Teaching English at ELS Shanghai: an overview of my experience

As of June 26th, 2015, I have officially completed my month-long internship as an English teacher at ELS Shanghai! In this post, I attempt to provide an overview of my experience via general questions so any interested in teaching English abroad can benefit from reading about it! Hopefully I answer any questions might have about this type of experience!


What is ELS Shanghai?

ELS Shanghai is a private language center that helps student improve their English and prepare for study abroad in various countries such as the United States, Canada, Switzerland to name a few. Their main goal is to provide them with rigorous and language-intensive study via month-long sessions that prepare them in vocabulary, speaking, reading, writing and listening.


How did you find out about this opportunity?

 Last summer in 2014, my friend Katie’s stepdad offered me an internship to teach English in Shanghai for ELS. He works on the business side of ELS and knew of this opportunity. I had already accepted a summer job working for Wilderness Ventures so I wasn’t able to. Before this summer, Katie told me she was going to Shanghai for the same opportunity. Thanks to her stepdad, he was able to help me secure the internship for this summer.


What do you do as an intern/teacher for ELS?

I taught two vocabulary classes for the June session. The session began on June 1st and ended on June 26th. Each session is four weeks long. One of my classes was a 105 level, which is upper-intermediate, and the other was 107, an advanced level. Vocabulary classes last for 50 minutes with about ten minutes in between depending on the time of day and they meet five days a week.

As a teacher, I prepared lessons using the materials they provided me with(a vocabulary book for each class with units covering various types of vocabulary and homework exercises). I wrote three vocabulary evaluation quizzes, three spelling tests and gave a few assignments.


Here’s an example of a unit from the book I used:



How did you teach the students if you do not speak Mandarin or Shanghainese?

The students were past the beginner stage so they were conversationally proficient in English. They simply wanted to continue moving up in fluency. Often, I had to simplify my language so that they understand at least 80% of what I said. I think the hardest part for them was memorizing all the vocabulary because on top of what I teach them (around 15 words per unit, 2 units/week), they had to learn about 300+ words throughout the month-long session.


How many other teachers did you work with? How many students were in each class?

There were about a little over 10 teachers total that worked at ELS Shanghai. The most students in a class are about 10 but each of my classes only had 8 students.


Were you paid? What were the benefits?

 I had to pay to fly myself out from the States to China but luckily, I received a generous scholarship from the Honors College that allowed me pay for my flight out, my visa and provide some money for food and transportation. Also, the company generously allowed me to live in a spacious dorm on the campus free of charge(there are only a few and they are only offered to employees at ELS). For the month-long session, I also received a comfortable wage (I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it), which provides me with enough money to live here for my time here, and three weekly Mandarin classes with a private tutor.


What did a typical week-day look like?

 7:20am: wake up, get ready and eat breakfast

8:05am: walk over to the building next door where I teach

8:30-9:20am: teach my advanced class

9:30-10:20am: teach my beginner class

10:45am-12:15pm: work out at a nearby gym

12:30-1:30/2:00pm: lunch

2:00-2:30pm: grades papers/start planning lessons

2:30-3:30pm: Mandarin lesson at nearby coffee shop

4:00-9:00pm: grade, plan lessons and cook dinner

10:30/11pm: go to bed


How much time did you spending preparing lessons, grading papers, creating quizzes, etc.?

It depends! Most days I spent at least two hours on lesson planning, grading papers, making quizzes, etc. I enjoyed it though and expected it going into the internship so it was not too bad.


What the most challenging part?

Finding ways to make sure the students felt engaged and wanted to be in class and learn. One great idea my friend Katie had, who also interned this summer, came up with the title “5 minutes in America” where I found a fun video or pictures related to a topic that would provide a smooth segway into our day’s lesson but also teach the students about American culture. It succeeded in engaging the students and motivating them to come to class everyday.


What was the most rewarding part?

When students talk more in class than you do, when students use what you taught them in class, when students engage with you outside of the classroom or simply, when the confusion disappears and students understand what you’re trying to teach them. These are just a few of the rewarding moments I have experienced as a teacher this summer.


Would you work for ELS again/go back to Shanghai?

Yes, without a doubt. My bosses trusted me and gave me lots of flexibility. The other teachers were helpful, supportive and fun to be around. The students were kind and fun to worth it. I enjoyed my experience and would definitely recommend it to any of those wishing to find an opportunity to teach English, work with a fun, supportive community and learn to grow in the international education field.


Hopefully you enjoyed reading about this experience as much as I enjoyed it sharing it! Feel free to comment with any questions or comments! I’d love to hear about any other teachers out there who have taught English abroad! 🙂




Yes, you may spit in public: Cultural Differences in Shanghai after 4 weeks

shanghai chian

[Photo taken on June 18th, 2015 while walking to the subway from IKEA]

It’s been two weeks since my last post(I haven’t sat down to write in a while) but I finally found time to write about a few cultural differences I’ve noticed while being here in Shanghai, China. Here are the main ones:

People are genuinely kind

For the most part, Chinese people in Shanghai tend to be kind. They smile at you, they laugh, and they help you when you ask for it. I haven’t had any issues yet(fingers crossed) but I don’t expect to either.

Chinese people are very superstitious

Often you will hear fireworks go off randomly around the city. Anytime a new store is opened, they shoot off fireworks to scare away the ghosts. The color gold is used to also scare away ghosts and “protect” certain buildings and stores. Also, the number 4 is unlucky because it is a homonym for the word death meaning it is the same word, but in a different tones in Mandarin and some other dialects of Chinese.

Spitting in public is socially acceptable

In public, common to hear people gathering up all the saliva and mucus in their mouth and then yucking it onto the street. It may be disgusting to hear and see but it’s most likely due to the air pollution that they have to eliminate all that gross stuff from their system. I

Men grow out their pinky nails to pick ear wax

I wish I had a picture to show for this but yes, some men will have long fingernails on their pinkies with the specific purpose of cleaning the earwax from their ears.

“scooterpooling” and “bikepooling” is common

Almost anywhere I go in Shanghai, I always see multiple people on scooters and bicycles. I carefully observed scooters and bikes when I’m walking and it seems as though almost all are built to hold at least two people. I personally think it’s awesome! They’re saving electricity(most scooters are electric) or just sharing a ride! I wish my bike back home had a seat on the back for someone- I’d give friends rides more often! I don’t have a picture I took but here’s one I found on Google Images so you get the idea:


Well, hope you enjoyed the short post with a few observations about cultural differences in Shanghai! Next week, I will write about what my experience has been like teaching English! Zàijiàn!



An adventureous night in Vancouver led by serendipity and the kindness in strangers

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As we started approaching customs, the short time frame I had to decide whether or not I wanted to start a conversation with these two strangers was coming to an end. It was now, or never. I took a deep breath and asked the simple question, “How far is the airport from downtown?”

Before I continue to explain how this one moment carved the path leading up to a night of several serendipitous events, I should start from the beginning.

Two weeks ago on May 24th, 2015, I was leaving from LAX Airport and flying to Shanghai, China with a 13-hour layover in Vancouver, Canada. After eating dinner in the airport, I headed towards my gate. When I neared the gate, I scanned the area to find a place to sit. Two blonde girls that appeared to be my age or slightly older were sitting and chatting. I noticed a few open seats in the row across from them and decided that if I sat there, I might make a few friends.

I dropped my bags and sat down. The conversation between the two girls seemed to have faded as they both were reading when I looked up from my seat. I decided to join the reading party and pulled out the intriguing book I was currently reading called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts(*I highly recommend it! It’s about a man who escaped from prison in Australia, fled to India and worked in the slums, black market, and fought in the war. True story).

A significant amount of time passed and the reading party continued. Then the Air Canada desk attendant announced over the loudspeaker,”Any foreign passengers that are not Canadian citizens must come up to fill out a form before boarding the plane.” I pulled my nose out of my book and realized the message was directed at me, as non-Canadian citizen. I went up, grabbed a form, then returned to my seat and proceeded to fill it out.

“Sir? Excuse me.” The younger-looking blonde girl with the tattoo of a feather behind her ear who was sitting directly across from me asked in a tone that voiced her doubtfulness with choice of “sir” to address me.

I looked up with my own form of uncertainty. “Is she calling me sir?” I chuckled to myself in my head. My choice of attire most likely influenced her word choice. I wore brown dress shoes, simple khakis with a brown belt and an azure-colored polo tucked in.

Once we made eye contact, she continued, “What is that you’re filling out?”

“This? Oh, it’s for U.S…” I stopped short.


“Yes” I laughed.

“Oh, okay good.” She said smiling back.

A sign of relief washed across their faces. I assumed they must be Canadian so they didn’t need to fill out the form.

Both parties returned to reading their novels. A few minutes later, I overheard the other blonde girl say to her friend, “Sir is a little bit formal.” I smiled, looked up at them and chuckled, “Yeah, it was a little formal but I guess I’m not sure what else you would use?”

They laughed. The blonde girl in front of me added, “Yeah, ‘dude’ or ‘guy’ would have been weird.” I smiled and laughed. That was the extent of our conversation before we boarded the plane. Unfortunately, I didn’t sit next to them on the plane either. However, the first serendipitous moment happened soon after.

During the 3 hour flight from LA to Vancouver, I simply minded my own business and read. The two older women next to me both put in headphones either to prevent any conversation between us or to create a white noise to ease resting during the flight.

When the flight landed around 10:45pm, I realized I was going to be spending the next 13 hours in the Vancouver Airport…I thought maybe if the city were close enough, I would go exploring but the research I had done prior to flying was so preliminary that I felt uncertain whether it would be a good idea or not to leave the airport. I certainly didn’t want to risk missing my flight.

Since I figured I would be spending the next several hours in the airport, I decided to take my time getting off the plane. The combination of not being in a rush to make a connecting flight or go anywhere, plus the fact that my large backpack was in the overhead compartment and would take a good amount of time to take down convinced me to wait until a large amount of people had exited the plane before I get off.

While waiting for a gap in the line off the plane, the two Canadian girls I had spoken to briefly smiled  and said bye as they walked past me. Then, the gap I had been waiting to seize appeared. I took advantage of it. I loaded my large blue 48L Osprey backpack on my back and my medium-sized black 25L REI backpack on front then exited the plane.

And this is where the story picks up from where it started. I was about 5 feet or so behind the two Canadian girls- just enough to be able to start up a conversation.

The two girls looked back at me and the other one who I had not spoken much to said, “Downtown? It’s not too far. You can take the Canada line straight there (similar to a light rail). It might take 30 minutes or so.” My simple question broke the dam created by society stating that we “should not talk to strangers” and a river of conversation finally flowed out.

I learned that their names were Katie and Kelsi and they had spent the weekend in California for fun. They went to Disneyland, the beach and had a wonderful time. Both were 22 years old and studying at a university in Vancouver. Katie was undecided and Kelsi studied sports sciences.

Before reaching customs, they both convinced me to take advantage of my layover as an opportunity to explore downtown Vancouver. We stayed together, chatting through customs till I went to the kiosk to scan my passport and realized I had ended up in the line for Canadian citizens.

I hurried over to the line for foreigners then proceeded to the customs agent when a window was available. After lots of intimidating questions such as why I’m in canada, where I’ll be staying, who’s paying for it, etc. I entered into the great country of Canada.

Not sure where to find the Canada line or even what to do downtown, I sat down near baggage claim and attempted to find a wifi network to connect to. Unfortunately, none of them were unlocked or free so I sat there looking a little helpless. Lucky for me, Katie and Kelsi grabbed their bags and then offered to help me.

They walked with me over to the storage center then offered to walk me to the Canada line upstairs. They wrote directions to arrive downtown via the Canada line on an old receipt from a Nike outlet store. I told them I could figure it out with the directions they gave me then hugged them and said goodbye. The fact that they were total strangers yet demonstrated the kindness of a friendship  that had lasted for years amazed me. I felt extremely grateful for their help and the serendipity of the situation.

From there on, the serendipitous moments continued as if someone had planned the entire night for me.

I took the escalator up to the Canada line and went to the machines to buy my ticket. Not sure exactly how much fare to purchase to get downtown, I stood in front of the machine for about two minutes before a kind man in a green vest approached me.

“Are ye lost?” he asked me in his thick Canadian accent. I told him I wanted to go downtown. He told me exactly what stop to get off and even handed me a map. At this point, I think to myself, “Gosh, the Canadians are so friendly. I should just stay here.”

I got off at the City Centre station nearby and found myself in downtown Vancouver with no plans or knowledge of the city.




I started walking down a street that looked busy and found myself a small pizza shop that sold slices for $2.75. I bought a supreme slice, sat down at a table and munched away that evening’s dinner. Luckily, there was wifi so I could look up places to go. At first, I decided to google pubs and bars in Vancouver but then I thought, “Why am I sitting here on my phone when I could easily ask someone or just go to a random bar see what happens?” I finished my slice of pizza and headed out to continue the night’s adventure.

I recalled Katie and Kelsi mentioning a bar called the Roxy somewhere downtown. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was so I just decided to walk down the street and see what I could find. I went down once then went back up the same street and decided on a place called The Roxyburger. The outside patio was full of people drinking beer and chatting. Inside, there was a bar and tables where people were eating food. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer. I laughed to myself and thought, “Okay, I’m here but now what? How does one go about meeting people without intruding on a group?” I sat there for a good 15 minutes, people watching and enjoying not knowing how the night would unfold. A guy and a girl came up to the bar and looked over at me momentarily. They were ordering shots I guessed and the bartender told them to move over to the empty seat next to me. He poured them two shots of an alcohol that I didn’t recognize.

“Have you ever tried a buttery nipple?” The girl turned and asked me.

I was startled for a second then laughed and replied, “No, what’s that?”

“It’s sweet. They’re really good. Take one with us! We’ll wait for you!”

I thought, “Ah, sure, why not.” I ordered one, took the shot with them and then said, “That wasn’t too bad.”

“Yeah, we like them,” the girl replied as they started to get up to return to their table outside.

“Hey, could I join you two? I’m here because I have a layover and obviously don’t know anyone.” I laughed in self-pity.

“Of course you can! We’ll introduce you to our friends!” The girl replied and the guy smiled at me.

And then, the next section in the night began. The girl’s name was Emily and she was from Oregon. She had traveled from Oregon with two friends to see Milky Chance in Vancouver and they decided to stay in Vancouver for a little. The guy’s name was Daniel and he was from Australia. He was traveling in Canada for a little. They introduced me to the rest of their group which included a few Germans, a few Australians and a few Canadians. Everyone was between 21 and 25 and very friendly and welcoming! They referred to me as “Joe from Arizona” or with a few, just “Arizona,” which I found rather amusing.

I chatted and hung out with them for a while before a group of Canadian guys in college from Manitoba, Canada who knew Emily, invited us to go on an unofficial pub crawl with them. We all agreed to go and then we headed out. In total, there was about 12 of us.

One guy that stood out the most from the group was named Brady. He was Emily’s friend and from Oregon. We connected really well. He was friendly, genuine and outgoing. He studied photography at a small college in Oregon and was the one who bought the tickets to see Milky Chance. Emily, and her friend Peyton, both had known Brady since high school and asked if they could go to the convert with him. At each of the two bars we went to, he offered to buy me a drink and then we had an interesting conversation about who we were and why we did the things we did.

Around 3:15am, the group of international travelers I had been spending most of the night with decided to head home. Brady offered for me to stay the night at their hostel but then remembered they checked everyone’s keys so unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. I said my goodbyes and then remained at the bar till about 3:30am when they kicked everyone at. A server at the bar gave me directions back to the Canada line station but said it wouldn’t start running again till 5 or 6am.

Out of plans and ideas, I decided to walk back to the station anyway and figure out a plan there.

When I got there, the gates were locked and it was closed, just as the server had warned me. I sat on a bench and contemplated my options. Well, it was dark near the station and I didn’t know if the area was dangerous so I decided to head back towards the pizza place and the Roxyburger.

On my way back, I peeked my head into the Burger King that was still open. “Should I go in, order food and just hang out?” I contemplated to myself. I decided not to, thankfully, and headed to the pizza shop.

I was in luck. It was still open.

“Hey look, it’s the guy from Best Buy,” one guy joked as I got in line for pizza. I then realized there were no longer serving pizza. A girl and a guy, who looked to be my age, started talking to me. They both wanted pizza and asked if I wanted to join them to buy pizza somewhere. They didn’t seem to be dangerous or suspicious and the guy who joked about me working for Best Buy was with them so I said “Sure, why not?”

We walked up and down the streets looking for restaurants still open at 4am in the morning on a Sunday. They asked me why I was there, what I was doing, etc. and we made small talk. They were all friendly and seemed like genuine individuals. Their names were Jordan, Morgan, and Ivo and they were all 23 years old. I told them I had never been to Vancouver before, let alone Canada and then told me they would take me to the best spots and hang out with me until the Canada line opened back up.

The only food place we found was a 7/11 that serves taquitos- you know, the ones you think “Hmm, those could be good” but then you second guess yourself and say, “No, what am I thinking. Who knows how long those have been out?” Well, that was the only hot food available so I bought two. They weren’t delicious but they did the job and kept my hunger at bay.



They brought me to Yaletown, which is this pier with lots of large yachts and boats. We sat down and talked about life until about 6am when the station opened back up. Ivo even offered to take the Canada line with me to the airport to make sure that I returned with no problems. After having talked about culture, he also offered to introduce me to ice caps which is a coffee slushie that he said was really popular in Canada, or at least Vancouver.

I said goodbye to Ivo and thanked him for helping me. Then grabbed my bags and curled open on the ground to take a 4 hour nap before heading to my gate around 10am. As I lay there and reran the route of the all-nighter in Vancouver, I realized the night took itself in directions I could never have imagined. I feel extreme gratitude for the kindness all those I encountered treated me with during my long adventure in Vancouver. It reminds me that there are lots of good people out there in the world and one of best thing we can do to make sure those good people don’t disappear is to be kind to all.

Life reveals her inner beauty when you simply surrender the desire to control her and you let her sail you which ever way she decides to blow the wind.


Update: To make this story even crazier, the guy I met named Brady is a dating a girl who went to high school in Oregon with one of my really close friends at the University of Arizona. The world is so big yet it’s so small.

Next trip: teaching English in Shanghai, China for two months!

what to pack for two months in shanghai china for an internship teaching english

[Everything I’m bringing to Shanghai minus a daypack with a few belongings]

So I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted on here but I hope you’re still interested in being a part of my journey! The next chapter takes place in: Shanghai, China.

Seems kind of random right? Well, there’s a good reason I’m going to Shanghai this summer! Lucky for me, Katie, one of my good friends who I’ve known since elementary school, told me she was doing an internship through the company her dad works for in Shanghai this summer and her dad was able to find me a job as well doing what she’s doing- teaching English to teenagers at a private English institute- els.cn

Between May 26th and July 23rd, I will be sharing my observations and experiences here about my life in Shanghai! I fly out on Sunday, May 24th and will be traveling from Los Angeles to Vancouver to Shanghai! Hopefully there will also be a 10 day trip to Thailand that Katie and I are planning on taking towards the end of our internship. If this sounds like something you might be interested in reading about and seeing pictures, definitely subscribe and I’ll promise to do my best to keep you informed and entertained for the next two months 🙂

Lastly, I want to give a special thanks to the University of Arizona Honors College for generously helping me fund this opportunity with a scholarship. I honestly wouldn’t be able to afford it without them. Sending lots of love their way, to the UA and Tucson ❤



A Winter Break Adventure through New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey


[Photo taken in JFK Airport]

I finally found time to write this post about my recent visit to the East Coast for the first time during winter break! My schoolwork, leadership role as an RA and other commitments have kept me preoccupied these past weeks, which is why I didn’t write this post sooner!

On New Year’s Eve, my girlfriend and I flew to NYC to see friends and spend the holiday in a new, exciting place this year!  Lucky for us, we arrived in New York with enough time to check in to our Airbnb, drop off our stuff, eat pizza at Lombardi’s and make it to Times Square with enough time to see the magic happen and watch the ball drop! It was wonderful to see all the fireworks and confetti afterwards and we definitely enjoyed the experience. However, you do have to stand and hold your place for multiple hours. We arrived there around 9pm and were still not able to get near the ball drop. Fortunately, we were able to watch it drop from the side!



That glowing ball at the top right was the ball in Times Square for New Year’s Eve in NYC.


Our Airbnb was located in Little Italy, which is a small neighborhood, once known for a large population of Italians(hence the name).

The next few days were spent visiting different places around the city with our friends.

IMG_6209We ice-skated in Central Park!


We visited the Statue of Liberty 🙂 (Taken with a GoPro)


We spent the last night exploring Times Square.

Before we left, Stacey bought a selfie-stick for only $20 near the Brooklyn Bridge! It’s bluetooth and has a button on the stick to take pictures as well! We recorded a fun video while testing it out. The quality isn’t the best.


Then we took a Chinatown bus to Philadelphia to our friend Allie, who we met from my girlfriend’s study abroad program in Buenos Aires(we went in July 2013). She lives in Springfield, which is a small town southwest of the city. Our friend Sam, who I met through Stacey’s study abroad program who is from Albany, NY, also met us at Allie’s house. We visited Allie’s school in New Jersey, The College of New Jersey and also went to see Philadelphia and eat cheese steaks!


I ate my first Philly cheese steak here! It was delicious!


This was the street that Allie’s rental house was on, the place where she lives during the school year in Ewing, New Jersey. It’s not too far from her university.


Apparently this is a popular pizza-topping on the East Coast or at least in this area of New Jersey and others? It’s called penne vodka pizza and there’s actual pasta on the pizza. It still seems foreign to me but it was delicious!


This was a breakfast bagel I ate with meat called pork roll on it. According to my friend Allie, it’s referred to as Taylor Ham more towards the north.


This was the day Stacey and I were leaving. It snowed during the night in Springfield!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take more pictures because I ran out of space. Overall, it was an exciting adventure for everyone! I enjoyed my first time visiting the East Coast and hope to return soon! Next time I go, I’m going to visit Morristown, New Jersey, where my dad grew up and learn about where he spent his childhood up until 5th grade when he moved to Phoenix, Arizona.


Back from Summer 2014 Adventures


[Photo taken near Jackson, Wyoming]

Wow! The summer has been extremely busy and I’ve only had a short break! I’m already back on the road of life onto my next chapter. Ecuador and the Galapagos were amazed and I have stories and pictures to share soon! I also enjoyed visiting Utah and Wyoming. They’re both full of beautiful landscapes and friendly people.

Right now, I’m currently in the midst of resident assistant training at my university, which is why I unfortunately don’t have the time to write about my adventures this week. I’ll go back to posting once a week but I may not be able to upload the pictures from my trip and write the stories in detail until the end of August or beginning of September but don’t worry, I’ve got exciting stories and interesting lessons I learned to share with you soon! Stay tuned!

Farewell AZ- Utah, Wyoming, and Ecuador Bound

I am sitting in my hostel in Salt Lake City as I write this. I would have liked to write a more elaborate post but I don’t have the time right now.

I wrote about what I’m doing this summer in a previous blog post that you can find here-https://jjprevite.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/volunteering-zip-lining-rafting-hiking-snorkeling-and-surfing-with-highschoolers-in-ecuador-and-the-galapagos-islands-this-summer/

In short, I will be spending 4 days in Utah, 21 in Wyoming and a month in Ecuador this summer. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to write any posts but I certainly will when I return to Arizona on August 1st.

So see you then! Enjoy your summer!

Three-day California adventure- Six Flags and Burbank

My girlfriend Stacey and I took a trip to California on Tuesday to visit my family, go to Six Flags and see our friend Rob.

On Wednesday, Stacey I spent the morning and afternoon at Six Flags Magic Mountain. We were the 129th car to arrive to park(according to the man that scanned our parking pass at the entrance.)

We managed to get on a handful of rides including Scream, Colossus, Batman, Ninja, Viper, and Roaring Rapids. This season, they even reversed the direction of Batman and Colossus to make them go backwards!  Both rides were tenfold more fun because you’re blind to upcoming curves and loops on the ride.



After enough coasters, we left the park and headed to Burbank to see our close friend Rob who recently moved out to California to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. We visited his apartment then ate at Islands, the restaurant where he works, the same one that my girlfriend works at in Phoenix.

In the middle of our meal, our server came up to us and said,

“The man sitting over there[at a bar stool nearby] asked me to hand these to you after he left.”

Then he handed us these.


rob scerbo, joe previte, stacey fawthorp, islands, burbank

He had been looking at us while we were eating but none of us thought much of it till now. It was the coolest thing ever! Rob told us there are tons of artists and actors out here trying to make it big so it was kind of normal to him.

Afterwards, he and his girlfriend showed us Nickelodeon Studios and Disney Studios, which were both located less than 5 minutes from his apartment. If you look closely, you can see the Mickey Mouse ears on the fence that surround Disney. Rob said it’s inspiring for him to be so close to these places because it makes his dream feel more attainable.



Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.39.12 AM

Yesterday, we spent the day at the beach then headed home in the afternoon. All in all, it was a wonderful trip 🙂 If you ever get the chance, visit Six Flags! It’s less expensive than the other parks and well-worth the fun.

Always start early when hiking Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff, Arizona


Always start a hike earlier in the day rather than later. That’s the lesson my friend Jordan and I learned on after our four-hour trek on Monday afternoon in Flagstaff.

Last week, Jordan invited me to hike Humphreys’s Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona, with an elevation of 12, 633 feet. He had already hiked it in March with a few of our friends from NAU(Northern Arizona University). However, during that time, there was still lots of snow on the mountain so they only made it to the first saddle. This time, he wanted to make it to the top.

We left around 10am on Monday and zoomed to Flagstaff. It only took us about two hours and thirty minutes to arrive in the city. We stopped to buy a few snacks for the hike and then headed to Arizona Snowbowl, the ski resort where Humphrey’s trail begins.

We started the hike around 12:45-1pm thinking we had just enough time to make it to the summit. Unfortunately, we should have started earlier.

On our way up, we encountered other hikers who warned us of the strong winds at the top. We decided to keep going anyway. It took about 2.5 hours to make to the first saddle.



We stopped and ate a few snacks and received a small taste of the strong winds awaiting us. They sent chills down our bodies as we stood on the first saddle. It was as if a giant was standing above the mountain and blowing a breath of icy air towards us. It wasn’t strong enough to knock us down but strong enough to convince us that today was not the day. We were told the winds would only pick up as time passed by and that it may be better to come back another day and start earlier.

We stayed a bit longer and indulged in the beautiful views of Flagstaff before turning back down the trail.

Overall, it was a wonderful day and a great adventure. One day, we’ll start earlier and actually make it to the top!

If you ever have the chance, I definitely recommend exploring Mt. Humphrey! It’s a pleasant trail 🙂

Running with thirst busters to Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Arizona

sabino canyon

[Photo credit: Charles Miles on Flickr]

“What the… Did you see that, honey? Those two boys were running with large fountain drinks in their hands? They looked like high schoolers. I wonder why they’re in such a hurry that they have to run with their sodas! That’s so strange. Guess kids are different these days than when we were kids, huh honey?”

“Yes, honey, times are different now. Everyone’s always on the run nowadays.”

That’s the type of conversation that most likely occurred on Tuesday afternoon while my friend Andrew and I were running to Sabino Canyon.

On Monday, Andrew asked if I wanted to run a trail or two in Sabino Canyon this week since it was finals week and we had lots of free time. I replied with enthusiasm,

“Yeah! I miss running in the mountains! But neither of us have a car and I don’t have a bike?”

“That’s okay. I heard the bus runs close by so we could take it and then jog to the base.”

“Okay! I’ll figure it out and let you know.” I said, trying my best to hide my initial skepticism with this whole bus idea.

I figured out the bus routes and we headed out on our adventure Tuesday afternoon around 4.

After waiting for about 20 minutes at the bus stop near Del Taco on a street called Broadway, we hopped on and our journey began. We took the bus as close to Sabino Canyon as we could and managed to put ourselves approximately six miles from our destination.

We ran the six miles at slow pace- probably 10 min/mile pace and enjoyed the run there.

About a mile from the canyon, our mouths were as dry as the desert dust we decided to take a pit stop at the Circle K(local convenience store) and hydrate ourselves with Gatorade. Obviously we grabbed the largest drink size, which happened to be 44oz, filled up our cups, paid the 84 cents and jumped back on the road to finish our victory mile.

Even though we had these large 44oz styrofoam cups filled with green and orange Gatorade, we awkwardly ran with them and battled out the pain in our quads to finish the last 1609 meters.

Then we saw it. We saw this:

sabino canyon area


[Photo courtesy of Google Image Search]

“YES! We finally made it!” I yelled out feeling triumphant. Then we took a short break before disappearing onto the beautiful dirt trails of Sabino Canyon.

I inhaled the smell of mesquite and paloverde trees and let nature fill me with fresh air. Stones scattered on the surface of the trail made contact with my feet as we trailed along the paths. I love this feeling. The only thing I heard was the pounding of our feet as we zoomed in around around bushes, over beds of rocks and through arches of trees.

We ran for about 30 minutes before heading back to the entrance of the recreation area where Andrew’s parents met us to pick us up. I felt thankful we had chosen this time and day to run because his parents had just arrived to Tucson to move him out and were conveniently in the area. We headed back to the university and that concluded our adventure.

If you’re ever in Tucson, Arizona, I highly recommend checking out Sabino Canyon! It’s a beautiful area and there are multiple paths to choose from for hiking, running or biking 🙂 Feel free to share any thoughts or comments below!