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Prati, Ramen, and Reading for Fun

Prati, Ramen, and Reading for Fun

This past Wednesday, I took a tour of Prati, a Roman neighborhood that is home to Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Square, with several other JFRC students. What made this tour unique, was that it was led by Italian students. The students study English at a local school and they were between 15 and 20 years old. They had the chance to practice their English by teaching us about the local sights as we walked around. We practiced our Italian and heard about what life is like for students living in Italy. They were all very nice and their teacher Frank did a good job motivating everyone to step out of their comfort zones and start conversation in their secondary language. I had never been to St. Peter’s Square and it looked exceptional in the setting sunlight. The lights in the square had just come on and my pictures fail to capture how pretty it all looked under the navy blue evening sky.

On Friday morning I traveled outside the ancient walls of the city to see St. Paul’s Basilica, which was equally beautiful. I has been raining all weekend here in Rome, so the trek was cold and wet. After what seemed like hours spent on two crowded buses, I arrived at St. Paul’s and got to spend as long as I wanted touring the cavernous church. St. Paul’s church is different than those of the Renaissance era because it is not filled with ornate decorations, paintings, and statues. St. Paul’s is quite empty, just a huge, quiet space for prayer and reflection. There are several rooms along the perimeter with some art and stories that tell the histories of religious figures like St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the order of the Jesuits. Lining the walls near the ceiling are portraits of every pope since the beginning of the papacy. The coolest thing about the basilica is that it is likely the final resting place of St. Paul himself, and there you can see his sarcophagus and the chains that he was bound in while imprisoned. After the basilica, I went to a nearby ramen place called Akira which was really great. Hot green tea and a bowl of steamy veggies and noodles was exactly what I was craving after walking around in the cold rain all morning. Plus anything other than the same dining hall food here is a welcome change!

One of the best parts of being here for me has been the free time I have. During the week, I enjoy a much lighter work load than I have during normal semesters in Chicago. I have been using the extra time to work out in the gym almost every day. I’ve been reading and writing a lot more for fun, watching less Netflix and taking in much less social media. I feel good about that and I hope to keep up these habits when I get back to Chicago. Now, watching the occasional movie is a treat, it’s much more fun because my appreciation for it has grown. Similarly, reading is much more fun, like it used to be before high school. Things are good and I hope to keep improving them throughout the rest of the trip.

I am about halfway done with my semester in Rome and it feels like I’ll never be able to fit everything into the next 6 weeks. In an effort to try, I finally put together a list of things I want to see and do in Rome before I go. I realize I’ll have to skip some things because of my budget and limited time frame. My plan is to do my best and spend every weekend that I have left in Rome off campus, rain or shine, checking out as many restaurants and sights as possible. This way, when I get back home, I’ll have no regrets and I’ll know I did my best to fill the trip with as many memories as possible. Be on the lookout for more posts in the coming weeks as I get really familiar with Rome, while also getting to see Poland, Amsterdam, Assisi and the Amalfi Coast.

 

 

 

St. Peter’s Square at Night
Also St. Peter’s Square at Night
St. Paul’s Basilica Ceiling
The Popes at St. Paul’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Hike!

Take a Hike!

On Friday I went on a hike around Monte Mario, the big hill that is home to the JFRC and the surrounding Balduina neighborhood. Soon after setting off, JFRC librarian and enthusiastic hiker Ann Wittrick in the lead, I heard murmurings from some other hikers that this trek would be four hours long. Four hours!? I hadn’t seen anything about this on the posters. Apparently, the information was on Facebook. Once again, I was out of the loop because I don’t check Facebook. I was not the only one taken by surprise though, other hikers quickly grew apprehensive, several suddenly regretting their light breakfasts of coffee and cornetti. Nevertheless, we were off! As our feet pounded along wooded trails, up and down the hills of Rome, many of the original bright-eyed travelers fell away, opting to catch a bus home as the rest of us continued. I’d say that about 15 of us stayed for the entire trip. I’m glad I stayed because I got some cool pictures of the city and saw the Olympic Stadium where Rome’s most famous soccer teams play.

We made our way up the trails of Monte Mario Nature Reserve which is 139 meters (456 ft.) high. The hill is home to a lot of biodiversity which is not so easy to find in today’s metropolitan Rome. The ground beneath the oak and maple trees is a mixture of sand and gravel from the ancient days of Rome. Though there was more wildlife there years ago, the area is still home to rodents like house and field mice as well as birds like the Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, and Rome’s infamous Starlings. (The last of this group swarm the city every year in November and December, burying the city in buckets of their, umm, gifts) The hill gave us some unique views of the city. From different viewpoints along the trail we could see the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Olympic Stadium poking out among Rome’s orange and yellow apartments.

After the hilltop, we visited a French cemetery for fallen French soldiers of World War II. Many of the soldiers had German names, evidence of the many changes throughout France’s history between the cultures of Germany and France. There were many graves honoring fallen Muslim soldiers as well. These had gravestones with different shapes, and symbols of a crescent moon and star. One of the JFRC’s theology teachers was with us, and he remarked that the Muslim graves were here because there had been so many Muslim soldiers recruited by the French army during the war. Not too far from the cemetery stands a giant statue of the Virgin Mary, meant as a symbolic praise to God for keeping Rome safe during WWII.

As we made our way back to campus, we visited the Olympic Stadium which was built to host the 1942 Olympic Games in Rome, but did not because of WWII. The stadium and adjacent Olympic Village was used to host the games in 1960. We saw the buildings that housed the athletes, and a practice field and track next to the actual stadium. The grounds of the stadium are dotted with Greek style statues depicting muscular athletes. Our S.L.A Judy, told us that fascist leader Benito Mussolini had ordered the statues to be built, with the ideal fascist Italian man in mind. These brawny dudes (not a woman in sight of course) were meant to symbolize the way Mussolini wanted every man to look. I thought it was funny then, when Judy also told us that the reason each statue was made to look across the field at the statue opposite it, could be traced back to ancient Greek traditions; specifically, the tradition of young men forming relationships with older men as a way to enter adulthood. We also saw the old headquarters of the fascist party in Italy. It was, an extremely square, plain grey building with no defining features. It looked like it had come out of a Fascists Architecture 101 textbook. In the courtyard outside, there were huge stone blocks inscribed with a highlight reel of Mussolini and, by extension, the fascist party. The blocks at the end of the rows have been left blank, with the idea that they would be filled in as the fascists continued influencing the world.

At the end, though my feet were tired, I was glad the hike was so long. I left with the nice reminder that taking a nice long walk is an effective way to clear one’s head. A hike in the woods, or a walk through the town can boost your mood and bring everything into perspective. I hope to visit the Monte Mario Reserve at least once more before I go.

 

 

 

Some of the Muslim graves in the French WWII cemetery we visite

The public soccer field next to the Olympic Stadium

View from Monte Mario trail

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned: Cinque Terre

What I Learned: Cinque Terre

At the beginning of February, I visited a region of Northern Italy called Cinque Terre, which translates to “five lands.” This is an area of five small towns, and in just two days, I was able to visit each one. While I was there, I learned a few things that I thought I’d share with you all.

  • Before you go on a trip, you should do more research than a quick Google search.

The week before we left, I was stressed. Classes had really picked up, and I had a lot of work to do. I was traveling with just one other friend, and I let her do a lot of the research and planning. My research consisted of reading the first few things that popped up when I searched “What to do in Cinque Terre.” While these were helpful and gave me an idea of what to expect from the region, I wasn’t asking the right questions. I should’ve been searching the best time to go to Cinque Terre, for starters, because we ended up going during off season. This seems obvious- Cinque Terre is right on the water and many people go there for the beaches. February isn’t the best time to sit on the beach. But we still expected there to be more to do! As we sat in a restaurant for lunch on Saturday shortly after we arrived, we tried asking the waitress for some suggestions of things to do in the region. She laughed, a bit nervously, and said, “Well, in the winter, there’s not much to do here.” If we had done a little more research, we would’ve known this!

  • But you don’t always have to listen to what your research tells you.

That being said, I’m almost glad we didn’t know that going in. It would’ve skewed my idea of the region. It was almost funny, us walking around trying to find things to do. Even though we saw it in most of the towns, we were still surprised when we made it to the next and seemed to be some of the only people there. The weekend we went was a shorter weekend for us (we had had classes on Friday, so we were only able to travel Saturday and Sunday), so we had just the right amount of time to wander through all the towns before heading home. If it had been warmer, we might’ve gotten distracted by the beach and wanted to sit there all weekend. Don’t get me wrong, that would’ve been great, but going in February allowed us to really see all the towns, compare them, and pick which was our favorite. We saw some beautiful views and captured pictures that I will forever want to show off to family and friends.

  • Go to the bathroom whenever one is offered to you, but don’t look into it too much.

This has become something I’ve learned of Italy in general, but bathrooms are… different here. Public restrooms are often available near big tourist sites, but you usually have to pay up to one euro for entry. Restaurants have bathrooms, but you are of course expected to purchase something in order to use them. Stores like clothing stores and supermarkets do not have bathrooms. So, on weekend trips and whenever I venture into the city, every time I stop for a meal or gelato or a cappuccino, I make it a point to go to the bathroom. This was especially important in Cinque Terre because we were constantly on the go, and we didn’t always know when we’d find another open restaurant or bar. So… My second comment probably sounds a little confusing- why shouldn’t you look into the bathroom too much? During lunch on Sunday, asI entered the bathroom of our restaurant for the second time (trying to take full advantage of a free bathroom in reach), I looked at the ceiling and saw THE BIGGEST SPIDER I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. I am pretty terrified of spiders, so the appeal of the bathroom was quickly diminished. In general, bathrooms here are fine, but many toilets don’t have toilet seats. The bathrooms are usually in the basement of buildings, and after trekking down steep staircases to get to them, they can be pretty dirty. So, use bathrooms when possible, but always carry hand sanitizer with you and don’t look up!!

  • Talk to the locals, even though it’s scary!

The friend I traveled with is much more advanced in her Italian skills than I am, so I leaned on her throughout the weekend to help us navigate the unfamiliar towns. I am used to keeping my head down and avoiding nerve-wracking situations, but she was great about asking the locals for suggestions. We met the owner of a nearby café (where we ate breakfast on both days and I had a late night snack on Saturday), and he gave us directions and made great cake!! I realized how important those interactions can be, even if they’re scary. This local’s café was our favorite place in Corniglia, the town we stayed in, and we were able to see more of Cinque Terre because we talked to the owner. (I’m hoping to write more about conversations with locals in a later blog post, so stay tuned!)

My best Italian is still me ordering gelato.

  • Embrace the local culture and norms of where you go.

I have never been the most outdoorsy person, and when I started telling people I wanted to go to Cinque Terre, they kept mentioning the hiking there. My friend and I left for the weekend hoping that the trains running between the towns we heard about weren’t just a myth. And they weren’t! We used the trains to get from some towns to the next. But once we’d spent some time there, we realized how big of a role the hiking trails played in the “culture” in Cinque Terre. We completed two hikes during the weekend (one on each day), and it ended up being one of our favorite parts. We decided to try the shorter trails so as not to burn out, which was a good decision because wow! I was sore for days afterwards! But the views we saw along the way were breathtaking. I snapped pictures constantly, each time muttering, “Okay I know I said the last one would be my last picture but look at that!” We met some very nice locals and fellow tourists who helped guide us in the right direction, and we enjoyed some good conversation along the way.

Some views from a hike.

Although the weekend wasn’t really what I had expected or what I would have planned, it ended up being so relaxing. It pulled me off campus without completely exhausting me, as some of my longer trips have. I learned to go with the flow for the weekend- something I’ve never been great at. It really payed off, and Cinque Terre has been one of my favorite places so far.

In front of our favorite view!

 

Che Figata!

Che Figata!

As Rene Descartes says, “If you spend too much time traveling you will become a stranger in your own home” but does it count if your home is in a foreign place..?

While in Rome I have become acquainted with the old nomadic lifestyle of constant movement. Whenever it seems that I may remember the name of the corner coffee shop, the corner changes along with the name of the city that I am staying in. However, not all is lost, along with my lack of orientation, because as the cities change I maintain my curiosity.

However, it is neither the illustrious Churches with all their golden skies and white marble cloud covered floors, nor the magnificent statues who bring older men to their knees in envy of their immortal essences that grab hold of my mind and soul. There are those places unseen and unrecognized that hold true rare brilliance. There is a museum found curbside the Arno River, near the city center, that has little to no foot traffic. Constantly ignored by the diamond-eyed tourism, is Galileo Galilei’s dedication from the people of Florence. When walking through the levels of repossessed mechanisms, it is enlightening to look at the makeshift wonders that still currently shape our mind and beliefs in the material world. From 500-year-old equipment made to predict the arrangement of our stars today, to the first pulleys whose design would lead to the industrial revolution and elevators. If you are allowed the chance, visit Florence and return home to the origin of what we call direction, speed, and the primary properties. Then take the elevator down to experience his brilliance. Che Figata!

From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up

On Friday, February 9, I traveled to Napoli (Naples) with 7 members of my science class and our professor Stefania Galdiero. A native to Naples, Stefania studies the chemistry used in producing pharmaceuticals. Our class is titled Science of Italian Art, and in it, we talk about the many ways science and art overlap. (Think: DaVinci using his artistic talents to create accurate diagrams of human anatomy.) Stefania showed us around Naples for a day, taking us on a tour of the university lab where she works, as well as tours of a nearby Accademia di belle arte (really cool college for art students), and the underground caverns that helped shape the city.

The Accademia in Naples is one of the busiest, most prominent of all the accademie in Italy. Every major city has one, they are essentially museums and spaces to hold huge collections of fine art. David, the star of last week’s post, is housed in the Accademia of Firenzi. The one we visited in Naples is not only a home for works of art, but a school for young artists themselves. The walls are lined with sculptures donated by artists for the students to practice sketching and painting. Students at the accademia study there for five years, before going on to become cinematographers, painters, musicians and actors. One of our guides boasted at the workshop adjacent to the stage, where students and professors design and build all of the set pieces for the plays put on in the college. No other college in Europe, according to our guide, builds their own stage materials that they use in their plays. I couldn’t help but imagine what day to day life might be like for the students here. How much fun it must be to study sculpture, restoration, or cinema in a place like this. The few students that were there on Friday afternoon would laugh and share a cigarette with the professors they passed, before bounding down one of the open air hallways on their way to the studio. It was thrilling to see the workshops and spaces where artists of the future were learning and perfecting their crafts.

For lunch, of course, we had pizza. Now, the story goes that impoverished people in Naples were among the first to start adding tomato to their flatbread as a topping. Much of Europe believed the tomato to be poisonous when it was first brought in from the Americas in the 16th century. Once enough people figured out that tomatoes were not killers, pizza was born. As the dish gained popularity, more people traveled to Naples to try it, even venturing into the poorer parts of the city where the food was first created. The pizza I had in Naples was very good, (I had a veggie pizza with spinach, artichoke, and mushroom) but it was nothing life changing or magical as the hype had led me to believe. (Remember, I’m from Chicago)  That being said, if you’re ever on the hunt for the perfect slice, Naples is a great place to start. I only tried it at one restaurant so there is plenty of uncharted cheesy territory left to explore.

After lunch, we squeezed down into what some refer to, creepily, as the womb of Naples. 40 meters below the bustling city is a complex labyrinth of tunnels that have been used for various purposes since the Greeks founded the city in the 7th century BC. First, a quarry was dug out to provide materials with which to literally build the city. The stone and metals from the Earth were used during the construction of Naples. The underground passages and caverns have an area larger than the city itself, and it was all carved by hand with chisels, hammers, and muscle. Looking up at the high ceilings, we could see the marks and divots left by the workers’ chisels. Decades later, the caves were filled with water and used as the city’s aqueduct system. Those who lived there used wells to access and bring up the water as they needed it. The smallest workers would climb down the walls of the well to clean the inside of the reservoirs as needed. Our guide told us that wealthy families would sometimes pay the workers extra to make sure their portion of the aqueduct was always full of clean water, often leaving others to deal with empty or dirty wells. For about 60 years, the caverns were used as the city’s garbage dump, but was cleaned up at the beginning of World War II. The space then provided shelter for Neapolitans as thousands of bombs were dropped on the city over the course of the war. In many ways, the caverns underneath Naples allowed for the city’s survival.

Overall, Naples is a very exciting place. The streets are alive with activity like they are in Rome. Motorcycles and scooters whiz by you on what you thought was a sidewalk, and every corner has a vendor selling something that smells delicious. There is graffiti on every building and a lot of garbage around. Some of the people in our group thought it was a bit too dirty, but I liked the artsy creative feel of every alley. I liked that the city doesn’t try to be too neat, or perfect. It just lives. Naples has been doing things differently since it created pizza in the 1700s and they don’t plan on changing their ways any time soon. While most of our group stayed in Naples for the weekend, I decided to make it a day trip. Even though it was only one day, I felt that I had seen and done plenty by the end of it. I realized this week that I don’t have to visit a new country or city every weekend. Planning these trips can be very stressful, especially on a student budget. I almost forgot that Rome alone is full of adventure and things to see. So I came back to Rome that evening, excited to get to know the city I started in.

 

 

Just outside the entrance to La Accademia di Belle Arte

The Courtyard of La Accademia                                                                                                                                         What the ancient aqueducts had looked like

 

The original Pizza!

 

 

 

 

David’s Home

David’s Home

Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David is bigger than you think, trust me. If you’ve never seen it in person, (or even if you have) odds are you’ll be amazed when you find yourself staring up, mouth agape, at the seventeen-foot-tall, marble depiction of the Old Testament’s most famous underdog. You might also be surprised, as I was, to find out that Michelangelo was not the first artist to try transforming that marble slab into something beautiful. In fact, the statue was originally commissioned by the Overseers of the Office of Works of the Duomo, now one of Florence’s most famous churches (pictured below).

In 1464, the church commissioned Augostino di Duccio, a student of Donatello, to construct a David for the project. He failed to create much more than a rough outline of the legs. Ten years later, another one of Donatello’s disciples, Antonio Rossellino, tried his hand. Rossellino was afraid that the previous work done on the marble had weakened it so much that it would never support a statue of such great size and weight, so he too failed to complete the sculpture. Fast forward to 1501, the marble block has now been lying dormant in the Duomo workshop for 25 years, naturally eroding in the elements, when a young Michelangelo agrees to do what the others could not. At this point, Michelangelo had recently finished carving his pieta, a statue depicting The Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus. This work would go on to be recognized as one of his masterpieces, arguably second only to the statue of David. 

Michelangelo took a block of old, discarded marble, and created one of the world’s most renowned sculptures. He didn’t protest, nor did he refuse the job because it seemed too daunting to others, he took what he was given and worked. His work paid off, as the completed statue was instantly recognized as a masterpiece. Partially because David was so stunning, those at the Duomo decided that it could not go on the roof, over 200 feet above Florence, but that it had to be on the ground, where it could be seen up close. First, David’s home was the Piazza della Signoria, but was later moved to its current location inside the Academia Museum which is where I got to see it this past weekend.

I think there’s a powerful lesson, not just in Michelangelo’s perseverance, but in the story of David’s changing locations. David was originally going to be part of a twelve piece series that would display on the roof of the Duomo. He ended up standing solo inside a different building. Even though it wasn’t clear where he was headed, David stands tall, guarding and representing the great city of Firenzi all the same. I guess I just have to appreciate the symbolism between David and young people who travel. Many of the students here at the JFRC often have no idea what country they’re going to be in next week, myself included. It is very freeing but at the same time extremely unsettling. One of the things that surprised me most about this semester has been how uncomfortable I have been. Being in new places, plunged into a new language, and unsure of pretty much everything can take a toll on anyone. Seeing David today reminded me that there is beauty in not knowing. Michelangelo likely had his doubts about that old marble he agreed to work with. The city didn’t know where their awesome new mascot would end up, but in the end, it worked out okay.

It can be difficult to explain to someone at home. When I tell friends in Chicago about a challenge here, about something that frustrated me or a time I was worried, they always say the same thing: “I can’t believe you’re complaining about being in Rome.” True, I am very lucky to be exploring Europe and I won’t forget what a great opportunity this is. That being said, culture shock is more real than I thought it would be. When I got to Florence it was seven AM, cold, and rainy. The sun hadn’t come up yet. We couldn’t check into our hostel until two PM. I was anything but comfortable as I had no clue where to go, or what the next 24 hours would look like. These circumstances at home would be nothing more than an inconvenient way to start a day. But take away the comfort of knowing exactly where your bed is, knowing that your family is close by, and shrink your language skills to those of a ten-year-old, and the situation changes. I knew I had my two friends Victoria and Chloe with me though, so I knew that together we would be just fine in this new place.

Once we started, we couldn’t be stopped. We toured the Uffizi museum, haggled with pushy leather salesmen in the street markets, (Chloe got a killer leather jacket down from $290 to $120) stumbled upon a parade, found a vinyl record store, and had some of the best fast food at 1950 American Diner. After all was said and done, my short weekend in Florence was my favorite part of the semester so far. I know I want to go back when the weather warms up, even though it would mean breaking my one rule of never visiting the same place twice. Sometimes, to squeeze the most out of life, you just have to do some things you didn’t plan.

If Michelangelo could make a masterpiece with discarded marble, I can make my way through a semester full of uncertainty.

Victoria (Left) and Chloe (Right) The drinks at Art Bar are as fun to eat as they are to drink.
David, who’s nickname is “Manu Fortis” which means Strong of Hand. This is likely why Michelangelo chose to make David’s right hand extra large.
The Arno River in Florence
The extensive collection at Move On, a vinyl store and restaurant.
Not Like Me

Not Like Me

I have been in Rome for a little over three weeks now, and when I started to brainstorm this blog post, I wasn’t quite sure what to write about. So much has happened! I’ve taken a trip with the JFRC; I’ve gone to Florence and Pisa with friends; I’ve seen the pope!!! Rather than listing everything I’ve done, though, I thought I could use this blog post to reflect on my experience so far. During orientation, the JFRC staff members encouraged us to explore Rome and to get lost in Rome. They said this is the best way to find cool things! Among all these reminders, one thing really stuck in my head: Go to a place, and don’t try to change it. Don’t try to make it like you. See what’s different, and let it be different. So while I’m here in Rome this semester, I am challenging myself to embrace this different country, language, and lifestyle. Sometimes it’s scary to be surrounded by so much difference. But in the few weeks I’ve been here, I’ve already noticed how it feels to adventure and let a place be different. And let that different place make you a little different too! So here are a few things I’ve noticed so far…

In Rome, meals take forever. They tell you that before you get here, but you think it’s going to be an exaggeration. During my orientation trip to Agropoli, Italy, we sat at lunch one day for over three hours. And while the food was amazing (we had these hush puppy-type things that were so good), we all got pretty antsy. I have always been a quick eater, so these meals were a little challenging at first. I still get frustrated when, at the end of a meal, you have to ask the waiter for the check or he won’t bring it for what feels like hours. Italians are social creatures! They like slow digestion and good dinner conversations! Long meals are starting to feel more normal to me, and I’m trying my best to enjoy my dinner company and the food I get to eat (and the wine I get to drink).

A goat cheese stuffed tomato on arugula, balsamic, and pesto.

Lasagna from Florence!

So much gelato.

Because I go to school in Chicago and try to travel around the city when I can, I am used to public transportation that is reliable and runs on a strict schedule. In Rome, on the other hand, bus drivers go on strike fairly often. Busses don’t run on any schedule we’ve been able to figure out. I’ve sat on a bus twice now that has broken down on the way home. My friends were stuck behind a bus today that had caught on fire. I’m not saying that I never use the busses here (I actually just bought a monthly bus pass yesterday), but walking has become my new favorite mode of transportation. The city of Rome is very walkable, and it makes me feel better to know I’m walking off some of the calories I’m eating! Similar to the long meals, I have started to become accustomed to the fact that getting somewhere will probably take a while, whether I’m walking there or bussing there. The Italians like to take their time, so I’m trying to be patient and enjoy what’s happening around me at all times!

Us walking around in Florence!

In Rome, people don’t usually have dryers in their homes. We have dryers here at the JFRC, but they don’t work very well. So my roommate and I have been hang-drying our clothes around our room. We like it because we save the 2 euro we would spend on a dry cycle, and we buy gelato instead! It’s a good trade off if you ask me.

More gelato!

Breakfast here is much lighter compared to breakfast in the US. I even heard someone call Italian breakfast “dessert for breakfast.” While I miss pancakes and hash browns and bacon and drip coffee very dearly, I am actually really enjoying the cappuccino and cornetto I have for breakfast every morning. Cornettos are basically croissants that have filling (I always get the Nutella filled ones) and powdered sugar or some kind of glaze on top. And cappuccinos are so foamy and probably better for me than the large coffees I get at home.

One of the best cornettos yet!

The best cappuccino I’ve had so far. This was in Pisa!

All that being said, I’ve found it’s important to find a few things that remind you of home. I still enjoy a good Coca Cola and some peanut M&Ms. And I’m really craving a good cheeseburger (even though I’ve resisted going to an Italian McDonald’s). Finding a balance between new and familiar is important to prevent burnout, and I’m learning how much I can handle as I go! I’m really excited to see where the next few months take me.

Thanks for reading,

Ciao!

Our group in Pisa.

Front row for the Papal Audience!

Stu-dying Abroad

Stu-dying Abroad

I think one of the things I didn’t expect coming here is to actually study. I always heard people saying that they literally didn’t do anything during their study abroad trips. They mentioned the amount of times they’ve traveled all over the world, the amount of times they went out to clubs, the variety of restaurants they went to visit during their study abroad trip, and so on. How many times did they mention they were studying or maybe stressing out a tad bit because of school? Zero. Well folks, I myself was fooled by these stories. I don’t know what these people were talking about, but there definitely is some studying and even some stress involved while you’re in your program. For me, it’s particularly my Italian class. Which I should be studying for, but here I am writing this instead *face palm*.

So, what’s the point of this blog post? Make your own experiences.

Let me be fair, these people I mentioned may have decided to take less classes and be less involved on campus, leading them to have a lighter workload overall. However, let me speak for myself and the experience I have had with the amount of homework I have had so far. I am taking 5 classes this semester, which totals to the amount of 15 credits. I am taking classes that fulfill my graduation requirements such as Literature, Science, and Art. You may be thinking, “What’s so hard about that?”. Well, I had to finish a whole novel for my literature class in a span of 4 days, write a 5 page paper for my science class, and also create a sculpture from scratch for my art class. Oh and top of that, I’m working two jobs. One here in the John Felice Rome Center and one back at home in a mobile manner. Oh! I forgot to mention another thing! I also decided to get involved with Student Activities Committee and now I’m in charge of planning events. Yikes.

I mean it is called studying abroad for a reason right? Don’t worry. I’m here to tell you that regardless if you have a crazy schedule like mine, YOU CAN STILL HAVE FUN. It’s already Week 3 and I feel like I’ve done so much. Yes, there’s homework to be done but as long as you manage your time wisely then you should be good (or how Italians say it, molto bene, which means very good!)

I was getting a little overwhelmed with the workload I was getting in the beginning and was worried I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the study abroad experience like the people I have talked to. But I learned that I have to make the most out of my time. What did I do? I started scheduling times when I wanted to go out. I have a 1PM class, so instead of sleeping in until the class started, I would push myself to wake up bright and early. I actually did my first walk this Monday. I got to know my neighborhood and campus so well and finally got to try a local cafe shop by campus. Have a 4 hour gap between classes? Have a Wednesday off? GO OUT. I did that and I was able to discover one of my favorite bakery spots! Again, just make the most out of your time. Don’t stay in your rooms and don’t get distracted by what’s going on online. That brings me to my second point.

Again, how do I still have fun with a busy schedule? Well first of all, stay off your phone. So much time is wasted using your phone and it’s honestly not even worth it. Yeah you need to talk to your family and your friends back at home, I get that. But it’s a 7 hour difference from Europe to the United States. They won’t even be up during school hours. Finish everything you have to finish and then take some time to actually enjoy your surroundings. Plan trips, make friends, read a book, take a walk in the neighborhood. Just do something productive. Once you have done all of that, then that’s when you can use your phone to catch up with your family and friends. If they truly care about you, they’ll understand why you’re not available on your phone as much as before. You are abroad for a reason. To explore and study. Not to be on your phone.

To make the most out of your experiences, you especially have to not worry about other people’s schedules. Don’t focus on your friend’s schedules being free and yours not. Your schedule is probably busy for a good reason. Even if it’s not, so what? Take this as an experience so you can learn how to become more responsible and manage your time wisely! Be positive and look forward to the things you CAN do while you’re here and honestly just be happy that you got the chance to study abroad in the first place!

Whatever it may be, make your own experiences. It doesn’t matter if others got to go to clubs every day and travel halfway around the world. Their experiences are different from yours. If you do it right, you can make your time here so memorable and have the time of your life. Have fun while you’re here, but also study because you are studying abroad after all.

Until next time! Arrivederci 🙂

P.S Here’s some of the memories I’ve made so far even with my crazy schedule!

Festina Lente

Festina Lente


Do you remember somersaulting down hills as a child? Slowly you begin to gain speed and soon enough you lose sight of everything happening around you, seemingly lost in a whirlwind of fun, tossing and turning without any knowledge of current orientation or surroundings. Traveling from one foreign place to another can interpolate a very similar sensation of unconsciousness.

This past weekend I traveled to the home of the world’s most illustrious spas and bath houses. Budapest, unbeknownst to myself prior, is home to much more than saunas and savory local cuisine. The people there are the true prize to be seen. They ooze a sense on self individualized confidence. Not only can you feel it in the instance when the eyes of the older Olaf-esk brute from the other side of the steam room is staring you down to your soul, but also, as you are received by the jaunty bartender who offers you his best beer on draught with a smile and a trusting gleam in his gaze.

The city has been through quite a load over the past five centuries or so, (I challenge you to research that) and the stories are inscripted beautifully into stone and mortar in order to last generations. Moreover, the stories seen in the marble depicted scenes are of heroic ancestors and invading aliens; rather than victors and vanity, so that the true history of Budapest’s people will never be lost in time. My experience, on the contrary, seemed to have fallen victim to my hurrying from monument to monument, church to castle, and bar to bath; though I was constantly entranced by the east/west median of European culture, never once could I feel the slowness of home in which every second seems indulge-able. Nay, I would not suggest that I am home sick, but rather, I would infer that I must take a lesson from the story of August on my next trip, and that is to hurry slowly. Festina Lente!

Rome so Far

Rome so Far

I have been living in Rome now for 20 days, although it feels like 100 and 1 at the same time. Confusing? Good, because that is just the way Romans do it. The streets wind without pattern, clogged in one place with endless mopeds and taxis, sun-soaked and empty in another. The city moves and breathes, never waiting for you to get your bearings. When you get to Rome, you have to hit the ground running. Once you do, it becomes easy to see why so many people have fallen in love with this city. In 20 days I have already had one of the best meals of my life at Osteria dell’ Anima in the city center. I have seen beauty both man-made and natural that I never knew existed outside of post cards. When I finally got my hands on some gelato at Giolitti, it lived up to all the hype. If these first days are any indication, this semester is going to be a wild ride.

I want to use this blog as a way for others to see a sliver of Rome and Europe through my quick experience. Since I cannot hope to see, smell, hear, and feel all of Italy, or even Rome, I will focus sharing the most beautiful things I find here. Since it is important to be mindful, I will use this blog as a way to reflect on differences between here and Chicago, and what those differences teach me. At the very least, I hope this can be a place where you can learn something about another part of the world, and scroll through some cool pictures.

 

Grazie e benvenuto a Roma!

Thanks and welcome to Rome!

-Ben LaScola