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!

Una Settimana Dopo….


While grabbing “un cappuccino” with my roommate before class this morning we both realized that it had been exactly one week since our arrival in Milan. When I first arrived I was beyond excited to start a new chapter in my life. As I stepped off the plane, I tried to wrap my head around the fact that I was finally in Italy. The Malpensa airport, unlike JFK, was quiet, calm, and quite pleasant. I initially thought of how I would be considered a resident of another country for an entire semester and was overcome by joy and happiness.

When I saw my campus for the first time, I was speechless. It was absolutely beautiful. Google images did not do it justice whatsoever. I was surrounded by other international students from places all over the world who shared my excitement to be part of such a wonderful experience. Of course, in this last week I have had to make many adjustments and will continue to do so throughout the semester. My large iced coffee was replaced by a teeny tiny espresso and my breakfast now consists of “brioche con crema” (one of the many delicious pastries Italy has to offer).

During this last week I have had to become much more independent and open-minded. I now live in a bustling city that is quite different from my small suburban home town in New Jersey. I have already met people from counties all over the world and have formed relationships that will last me a lifetime.

One of the most breathtaking views in Milan is, of course, the Duomo (pictured). My jaw immediately dropped as I approached it for the first time. I had never seen a church so large and so beautiful. Luckily, it is only a ten minute walk from my campus and is surrounded by numerous stores, restaurants and gelatterias! I am certainly still adjusting to my new home, but I am so incredibly happy to be here in Milano! Ciao!

Pre-Departure

A week before my arrival the nerves were setting in. I had a constant countdown in my head starting from the beginning of August right up until the day before my departure. As the numbers dwindled down to single digits I felt a combination of excitement, curiosity, and fear. I had only been to Europe once before for two weeks, but an entire semester abroad brought about a mixture of feelings I did not know I could feel all at once.

Studying abroad in Italy was my dream for as long as I can remember. I could not believe the time was finally coming when I would immerse myself in an entirely different culture in a place I had always wanted to visit. My trip did not seem real to me. I knew the reality of it wouldn’t set it until I was tucked away in my window seat of Alitalia. I did not know what to expect once I arrived in Italy. What would my apartment be like? Would I get along with my roommates? How many different schools were being represented at my new university? My head was spinning as new questions popped into my head every time I thought about my trip.

When I realized I only had a week to go before I embarked on this journey, I could not control my excitement. My suitcase was teeming with clothes I definitely didn’t need to bring (but when do I not overpack?) and my passport was ready to be stamped. Of course, I knew how hard it would be to say goodbye to all the people I love at home but I kept telling myself how amazing and memorable this experience would be.

Where has the time gone?

I cannot believe I have been here for 2 months already! I do not feel like it has been that long, but my family and friends say it feels like I have been gone much longer.

I have been keeping busy with small day and weekend trips. Midterms are finally over, and it was probably the most stressful week I have had since I have been here. Now I get to enjoy a 2 week spring break. I can’t complain much about that!

Over the last few weeks, I have visited Montepulciano, Pienza and Prague. I got to go to Montepulciano and Pienza through a field learning trip. They are both providences in Siena and absolutely magnificent. They each overlook miles of beautiful landscapes and vineyards. While I was there I got to do a food and wine paring in Montepulciano and a pecorino cheese tasting in Pienza. All the food in Italy is so fresh, which makes it taste 30000x better. Something I learned while in Montepulciano was parts of Twlight: New Moon were filmed there. It was cool getting to be there.

My next big trip was to Prague in the Czech Republic. Prague is a huge city, and is slowly becoming a big tourist spot in Europe. More and more people are starting to realize how beautiful the city is and appreciate all the amazing artictecturhe. I can attest that it is beautiful, and everyone should at some point in their life go there. Probably my favorite part about the trip was the food. The food in Europe in general is hands down awesome, but the food in Prague is a whole other level. When traveling to different places constantly I try and eat as many traditional foods as possible, because when am I ever going to get the chance to try them again. As it would happen there was an Easter festival going on while we were there. There were all these carts with handmade crafts, and lots of different food. We basically tired a new traditional food for each meal. We had huge sausages with cabbage mustard and ketchup in a hot dog bun, fired cheese on bread, fired dough with ketchup garlic and cheese, goulash soup in a bread bowl, goulash dumplings and turtle necks. Turtle necks are those cylinder shaped pastries usually filled with ice cream and strawberries you have probably seen on twitter or instagram. Yes, they are as good as they look. They can get a little messy , but it is worth it.

Prague was a whole new type of atmosphere much difference than Switzerland and Italy, and I am happy I got the chance to experience it.

Ciao Svizzera!

Another week in Florence has flown by. That means time for a trip! Next on the list Switzerland.

Let me just start off by saying Switzerland was amazing! My friends and I all had so much fun, and I would highly recommend this trip to anyone thinking about going. We traveled to Interlaken, a cute little town located between two huge lakes. The lakes there were a beautiful crystal teal blue, which looked so nice next to the snow capped mountains. Although the town was small, there was no shortage of things to do. You could go skiing or snowboarding, make chocolate, paragliding, sky diving, hiking, ice skating and more.

We decided to book our trip through one of the local traveling companies, Euroadventures. It is one of the more popular traveling agencies most study abroad students use. Their trips are affordable and cover transportation, lodging and sometimes breakfast. Only down side the transportation is usually done by bus. So traveling from Florence to Interlaken was not so fun.The bus ride ended up being 9 1/2 hours with two stops for bathrooms and food, but we finally got to our hotel around 3 am.

Even though we were running on barely any sleep, we went on a walk to see Lake Thunersee, one of the two lakes surrounding the town, on Friday morning. After we decided to go on a nine mile hike up one of the nearby mountains, and the view kept getting better at each lookout point. After a long day of adventuring we learned how to make chococlate at the Funky Chocolate House. Why wouldn’t anyone want to learn how to make chocolate in Switzerland of all places! I am pretty sure I ate my weight in chocolate that night, and I have no regrets.

Saturday was a little more slow, but no less exciting. We explored the shops of the town and went iceskating. The ice skating rink was different than a normal one, because it was smaller rinks connected by multiple paths. Originally the plan for the day involved paragliding, but due to poor weather conditions it was cancelled. We did get lucky on Sunday, because they rescheduled us for a morning jump.

Sunday morning, we piled into a van that took us 20 minutes up a mountain and then walked another 5 minutes to get to the jump site. From there we ran one by one off the mountain into the air. It was the strangest feeling, because they tell you keep running even when you are no longer touching the ground. Before you know it you are soaring high above everything. It was one of, if not, the best experiences of my life. You glide through the air for about 15 minutes, which is plenty of time. The professional paraglider with me did tricks and took pictures and videos to capture the whole thing. It was the perfect way to end our trip to Switzerland.

I decided to take this upcoming week to explore Florence some more with my extra free time. I can’t wait to share what I find!

First stop Carnivale

This second week flew by. I already have a week and a half of classes under my belt and have already traveled to Venice for the weekend. Classes are going well. Even though they are two and a half hours long each they fly by, and I almost wish there was more time, because these classes are so interesting. I am fascinated by this culture everyday, it is much different than the US. Just to point out a few things. People here are very friendly and will say hi to you on the streets. All the food is locally grow and tastes very fresh. When you go out to eat the waiter or waitress does not hound you in hopes of turning over your table again, they want you to stay and enjoy your time with whoever you are with. They hold food very sacred here. Lastly, there is a much different definition of going out here. When people go out they go to pub have a drink with friends and just stand outside in the piazza’s and enjoy each others company.

To celebrate a successful first week of classes my four friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Venice for Carnivale. Carnivale is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, the day before Ash Wednesday. People dress up and wear decorative masks, it is one festival you do not want to miss out on. On Friday morning we took the two hour train ride off the main land of Venice, and joined right into the celebration. We stayed in a beautiful apartment right along side one of the many canals that connect the city, got masks, took a gondola ride and enjoyed some the local cuisine and nightlife.

Once again the beauty of this place can not be accurately described in words or photos. The weather was beautiful and sunny so a jacket was not needed during the day. It is amazing, we were only a two hour train ride from Florence and you are able to feel a difference in the atmosphere. Both beautiful cities with many similarities, but each has its own vibe. Venice is more traditional and even more peaceful than Florence. While Florence has evolved to accommodate an American tourist lifestyle, Venice does not as much. The transportation is done by boat here, and it is amazing given the narrow sizes of some of the canals how they do not crash into each other.

Day two in Venice we walked along the carnival route which takes you around the whole island along the central canal. It all leads to Piazza San Marco, a huge square where everyone gathered to take in the costumes and giant cathedral and tower. It is definitely a sight to see. I wished I could have stayed longer, but train tickets were selling out fast and we had not booked a place to stay another night.

Next weekend I am traveling to Interlaken Switzerland!IMG_20160102_141643082 IMG_20160102_145119332_HDR IMG_20160102_161326490 IMG_20160102_154943489 IMG_20160206_110119031 IMG_20160206_141821046

It’s only been a week, and I already feel at home.

I have been in Italy for a week, and I can honestly say it feels like a second home to me. Just as New Paltz became a home away from home, Florence has been added to that list now too!

The travel was not fun. The first plan ride was about eight and a half hours, and the second was two hours. I did get lucky and catch some sleep on the plane, but regardless I was still exhausted by the time I actually arrived in Italy. I had lay over in Paris which went everything but smooth. Due to an hour delay leaving JFK International Airport I was pressed for time once I landed in Paris to get through customs again and make my connecting flight. The process was slow, and I along with twelve other girls in my program were told we did not make the flight in time and had to catch the next flight. After my study abroad advisor argued with the airline almost all of us were allowed to enter the plane. That was just added stress to the already stressful situation of leaving home for four months to live in another country. None the less, I made the flight and safely landed in Florence around noon.

Just when I thought things could not get worse I was told both my bags were left in Paris, and I would maybe get them the following day. At that point I just had to laugh about everything, because of course it would be just my luck to have this all happen in one day.  I did not worry to much, because I had planned for this and had extra clothes and stuff in my carry on. After all I was not left behind in Paris and had to take the next flight or not have any luggage at all. Understandably, my first impression if Italy was not the best, plus it was foggy, and I felt gross from traveling all day. I could not wait to get to my apartment, meet my new roommates and get something to eat. The apartment is nice and has all the basic necessities. I have three very sweet roommates named Nabi, Shaye and Sabrina.

After getting acclimated to my new home a few of us decided to walk around and explore the city a little. We saw the Ponte Vecchio and some of the duomos, and they were absolutely breath taking, the pictures do not do them justice. After seeing all that suddenly it did not matter the airline lost my luggage, the travel time was long or I had not eaten in twelve hours. I just felt so incredibly lucky to be able to call this city my new home, and get to enjoy its beauty every single day. That is the first impression of Florence that I actually count.

Also during my first week here, I began school. I honestly did not know what to expect the only things I had heard is that classes in Europe are much different and a lot harder than they are in the US. I did know there grading scale was going to be different, but other than that I was nervous to find out what exactly my new professors had in store for me this semester. After having gone to all my classes at least once now I am a lot more at ease. The school I am studying through, Florence University of the Arts, is organized very much like the academic structure I am used to at home. the teachers expect the same things with also an understanding we are also to here to travel and take in the culture. Many of my professors left time in each lecture to answer any questions we had about Italy. It is nice that majority of my classes once a week so the work does not get to over whelming. My most difficult class is probably my Italian class, because I have no prior knowledge of the language. I have it Monday- Friday for half of my program as a 6 credit intensive Italian course. I emphasise intensive. I am only three days into classes, and already speaking full phrases in Italian. I have never picked up a language this quick, and I took 12 years of Spanish. Being here has definitely given me strong motivation to learn as much of Italian as fast as possible.

Goodbye New York!?

visa-temp-residence

I leave for Florence soon, and I still cannot picture myself there. Saying goodbye to friends and family does not feel real. It has not yet processed in my head this will be the last time I see them for a while. I will be missing out on birthday’s, and holidays with family.

It feels like I have been talking and preparing for this trip for what feels like forever, but it is finally right around the corner. I do not know if I am ready for it entirely, there is still so much to get and pack before then. That is something people who have traveled abroad do not mention is how hard it is to pack. You cannot pack everything, but you need to make sure you have enough. Depending on where you are going, you do not know if you  will be able to buy the same things you are used to at home. It is not just clothes you have to pack but towels, sheets, converters and anything else you might need for a four month long trip. I am lucky my program provides linens, but that is not always the case.

Even though it is normal to feel nervous I am also extremely excited for what the next four months will bring. I have friends who are in different programs in Italy, who are already there, telling me how much I will love it, and they make me more anxious to be there already. I will miss New Paltz, my family and friends, but at the same time this is such an amazing opportunity it is worth being a little homesick. I am very fortunate to be apart of the 3% of college students who study abroad.

I think the part I am most looking forward to is the food. I am looking forward to living in what is considered one of the best food capitals in the world. I have only heard good things about the city’s cuisine from past travelers. They all say how fresh everything is, and I will never taste anything quite like it. I definitely plan to eat my way through Italy!

Swan Song

Okay so although I still have a few weeks abroad in Europe, I do indeed leave the love of my life, Milan, in one short week.  To be honest, this kind of makes me wanna vomit.  To think that I arrived here almost four months ago, truly is something I cannot fathom.  Milan has been my home, and pretty soon I will have to say goodbye.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I really am a big believer in everything happens for a reason.  So to think that I almost let fear hold me back from coming to this amazing country is insanity at this point.  I am so glad that I left my inhibitions in the United States to come to this magical place.  Milan will forever be in my heart.

To think back to my first day where I cried like a baby when my adapters wouldn’t plug into the wall, I received the wrong keys to my apartment, my phone wouldn’t work, I was alone, and I ate one of the worst meals of my life, FINALLY I can think back and laugh.  Sure this experience has not been perfect.  But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  I just feel so different (in a good way).  I have grown up so much here.

Lucky for me this experience isn’t over yet.  Although I do leave Milan in one week from tomorrow, I still have a couple weeks where I will be traveling around Europe.  So I have a lot to look forward to.

Am I ready to return to the United States?  I’m not really sure.  I mean I kind of have no say in the matter.  I have finished college, and now I must get a job, an apartment, and enter a new phase in my life.  Would I stay longer if I could?  Absolutely!  But regardless my time here will never be forgotten.  There was no better way to leave the University life.  For those who are unsure of spending their final semester abroad, or studying abroad at all for that matter, I must encourage each and every college student to look into it.

Leaving our mark in Barcelona

Leaving our mark in Barcelona

The people I have met through this program are some of the greatest people I have met in my life.  Milan holds a special place in my heart, but I know a big reason behind that is the amazing people here.  However, I must give a special shoutout to one special lady Kara Buzzeo.  New Paltz is small.  And yet there are always those people you do not know.  Kara and I both attended New Paltz, lived in the same hall, ate in the same places, worked out in the same gym, and yet it took coming abroad to Milan, Italy for us to meet.  I now consider Kara one of my true gems that I will take away from the Paltz.  My experience would not have been the same without her.  Yes, I will not be continuing on with her in the fall, in New Paltz, but I know she is destined for great things.

Maybe I will write another post abroad, maybe I won’t.  I just wanted to write this one now, to make sure I did it before leaving for the rest of Europe.

For now I will be galavanting around Milan, attempting to complete the things that I wish I had been doing all semester, but have neglected to leave to the last minute.  Also if anyone would like to help me pack, feel free.  Time to study for finals!

Till next time readers, continue to reach for the stars,

Tamara

End of the year celebration with my housemates: Bethany, and Allison

End of the year celebration with my housemates: Bethany, and Allison!

Save the Drama For Your Mama

Il Dottore Selfie

Il Dottore Selfie

So as most of you know I took a Dramaturgy course in Milan this semester.  Our class finished up on Monday, and we had our final on Tuesday.  This final was unlike any I have had in my four years at New Paltz.  We as a class had spent our semester writing a play, in true commedia dell’arte fashion.  We had two professors for this class: Laura & Stefano.  Laura spent the first half of the semester teaching us the history of commedia dell’arte.  Laura also helped us to write our scenes.  Luckily for me, someone who has never written a play before, we were able to work in groups.  With the help of Stefano we brought the words to life.

This was a long process.  We went through many drafts, many opportunities for editing.  Just when we thought we were done, there was always another change to be made.  Stefano made cast decisions, and then for the second half of the semester we blocked and staged our production.  I was cast as Il Dottore, the heavyset, old, know-it-all man.  This was quite the humorous role for me.  I have done a lot of theatre in the past, but I must say I have never done anything in the style of commedia dell’arte, so this was a first!

My mom actually sat in on the class a few weeks ago, so that she could see what I was up to.  Needless to say, seeing us all in the masks, she got quite a kick out of it.

Monday was our final run-through, and despite (poorly timed) illness on my part, Tuesday we performed for the last time.  The show: The Tooth Puller can be watched here on Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLKQ_gNPa20

And with this my friends, I am done with classes, and in full finals mode!  Tomorrow I have the end of year celebration and then I am actually off to watch Stefano perform in a commedia dell’arte play at Piccolo Teatro!

Till next time!  Keep practicing those lines, and those lazzi!

Tamara

The Cast & Crew of The Tooth Puller

The Cast & Crew of The Tooth Puller