Milanese Withdrawals

After being home for about a week, I realized how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad. Just as my advisor said before I embarked on this journey, every day was not perfect. I had my ups and downs and days of missing home a little more than usual, but overall I am extremely proud of myself for following one of my dreams of studying in Italy.

I can’t help but be extremely critical of any Italian food I eat here in the States. No plate of pasta will ever compare to the many (too many?) dishes of pasta I consumed in Italy. Put simply, I was spoiled. I had authentic Italian cuisine at my fingertips for three and a half months and, I can assure you I took advantage of it. Of course, I miss the people there as well. I was lucky enough to meet a great group of girls from Chicago, but some of my friends are not as easy to reach. I’ve already decided that I need to return to Europe within the next few years. The withdrawals have set in and I need my Italian fix!

As much as I miss Europe and its ridiculously cheap flights to surrounding countries, it feels great to be home. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw my family waiting with open arms for me at the airport. I couldn’t wait to share stories and pictures with them from my many adventures. It was refreshing to return to the States and catch up wirh loved ones, especially for Christmas. But Italy will always hold a place in my heart. This semester was one of my best ones yet and provided me with everlasting memories, friendships, and life lessons. It was not an easy trip to make, as I went on my own and was filled with fear and worry but it was absolutely worth it. I honestly don’t know why every student who is able to study abroad does not take advantage of this outstanding program. There is so much more to this world than we realize until we actually go out and explore. I saw so much but, at the same time I feel as though I haven’t seen nearly enough! Looks like I’ll be making a trip back to my beloved Europe very soon…

Thanks to anyone who followed me throughout this journey!

Un bacione xx

This is not a goodbye.

Seville became everything to me and this includes the people that I met. My personal thoughts and personal development happened here in 3 months. For a long time, I have been struggling with my self-discovery as a person but all of my problems disappeared here. Seville became my safe haven, I could love who I wanted, I could dress as I wanted and I could speak my mind as I wanted. How could I not fall in love with Seville, when this place lets me be who I am— It’s a free zone of judgments.

My experience here will always be unforgettable. The people I met here are by far one of the humblest and happiest people I have ever met. The Sevillanos know how to party, cook, celebrate and everything else that makes a perfect place. Now that this trip is almost over, I booked a few flights and I decided it was a perfect way to say goodbye to this experience. Last week, I went to Morocco, Gibraltar and Amsterdam. They were 3 crazy trips in a week and it was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

Sadly, I don’t want to face my farewell to Seville. How do you say goodbye to your favorite place? Is not easy. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m coming back and I know I will, but it’s going to be different. I’m going to be at a different stage in my life and I’m afraid it will not be the same. About 3 months ago I was given an unforgettable opportunity and now I have to return everything. It’s not fair. No one wants to give up a world they have created for themselves. I’m not good at goodbyes either. I do not want to say goodbye to my teachers, friends or the lady I see every day in the cafeteria. Why should I? —I created this world and I can not talk to anyone at home about this because no one will understand. So my experience here in Seville is a secret. Between Seville and me.

Thank you, Seville. I love you forever.

 

 

Freedom

After 4 final exams in the span of 72 hours, I have finally completed my studies here at UC3M. It was an exhausting week that included a lot of studying and very little sleeping, but I have just recently recovered and am ready to reflect on my classes here.

Education in Europe is much different from the United States in my experience, not necessarily good or bad, but just a different approach with a different emphasis on certain things. For instance, every final that I took this past week accounted for 50-60% of my grade and I felt the increase in pressure while studying and taking the exam. It almost made me feel as if the work I had put in the entire semester boiled down to this 2 hour exam and in my personal opinion students should not be put in that position.

However, in other instances I thought that the professors here in Spain afforded us a lot more leeway than professors in the U.S. would have. I am talking in terms of assignments, deadlines, circumstances outside of the classroom, etc. Many would argue that this approach would allow students to slack off, but I felt that I took away as much knowledge in these courses as I would back in New Paltz and isn’t that the point?

While my time at UC3M may be over, my time in this amazing city, country, and continent is far from over and now that I don’t have my classes to worry about, I am very excited for what comes next. I will be visiting a few other cities in Spain prior to the arrival of my family on Christmas and then in January I will begin my “Euro-Trip,” which includes stops in Dublin, London, Berlin, and Paris. This will all be uncharted territory for me that I have only been able to dream about and I am counting down the days!

 

The Calm Before the Storm

As finals approach, there is a lot more work to be done before I can begin to reminisce on what has undoubtedly felt like the quickest semester of my life. However, unlike many students who study abroad, my finals week doesn’t mark the end of my journey, but in many ways it marks the beginning.

What I mean by this is that when I was first accepted to go abroad I was presented with 2 different options in regards to my final exams; I could either take my finals in December with the international students in order to make it home in time for the holidays, or I could take them in January with the Spanish students and stay put for a while longer. To me, the choice was easy. Why come back and sit around at home all winter break when I could spend that same time exploring Europe? With this in mind, I chose to buy my return ticket for the end of January.

My parents were quick to support me on this decision, with the only downside being that I would be away from them on Christmas for the first time. However, rather than come home for the holidays, my parents, along with my older brother, decided to bring the holidays here and visit me in Madrid on Christmas! This was arguably the best news I had received since leaving NYC and I am still counting down the days.

Another decision I came to was that instead of waiting until January to take my final exams and doing a little traveling in between, I would prefer to get my finals out of the way in December with the material still fresh in my head and enjoy my remaining time here stress free (for the most part) as a result.

Although these are all decisions I am very happy with and still stand by, they now also mean that I have my work cut-out for me. This upcoming week will without a doubt present the toughest challenge I have ever faced in terms of finals for two reasons. Not only are all of these exams squeezed more tightly together in terms of times and dates than they would be at New Paltz, but they also have a significant amount more at stake, being worth approximately 60% of my course grade.

As a result, I am preparing harder than ever before, knowing what lies ahead once I take care of business. Wish me luck!

The Denial Phase

One week from today at this time, I will be a half hour into my journey back to the United States. Hence, the denial phase. Where did the semester go? It feels like just yesterday that I was seeing the Duomo for the first time and attending my first week of classes. I simply do not know how to feel. It will, of course, be exciting to be reunited with my family and home friends, but I have no idea how I will say goodbye to this beautiful country and the many memories it has given me over this past few months. I have made some great friends during my time here–some from the U.S. and some in a completely different time zone from mine. I cannot wrap my head around the fact that this enriching experience is almost over. When I first arrived in Milan, three and a half months seemed like an eternity. Clearly, everyone back home was right when they told me to make the most of my time here since it would go by in the blink of an eye.

Fortunately, I am extremely satisfied with my overall study abroad experience. I did not make it to all the places on my list, but I saw some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life and nothing will ever compare to this past semester. In addition to all of this, I myself have grown in many ways. I never thought I would be navigating a foreign city all by myself, but I have become much more mature and independent while living in Italy and was able to find my way (with a few wrong turns here and there). Now that I have friends all over the world, it seems my traveling has just begun! I am leaving Italy with invites to Chicago, Australia, and France to name a few and I will definitely be making these trips as soon as my bank account recovers from my European adventures.

During the last two weeks, I was able to squeeze in a few more trips before I travel back home. While my mom and sister were here, we visited Verona and, of course, Bergamo! I also got to show them around Milan and find a few more gems in this amazing city. Yesterday, I returned from Dublin with two of my friends, which was a great way to end my time abroad. Dublin was one of the cutest cities I have visited and this a great time to go since they take their Christmas decorations very seriously. Every bar and restaurant was decked out in strands of lights and garland and we were greeted with a “Happy Christmas” almost everywhere we went. We took a quick tour of two other cities while we were there, Malahide and Howth, just to get a feel of Ireland outside the city center. One of my favorite parts of the trip was finding my family’s coat of arms. Several shops had little knick knacks with family names and their coat of arms illustrated on them, and sure enough, “Galvin” was there waiting for me to find it. I felt an instant connection to the city and my family’s history. I also had the chance to meet up with one of my sorority sisters while in Dublin! She is currently studying there for a year and met up with my friends and me before we had to leave this precious city. It was so nice to see a friendly New Paltz face after being away for so long.

Now that I have returned to my apartment, the reality has sunken in. The only trip I have left is the final one back home. All I can do now is spend these last few days visiting my favorite places one last time and saying goodbye to the people who made my study abroad experience so enjoyable. Oh, and studying for finals. I should do that too since, after all, I am here to “study”!

Until next time…

xxoo

Where to?

Portugal?  Italy? Madrid? Cordoba? Granada? ok ok ok . ….. Yes, I’ve done A LOT of traveling. Where do I even begin? My life here is different, i finally have the opportunity to fulfill my passion for traveling. When I first arrived here, my mind immediately began to plan every weekend that I had free to travel. However, three months or to make it easier, twelve weekends is not sufficient for my long list of places I want to go.

But an important factor that a friend of mine told me was that, i must remember that I will be back. I can’t keep thinking that this is my last time in Europe and hearing this, my entire outlook changed. I decided to take a break from traveling and to stay four weeks in Sevilla. This allowed me to get to know my own city and actually make some Sevillano friends.

I never thought I would fall in love so quickly with a city and all the hidden gems within it. A lot of people don’t think about sevilla when they think of Spain. Rather, people with go straight to Madrid or Barcelona. But why? We have everything here! History, Culture, night life, tapas (food), ancient architecture, and the list goes on. Trust me, if you need a tour guide- I got you! I love that I don’t get lost here anymore and that’s because I decided to say here. Tons of my new friends especially in my classes are gone every weekend making it impossible for us to go out! But don’t get me wrong, I understand why being in Europe can entice you to travel wherever, especially since it’s so cheap.

However, I did save some big trips for the end of the semester! In my last three weeks I will be in Morocco, Amsterdam and closing off my trip in Paris. I can’t believe it. I’m going to Paris. I cried when i booked the flight because Paris is very special to me, I always thought I would go when I was way way older and a had a career. But, no. I’m going now in my 20s, my prime years, exactly when i feel invincible.

I am throughly looking forward to my last weeks living in Europe.screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-23-25-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-23-10-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-23-04-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-22-51-pm

Milan and Finals

It is now November.

 

Which means I survived Midterms and what is next is of course Finals the most wonderful time of the semester. No mater where you are in the world Finals are Finals. This is the time where you really have to show what you have learned this semester as a student regardless if you are in NY our comfy home in New Paltz, or in Milan!

 

What I learned from Midterms in Milan was that it truly wasn’t that bad. The tests were really a straightforward summary of most of the lessons of the semester. I am currently taking five classes here and to some that may seem a lot especially while studying abroad.

 

But you learn how to delegate your time, your assignments, and your studying time.

 

My Midterm grades came out fantastically. I was and still am so proud of myself especially because this is my first experience abroad this could have been a really trying time for myself EXCEPT it was not.

During my Midterms some fellow new paltz study abroad students NICK ENDERLE AND GAM LAFRANCE came to visit me. Oh boy, some may think how was I able to focus during this time especially when my two best pals were here!?

Well guess what? I did it. Because rightly so when my friends came I was overjoyed to finally have a piece of comfort with me. I know first and foremost I am a student! This is my right!

 

I made sure to devote time at night to really review my material. But honestly, the whole time prior to my friends arrival I have been spot on in class and quite aware of whats been going on in classes. Maybe my friends gave me a boost of luck and renewed purpose.

 

To sum it up, classes in Milan are doable especially if you are the kind of student to engage in class and do work outside of class. If you are not you will be overly stressed. Basically, if I could do it so can you!

 

Picture below is Gam and Nick at Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan. My great pals!

 

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Art, Culture… and Airports

This past weekend I traveled outside of Spain for the first time since I arrived here on my study abroad trip, making stops in both Brussels and Amsterdam. Being in Spain for so long I was almost unaccustomed to speaking English when talking to other people, but it was most certainly refreshing. Both cities were absolutely beautiful and shared many similarities.

In Brussels, the beer and chocolate were as good as advertised. I couldn’t walk more than 1 block without seeing a chocolate shop or waffle house, but I wasn’t complaining. Being able to see the European Parliament was a surreal experience, knowing that it is in essence the de facto capital of the European Union. The buildings and architecture all around were stunning and the people were all very warm and friendly.

Amsterdam as a whole was a surreal experience, at certain points I almost felt like I was in a movie. However, despite what most people know about Amsterdam, the best part was easily the museums. The Rijksmuesum had some of the greatest artwork I have ever seen and due to its size you could easily spend the entire day in there and still not see it all. My favorite painting had to be the The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn’s most famous painting in the museum. The Van Gogh museum was incredible as well and I’d have to say my favorite painting by him was The Potato Eaters.

But what really hit home for me was going to see the Anne Frank Haus, where Anne Frank infamously wrote her journal while hiding from the Nazis. With my father being Jewish, I felt it was important for me to go and I knew it would make him happy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to at first because the line was hours long everyday, but I stuck it out on the last day to see it and it was definitely worth it.

In regards to the airport, I experienced an abundance of emotions. In the image above you will see a plaque in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place in Brussels Airport on 3/22/16. I remember how much it meant to me being from NYC to see the 9/11 memorial for the first time and while this is attack was on a much smaller scale, I knew it still meant a lot to the people of Brussels.

However, this feeling would not last long. My friend and I were going to make our flight just in time, but we got stopped by security for having cologne… This delay resulted in us missing our flight and ended up costing me over $200. Once again I hope those of you reading this will learn from my mistakes, I’ve made plenty of them so far and I’m sure there will be more to come!

My roots

The reason I am here is ultimately because if I were to study abroad it HAD to be Italy. My Grandparents left Italy in the 60’s to come to America to start a new life. They along with multiple other family members began their new life in NYC. They took all their knowledge of living in southern Italy as farmers in the mountains and took that to the Bronx.

Years later here I am. A senior in college going back to Italy to get in touch with my roots. Although Milan and Selvacava the town in which my family came from are 7 hours apart. Similar culture values are found here in Milan. I have been easily able to recognize food and language relations as my family has.

I really am lucky to say that my italian language skills have purely strengthened since I have arrived. I cannot say I am fluent but I am very conversational and I can understand very well.

The food is incredible. Everything is so fresh and so flavorful. Any restaurant or pizza place you go to you know you’re getting a good deal. Most meals are between 10-15 euros which means you will get a big full plate that will leave you quite full.

There is something special here called Aperitivo where you get a drink which can be non-alcoholic for about 5-10 euros and you have access to a full buffet of fantastic Italian cuisine. This is something I will miss extremely when I go back to the U.S.

But here I am..Una Ragazza Italiana.

 

 

La Città Alta

Buongiorno tutti! I have been meaning to post for awhile now, but these last few weeks have been crazy and unexpected! Long story short, don’t get injured while abroad–you’ll end up spending precious travel time in the dreaded emergency room or in bed with Netflix. Not fun!

Anyway, I finally had some visitors from my side of the globe last week. My brother, Matt and his friend, Dan, booked a trip to Milan, giving me the opportunity to show them all of my favorite nooks and crannies of this beautiful city. It reminded me why I am going to have a hard time leaving this place in a month. Yes, a month. Time sure does fly when you’re living the life in Italy.

I showed them some of the main tourist attractions, though I am certainly not a tourist here. I finally went inside the Duomo, which was absolutely amazing and worth the wait. We had some of the best hot chocolate afterwards since “cioccolata calda” is basically a cup of warm melted chocolate. I’m not sure I can ever drink hot chocolate again in the States, but that just means I have yet another reason to come back and visit my city.

We also took a day trip to one of my favorite places I have been to since I came to Italy, a city called Bergamo. It only takes an hour to get there from Milan by train and is one of the most beautiful and magical cities I have visited. Once you step off the train and exit the station, you walk straight for about twenty minutes and pass all of the touristy restaurants and shops and come to the “Funicolare” which is basically a lift that takes you to the older part of the city, Città Alta. Its name, “tall city”, comes from the fact that it sits above the rest of the city and offers a spectacular view of everything beneath it. As you ascend on the lift, you can look out the window and watch as the path you just followed becomes tinier and tinier. Città Alta, in comparison to Milan, is small, quiet, and quaint. There is no hustle and bustle, no loud sirens, and no one bumping into you as they rush to get wherever it is they are going. It is a calm and serene city with winding, narrow streets and the most adorable eateries, cafés and shops. We began by exploring and walking around, grabbing cappuccinos, and popping in and out of stores and pasticcerias. The further we walked, the better the view became of everything beneath us. We followed narrow pathways that were probably private and meant only for locals, but who was stopping us? We were able to capture the sun setting over the land beneath us and stood in awe as the city became dark and lights began turning on one by one.

We could have stayed there for a week and even joked about moving there. Finally, as it started to get dark and closer to the time we had to catch our train, we began our search for a dinner spot. Most restaurants in Italy do not open for dinner until around 6:30-7, but it was 5:00 p.m. and we were ready to eat. We stumbled upon a tiny restaurant that had only five or six tables, but luckily we beat the dinner rush. I had one of the best pasta dishes since I have been in Italy. It was meat ravioli with a sage and butter sauce and certainly hit the spot after a long day of walking. My brother and I both got the tiramisu, which was better than any tiramisu I have had before.

We tried to stall a few times when it was time to take the funicolare back down and walk to the train station. We were not ready to leave Bergamo behind. Matt and Dan were just as pleased with the day trip as I was, and we all decided we would have to come back again. I already decided I want to take my mom and sister there when they come next week, and I highly recommend it to anyone else in the area!

Ciao tutti!