Almost Over

My time with the Stuttgart University is almost over, as the Farewell Dinner Party is this upcoming Thursday. We went on our last group excursion yesterday to the Old Basilica Birnau and the old town of Meersburg and took a boat ride on the Lake of Konstanz, after which I walked into Switzerland, which has a very underwhelming welcome sign with Germany. Since my last post, we have also visited the tallest waterfalls in Germany, Triberg, which required much intensive hill-climbing, of course, and the city of Heidelberg. In my hometown village of Uhlbach, I took part in the Wine Wandering Walk, in which I hiked 6 km of trails winding in and out of the hilly vineyards and sampled six different wines, made locally right in the hills I have been living in. Because the World Cup is currently taking place and football, as they call it everywhere except the United States, is huge in Germany, which won the last World Cup, there are large viewing parties everywhere whenever Germany is scheduled to play. Almost everyone in our group watched Germany’s first game against Mexico, to which they lost, in a biergarten in the city center. There are a lot of students in our group from Mexico, so it was very interesting to be surrounded by fans of both teams! I also visited the Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart, which was different from the zoo I usually visit at home because all the exhibits were so close and all the animals seemed close enough to touch.

With my International Business class, we went on an excursion to the Ritter Sport factory and museum, where we learned about the history of the company and the products they use to produce their globally-popular chocolate bars, followed a tour of the company’s granddaughter’s art collection, and purchased many kilos of discounted chocolate! We also received a tour of a local brewery, Stuttgarter Hofbrau, which brews, bottles, and distributes just within Germany. After the production tour, we were given bottomless beer samples and classic German pretzels, with a beer mug to take home as a souvenir! This last Thursday, we visited the Porsche museum, which is having their 70th anniversary as a company, so it currently has a special exhibit displaying the entire timeline of its racecars and roadsters. This exhibit includes the very first single Porsche ever made, which had a mid-engine, and the future model for Porsche, an entirely electric vehicle. Our last excursion is Tuesday to the Mercedes Museum.

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Florence Part 2 and The Joust (6/23/18)

Today was a much better day in Florence, and I think it was because today wasn’t as busy as yesterday, and it wasn’t rainy nor gloomy outside. Today gave me a different impression about Florence because I feel like I also got to see a little more besides just the leather shop. Florence is actually a beautiful place when you can see past the overpopulation, the arts definitely bring the beauty out of Florence. Today we went to The Academia where the famous David sculpture stands by Michelangelo. There are five unfinished sculptures in The Academia, and then the one famous sculpture. I didn’t realize how huge it was in person, as books and movies diminishes its great size. It was so much detail put into that sculpture, and you can tell that Michelangelo took his time on this piece. I learned that the sling shot that’s in the hands of David was equivalent to a 45 caliber bullet; that’s insane. The accuracy of the sling shots were perfect, so the sculpture depicts Davids bold and courageous demeanor as he faced the giant with his power weapon.

I learned a lot about Michelangelo and how he wasn’t actually who he depicted himself in his biography. He was definitely not poor as he characterized himself. He was really filthy rich, and was a clever, but harsh businessman as he did for himself and disregarded others feelings. He was smart with his money, and didn’t do art without getting paid because back then creating art just for fun was not a thing. He was the first modern artist which was the transition from a craftsmanship artist to a divinely inspired genius, individuality, and documenting his life (biography). There was an art transition from a Gothic period, to a transition period that began to demonstrate things, to the Renaissance period where emotion and expression was prevalent in art. Michelangelo was influenced by Donatello, as Donatello began to learn more of naturalistic arts with realistic looks and the Contrapposto stance, which is the natural stance that humans have as they lean their hips to one side of the body to be more comfortable.

After a day in Florence, we came back to Arezzo and got ready for the Joust. We ate dinner first, then all headed over as a group. Wow, when I tell you that the streets were packed and live, they were packed and live! The whole city of Arezzo came out to watch this, and it was definitely worth it. Everyone roared with enthusiasm, yet people would get really serious because it was very important to win. This setting reminded me of our OU-Texas games that get so hype. There were several small fights that broke out because their team was losing, and several horse that got a little rowdy. It was so much going on, my eyes couldn’t keep up. Even though I barely understood what they were saying, I felt such a rush because of all of the high energy. My team didn’t win; however, they gave it their all. This was the best night I’ve ever had in Arezzo, and I’ll always remember it. Now tomorrow to the beach!

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Florence Day Trip (6/22/18)

Today was the day that we visited Florence, and it was very different. We woke up very early and took a train over there. It was so fun because it was my first experience on a train, so I kept looking out of the window looking out at how fast the train was going. When we got to Florence, it was totally different than what I expected it to be. I thought it would be more eye catching or vibrant as it was described by others, but it was more of a crowded and unsanitary metropolis. I’m not really a big fan of huge cities; therefore, I just wasn’t feeling the environment. It was too high pace and people weren’t as friendly as Arezzo or Assisi. Everything was overpriced too, and I didn’t feel as safe as Arezzo! I can say I liked Assisi better; however, the Uffizi Museum was very beautiful, and that was the only reason why I liked Florence, as well as the leather market. The leather market was such an experience, both good and bad.

The leather market was so cool because there were so many vendors really trying to sell you good bargains. Today was the day I learned how to stop being so nice and put my foot down when bargaining. I got some great deals because I was stern with my decisions and didn’t let the vendors persuade me. I got my mom’s purse down from $65 to $20, just because I kept telling him that I only had $20 euro until he finally gave in. I was proud of my mischievous lifestyle of striving for better deals because it felt great. I also got my boyfriend a really nice leather gift for cheap too. I did encounter some persistent vendors that would not let me leave until I bought this purse that they kept decreasing the price for. It was crazy, but I eventually got away because I didn’t want it, and they were really upset. I felt bad, but this is a business honey, so it’s eat or be eaten in the industry, and I definitely was going to eat these good deals.

What was interesting was to learn about the purpose of romanistic churches for common people, the mortality rates back then, and the roles of women. The church was seen as salvation to people, and women were seen as inferior beings who took care of the house and bared a lot of children. After all this free time, my group finally went into the Uffizi Museum and it was breathtaking! I learned so much information about the arts that I didn’t even think about. Kirk was very into his teachings, as he truly knew his information and was so excited to share it with us. Giorgia Vasari was the mastermind behind the Uffizi Museum, which was written in stories. Kirk explained how Vasari’s paintings emphasized perspective, naturalism, and individualism. There were paintings by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Flippi, and more but my favorite was the Venus of Rabino down below. It’s the picture of Venus’ body eloquently laying on her bed. This picture was very established as it  embodied femininity and beauty. The picture was very engaging as her eyes drew you into her beauty and the portrayal of men sexualizing women. Overall, today was a fun day because of the wonderful lecture and information. I wouldn’t travel to Florence if I wasn’t getting a tour from Krik haha.

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Assisi Day Trip (6/21/18)

Today was such an exciting day. We woke up early to catch the bus to Assisi, Italy. It was an hour and a half drive, so it was such a good moment to go to sleep before walking those hills in Assisi. When we arrived, the view was so gorgeous. Seeing the unique buildings and churches was so amazing because these were historic buildings with purpose. We walked up this steep hill to get our ear pieces to hear Kirk lecture about the church. We went to the Basilica of Saint Francis, and learned so much about Francis’ life. We also saw many Frescos that were very beautiful. Being in the moment at the church made me reflect a lot on faith and on the ideas of chasity, humility, and obedience. The way Kirk described the importance of the Christ and salvation really made me ponder on my life walking through Christ.

What was interesting was learning about Francis’ transition to serving Christ and how he received his Stigmata, the wounds of Christ. It was astonishing because Francis lived a wealthy life and could have had anything in the world, but he was called to save and reform the churches, so he did just that. He did live a crazy lifestyle before he began to follow Christ, but that’s understandable since he was the son of a rich merchant. Unfortunately, Francis’ father did not understand or like the idea of Francis giving up his glorious life to give his last in serving others, so he brought his son to court. Happily, the bishop sided with Francis and liked his idea, so Francis went on his journey performing miracles and striving to convert others, yet the struggle with the Pope and power was intense.

After learning so much information, we had some free time. We went to look at the Basilica Di Santa Chiara, and we saw the area where she was buried at. It was so beautiful and had so much history behind it. Later on, we ate some really good pizza, and I bought a gift for my oldest sister that I think she’d really like. The stores were so nice and had really good stuff for gifts. We finally took the trip home to get back to Arezzo, and we went to eat dinner at Tokyo. I got chicken and rice, and it was so good. We also had our extended stay meeting discussing our plans for the camp, and boy am I ready for that! Right now I’m at the monastery washing clothes and writing my blog, getting ready for Florence tomorrow morning.

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Wine Tasting and More (6/20/18)

Today was press conference day, and it was so awesome! There was a real reporter asking questions to Lucho, two of our PR PCS friends, and others. It was a real interview that will be publicized on TV in Arezzo. Everyone else was in the back smiling and waving. Now I can go back home and tell everyone that I’m just ya know, a local celebrity in Arezzo, Italy. It was so sweet getting to hug the girls and interact with them one last time. What was even sweeter was that the girls had little crushes on some of our PCS boys, so they took pictures with them. Oh, young love! After we said our farewell, we went to eat at Piadena, a really good sandwich place. The food never fails me here, then I went shopping for the first time. I’ve been so concerned about getting family gifts here that I needed a moment to think about me haha, but that wasn’t a good idea with how pricey it was.

Later on my group bought our train tickets for our free day to Viareggio, and it was so stressful haha. I think we all made it more complicated then it should have been, but we got it done and are all set and ready to go for Sunday. Finally everyone got all dressed up ready to go wine tasting. We were in the beautiful hills of Tuscany, tasting wine from IL Palazzo. We tried three wines: White Wine with Bruschetta, Chanti Riserva with salami meat, and Morosso with cheese. My favorite wine was the Chanti, so I had to buy a bottle for my grandma because she loves red wines. We were informed about the history of wine, the process of how it’s made, and important details about wine. We went to look at the grapevines where the process all begins, to the fermentation building, to the area where all of the wine is stored and ready to be sold, to finally the store where the wine is ready to be bought. It’s crazy because these processes of wine making takes weeks to years. It was astounding at how precise and committed the owners were in making wine.

The winery was so much fun because it was something that I’ve never experienced before. I didn’t even think I’d like wine, but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover; am I right? We took so many pictures because of the beautiful scenery and shared many laughs and good moments. That was definitely a once in a life time experience that I’ll never forget. After the the winery, we headed back to the monastery to have a good ole American BBQ. Fabio, the chef, is always cooking up something great in the kitchen. The sausages, ribs, fries, dessert, pretty much everything was so good. It was a great way to end the night. Tomorrow we have our day trip and, we have to wake up real early, so I’ll head to bed. Chao!

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Pasta Making (6/19/18)

Today we got to sleep in so good. The thing is, I think I’m even more tired when I get to sleep in because I’ve slept so much if that makes sense. I woke up feeling very good and ready for the day. Our first stop was going back to our service project area and cleaning up. It was so sad to say goodbye one last time, but we had to. We have our press conference tomorrow for our project and news reporters will be there asking about it and wanting to know more information about our organization. I am so excited to talk to the press because this will be a great communicating experience. Some people prepared some things to say in Italian, and I am so excited to be a part of it.

After that we went to our travel orientation for plans about our free day. A lot of us are going to Viareggio, where a beach will be and oh boy I’m excited! We plan on just spending the day exploring and soaking up the sun, so I hope all goes well. After the orientation, It was the moment we’ve all been waiting for: pasta making! This was such a cool experience because now I have a skill that I can take home and show my family. They’ll soon call me Chef Te’a because I’ll be cooking up some good ole pasta. The Chef showed us specifically how to do our own, step by step, and it was incredible. It was so cool to see how pasta was made from scratch with just eggs, flour, oil, and salt. The chef had already had the sauce pre-made, so we were just needing to make our pastas.

The pasta was so delicious! I ate until I couldn’t eat any more. Funny thing too, I learned that pasta originated in China, not Italy. I was so shook! We made ravioli and another pasta, and I really liked the sauce of the other pasta. I was proud of our masterpiece. Afterwards, a group of us went up to the tower in the monastery and just talked a lot. We watched the sun set and looked out in the horizon. The view reminded me of like Hollywood, but much more breathtaking. After a nice run to go get some chicken, we all called it a night. Our plan was to walk to Mcdonald’s, but it was too far with such little amount of time before our curfew. I was just graving some American food. Buonanotte!

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NEW STUDY ABROAD WEBSITE

https://rachfortheskies.wixsite.com/lustfortravel
If I continue to study abroad after I graduate college, I would prefer to document my adventures in a separate website solely dedicated to my experiences! Make sure to stay updated on this new website. Click the link above!
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Arezzo (6/18/18)

Today was such an amazing day. We finally finished our service project! Today was go time, and we put a lot of effort to make the girls home look great. My group and I had a little girl named Maria’s room and we definitely wanted to make her room very special because she was so sweet. The smile on her face was so radiant when she saw her new room that it truly warmed my heart. These girls were so grateful to have us there, and I was so honored to be there helping them. The best part about it is that we were so intentional about serving these girls happiness that it reflected in our work. It almost put me to tears to see how much of an impact we made on them.

After the project, we ate and all hung out. It was nice to eat out today because we talked about our highs and lows of the trip and it was interesting to listen to everyone. My high was definitely becoming friends with PCS people that either I barely knew or didn’t think I’d bond with. What was kind of sad today is that I lost my souvenir that I bought for my sister. Luckily, it wasn’t too expensive, so I will buy another one tomorrow. Once again, the Gelato never fails. It’s crazy because I eat Gelato everyday, but all these hills in Arezzo really keep me in shape. My favorite Gelato is Hazzlenut!

Later that day I went out with some PCS friends, and honestly this was the best bonding night ever. We sat around and talked about any and everything. What really stood out to me the most was truly learning who people really are and how they feel. It was such a beautiful moment listening to everyone talk about their leadership styles, their lives, likes/dislikes, and just more about themselves in general because you never know a person until you sit down and actually listen. I learned a lot today about listening, leading, and humbling yourself. Today was such a memorable day, and I can’t stress how blessed I am to experience each day here.

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OU Cousins

Somehow, I always gravitate to the Colombian crowd at the OU Cousins event. This year, I was gonna branch out. Maybe meet some Italians to practice my new language?

But there she was. Sabina Piñeros Torres. Bogotá, Colombia.

I actually met her the semester prior but didn’t realize she’d be staying another year in Oklahoma. We met at the OU Cousins speed dating event, started chatting just to catch up. An hour later, we were the last two people in the room.

“I was just coming here for the food,” she said. “I never had luck with an OU Cousin before.”

“That won’t do. Sabina, will you be my OU Cousin?” I said, promising her I’d be everything a cousin should be. Little did I know she’d be showing me more of her culture than I of my own.

I starred in her student films (her cinematography skills make me look pretty good). We went on monthly coffee dates. A

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Arezzo Day 4 (6/17/18)

Day four of Arezzo, and I can’t get enough of it. Waking up bright and early every morning to eat the wonderful breakfast is so refilling. As our day started, we went to work on our project again, and we really put in work. Our group painted a huge room blue, and other groups painted other bedrooms. The creative team really nailed it with their decorations of OU themes on the walls because it really made the children’s center light up with life. The kids were so happy to see us working that they even wanted to help and try to speak to us as best as they could. Some of the girls gave us some Italian treats to show gratitude; it was so sweet.

I tried two really good restaurants today where I ate some great pasta and some good Asian cuisine. The Gelato once again never fails, as I consistently eat it everyday. After hours of working, we finally finished and then I went on a hike with some others. I got to see the local pool where everyone looked like they were having the time of their lives. People were playing soccer, volleyball, swimming, and soaking up the sun. I learned that everyone has to wear a swim cap also to go swimming, which is different. Along our hike I saw so much greenery, the landscape was beautiful and filled with flowers. The houses were so big and beautiful, but one thing about Arezzo is that these hills are no joke! They are very step.

After a long half hour hike, I went back to the hotel to get situated then I went out to eat with some PCS pals, and we just hung out. Today was a very good time to reflect on how grateful I am for being here to serve others. We completed a lot of work today and kept very productive, which made me very happy to see progress. What made me most happy was to see the smiles on the girls faces when they looked in the rooms and saw how they looked. I am so blessed to experience this , and I can’t wait to see what the center looks like when we are done. 

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