London, Venice and More Oh My!

While studying abroad, I have been fortunate to do a ton of traveling- both in and out of Italy!

My first trip was to Cinque Terre. It was my birthday weekend; my friends and I visited each of the towns in one day! Each offered a different experience but they all had one thing in common- an amazing view. Cinque Terre was only a 2 hour train ride from Milan, making it a super accessible but fun trip!

After that, I flew to Prague and London! My sister had planned to travel to Prague coincidentally during the time that I’d be in Italy, so we thought it was a perfect weekend to meet up. My sister is 6 years older than me and lives in another state, so seeing her had made me so happy- who knew we’d be in Prague, TOGETHER?! It truly made my heart full.

London has to be one of my favorite cities I have ever visited! It was so metropolitan, and nostalgic. Everywhere I went felt sophisticated and chic. There, I visited shops and pubs, walking along townhouses in Notting Hill, while stopping to drink tea or eat falafel pockets (which were SO yummy). Being in London made me SO happy. I definitely will go back to visit one day.

And lastly, my most recent trip that I did happened to be with my dad! At my university, we just had our mid-semester break and my dad was lucky enough to get some days off so, he flew all the way to Milan and we took a “road trip” of Italy. We went to Lake Como, Venice, and Florence. All of the places were so different from one another; it is mind-boggling to me how you can be in the same country yet certain parts are so vastly different from each other! All were beautiful in their own unique way. Visiting all 3 places were truly enriching, especially with my dad by my side.

Academics

Now that midterms are over, I finally feel like I can give you all a clear view into what I think about the courses I am taking here!

At SUNY New Paltz, I am quite ahead of course requirements. Because of this, my advisor gave me the freedom to take what I please and of what piqued my interest. So, here at Cattolica in Milan I am taking four courses: A Mafia Story: Its Representation in Literature, Cinema, and TelevisionFashion Images and the City of Milan: A Sociological Perspective on Modern Italian FashionCitizenship and Religion in a Multicultural Society: A New Clash of Identities in Italy and Europe? and The Female Character in Italian Contemporary Literature and Culture. All are vastly different from each other, and don’t necessarily have a correlation with my major and minor at home (which is Sociology with a Human Services concentration, and a minor in Deaf Studies), however, I do really enjoy them.

A Mafia Story: Its Representation in Literature, Cinema, and Television would have to be my favorite. In my Sophomore Year of high school (5 years ago) I was introduced to American mobster movies: Casino, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale… you get the idea. I was always fascinated on the topic, but only got my information about the mafia solely through these movies- I had no other outlets. In this course, I learn about the history of the ‘mafiosi’; how it originated, where it originated and how it is represented in both Italian and American media platforms. I even watched The Godfather for the first time as one of my homework assignments! This class has truly opened my eyes into a huge and important part of Italy’s history: specifically in Sicily. My professor is knowledgable and passionate about this subject, and it truly has rubbed off onto me.

Fashion Images and the City of Milan: A Sociological Perspective on Modern Italian Fashion is the only class that I’m taking that will give me credit towards my major (elective). Since becoming a sociology major, I can’t help but think of everything from a sociological perspective… its in my nature. However this class does more than that- it has taught me about important fashion designers, and how moments in history really affect the world of fashion. When I was little, I dreamed of being a fashion designer. I never really knew why but this class brings me back to that dream, but in a different way. I would never really consider myself stylish, but now I find myself wanting to express in the form of fashion and style, and help others too. It really is enthralling.

Citizenship and Religion in a Multicultural Society: A New Clash of Identities in Italy and Europe? is a class that took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to take it, and to be honest, it was sort of a last minute resort. I didn’t know what I was going into but it has been a pleasant surprise. In this course we look at the history of citizens and societies within Italy and Europe from a philosophical and anthropological perspective, and how these factors have changed over time with modernization. Its very complex, and I often fumble with my words, so I’ll spare you the details 😉

And lastly, The Female Character in Italian Contemporary Literature and Culture. I am lowkey, a literature nerd. I took two AP English courses in my high school, and a few at SUNY New Paltz- including The Novel and Women in Literature (which I highly recommend). The Female Character in Italian Contemporary Literature and Culture is another course I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to. We analyze female characters in books, operas, and movies written by both male and female Italian creators. Like I said, I love literature, and since I’ve taken a Women in Lit course at New Paltz, this class has been nothing but fun for me. I’ve found so many books outside of American and British literature that I now want to read.

Not only are the classes intriguing, but the professors are all super sweet and compassionate. I express my worries to them, or even my curiosities, and they are always there to help and engage.

Overall, I appreciate Cattolica for providing us international students with interesting courses I could never take elsewhere, and for sparking a newfound curiosity within me.

0-100 Real Quick: Dealing with Culture Shock in Milan

This post is loooonngggg overdue. I’ve been caught up with traveling and assignments and just living my life that I haven’t had much time to sit on my computer and be consistent with this blog (which I will work on from here on out). However, tonight I am feeling motivated! I went out to dinner with my close friends that I’ve made here; it was the first time I stayed out past 9PM here in Milan. Being out late made me realized how living in Milan no longer feels like a foreign feeling, but like second nature to me. So, I thought, why not use this time to reflect on the changes and differences in cultural norms I experienced during my first weeks here in Milan.

The food here is all pasta and cheese and meat! Sounds like a dream to most right? As a vegetarian/vegan, I actually found it quite hard to go out to restaurants and find a vegetarian/vegan option, let alone find a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. However, I did make friends (unintentionally) who all happen to be vegetarian! We make it our mission to find good vegetarian and vegan restaurants, and we’ve stumbled upon a few so far.

Dress here also happens to be completely different than what I am used to. After all, I am in the fashion capital of the world! At home, I am used to wearing off-the-shoulder tops, jeans and my vans or boots everywhere I go- overall, super casual. Here, you are expected to be more modest yet still fashionable. Exposed skin definitely gets you some glares but it is something I’ve come accustomed to- my collar bones are my favorite feature, how can I not show them off? Another thing I noticed is that women wear sneakers with EVERY outfit which I’ve come to love and be inspired by. Women wear sneakers with slacks, jeans, dresses and so much more; I never considered sneakers fashionable until this point and now, I can’t stop wanting to buy them! I have a pair of Nike Cortez’s waiting for me at home 😉 Overall, being here makes me that much more into fashion and style; not to mention I’m taking a course titled Sociology of Fashion in Milan at my university here.

A social interaction I wish I could bring back to the states with me is aperitivo! Aperitivo is basically like Italians happy hour; you buy a drink (which can range from $8-$12) and then you either get chips, a meat and cheese platter or even a buffet depending on the establishment. Aperitivo is a great way to socialize with your friends after a long week of classes and have a good time.

I’m not going to lie and say that it was an easy transition coming to Milan- like I was warned by the study abroad advisors, I definitely did get frustrated about certain things not being as convenient as they were in America. However, it is safe to say that I finally am in a groove here in Milan, and I am really enjoying my time here.

Window to the World

This evening the sky is shades of orange, and of purple and blue. I can’t help but think about all the time I wish I spent with you. In my mind, collecting the things I want to say. Wait a lil while longer and you’ll hear on the 53rd Sunday.

Since coming to Milan, I’ve grown an attachment to windows and the sky, specifically to the colors the sky makes when the sun is rising and setting. This fixation on color and windows and the sky has followed me to wherever I go.

When I visited Prague, my accommodation had a beautiful window that I would sit next to at night and listen to the chatter out on the streets.

When I visited London, I visited a bakery which was strictly decorated in pastel colors: pinks and blues and greens and purples! It was visually stunning and gave me a sense of joy (not to mention the food was delicious.

 

When I’m in Milan, my favorite time of day is when the sun is setting; I am making myself dinner while the windows are spread open. I hear the sounds of garlic sautéing, families and children playing, or nothing at all. The sky turns into hues of orange and pink and purple and sometimes blue. That is when I’m happiest. That is when I am at peace.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, I sit and reflect on a lot- the universe; my life; the people I hold dear to my heart; the world and how many people inhabit it, who have their own thoughts, dreams and aspirations; how there is so much this world has to offer. This is something that I will forever cherish and will use to ground me wherever I go. The feeling inside of me when I get to see such a sky, or such a vast amount of color, or an excellent unfurled window, is truly unexplainable. It makes my heart warm and sometimes like my heart is going to burst- that’s how intense it can get. Some people don’t understand why I feel this way, and some people do; the optimal thing I have realized from this is that not everyone needs to understand- if it makes me feel good and content, then I don’t need to prove it to anyone else.

Ciao Milano!

I landed in Milan bright and early on a September morning. It was chilly and sunny, which is the perfect weather for me. It had blown my mind that just 8 hours before, I was in NYC, in my home, with my parents and my pets, all of whom I hold close to my heart. I was excited, yet super nervous to start this journey, especially without my parents, siblings or even best friend to hold my hand through it all- literally.

When I stepped off the plane and into the airport, everything felt normal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or different; people in the airport spoke English, and there were other Americans in close proximity considering we had just gotten off of a plane that departed from JFK- my main concern was getting from the airport to my apartment which was an hour away. I made it to a train called the ‘Malpensa Express’ which connects you from the airport to the central train station in Milan. My 5 foot 3, 135 pound self trucked my 80 pounds worth of bags and luggage across towns, transferring from the airport, to the Malpensa Express, to the metro. What an experience! I was so determined and focused on getting from one point to the next that I couldn’t even think about anything else.

However, when I got to my apartment, that is when reality set in. I am here. IN MILAN. WHERE I WILL BE LIVING FOR 3 MONTHS. Is this real life? I couldn’t believe it. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t help but cry. I knew that these next couple of months would bring intense change for my life, and although I knew that it was necessary for this change to occur at this point in my life, I wasn’t exactly ready to step out of my comfort zone and accept that it was going to occur starting now.

Arrivederci NYC!

Since my summer began, all that had been on my mind was my countdown until I would be in Milan, Italy. The range of my emotions were quite extreme- I was excited yet nervous, curious yet anxious. I had no idea what I would be flying into, considering the farthest I’ve been from home is to Hawaii- and that still is part of the United States! I’ve always had a desire to travel elsewhere, out of the United States and dive into cultures where I could only daydream what they were like. Yet here I was, about to travel to Europe for the first time, and completely immerse myself in Italian culture.

When choosing where to study abroad, Italy was on the top of my list; the Italian diets consists mainly of carbs and fish (both of which happen to be my faves), the Italian culture is so rich with history, and the university I will be studying at had courses that both sparked my curiosity while fulfilling my major requirements here at New Paltz. Day and night I would think about Italy- what I would eat there, who I would meet there and what I would learn there! Questions started to arise in my mind: Would I come back fluent in Italian? Would living in Milan make me more fashionable and push me to experiment with my style? How much pasta can I eat that is humanly possible? It all felt so surreal that I was going to actually be living there for an extended period of time.

As my summer dwindled to an end, and saying my farewells to family and friends, I couldn’t help but be ecstatic to embark on a new journey that would hopefully be a transformative one. Saying goodbye was definitely hard and tears were shed, but I knew what is to come will surely be amazing.

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

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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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.

 

 

A Whole New World

Celebrating my one-month anniversary of living in Italy! It’s weird to say that because I feel like my time here seems to have had flown and at the time it’s like I’ve been here for a year.

The Italian culture has finally infiltrated my American ways, and I slowly see myself fitting in more and more with the people around me. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely far from being an authentic Italian…VERY far.

Culturally speaking, the adjustment has been harsh and quick. Funny enough, I have discovered the Italians frequently use the term “like a New Yorker” to describe a broad list of actions done quickly and frankly…rudely. I find this pretty amusing since the term is generally used for all Americans and not just New Yorkers. I have found however that I DO in fact fall into these categories more than I assumed I would.

 

You might be described as a “New Yorker” here in Italy if you do any of the following:

-Walk ‘at the speed of light’ to get from place to place…passing dozens of people while doing it.

-…AND potentially putting yourself at risk of getting hit by a car JUST to pass these unbearably slow walkers

-If you avoid making eye contact with any vender on the side of the street (especially not stopping to listen to their deals or even to say “No Grazie”)

-…Actually make that avoiding eye contact with any passer-by in general.

 

Those are just a few examples of the stereotypes that I’m both dealing with and proving here in Florence. But who can blame me right? I’m just an American!

On another note, we are quickly approaching midterms, which seems nearly impossible. I have started my ‘intermediate’ level of Italian and I have to say that I’m very lost. I feel like I should be retaking beginners because it went by so quickly, and now my class is completely in Italian. No worries though, I will get through the second half of the class by trying to interpret the hand gestures of my Italian teacher and giving pained glances at my neighbor as we both feebly attempt to answer each question.

What I have deterred is that the classes, although less frequent in the week than my classes back in the States, are much longer. Each lesson is two and half hours, which sounds OK except for when you realize that your attention span is barely ready for an hour class.

However, that being said, it has definitely been a completely new experience learning about history in Europe. I’m enrolled in a European literature class, and we have been reading several novels from World War II. The Italian perspective of this war is so vastly different than when we learn it at home…it’s seems like a completely different war. Professors refer back to the United States, and ask us to compare what we know to what we are learning now.

I’m learning that this experience truly is priceless. Both culturally and academically, I am realizing that what I call home is such a small place compared to the rest of the world. People create their own homes all over the world where they have their own traditions and their own lives. They eat dinner at 9 PM, pick up their kids on a Vespa, and hang their clothes out to dry; and that doesn’t make them wrong.

People tell you all the time growing up that there is a whole world out there to explore, and I understand why some people are afraid to do it. It is humbling and real to see the amount of people in the world that don’t even know your hometown exists—and on top of that, don’t care. But with that being said, I’m so eager to explore it more.

–Stay tuned!