The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Aleksandra Wysocki

Cześć! Ciao! Hello! I'm Aleksandra Wysocki, but everyone knows me by my Polish nickname, Ola. I'm a junior studying Communication and International Studies at Loyola Chicago. In addition to wanting to live my own version of a Lizzie McGuire adventure, I'm psyched to better my Italian language skills, eat all of the carbs this beautiful country has to offer, and to find the perfect balance of three gelato flavors. I've been to Rome before, but I'm excited to call la citta eterna my home for the next two semesters!
Ciao For Now

Ciao For Now

I’ve been trying to rack my brain with what to write about for this, what is my last blog post for you lovely readers. The fact that this semester has ended is still beyond me and I think I’m still trying to process everything that’s happened since August. Quotes seem to be a go-to of mine. The right one can say exactly what you want it to, and in my case, they usually say it a lot more eloquently. Recently, I came across this one while on the interwebs. I found it in Italian, but apparently it’s some old Indian proverb. I’ve tried to find it in other places, but alas, nothing yet. Regardless, it’s

Viaggiando alla scoperta dei paesi troverai il continente in te stesso

With my best translating skills on hand, I interpret it as: traveling to discover different countries, you find a continent within yourself (like I said, it’s the same idea I want to express about this semester- except said profoundly). With that being said, although it is a cliche, cliches stem from some kind of truth in my eyes, and I feel like while traveling and being abroad,  I’ve discovered new aspects of myself.


The first big change in my life is actually my career path and I have nothing but my placement at Kino Produzioni to thank for that. As a child of immigrant parents and now a single, self-employed single parent, I’ve always felt the pressure to do something that was considered a real job once I graduated from college. I knew from the start that I wasn’t going to become any kind of doctor, dentist or lawyer. I don’t have the patience for it, nor the interest and my hats off to people who do want to study and do that work. And my mom’s never pushed me towards those either, but I’ve always felt pressured to really make something of myself in order to be able to support her after all that she’s sacrificed for me. I never knew how to include my passion of the arts, particularly cinema, photography and music, into my future career- whatever that ended up being. Working at Kino this semester has been a blessing and the fact that I get to continue next semester is very exciting. It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things I can potentially do in the future and I’m actually currently in the midst of applying to hopefully intern at the Chicago International Film Festival once I come back to the States! In general, my internship class has been super supportive and it’s been an absolute honor to work alongside all of these motivated and talented new friends. 

The Italian Interns.

Another big change is my spirituality. No, I’m not any more religious than I was in the past. That I can tell you for sure. I’m still struggling to figure out just exactly what my relationship with whatever I really believe in is. However, being a part of a CLC while here in Rome has been enlightening. It’s  not only offered me a space to talk about things that my friends and I normally don’t, but a place to reflect upon that part of me that I’ve neglected for quite some time. Reflection in a lot of aspects of my life has become central to my stay in Rome. I often enjoyed my solo bus rides to and from my internship or my passegiatas around the neighborhood to the Zodiac, seeing it as a time to myself and a time to think. I find myself writing a lot more about my thoughts, thinking a lot of my relationships with the people around me and the people back home, about short and long-term goals that I set for myself. It’s been really healthy for me.


Lastly, I’m currently stuck in a bittersweet limbo. On the one hand, I have three of my closest friends coming to the JFRC in January for the spring. This is something I have been *low-key* waiting for all semester long. They’ve spoiled me in in the realm of friendships by being amazing people that I can count on for anything– so needless to say, I’ve missed them to pieces. I cannot wait for the honor of sharing my Rome with them and helping discover what the eternal city means to them.

Truthfully, before I came to Rome in August, a significant part of me was filled with anxiety. Now, an important thing to tell you all about myself is that I perceive myself to be a pretty quiet and shy person when I first meet people, but I’m a huge people person. I love having conversations with others, I love being around friends. That’s not to say I cannot handle being on my own or being independent, but growing up as an only child with no cousins my age– living at Loyola where I room with my best friends and have everyone around me was a welcoming change for me. Coming to Rome, a wave of deja vu was hitting me, because was as if freshman year of college was repeating itself. No one I knew well was coming abroad to the Rome center- but that ended up being a blessing in disguise, even if I didn’t initially anticipate Rome becoming home. The fact that I was dreading the goodbyes that I had to make to people that I’ve known for less than four months is a testament to that. I really didn’t want to say goodbye to these friends that have opened their hearts to me just as much as I didn’t want to say goodbye to my friends back in Chicago in August. 
IMG_1471IMG_1508IMG_1492People who you talk to about studying abroad always tell you all the time how difficult it might be to adjust to a new place– but they forget to mention how hard it is to leave, even for those like me who still have another semester to go. I mean, I’m not really leaving- but part of my Rome is. Witnessing everyone’s “lasts,”; last trips to the city center, last view of the Pantheon, last night out in Trastevere, last gelato– it was emotional. They never really talk about just how bittersweet the whole feeling is and how much you’re going to miss everyone, because you realize that there will never be a time like this, where we’re all together in this way, in this city. The night the group flight was leaving is a testament to that, as I have never seen that many people with so many tears in their eyes at 3am in the morning.

There’s a strong sense of camaraderie (not unlike the Fellowship of the Ring for you fellow LOTR nerds) with people that you experience the new and unknown with, and although I’m ecstatic that I get one more semester in the eternal city, it will be immensely different without the new friends I’ve been blessed to meet this semester. Have safe flights home and a wonderful holiday season, everyone! Please know that you will always be a a part of “my Rome” and that it will not be the same without you. Grazie a tutti!


If you are ever presented with the opportunity to study abroad- do it. Don’t hesitate. It’s a chaotic and confusing, but also beautiful-arguably like Rome. You’ll have an even bigger love-hate relationship with the ATAC public transportation system here than you do back at home (especially if you’re accustomed to the lovely CTA like I am back in Chicago). You might find yourself sick of pasta- I haven’t personally reached this point, but I think it’s because in my family home, pasta was never a big thing. You might get annoyed by how there’s no wifi in your room and question why nothing seems to be on any kind of schedule.

However, you’ll also feel a sense of satisfaction every time you can make yourself understood to someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. You’ll feel a little proud at the fact that you can plan a ten day trip across three different countries for a little less than 400 euro- and you should be! The sense of togetherness you feel with the people you share ungodly early morning flights and overnight train rides with because although you all share the struggle- the views, the experiences that you live through in your destination is all worth it.

Plus, there’s an endless array of gelato if you happen to study abroad in Italy. And that is arguably the biggest selling point if you ask me.


I don’t think that this is supposed to be the best time of my entire life, there’s still so much of life to live- but this experience is definitely up there. Studying abroad challenged me to not only discover the world, but discover myself. And with that, I leave you with my video project for my Italian class.

Go Global, it has been a blast. If anyone has any questions about studying abroad feel free to contact me and if you want to keep up with me during my second semester in Europe, look up , which will hopefully be updated more than it is now (oops- but hey, that just means I’m out and about doing other things, no?)

Ciao for now 🙂

From Positano to Paris

From Positano to Paris

[This is my attempt at trying to make sense of what’s happening in the world recently. Writing has always given me a good outlet for my thoughts and emotions, so here’s hoping it does the same now- bear with me, my dear readers]


I spent two days in one of the most beautiful places in Italy, arguably the world—and despite that, my mind was hundreds of kilometers away, in a city I have never been to. Positano itself was a place unlike any other I had been to. Built into the cliffs of the Amalfi coast, the colorful houses, endless flights of stairs and the brisk air off the sea were absolutely gorgeous. My travel companions and I were excited, because despite this being Positano’s off-season, it was a place that seemed like paradise. Tranquil, natural, colorful and safe.


We had an amazing AirBnB booked, which was stocked with great amenities, comfy beds, an amazing host with an adorable pug named Willy, and a view that took my breath away. We had a fantastic morning and afternoon, strolling down the winding staircases towards the pebbled beach front. We enjoyed drinks at a bar right on the beach, good conversations, and then proceeded to go back to the beach once it got dark, just laying on our backs and listening to the waves, trying to soak in the fact that we were there. After a struggle of trying to climb the hill all the way back up to our lodgings, we were still in a great mood and going to start a movie, when one of us saw the first scrap of news of what was just beginning to happen in Paris. The mood of the night automatically transformed into a somber one.  Luckily, all of us who had friends in Paris at the time were able to contact them and we found out that they, along with all of our other JFRCers that were abroad, were safe.

Despite the news, we persisted to enjoy ourselves the next day, but personally, I think we were all affected by this. It was impossible not to be. This was most clearly demonstrated to me by two instances. The first is when climbed back down to centro storico to visit one of the little cathedrals. We had been pretty talkative the whole morning, even complaining a bit about all of the stairs and cracking jokes, but the second we stepped into that little cathedral, each of us just sat in our own little separate pew, and took a couple of minutes. I can’t speak for my travel companions, but I felt a deep sense of calm and dare I say inner peace, which I found strange, given the current situation.

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The second was at our late lunch, where we seemed to have calmed down a bit and Paris was somewhere in our subconscious, but it was brought back automatically when we heard a large bomb-like blast coming from somewhere above the town. I swear, my heart skipped a beat. We later found out that they were fireworks, the ones that have a quick spark before letting out a huge, thundering boom and although the spike in our fear seems a little silly in hindsight, at the time, we were definitely on edge. It didn’t help when some lady from Texas who was on our bus back to Sorrento told us that she heard that there were reports that Rome was going to be targeted for the next couple of days. Granted, she said she heard that on Fox news, which I personally have trouble putting stock into, but regardless, to say I wasn’t scared would have been a lie._DSC0048-001

I think what scares me most about the attacks, is the realization that I could have easily been in Paris instead of Positano for the weekend. My friends and I could have decided to travel to France instead of staying in Italy—and I actually had friends and fellow JFRCers that were in Paris. Or even the opposite- what happened in Paris could have easily happened in Rome, or any other city that my friends and I have traveled to. Perhaps realization is the wrong word. Unfortunately, I think we’re all aware, whether consciously or not, that things like this happen, and can happen everywhere and any day. For Americans, I’d say that this realization came to us on a Tuesday morning.

I think I was too young to comprehend that when 9/11 happened, as I was only 7 years old. I remember being scared, but I was only scared of traveling in airplanes. I had never even traveled on a plane, so needless to say, my first flight from Chicago to Warszawa was a nine-hour endeavor of anxiety. Yet, on the way back, despite getting the normal little jitters one can get with the realization that they’re in a big hunk of metal that is somehow defying gravity and thousands of miles up in the air, I grew accustomed to flying. I forgot the fear. Then the terrorist bombings in London made me aware that planes aren’t going to be my only worry, and any time I stepped onto a train or mode of public transportation, I noticed that I unintentionally would size people up. I started thinking of how easily something similar could happen here, as there was nowhere near the security that airports now had. But time passed, Chicago seemed far away from that. I was lulled back into a sense of safety again.

Even the attacks in the offices of Charlie Hebdo this past January did not affect me as much as recent events have. Those, although also sad and tragic, did not scare me. It was an attack on free speech, it was an attack with specific targets.  I am in no way saying that anyone deserves to be the target of that kind of retaliation, but for some reason, I was not as affected as I was when I saw the events in Paris, November 13, 2015, unfold in front of my eyes through my news updates on my phone. I felt sick to my stomach. These were people, innocent people who have most likely NOTHING to do with the politics on a global scale. Some were enjoying a football match with two of the best teams in the world. Others were at a music concert. Some were simply sharing a meal. What on earth could these people have done to deserve such a horrifying nightmare? One could twist my aforementioned argument, that they, like the victims of the Hebdo attacks, were intentional targets paying the price for what France was doing in Syria. I feel like that makes it even worse.

Again, the scariest thing is that my friends and I could have easily been there. We go out to eat and to bars in Trastevere and Monti- popular neighborhoods of Rome. We go to concerts and AS Roma games at Stadio Olimpico. Perhaps that’s egotistical and slightly irrational, turning what’s happening in some place that you’re geographically nowhere near into focusing on what could happen to you, but I think that’s just how we’re wired—at least I am. I don’t even want to try to imagine myself in that kind of terror and I hope I never will have to experience anything like that firsthand- but then I read that among one of the victims was an American student, studying abroad.

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With this fear also comes a sense of anger. I’m angry that the fact that people like this are trying to take away any sense of normalcy and innocence in the world. I’m mad that some people in parts of the world have to live in situations such as this every day. I’m mad that now, when I walk around Rome, or any place really, I’m feeling slightly on edge, because someone decided that the best way to channel their hatred and anger is to do so violently on innocent people. Doesn’t the world see enough sadness without humans trying to kill other humans? Isn’t trying to live out one’s life difficult enough without all of this hate? How is life supposed to go on now? Is this edginess going to pass, just as my fears of planes were lulled back into a sense of security only to be taken away when the next tragedy happens? Is this just the new, unfortunate normal? What are we going to do? How are we supposed to make it better?

The truth is- I don’t have any of the answers, and I’m also not sure if anyone else does. Despite all of this hatred though, there is strength, solidarity, happiness and love. There are accounts from people who survived the hostage situation and massacre at Bataclan, telling stories of their survival because of the complete strangers who shielded them from harm. There have been reports of Parisian locals opening up their doors to shelter victims. Countless videos have become viral of various street musicians playing for crowds in public squares that have come to pay their respects by leaving flowers and lighting candles. The strong and proud people of France will try to pick up the pieces after this tragedy, as they’ve done before, just like we tried and did after 9/11. And I think that’s beautiful.

Obviously, despite being more anxious than usual, life has to and will go on. I can’t just hole up in my room, scared under my blanket, not wanting to venture out into the world. My heart goes out to everyone affected in events such as these, not only in Paris, but all over the world- including in Beirut, in Syria, in the Middle East, in Africa, in places where something like this may happen more often and places that do not receive the same coverage as the Western world. Not to defend the media frenzy that seems to only cover the Western world, but I think we’re so desensitized when we hear about bombings in the Middle East, that when it happens somewhere that you wouldn’t normally see it happen, it sadly becomes sensationalized. Normal is a key word, though. In a perfect world, there shouldn’t be any place where bombing/terrorist attacks/senseless killing is “normal.”


John Lennon was a dreamer, so perhaps I take after him because of my undying love for the Beatles. Maybe I’m naïve, but I really do dream that one day, despite the fact that we won’t agree on a lot of things- or anything for that matter- we will find a different way of dealing with that disagreement. Sure, there will be struggles, as that is what life seems to always include, but senseless hate won’t be one of them. Until then, all we can do is show that we’re stronger than that hate. The love we have for others is stronger than the fear that the people who don’t understand it try to instill within us. The world is filled with too many beautiful people, places and moments for it to be a bad place. I just hope that we’ll realize this sooner rather than later.




Lessons Learned Outside of the Classroom: Fall Break Wrap-Up

Lessons Learned Outside of the Classroom: Fall Break Wrap-Up


What makes a place difficult to leave? Is it your comforts? The familiarity? The relationships you’ve made there?

But before I get to that; with a blink of an eye, fall break, the ten day pausa from all of our hard work here at the JFRC that I’m pretty sure 99% of the student body was looking forward to, has come and gone. Don’t get me wrong, I think we all love or have grown to love Roma, but sometimes you need a break, you know? I had the opportunity to go to three cities over my fall break with three lovely travel companions. We all had a vote in cities and so Munich, Vienna, and Prague were our top three choices that also seemed feasible and logical (in some sort of geographic sense…).

_DSC1398-001München aka Munich aka where my (in another universe) husbands, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller play for Bayern. Oh and the world’s biggest Oktoberfest is held here- but that ended last week which is why there are so many less tourists and our flight here was only around 30€ #bless.  It was stunning! The sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, we were excited that München actually has a Starbucks. Yup. I’m THAT basic. In the words of comedienne Iliza Schlesinger, when we applied to be girls, we were asked what our favorite seasons were, and of COURSE the answer is fall and so I had a pumpkin spice latte and IT WAS A GREAT MOMENT. Surprisingly, there are A LOT of Italians in Munich, so I felt right at home talking to the very attractive barista who was actually from Bolzano and thought I was Italian because he said my accent was great *cries*. Genuinely, Munich was a lovely surprise and I found myself a little sad when we had to leave.


Wien (Vienna) was also wonderful, although it was difficult to follow Munich. Everything seemed quite grande and impressive- the old palaces, the palaces that are now art museums, the architecture throughout the city- EVERYTHING! Previous to this trip, I never really had any particular notions about Vienna/Austria in general, so it was nice to experience something new and to go in like a completely clean slate. The city definitely had a cool vibe, our hostel in particular had such interesting people in it that it almost deterred me from wanting to go out and explore, and the desserts we had every day were divine!

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And lastly, Praha. Prague was a city that was at the top of my list of places to visit outside of Italy during my time abroad and I’m ecstatic that I got to visit it over fall break. It reminded me a lot of Krakow, Poland, and I felt the connection both cultures share with the Slavic spirit- quindi (as I say all the time in Italian), I felt right at home. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. I absolutely loved the walking tours we took (our tour guide, Pistis, was probably THE coolest person ever), they had kielbasa (something I had been missing profusely back in Italy), and the overall, I was just in love. I didn’t want to leave- I could have stayed here the whole 10 days of break. I would definitely consider coming back here in the future.

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Regardless, some of the things that fall break has taught me:

1)The beautiful thing about Europe is that all of these countries I want to go to are at the very manageable to get to in a short amount of time, which is INSANE. I want to go from Rome to Munich?- an hour by plane. That’s only about 20 minutes more than my L commute from the Loyola Lake Shore Campus to Water Tower. The other beautiful thing about Europe are all of these cheap airlines that offer affordable flights. My flight to Munich? €30! (About $33!!!!). Sure, it was at 7 in the morning, but it cost less than the cab we took from JFRC to Fiumicino. One of the least glamorous things? The reason those prices for the actual ticket are low are because it only includes one carry-on. I never thought I’d be able to say I can live out of one backpack for more than 10 days, but hey, now I can cross that off my bucket-list, too.


I don’t think I’m very high maintenance (and if you think I am totally wrong or blind to this, please feel free to chuckle about it here), but 10 days with a weather forecast calling for all types of crazy weather (we saw potential snow in Prague), teeny-tiny toiletry essentials, and enough clothes* (*underwear) to last? I’ve been conditioned and accustomed to being allowed at the very least one GIGANTIC suitcase, so this was something I was definitely NOT used to- but with hindsight, I’m really proud I could actually do it AND have a little bit of room for souvenirs for both me and my mama back home (we collect Starbucks mugs… so now we have two more to add to our collection!). Plus, it’s made me an expert on what’s necessary VS. what I WANT to bring for my own comfort. It also made for an excellent excuse to buy a new scarf and hat, something I definitely brought with me to Rome but not with me to Munich, where the weather was at least 20 degrees colder.

2) As I’ve said in one of my posts on my photography blog, the human body is capable of many amazing things; one of them being the ability to take everything that comes your way while traveling. Sitting for hours in a cramped and uncomfortable seat that was way too overpriced, food that shouldn’t be deemed edible (I’m looking at you, overpriced airlines), sleep deprivation and yet; we somehow keep on pushing until we make our final destination. There were mornings where we’d be up at 5am, trying to figure out what bus to take to which train station where we’d find a train to take us to the airport. But yet, on those same days, we’d walk at least 10,000 steps in a new city, IN A NEW COUNTRY. That’s pretty amazing, especially when I think that I tend to consider myself a pretty stationary being.

3) I received a HUGE wake up call when we got into the Westbanhof train station in Vienna. Of course, one of the first things we normally did when we got to a train/bus station or airport was try to connect to wifi, just to let our parents know we were safe and made it to our destination or to check alternate travel routes to our hostels. Something I noticed was the wifi networks offered at the Vienna station. One of them clearly had Refugee Info as one of the titles, while another just said Refugee Free Wifi.

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I knew Austria was one of the main countries that many of the refugees were traveling to in order to get to their destination in Germany or other desired countries (mostly in Scandinavia) and I also knew that this ongoing crisis was really happening- but there’s a difference between seeing it in a newspaper or television set and actually seeing it with your own two eyes. I never doubted that this was a serious thing that was actually happening, but this just made it more real. I was taken aback, seeing so many families with maybe two or three more bags than I was carrying- bags that were probably carrying what was left of their whole life. I have to admit, I don’t understand politics and I don’t understand how the E.U. works when it comes to how to approach aid- but at that moment in time, I felt a huge surge of sympathy for them and gratitude for all my life has given me so far. I think everyone goes through their fair share of hardships and it’s truly difficult to compare who has it worse, because everyone reacts to obstacles differently. The worst thing that can ever happen in your life could be way less serious in the eyes of someone else, but you both could potentially react to it in the same way. These people had to leave behind their homes, their lives. Meanwhile, here I was, thinking how much I missed Chicago and how far away home seemed. It was sobering, like I said, but it did make me thing of all that I’m thankful for in my life.

4) Lastly, although this is actual a general lesson that’s slowly becoming more and more clear to me throughout the semester, being in other cities in Europe have definitely solidified my thoughts of coming back to Europe after I’m done with my senior year at Loyola. Would it really be that crazy to move to Europe? My whole family moved to America, not knowing any of the language and sacrificing so much and yet here I find myself entertaining the thought of “coming back.” What do Roma, Prague, Munich, Dublin or Krakow have that Chicago doesn’t? What is it about Europe that makes me want to come back. I love Chicago with all of my heart. I was born and raised there. My lack of Portillo’s cheese fries and deep dish is always tugging at my heartstrings, and don’t even get me started on missing the whole support system that is my family and friends. And yet, here I am in Rome, already considering becoming an ex-pat for just a little bit longer.

Riddle me this: I’ll admit, I had no problem leaving the small neighborhood where my family currently resides to Rogers Park- and I lived there my whole life. I mean, I knew I’d be back for breaks/summers/etc, but for me, that was the beginning of “leaving home” for me. I knew that after that first semester, Rogers Park was my new home and I loved it. Leaving Rogers Park for Rome on the other hand was extremely hard- despite knowing that I’d be back within a year. And now, I find myself ALREADY dreading leaving Rome. There’s a sense of “I feel at home” here and there’s still so much I want to do and see and be a part of here, despite not having the same connections to people that I do back in Rogers Park. I don’t know what to make of all of this, but it’s definitely got me re-evaluating my plans for after graduation.

So what makes leaving a place difficult? Is there really a concrete answer? Like most things in life, probably not, but I’d like to think that with this fall break experience has given me a little more insight into answering that question.

Made it to the end of the post? I congratulate you, because Lord knows I can ramble on and on. Until next time 🙂


Wherever You Go, Go With All of Your Heart

Wherever You Go, Go With All of Your Heart

Confucius might have been on to something when he said the quote I’m using the title for this blog.. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

You’ve all heard of Milano, right? What do you think when you hear Milan? Many will say glamorous, stylish fashion capital. For anyone who knows anything about Italy, they could start to throw in some geographical knowledge and might add any familiarity regional stereotypes they might have and say that it’s located in northern Italy in the Lombardia region and that the milanese are sometimes known for being arrogant, cold and efficient in the working world.

If you would have asked me what I thought, I would have said all of the above, but if you asked me whether or not I was dying to visit it, I would have said, “eh.” 


Now, before you gasp at my indifference, forget Milano for a second. Along the same lines, what do you think when you hear Cusano Mutri? Many might say what or where or is that a type of pasta? Don’t worry about it, though, because I can tell you that even some Italians don’t know about it. _DSC0760

But what I’m getting at: what do these two places have in common (other than the obvious fact that they’re both in Italy…)?

I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in each of these places the past two weeks. They were as different as night and day.

Cusano Mutri, according to Google, is a commune of the Province of Benevento. It is located in the southern region of Campania and has just a little over 4000 residents. Its biggest party of the year is the Sagra dei Funghi, or mushroom food festival. I, along with 17 other students and two JFRC staff members, traveled down to Cusano for the first weekend of this festival. Needless to say, I was excited, because food festival + mushroom + Italian cuisine = happy Ola.

Why did I chose to go on the Cusano study trip? Other than my obvious love for porcini mushrooms and food in general, the trip seemed different than the other study trips that the JFRC offered. They also advertised hiking and beautiful scenery that included mountains and lakes. I’m a city girl, through and through. The closest I come to nature are the forest preserves that surround Chicago and the forests and lakes that surround my family’s hometown in Poland (and even then, that’s for a leisurely stroll and overall relaxation). Hiking? That’s a challenge. Going to a small town where little to no one that speaks English? That’s a challenge too. I wanted to try something new and give Cusano my all; and I’m so glad I did.


We did indeed hike, along a river and a lake. We learned how to make pasta and gnocchi from one of the head chefs of Lo Suago, the restaurant that was our home base during the sagra. Our SLA Fran gave us a wonderful surprise and we made s’mores under a sky illuminated by the moon and hundreds of stars. My new friend Luis taught me how to dance merengue and salsa as we danced with friendly and welcoming locals in the town’s streets and piazzas. There were spontaneous pickup games of soccer with Romans (also happened to visit Cusano), cappuccinos and probably the best cornetti con crema I’d ever eaten courtesy of our host, Clementina, and dinosaurs (oh yes, you heard me, dinosaurs… okay, it was a museum with some fossils, but one of them WAS a dinosaur fossil…).

_DSC0630_DSC0759_DSC0721Truly and genuinely- the trip to Cusano was amazing and I can’t begin to describe how much I loved it. For anyone coming to a future fall semester here at the JFRC; definitely consider going.

Milano, on the other hand, is world-renowned, in a industrialized region of Italy, with a population of over 1.2 million people- and that’s not counting the thousands of tourists and huge events that bring in thousands more such as Milan Fashion Week and, currently, the Universal Exhibition, or Expo 2015.

Now, back to my stunning lack of wow factor regarding Milan. Why wasn’t I as ready to embrace Milano as I was with Cusano?_DSC1246

Perhaps it has to do with being someone who’s been taught the Italian language and culture for almost six years by people who have been from southern or central Italy. Or maybe it’s because most of my neighbors and friends back in Chicago are from Calabria or Sicily. I’m not saying that they have influenced my views on the north negatively, but I guess you could say I’ve always had an affinity for the south probably because that’s the only experience I’ve had with Italian culture up until this point.

Instead of a study trip, myself and two other friends went to Milan on our own this past weekend. I was honestly pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it- but I didn’t initially. Promptly after landing, I remember thinking how expensive this city was going to be, how gray it seemed, how modern it was. I don’t know what it is about me, but when I think of Europe, I used to never think the word modern. Again though, I blame my previous experiences with Europe and by that, I mean my summers in a small town in Poland where my babcia had a small TV with only three channels (although now she’s really upgraded and has 15!).

However, after seeing a ballet at Teatro alla Scala for ONLY 11 euro (the story of how we got those tickets is ridiculous, so if anyone’s dying to know, hit me up), eating absolutely delicious panzerotti at Luini’s (what I would do for another one now that I’m back in Roma..), and sipping on sweet drinks during aperativo in the artsy neighborhood Naviglis: I fell in love with Milano. It’s hard not to. It’s such a cosmopolitan city and there’s just something about it. I often talk about the vibes I get from certain cities. Milano gave me a good feeling and  I was mad at myself for not giving the city the same chance I promised I’d give Cusano, so for that, my dear Milano lovers, I humbly apologize.


I wasn’t ready to give Milan a chance and I already had preconceived notions on what I thought the city was going to be like. I only started enjoying the city when I actually let go of those feelings. I had no expectations of Cusano and was open to experience something new. No matter where you end up with life- go with all of your heart. Be open, NOT SOLELY to new experiences, but to rethink old habits and ideas. Isn’t that the whole point of studying abroad? Opening up your mind to new ideas lets you  change the way you think and potentially how you view the world. You don’t necessarily have to, but it gives you that option.

I could have easily stuck with my prior ideas of Milano and been unhappy during the trip, but what would have that taught me? And what would have that meant about me? Did I want to be that type of person?

Give every new place a chance- despite what you may have previously heard. You may end up falling in love with it and actually becoming excited at the prospect of one day coming back and learning even more.


Give every new place a chance; especially if you had no prior knowledge of it. You may end up watching a sunrise from the top of a mountain.


Give it a chance, give it your all.

Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.


Overwhelmed (and that’s OK)

Overwhelmed (and that’s OK)

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I applied to study abroad for a whole year. And no, Roma hasn’t lost its magic and wonder in my eyes (I don’t think it ever could), but I think the realization is finally beginning to hit me that I’d be gone for a whole year from home. It’s also hit me that I’d be gone, but I’d still have to continue to study and work. I think homesickness and culture shock rolled into the mix, which contributed to some real self-doubt.

My friends back home were all telling me how excited and jealous they were of me, commenting on the fact that I could travel to so many places and see so many amazing things. While I do think that a great opportunity that study abroad here in Roma presents is the ability to travel to other places around Europe, over these almost four weeks (HAS IT ALREADY BEEN A MONTH?!– that is literally INSANE) I’m beginning to realize that that’s physically and fiscally impossible for me.

And that’s OK. Stai tranquilla, Ola. Breathe.

This past week in particular has been enlightening to me for a number of reasons, but the most significant happened this last Friday. I was part of a group of students that went down to Saint Peter’s Square with our SLA, Pedro, to help distribute food to the homeless. Juxtaposed with the magnificence of the Vatican, I have to admit, it was a very sobering experience. Here I am, complaining about not being able to go to as many places as I want and feeling overall overwhelmed about all of my “problems” (all while I’m already studying abroad and living in one of the most amazing cities in the world), while others are legitimately lining up to get what might be their only real meal in the next couple of days.

I was also surprised to have met two young Polish men who were in line for food. My language skills came in handy and it seemed to make them genuinely happy to hear a familiar language being spoken to them. They seemed so grateful, that I almost felt embarrassed by all of the whining I was doing about not being able to travel as much outside of Roma.

Moving on to a sweeter ending- after a short reflection on the square, Pedro led us to the “secret” bakery. Lemme tell you, it is delicious, cheap, open 24/7 a.k.a. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT IN LIFE?!. They also have cookies with Papa Francesco’s face on them… I don’t know how I feel about that, but there you go.


I also have found a cheap but really good pizza place near the Pantheon, where my friends and I spent a wonderful evening telling stories, eating pizza and drinking the house wine. Although things like this seem small in comparison to the old and overwhelming historic monuments, it’s the little things that make me realize I’m slowly making Rome into another home for me.


It’s important to remember that it’s okay to be overwhelmed and a little freaked out. That can happen when you’re not abroad and in the comfort of your own city. An adjustment period is necessary and it comes in different stages for everyone. Some people feel the culture shock within the first couple of days, while some, like me, experience it a month in.

I wrote about this in my other blog that I run, but I remember my mom saying to me at the airport: “Pierwsze sto lat to najtrudniejsze.” In Polish, it means “the first hundred years are the hardest.” The first hundred years of life ARE the hardest. Life’s easy after that, because (most likely) you’re dead. It’s a super Polish-type of saying and it really made me think while on the flight here to Roma. Life isn’t meant to be easy. You could get sick, you could miss people, you get hurt physically or emotionally, you can work hard with menial results, people leave you, whether you want them to or not and in various ways; basically, life seems like it was meant to suck.

But then I get a wake up call when meeting people who have next to nothing. Or when seeing someone’s face in awe when they walk into the Saint Peter’s Basilica for the first time. Or when seeing a rainbow at Cascata delle Marmore. Or holding an adorably cute puppy on a farm in Umbria. Or have my roommates and friends surprise me with a little cake for my 21st birthday.

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Breathe. Go for a walk. See the sunset from the top of Piazza di Spagna with gelato in hand. Enjoy the little things.


Fourth Time’s the Charm

Fourth Time’s the Charm

Ciao tutti! My name is Aleksandra Wysocki, but please, know me as my Polish nickname, Ola. It’s what I’ve been called my entire life and it was one of the reasons I chose to study Italian vs. Spanish (because Hola, me llamo Ola! seemed a bit annoying to me…. Okay, that’s not the reason I chose to study Italian, but it’s definitely one of them).

Moving on.

This is my fourth time in the eternal city. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have been here three times previously; six weeks during the summer when I was thirteen years old, a winter break vacation when I was fourteen, and a ten day choral tour through Loyola this past summer. Disregarding the most recent trip, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve grown up a lot both physically (thankfully, because middle school me had a lot of work to get to where I am now) and emotionally between my previous visits and now. I look at the world in a different way than I did back when I was thirteen and (hopefully) people see me differently.

Ola a Roma, natale 2010.
Assisi. giugno 2015.

You may be wondering why Roma again? Why not somewhere new? Well… I’ve definitely thought about it, to be honest. There are a lot of places I could have gone, but yet, I’ve always gone back to the thought of living it up in la citta eterna.

Despite being here before, I can’t tell you street names where certain things are. I can’t tell you where the best gelato is (although right now Giolitti’s is at the top of my list) or where you can get the best dish of bucatini all’amatriciana (it’s to die for). I don’t know all of the names of the neighborhoods other than Trastevere, Centocelle (where I happen to have family, which is the reason I’ve been here before) and now Balduina, thanks to being a student at the JFRC.

During my last trip here this past summer, I got the opportunity to travel outside of Rome. Thanks to the generosity of the university, Loyola’s choir got to not only stay at the JFRC, but travel to Napoli, Pompeii, Assisi and Firenze and for the first time, I got to travel around Italy without my family. I didn’t only stay in the touristy areas of cities. I got the opportunity to explore on my own and with people my age, and for me that was life changing.

That is why Roma again. I want to better my Italian and to spend time with my family here as well, but I truly love Italian culture. I love their way of life, at least what I perceive it to be. I want to discover this beautiful nation personally. If I can see other places in Europe, that’d be amazing too, but my focus will be Roma. Not only will I be interning at an Italian film production company (which I’m psyched for) but I’m also hoping to tutor Italian students with English.

I’m excited to be back and see where this adventures will take me! Jet lag and orientations have rendered me ridiculously tired these first few days and I feel like I’ve been running on adrenaline. Yet, that exhaustion isn’t complete, as I’ve been out almost every other night, chilling in Piazza del Popolo and eating some delicious pizza. The beach trip to Maccarese was also a blast, despite the fact that it resulted in a slightly sunburnt Ola.

To wrap up this somewhat long post (I’m actually quite surprised with myself, seeing how much I ended up writing) as mensa just opened up and I’m quite hungry, here are two pictures from my Sunday walk in the city center with some new friends.

Bucatini all’amatriciana. Definitely order it if you love yourself. Originally, it was known as more of a poor man’s dish, because it was so simple and had few ingredients, but I see it as more of a triumphant ode to simplicity, as IT IS DELICIOUS.
Hidden corner off of via Cavour.

P.S. If you want a more in depth look at my adventures/more pictures, feel free to follow my personal blog at!