MORE FOOD

I know this is another post about food, but I am going to do it anyway. When I was preparing to study abroad, it was one thing I was curious about.

Side note: All of you students coming to Italy from next semester on, you are lucky people. Netflix has officially been released to Italy as of October 2015. So you guys win. Congratulations.

Back to the food. I have already posted once about an Italian cuisine. However, there are three special restaurants that you should take note of. I guarantee you that you will get tired of pasta and the famous Tuscan bread (spoiler: it doesn’t have salt and you could kill someone by hitting them in the head with it). So the following is a list of the three non-pasta based restaurants:

  1. MexCal – an actual TexMex restaurant in Arezzo, Italy. I WAS THRILLED TO FIND OUT THIS EXISTED. Last semester, it was a weekly thing to go to El Chico. Now, everyone from Texas, calm down. I realize that El Chico isn’t the best TexMex restaurant in your opinion, but I love it. MexCal is similar to El Chico. With a voucher, you are served a burrito, nachos, and a drink. There are different kinds of burritos and nachos that you can choose from. The chicken are my favorite and I highly suggest them. They also serve chips and salsa, which is amazing. Advice: Tiger sells chips and salsa for 3 euro. One down side to MexCal, it’s seasonal so you better so when it’s open or you will be regretting it when it’s closed.
  2. Tokyo – a Japanese restaurant close to Masterchips (also amazing. If you manage to stay in Arezzo without eating Masterchips, judging you). Tokyo has a wide range of menu options and you get to choose two options for your voucher. I always get the egg noddles with chicken and crab and avocado sushi with hot sauce. In fact, I ate that tonight.
  3. Ristoburger – an American burger join. Ironically, the owners also own MexCal. They actually serve bacon cheese burgers with the best fries in the city. You can also get a pizza for a voucher, but why would you go to a burger place and get a pizza.

Bonus: if you do actually want pizza, go to Pizzeria del Corso. They have pepperoni pizza, and it is amazing.

My topics for these blogs while I am abroad are posts that I wish I could have read about the town specifically. Before you leave for a foreign country, it is scary. You will take any information you can get. I read countless blogs about Italy, but most of these people studied in Rome or Florence or Milan. You will be studying in small town Italy. It’s sort of like comparing going to college in New York or California to a college in Oklahoma, expect this town has a Valentino shop. It’s casual.

To all you GEF’s that happen to read this, I hope to read about your adventures one day and hear that you enjoyed your time in this wonderful small town.

Ciao,

Alexis Hall

Happiness

An open letter to the student considering to study abroad:

This semester has caused me to do a lot of deep thinking about myself and my life. Being completely separated from my friends and family has given me alone time that I have never experienced before. And I can honestly say that many of those nights has caused me to wonder if I am truly happy. Most nights, I came to the conclusion that I was not. I mean, yes my life is amazing. Yes, I’m studying abroad in Italy. There are many things to be thankful for. However, being thankful and being happy are not the same thing. I am EXTREMELY grateful for this opportunity. I’m grateful that my friends and family are all healthy. But I do not feel happy. Today, I decided to write a blog post on how to define happiness and why you should study abroad. Those two topics might not seem related, but I believe that I cannot experience one without the other. Note: This post will be broken up into seemingly random blocks of text, but they are necessary to tie my final theory together. So please bear through my backstory if you wish to.

I want to begin by saying that I am a religious person, so my faith is a factor in determining my happiness. I realize that spirituality might not come in to play for everyone, but I cannot publish this post without mentioning God.

I have experienced two terms abroad now: Summer 2015 and Fall 2015. Of those terms, I am certain that I have enjoyed the Fall program more for some reasons. One glairing reason is the fact that I am studying engineering here. My courses are relating to what I am passionate about which has highly affected my attitude about it, weather that is a good or a bad thing. On one hand, it shows that I have chosen a major I am passionate about. On the other, it means I pouted a little bit in June.

On my return in June, my boyfriend told me that he planned a dinner for my birthday that he missed while I was abroad. He took me to Vast in OKC and it was a wonderful night. After dinner, we were shown the view of the tower and at the end, my best friend asked if I would be willing to spend the rest of my life with him. It was a beautiful proposal by the most perfect human in the world. In the end, I accepted and we have been engaged for six months now. *Applause*

After Chris and I became engaged, we looked for a church to call our own. We are both Apostolic Pentecostals (if you have questions about what I believe, I will answer those outside of this post) and found a perfect church in the Paseo district. At this point in my life, I have graduated high school, moved away from home, found my own church, am now engaged, and have spend a month abroad with plans to spend four more in the fall.

Leaving in August was hard. I had the best month and a half experiencing engagement and sharing life at a new level with Chris. But I’ve made it. I leave for home in 10 days and I return to my normal life. Of this year I have spent 5/12 months in Italy. 42% of my year has been away from my home, family, church, and Chris. Needless to say, this semester was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. On top of the normal hardships of being away from home, I received news in October that my uncle passed away. It was a devastating time for my family and I could not be there with them to grieve. Outside of my uncle passing away, more family emergencies occurred and by the time November hit, I honestly did not think that I could finish my semester here. With ISIS attacking Paris, there was a lot of fear about remaining in Europe, even though it might not have been justified. The terrorist attack along with everything that was happening in my family made it hard for me to want to stay. In the end, my mother, being the wise, supportive woman she is, encouraged me to stay and that the experience will only make me stronger.

After all of these disasters, Thanksgiving break arrived. Everyone traveled, and I was alone in Arezzo to think. I had a lot to reflect on and spend a few sleepless nights trying to sort through my emotions. I spend the majority of break talking to Chris and he helped me to realize what is important in my life. After finally sorting through everything, I believe I have found what I want from my life and how I could be the most happy.

The following is a list of things that aid to my total happiness:

  1. God – My faith defines my happiness to the highest level. I truly believe that through my faith, I can achieve happiness. “Happy are the people whose God is the LORD” Psalms 114:15. This might not be the case for most people, but for me, understanding who God is has helped me achieve my happiness.
  2. Family – My family is my support system. They never let me down and are always there no matter what. When my car isn’t working, I have a 24/7 mechanic with my dad. Whenever I need someone to talk to, I call either my mom or my sister. Whatever I need, I can contact my family and get help.
  3. Chris – In the same way that my family is important, my future husband also is. I have no clue what married life will be like, but I look at the examples that I am given. I believe that we will be there for each other to share life and make sure we don’t become overwhelmed with… anything. Chris will be my person that I go to with news, good or bad. Chris will be the person that shares every moment of my life with me, and that makes him important in my overall happiness.
  4. Home – Having a home is a large factor in happiness. As of this moment, I do not have my own, place. But when I return, Chris and I are going to look for apartments or a house to rent to find a place for ourselves after we get married in May. Having a place where I can call home makes me feel connected to my past. My mother has always taught me about my native heritage. While I am not a full blood or half blood, or any major percentage of Cherokee, learning about my past has been important. Knowing where I come from has caused me to need a home. While this might not be the case for some people. My best friend for example! She does not feel that where she is from determines her home. In her opinion, the world is her home and she should explore options. For me, where I come from is my home. While I might relocate at one point, for now, where I am is enough.

So, my own personal formula for happiness is God+Family+Chris+Home = Happiness.

In the end, that is my own formula. This might change for other people. For some, it might be Money+Family+Travel = Happiness. Or maybe God+Money+Travel = Happiness. And, a person is not limited to the amount of things that generate their happiness. For me, money is not a determining factor of how happy I will be. I have been asked why I chose engineering if money was not important. (I have noticed that there are some people choose engineering solely for the money aspect). For me, engineering is not about the money or job security (while they help). I chose to study engineering because the thought of solving problems that improve people’s lives sounds like an amazing job.

Also, just because success and money and travel are not in my formula for happiness does NOT mean that I would not enjoy those experiences. It just means that if I never lead an extravagant life, I will be fine. AND MY FORMULA MAY CHANGE. When I start my family, other things may become more important.

I do not want anyone reading this and concluding that I do not strive for success. I am working so my life will inspire others and will positively affect people around me. 

Now, how does this relate to studying abroad?

We live in a crazy fast paced world. Everything you do in life is related to something else and can effect someone else. Cell phones have caused even more distractions and have made life slightly more crazy. Up until this point, I have not slowed down to think about what is important in my life. I just assumed that I would always know and that even without thinking, I would figure it out.  However, everything in life takes work. And figuring things out about yourself and your life requires you to step away from the opinions of others (don’t ignore them, people have been through things you haven’t and most of the time they know what’s best).

In my case, studying abroad allowed me to collect what I have learned, apply it to my life, and figure out what I need to achieve success and happiness according to my own experiences. Among other things, I have made amazing friends, become more culturally aware, and have learned how to survive, thrive even, under distasteful situations.

I will be forever grateful for this experience and will look back, with confidence, that I made the right decision.

If you managed to make it through this entire post, thank you for listening to my opinions on happiness and my experiences studying abroad. I hope that everyone will find a way to study abroad at some point. In any case, this monologue is over and I leave you for now.

Ciao,

Alexis Hall

Food of Arezzo: Mariano’s

FOOD!

What every study abroad student wants to know about. Imagining myself last May, I was most worried about what the food would be like. You have to eat, right? If you are going to be in a country for an entire semester, you need to know that the food will be good. So, I will tell you all about my favorite Italian restaurant here in Arezzo.

Mariano’s. Located near the top of the hill on Corso Italia (past Bar Stefano). Mariano’s is my most used voucher restaurant of Italian cuisine. Everything else isn’t Italian. The owner is very friendly and speaks some English along with his partner. They are well acquainted with the students of OUA and make sure you feel at home. The restaurant is so nice inside and is heated in the winter and air conditioned in the summer (those qualities are important in Italy).

My personal favorite meal is the turkey with peanuts. When you eat at Mariano’s, you get to choose a drink + 1st course OR 2nd course + dessert OR side. If I get a side, I always get the turkey and rosemary potatoes. MAMMA MIA! (Yes, I actually heard an Italian say that) My personal favorite dessert there is the mini calzone that is stuffed with a sweet cheese and Nutella. Just know that the food served at Mariano’s is spectacular. When I get home and organize my photos, I will post pictures of the meals I have eaten there. Even this adorable place that we got to sit.

Note: It is likely you will eat here at some sort of “welcome” meal.

Ciao!

Alexis Hall

Queuing

The Italian culture is very different form what I am used to in America. I knew what to expect from my summer trip, however, the longer I stay the more frustrating it gets. My biggest complaint about Italy is their inability to form lines. I never noticed it in the summer, but I am incapable of ignoring it now. Wherever you go, grocery store or cafe, the Italian people do not know how to form a line. Growing up, my youth group would always joke about how we could never form a circle when needed. The same goes for the Italians and lines. There have been numerous times that people have pushed me out of the way or cut me in a line for no reason.

When you enter the country, get off your plane, and head to customs, everyone is moving quickly. All of the sudden, it bottlenecks a large group of people in to a line. The first time I came, I ended up getting pushed to the back of the heard because I was trying to be polite. However, everyone else seemed to know what to expect. They are not afraid to elbow their way to the front. Then, once you are in the line, people are still cutting and shoving. It’s very frustrating.

I’m not sure why this custom is so natural to the Italian people, but it makes it hard to function in this culture.

This makes me wonder about North American culture. I wonder what bothers international students. One thing is for sure, I will be more sympathetic toward exchange or international students. It is very difficult to adapt to another culture in a semester. I hope the Italian people will continue to show me patience as I attempt to understand their way of life.