Month: May 2013

Differences in San Francisco

Before I start this post, let me apologize because I’m a day late! I simply forgot that yesterday was Wednesday because Monday was memorial day and I mixed up my days of the week-oops!

As of today, I’ve been living here in San Francisco for 13 days and I’ve started to notice a few things that are different compared to living in Phoenix and here there are:

Public Transit

Since San Francisco is a city where everything is close together and the public transportation system is well organized, it’s easy to get from one place in the city to another place in the city. I take the light rail(Muni) every day to work and I love it! It’s so much better than driving to places like I have to in Phoenix. The other cool thing is that I can read on my transit to work! I read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh last week and this week I’m reading Learn Startup by Eric Ries because about a 40 minute commute to-and-from work. I’ve used the public transportation in Phoenix but the buses do not come as often as the light rail does in San Francisco(which makes sense) which is why I don’t use it.

Public Chairs?

I thought this was a little strange and maybe it’s only near the neighborhood I live in but there are chairs that are meant for the public. They look like this-chair in the street of San Francisco

I think they’re more there to match the style of San Francisco but I wouldn’t know because I’ve have done any research or tried to look deeper. It’s interesting though because I don’t think people in Phoenix would react the same way-I bet they wouldn’t use the chairs at all. Who knows!

Walking and Bicycling

More people tend to walk or ride a bike in San Francisco- I think this goes back to the whole “everything is closer together” in San Francisco. I think it’s awesome and I wish there was a way to make it more feasible for everyone to walk or ride bikes to work. I’m sure one day we’ll get there one day though.

Another weird thing is that since walking is so common in San Francisco(and I don’t have a car) I feel more inclined to do it. I live closer to the grocery store in Phoenix yet I always drive there-always. But here, I don’t think I would drive even if I had the ability to. It made me realize that I don’t really need a card. I could use the public transportation system in Phoenix as well if I had too.

B.Y.O.B(Bring your own bag)

I was told that this was made a law recently in California(like before, I haven’t researched so I’m going off what someone told me) and now grocery stores must charge per paper bag a grocery shopper needs if he or she does not bring their own. I know the do this in Spain and other parts of Europe and I think it’s a great idea! We could save so much plastic by buying and bringing our own cloth/plastic bags for when we grocery shop. The hard part is simply getting into the habit of bringing in the bag every time you go shopping. Nonetheless, it’s another thing different about San Francisco than Phoenix.

I thought I’d share these with you because I’m always intrigued by the little things like these subtle differences in activities, customs or whatever you want to call it in these two cities that I’ve compared briefly.

If you’ve ever lived in another city or state, what are some interesting differences you noticed compared to your hometown? Feel free to share below! 🙂

Forgetting to explore the beautiful corral already around you




Tomorrow will be two weeks since I blindfolded my girlfriend and brought her to the Sea Life Aquarium at Arizona Mills mall. A week before that I didn’t even know we had an aquarium here in Arizona. I found out about it on Tripadvisor while researching fun activities to do in Arizona.

I feel like this is normal. It’s normal for us locals to not know the touristic places of our home town or home city because we’re so set on the idea of “visiting the Eiffel Tower,” “eating pizza in Italy,” “snorkeling in Hawaii,” or “walking the streets of New York.” We never put on our tourist shoes or to explore our native places. We’re too obsessed with the idea of getting away. Going somewhere else. Somewhere that is as far away as possible.

I used to be the same way. I thought “Gosh, I REALLY want to visit Spain and Italy and backpack through Europe” and I did. But I have yet to visit the East Coast. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? I have traveled to a place over 5,000 miles away yet I’ve never traveled to one of the most popular places in my home country: New York City.

I never thought twice about this until I was talking to my friend Lenon one day while eating lunch and he asked me, “What is there to do in your home city? What should I do when I go visit there?” 

As a member of the Phoenix community for over 19 years, I couldn’t think of anything to tell him besides, “You should climb Camelback Mountain or hike the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.” I honestly couldn’t think of anything else that might be interesting to a college student from another country. That’s when the epiphany hit me and I thought to myself, “Wow. I don’t even know what I would visit in Phoenix if I were a tourist. That’s because I don’t even know Phoenix, or even Arizona, myself and I’ve lived here my whole life!” After that light bulb lit up in my head, I made it a goal to explore my home town more during the summer and doing the school year. And that’s exactly what I’ve started to do. The first place was the aquarium and the next places on my list include Havasupai Falls, Cathedral Rock, and many others.

I chose to share this story with you to make you stop and think: How well do I know the ins and outs of my hometown? What would I recommend to tourists looking for things to do?

Feel free to share your thoughts below and any places you recommend visiting in your hometown! 🙂


From a cold email to an internship in the heart of San Francisco

My journey with Verbling started almost two years ago when I sent this cold email, hoping to find a job working for this amazing language learning platform. Tomorrow, I set off for California to start my month-long internship with the company next week. I hope this blog post inspires you to let go of the fear of rejection or failure, and pursue a job related to your passions.

Screenshot 2013-05-15 at 11.29.16 PM


(Click to enlarge)

I had used the website a few times to practice my Spanish with people from Colombia, Mexico and Peru. I LOVED the idea of Verbling- connecting native speakers with language learners-and I wanted to be a part of the team. Not thinking twice, I quickly wrote up this email and sent it to a jobs link not knowing what exactly would happen. It wasn’t until January of 2012 when I received a response from one of the co-founders. By that time, I had completely forgotten about the email I had sent during the first semester of my last year in high school.

I couldn’t believe it. I thought certainly it was a mistake. One of the co-founders of Verbling, Jake, wanted to Skype with me, an average high school kid?

I replied back with more excitement than a little kid visiting Disneyland for the first time. After I Skyped him, he offered me a job as an administrator on the website. I didn’t sleep for the next two weeks.

Life seemed too good to be true. I felt giddy as can be at the fact that I was getting paid to work with the engineers and speak Spanish and English with people from all over the world. Right then, I knew I had the most awesome job in the world. I became so passionate about language learning and learning about other cultures. I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be and that my desire was to make this company succeed.

After a few months, I hired a few friends from high school, which grew into the administration team that I lead. We were a great team. There were 7 of us and we were fantastic. We made sure the site was working properly and kept the Verbling community safe for all the users.

Then in November, I moved up to start teaching English. I felt so grateful to be given the opportunity to teach. I fell in love with it and it hit me! Whatever I end up doing after I graduate from college, teaching will be involved. It’s such a rewarding experience to teach and inspire students who are thirsty for knowledge. Languages are my passion and my job allows me to earn money for sharing that passion. I feel extremely appreciative.

Tomorrow, I begin a new path in my voyage with such an amazing team-an internship right in the heart of San Francisco at Verbling. I will fly out of Phoenix and into Laguna Niguel to spend a day with my family before heading to San Francisco on Friday. On Monday, I will start my first day working as an intern at Verbling. I cannot explain the joy and excitement built up inside of me to be able to participate in the early stages of a company that will change language-learning education forever.  It wouldn’t even be possible with the generous monetary award I have been granted by the University of Arizona Honors College. After I return from Argentina, I will share my experience with others at the university because I want to give advice and tell stories that will encourage others to embark on similar journeys.

I decided to write this post because most people don’t know how I ended up where I am. They think I got lucky. However, that’s not the case. I took a leap of faith and sent a “cold email,” not knowing where it would lead and here I am- about to embark on a month-long learning experience in San Francisco. This is my story that I have created for myself. Now it’s time for you to create yours. 

Fim dum capítulo e o começo de novo

Oi pessoal!

Não escrevi ontem porque me mudei desde meu cuarto na universidade. Hoje, vai ser o último blog que vou escrever em português. É muito triste, mas a razão por isso é que eu vou estdar na Argentina no próximo semestre e meu objetivo é falar espanhol fluentemente. Assim que, tenho que deixar praticar português :emporariamente para focar nesse objetivo.

Contudo, cuando regressa da Argentina em deciembre, vou volver a praticar o português! 😀

Então agora, posso falar sobre do que eu queria falar sobre e isso é o fim do capítulo no meu primer ano na universidad! 😀 Quasi não o posso crer mas estou muito animado para este verão porque vai ser novo capítulo na vida do Joe! 

Estarei no San Francisco fazendo meu estágio com Verbling para um mês e em julho, vou para Argentina! Durante esses tempos, vou escrever em inglês o espanhol. Acho que vou escrever a maior parte em espanhol mas vamos ver! Isso é tudo para hoje. Tomara que vocês tenham um dia ótimo! Ate a quarta-feira! 

Leaving a Legacy at the University of Arizona

I’m writing this week’s post in English because it’s something I want to share with everyone(a próxima semana, vou regressar a português 😉 ). I know I already posted a picture of this one Facebook but there is a fascinating story behind it that I would like to share with you.

After the second week of school or so during freshman year, I decided to buy a Moleskin journal to write down my thoughts and ideas. I was just beginning a new chapter in life and my brain couldn’t handle it all. I needed to write things down and let my ideas flow from my mind onto paper.

I ordered a journal off of Amazon and received it shortly(thanks to my free two-day shipping trial) that week. I began writing random figments as the week progressed. Then, five days after I had received my journal, I wrote something that I had completely forgotten about until last weekend when I was skimming through my journal entries.

This is what I wrote this on August 29th, 2013.

Journal Entry

Now you’re probably wondering, “Okay. What’s the big deal? You thought something big was coming your way and you said you wanted to leave a legacy- I don’t get it?”

foto (2)

The reason that this is so crazyis  because of what happened exactly one week ago from today- I received the The Honors College Outstanding Freshman of the Year award from the University of Arizona’s Honors College as.

I couldn’t believe it! My thoughts from the beginning of the semester had become more than just thoughts- they had become real life!

I remember the exact feeling I had had in those moments during the start of school. I was excited, nervous, happy, and scared-all at the same time. I wanted to do something great and leave a legacy here but I had no idea how I would go about it.

Around the end of March/the beginning of April, I found out about this award and I knew I wanted it.

I was at the Slonaker House(the Honors College house) for an Honors College Ambassadors overnight visit when I happened to notice the plaques on the wall with names and the words written “HONORS COLLEGE OUTSTANDING FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR.” The dean of the Honors College was standing right next to me so I gathered up the nerve and asked,

“How do you even win that kind of award?”

“Well, each year we ask professors to nominate students for the award by submitting a letter of recommendation. This year, however, we didn’t receive as many nominations as we would have liked to so we’ve extended the deadline till next Friday. If you’d like, you can ask a professor to nominate you but they must submit a letter of recommendation.”

My eyes lite up because I knew exactly who I planned on asking: Melissa Fitch(Profa)- one of my favorite professors at the university and one of the professors who had just written me a recommendation letter for my study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I knew I only had a week for her to submit the letter and I knew she was super busy so I made sure to email her as soon as I arrived at my dorm.

Luckily, she liked me and found time to submit the letter of recommendation before the deadline. I received the email notifying me of my nomination that same weekend and I was then invited to write an essay explaining how my academic and social work embodied the Honors College mission statement.

At first, I felt like I was cheating since I had asked a professor to nominate me, but then I reminded myself that:

a. the Dean suggested that I ask a professor to nominate me

b. the professor could have said no

c. I still have to write the best essay to win

I decided to accept the invitation and write an essay for the award. I struggled at first because the prompt was semi-vague and I wasn’t sure what I was going to write. I had only a week to write it. I wrote an outline and emailed it to Susan Kaleita, a staff member at the Honors College,  and my mom, who helped me flush out my ideas and write the award-winning essay that I wrote, which you can read here. I worked really hard on the essay and I am proud of the outcome. Writing it made me want to write a book about my backpacking experiences in Europe because it was so amazing what happened during my travels. It was troublesome choosing only one experience to write about.

Now, I have the plaque that I posted a picture of above AND my name will go on a plaque in Slonaker and will be there forever. Hence, I have created a legacy for myself here at the University of Arizona and fulfilled what I had originally written in my journal at the beginning of the year 🙂

I wanted to share this with you today because I still cannot fathom the fact that I wrote about this at the very beginning of the year and it came true! I took advantage of the opportunity presented before me and this is what happened.

A little side-note I want to add that puts the cherry on top of this cake-I was rejected by the Honors College when I first applied my senior year in high school. That’s right REJECTED. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have high test scores? Who knows! But hey- that didn’t stop me. I reapplied and went through the Freshman Review process to make certain that I got in. I was constantly emailing Sara Dorer, an Honors College Recruitment and Outreach counselor, to ensure my admission into the Honors College the second time around. However, thanks to her assistance and Bill Kimsey’s recommendation letter, they finally accepted me.

The main point of this blog post is to inspire you to never give up, pursue your dreams, and most importantly, to believe in yourself. I did all of these things and look what happened. Of course you’re going to fail multiple times in life, but you can’t give up! If you persevere  and take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, then you’re going to succeed. Keep a positive mental attitude and good things will come your way.