Well, it’s been almost exactly a year since I’ve returned from Italy, which doesn’t seem possible. Many of the friends I made on the trip are graduating next week, so this might be the last week we’ll all be able to get together and talk about our experiences. One of my favorite parts about studying abroad at an OU program is that we are all still in the same area and can meet up frequently to talk about our experiences when it seems like no one else understands. My time in Italy sometimes feels like a distant dream but at other times feels like it just ended yesterday. I still get pangs of a feeling almost like homesickness when I hear someone speaking in Italian or have a glass of good wine with friends. I get a little sad when I see my friends posts from their time abroad and sometimes look up flights to Europe just for fun. The hardest thing for me is having to stay in Oklahoma, where Florence and Rome aren’t just a train ride away. My advice to everyone about to finish up their time abroad is to take as many videos as possible. Video your trip from your home to your favorite coffee shop. Video the street you walk down every day. Video your friends, the train, your home, anything, because they’ll be really comforting when you’re stuck in the hundred degree heat of Southern Oklahoma. It’s hard to come back, but also necessary because you won’t fully understand and be able to appreciate your time abroad until you’re back.
This time last year, I was preparing to go to Italy for a semester. I was feeling so many emotions–fear, excitement, anticipation–and I was so ready to embark on a new adventure. In honor of that, here is my advice for everyone going abroad next semester.
- You will be terrified, and that’s okay.
- Bring more money than you think you’ll need.
- Black clothes, especially in Europe, are a necessity.
- Download the DuoLingo app if you aren’t a speaker of the language you’re about to immerse yourself in.
- Spend a lot of time with family and friends before you go.
- Make sure to buy a journal.
- A good, sturdy purse or bag will be your best friend.
- So will a good travel backpack.
- Start booking side trips and adventures now–it’s a lot cheaper a few months in advance.
- Don’t be afraid to stay in hostels.
- Write down a list of goals for yourself now and hang it up in your room when you arrive.
- Have a backup debit or credit card for emergencies.
- Don’t bring a ton of clothes–you can buy some really cool ones during your semester abroad and use those to fill your suitcase on the way back.
- Get ready to be pushed to your limits and grow in a new and unexpected way.
- Accept the slowed-down pace of life outside of the states.
- You’ll probably have a little FOMO when you’re over there because you miss your friends. But remember, you’re in another country, having the time of your life.
- Breathe. Especially while you’re deciding what to pack.
- Get ready to experience the best semester of your life!
I think one of the things I’m going to miss the most about Italy is that I can take a spontaneous day trip to some of the most famous cities in the world for less than ten dollars.
Yesterday, three of us decided to take a day trip to Cortona, a tiny hill town where the famous movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed, and to Florence. Cortona is a sort of hidden gem, the kind of town that gets a few tourists who’ve decided to go off the beaten path but isn’t overrun with them–exactly my favorite kind of town.
We spent the morning admiring the views, trying to get some ~artsy~ pictures, shopping in the local stores, eating gelato, and soaking in the sun.
Lunch was pizza and salad on the patio of a tiny bar, then we took a (sort of accidental) nature walk that led us to the side of a highway where we were picked up by a bus that was full of friendly high school students. They kindly dropped us off at a cathedral about two minutes down the road where we witnessed a priest doing a mic check. We wound our way through the cemetery that was connected to the church that overlooked the hillside before walking back to the train station to catch the train to Florence.
A little over an hour later, we made it to Florence just in time to browse quickly through the leather market, Zara, and H&M before grabbing dinner at a Korean restaurant, which was a much-welcome break from Italian food (I know it sounds crazy, but a girl can only eat so much pasta). We walked around Florence for a little while, just taking in the sights and sounds for what may have been the last time before we hopped on a train that took us back to Arezzo
Living only an hour away from one of the art capitals of the world is such an amazing thing, and I don’t think I’ll be able to fully appreciate it until I can no longer hop on a train and go visit it. Yesterday was a simple day, but it was definitely one for the books.
Yesterday, our class took a trip to a local winery. We learned about the process of growing grapes organically and about the different varieties of grapes that can be found in Tuscany. Then we toured the inside of the winery, learning about the actual process of fermentation and aging. At the end, we got to sample three different varieties of the vineyard’s wine using our newly-learned wine-tasting skills. I’m so glad that I was able to experience such an important part of Italian culture before I head home! I’m sad to be leaving such a beautiful place with such a rich history and culture, but I’m going to make an effort to soak up as much as I can during these last two weeks!
Here are some pictures (silly + serious) that we took on the winery tour!
This semester I’m taking a class that discusses global environmental challenges. We were assigned with a project that explored the potential impacts that the changing climate could have on different aspects of life in Italy. My group and I chose the aspect of tourism, which plays a large role in the lives of many Italians. I was given the task of making posters we could display in public areas that explain the potential effects of climate change on the tourism business in Italy. It was a really fascinating project–I’ll post some of the posters below so you can get a glimpse of what some of my coursework was this semester!
Budapest and Prague had always been places I’d love to visit and I made it a priority to see them while I’m studying abroad. I managed to convince my friend Jill to go with me during a week-long break.
The trip began on a Sunday morning with our departure point of course being Clermont-Ferrand. We decided to take a bus all the way from France to Hungary as this seemed like the least expensive option. The bus ride was… interesting. We used the company “Eurolines” and I honestly would not recommend doing the same unless you love adventure. We drove around France for around 7 hours until we ended up in Lyon (which is usually a 2 ½ hour direct trip). Once we’d reached the bus station in Lyon an employee approached us and asked where we were headed. We proudly told him we were headed to Budapest and subsequently learned that we had to get off the bus. Apparently we had a layover in Lyon that we didn’t know about. The ticket office was closed so there was no one to ask which bus we needed to take next. I called the company and they told me that this would be our last bus change and after this our route would be direct. Okay, no big deal. We waited for 30 minutes and the office finally opened. There we got a boarding pass for our next bus. After 30 more minutes of waiting our bus was supposed to leave in a few minutes but was nowhere to be found. We asked the drivers of the waiting busses (we had to ask in English as none of them spoke French) and they didn’t know where our bus was. Our bus finally arrived and we were off!
Somewhere along the way we met Grandma. At one of the stops a man boarded with an elderly woman. She had trouble walking and she seemed to be at least 90 years old. Jill offered her seat to the man who refused, saying that he was simply helping his mother who was travelling alone. An hour or so later the woman offered Jill some mint candy. I was peeling an orange and I decided to give it to the woman. We eventually started talking with her and she was really nice; the only problem was that she was speaking a foreign language and understood no English at all. We decided to adopt her as our grandma and watched over her for the rest of the trip. We had another changeover in Strasbourg so we took Grandma’s bags and helped her off the bus. While we were waiting we decided to figure out what language she was speaking. We flashed “Hello” at her in several different languages with the Google Translate app but no cigar. Finally thanks to lots of hand gestures she said something resembling Macedonia and we decided she was in fact Macedonian. The word Vienna sounds similar in Macedonian and so we knew she needed to get off at the Vienna stop. When we reached Vienna we were sad to see her go, but it was pretty cool to make a new Grandma.
On the final leg of the journey to Budapest we were both exhausted and were getting a little delirious. This wasn’t helped by the fact that we were constantly being awoken for passport checks as we traversed various borders. As we left Bratislava and entered into Hungary the bus driver put on a movie. Much to our dismay the movie was The Pink Panther 2…in Hungarian. The whole experience was kind of funny because the woman seated in front of us was washing her hair with body spray, her son was guffawing at the movie (though he didn’t speak Hungarian), and I was going in and out of consciousness from sheer exhaustion.
We finally made it to Budapest after a 27 hour bus ride. First on our agenda was obtaining money we could actually use. We found an ATM after asking for directions in Hungarian/English (Jo Napót! ATM?). Then we bought metro passes from a man who kept laughing at us. We took the metro to the stopped listed on the hostel-given directions and after a short walk we had arrived! The hostel owner was amazing and gave us directions to an authentic Hungarian restaurant after ensuring we had everything we needed. We ate an AWESOME lunch of goulash and pasta and learned how to say thank you in Hungarian. We spent our first day exploring the city on foot and orienting ourselves in the beautiful city.
The next day we had a free breakfast at the hostel where we met some lovely girls. We planned to meet up later with our new friend Larissa from Holland. We took the metro to the Hungarian National Museum where we figured we could learn a little bit more about Hungarian history. WOW. The museum was so much fun! We learned so much and the artifacts on display were presented in such a neat way. After the museum we were running a little late for our meeting with Larissa so we grabbed some pizza from Pizza King. I’m a bit of a pizza enthusiast and I can say this was the best pizza I’ve ever had. We got pepperoni pizza with corn (it sounds gross, I know) and it was delicious! Two pieces of pizza and a can of Pepsi cost less than 2 euros!
We met Larissa across the bridge and explored the area around Buda castle and an old cathedral. There were men holding falcons and Larissa got her photo taken with a huge fountain! Jill and I decided to take a walking tour which started at 2pm so we had to catch a bus to the meeting point. We got on the bus and almost immediately after the bus filled with a group of at least 30 older women. There wasn’t enough room to move at all! Naturally, my mom called me as I’m squeezed between old Hungarian women, so I told her I didn’t have time to talk.
We made it to the walking tour on time. It was led by two Hungarian girls who explained the history of the cathedral, the parliament building, and countless landmarks. They gave us lots of info about the modern history of Hungary, which was wonderful as the info was coming from locals. Once we got back to the hostel we were pretty tired! We took showers and napped a bit. During our absence some Turkish guy had moved into the adjacent room. That night they invited us to eat soup with them in the private kitchenette of our apartment. After dinner we went out with Larissa and the Turkish guys, Mücahit (sock buddies) and Canpolat, who are studying abroad in Poland. We had an awesome time and ended the night with some kebabs of course! We got home rather late and ended up sleeping for only about 30 minutes before leaving the hostel at 5 am to catch our bus to Prague!
I can’t believe that spring break is already over. I feel like my time here has absolutely just flown by, and I’m starting to dread going home.
My mom and dad came to visit me for their spring break, so we went on a tour through Italy that included Rome, Florence, Orvieto, Arezzo, Cinque Terre, Naples, and Pompeii. We got to see things such as the David, the Colusseum, the ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, and the Mediterranean Sea. I’ll post some pictures below of the highlights of the trip!
“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there…” -Ernest Hemingway
I bought a plane ticket on a Friday night and the next Friday night I was in Paris. There aren’t really words to describe the feeling you have when you step off the plane into a place that you’ve been dreaming about since you drew the Eiffel Tower in kindergarten art class. You catch your breath a little bit and don’t fully grasp the fact that you’re there until you’ve gone.
I saw more in a forty-eight hour period than I’ve seen probably in my whole life up to that point. I saw the Eiffel Tower at night, then climbed up it during the day and saw Paris from nearly a thousand feet up. I visited the Louvre and saw Mona Lisa, Lady Liberty Leading the People, Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, and countless other works from people I’ve previously only read about in art history textbooks. I ate baguettes and macarons and read the Paris edition of Vogue. I navigated the Paris metro system and explored the catacombs that lay hidden under the famous city and contain the bones of six million of its former residents. I experienced one of the most famous cities in the world and I am so grateful that I’ve been blessed with such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I took a lot of pictures, so I’ll put them here at the end so you hopefully don’t have to do too much scrolling to get a glimpse at what I saw this weekend. Au reviour to the City of Lights, until next time.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. Who wouldn’t love a holiday dedicated to chocolate, flowers, and love? Last weekend, on the day before Valentine’s Day, some friends and I took a day trip to Perugia and Terni, the home of St. Valentine himself, where a chocolate festival was taking place. Perugia is famous throughout Italy and all over the world for it’s chocolate, so this was the perfect time to go visit. I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet, but I’ll post some pictures below of what I experienced! Ciao for now!
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Italy (for me, at least) is pasta. Pasta is quite possibly one of the most delicious foods in the world. Macaroni, spaghetti, rigatoni, lasagna, with a ragu sauce, a tomato sauce, a cream sauce, a mushroom sauce, stuffed with ricotta, fried, baked–there are countless ways to eat it.
This week, I had the privilege of attending a class where we taught how to make tagliatelle, ravioli, and gnocci. The first two use the same basic ingredients (flour, salt, and egg) while the third uses just potato and flour. An egg is cracked into a “volcano” of flour, sprinkled with salt, and then mixed until the dough has a cake-batter-like consistency. Then the dough is kneaded by hand until it becomes thick and no longer sticky. It is formed into a ball, covered with plastic wrap, and left to rest for a few minutes. After the rest period, the dough can be rolled out very thin and then cut into the right shape, depending on what kind of pasta is being made. Tagliatelle is cut into long strips, while ravioli is cut into squares. We used a simple filling of ricotta mixed with spinach for our ravioli.
The gnocci is even simpler: potatoes are mashed and the mixed with flour and salt until thick, then rolled into a long “snake” and cut before being boiled. The final product is a mushy kind of pasta that tastes delicious with a tomato sauce.
Hopefully when I return home I’ll be able to recreate some of the dishes that I’ve enjoyed here in Italia! Ciao for now!