Learning to Tango in Tucson

ice rink

[Photo Courtesy of Google Images]

Leading with your chest, you decide where to take your partner. Imagine you’re standing on an ice rink but without skates. You lead your partner across the ice by taking steps followed sliding your feet while keeping your chests at the same distance as you move. Your partner follows your every move and you glide to the beat as one.

Last night, I learned how to tango. The basics, to be specific and it was my first time every.

From what I’ve learned in my classes, Tango originated in Buenos Aires, Argentina before the 19th century. Depressed men wrote tango songs about their misery, melancholy, loss of dreams, loneliness, love for their mothers and other related topics. The dance itself is a ton of fun and today, exists all around the world.

I had witnessed tango live in Argentina many times and in one of my classes at my university but this was the first I was actually learning it.

I went with a few friends from U of A to a place called Maker House, which is, “a new collaborative artisan, maker, education, tech, and gathering space that opened in the Downtown Tucson Arts District Tech Corridor in the fall of 2013.” It’s super cool! The advisor for the Honors College Ambassadors invited us because he was guest leading the tango lesson and it was free! I brought mate and it was almost like we were back in Buenos Aires. 

I wanted to share this experience because I enjoyed learning to tango and thought you would too! It’s a prominent aspect of Argentine culture and anyone can learn it! Here’s a video teaching the basics, the same basics we learned last night!

Have you ever tangoed before? If not, are there any dances you have learned and would recommend? 🙂

Volunteering, zip-lining, rafting, hiking, snorkeling and surfing with highschoolers in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands this summer

wilderness ventures[Photo from Wilderness Ventures website]

Two trips in Ecuador, high schoolers, volunteering at an animal rescue center, zip-lining in the Pastaza Valley, rafting down the Rio Jatunyaco river and hiking, snorkeling, and surfing on the Galapagos Islands. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world! All of this is and more is going to be my summer and I still cannot believe it.

I decided to write this post to share the information about what I’ll be doing this summer because maybe it’s something you’d be interested in doing too!

“How are you even going to be doing all of this?”

With a wonderful organization called Wilderness Ventures! Founded in 1973, Wilderness Ventures combines “[their] love for teaching young adults with [their] passion for the American wilderness and adventure.” Since then, it “has grown slowly and steadily and by 2013 over 22,000 people had participated in programs conducted in over 20 national parks and 17 federally designated wilderness areas as well as in over 20 countries around the globe.”

“But wait a second, how’d you even hear about this?”

I heard about Wilderness Ventures by accident. I remember last summer scrolling through my news feed when I came across a picture of a high school friend, a year older than me, mentioning he was going to meet up with friends in Europe. Curiosity drew me in further so I went to his profile to see what he was up to. Then, the next thing I saw was a tagged picture of him with a group of teenagers.

“Huh, I wonder what that was for. Wait a second, it says they were in Spain? Why would Cole be in Spain with a group of teenagers?”

By chance, his sister was hanging out with my brother at my house and I asked her about it. She said some organization paid him to take people camping in Spain and Peru. “WOW! Paid? To Travel? Where do I sign up?” was my initial reaction.

Soon after, I messaged him, found out the name of the organization and then found myself here, reading about the application. I went back to the application in December, filled out and turned it in by the January deadline.

“Do you have to speak Spanish to go…? What are the requirements? What was the application like?”

The only requirement is that you’re 20 years of age. The application was long and consisted of a resume, personal statement, 3 reference letters, driving record information, and a few photos. After turning it in, I later had an interview in February by phone which lasted about 20-30 minutes where I was asked questions about my application(typical interview questions).

Then, about a week later, they hired me! I didn’t find out about where I would be going until this week and I couldn’t be more excited with my trip assignments!

“When do you leave and will you be gone all summer?”

I leave June 7th to go to Salt Lake City, Utah to get certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR at the University of Utah. The class is free thanks to Wilderness Ventures. Then, on June 10th, I have to head back to the airport and then I’ll be heading to Jackson, Wyoming, the headquarters of Wilderness Ventures. Afterwards, we begin training with all the leaders, new and returning, which last 10 days. Then, we’re sent to our trip destinations! I’ll be leading the same two-week Ecuador Galapagos Service trip twice.  Afterwards, I’ll return to Jackson to do reflection workshops and then head back to Salt Lake City on August 1st.

“What do you have to pay for?”

The only things I have to pay for are transportation to and from Utah, and housing and food for the first three nights I’m in Utah because I’m taking the Wilderness First Aid class. Everything else including food, lodging, activities and transportation are paid by the organization. On top of that, they pay first-year leaders between $1,400-1,900.

“Where can I find out more information?”

Here is a link to more about leading for Wilderness Ventures and also this link to their employment opportunities website.


You can’t leave every battle victorious but you can leave with something


Whether you’re applying for a scholarship to study abroad, a job at a new company, or a position within a club or organization, the truth is you won’t always win. Yes, this advice sounds familiar since we’ve all heard it before but this is a positive friendly reminder that even though the results may not end in our favor, we’ll always leave with one thing: experience 🙂

Last week, I experienced rejection and was reminded of this lesson.

Near the end of February, I applied to a prestigious club for seniors devoted to preserving the welfare of my university. As expected, the process was an arduous one. On Thursday last week, they announced the 13 members selected for next year. Mine wasn’t one of them.

I left that evening feeling frustrated and disappointed. I thought everything had gone well. I thought I had a chance! I thought I would leave with that triumphant feeling one feels after battling for five thousand kilometers to cross the finish line before the other runners. Instead, I felt empty.

But then pace of my black dress shoes slowed as if they saw a red sign approaching. I stopped.

I thought to myself, “Wait, a second. I may not be leaving as a new member for next year but I am leaving with something and that something is experience.”

Thanks to this process, I now have more experience writing a personal statement, being interviewed, specifically by 13 people at once, mixing with other applicants and getting to know people. All of this experience will prepare for the next position or job or scholarship that I apply for in the future. It’s all about taking risks and learning from your mistakes!

The next time you consider applying for a job, a scholarship or to a club or organization, don’t hesitate and go for it! Even if the chances are against you and you don’t end up winning the battle, you won’t leave empty handed 🙂

Connecting to Chinese culture through Falun Dafa: Buddhist self-cultivation


[Photo Courtesy of Google: Image of Falun Dafa group at the University of Arizona]

Today, I want to share something I have just recently been introduced to: Falun Dafa. What is Falun Dafa?

Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong) is an advanced practice of Buddha school self-cultivation, founded by Mr. Li Hongzhi, the practice’s master. It is a discipline in which “assimilation to the highest qualities of the universe—Zhen, Shan, Ren (Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance)—is the foundation of practice.” Taken from the Falun Dafa website.

I found out about the Falun Dafa group from another student representing the Honors College last Friday during a campus-wide fundraising event for the University of Arizona. I attended the weekly Falun Dafa club meeting for my first time today before class. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay more than 30 minutes but I was able to practice the four standing meditation exercises.

The exercises were calming and I felt a positive energy participating in them. After the meeting, I left with a feeling of tranquility. I plan to attend the future meetings for the reminder of the year and next year. I also started reading the book Falun Gong(other name for Falun Dafa) to educate myself and understand all that I can about Falun Dafa.

I wanted to share this today because of the positive vibes I received from the meditation and the cultural connection I felt. I have never taken any Asian studies classes nor do I have much knowledge. However, I see Falun Dafa as an opportunity to explore a different dimension of myself and connect to another culture that I might not ordinarily connect to. I think others could reap these same benefits which is why I am excited to share it.

If interested, you can probably find Falun Dafa groups in your area by looking here. The links above also connect to the Falun Dafa website and a free book(PDF) where you can read more about Falun Dafa. Please share any thoughts below! 🙂


The recognition of family heritage through a weekend trip to Northern California

This past weekend, my younger brother and I flew to San Jose to spend the weekend with my family and for him to meet my Uncle Nick. It was a trip that reminded me the importance of my family heritage.

On Friday, my mom, stepdad and younger brother flew in from Laguna Niguel, where they live, and met us at the airport. They picked us up in a rental car and the next moments were filled with smiles and hugs. It’s always a euphoric moment seeing your family in person after a long time.

Saturday, we woke up early and drove to Milbrae to take the BART into the heart of San Francisco. We spent the early morning/afternoon walking around Fisherman’s Wharf.

fisherman's wharf

san francisco

In the evening, we headed to Gilroy so that my brothers and stepdad could meet my Uncle Nick. We ate dinner at a seafood restaurant called Rosy’s At the Beach. The Ahi fish tacos were delicious! It’s a lot of food too so you receive your money’s worth.

Afterwards, Uncle Nick invited us over for dessert. We were eating cake together when suddenly my younger brother Charlie said, “What’s that?” We all looked over out of curiosity to see him pointing at this


Uncle Nick said, “Well, that right there is called a gramophone. It’s a family heirloom.”

“A gram-uh

-what?” I with a confused look across my face.

“It’s how people used to listen to music back in the day. Here, let me show you.” He turned it on and then I started to hear music. I thought to myself,

“Wow. This. Is. Cool.” I couldn’t imagine what it was like to not be able to hear music aloud whenever I wanted.

“This was the only way to have music at an event or party. It was this or a live band.” Uncle Nick said to us.

It’s amazing to think about how technology has evolved and the things we take for granted these days. Before that moment, I completely took for granted the idea of being able to hear music. I realized how lucky we are to have the ability to listen to music on our phones, computers and tablets whenever and wherever we want.

The other idea I took away from this moment was the idea of heritage. Heritage is defined as, “an inheritance.” In that moment, I inherited not only a part of history in general but of my own family history. This was a moment that I know my ancestors would be happy to see. I hope this tradition continues and that one day, I’ll be the one sharing the story of the gramophone.

Afroreggae: a Brazilian NGO making changes in the favelas through music and culture



[Photo Courtesy of Google Images]



The sound of a music suffocates the room as students learn to play the percussion in an AfroReggae workshop in Vigário, a favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Similar to these workshops, AfroReggae also offers weekly Afro-Brazilian dance classes to the community. It’s part of their plan to divert people living in the favelas away from the path of drug and violence using education, music and culture.

AfroReggae is an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It originally started in January of 1993 as a newspaper called AfroReggae Noticias. It covered reggae, Afro-Brazilian music and issues of black interest. The reason it started was because of the 1992 funk ban by the government. The government believed that the ban would prevent further violence after a huge brawl between two funk groups in October 1992 (Neate and Platt 16-17).

Now, AfroReggae is involved in multiple favelas in Rio de Janeiro and working on more than just diverting people from harmful paths. They’re helping them find jobs, educate themselves and improve their lives. Here are a few of their well-known projects:

  • Conexões Urbanas– a TV show geared towards connecting people with “current ideas related to sustainability, social technology, citizenship, and principally peace.” It’s a program for “creating reflection and action.”
  • Favela Uprising– a documentary from 2005 that AfroReggae works to create a social revolution to counteract the violence in Rio de Janeiro “through hip-hop music, the rhythms of the street, and Afro-Brazilian dance…” I haven’t seen it yet but it’s available online through the link.
  • Culture is Our Weapon by Patrick Neate and Damian Platt– a book detailing life in the favelas and the journey of AfroReggae. I’m reading it right now and definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the favelas in Brazil
  • Banda AfroReggae- one of the several musical groups started by AfroReggae whose music is “influenced by political and social commentary.” They use their music to communicate their ideas of escaping the drugs and violence in the favelas.


I happened to come across the book Culture is Our Weapon while research an area in Northeastern Brazil called o sertão. I figured I could find a blog of someone from the region who could give me more insight on the culture so I searched “blog sobre o sertão brasil” and came across this page on the book’s website.

Then I decided for my Honors Thesis project at my university to research and analyze how AfroReggae represents themselves in Brazil and around the world. I figured it would lead to more insight on Brazilian pop culture and the power of music in social movements as well. I’m researching them for my Honors Thesis and research paper.

I’m sharing this topic today because I think AfroReggae is awesome! Their involvement in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and their overall ideas are powerful. It makes me happy to know they’re using music and culture to redirect people away from drugs and violences and in a more positive direction. It’s amazing and I wanted to share it with others as inspiration. They’ve inspired me and I hope one day I’ll be using my passions to make the world a better place.




20,000 miles by motorbike, 10,874 miles by bicycle and now over 7,000 by VW bus

duncan stokoe motorbike

10 months. 20,000 miles. Santiago, Chile to San Francisco, California on a motorbike. I met Duncan Stokoe, a 23-year old from England, during his journey last year while he was passing through Arizona. By chance, I happened to be diddling around Couchsurfing and found his post about looking for a place to crash in Arizona. I immediately emailed him offering up my dorm room. Luckily, a friend loaned me their air mattress and he slept in my dorm for a night. I gave him a tour of the university and we hung out in my dorm room with my roommate Chris. He told us some of the wildest stories like accidentally hanging out with drug cartel members in Ecuador and working on a ferry selling bananas between Colombia and Panama. Unfortunately, I had a few exams that week so he didn’t stay longer. He was one of the kindest people I ever met and extremely grateful for being able to stay there. After he left, he added me to an email list of people he had met along the way to keep us updated on his trip. In March of 2013, he arrived in San Francisco and completed his trip.


Fortunate for him, the traveling didn’t stop there. On March 23rd, he flew to London to spend a day catching up with his family and then traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to begin another journey- cycling from Cape Town to Trafalgar Square in London, England. 17,500km(10,874 miles) on a bicycle.  Again, he sent out emails to the people he had met along the way and kept us updated on his trip.

duncan stokoe

During his journey, he said that one of the highlights was, “Seeing wildlife on the bike is pretty cool – so far I’ve seen oryx, zebras, monkeys, ostrich, an amazing herd of springbok that I chased for about 10 minutes before they turned and came sprinting either side of me, and an amusing stand off with a warthog.” He also included a highlight as, “be allowed to stay at a friend of a friend’s game reserve in Namibia. Spending two days driving round with the farm hand ended up turning into my own private two day safari with the highlight easily being getting to feed the rhinos at the end (see photo 3) – slightly nervous as i stand between a fast approaching 3 ton rhino and his dinner.”

duncan stokoe feeding a rhino

I remember seeing this for the first time and saying to myself, “WOW! Wouldn’t that be cool? To see this animals in the wildlife instead of at a zoo?” He finished this journey on December 22nd, 2013, just in time for Christmas! Now, I bet you can guess what he’s doing- another adventure! This time, he’s traveling with a group from Chile to Alaska in a VW van. Click on the link to like their page on Facebook and follow along with them! After hearing about Duncan’s adventures in person and by email, he’s truly inspired me and motivated me to want to explore the world in a different way. I chose to share his story this week because I hope it inspires you the way it inspired me. It’s fascinating to consider all of the places we can travel in the world. All we need is the drive and motivation to do it. The world is our oyster and it’s up to us to take advantage of it. I hope you enjoyed reading about Duncan’s story! Please share this with others who you think might enjoy it 🙂 ###

Why isn’t the news more positive?

The other night, I was at home eating ice cream and watching Fox 10 News with my dad when they showed a video of a security guard being beaten up in a subway station by a bum. It was a video from YouTube taken by a person watching.

My brows moved in and confused look came across myself. I asked myself, “What’s the point of this? Why are they telling me this? Yes, I understand that this man was almost injured but why should this be on the news?” I remembered a Ted talk I once watched where the speaker, Shawn Achor, brought up the fact that the majority of news is negative and about drugs, death, and violence and it’s true!

Take a look at the latest headlines on CNN in this screenshot from today(3/20/2014):

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 1.00.39 PM

If you look at the headlines, the majority of them are negative. “killed herself” or  “lost arm in accident” or “most hated man dies.”

I had never questioned the topics covered in the news until I heard Shawn Achor say that. It made me start to think about the news in a different way.  As a society, it seems as though we’re more interested in hearing about death, drugs and violence. Or maybe that’s just what major news outlets believe.  BUT!

What if all news was positive? What if we only focused on the positive aspects of issues and stories? Imagine the impact that would have on society. I think more people would look at life from an optimistic perspective. The world would be a happier place.

I wanted to share this because I think it’s important to think about the effects of media on society and I’m curious to know what others think. What do you think about the news in society? Would the world be different if news didn’t cover drugs, violence or death? Can we do anything about it?


One Young World and Under 20 Summit- Two amazing leadership conferences to check out

Last week, I was checking out other blog posts on Students Gone Global and learned about an awesome leadership conference called One Young World, which is a “UK-based not-for-profit that gathers together the brightest young people from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change.” I watched the film for last year’s conference and it just sounds amazing.

I wanted to share it because you can apply now to attend this year’s conference which will be held in Dublin, Ireland from October 15 to the 19th. Unfortunately, the cost of the event is around $4,500 plus tax, which is a little hefty, especially for a college student. The good thing- there are tons of scholarships out there that may be used to fund you to go!

The other conference I want to mention is the Under 20 Summit conference. The conference is put on twice a year-once in San Francisco and once in New York and it’s put on by the Thiel Fellowship. The Thiel Fellowship is a fellowship for under-20 adolescents who are motivated and ambitious and want to change the world. They’re” given a no-strings-attached grant of $100,000 to skip college and focus on their work, their research, and their self-education.” Even though the fellowship is for students under-20, the conference is open to all ages and it’s free! As long as you pay for yourself to travel to San Francisco or New York,  the conference itself is free to attend.

I found out about it last summer while interning in San Francisco. I met someone in my hostel who was attending and she invited me to go. At the conference, I met hundreds of young, bright individuals with ambitions of changing the world. I also heard from many inspiring and motivating speakers and had a wonderful experience overall. I would definitely encourage attending the conference if you have the opportunity.

Well, that’s it for today’s post! Hopefully this is new and helpful information to you! Thanks for reading!

P.S.- if you’re from Arizona, help support computer science education and take two minutes to send a message to the senator by filling out this form here! If the bill passes, computer science will count as a high school math course!

Credit to Ellen for sharing about One Young World on her blog post 


Why you should consider learning Portuguese if you already speak Spanish

picture of brazilIf you like languages and are considering picking up a third, check out Portuguese(Brazilian)! It’s a really cool language and if you already know Spanish, it’ll seem so much easier! The pronunciation is different but the grammar and vocabulary are super similar! Here are a few reasons to consider it:

Between 80-95% of Portuguese and Spanish are similar

I couldn’t find a credible source to cite this fact but I researched it as best as I could and the numbers varied but the point is Spanish and Portuguese are VERY similar. My professor once said that 80% of the grammar is similar but then after googling around, some people said 89% of the vocabulary was similar. I’m not too sure which it is BUT there are several similarities- enough to make the process 100x easier learning it as a third language.

Portuguese is the official language in 9 countries(plus 1 “place” where it’s the official language along with Cantonese)

In the following countries, Portuguese is listed as the official language:

  • Brazil
  • Portugal
  • Mozambique(in Africa)
  • Angola(in Africa)
  • Guinea-Bissau(in Africa)
  • Equatorial Guinea(in Africa)
  • Cape Verde(island off the coast of West Africa)
  • East Timor(island near Australia)
  • Sao Tome and Principe(islands near coast of West Africa)
  • Macau(technically not a country, part of China but special)

So if you learn Portuguese, it gives you a reason to visit all these countries and islands and even Macau, the “Special Administrated Region of the People’s Republic of China!” I think it’s so cool that Portuguese is one of the official languages there. It makes me really want to go there.

Speaking three languages will increase your job opportunities

This one is pretty obvious but the fact that you speak Spanish AND Portuguese could really help you especially if you’d like to work for a company that deals with clients from around the world. Instead of having to hire a Spanish and a Portuguese speaker, they could just hire YOU! Or, if you don’t like the jobs you’re finding as a bilingual Spanish-English speaker, maybe you’ll find one you like as a bilingual Portuguese-English speaker? You never know!

Unlike Spanish, you only really need to know three verb forms when conjugating

In Portuguese, you will only really need to know these conjugations:

  • I- eu
  • you/he/she/us- você/ele/ela/a gente
  • them, you all- eles/elas/vocês

So the main difference is that instead of using a separate nós form, in Brazil, they typically use a gente which is conjugated the same way as you, he, she, and us.  That’s also really awesome especially if you’re used to learning 5 or 6 different conjugations in Spanish. Now, you only have to learn 3!

Hopefully some of this information was new to you or you enjoyed reading this post! I decided to share it because I love learning languages. I’m also learning Portuguese and wanted to share this information because maybe you’ll find it helpful or interesting! Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts below! 🙂