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Adventurecan present itself in many forms. If you don't believe it, just wait till you see what happens on The Around-the-World Semester®. These experiences will inspire you to travel, take bigger steps, increase your confidence, and push you to live an abundant life.
If your writing skills are lacking now, they won't be after you return from the Around-the-World Semester®. The essays below will not only show off some fantastic writing skills from past Rounders, but they will also give you a glimpse into the adventures and new experiences that come along with this trip. Get inspired below.
by Michelle Sackie
Ger Camp Terlj National Park, Mongolia
4 days, 3 nights
$260 for meals, lodging and horses
The road to the camp is nothing short of an Indiana Jones experience as you sit seatbelt-less in what resembles a hippie's tank. The army green exterior fools you from the bright orange interior roof padding and yellow curtains. Upon arrival to the countryside the beautiful grassy mountains that surround you are breathtaking and a herd of sheep and cows greet you as you walk to your Ger: the round tent you will identify as home for the next few days. The plain exterior of the Ger is nothing similar to the extravagant interior of the tent which holds three beds, a dresser, a coffee table, and a fireplace. You watch as a goat is herded, killed, prepared, and cooked for dinner all before your eyes. A small, feisty young girl runs up to you and crawls on your lap admiring your attention. She plays with you for the majority of the day. You also have the opportunity to milk the cows for fresh milk during meals and chop wood for fire and cooking. The next day you head out on a horse trek through the Mongolian countryside. Blue flowers placed perfectly amongst the lush, shamrock green hills provide a stunning view as you sit atop your stallion. Your horse breaks into an exhilarating gallop as you reach the top of the mountain and the grassy field where you will camp for a night. You hike up the hill and the vast Mongolian countryside with rivers intertwined takes your breath away instantaneously. That night you surround a fire with the friends you have made from Mongolia hosting your adventure. Together you sing songs until the fire dies and then crawl into your sleeping bag. You lay down to gaze at the millions of bright stars evident in the night sky of the Mongolian countryside. You inhale the fresh, crisp air deep into your lungs and feel a sense of peace wash over you as you drift off into sleep amongst God's creations.
Happy Dragon Hostel, Beijing, China
No. 26 Shijia Hutong Dongcheng District
Beijing, 100010, China
5 days, 4 nights
You walk down a small ally off a side street and see a cozy hostel placed perfectly amongst various shops. You walk up five stairs into a beautifully sculptured entranceway resembling the stunning Chinese culture. Inside, you are greeted by a very friendly receptionist who speaks very little English. You receive the key to your room and slowly trek up the one flight of stairs to your room as your hiking backpack drags you back onto your heels with each step. A comfy bed, desk, personal bathroom and, most importantly, air conditioner await you in your room. The air conditioner is extremely vital to escape the blanket of humidity that lays upon you when living in Beijing. You notice your shower is a faucet that sticks out of the wall. Every time you shower, the floor, toilet, and counter get sopping wet. It is definitely a unique showering experience but you are more than thankful to be provided with your own shower. You notice there is no toilet paper and in desperation, frantically scrounge for a tissue. You learn to be equipped with toilet paper at all times from this point forward. The hostel is a very short walking distance away from the main streets filled with exciting Chinese trinkets and many fabulous dining options. The bottom floor of your hostel has a lounge room equipped with a bar. You order food from there and are pleasantly surprised at how amazing the food is. The woman who frequently works behind the bar laughs and smiles as you practice your Chinese with her. You two become good friends and her interest in your trip and your adventures thus far make you feel welcomed and loved.
Nhanghi Hotel, Cam Khe District, Phu Tho, Vietnam
$10 a night
The hotel lies in a small, quaint village. The energetic woman at the front desk hands you a key and walks you up to your room on the second floor. The door to your room is somewhat see through but inside lies a large bed, desk, dresser, television, and bathroom. A dead cockroach greets you in the doorway surrounded by a pool of ants. Spiders lurk in almost every corner. Dirt festers throughout the cracks of the floor. The air conditioner and fan in your room not only cool you down but serve as a wonderful drying rack for your clothes that you just washed in the sink. An awkward picture of what looks to resemble a butler boy is framed and sitting on the desk in your room. On top of the dresser are six white comforters stacked making you wonder if in fact you are staying in some sort of storage room. You are very pleased to discover that the shower head jutting from the wall emits hot water. The random swipes of brown paint scattered on the white walls of your room cause you to wonder who decided to have a finger paint war but nonetheless adds character to your room. You walk around the small village and discover a coffee house. The coffee is bitter but almost tastes as if you are drinking dark chocolate. The variety of food you have at your fingertips is nothing short of exciting as it ranges from Pho to water buffalo and even dog. Children and families smile and wave at you as you walk around. The constant beeping is the sound of men, women, and children making their presence aware as they zoom passed you on electric scooters and bikes. As you explore the village, you are welcomed into strangers' homes and you can watch as skillful families make baskets or even carve intricate patterns onto wood for architectural purposes. The talent that you discover in this small village during your stay is nothing short of amazing. Despite the geckos, spiders the size of your palm, and dead cockroaches, the hospitality of the people at the hotel and in the village give you even more bang for your buck as you walk away with memories that you will always cherish.
by Alexandra Castellanos
Bayan Gobi Desert $35 Nightly (Includes Meal)
After a long day of driving for 6 hours from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia we finally reached our destination, The Bayan Gobi Desert. The drive definitely left you exhausted but it even makes you want to run a mile.
As sleep crept up on you throughout dinner, which consisted of devouring an amazing three course meal with tea and a cake, you grow a little astonished because after dinner you found out immediately that your day was not over just yet. You still had your postmodern class lecture and quiz to do.
That night you stay in traditional Mongolian, Nomadic homes called Gers, which at this point were definitely teasing you while trying to stay awake and pay attention in class. It did not help when a guide came around your ger and lit the furnace in the middle of class. That was a bad idea because as soon as the warm heat bounces off the walls and hits your layered clothed body, you start swaying back and forth on the comfy bed, and carpeted floors.
Luckily, your suffering of having to use your brain any further comes to a conclusion. You and your roommates, without hesitation, head back to your ger. The short distance to your ger feels like an eternity as you dream about the three beds, electricity to charge your camera or kindle, and the warmth your ger has to offer.
On the way to your ger, the stars could be seen with such clarity. The sound of crickets and the winding flowing and howling from different directions while inside the ger put you to sleep, not caring about the freezing temperatures.
Super 8 Chain (8610)5219 0188. $20 US; Nights: 1 Week
No. 26 Shijia Hunting Dongcheng District Beijing , 100010 China
While studying abroad in Beijing, China for a week, during the hottest month, you found your hotel accommodations to be decent and adequate and the employees working the front desk to be friendly and helpful.
You stay in a Super 8 Chain Hotel, some of your group were lucky enough to be assigned a room on the upper levels and were granted air conditioning, their own showers and bathroom.
Those of you who were assigned the lower level, level zero, lived in the hostel part of the hotel, that was not in the best conditions. Although, you can't complain too much because the air conditioning you had in your room was a blessing. By living on this floor it allowed you to receive the full traveler experience.
You share a restroom, which smells like urine and with no toilet paper. You also share showers and two sinks with your entire floor. It resembles a coed dorm where men and women share one bathroom in college. The maids leave the cart filled with toiletries exposed and you quickly grab anything you can to take with you as a souvenir.
Every morning before class lectures and exercise class, you and your roommate decided to explore the streets in search of a decent coffee shop, because you've noticed the Starbucks Coffee runs were robbing you. You also both find the menu provided by the Super 8 to be limited and the kitchen service very slow.
After walking ten minutes you find the right coffee shop. It's cute, non-expensive, and delicious! You discovered that the Holiland Coffee Shop has good prices and the service is quick, so you can make it back in time for class and be the envy of classmates who rolled out of bed late!
It was fun being able to buy pastries, junk food and bring it back to the hostel to enjoy a morning consisting of learning about the Chinese culture, Mandarin language and Chinese literature and Skype dates in your room too!
$23 US; Nights: 4; Phutho, Vietnam
Hoang Gia II Hotel
The Vietnam Village you stayed in for four days was not in the best conditions but after long days of classes and service projects, you forgot all about the imperfections and passed out every night. In those 4 days living in the village you had a daily routine that left you tired, hungry and a little cranky.
You start your day off early at 7:00 am with no problem, sometimes even waking up before the alarm clock goes off. You can't really say the same for your roommate who definitely had trouble waking up, since she was sick with an infection all week.
There is no restaurant or dining area in the hotel so you drive less than 8 minutes to the nearest restaurant. The restaurant only offers three meals for breakfast, which consisted of Bun, Pho, and fried egg with french bread. You opted everyday for the pho and coffee, even though you knew you would be starving an hour later.
After breakfast, you arrived at the commune where you would have the life sucked out of you from those long but interesting lectures on the Vietnamese language, and reading quizzes.
After three hours of class time, with no breaks, you were able to carry your tired little body to enjoy lunch.
The food presentations in Vietnam have earned it five stars, unlike the hotel. You then make your way outside to burn what you ate and help make a water drainage system. This lasted three more hours under the hot sun and under extreme but bearable humid conditions.
After work, you were super famished and exhausted. When you got to the restaurant to have dinner, no one had trouble taking off their shoes and sitting on the floor. The dinners were filling and a nice reward after a long day.
You admit that the biggest reward of the day was definitely getting to lay on the "hard as rock bed" with a mosquito net surrounding the entire bed.
The net created a cave that would keep you and your roommate safe from the spiders and from being eaten alive by the mosquitoes. The room was a little small and only had cold water, a fan and air conditioning, which broke the last two days.
Besides those imperfections you encountered every night and ended up forgetting they even existed, the room did the job at providing a place to come back to and rest after a super long, hard day.