sweet and salty concoction, suitably called Sweet N’ Salty. This shake is a peanut butter shakes with chocolate, pretzels, and a sugar daddy piled on top.


There has to be more than that! What am I missing?

Girl Meets World: Australia

At some point in our lives, I am sure we have imagined what it would be like to be traveling abroad, when we meet the love of our life. For Maddie, an avid traveler, this scenario became reality. Several years, after meeting her  Aussie fiancé in Europe, Maddie packed her bags and headed, as some may say, down under. Here is her take on living in Australia.

GXC: What is the hardest part about living in Australia?

Maddie: Aside from not having the confidence to drive on the other side of the road, I would say at first I had a hard time understanding people’s phrases. A lot of communication here is in short hand with phrases specific to Aussie’s. For example, ‘Going down for a surf S’arvo” or “Get a dog up ya” or “Hit the frog and toad”…I’ll let you all look those one’s up but you get the point 😉 My Fiance and I have been together nearly 3 years and we still come across language barriers, even speaking the same language!

P.S. no one calls them shrimp here…they are known as prawns, and throw another prawn on the barbie doesn’t sound as good.

I did some research, and this is what I found:

Going down for a surf s’arvo- Going down for a surf this afternoon.

Get a dog up ya- a term often used when you are displeased with someone.

Hit the frog and toad- I better leave, say my goodbyes, or depart.

Photo by: Bryce Sandilands

GXC: What do you miss most about the US?

Maddie: I miss being able to pick up the phone and call my mom or my friends any time of day, or day of the week for that matter. The massive 18 hour time difference to home makes for it to literally and figuratively feel like days apart from my family. When conversations home have to be scheduled rather than just picking up the phone and actually having to figure out what day to call on ‘my sunday your saturday’ has proven to be difficult-causing a few missed call blunders. I also really miss Flaming Hot Cheetos. But then again, it’s probably for the best they don’t sell them here…

GXC: What is the biggest misconception about Australia? 

Maddie: Australia has the stamp of being a big group of happy laid back surf loving people…which is mostly 100% true. I’ve never met such happy people. BUT, Australia is full of so much more. There are so many movers and shakers here. Brilliant people designing, innovating, and researching. This place is much more than smiles and shakas (known as the hang loose sign). It has a tenacity for getting more out of life. That is infectious.

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Australia?

Maddie: One thing I love most about Australia is the commonality that traveling is just what you do. Traveling is a part of life here and it seems everyone promotes it. After high school, it’s encouraged to take a gap year. Get a year or two visa somewhere else and just go see the world. When I traveled to Europe, I met more Aussies than any other nationality, and that’s because it’s just engrained in their culture- to get out and see the world. I absolutely love that and feel it’s such a special trait of this country. This country is also ABSOLUTELY beautiful. That might be common knowledge but it stills takes my breath away. And kangaroos are my best friends. Forever.

Photo by: Bryce Sandilands

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about the US?

Maddie: The biggest stereotype I’ve encountered living here in the last year is that America is a scary place. That guns are everywhere and there are nut jobs out looking to hurt people. In 1996, Australia suffered it’s deadliest mass shooting in history. Following that shooting, strict gun laws were imposed and automatic weapons were banned. Not just anyone could get a gun, extensive vetting and fees applied. Of course that doesn’t go to say Australia is all rainbows. There is crime here, but Australia does not have a gun violence problem. School shootings are not commonplace here, like the states. I’ve actually been asked if I’ve ever experienced a shooting before. Like it is some kind of rite of passage of being American. It’s unfortunate, but a very real opinion about what life is like in the states.  With stereotypes, there are always two sides to the coin. People I’ve encountered who have traveled to the states have nothing but wonderful things to say about the culture, the sites, and the people.

GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in Australia?

Maddie: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is we are all in this together. We’ve just all come from different patches of dirt-that’s all. Everyone I’ve met here who is either Australian, someone who has immigrated from another country, or someone who’s come as a refugee, are all just trying to get by. They have families to look after, the same as ours. We all have goals and aspirations we are working towards. I say this especially in a time where skeptics are high and people just don’t trust one another anymore- talk to each other, get to know each other. You’ll never know how much we all truly have in common!

Photo by: Bryce Sandilands

GXC: How has this experience change your perspective on the world? 

Maddie: I’ve always been a traveler. I love to jump into a new place, taking in the new scenery and culture. But, I’ve never lived in another country for more than a month. I think it’s really important to travel and visit as much of this beautiful world as possible. But, I think it’s equally as important to plant yourself in one place for at least a year’s time. Immersing yourself completely into one country’s lifestyle gives you a much deeper experience. You go beyond your comfort zone to make new habits, new routines, and find new employment in a different environment. The people you meet in all those new places may become some of the closest mates you’ll ever have! Planting roots in a new place for an extended period of time truly shapes who you are as a person and helps to open your view of the world.

WE are Change

Several years ago, I was introduced to an organization then known as Free the Children. Their goal was to inspire change in Canada and the US, which would then directly and positively impact children in Africa. Today, they are just known as WE, because their mission of social justice has expanded to so much more than just children.

From there, WE Day was born. This event is centered around encouraging youth to truly be the change they wish to see in their communities-locally, nationally, and even internationally. After volunteering at WE Day Seattle two years ago, I am excited to be back at the first ever WE Day New York!

As in insight to how this organization is not only changing culture, but also lives, I spoke with Peyton Taylor. She won the opportunity (very deservingly I might add) through DAVIDsTEA to travel on a ME to WE volunteer trip to Kenya in August of 2016. Here is what she had to say;

Photo by: Peyton Taylor

GXC: Tell us what it was like to work with the WE staff.

Peyton: WE is an incredible organization full of incredible people. From the WE coordinators to the staff at our camp, everyone was so welcoming and happy to have us there. In Kenya, you are welcomed with the greeting “feel welcome, feel at home” and they live up to that standard 100%.

GXC: What was your favorite part of the trip?

Peyton: THE KIDS! Ugh. Those kids have my heart. They were the most joyful people I have ever met. I have never met kids who loved and appreciated their education as much as these kids did. Seeing their passion for knowledge and drive to improve their lives and community was something I will always carry with me.

Photo by: Peyton Taylor

GXC: Can you speak to those who might have reservations about traveling to Africa. 

Peyton: I was so scared of getting sick. We were at a camp in the middle of the Maasai Mara and had to be flown there from Nairobi. So, I was afraid I’d get sick and be stranded, but that was the farthest thing from my mind once we got there. WE does everything that they can to make their guests feel comfortable and safe in every way possible! We also had Maasai warriors with us at all times for protection from any wild animals or any other danger we might encounter. Mostly they were there to be the world’s best tour guides. Another thing I was worried about was being disconnected from the world. Honestly, it was a little scary because we are all so dependent on technology, but it was actually so refreshing to disconnect and really pay attention to what was right in front of me.

Photo by: Peyton Taylor

GXC: DAVIDsTEA is a partner of ME to WE. Tell us a little bit about it.

Peyton: DAVIDsTEA and ME to WE partner to help provide clean water to the communities in Kenya. We help fund the building and upkeep of wells, so the people in these communities have access to water that doesn’t come from the Mara River. By providing clean water, diseases from polluted water are less common and the women don’t have to spend their days hiking to get the water. This means that the women have more time in their days for other things like going to school and working to make a living for themselves and their families. Free the Children (part of WE charity) builds schools so that the school aged girls can get an education and WE has built the Women’s Empowerment Center where women can work together to make money through farming and artisan programs. WE helps on all levels, and DT just helps out with a small part, but each little part is vital to making the whole thing work. It’s really amazing.

Photo by: Peyton Taylor

GXC: How did this experience change your perspective on the world? 

I was so inspired leaving Kenya. The people I met were so happy, caring and had a love for life that I’ve never seen before. They value interpersonal connections so much more than we do. I really think our culture misses out on making meaningful connections and it makes me sad. I brought that back with me. We have so much to be grateful for but we take it all for granted. They have so much less than we do, they literally live in houses made from mud and sticks, but they are happier than anyone I have ever met. I try to put my phone down, take in my surroundings, and connect with someone on a personal level at least once a day- I swear it’s harder than you’d think.

GXC: What was one thing that surprised you about the Kenyan culture? Which aspect was your favorite? 

I was surprised at the sense of unity that they all had. WE has brought together two tribes that had fought for centuries and now they live in harmony. I have never seen a community work so well together. It was amazing. But, my favorite part of Kenyan culture? The singing and the dancing! They sing and dance to make their visitors feel welcome. No one is embarrassed to sing in front of others or dance like no one is watching. It produces pure joy. I’ll never forget the feeling of being surrounded by school children and teachers dancing and singing as we arrived on our first day. Absolutely amazing.

Volunteer trips are just one way you can help! In addition, they offer clothing and jewelry made by artisans in Africa. Or, maybe you want to be a volunteer for a WE Day near you. However, the easiest way to get involved is to take the WE Pledge. For every pledge taken, $10 will be donated to WE Charity.

Girl Meets World: England

Christina and her family moved to the Rendlesham, England after her husband received a job transfer. After spending a few years there, they have returned to Oregon. She now shares the difficulties of moving to a new country with a family.

GXC: What was the hardest part about living in the UK?

I would say the hardest part about living in the UK was the social difference.  In the Northwest, USA, people are on the surface very friendly and open to conversation even in the grocery store.  Where we lived in the England that was not the case. You start conversations with talk about the weather – seriously! People are a lot more private, so it wasn’t unusual for people to avoid eye contact even walking down our quiet village street.

GXC: What did you miss most about the US?

What I missed most was friends.  It was hard living there where I didn’t have anyone to talk through problems with or complain to except [my husband]. We also missed American food a lot! Steak, cereal, and Root Beer.

GXC: What is the biggest misconception about the England?

The biggest misconception for Americans is thinking that the UK is just a smaller US.  They are are different country, with different values, and different social rules. They may be similar to us and that’s why there are such good relationships, but there are key differences.

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about the England?

It’s always said their food is rubbish, but their baked goods are divine!

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about England?

I lived a very secluded life, but Erwin and the boys encountered a lot.  Erwin always got grief, in a playful way, about how late we were to the War.  WWII.  The boys at school received a lot of comments about how Americans were all obese.

GXC: What is the biggest lesson you learned living in England?

It was hard being middle age and going through such a cultural and life change. It took me a good year to be ok.  Life there is a lot slower.  There’s not the running around, always-staying-  busy attitude. People took more time off, traveled, and ate at home.

This wasn’t the first lesson I learned, but the first. While at a park with the kids, I saw little kids climbing and jumping off things and playing like kids here did 35 years ago. There weren’t the very protected playgrounds where everything was safe. Parents stayed seated and when their kids fell or hurt themselves, they had them get up and stop crying. You’ll see that here some, but mostly there are very protective parents, who try to avoid having their child hurt at all. I think we miss out on teaching our children how to get over things and overcome obstacles by baby proofing their lives.

GXC: How has this experience changed your perspective on the world?

I think, as Americans we subconsciously feel like we are the all in all. Living there, I got to see the world is a lot bigger than just us. We play a role, but we’re not the end all. I also learned to really try and understand where others are coming from. I tried to approach people in a way that was respectful to them and their culture, and not to force myself and my ideas on how they act. As an example, instead of thinking it was rude of them not to say hello or being friendly when walking down the street in my village, I evaluated myself. I made sure I wasn’t being rude to them by invading their space and going against their culture. I was in their country.

Girl Meets World: Germany

Lauren, who now lives in Munich, Germany with her fiancé Brooks, is not a novice when it comes to moving to a foreign country. She was born in British Columbia, Canada, and moved to Washington State at a young age. In 2013, Lauren and Brooks moved to Düsseldorf, Germany where Brooks would play hockey.

GXC: What is the hardest part about living in a Germany?

Lauren: I think the hardest part for me is being so far from family and friends. Modern Technology makes it so much easier now a days, but the distance can be tough. To get home is usually about a 20 hour day, and a nine hour time change. Takes quite a toll on almost anyone. Although, I find it gets easier every time!

GXC: What do you miss most about the US/Canada?

Lauren: What I miss most is being able to communicate with anyone you come across. I am not fluent in German yet (although I hope to be soon), so that can be challenging at times. In most big cities people speak English quite well, but it’s not quite the same in smaller towns.

GXC: What is the biggest misconception about Germany?

Lauren: I think a lot of people view Germans as unfriendly, cold people. They may be a bit harder to get to know, but most of them are very kind people. I’ve made many friends that are from Germany and I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve heard them say a bad thing about any one they know. I sure appreciate that in a person.

GXC: What is one thing you wish people knew about Germany?

Lauren: How beautiful it really is! I think a lot of people have different feelings about Germany since World War II, but there is so much history there. It’s actually incredible. Every city is truly so different as well. I definitely recommend Bavaria if anyone is planning a trip! It is so green and beautiful and so much history as well.

GXC: What stereotypes have you encountered about the US/Canada?

Lauren: Many Germans believe Americans live a very extravagant lifestyle. Many people in Germany spend their entire lives in a small apartment, working the same job for life, enjoying Sundays with family when the entire city shuts down. A guy told me once that most Germans get a job and are content to stay with that job whereas a lot of Americans are looking to move up during their entire careers.

GXC: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned living in Germany?

Lauren: Just learning to embrace the culture and differences. To not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Attempt to speak German, even if you do botch it people appreciate the effort. Ride your bike anywhere and everywhere even if you do get honked at here and there. Try the bratwurst and schnitzel, it’s actually amazing! And last but not least, drink the beer!

GXC: How has this experience changed your perspective on the world?

Lauren: Seeing different cultures around the world is an amazing thing. I’ve found that I enjoy so many things about Germany. I love the fact that everything shuts down on Sundays and you see families out together doing some form of activity. I love that they are so environmentally friendly, such an unselfish way to live. If I had any advice to others, it would be to get out and see the world. It’s such an amazingly, satisfying thing and I’ve grown so much from this experience.

Couldn’t have said it better myself! Danke.