Journeys Just About Everywhere

One thing I’ve learned is that, much like the United States, there are a thousand “UK’s.”

Here are a few that I’ve traveled to, with a dash of the Republic of Ireland to boot!

Stonehenge – Neolithic Britain

I’ve taken several field trips with my British Life and Culture module, including a trip to Stonehenge. We weren’t allowed to walk among the stones, but it was so exciting to be so close to these slabs of rock that were hauled thousands of miles, thousands of years ago, for reasons celestial.
On a slightly less mystical note, our group left just a few hours before Michael Bay filmed a scene for the new Transformers movie at the site.

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Scotland – Three Cities in Three Days

Don’t try this at home (not like you would, because.. traveling… anyways).

My boyfriend Dennis and I planned our own excursion over the weekend to Glasgow, Stirling, and Edinburgh in Scotland, right at the neck connecting northernmost UK and its southern half. We learned the joys of taking a nine-hour Megabus ride overnight… and also the value of booking budget plane tickets early, to save both time and money.

Glasgow was as bleak as we’d imagined, given Peter Capaldi’s quotes and its depiction in Trainspotting. We visited an old friend of mine there, Lani, and together we explored the Necropolis – The City of the Dead, overlooking Glasgow Cathedral.

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Stirling reminded Dennis and me of Markarth, a city from the fantasy video game Skyrim – all aslant stone buildings nestled in a hillside. We stayed in our first hostel here (The Willy Wallace), and the next day we hiked through the fall leaves up to the Wallace Monument – Scotland’s tribute to the fierce hero of Mel Gibson’s film, Braveheart… William Wallace (in case you didn’t notice, he’s kind of a big deal around here). This was my favorite city, because it was so compact, cobblestoned, and well-steeped in the history of Scottish Independence.

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Finally we ended the tour in Edinburgh, where we explored the majestic Edinburgh Castle. Right after, we dashed over to Calton Hill, a vantage point dotted with monuments overlooking the city. Racing the sunset, we then sprinted through a graveyard, past Scottish Parliament, and up the geological marvel of Arthur’s Seat.

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By the end of the day we were very proud of ourselves, and very, very exhausted.
Lesson learned: Don’t try to pack too much into one weekend. Also, Scotland has the cleanest water I have ever tasted.

Wales – 3 Days in Whoville

Two days after Scotland (this was on our Enrichment Week, when we really ought to have been studying), Hannah, Dennis and I all went to Cardiff, Wales to explore the town and see the Doctor Who Experience! After the tour, I had a sonic screwdriver and we were all eating at Eddie’s Diner, at the very booth where the Doctor and his Companions sat in “The Impossible Astronaut” episode. Cardiff was full of vintage shops and charm, even in our hostel, “Mrs. Potts.” We eschewed the expensive castle tour.

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Ireland (Known to Some as Hybernia) – 6 Days of Adventure!

The Romans didn’t invade Ireland, because it was too damn cold. In fact, they named the place Hybernia, meaning “Land of Eternal Winter.” We learned this on a tour after we had already experienced it for ourselves – by late November, the wind was high and the air was full of frost. Yet the island was still, inexplicably, as green as we had imagined it.

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Dennis and I set up our base in Central Dublin, and stayed in two hostels and a B&B (hostels are more expensive on the weekends there, so we had to hop around). The evening we arrived, we went straight to a pub and had a delightful meal with Irish Cider and Guinness.

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On our first full day in Ireland, we took a tour around Dublin and learned about the history of Dublin Castle, several notable women in Irish history, and how Guinness’ black color was originally due to the silt from the River Liffey (later they realized this might not be sanitary, so they changed it up a bit). I was amazed to learn that the Leprechaun motif was originally designed as a racist caricature of all Irish people, which they later reclaimed as a national symbol and incorporated into their culture as a pushback.

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The next day, we went on a tour to Newgrange, Trim Castle, and the Hills of Tara. Our guide focused on the more mystical and religious aspects of each location’s history. We actually got to go inside Newgrange, which for me as an anthropologist was SO EXCITING to see all of the neolithic carvings and spirals and geometric patterns that meant something to people long ago. I was equally thrilled by the Hills of Tara, where we played with dowsing rods and walked between passage burials to reach the Stone of Destiny, the ancient coronation site of Ireland’s High Kings. Our last stop was a Fairy Tree (a Hawthorne at the foot of the hills), where we threw oatmeal and made a wish to the Tuatha De Dannan (the Tribe of Gods, the original conceptualization of fairy folk). I was geeking out.

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The day after that, we went on a long bus ride through Northern Ireland to reach the Dark Hedges (where Game of Thrones filmed the final shot of Season Two), The Giant’s Causeway, and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. I had been wanting to see the Giant’s Causeway for years. It was unreal, clambering over the geometric shapes created by volcanos – sorry, by the legendary giant Finn MacCool – and seeing the ocean waves crashing over it. The adventure continued as we crossed the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (the site of an old fisherman’s crossing from ages past), waves crashing underneath us, the air crisp, and the grass greenly tufting the dark basalt cliffs.

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Our final tour was a long bus ride to the Cliffs of Moher in Western Ireland. We saw tiny famine houses and imposing castles as we passed through the Burren National Park, a spooky landscape of bare limestone mountains and deeply grooved bedrock. We stopped at the Baby Cliffs of Moher for a few minutes before visiting the real place. This was where they filmed the Cliffs of Insanity scene for The Princess Bride film, and it was fitting – the wind came in from the sea so strong, it threatened to bowl us backwards. The experience was nothing short of breathtaking.

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We finished up Dublin the next day with a trip to the Museum of Archaeology, where I geeked out again over the well-preserved bog bodies and the ancient treasures and artifacts of ancient Ireland – and one more pint of Guinness (which hasn’t tasted quite as good since we left Ireland). Then, back to London, another nest of adventures in itself.

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Back at my Home (Away From Home..)

Seeing all of these incredible places has made me truly grateful to be alive, and to have had all of the support from friends, family, and my college, to come out here and fill the cast of my lifelong dreams with real, vibrant memories. I will never be the same – I can tackle anything now.

#NPSocial #NpAbroad

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

Classes in the UK

Classes in the United Kingdom are not as different as I thought they would be. I’m very excited that there is a focus on teaching how to think, not what to think (a practice that I wish was more widespread in the U.S.). It’s very freeing to have each class only once a week, to have so much trust from the teacher to be able to study independently, and to be able to choose which assigned readings I read in some classes. While I had an expectation that classes would be a lot more difficult, I’ve found classes (sorry, modules) almost easier here. This may be partially because I’ve been in college for over four years by this point at three different schools, but I think it’s also because if there’s anything we don’t understand, the professors take the time to teach us in class. I’ve also noticed that there is much more time in UK modules (at least the liberal arts and humanities ones I’ve been taking) for group discussion and exploration of material, which means students keep engaged and help each other understand what we’re learning. I really like this aspect of UK university! Now that I’m approaching the year’s end, of course, I’m cramming like crazy and have several research essays due – whether in the UK or the US, best thing to do is complete tasks ahead of time. In the UK, however, they give you a lot more time to do that – I’ve had to really learn how to be a self-starter here.
Libraries are difficult to get used to at first, but ultimately they’re easier to access. Taking out a book is easier with the help of scanning robot wall slots. Book borrows automatically renew without charging you (as long as it hasn’t been requested by another student), and there are multiple copies of each textbook on the stacks. This has allowed me to complete all the readings without buying a single textbook! So cool.
It’s been a great year so far participating in classes and clubs (sorry, societies) on campus – I’ve played D&D with my friends from Cult Films and Media Society, debated at meetings of the Feminist Society, and sung with the A Cappella choir, “The Kingstones.” Each Saturday we busk in the Kingston Marketplace to make money for society T-shirts and other things. It’s a lot of fun to go out and do something with a group – helps me get to know a place better.
Making friends is fun and interesting.. often, for me, it starts with a little rag about the equally disturbing politics un the U.S. and UK, or with me asking a silly question and looking slightly disoriented. I’m amazed at how many friends I’ve made already, and I know that saying goodbye will be very hard… but I also have a feeling that with all these connections I’ve made, I’m sure to be back again someday.

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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History and Travels

So, now that my stay in the UK is almost over, so are my travelling adventures. I’ve been to Denmark, Sweden, Italy, and Ireland.

My first, and my favorite trip, was Italy. I have some family who vacation on the Amalfi coast for months at a time. I brought one of my friends with me, and we were only there for a few days during a weekend in early October. Italy is, hands down, the most beautiful place I have ever been. The view of the Mediterranean sea, the food, the gelato.

My family’s villa in Positano was straight out of a magazine. My room had its own balcony, and the view I had was insane. The sea stretched to the horizon. If I leaned out my balcony a little, and looked to the right, the Siren Islands looked back at me. Yeah, the islands from the ancient epic Odyssey. 

I think, out of everything, seeing the islands ever day was my favorite thing about Italy. Yeah, swimming in the Mediterranean sea was amazing. Yes, the gelato was life changing. But seeing the Siren Islands, which are part of a story that’s over centuries old, is something that still amazes me. In the US, that kind of history doesn’t really exist. In Europe, especially in Italy, that history is everywhere.

Once I leave, Italy is definitely going to be the place that I dream about going back to.

One Month Left: Thoughts

Actually, not even a month. A month minus 3 days.
It’s strange, and it doesn’t feel like I’ve been in London for most of a term already. It’s gone by so fast, and I’m not sure where the time goes. A lot of things have happened since the last time I checked in. Trump is the president elect (and that’s a whole can of worms I haven’t actually begun to process) my cat died, my mom had minor surgery. I turned 21. All of this happening has made me wish I had been home. Turning 21 without my mom to celebrate with was tough. I had a friend visit from Spain for the week, but it wasn’t the same.
I got lucky with the family I was placed with. My landlady/host mom (still not sure what to call her) wanted to have dinner with the entire family to celebrate. She made me a lasagna, since she knew that was my favorite food that my mom would make. There were some of my favorite veggies as sides, and for dessert? A homemade chocolate cake.
I haven’t talked about being homesick. Because, until my birthday, I wasn’t. Having dinner with the entire family, listening to them sing “Happy birthday” to me, in all of its awkward glory, then just sitting around the table having a chat was something I didn’t know I wanted. I didn’t realize how homesick I was, and they made everything so much easier to handle without even knowing it.

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!

Here to stay.

Arriving at Malpensa airport was one of the most riveting and exciting moments of my life. All that was in my mind was how this is the land of my family. My blood is from here and now so am I. Living in America there is a disconnect with culture in terms of origins unless you are of Native American heritage.

So to be finally in Italy where my grandparents worked so hard to leave and arrive in America, and now here I am coming to study here. It feels like a full circle.

Again, this was my first time in an airport and everything so after arriving everything happened to fast that I didn’t even remember if they checked my passport till later on when I saw a stamp saying “Malpensa”. Jenn and I had to wait a few hours because we were waiting till the Erasmus students to pick us up and take us to our apartment.

Sitting in the airport was a nervous and exciting feeling. We were so close to being able to explore this new country yet we just had to sit tight and wait.