“You Alright?” Phraseology and Obama Burgers

I know I said that I felt at home before… but that was before I casually recognized the details of my neighborhood going by from the second story of the bus. That was before I decided not to buy tunafish at Sainsbury’s because I could get it a few pence cheaper at Londi’s. That was before I made friends in class, joined clubs, and realized I could navigate through Bankside in London without a GPS. Now I know the ropes. I know where I can get a nice cheese toastie and latte for under 5 quid. I know to get cheap produce from the local market, and cook it quickly for optimum not-going-badness.


I really didn’t know what I was talking about before – Home is when you’re familiar with a place. I’m still sometimes lonely, but it always helps to listen to music, explore, meet new friends, take a walk. I’m even a part of a few clubs now! Can’t wait to go out to pub with the Feminist Society!

For anyone feeling stressed out studying abroad, I’ve found it helps to remember that there are free counseling services on campus, and taking advantage of that is just like taking care of any other health problem – no shame! You deserve to take care of yourself. I’m pleased that health care in the UK is so comprehensive! I registered with the National Health Care and the campus health centre, and I was able to get my birth control refilled in under an hour – just a ten-minute doctor’s visit, a walk to a nearby chemist (pharmacist), and the few minutes it took for them to fill out my new prescription. And I got 6 months of it all at once, versus only being able to fill a month at a time at home – I’m so glad they make it easier to do responsible family planning here. The U.S.A. could take a hint, it’s not like it’s a highly addictive or dangerous substance… but anyways. Ahem.

Back to the culture.

It seems to me that the college culture of London’s Kingston suburbs is similar to that in the New Paltz area, but it’s much more diverse demographically. Most of the people I’ve interacted with at school are very liberal, as are my landlords and their my-aged kids. People are very interested to hear my thoughts on the election… a subject I’m not so fond of discussing these days. I just feel really embarrassed about my country, and they seem to agree that there’s good reason.


…Then again, they did have Brexit over here, and now Scotland might vote on a new referendum to leave Britain. So…. political chats have become quite fun and rowdy amongst my friends.

Safety-wise, Kingston is considered “London’s safest borough!” This is reassuring, as I’ve taken to walking to and from school to keep in shape (an hour of walking each day to keep off those fresh and crispy fish and chips I’ve been eating like all the time). I notice that I feel much safer around the police, perhaps because they don’t carry firearms of any sort – just a billyclub, handcuffs, and I think mayyyyybe a taser? And somehow crime isn’t a problem here… hm. In London proper, I’m a little more cautious – apparently pickpocketing is a real problem there, so I make sure to travel with just my front-facing shoulder-purse (backpacks and designer pursey-bags are much easier to lift from). I haven’t had any trouble so far.

I’ve made friends, and they don’t hate my American accent (or they’re very polite and lying to me)! I learned from my new friend Ryan that if I say “semester,” I will sound super American (they call it a “term”)… there are several other words that seem normal to me, but they get very grinny about. It seems like students here are a lot more used to interacting with foreign students than we are in the United States. There is some fascination (especially regarding politics), but I feel pretty average among other Britons, as well as students from Italy, Israel, France, Greece, Poland, what have you – I feel like there’s nothing too exceptional about being from somewhere else.

One thing I have not gotten used to yet, is that people in London will often greet you with, “You alright?” which of course alarms my American brain, and I think, “Of course I’m alright! Do I look sick? Is something wrong with me?” And I feel like my “Yeah!” is always just the slightest bit defensive. But gradually it’s becoming more at home for me – when I get back to NY, maybe I can alarm my friends by asking them if they’re “alright!”

I’ve managed to see several shows at the Globe – a screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc with live orchestra, Macbeth, and Imogen (a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline), all fantastic. There is something uncanny and magical about Shakespeare’s Globe, like it’s an ancient sacred site (even though I know it’s only a reconstruction). The “Groundling” experience (standing in the pit) was very exciting – we got to be very close to the actors, all of us looking up with our ciders and mulled wine. Even though my legs and lower back were a bit sore from standing for two hours, it was well worth the 5 pounds! It inspired me – I’d love to someday work on that stage, if I’m ever given the opportunity. More locally, I saw a heart-wrenching play directed by John Malkovich, The Good Canary, at the Rose Theatre (where I take my Shakespeare class!). Also only 5 pounds, this time for actual seats.


The biggest singular expense of my trip was seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two at the Palace Theatre. At 300 pounds, this was a huge chunk of my theatre budget for two full-length plays back-to-back. But I had to. It was Harry Potter onstage, and I am a fan of Harry Potter. I did it because I might never have the opportunity again, I was eager to see some theatre magic in a world I loved… and boy, was there some incredible theatre magic. Considering that the script read like bad fan fiction and had way too many holes in its many plots, they did a brilliant job doctoring the awful writing with magnificent movement, music, and illusions. Ultimately, I don’t regret seeing it – just wish it hadn’t costed so much, because it wasn’t quite worth the outrageous price. At least I made an adventure of it, and I got to meet the cast outside afterwards and get a few autographs!


In short, I’ve learned that most British theatre companies are very supportive of getting young people into theatres – Donmar Warehouse, for instance, has a Young and Free program where anyone under 25 (the age caps for most “youth” promos) can see the show for free. And theatres like the Young and Old Vic offer very cheap student tickets as well! It’s absolutely appalling how much easier it is for me to see professional theater here in London, than in my own state. I wish they would subsidize theatre in the USA… but that might take a long time to implement. They don’t see theatre as that necessary back at home… another thing that makes me like it here more, and less eager to come back.

And England… Oh, your food. People say your food is rubbish – they are just silly gooses. It’s kind of a foodie paradise up in here. There’s so much incredible world food available – Indian, Lebanese, Caribbean, Turkish, Cantonese, Korean, ET! CETERA!


Your seafood is fresh. Your fish and chips are crispy. For some reason you have Obama Burgers…


…And Rump Burgers…


And I have yet to discover what, exactly, is “chip butty.” But I’ve definitely gotten to know the true value of an imperial pint… Thank goodness cider isn’t considered a sissy drink here. Because it is the best thing ever, and there are so many different kinds on this side of the pond… as well as some delightful drafts beers. Also very strange that you can buy a drink at the theatre, and there’s even a bar right on campus next to the library! Guess there just isn’t as much of a binge-drinking culture over here… everyone’s used to it much earlier in their lives. It ain’t no big thang.

Good job, also, with the copious delightful meat pies! There just aren’t a lot of serious meat pies available in the U.S., and I think we’re missing out. Forgive me for singing Sweeney Todd lyrics while I was eating that venison pie that once, I’ll try to control myself next time and be less obnoxious…

…Probably my most satisfying moment, cuisine-wise, was having cider with bangers and mash by the fireside, at a place called “The Albert,” a cozy historic pub in my neighborhood – I have never felt so English in my whole life, or tasted such luscious gravy.
Thanks, Britain. Thanks for being thoroughly entertaining and delicious, and teaching me all your wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey secrets. I look forward to even more.


I guess I am alright after all!



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Checking In

Buonanotte tutti! Or, I suppose it’s still the afternoon for my friends and family back home. The past two weeks have been filled with so much exploration and adventure and I am not complaining.

Last weekend I went on one of the most amazing trips of my life to Amsterdam. This city is so perfectly picturesque and even though all 165 canals look generally the same, I snapped a picture of every single one we passed. Despite the chilly weather, I immediately fell in love with Amsterdam. Every bridge and side street is filled with tons of bikes, as they are one of the most popular forms of transportation there. The people there were also extremely friendly and were always looking to lend a helping hand to a seemingly lost group of American girls. Though we were only there for a few days, we were able to see so many things. We visited the Van Gogh Museum and the infamous “I (Am)sterdam” sign because we obviously had to take the cheesy pictures in front of it. Afterwards, we took a tour of the Anne Frank house which left us feeling a bit emotional and uneasy, but it was an unbelievable place to see. We traveled about the city via tram and absorbed all of the beauty before us and tried to explore as much as we could in just a single weekend.

Today I returned from an equally as beautiful city, Firenze. Florence has been at the top of my list of places to travel to for a very long time and it did not disappoint me in any way. Unfortunately, the first night we arrived it rained. Hard. The entire night. After getting settled in our apartment and purchasing some umbrellas, we decided to make the best of it and braved the storm. We ended up at a great little bar/restaurant for most of the night recommended by my friend Erica who studied abroad in Florence last semester. It was a perfect place to spend a rainy night. The next day we signed up for an all day tour of Siena, Tuscany, San Gimignano, and Pisa! This was honestly a wonderful tour and I would highly recommend it to anyone who happens to be in the area(Best of Tuscany Walkabout Tour). We took a coach bus to all of these places and were given time to explore each area after the tour. The tour also included a delicious lunch and wine tasting at the Chianti Wine Vineyards(pictured) which is an organic farm that makes wine, olive oil, and other Tuscan treasures. Before leaving for Milan this morning, I stopped at the Central Market and purchased a few of Florence’s finest genuine leather goods, which was a perfect end to my trip.

Until next time….arrivederci!

Food, Public Transportation, and Culture Shock, oh my!

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I’ve arrived in London, and the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that no one smiles at people in the street. No one. Not even when you make accidental eye contact or run into someone. I’ve probably annoyed a couple people when I break out into that awkward smile, and all they do in return is stare me down. Sorry, I guess?
I’ve gotten used to using the bus system and the tube. I’ve never had to navigate public transportation before, and it’s a lot easier than I had thought it would be. Everything here is clearly mapped out and easy to follow, so I’ve got it down to pat by now.
On another note, I don’t eat red meat or chicken. And a lot of the classic British foods are meat based. So I’ve yet to have a classic Sunday roast, Shepard’s pie, bangers and mash, or anything that’s classically British. However, I have been able to get my hands on a couple servings of fish and chips for only a few pounds. Super cheap, super unhealthy, but so good. I can already tell I’m going to miss it when I go back home.



Hope This Helps!

I’ve been in Spain for 21 days and to be honest, I got super comfortable the first week. The people here are so amazing and they definitely know how to fiesta! I’m still getting used to it because leaving your house at 1:20 a.m. is apparently way too early.

Another hard adjustment was dinner time. You know how you normally eat around 5pm? That doesn’t exist here. That’s siesta (nap)time and dinner time is around 9-10pm. It sounds crazy but, now I’ve become so accustomed to it and I’d probably cry if I don’t get my siesta time!

An adjustment that I’ve struggled so hard with since I have arrived in Spain is the fact that tipping is not a thing here. Since I am the type of person who tips a LOT and even over-tips (Does that even exist?) all the time, it has not been easy. I was speaking with my friend from Spain and she said that the maximum that people give is around 10-20¢. Who does that? If you were in New York, people would definitely spit in your food the next time you went. Right? I am constantly tempted to leave at least 1 euro and it is just unheard of. I tried to do this at a bar while it was really busy and the bartender gave me the most confused look EVER. So yeah, don’t tip while you’re in Spain.

Below I am going to put my personal tips on cultural norms in Spain and adjusting to studying abroad:

  1. Don’t tip.
  2. Do not skip siesta.
  3. Do not walk in the biking lane, they will hit you.
  4. It’s okay to talk to a stranger, you might make a friend.
  5. Don’t get freaked out if you see people openly partying in the streets.
  6. It’s okay, you can wear the same outfit… no one cares.
  7. Walk slow, you’re not in the concrete jungle anymore.
  8. I hope you have someone like Alyssa as your partner in crime.
  9. Give your body some time to adjust to the food, I am still trying to.
  10. All you have to say is “I’m from New York.”
  11. Don’t book three trips in one week. You’ll want to die. I almost did.
  12. Ask questions, remember, just like your first-grade teacher told you, “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”
  13. Speak with other internationals, they’re having similar experiences too!
  15. Don’t leave your friends and family at home completely out of the loop, they miss you.
  16. When it comes to ordering food at a restaurant, I am bilingual and I don’t understand half of the food options.
  17. Get Sprint, the international service is beyond amazing. Seriously, I had to ask three times to make sure that there will be no international fees.
  18. Well, this is all I have so far and considering it’s only my third week abroad, I’m sure things will change. However, I will keep you guys updated.

P.S. shout out to Alyssa for helping make this list!

 Ta Luego 





Hola, Desde España!

Where do I even begin? Maybe Granada? Sevilla? The airport? The people? Or our advisors? I don’t know where to start. I fell in love with the views, the culture, the people, the history and everything else that España has to offer.

So, let’s start at the beginning. First, I have to say that saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. I definitely knew it was going to be the start of something good. But I still cried like a baby. To be honest, I’m crying right now thinking about it. Once I said goodbye, I knew I was going to be okay and that it was time to go on this adventure.

When I finally arrived at Granada, I couldn’t believe how amazing it was! Our advisor, Miguel and professor Luis were waiting for us with a private bus. And, let me tell you, Miguel and Luis instantly became family to me. How is that even possible? How can two people that I’ve never met before feel like home to me? In a matter of three days, they showed me the wonders of Granada and won my heart. These places included the Alhambra, Dobla de Oro, Granada’s Cathedral and more.

I keep wondering, how did I get so lucky with this program? I know some people who were unlucky with their programs, but I feel loved and welcomed by everyone here. In Sevilla’s program you get the best of both worlds–we have our own apartment and amazing human beings like Miguel, guiding us along the way. Also, another cool thing was that we had Christian, our SUNY New Paltz advisor there. Do you know how amazing that was? I felt protected and I still do. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life.

This is where I belong. I’m ready.









The City of Love

Last night I returned from one of my favorite trips so far-Venezia! The City of Love was as beautiful as all the pictures I have seen on Google images. My friends and I were able to book the trip just a few days before leaving since traveling within Italy is pretty simple. We took a train from Milano Centrale station Saturday morning and arrived in Venice in the early afternoon. As soon as we exited the station, we were met by a gorgeous view of the Grand Canal. The sun was shining so perfectly onto it that it glimmered as we all stared in awe. The whole weekend still feels like a dream.

We snapped a few photos and walked down one of the narrow, winding streets. We stumbled upon a cute little pizzeria and grabbed some food before exploring the city. Before we could even place our orders, the waiter gave us the WiFi password and said “I know…you have to put all of this on Instagram.” (He wasn’t wrong…) After lunch, we walked around a little and took a taxi to our Holiday Inn located about ten minutes from the main part of the city. Ironically, this was much less expensive than any of the hostels we could find, not that we were complaining! After freshening up a bit, we headed back to Venice and did what we were all daydreaming about since the day we left for Italy-a gondola ride! We did it at the perfect time since the sky was still somewhat bright. The ride was absolutely amazing and so peaceful. We floated down little “streets” passing by many homes and restaurants. We wanted it to last forever. Afterwards, we had dinner right along the canal.

The next day, we took a boat to San Marco, another breathtakingly beautiful part of Venice. We took so many pictures because the water looked extra blue and sparkly that day. In my opinion, the trip was way too short since there are so many parts of the city, each with their own unique characteristics.

Some of the other trips I have taken were to Cinque Terre, Brusson, Fort Bard, and Lake Como. I have yet to be disappointed by any of these places. I feel so lucky to have the ability to travel to so many places while I study here. Milan is a great location for traveling since it is close to many popular cities, as well as other European countries. In just two weeks I will be traveling to Amsterdam! Each place that I have traveled to has been more and more beautiful, but I have to say Fort Bard offered the best views I have seen so far(picture featured above). I still scroll through all of my pictures in amazement and cannot believe I was able to see it in person. I was able to take a tour of the fort itself and each successful level of the fort offered an even more incredible view than the previous one. I’m hoping to go back before I return to the U.S. just to experience it one more time.

Thanks for reading! Ciao!

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Class…? What’s That?

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon in Milan and I am officially finished with my first full week of classes here. Yes, that’s right…studying abroad in Italy is more than just traveling and eating pasta! I must say that my classes here are fantastic. I began my week with an elective course entitled “Television, Advertising, and Music: the Italian Approach to the Media” led by a professor who is in the music industry himself. I am also enrolled in a course for my major called “Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship” in which my professor has his own brewing company! My other courses are equally as good and are taught by people who currently work in the field about which they are teaching. In that respect, they act as resources and connections for all of their students. One of my professors, who teaches my Fashion Market elective, gave us the invite to several Fashion Week events, two of which I am attending today!

The courses themselves were structured similarly to my classes at New Paltz. My professors upload all of their lectures onto Blackboard so we can refer to them if we miss any notes in class. They strongly encourage participation and class discussion to further our understanding of the topics covered in class.The classes run for about the same time as my classes at New Paltz, if not a little longer. My professors are very engaging and display a strong passion for their jobs.

One of the coolest things about all of my classes this week was when the professor took attendance and I was reminded of how many different countries are being represented in each of my classes. We all went around introducing ourselves and saying where we are from. At New Paltz, I’m so used to hearing “Long Island, Queens, Long Island, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey…” but in my classes here it is more like “Brazil, France, Germany, Hungary, U.S., Australia…” and so on. The list is endless. As we went around the room, each person responded with a different accent. It amazes me how so many places in the world are being represented at just one university in Milan. Luckily, I get to talk to all of them and hear about their life experiences in comparison to mine. I might even have a place to stay if I end up visiting these places in the future!

Being back in school definitely feels a little strange after being on one of the longest summer vacations of my life (close to 5 months) but it feels great. I have a very good feeling about my classes, my professors, and the things I will learn both in and out of the classroom.

Un bacione…xxoo

The biggest bull ring in Spain and the third largest in the world

Life in Madrid

The very fact that this was my first opportunity to post here since I arrived in Spain exactly 3 weeks ago speaks volumes to the kind of hectic scene I flew into (and one that I was certainly not as prepared for as I should have been). Two of the most important things I’ve learned not to do while you are about to embark on your study abroad journey: 1. Don’t wait until the week before your flight date to figure out your housing accommodations. 2. Make sure you have access to Wifi when you arrive. In hind-sight these both should have been givens, but alas… maybe someone will learn from my mistakes.

Trials and tribulations aside, my limited time here in Madrid has truly been an amazing experience. The amount of friendships made from people all over the globe is a once in a lifetime experience and I know that it is only the beginning. The ESN (Erasmus Students Network) team here at UC3M provides the students with more than enough opportunities to meet other students studying abroad with a variety of trips, tours, parties, etc.

Despite the tardiness, my friend Nicolas (another fellow New Paltz student) and I are very happy with the apartment that we got. It isn’t the closest to our university or to the nightlife, but it is right next to the beautiful El Retiro Park, one of the staples of the city. The food in the neighborhood is also delicious and for the most part pretty cheap (at least compared to NYC).

Speaking of NYC, “the city that never sleeps” nickname might be even better suited for here. A theme I have noticed since being here is that these Spaniards like to do everything later. People eat lunch at around 3-5pm, dinner past 9pm, and the clubs are all open until 6am. Getting used to the time schedule here has been very difficult and I still haven’t quite got the hang of it.

Other than a few tours of the city and seeing some amazing art museums, I haven’t really done as much traveling or done as much sightseeing as I would like. One thing that I have done is witnessed my first bullfight last Sunday at the world renowned Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas. At first I enjoyed it; the atmosphere, the culture, the history, but then it really took me by surprise just how violent of a sport it is. After seeing the way that people in the U.S. reacted to the death of Harambe, I found it mesmerizing that every Sunday in this bullring they brutally kill 6 bulls in front of a huge raucous crowd. I’m not one to talk badly about another culture, but I can’t see this sport being around for much longer (I could be wrong though).

With classes well under way things are beginning to settle down a little bit for me over here, but a trip to Barcelona this weekend awaits and I couldn’t be more excited!



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A Taste of Italy

Three weeks have gone by in the blink of an eye. At the same time, it feels like I have already been here for several months! I have met countless new people from countries all over the world, I’ve gone on three trips, and I have eaten a scary amount of carbs. Luckily, I am averaging seven miles a day à piedi (on foot).

The food is as good as I had hoped it would be, if not better. Every day I must restrain myself from stopping into one of the many gelatterias I pass during my travels. One of my favorite things to have here is “un cappuccino”. During my first two weeks here, I was enrolled in an intensive two-week Italian language course in a part of Milan called Buonarroti. On the first day of class, my roommate and I got off at the wrong metro stop, which just happened to bring me to one of my favorite spots, Cremeria Buonarroti. For the past two weeks I woke up early almost every morning just so I could stop here for my “cappucco e brioche”. The man who works there quickly began to recognize me and knew my order after just a few days. Each morning I was greeted by a warm and welcoming smile, putting me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

When I first moved into my apartment here, I tried to keep an open mind. It certainly was not what I expected but I tried to make the most of if for the first few days. Eventually my roommates and I agreed that it was a bit too far from campus as well as the other international students. After speaking with our housing service, we were moved into a new apartment! We were all quite pleased with our new accommodation. It is about a thirty minute commute via la metropolitanà and is located off of the stop “C’a Granda” on the lilac metro line. We immediately settled in and felt right at home. Until next time….arrivederci!



I have been in Prague for almost two weeks now, and these are my observations thus far:
This place is old, I mean REALLY old. I went on a tour of Prague Castle (literally down the street from my dorm) and it was built in the 9th century. Our tour guide told us stories about the things that have happened there over the years that I cant even remember half of them.

However one need not visit castles to feel the ancientness. Just walking down the streets in any part of the city will show you how old it really is here. The randomly twisting streets and terracotta roofs make the United States look like a new born baby just learning how to walk.

From what ive experienced, most Czech people embrace the old and reject the new. Buildings like the one in the picture i posted are looked down upon and considered ugly (this radio tower was voted the 3rd ugliest building in the world, and now has crawling baby sculptures all over it). Other skyscrapers and modern looking buildings left over from the communist regime are often left unused and sit in the outskirts of the city. It is a refreshing break from the modernity I have grown up with. Its like im living in the 12th century while still being able to ride the tram to class.

I have also come to realize that the United States is more often than not the exception rather than the rule. I have also studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland and many things here in Prague are much closer to Ireland than the United States. For example: water is never free. Every restaurant I go to here charges something like 10 czk (roughly 40 cents US) for a glass of tap water. Some places dont even offer water from the tap and force you to pay for a glass bottle of filtered water. At convenience stores and grocery stores it is not uncommon to find beer CHEAPER than water. Everyone here is drinking beer constantly. While I normally wouldn’t complain, it has been so hot this past week and all I want is a nice tall glass of ice water free of charge and that is impossible to get.

The upside is that everything here is insanely cheap. A large beer at most pubs comes out to roughly 1.25 USD on average, and a meal is usually not more than 150 czk (about 6 USD). However, you have to pay for EVERYTHING. Bathrooms, plastic bags at grocery stores, and tap water are just some that I have noticed in my first weeks here.

It is too early to draw any real conclusions, but as I get more comfortable with this city and the rest of Europe I will be sure to update this blog with observations, pictures, and interesting stories.