The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Daryn Robinson

Ciao! My name is Daryn Robinson and I am a junior at Loyola studying Marketing and Theatre. My unending curiosity about world travel began in high school, when I explored Ireland, Dominican Republic, and Austria on school trips. Naturally, Loyola’s diverse and accessible study abroad programs compelled me to move from my native Washington, D.C. to Chicago. This semester at John Felice Rome Center, I'm especially excited to pursue my passion for show business through an internship with Italian film production company Marden Entertainment. Stay tuned for travel tips, adventures abroad, movie magic, and more!
Dutch Wonderland: The Amsterdam Aesthetic

Dutch Wonderland: The Amsterdam Aesthetic

“How do you say hello and goodbye?”

“Hello and goodbye!”

“Okay. How do you say thank you?”

“Thank you!”

I clearly wasn’t getting the answer I wanted from our academic dean Professor Evers. Since he’s from the Netherlands, I thought it would be culturally considerate to ask him how to say some basic Dutch phrases before my impending trip to Amsterdam. But apparently, the Dutch all speak English anyway!

Despite the lack of a language barrier, Amsterdam still proved itself to be a significant cultural adjustment from both the U.S. and Italy, seemingly its own little Dutch Wonderland!

2016-11-19 14.53.56Our neighborhood for this weekend was located in the Amsterdam Noord area across the bridge from the downtown area. Idyllic and easily walk-able, this residential area was lined with playgrounds, grocery markets, and ginger bread-esque houses. When you think of quintessential Northern Europe, Amsterdam Noord fit the bill!

Ellen, our Airbnb host, came home from her shift at the hospital around 11 PM, just when we were about to head out to explore the downtown area. She was tall with fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes just like her son and almost every other Dutch person I’d seen so far.

When my friend Karisma and I told her our plans to explore the downtown area by night, she kept repeating, “But it’s late; it’s really late.”

This was interesting to us, because 11 PM is a normal time to go out in Italy. But apparently, the Dutch retire early. Well, almost all the Dutch….

Downtown, we discovered Christmas lights reflecting off canals lined with colorful boats and eclectic coffee shops. White swans floated upon the water’s glass-like surface, creating ripples that made the reflections dance. It was festive without even trying, like The Nutcracker ballet’s scenery plastered onto real life. If the North Pole melts because of global warming, Santa Claus would feel right at home in Amsterdam!

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On the other, shadier hand, another section of town juxtaposed delight with depravity. It almost snuck up on us, only marked by small silver posts close to the ground with red lights like little demon eyes. Window by pink fluorescent-lighted window, scantily clad women of all (legal, I’d hope) ages waited expectantly while the men outside openly weighed their options and made their selections for an evening of ostentatious objectification. Grand-looking theatres we didn’t dare venture into advertised sights we couldn’t bear to see. In case you haven’t guessed already, this was the Red Light District.

To recover from our shock and homesickness, we power-walked into the nearest Domino’s Pizza for some American comfort food. (Yes, they have Domino’s Pizza in Amsterdam!) Munching on our Domino’s, Karisma and I processed what we had just witnessed in the Red Light District. The question we both pondered is, why were we so shocked by sex work in Amsterdam when stuff like that happens all the time in American cities like Las Vegas?

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We both analyzed the situation and came to an interesting conclusion. Unlike Las Vegas–with its casinos modeled after famous structures such as the Eiffel Tower and the pyramids, and with its lines of glittering, feathered dancers–sex work in Amsterdam isn’t discreet or glamorized. Instead, it’s point-blank and depressing. The Dutch make no attempt to hide the fact that women willingly sell their bodies to put food on the table. While Americans are secretly sordid, Dutchmen are immodestly immoral.

Mind you, this didn’t change in my opinion of Amsterdam. I still loved my Dutch Wonderland! But all cities bear some underground ugliness. Political corruption lurks in the shadows of the White House. There are more homeless people than Hollywood hopefuls in Los Angeles. The City of Broad Shoulders doesn’t lift a finger to amend the gun violence that haunts its South Side. So I guess we take the good with the bad, too.

Still, I couldn’t help but think about my Airbnb host Ellen and her teenage son. I wondered how she was able to shield him from such readily accessible vice. Or maybe she didn’t try to shield him at all. Maybe it’s all just part of the culture. Still, if I were a parent, I’d be worried sick!

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On Friday morning, our friend Brenna joined us, and we met her at Amsterdam Centraal Station. As I walked through the throng of tall, blonde Dutch people, I realized that I felt way differently here than I did back in Italy, mostly because of my height. In Italy, I’m an Amazon, but in the Netherlands, I’m a dwarf!

Now, it was time for some tourist attractions! The first one we visited, and by far the most important on our list, was the Anne Frank House. This was the actual annex of the canal house that Anne Frank, her family, and four other Jewish people hid inside for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, until they were all tragically betrayed, arrested, and sent to concentration camps. Three interesting aspects of this museum stood out to me in particular.

One was that Anne dreamed of becoming a famous writer. Although she achieved her wish under unfortunate circumstances, no one can deny that the journal collected by her father Otto Frank and entitled Diary of a Young Girl indeed became a worldwide bestseller, translated into dozens of languages and taught in classrooms across the globe. I’m sure that Anne looks down from heaven and smiles that trademark grin, knowing that she made a difference in the world through her message of tolerance in spite of turmoil and forgiveness in spite of fear.

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That being said, another aspect of Anne’s experience that I’m glad the museum highlighted was her anguish. I remember reading excerpts of her diary at my Catholic grade school, the curriculum emphasizing her incredible grace under pressure and capacity for mercy towards her oppressors. However, I found it refreshingly real to read pages of her diary at the museum in which she wrote things about feeling emotional catharsis through crying, wishing she could run outside and scream, and yearning for the simple pleasures of fresh air and birdsong. Reading about Anne’s moments of weakness solidified my image of her as a living, breathing teenager, who whines and complains as all teenagers do. This made me empathize with her situation even more. Anne Frank was not just a martyr, but she was also a mortal.

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The final aspect of the museum that really stuck out to me was that Otto Frank chose to keep the annex unfurnished. At first I thought that this omission ruined the whole experience because it would seem more genuine if museum visitors could see their beds and all their knick-knacks in the way that they lived. Yet, as our tour concluded, I began to understand the deeper meaning of Otto Frank’s decision. Leaving the annex unfurnished served as a physical representation how the Nazis stripped the Jews and other marginalized groups of not only their belongings, but also their civil liberties. If you lose everything you own, you still have your rights, but if you lose your rights, you have nothing. Overall, visiting the Anne Frank House was probably one of the most powerful experiences I had during my semester abroad.

On Sunday, we went to the Heineken Experience, which was a museum attached to the Heineken factory where the Dutch make their world-famous beer! Our tour guide taught us that the four main ingredients for Heineken beer are water + barley + hops + the mysterious patented “A” yeast. I thought that, at any moment, Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants was going to come in and try to steal their secret formula!

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The best part of this museum was when I learned the proper way to pour Henieken from the tap and I became a Certified Pourer, all thanks to Brenda my bartending coach! I messed up a few times initially (if you would consider five times a few), and I had to drink all the pints I screwed up (yes, all five). As you can imagine, this only worsened my pouring performance. Still, I got a certificate!

My last stop was a solo excursion to the Van Gogh Museum. Brenna and Karisma weren’t too enthusiastic about seeing it, but I’m super artsy, and Vinny V has always been a favorite of mine, so this was a must-see! So without delay, I steadied myself from all the Heineken I just drank, and walked in as-straight-a-line-as-possible across the museum campus to the modernist Van Gogh building.

While it was wonderful to examine some of his most famous works up close and personal, I was a bit disappointed that “Starry Night” was absent from the exhibits. Turns out that it is held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This sitation reminded me of how the Elgin Marbles were stolen from the Parthenon in Athens and moved to the British Museum in London. Ever since the Greece trip over fall break, I have questioned if pieces of art should be appreciated out of context, outside their place of origin. In this case, it doesn’t make sense to display the most famous Van Gogh painting anywhere else but in Van Gogh’s home country! I mean, New York doesn’t have trees like that, but Amsterdam sure does! And you can’t see the stars from all that Manhattan pollution, but in the Netherlands, the stars shine clear as day…or should I say, night.

“You should ask for it back,” I slurred to a museum tour guide, still tipsy from my Heineken adventure less than an hour ago. With a ladylike hiccup, I floated away from the museum to find my friends by the giant, red-and-white iAmsterdam sign.

Maybe they’ll listen. Then I can say I made a difference in Dutch Wonderland.

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My Big Fat Greek Fall Break

My Big Fat Greek Fall Break


Silence. Crickets.

At 5:45 AM, nobody was ready to respond to our Academic Dean Sander Evers’ cheer. Our group of 47 students plus one SLA Michael groggily trudged to the bus during those wee hours of the morning, rubbing sleep from our eyes…if you could really call it “sleep”. Most of us only got a short catnap the night before, due to fall break homework, last-minute packing, and general restlessness from anticipation.

But anyone who personally knows Sander Evers knows about his relentless optimism. And if you protest, he’s tall enough to step on you.

I’m not a morning person, so the actual journey from JFRC to the airport in Rome to the plane remains a blur in my mind. However, our landing in Greece was unforgettable! I was lucky enough to have a window seat for the flight to Athens, our first destination on this ten-day-long trip.


As I stared into blue horizon, the thin line that separated sea from sky slowly solidified into a tan island, punctuated by mountain peaks. All around it, the Aegean Sea glistened green, an emerald expanse inviting us to seek its treasures. Peeking down at the Attica peninsula below me, I noticed little white structures dotted the golden brown terrain. Considering the various aerial views I’ve experienced in my lifetime, this appeared the simplest of them all. But when there’s an abundance of natural beauty surrounding you, does extravagant architecture really matter that much anyway?

After a smooth landing and an even smoother baggage claim, we finally got to meet the 50th member of our cohort: our Greek tour guide Ioanna Kopsiafti. She wore an outfit entirely of black and white, with minimal jewelry and long black boots. Her olive skin reflected a healthy glow, and she carried herself with a unique air of self-assured humility that few convincingly achieve. I could already tell from her outfit and swagger that she possessed just the right balance of refined sophistication and worldly ruggedness.

“Welcome to Greece!” she twanged.

Twanged. Cue the sound of a record scratching.

Why did our Greek tour guide sound like someone from Gone with the Wind???

Well, it turns out that Ioanna’s parents immigrated from Greece to Canada, where she was born in Toronto, and she developed her Southern accent growing up in South Carolina. What a wonderful hodgepodge of heritages bundled into one human!


Lunch by the sea stimulated all five of my senses! Stepping down from our tall coach bus, the glittering shoreline hypnotized me, inviting me to sit next to it. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and that I didn’t have to since our lunch tables were just a few feet away from the beach!

As I floated closer, nautical and gastronomical aromas enticed me. Salt water, mussels, wine, bread, olives….I was fighting a cold, but my stuffy nose didn’t want to miss out on this sensory explosion!

And if those food items smelled good, they tasted even better! I don’t consider myself a foodie by any measure; I mostly eat what’s in front of me. My stomach is a tank that needs fuel. But it was particularly fun filling my tank during this meal! I tried everything the waiters set on the table, and to my amazement, I was never disappointed.


Listening to everyone’s excited conversations punctuated by bouts of laughter, an outsider couldn’t have guessed that we had all been awake since 5 o’clock that same morning! With the soft thrashing of the bay against the rocks next to us, the sea called to my friends and I, and we had to answer.

One by one, we removed our shoes and socks, gingerly stepping from rock to slippery rock until we reached a bigger rock in the middle of the bay. Keeping our eyes peeled for barnacles, we held each other’s hands as we tentatively moved along, like teachers make preschool children do on field trips. I felt like I was back in preschool; everything was new, everything was an adventure. There was too much to take in, yet I still couldn’t get enough! This was our first time setting foot in this country outside of an airport, after all.


Apart from the beautiful views, the real reason we ate at this seaside restaurant was because the Temple of Poseidon sat atop a hill at the opposite side of the Sounion Bay. Once again, we boarded the bus in order to check out our first ancient Greek ruin!

The Greeks really knew what they were doing when they built the Temple of Poseidon! Overlooking the Sounion Bay, watching ships pass in the distance, it represents the perfect location to praise the Greek sea god. The way the clear blue water there blended with the clear blue sky, almost erasing the horizon, represents the strong bond of brotherhood that existed between Zeus, Lord of the Skies, and his underwater brother.

Many myths occurred at this temple, including the story of Poseidon’s lover Medusa (you know, the lady with the snake hair). Also, it was at this same location that King Aegeus mistakenly thought his son Theseus died fighting the Minotaur because he forgot to change his sails from black to white, and so he flung himself into the sea. This sea is now named after him as the Aegean Sea.


Several hours of hiking to the top of that hill and exploring the temple ruins concluded with a bus ride to downtown Athens, where we stayed at the Jason Inn. The best feature of this location was that, upon exiting the lobby door and looking up and to the left, we could easily see the Acropolis looming over the city with the Parthenon lit up at night!

With the Parthenon hovering above us, Ioanna took us on a walking tour of Athens that evening. The city flourished as a colorful collage of old and new. To label the intricate spray can paintings that covered the buildings as “graffiti” seems insulting; the term “street art” elevates them to the creative merit they deserve. Looking back, I wish I had taken pictures of them, but I guess that gives me yet another reason to plan my next Greece trip!


We ate dinner that night at one of the many picturesque cafes in the downtown area. In addition to the fantastic cuisine, ours also featured live Greek folk music. If stomachs and ears could smile, mine would be the Cheshire Cat and a model in a Crest White Strips commercial.

The following morning, I discovered that, as gorgeous as Athens showed itself to be during the nighttime, it was even more stunning during the day! Gazing at all the details on the ancient and modern buildings, I was amazed at how much I missed during our twilight hour tour the previous evening.

Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon occurred while walking to the Parthenon. Ioanna stopped us in front of a small peculiar storefront with cartoonish figures painted on either side of the door. She then explained to us that this building commemorated the ancient puppet theatre that had migrated from Asia to Greece through trade, and that we were walking on Tripod Street, which is believed to be the oldest street in world! The theatre nerd and the history lover inside my brain gleefully gasped in tandem.


Finally, it was time to visit Athens’s #1 Must-See Attraction: the Parthenon! I knew that this monument sat atop a hill; you could see it above you from almost anywhere in Athens. However, I never put two and two together in my mind enough to mentally prepare myself for the strenuous climb it took to walk up to the Acropolis! But it was absolutely worth the workout! The panoramic views of the city took my breath away (or was it just my huffing and puffing from skipping leg day at the gym?)

By far, the most riveting portion of our Parthenon tour occurred when we explored the Acropolis Museum. The thought that stuck with me the most was about the appropriation of the famous Elgin Marbles. These ancient engravings were stolen by the English nobleman Lord Elgin, and they remain on display at the British Museum in London, England.


Ioanna explained that historians are struggling to return these precious artifacts back to their original home in Greece, but to no avail. While dissenters argue that more people will be able to view the stones in London than in Athens because a higher tourist population, Ioanna posed the question, “Wouldn’t it be more significant to appreciate the stones at their place of origin, rather than somewhere across the world?”

I totally agree with her! As someone who grew up in Washington, D.C. and visited the various Smithsonian Museums many times, this dilemma makes me question my right to observe those relics in a place outside of their context.

A group of friends and I spent our final evening in Athens at an area called The Gazi. It consisted of a large field surrounded by a plethora of rooftop bars and nightclubs. We talked, laughed, and danced the night away!

On the bus to our next destination, Professor Evers made a second attempt at his rallying cry:



At long last, we finally responded to Sander’s cheerful call. The beauty of Greece had awoken us!


Gorgeous Grit: Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Gorgeous Grit: Naples and the Amalfi Coast

“Hey, just so you guys know, I was reading some of the guidebooks, and apparently, this place is kind of dangerous. So watch out.”

My friend Joy did not reveal this fun fact until we were in the cab, well on our way to a hostel…IN NAPLES.

With an audible gulp, I cleared my nervous throat and peered outside the rain-streaked window. The coastal city seemed harmless enough, with its plethora of pastel colored buildings and its sidewalks lined with palm trees. The only offensive thing so far was the faint smell of fish market. Little did I know, these fish markets would produce some of the best seafood I’ve ever tasted in my entire life…and I grew up in Maryland!

Our hostel was located off Piazza Dante, a town square of sorts that was adorned with a statue of none other than (you guessed it!) Dante.

What if Naples inspired the seven rings of hell described in Dante’s masterpiece Inferno? I shuddered at the thought as we strolled through the neighborhood.naples night

Almost immediately, mynaples castle fear melted away into fascination. Naples exhibited a handsome hodgepodge of handmade crafts and historical artifacts!

The most impressive Medieval monument we saw in the city was Castel Nuovo (which translates to New Castle). Situated on the Port of Naples, with the backdrop of mountains and the Mediterranean, this castle was home to many noblemen and women, most famously Charles I of Anjou. It amazed me that this castle was still standing after all this time, considering that it was first built in 1282! The inside of this humongous structure contained beautiful artwork, precious crown jewels…and even skeletons!

In order to spend our Saturday in Sorrento, a beach town on the Amalfi Coast, we took a 40-minute ferry ride across the Bay of Naples. After eating a seafood lunch of pasta with squid and clams (it tastes way better than it sounds), we climbed a fortress to the top of the mountain and peered out at serene Sorrento. Colorful striped umbrellas dotted the shore, and speedy Vespa motorcycles streaked the cobblestone streets.

How could someone experience this much beauty, I thought, and not believe there is a God?

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Finally, it was time to dive into the perfect Mediterranean Sea. I am not exaggerating when I say it was perfect! I felt like a mermaid submerging myself underneath the cool salty waves. Peering with squinted eyes, I examined shells and barnacles through the clear abyss.

I wish we could have stayed longer (forever, actually), but we had to catch our ferry back to Naples before sundown. You can probably guess that the seafood we had eaten, combined with the violent rocking of the boat, reaped some interesting results. I’ll leave it at that.amalfi 1

That night, to calm our uneasy stomachs, we ate dinner at a pizzeria that was over 100 years old!

We woke up bright and early Sunday morning to go to Mass at the local church. Although it was relatively small compared to some of the churches I’ve visited in Rome (especially the Vatican!), this little church still possessed the ornate flourish characteristic of European Catholic churches. One thing I really admire about Catholicism is how the Mass is the same all over the world. So even though the priest spoke in Italian, we whispered the corresponding responses and said the same prayers under our breaths in English. It was truly a spiritually transcendent experience.

However, my spiritual bubble burst shortly after leaving the church.

As our small group explored the older section of the city, we were coaxed in by a passing parade. These Naples natives looked like they just left the Renaissance fair, dressed in historical garb. Beating drums, waving flags, and blowing horns, they seemed to be celebrating some cultural event. As the parade people climbed the steps of a nearby church, we noticed other spectators plugging their ears, so we tentatively plugged ours as well. This was a smart choice because, all of a sudden…


Men dressed as soldiers shot antique rifles that sounded like cannons! After about ten shots, the crowd applauded and the parade marched on.

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Joy had to rub my shoulder in order for me to return to consciousness. They burst my spiritual bubble, after all!

But I think that event really sums up this place. Through all the gorgeous castles, coastlines, and cuisine, there lies a gritty undertone that makes Naples notorious!

Work It, Girl: Milan Fashion Week

Work It, Girl: Milan Fashion Week

milan duomoAs Italy’s business and industrial capital, Milan moves with a fast pace. And as someone who grew up in the D.C. area and now lives in Chicago, the only pace I move in is LIGHTENING SPEED. I’d return to my Rome home for a nice vacation, but Milan is the city that works for me!

But this particular weekend, it was the other way around, and I was working for Milan! I packed all my cutest fall dresses for my 2-day trip because this week was a week unlike all others. THIS WAS FALL FASHION WEEK, BABY!

On Saturday morning, our group of six hit the ground running. We started by visiting Il Duomo, the large, magnificent cathedral that serves as Milan’s most recognizable landmark. There were two separate lines for admission: one for worshippers and one for visitors. The prayer line was shorter, so we took that one! I’m so glad that we did, though, because I was able to light a candle and say a prayer for my family, wishing them well while I’m abroad.

After that, we juxtaposed that spiritual experience with a materialistic one, walking next door to La Galleria, Milan’s outdoor shopping mall.

The strip malls where I live are lined with PetSmart and Target. In Milan, they are lined with Prada and Gucci. Looking back, I wish I had gone inside to take a look. At the time, I was too scared. Besides, I probably couldn’t even afford a pair of socks from one of those designer stores!milan galleria

Apart from high fashion, La Galleria had a plethora of amazing bookstores to explore. Since my group consisted of 4 Ricci Scholars, a jazz musician, and a writer (myself), all of us went crazy over these bookstores’ seemingly endless selections. From sheet music to religious books to historical fiction to stationary (yeah that one was me), all of us found something with which to fill our brains (or in my case, with which to unload my brain!).

But the coolest part was seeing Naomi Campbell.

HAHA I fooled you there. Ms. Campbell didn’t physically grace the bookstore with her fabulousness, but there was an old picture of her on the wall doing a book signing there. So I can say that I breathed her air.

For some more affordable fashion, we took a trip to H&M, which was tucked in the far corner of La Galleria, away from Giorgio Armani and his expensive friends. But the cashier at H&M was so pleasantly surprised by my Italian language skills that she gave me a €5 gift card! There’s nothing better than getting paid to go shopping.

To conclude our trip to La Galleria, we indulged in the superstitious Milan tradition of spinning on your heel three times on the private parts of a floor mural of a bull. I couldn’t tell you why people do it, but it’s fun, and hopefully it’s lucky, too!milan castle

On Sunday, we went back downtown for an adventure at Sforza Castle. The interior had been renovated into a museum of sorts, housing many pieces of art and ancient artifacts, including Michelangelo’s final unfinished sculpture of La Pieta Rondanini (Mary crying over Jesus’ body after removing it from the cross) and an Egyptian mummy!

After a long day exploring Sforza Castle, we decided to complete a 3 kilometer long victory lap through Milan and to the train station. On the way there, we spotted a sculpture of a giant sewing machine. How appropriate for one of the world’s fashion capitals! I couldn’t help myself but to ask my friend Brenna to take a picture of me lying under the needle.

In the words of celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe, “I. DIE.”milan sewing machine

Unbelievable Umbria

Unbelievable Umbria

I’m going to be completely honest with you.

I almost ripped off the title of our campus-sanctioned orientation trip itinerary to use as the title of this blog post. “Ultimate Umbria”, the faculty called it. Well, I think the adjective “unbelievable” does this place more justice. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll agree.

For those of you who have never heard of Umbria (it’s okay, I’m a newbie as well), it is the region that lies just north of Lazio, which is the region that contains Rome. In fact, here’s a relatable yet accurate simile: Rome is like Chicago, Lazio is like Illinois, and Umbria is like Wisconsin.Umbria vineyard 2

And just like Wisconsinites, those Umbrians really know how to farm! At Passignano sul Trasimeno, we kneaded dough from flour and water, thrashed fragole beans, and stomped grapes (now I can finally cross grape-stomping off my bucket list!). We also walked through vineyards, plucking fresh grapes from vines and savoring their fresh (pesticide-free) juiciness.

Now every time I drink some delicious wine, devour some yummy pasta, or pour some smooth olive oil in Rome, I will think about the farmers out in rural Umbria who distilled that wine, formed that pasta, and crushed those olives!Umbria church

At this point, I will borrow a phrase from our brilliant and hilarious tour guide Stefano (please imagine this in a deep voice with a thick Italian accent for the full effect)…

1. Many Catholic saints lived their lives and ministered their miracles in Umbria. One of the most famous saints, Francis of Assisi, and my personal favorite saint, Rita of Cascia, both hail from this region.

2. In Spoleto, at Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Cathedral of the Assumption of Saint Mary), the ornate murals on the walls depicting the life of the Blessed Virgin looked incredible…especially after Stefano informed us that the painter used a brush with only one bristle!

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3. Stefano pointed out that on the outside of one church in Todi, the sculptor chiseled a small depiction of a gynecological appointment underneath a statuette of Mary because he had his doubts about her virginity! How scandalous! I wonder…did the Bishop of Todi ever seek vengeance…or did the sculptor take his secret to the grave? You decide.

4. We saw a bridge in Spoleto made of hollow aqueducts. Legend has it that the infamous Lucrezia Borgia buried her husband’s mistress there…alive!

Umbria bridge

5. Contrary to popular belief, the famed Cascate delle Marmore (Marble Waterfalls) aren’t naturally occurring. They were man-made by the ancient Romans! It baffles me that such early civilizations successfully constructed such mind-boggling feats of engineering.

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6. The Marble Waterfalls aren’t actually made of marble. The Romans made a mistake. Oops!

Now do you understand why “unbelievable” is the far better adjective?

It’s unbelievable that a place like Umbria–with its charming provincial aesthetic devoid of the Americanization that plagues many European cities—still exists! Instead of spotting the ubiquitous McDonald’s (yes, the golden arches stretch all the way to Rome), we spotted the occasional CASTLE.  Instead of drinking boxed wine, we crushed the grapes ourselves.

Umbria was unbelievable…yet more authentic than any place I’ve ever been.

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Canonization Celebration: Benvenuta, Santa Teresa of Calcutta!

Canonization Celebration: Benvenuta, Santa Teresa of Calcutta!

Never before have I been so excited to wake up at 3:30 A.M.

Fully self-aware of my tendency to wake up at a snail’s pace, I knew that I required some moral support to leave the John Felice Rome Center by 4:00 A.M. So, I spent the previous night sleeping on the floor of my new friends’ Stephanie and Brenna’s room. (Oddly enough, I got better sleep than they did because the cool floor dulled the intense Italian heat. Santa Teresa was definitely looking out for me!)

With drooping eyelids but soaring spirits, our small but mighty group of devotees boarded the N6 bus downtown to the Vatican, where we waited (somewhat) patiently with thousands of other faithful people for the guards to grant us entry to Mother (now Saint!) Teresa’s canonization. These people represented all ages, ethnicities, occupations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other identifiers. The electrifying passion in the air was almost tangible!

Canonization Line

Only one other time in my life have I felt this way.

As a Washington, D.C. area native, I was immediately reminded of the two Obama Presidential Inaugurations I attended in 2008 and 2013. Landmark moments in history—the swearing in of the first Black U.S. President and the canonization of a saint–only occur a few times in a lifetime. Compared to the millions of people these events affect emotionally, only a marginal (lucky) few get the opportunity to witness them physically. You have to be in the right place, at the right time.

Back in January 2009, it was a special time to be an African American living in D.C. Now in September 2016, it’s an equally special time to be studying abroad at a Catholic university in Rome!

Admittedly, some of the less glamorous aspects of the Inauguration bled into the Canonization. Sure, there were some aggressive line-cutters (CAUTION: Nuns have VERY sharp elbows!), funky outdoor restrooms with ridiculously long lines, and extreme weather conditions (the frigid Washington winter and smoldering Italian summer).

Yet, these small nuisances were overshadowed exceedingly by the overwhelming feeling of joy among the crowd! In line for the Canonization, our group waited nearby a family of Spaniards singing their hearts out with hymns. Just like at the Inauguration, the Canonization was full of nothing but sleepy eyes and good vibes. Everyone couldn’t be happier to stand outside and wait at 5 A.M…and we still had 5 ½ hours to go before the Mass even began!


After going through the rigorous (but colorfully suited!) Swiss Guard security, our group power walked as close as we could get with our tickets*. With the sunrise came thousands of more worshippers, some waving huge flags to represent their various countries. Perhaps the most frequently spotted flags, deservedly so, were the Albanian flag from Santa Teresa’s homeland, and the Indian flag from the country where she conducted most of her ministry and her first recorded miracle.

*By the way, the tickets were free of charge. This demonstrates how charitable and gracious the Church can be, even though these hot tickets were coveted to the point of Hamilton status!

At this moment, I realized the defining factor that made this Canonization different, and decidedly more profound, than the Inauguration of a Presidential “first”. Let’s look beyond the obvious factors of the U.S. Capitol versus the Vatican, the political versus the religious, or even the American versus the global. What separated this Canonization from that Inauguration was the fact that, despite any individual person’s political leanings, ALL human beings recognize INHERENT GOODNESS. None of us spectators were on the council of Cardinals that approved Santa Teresa for sainthood, and yet, by faith of our internal meter of morality, we INSTINCTIVELY KNEW that she belonged among the saints.

None of us checked a box…just our hearts. None of us had a say, but our souls answered for us.

I couldn’t help but cry behind my sunglasses. I will never forget this day.

Vatican Santa Teresa

Packing for Rome: The Tyra Banks Experience

Packing for Rome: The Tyra Banks Experience

With T-minus 5 days until the group flight to Rome, my final week in the States has been a whirlwind of good times, good-byes, and good packing! When it comes to choosing which of my precious garments get to embark on a semester-long field trip to Europe, I feel like Tyra Banks at the end of an episode of America’s Next Top Model, when she has to eliminate a contestant BUT THEY’RE ALL SO PRETTY SO IT’S A REALLY TOUGH DECISION!  Alas, I learned that when it comes to packing light, versatility is key. So, in my best imitation of Tyra Banks, here I am, modeling how to style the same pieces for multiple situations!

Olive Green Sweater Dress in 3 Types of Weather:

Green Dress Hot

1. For the scorching hot days of September…

I’ll wear the sweater dress plain, but add sunglasses to protect my eyes from the scorching Mediterranean sun, slip on Sperry’s for comfy walking as I explore the Eternal City, and carry an oversized purse to fit my Loyola water bottle. Gotta stay hydrated!

Green Dress Mid-Autumn

2. When it starts to cool off in mid-autumn…

I’ll throw a tan cardigan over my shoulders and wear tall leather boots to fit the fall mood. A cute drop necklace really adds to this outfit’s bohemian vibe!

3. As the holiday season approaches…

I thrifted this comfy green vintage sweatshirt to compliment my green sweater dress, and black tights with black booties to keep warm. Hot chocolate not included 🙁

Green Dress Holidays














Printed Button-Down for 3 Different Occasions:

Blouse Intern

1. At my internship…

I’m channeling boss ladies everywhere, pairing my blouse with a conservative pencil skirt and some simple black flats. The Warby Parkers aren’t just fashionable….I actually need them to see.

blouse class

2. In class…

After I roll out of bed in the morning, I’ll opt for a simple outfit with blue jeans and my comfy Sperry’s. I suspect that class will also require a bit of reading, hence the glasses.

Blouse on the town

3. For a night on the town…

I’m imagining myself at a wine tasting (but that’s grape juice in my hand). Pulling out the sunnies again with dressy shorts (check out the gold buttons!) and adorable wedges (because stilettos and cobblestones aren’t friends).

I hope this was helpful for my fellow last-minute packers and future Rome travelers! Remember, “versatile” is spelled the same in English and Italian 🙂

Tanti abbracci (lots of hugs), Daryn