Litts > Venice

Spending time with my parents in Venice

Spending time with my parents in Venice

Ciao readers!  It’s been a while since my last post, but I am back to write about my return to Venice!  I did go to Venice for Carnival in February, but with the recent visit of my parents in Italy I agreed to face it once again.  My dad had already been to Italy years ago, but my mother had not.  So although I had visited Venice already, I was willing to back again.  I am so glad I went back, this experience was completely different.  My visit in February was all about Carnival, whereas this visit was focused on Venice itself.  Although this time the weather didn’t hold up.  I taught my parents how to make the best of it & we powered through.

For my last visit, Kara & I stayed in a hotel far from the action, whereas this time around the Litts stayed in an airbnb in the hustle & bustle of Venice.  I was also stoked to find that our airbnb had a dog!  I love animals =)

Our furry friend at our airbnb

Our furry friend at our airbnb

I did a lot more sightseeing this time around, which was wonderful.  I was able to actually see Venice.  The water was so beautiful.  However, I can’t lie you WILL get lost in Venice.  The water creates dead ends like its nobodies business.  Thank goodness for technology!  When we really did find ourselves in a pickle, I would guide us in the right direction with the help of my handy dandy google maps app on my iPhone.  I really would recommend having a phone plan that allows for data usage because I seem to use it time and time again.

Even bread is happy to be in Venice =)

Even bread is happy to be in Venice =)

We visited St. Marco’s square & the Rialto bridge.  Both were jampacked, tourists everywhere.  In my opinion though I still think Rome takes the cake for having the utmost tourists.  We went to a produce market, as well as a fish market near the Rialto.  I must say how much I love all of the food markets in Italy.  Food is so fresh here, so it is so cool to see row after row of fresh food.  As much as I am hungering for some of my American staples, we sure do love to make room for unnecessary additives in our food.  So I am enjoying EATALY.  This market was wonderful.  I even ran into 3 fellow Unicatt students during this adventure!

There are also dogs EVERYWHERE!  Italy has leash laws that differ greatly from America.

Another great experience was the Vaporetto ride around the grand canal.  It was very lengthy, we happened to somehow take the wrong boats.  But it was very relaxing (and cold) along the water.  I would highly recommend Vaporetti rides for those who plan to visit Venice.

10373781_10153288787703921_2097223406779063185_nAs a Jewish family I was very glad that we got to visit the Jewish Ghetto in Venice.  It was very powerful walking around the Jewish quarter.  Italy being a very Catholic country, I felt very comforted being surrounded by all things Jewish.  We visited a Chabad, and met the rabbi.  Being so involved in Chabad & Jewish life at New Paltz, this was a taste of Jew Paltz for me.  There were even Kosher places to eat around the Jewish Quarter.  I do hope to see more WW2 sights around Europe with my future travels.  Visiting the Jewish Quarter with my parents made that a special experience for us to share together.  Judaism has always been a big part of our family, especially having my older sister living abroad in Israel.

My parents & I returned to Milan on Sunday.  Now my parents are off in Rome while I continue on with classes.  I hope they have a safe trip back to America!  Till the next adventure!

Tamara

Litt selfie!

Litt family selfie!

Ready For My Closeup

On the set of Pomeriggio Cinque!

On the set of Pomeriggio Cinque!

The opportunities I have in Milan are truly mind-blowing.  This past Monday I was able to take part in the recording of a television show, as a member of the studio audience.  This is indeed something I have done before in the United States, so it was an interesting contrast to see what it was like in Italy.  The even cooler part was that this was for one of my classes.  Yes, this was a field trip for my Television, Advertising, Music: The Italian Approach to the Media class.

A screen grab from the episode itself

A screen grab from the episode itself

We were in the studio audience for the show Pomeriggio Cinque on Canale Cinque.  The show is hosted by Barbara d’Urso.  This really was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us.  Here is a link to the show if anyone would like to watch the episode:  http://www.video.mediaset.it/video/pomeriggio_5/full/lunedi-23-marzo_524295.html

Yes, the whole show was in Italian so I couldn’t really follow too much of it.  But just by chance I got really great screen time, so that was pretty surreal.  I kept gazing through the bright lights to the monitors, to see me looking back.  I especially appreciated this considering I had not made the cut for screen time when I was in the studio audience for the Rachael Ray show (one of my idols).

IMG_1992The preparation for the show was MUCH more relaxed than for US television.  The wardrobe requirements were simpler, and the seating was random.  I was also exhausted because I flew in that morning from Barcelona.  I went straight from Barcelona to class to the tv show.  But I made sure to keep my eyes open as much as I could.

I would not be opposed to doing something like this again.  I’m just excited to see what my next class trip looks like!  Till next time, thanks for reading!

Tamara

P.S.  No autographs please =P

My class with the host Barbara d'Urso

My class with the host Barbara d’Urso

 

When Life Gives You Lemons… Go to Rome!

Hey all!  I know it has been a while since my last post, I have just been so caught up in Milan truly embracing life.  I must say being in Milan for Fashion Week was quite cool.  But alas I am writing another post, about my latest adventure, ROMA!

Roommates Roam Rome!

Roommates Roam Rome!

The past week has not really been the best.  But that’s what is important with study abroad, you must keep in mind that not every day is going to be perfect; nothing ever is.  I do constantly remind myself though that even when times are tough, they are tough while I’m in Milan!  This reassurance was something I came up with in the shower one day, and it really does make me feel better time and time again.  Last week (and still even today) I unfortunately came down with some sort of illness.  Despite wanting to run around and play all over Milano, I knew as much as it wouldn’t be fun, I would have to slow down and rest.  I am slowly but surely getting better, which is good!  But that too is the thing about study abroad, some things are just out of your control.  One instance is weather, like when we planned our day trip to Switzerland, and it rained.  Another instance is illness, you really cannot control when you get sick.  So I had to embark on a journey to Rome this weekend besides battling sickness.  Which is why when life inevitably gives you lemons, drink that lemonade in Europe!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

I really was a champ through it all, if I do say so myself.  Our first day in Rome, I had only slept for two hours, and I was sick but that didn’t stop me from seeing this truly magnificent city. I never realized how touristy Rome is.  It seemed scary to me that I spoke more Italian then most people we met along the way.  This meant when we tried to ask people for directions they were unable to help.  When studying abroad you really need to pool any and every resource at your disposal, I’ve needed to do this pretty much everyday and traveling is no exception.  My roommate and I were constantly running around, trying to make the most of our time in Rome.  This was also my first weekend trip which required a flight.  The weekend was exhausting to say the least!  However, it really was quite a trip!

I do have to go back to Rome someday though when the Trevi Fountain isn’t under renovation.  Although I knew it was under renovation, it still was such a disappointment to be in Rome but unable to experience it in its glory.  I did throw my coin in the fountain regardless though, so let’s hope there is still enough magic in the fountain for my wish to come true!

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

I am learning more and more with each trip I take.  I have never had to independently plan trips of such stature before.  The only way to learn how to plan a trip is by actually planning one.  The example that comes to mind was when my friends and I embarked on a journey to Lugano, Switzerland and didn’t really plan what we wanted to do when we got there.  Luckily Lugano is beautiful (despite the rain that didn’t rain on our parade).  But we got there and it was kind of like now what?  With trips that are as brief as these are, it is essential to make the most of your short time there.  Which is why I vowed to make the most of the next trip I took, by actually figuring out what I wanted to do.  So when it came time for Rome, my roommate and I were true gems and spent days planning, researching, and just sort of getting our lives together.

Wouldn't be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

Wouldn’t be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

However, when it came time to actually do the things we planned we hit some bumps along the way.  So my next tip for all of you readers, but more importantly for myself is: look at closing times!  Not once, but twice, we had made it all the way to our destination to find our locations closed!  I am a born and raised NYC girl who is used to everything being open all the time.  But hey, you learn the hard way.  Now I know for my next trip!

Palatine Hill

Panorama of the Palatine Hill

Fortunately for us both scenarios ended up working in our favor.  One place that wasn’t open was a pizza place.  Oh well, we just ate somewhere else.  I actually had grilled chicken because everything in Italy is so carb infused.  As much as I do love carbs, it was a blissful experience to give my body some simple protein.  As for the other closed experience, my roommate, Ashley and I had planned on taking a free walking tour of Rome, which would end outside of the Colosseum, basically the biggest MUST see in Rome.  Well when we arrived after our walking tour, the colosseum was closed…  However, Ashley and I rallied on.  We did not give up!  Besides this being a must see of Rome, we had also already purchased tickets online.  So we woke up extra early our last day in Rome, and went straight from the Colosseum to the airport!  It was definitely tiresome, but beyond worth it.  We saw so much in our short time in Rome.  But, the colosseum was my favorite thing we saw in Rome.  It is just so magnificent to be there.  It was so breathtaking, I can’t even really describe it.  I am so glad we made it there.  I can officially mark it off my checklist of the seven wonders of the world!

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The Colosseum!

Alas like all good things, Rome too had to come to an end.  But I hope to someday be back, if for nothing else but to have a clear of construction, Lizzy McGuire moment at the Trevi Fountain!  Till next time, thanks for reading!

Tamara

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As seen in our airbnb

 

 

Just a Train Ride Away

Travel in my opinion is really what brings your study abroad experience to the next level.  You crank out so much money, and travel so far to come start your life in a new destination.  However, upon arriving you learn just how cheap, and how close other new, exciting places are to you.  You have to make sure you don’t go too travel crazy, but with study abroad, the world really is your oyster.  Or for any Friends fans, the world is your tub of ice cream and just like Ross we all must leave our comfort zones, and grab a spoon.

MK, Taylor, and I take on the Duomo!

MK, Taylor, and I take on the Duomo!

Now keep in mind I have only been away from the United States for three weeks, but I already have been so many places, and have so many more trips planned.  I have been around Milan, because you really should explore your home and become familiar with where you live.  I love Milan, and can’t wait to explore it even further!  Visiting other places also put my life in Milan in perspective, and I do not take for granted a single second how blessed I am to live here!

Touching Giulietta's right breast is a sign of good luck in love

Touching Giulietta’s right breast is a sign of good luck in love

Beyond Milan, I have also tackled the famous V Italian cities: Verona, and Venice.  As for Verona, what they say is true, Verona really is the city of love.  I was enamored by the culture that Verona had to offer.  LOVE is in the air, in this little Shakespearean utopia.  I made sure to touch both Juliet’s right breast, as well as write a note to her for her wall.  I think Juliet’s wall was one of my favorite things about Verona.  It is just cool to see how many people have written to her, and then to become a part of that.

#NPsocial in Venice for Carnival

#NPsocial in Venice for Carnival

The key word for my trip to Venice was: adventure.  That was the only way to describe it.  Our ESN network at school offered a trip to Venice for Carnival, however unfortunately it filled up rather fast.  Fellow New Paltz Hawk, Kara, and I were determined to experience carnival in Venice, truly a once in a lifetime experience.  For me as cheesy as it may have been, this article that I received via email months ago was one of my driving factors behind the voyage: http://ilovefreeconcerts.com/20-amazing-festivals-around-world-must-see-die/

Kara and I did make it to Venice for carnival, which is all I could have ever asked for!  The energy in Venice was just so electric, I was so in awe of the fact we had made it there.  Plus spending Valentines Day like this wasn’t too shabby either.  Don’t worry, I made sure to bring Kara some chocolate earlier that morning, because every girl deserves to have some chocolate on Valentines day.

Rainy day in Lugano!

Rainy day in Lugano!

Next up was my first trip out of Italy, however still by train.  Ironically enough traveling to Switzerland proved to be even closer then any of our Italian voyages.  I went to Lugano.  Despite the weather not compromising with us, paying in Franks as opposed to Euros, and one miscommunication where I set off an emergency exit, I bought countless bars of Swiss chocolate & hot chocolate mix at the Schokoland and ate countless free samples.  Being quite the chocoholic, this really made the trip worth it.

I am ready for many more adventures, all I can say is bring it on!  These once and a lifetime opportunities will not be taken for granted by me.  I am just ready for whatever comes next.  Thanks for reading!

Till next time, I leave you with this photo of the magic that is Juliet’s wall in Verona:

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Oh Wait I’m Here For School

Most beautiful college campus!

Most beautiful college campus!

Sometimes I really have to remind myself that I am here for school.  When you are jetting from place to place, eating the greatest food of your life, and living on your own it is very easy to forget that at the end of the day I am a student in this country.  However, I was very pleased with the gradual submersion into school at Cattolica.  I came to Milan a few weeks before classes started in order to take a pre-intensive Italian class.

My Italian pre-intensive class

My Italian pre-intensive class

Referring to this Italian class as a pre-intensive is highly accurate.  I have never taken any type of pre-intensive course, and the truth is it is quite intense to say the least.  The class is two weeks for three credits.  I am not one to have a great aptitude for languages but despite some initial resistance I went into the course as open minded as possible.

This class really did help me so much, I feel as though I have such a better grasp for the Italian language after this course.  Of course I am not fluent by any means however, I think more than anything I just feel a little more confident in my own abilities.  The trick is you must be willing to make mistakes.  This class could not have been any more openminded, and non judgmental.  Our professor, Andrea was just the cherry on top of the sundae!  I really felt as though we worked together to complete this course as one.  In no way shape or form was this easy for me.  This course meant waking up everyday early for hours of Italian.  I would be lying though if I said I regretted taking this course, I am very pleased with my decision.

Our Italian professor, Andrea, slicing an AMAZING cake his wife made for us

Our Italian professor, Andrea, slicing an AMAZING cake his wife made for us

Fellow classmate MK and I enjoying our cake

Fellow classmate MK and I enjoying our cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pre-intensive course just ended Friday, and we started real classes Monday.  That was a strange transition.  We went from studying a lot, taking a final exam on a Friday, to starting over on Monday.  I am very pleased with how my schedule worked out.  This being my last semester, I really had the free rein to take anything at my heart’s content.  I am focusing on my passions for the media.  My classes include:  Dramaturgy, Methods of Illusion, and Television, Advertising, Music.  Dramaturgy, and Methods of Illusion are being taught with the same professor, and a lot of my fellow classmates are taking both courses.  These professors seem so accomplished; I look forward to learning from them.  There are also many field trips & guest lectures planned for these courses, which I am beyond excited for.  My earliest class is 11:30 and I have no classes on Friday, so I cannot complain about that either.  The classes are long, but full of interesting content.  I am just looking forward to all this semester has to offer!

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Benvenuto a Milano!

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Found this on the wall of my room in Milan, I knew it was where I was meant to be

I was so excited to get to Milan!  I got off the airplane and there were so many other people waiting to be picked up by the housing service to be taken to our individual apartments.  I met a lot of other girls from SUNY Albany!  It was cool that even across the world, I still had some fellow SUNY sisters.  We were divided up into cars, and taken to our apartments.  I was supposed to be the first drop off, however, they had the wrong keys for me.  I did panic internally a little, especially because I was the first person to arrive to my apartment, but I was calm knowing my housing service didn’t leave me alone.  Everyone else was dropped off, and then I finally got in my home.  Later that day though, my roommate Ashley from Buffalo State came home, so I was no longer alone.  We napped, thus messing up our sleep schedule, but eventually we got the hang of the new time difference.

My school id card!

My school id card!

Right away the next day we had to go to school for Orientation.  I had no idea how fast paced everything was, and how much we had to get done within our first week in Milan.  We got the hang of the metro very quickly considering how we constantly had to run obscure errands all over Milano.  We met so many people, in such a short amount of time!

Fellow SUNY sister Sarah and myself at orientation

Fellow SUNY sister Sarah and myself at orientation

The first week was jampacked, and our first weekend was that way as well.  But I was so happy to finally be home =)

Welcome to Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore!

Welcome to Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore!

Exploring snowy Milan with my roommate Ashley, and housemate Bethany

Exploring snowy Milan with my roommate Ashley, and housemate Bethany

 

Ciao USA

It is strange how many mixed emotions one feels before they get ready to study abroad.  I felt every single emotion humanly possible all at once.  I was excited about traveling to Italy, a place I have never been before, and have always dreamed of going.  I was nervous about the language barrier, having never learned a single word of Italian.  I was in anticipation of the carb haven which awaited me.  The month before I left flew right on by, especially because my mother was off to Hawaii for 2 weeks prior to my departure.  I also wanted to make sure I said all my goodbyes, and then some.  I ventured up to New Paltz for a few nights to say goodbye to everyone there, because by the time I fly home their semester will have ended.  I was also very grateful for the wonderful friends in my life who attended my going away party in Queens.

Saying goodbye to my summer staff at Asian Fusion

Saying goodbye to my summer staff at Asian Fusion

Sisters of Kappa Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Phi N.A.S. at my going away party

Sisters of Kappa Alpha Gamma chapter of Kappa Delta Phi N.A.S. at my going away party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, just by chance I was flying on the same flight as another New Paltz student, Kara, so I had the comfort of knowing I would not be alone upon my arrival.  I was also fortunate enough to have the knowledge that the housing service in Milan would be at the airport upon arrival to whisk us off to our individual apartments.  Considering my lack of prior exposure to the Italian language, these were blessings for me.

Selfie with Kara at the airport

Selfie with Kara at the airport

There was a lot that had to be done before I left.  My flight was the same day as the Super Bowl, which was unfortunate however, Milan trumps football any day.  My parents took me to the airport, and I was off to the biggest adventure of my life.

Saying goodbye to my dad at the airport

Saying goodbye to my dad at the airport

Kisses from my mom at the airport

Kisses from my mom at the airport

Panic on the Streets of London, or, How To Spend Five Hundred Dollars in Three Days

Okay, I am skipping ahead in my story here, but this part of my story might just be the best part, or at the very least the most important part, and since I’ve recently made sense of everything I experienced in London, I feel the need to skip ahead a bit—I will fill in the blanks of the other two trips later. This all happened in a period of three days, from April 23rd, 2014 to the 26th. Let me be clear once more: chronologically, this takes place AFTER my trips to Florence and Rome, right at the tail end of my spring break.

My trip to London, I decided to go alone. Most other places, you can go and people will want to do the touristy things that everyone does, and fun is had for all and you see everything that you wanted to see. London, I was a bit more picky in what I wanted to see. I didn’t want to feel rushed. I would’ve went with other people, and probably would have been pouty for half the time, but it just seemed to work out that I would be on my own for my London adventure.

As I got off the bus at Victoria Station, I knew I was in for a wild ride. I was down the street from Westminster Abbey—a quick stroll, and I would be able to cross something off of my list. Or I could take a ride on the Underground to find my hostel. I had two giant bags of clothing and supplies (including my laptop), so I was torn between what I should do. Deciding to brave the journey, I walked down the street towards Westminster Abbey, with pounds of luggage weighing down my already tired shoulders.

Westminster Abbey was certainly a sensory overload (and a wound on my bank account—for students, it’s 15 pounds to enter). So many famous people, so much history. Coronations, crownings, royal weddings—it was all at my fingertips. An obvious highlight was Poet’s Corner, where Geoffrey Chaucer is buried. Touring around the building, I knew that there was just so much that i was missing, or that I would never understand—significances I couldn’t even hope to understand. It’s simply a building with too much history. I was in shock—I, the lowly little Long Island boy, was in the same place as some of the most important people in history. I endeavored to see as much as I could, but eventually left for my hostel, not wanting to spend a whole day living in the past.

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My hostel was the worst part of the trip—built into a bar which was probably on the verge of bankruptcy, there was no care or sympathy to be had at the Arsenal Hostel. You had a bed to sleep in and simply hoped for the best in all other respects. Supposedly, there was a free quote unquote breakfast, but I never saw a crumb of cereal, or anything resembling sustenance. The room smelled of dirty unwashed hippies (and not the good kind). The shower had two temperatures—cold, and ice cold. Luckily, I planned to spend as little time in that sinking establishment as possible, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I had a bed to sleep in at night, and that was all I could hope for.

Heading back into the city center, I came upon the Piccadilly area Waterstones, the “largest book store in Europe.”

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I was quite subdued for a few hours, sifting through foreign versions of books I already owned. The red, complete UK copy of Lord of the Rings was calling to me, but I resisted. Instead, I picked up a copy of Morrissey’s Autobiography for half price (it had a single rip in it). It was a book I had been craving to buy for a while, and London seemed like the perfect place to buy it. It accompanied me for the rest of the trip, and fit the constant soundtrack of The Smiths that was blaring somber tunes in my ears.

Next, I took a pilgrimage to Denmark Street, the site of the Sex Pistol’s old flat. I expected to see a plaque, a dedication—anything to signify that the punk giants who had proclaimed “Anarchy in the UK” had made their mark on London. Instead, I saw a basic guitar store, and no stamp of greatness. I guess Johnny Rotten’s last words on stage with the Pistols fit well with their legacy: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

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Just as my disappointment had hit critical max, I turned around, and right behind me, directly across from the flat, was a bar with a sign for live music. Live punk music from Finland. Was this a dream come true? I entered the 12 Bar Club, unaware of the spiritual journey I was about to go on. Up first were two acoustic acts: a Dallas Green-style guy whose voice touched the airwaves like whiskey-stained piano keys; and a tall girl who towered over the place with her anger against the men who had wronged her. I loved every second of it. The highlight, though, was the touring band—The Blush, all the way from Finland. Elements of Joan Jett, Peaches, Gwen Stefani, Green Day, influences I will forever be perplexed by— they all combined in front of my eyes to wake everyone in the room up from their respective comas.

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After the show, I went up to the band to compliment them. I bought a copy of their demo, and they seemed so pleased to meet a kid from America. They signed it excitedly, and asked if I could hook them up with some places to play in New York if they ever came. I gave them my contact information, and went to bed that night dreaming of my own place in punk history.

The next day was part of my reason for coming to London when I did: the opening night of Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe, the reconstructed circular open air theater along the Thames. Getting my tickets in advance, I was to be a groundling—a commoner standing in the yard. When I got to the Globe, my heart stopped; it was perfect. The outside took me by surprise at how it towered over the Thames in its Elizabethan conjuring way.

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Inside, I was greeted by a more morose set than is typical of the globe. The ceiling as adorned with a circular black awning, mirroring the domed Pantheon in Rome. The stage was covered in black silk, setting the tone for the gruesomely bleak performance. Smoke poured out of the stage as actors emerged through the clouds. Unfortunately, the lighting for stage and the smoke did not make for great photography, and the Globe doesn’t let you take pictures when actors are on stage.

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Watching Titus Andronicus was the best performance of my life. I’ve never been so moved by a production before. People always ask, “Why is Shakespeare so important?” Seeing this in front of me, I had empirical evidence as to why. The play was not for the faint of heart, and people have been known to faint. Having the highest bodycount of any of the Bard’s plays, the blood really piled on. A girl next to me had to leave at one point, crying. It was that emotional. As Lavinia came out on stage, hands chopped off, covered in blood, tongue cut out, a crazed look in her helpless eyes, I think every single person in the room wanted to run up on stage and comfort her. There was no nagging notion in the back of your head that this was all staged—this was pure pain personified, and it hurt to watch.

I can say without a doubt that this was the highlight of my entire stay in Europe. I had felt the magic of the stage like never before, and was transported to a whole other world.

I experienced more during my stay in London—way too much to name or describe here. The Crown Jewels, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, fish and chips, strawberry beer, breakfasts with baked beans, the absolute worst coffee I’ve had in my life, aimless wandering, and stories to be told. I can’t fit them all here, but feel free to ask—I’m dying to tell. I also have over a hundred pictures from the trip, a testament to the duty I felt to document my stay.

As my bus left London in the hours between the late night and the early morning, the city lay still. I passed Westminster Abbey under the cover of night as The Magnetic Fields sang to me about a butterfly that could never be made to stay in one place. All My Little Words. I realized that this trip taught me that I could truly survive on my own, with the comfort of no one else to fall back on. I was self-sufficient and could fend for myself. In my head were all of those strange fantasies everyone gets from time to time, about just slipping away to some unknown city and leaving everything behind. These are the kind of thoughts that comfort us when the weight of our constructed world seems too much to bear—they aren’t a representation of our real desires, just shadows on the cave wall to get us through. I slept the whole way home.

Traveling alone is hard—it’s emotionally draining and very isolating at times. It’s certainly not for the easily stressed or the easily frightened. If you don’t talk to anyone, you’ll find yourself helplessly alone. In my experience, though, all you need to do is to have the openness to that solitude. I’m a pretty solitary person, I’ll admit—so it wasn’t hard for me to adapt to being a fly on the wall. Others, I would say that you should just make sure you’re in an emotionally sound place when you go. I recommend traveling alone heavily. I learned so much about myself just by existing in a foreign environment on my own. Loneliness can be underrated sometimes. Travel alone, if you can. They don’t romanticize it in folk songs for nothing.

 

Cimitero Monumentale

One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had was going to the Cimitero Monumentale, a cemetery for the modern elite of Milan. At the cemetery, there are tombs and crypts lining the walkways, with beautiful vegetation accompanying them. The park is completely silent, for the most part, even though there are families, couples, friends and tourists traveling the paths in order to commune with the deceased.

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Starting from the entrance, you’re immediately bombarded with the sheer immensity of what you’re about to see.

I went to the cemetery alone, on a day when the rest of my friends were traveling without me. I was spending the weekend alone in my apartment, and I needed to get out of the house and see some things. I was also going through a lot of personal problems. I was a bit confused as to wether I could take pictures or not, but other Italians were, and nobody was saying anything, so I figured it would be fine.

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The graves and tombs were elaborate—clearly the result of having a wealthy family. I was in awe. As I walked down the paths, I teared up, realizing the frail nature of life. It was an eye opening experience. I hadn’t been in a cemetery in years. It had a profound effect on me.

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This is the crematorium, the first in Europe, if I remember correctly. It was a beautiful building, filled with flowers and love from the families.

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There were hallways and hallways, all like this. People had left notes to the deceased. You really have to respect how the dead aren’t forgotten. We, as humanity, carry them on in our own unique ways.

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This was my favorite. She was a young girl who died around 1917 or so, way before her time. The torn dress, the purple color, the newly placed flowers—I fell in love.

Staying until the cemetery closed at six, I walked until my legs were sore, reading as many epitaphs as I could. It’s not enough to just visit a place like this; you have to devote your time into understanding who these people were, and what their families felt was necessary to leave behind.

I left the cemetery listening to one of my favorite bands. I walked down the street and took a metro into the city center, and headed into a McDonalds. I ate a dinner that reminded me where I had come from. I finished in silence, missing home.

 

Oh, The Friends You’ll Make.

This is an appreciation post, inspired by another one of my friends, Caitlin Dailey, who equally deserves a post of her own, if not simply because she finds my own sarcastic and enigmatic outbursts entertaining.

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This kid right here is Sean Hutzell. If you don’t know him, you really should.

Let me tell you—studying abroad is hard. On most days, it’s amazing and uplifting and exciting, but it’s also stressful and emotionally draining on other days. Especially when you are dealing with a bunch of emotional weight. You’re so far from all of your typical support systems, and sometimes the comfort of a laptop computer just doesn’t cut it.

The first time I met Sean, I have to admit, I wasn’t much in the state of mind of meeting anyone. I was pessimistic and convinced that I would have no friends on my trip. How wrong I was.

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Sean was my roommate, which meant we’d be spending a lot of time together, for better or for worse. Initially, I was just struck by how nice and accommodating he was. I can’t remember anything that I did ever getting him angry, even the things I knew I would habitually do that were annoying. It was a little off-putting.

As the semester went on, I slowly opened up to Sean about some various things. First it was a series of books we had both read, and some similar movies we loved. I started wanting to go hang out with him more when he went out to his wild shenanigans. He also dressed really well, and I was jealous of his wardrobe. I never expected to actually want to hang out with someone on this trip, I thought it would just be the age old college dilemma of making friends due to close proximity.

I remember one particular time I was reading in bed on a weekend night, and Sean came over to me and asked me if I wanted a drink. I said, yeah, sure, why not, and he came and poured me one of his own beers, bringing me the glass in bed while I was still finishing up one of my favorite books. That’s the kind of guy he is. Always generous, always willing to give, always inclusive.

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I recently went through a pretty brutal break up. Sean was the first person I saw after it. He didn’t force any sort of emotion out of me at all. I barely told him anything, just that it had happened. We just hung out, and he never once judged how I was dealing with it (I’ll give you a hint: not that well).

In the ensuing days, Sean was one of the best things a friend could ask for. When I was too upset to get to class on time, he vouched for me. He would buy me countless drinks at the bar, not even stopping for a second to question it. Sometimes, he’d just show up as I was finishing a drink. That’s the kind of friend he is. He even opened up to me about his own personal issues. In those days, we became closer than ever. We’d be up at 3AM laughing about something so stupid—like a video or a joke—that our friends next door could hear. One night, we made a pact to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies the next day. Of course, we didn’t, but the gesture still counts!

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Sean’s made me delicious dinners and some pretty generous helpings as well. He’s a great cook. Ladies, take notice.

I could honestly spend years repaying Sean for all the debt I owe him. I try when I can, but it’s hard when you’re faced with someone who is so generous with everything they do. I can only hope in the next few weeks, we’ll be treated to some more late night Kebab and a few more nights of Karaoke. He’s the only person who would sing “I”m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” with me from How I Met Your Mother. That’s true friendship right there.

His music taste is kinda lame, but as the late, great, Hannah Montana said: nobody’s perfect, right?

When you go abroad, you’ll meet people you’d never think you’d meet. You’ll meet people even if you go in with a sour attitude about meeting anyone. And they’ll be some of the coolest people you could ever know. I’m already planning a trip to visit him in Maryland at Washington College. Thanks, Sean. You’re a great friend.