Season 1 Episode 8: Venice Round 2

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The following weekend of March 11-12th, my school took us to Venice for a two day trip. We got up bright and early on Saturday morning, and headed to Venice by train. It took about 2 hours to get there, and a 25 minute walk from the station to the bus. It was strange walking on the train platform, because if you stood still, you could feel the gentle rocking of the water underneath the train station…it’s no joke when they say the whole city is built on water!  When we arrived, we walked to our hotel, put our bags down, and then headed into San Marco square for our first tour. Our first stop was the magnificent and beautiful Basilica of San Marco. The architecture of the Basilica was so breathtaking, and it had such a ‘carnival’ feel to it. We went inside, and inside was so elaborately beautiful and detailed. The ceilings were huge and had multiple domes lining the roof. After about 2 hours here, we finished our tour and headed for a lunch break.

After lunch, we met back up with our group to take a tour of the Doge Palace. Doge’s Palace used to be the residence of the important doge family and the seat of the Venetian government. The palace was absolutely beautiful, and has amazing Gothic architecture. We learned about the family, a bit about the politics, and more. We spent about 2 more hours there. After, my friends and I headed to shop and explore around the center of the city. We did some souvenir shopping, and I got some Murano glasses bracelets, necklaces, and cufflinks to bring home for my family. Venice is close to the island of Murano, where the ever so famous Murano glass originates.

After spending way more money then we should of, we decided to take a gondola ride in the canals of Venice, a MUST DO in the city. For the bit expensive price of 80 euros, (but so worth it), we took a 30 minute ride passing the most famous areas of the city, including the Grand Canal. It was very relaxing and enjoyable after our exhausting day.

Following the gondola ride, we grabbed some dinner and explored some more. As many places close down early in Venice, and there is not much night life, we headed back to our hotel exhausted and ready for bed.

Sunday morning, we packed our stuff up, checked out, and headed down the street for some breakfast. It was a very chilly and rainy day here in Venice, which to be honest, made the city look very washed. We grabbed some croissants and a cappuccino, and just walked around for some more shops until it was time to meet back up with our school. We met with our group and took the water taxi back to the train station, and headed back to Florence.

 

Season 1 Episode 7: What’s So Great About Switzerland? Well, the flag’s a big plus

The weekend of March 1st, 2018 was probably one of the best weekends of my life. On Thursday night around 9pm, I boarded a bus for a weekend in Interlaken, Switzerland. The extreme sport capital of the WORLD…YES, the WORLd. This day was also special, because it snowed in Florence for the first time in many many years. When we left at 9pm at night, we were expected to get to Interlaken around 5 in the morning. Due to large amounts of snow in Bologna, and an unexpected highway closure in Switzerland, we didn’t make it to Inkerlaken until almost 9am. But the extra morning commute was worth it. The Swiss Alps are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life. The perfect white snow at the top, one after another was mesmerizing. We twisted and turned up mountains and tight little roads, with snow and little ski shops and cabins. It was like I was in another world. We got to our hostel and had some breakfast, and decided to take a cat nap so we would be set for the rest of the day. My friends and I decided to go to a little Irish Pub restaurant down the street from the hostel for some lunch. We got some Swiss burgers and they were amazing. This is the trip where I met my friend Hannah, who will go on to be my best friend I met while studying abroad, and who I will go on many more adventures with her during my time abroad. After lunch, we decided to go walk around and see what was around in the area. Tall, beautiful mountains surrounded the little winter town and I was in pure amazement. After walking around for a while, we headed more into downtown Interlaken for our Swiss chocolate making class at a place called the Funky Chocolate Club. The second I walked through the door, the amazing scent of hot chocolate filled the air, and there was all different types of chocolate all over the shelves. We checked in, and headed in the back to a classroom where we began our lesson. We got to learn about cocoa and try different types of chocolate, from dark to milk to white. Then we got to pick from light or dark chocolate, and create chocolate bars. We got to decorate them however we wanted, set them aside, and then had to come back the next day to pick them up.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early because i was going PARAGLIDING!!! By 9am I was down in the lobby and was picked up in a van to take us to the paragliding place. We got there, put on snow boats, and then took the van up the mountains to get to the top of the Swiss Alps. From there, we walked a bit to get to the overhang where we were going to jump off from. After some setup, and a running start, jumped off the mountain and were paragliding off the air. Paragliding over the Swiss Alps was the BEST and my favorite experience on this trip. It was so breathtaking and beautiful just gliding around. I got a USB with pics and videos from paragliding and I’m still obsessed with them. After paragliding, my friend and I decided to go hang back at the hotel, and after did some shopping. That night, we had a group dinner with the tour group we booked with. We had a choice of fondue or a Swiss burger. I had the burger.

The next and final morning in Switzerland, my friends and I decided to go do some souvenir shopping and head down to Lake Brienz and take pictures. After an extremely long walk, we came upon the lake, and I was mesmerized by the pure blue beautiful lake with snow top mountains behind it in the distance. It was the most beautiful water I have ever seen. I stood there for a good 10-15 minutes thankful I was able to come and experience this beautiful scene. We headed back to the hostel to get ready to depart back to Florence. I was extremely sad. As I left Switzerland I decided to make it my goal to get a winter house there. Whenever I come back to Europe, I will most definitely be going back to Switzerland. You have my heart.

Season 1 Episode 6: Another Carnivale?!

The following weekend after Venice, Richmond University my school, offered a day trip to the Carnival in Viareggio. This carnival is a tradition where hundreds of people create large and controversial Papier-mâché floats. These floats represent different opinions in politics and other areas. For example, one float is aimed at the Italian Mafia after they killed an innocent journalist named Giuseppe.

Although these floats are pretty intense, the atmosphere is like any other carnival. Theres kids throwing confetti all over the place, people dressed up in every kind of costume you could possibly imagine. It was a very fun day. A few friends and I walked around, had a panini and just enjoyed watching all the floats. After the parade was over, we decided to go to the coast and see the beach with the sunset. It was amazing, because the beach was right in front of us, but when you turned around, there were snow-covered mountains. It was such a stunning sight. After taking some pictures, and enjoying the view, we got back on the bus for our hour ride back to Florence

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Season 1 Episode 5: The Greatest Carnivale in the World

After my first long and confusing week of classes, I decided to take a weekend to trip to Venice with my friend Erin. With my nonno being from Venice I always had a desire in my heart to visit there. If I didn’t get a chance to travel anywhere else during my time abroad, as long as I got to visit Venice I would be happy. We booked bus tickets online, and got an airbnb for the weekend. Luckily for us, the weekend we went was also one of the weekends of Carnivale! As Friday morning approached, I eagerly went to the Santa Novella bus station, met up with my friend, and headed to Venice.

After a long four hour bus ride, we finally got to Venezia on a chilly, rainy day. We took a shuttle to the actual city of Venice and my mouth dropped as I saw the buildings. They were so antique, yet so colorful, and lively. We got dropped off and had to take a thirty minute water taxi from the station to our airbnb. I was shocked and in awe to see the beautiful city. Each bridge we passed was unique in its own way, arched over turquoise water lapping onto the buildings walls. The city had such an old fashioned and beautiful vibe.

After unpacking at our airbnb,  Erin and I decided to walk around the area where we were staying. I was in total disbelief at every little building, bridge, gondola, and piece of art we walked by. There was dozens of little tiny shops selling hand made and hand painted carnival masks, murano glass, and souvenirs. The one souvenir I really wanted to buy was a mask to hang on my wall at home. I’m in love with the Venice Carnivale, and to bring a mask back was like bringing a piece of heritage back home. As we turned every corner there was masks shops and I became so overwhelmed with the amount of stunning masks that it took me about an hour to finally pick one out. I choose a beautiful red and gold full face mask with giant red ostrich feathers circling the top and bottom.  Erin finally pulled me away from the shop and it was almost seven at night. We decided to visit the Hard Rock Cafe, because well, to be honest, I was already craving a nice big American cheeseburger. After dinner, we were exhausted from traveling all day, so we headed back and called it a night.

The next morning we got up and got caffe and a pastry for breakfast before heading over to San Marco square to see all the festivities of Carnivale. Unfortunately the weather was not too great to be outsideIMG_1314. It was very chilly and rainy, but we made the best of it. After a short ten minute walk we were in the center of San Marco square, and in front of us was the most beautiful church I have ever seen. The church was so colorful and so huge, it was unlike any other church I’ve seen so far in Italy. All around the square, there were people in masks and costumes and a huge circus like arena  was set up in the middle where they had little shows and events. As I glanced around the square, I have to say I started to get emotional and started to cry a little. I was so unbelievably happy to be in my homeland and get to see where my nonno is from. Even better, I got to experience Carnivale. After taking some amazing pictures of people dressed up, and all the festivities, we walked to the waters edge to overlook the other part of the city and watch the gondolas glide by.

For dinner, we went to a typical Italian restaurant and got some pizza. It is crazy that just by going to different areas in Italy, pizza can taste totally different from place to place. after dinner we just explored some more, and then headed to bed. The weather was very cold, and Venice is very quiet at night. There is not much to do once the sun sets. The square cleared out and it sort of reminded me of a ghost town once you left the main area.

Sunday morning, the day we left, of course the weather started to get nicer. We packed up our stuff, and headed back to the water taxi to take us back to the bus station to go back to Florence. Going to Venice was of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had it meant so much more to see my home land. I never thought I would actually be able to experience going there. As the bus started to pull away, I took a glance back, and realized how truly blessed I am to have these experiences. Until next time….Ciao!

 

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Season 1 Episode 4: Foundation

After a four hour bus ride from Rome to Florence, we finally were able to go to our apartments and settle in! What a wonderful feeling! My three roommates and I took a taxi from the bus to our apartment and we met the landlord there. She gave us our keys, showed us around the apartment and left us to be able to unpack. I will definitely say the expectations of the apartments that I had were different from the actual apartment. We had three bedrooms, two singles, and a double. I was able to choose the double, which was a small room by the front door. It wasn’t anything too special, a bed, a dresser, and a closet. I definitely wish I brought some pictures and things to hang up, but then again, how much time would I actually be spending in my room? We had a small kitchen, a dining room which was connected to the living room, and a bathroom. There were a lot of small differences about the apartment from what I was used to. The biggest thing for me, was that there was no dryer for my clothes. Dryers in Italy are NOT common, it’s extremely rare to have one. Everyone hangs their clothes on a clothesline outside or on a drying rack. We also had limited hot water, and a much smaller fridge and kitchen area. As I started seeing the small differences from my life at home, I started to worry I wouldnt adjust, but I took a deep breath and decided to take one day a t time. Florence is a foundation to me, like a home base. I would be attending school here and doing work, but it was my starting point to explore many different places around Europe.

The next day, everyone met at school for a mini orientation and practical tour of the main areas in Florence. Everyone who goes to Richmond live in different apartments all over Florence. My apartment was about a fifteen minute walk from school. Not too bad, right? I got up bright and early, and my roommates and I got breakfast at a cafe called Le Vespe. They had a lot of different pastries and breakfast foods to choose from, as well as coffee. We then headed to our school building for our orientation. One of the greatest things about my program, is that we have a meal plan. We were given five breakfast vouchers and five dinner vouchers a week, and four $10 grocery store gift cards per month that we could use Essalunga, which is the big grocery store here. We were able to use our meal vouchers at about twenty-five different places that were listed on a paper. We then were split into groups and were given a tour of the places we needed to know about in Florence. After the tour, some friends and I decided to get some food, some gelato and then headed back to our apartment to get ready for our first week of school.

Monday January 29th, was my first day of classes here at Richmond in Florence, and it was finally time to start settling in. The walk from my apartment to school is not a bad walk, but on rainy and cold days it was definitely not the most fun thing to do. My first class was Italian Food and Culture, two hours a day, Monday and Wednesdays from 10:50-12:30. Right after that class, I had a class called Made in Italy: From Espresso to Ferrari, same days of Monday and Wednesday, from 12:40-2:20. I then had a break until 4:20, which I had an accelerated Italian language class. This class was Monday-Thursday, for two hours a day. There are no classes on Fridays.

The first week of class was the typical stuff. Syllabuses, dates, assignments, and so on. Even thought we are in Italy, the school Richmond itself has its home school in London. Richmond has the British school system. This means that we did not have weekly assignments per say, but we had one large research paper, about 8-10 pages, and a midterm and final. The midterm and final consisted of opened ended questions that required and eight paragraph response in fifty minutes. The final was similar, except there was two questions to answer, and double the time. Italian classes were different, as we had a test every week, and then two midterms, and two finals. This is because the accelerated program was level one and two of Italian, so therefore we had a midterm and final for each level. Although this class seemed like a lot of work, my super sweet teacher named Elisa seemed amazing.

The coolest part, was that we had many different field trips for different classes. My Food and Culture class had field trips set up for a visit to a farm, food market, balsamic vinegary factory, pasta factory, and more, My Made in Italy Class had field trips to the Piaggio/Vespa museum and Ferrari museum. I will talk more about those field trips in my future blog posts as I attend them.

 

Update: My first week of classes went very well. The walk to class can get a bit tiring but I don’t think I will ever get tired of the view. The buildings are so beautiful and vintage. I will say the atmosphere of the school was different than I expected. It made me appreciate the advanced technology that I have at my home university of Stockton.  There seemed to be enough work, but not too much where it would be overwhelming to do, and not be able to travel on weekends. The school also gave us a huge calendar of different events that we could sign up for each month. They had wine tastings, dinner with Italians, soccer matches, pizza making classes, cooking classes, and trips to different places in Italy like Cinque Terre, Siena, and the Carnival in Viareggio. It is definitely going to be an interesting semester.

Season 1 Episode 3: All Roads Lead to Rome

Whoever said travel day is stressful, you’re not wrong. After an exhausting Monday morning flight from London to Rome, we made it. At least I can unpack a little! We stayed at the Grand Hotel Palatino, not far from the main sights of the city. It was very nice and modern. The itinerary for the week was heavily packed, with orientation every morning, walking tours after, and then dinner, with maybe an hour break in-between each event… I was already tired from reading the schedule. That Monday, the day we arrived in Rome, I decided to take it easy and just relax. I had to make sure I was ready for the adventures of the week. We had an amazing first night dinner at Le Terme del Colosseo. It was my first real taste of Italy and we got a three course meal. Learning experience of the day: Italians like to separate their food in dishes. Dinner doesn’t come out all at once. It’s courses. You’ll never seen a lot of meat and pasta in the same dish. For example, spaghetti and meatballs IS NOT A THING in Italy! It’s an American twist. In Italy, the first dish could be spaghetti and sauce, and the next dish would be just meatballs. Our first course was ravioli with ricotta cheese and spinach and tomatoes. Then, chicken with salad and mashed potatoes. I have to say, the mashed potatoes were probably the best i’ve ever had, even compared to the homemade ones at home (sorry dad). To finish, the best tiramisu ever. After dinner, my friend Siobhan and I decided to walk around by our hotel. We saw a beautiful large archway with steps and decided to go check it out. We walked through and then took the street to the right. We turned a corner and I stopped dead in my tracks. Right in front of us was The Colosseum. I cannot believe my eyes. One of the most massive and beautiful ancient sights was right in front of me, and a block away from my hotel.  The Colosseum was the #1 sight I was beyond excited to see, and the fact that I accidently just stumbled upon it taking a causal walk after dinner made it 100x better. It was an amazing surprise. I took some pictures, and just sat on a bench for a good fifteen minutes just staring. I can’t express how amazing that moment was. After some time, we headed back to the hotel and decided to call it a night.

The next day, on a bright and sunny Tuesday morning we started off with an amazing breakfast buffet offered by the hotel. Cereals, eggs, bacon, fresh cold cuts, cheeses, and more were sprawled out all over a huge, elegant dining room. After stuffing my face, I headed downstairs to a meeting room for the first day of orientation. I got all the information needed, from academic information to housing, and they even gave us a mini Italian lesson. I have to say, it was hard to pay attention because I was itching to get outside and go explore Rome. After orientation, I grabbed a quick lunch with some friends, and got my first ever taste of real Italian pizza. Sorry America, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat your pizza again…..okay that’s a lie, but NOTHING compares to the pizza here. We met back at the hotel, and we were separated into groups for a walking tour of Rome. Today, we were visiting Piazza di Spagna (The Spanish Steps), S. Maria del Popolo, Pincio, and the most exciting sight of the day for me, the Trevi fountain. Our tour guide was AMAZING. Francesca was so passionate about the history and art of Rome, it put a smile on my face to see someone love something so much. I am not into history and art much, but with the way she spoke, I was right in front most of the time and all ears taking in all the new information I was learning. Visiting the Trevi Fountain was the highlight of my first day in Rome. I definitely had my Lizzie McGuire moment tossing a coin over my shoulder into the fountain. Dinner that night was at La Gallina Bianca, a typical Italian restaurant, and consisted of pasta with cheese and bacon for course one, beef strips with artichoke and mint for course two, and ended with gelato for dessert. I crawled into bed soon we got back to the hotel, extremely tired from walking over 9 miles exploring Rome.

Wednesday: day two in Rome. All our mornings started the same: breakfast, orientation, time for lunch, and then a walking tour, and then dinner. Todays adventure was Vatican City. Vatican City was #2 on my most excited to see places in Rome. We visited the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The second I entered the city, I realized that I definitely was not in Kansas anymore. The place was beyond beautiful. The architecture, the sculptures, the paintings; everything was just breathtaking. We learned about the history of Vatican City, the Christian religion, and about the different types of art around the museum. We learned about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the meaning behind the different scenes and people, and until you walk in there, you will never understand how absolutely stunning that piece of artwork is. The fact that I saw such a massive painting on a ceiling made my MICHELANGELO himself, made my whole trip already worthwhile. I had no words walking in there. After that, we had some free time to explore St. Peters Basilica, and I wish I had more time to of been able to really take everything in. The place is massive, and of course covered in hundreds of different paintings and sculptures . As a Catholic, being able to pray in Vatican City was an experience I value greatly. We met back up with our group, and headed back to the hotel for dinner. Tonight was rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce and bacon, chicken with roasted potatoes, and then chantilly cream with chocolate to tie it all together. After, a bunch of  students from my program and I all hungout in the lobby of the hotel, just getting to know each other and meet people. Time went fast, and before I knew it, it was almost midnight. Time for bed.

By Thursday morning, I have to say I was beginning to get very tired. The constant running around and the massive amount of information we were receiving was a lot to handle. I was ready to go to Florence, and be able to settle in. But, I was only in Rome for a week, so I quickly composed myself into having a positive attitude and was ready to take on the day. Todays tour itinerary was visiting the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, and the Vittoriano Monument. We also visited city hall and learned a lot about the way the Romans handled politics and working in the city. Walking past the ancient ruins was shocking to see. The craziest part of it was seeing how some ruins were not at the ground level we were at. For example, one of the ancient temples had its front doors about one story higher than when we were standing. This is because so many years ago, the ground level was much higher than today. I found that fascinating. As we were heading back to the hotel we passed this ancient ruin “garden” that was in the middle of a square. As we stopped to look at it, we noticed there were dozens of cats walking around and lounging out in this area. An animal rescue program would rescue cats and take them to this large area to live. They had a lot of space and places to play. The best part, was if you saw a cat you liked, they had a little office you could go to and adopt one! Yes, I almost came back with a new cat…This tour was shorter thankfully, as the sights we were seeing this day were closer together. We headed back to the hotel and I took an amazing nap for dinner. What’s on the menu tonight? Well, i’m glad you asked. Dinner consisted of barley soup, meat rolls with prosciutto, and panna cotta for dessert. It was my first time eating panna cotta, and it is now one of my favorite desserts.

Friday. Our final day in Rome! Thankfully, today we had no orientation, and our final two sights were the Colosseum and Fori Imperiali. I was extremely excited to finally be able to go see the inside of the Colosseum. After getting there a bit too early, and having to impatiently wait for almost a half hour, we finally got to go in! The structure of this place was insane. We learned how they used so many arches in their design structure, and that’s one of the main reasons why most of it has been so sturdy and lives to this day. We learned how the gladiators would train, the fights, and the audience. Each social class had their own area inside the Colosseum. The lower levels were for important and rich men, while the higher levels with no seats were for lower class people and women (since women were considered much lower than men at the time). As I trekked around the massive structure, I don’t think my mouth could of hung open any wider in awe. After a semi short day, we headed back, and I anxiously packed my suitcase ready to leave for Florence the next day. Some friends and I hungout around the hotel and we all ate our final dinner in Rome at the hotel dinner buffet. Having to be up early for a four hour bus ride the following morning, we headed to bed super early, ready to finally travel to our home for the next few months.

To find out about the first adventures in Florence, I guess you’ll have to tune into my next blog post 🙂 Ciao!

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Season 1 Episode 2: Takeoff

Getting ready to leave home the day my journey began was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. This will be the longest and the furthest from home I’ve ever been, and as I was walking into Newark Liberty airport, I couldn’t help but feel a bit emotional. Well…that’s a lie. I was quite emotional. When my dad left me at the security gate and he pulled away from a hug, the tears in his eyes made me really realize what was happening. Did I really want to do this? I took a deep breath, said goodbye, and just continued to move forward. A few more deep breaths, and some positive thinking got me to the gate and ready for takeoff.

First stop: London. Flying overnight on British Airways was an experience in itself and the flight staff were nothing short of amazing and sweet. As this was my longest flight and first time having a full meal on a plane, I was throughly impressed by the airplane food and the entertainment options. Dinner was chicken and stuffing, a side salad, cheese, bread, wine, and a caramel pudding for dessert. YUM YUM YUM. The flight went fast due to the extensive selection of free movies, (including new releases), TV shows and games. Did I mention they were all…FREE? Before I knew it I was asleep and waking up to the stereotypical sight of London….cloudy skies and rain.

The coordinators of our program met us by the airport exit, and we took a half hour ride to our hotel.  After an overnight flight and barely any sleep, you might think i went and took a nap, but nope! I grabbed my umbrella and rain jacket, and trekked to downtown London with a friend. We had brunch at a small London cafe, and I tried porridge and honey for the first time. I loved it! After, we headed underground to figure out our transportation around the city.

Figuring out how to use “the tube”, which is the U.S. equivalent of a subway, was difficult at first, but after a few times riding it around and figuring out what stop was what, it was easy as pie. We took the tube into Westminster, to see the typical tourist attractions of the London Eye, County Hall, and of course, Big Ben. I have to say I was a tad disappointed that Big Ben happened to be under construction, and therefore had scaffolding ALL over it…and I mean ALL OVER. I could barely see the clocks hands. In addition, the London Eye was under construction as well, so we were unable to take a ride in it. But, the atmosphere and other sights made up for it. After walking around for hours and after my boots soaked through with water, we finally headed back to the hotel to rest for the evening.

The next day we got up bright and early for breakfast, and boarded a bus tour provided to us by AIFS. We got to see the Tower Bridge, London Eye, St. Pauls Cathedral, and my favorite part, Buckingham Palace as well as some other sights. Our tour guide was absolutely amazing, and I learned so much from her. After the tour, the bus dropped us off near a place called the Covent Garden Apple Market. It’s a huge covered shopping area with chocolate shops, souvenir stands, eateries, and more. A few friends and I grabbed lunch at a typical London Pub eatery. I had a jackett potato and some cider, while my friends had fish and chips and other British dishes. I personally loved the food in London! After lunch, we decided to “get lost” in the area, and wander around to find some cool sights. We stumbled upon this cute little colorful alley that was full of mini speciality shops. It was absolutely adorable!

After some exploring, a friend and I decided to branch off from our other friends and hit the Natural History Museum in Kensington. When we walked into the museum we were floored. IT WAS HUGE, and had tons and tons of rooms and exhibits showing off all the different subjects in natural history. From natural disasters to dinosaurs, to the human body and space, I was astonished by every exhibit I saw. We spent a few hours there, and realized soaking in all this new information really got us hungry. Off to dinner we go…

Our dinner consisted of another London Pub and I had the best pie I have ever eaten before. Not dessert pie, but a chicken, ham, and cheese pot pie. With some berry cider to drink, it was an amazing dinner. As it started to get dark out, we heard from the locals about a light festival called the Luminere festival going on all around the city. This festival consisted of some of Londons most famous sights to be lit up and decorated. It was absolutely breathtaking to see. We headed to Leicester Square Garden where we accidently stumbled across a huge display of  light up insects and flowers for everyone to enjoy. After a few hours of open jaws and OOOs and AHHHS, we were about to head back to the hotel and call it a night. This was until we realized…WAIT we’re in London, and we are Harry Potter fans! Of course we had to pay a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. A piece of advice, if you plan on going to Platform 9 3/4, make sure you go early in the morning or late at night like we did! We waited about twenty minutes in line, while our other fellow study abroad friends waited almost two hours in the middle of the day.

You’re probably thinking, “isn’t this girl exhausted yet from walking around ALL day for over 12 hours?” Well, the answer is yes, but I only had two days in London so I had to make the best use of the time I had. To end the night, two friends and I went to see the London Eye lit up at night. It was definitely a beautiful sight. It changed to every color in the rainbow, to a rainbow itself, and then the colors of their flag. It was a sight to remember and I have to say, after that moment, I truly fell in love with London. Since I’ve left, I’ve thought about the city many times, and I’ve made a note in my future bucket list travel plans to 100% go back.

My friends had to pull me away from the beautiful sight of the London eye, and I sadly and tiredly headed back to the hotel to get some ZZZs….after all, I did have to be up at 5am for our flight to our next destination….Rome!

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Season 1 Episode 1 – Pilot

Welcome to my first post 🙂

This blog will be about my study abroad experience and the adventure that will come with it. It won’t be a typical travel blog where I recommend the best places to eat and cool things to do. (Although some posts will probably have my take on things). It will be more of a journal of my personal adventures and growth. I’m just a typical girl trying to take advantage of every amazing opportunity I get.

Studying abroad was something that I have wanted to do since I began my college career almost 4 years ago. I would think about it, and then get too nervous and scared of such a big change. My last semester as a senior, a few short months away from graduation I decided to finally break out of my comfort shell and take a chance. I have never traveled by myself. I have never been to Europe before. I have never been this far away from home, and for such an extended period of time. I have no idea how this experience will change me and this is a completely new world to me.

I choose to study abroad in Florence, Italy for many different reasons, but mostly the fact that I am over 50% Italian. My maternal grandpa (in Italian, Nonno), is right off the boat from Venice, and my maternal grandmother (in Italian, Nonna), is from the very close country of Croatia. My Nonna moved to Italy and met my Nonno, and eventually they immigrated to America together. As I grew up, my household was very Italian-American. My Nonna, Nonno, and my mother spoke fluent Italian, which I picked up some of the language over time. We ate Italian dishes, from Polenta and Panettone, and so on. I wanted to learn more about the culture, learn more of the language, and explore the country and continent where my ancestors came from.

Going into my study abroad experience, I have a million questions, thoughts, ideas, expectations. What is the academics like? Where will I be living? Will i be homesick? Will I make friends? How different is the culture? But I am ready to open my mind and take in everything this opportunity will give to me. For classes, I am studying at Richmond University study center in Florence. I am taking twelve credits here, and three classes: Italian Food & Culture, Made in Italy: From Ferrari to Espresso, and a six credit accelerated Italian language course.

Packing is an absolute hassle and as an over thinker, I have no idea what to bring. For a good month before I left, and even avoided packing until about two days before. How am I supposed to pack 3+ months of my life into one large suitcase, one small one, and a backpack? Well I did it. People always told me to travel light and bring layers so that’s exactly what I did. My program through AIFS offered a London stopover for two days as a mini stop, before heading to Rome right after for a week of tours and program orientation. After that, the final stop in Florence.

Let the adventure begin…

 

 

 

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