The Land of Ice Chronicles: Adjustment 101 [Week 1]

“Rise and Shine”, my alarm seemed to yelp at the top of its lungs at 7am on a Monday morning.

I smiled as I woke up; it was the first day of Orientation.

For some odd reason, I was excited for Orientation week. It was fun in South Korea and it was a blast when I was a freshman in New Paltz so I had high expectations. I put on a ton of makeup, put on my cutest outfit and even wore my tiara. I was convinced that today was going to be an amazing day and I wanted to feel like a queen while I experienced it.

I walked into the auditorium where all the orientation stuff was happening and was able to talk to people more easily this time than when I was at Eden the day before. I made a few friends and then we were all off to get our Student IDs and going on a tour of the school. Our tour guide was Edward and he was a literal ball of energy; he called me Princess the entire day (which I admit made me feel like royalty). However, there is one thing he said at some point that harshed my mood just a bit that day. We were all talking about reasons we decided to come here and when it was my turn, I told my truth “I’m 25% Irish so I wanted to see what I was missing”. Before I could finish my sentence Ed cut me off and said:

“Hah- Americans always going around saying things like I’m 3% Polish, 0.001%Irish, 4%African…”

That response caught me off-guard and I admit that, at the moment, I wanted to roundhouse kick Edward in the face. It enraged me so much; that was so uncalled for. It made me feel so unwelcome in the country I was in. Even though I let it all slide after it happened, I think that it was that moment that kept me in a negative mindset for most of my semester here at UL. On the low-key, I couldn’t stop thinking about that one moment. It always seemed to remind me of the untrue thought I had; “I don’t belong here. Coming here was a mistake”. And then I would make it worse for myself by comparing the journey I was having here to the one I had in South Korea. I’d tell myself things like “if we were only in Korea we’d be happy”. The fact is that in Korea, I’d say things like “I think my spirit is Korean” and Koreans would just smile, laugh, hug me, and invite to go to places with them. Yet, here, a country where I have an actual ancestral history with wasn’t accepting me as being a part of it?

I know. I know. I was being 100% overdramatic is what I was being. The truth is that happiness shouldn’t be placed on anything external. It should always be something that is within you. After all, happiness is an emotion and we are the people that control when and why we feel or don’t feel it. This is a lesson that I wouldn’t learn until months after my first week in Ireland.

But before we get to my moment of enlightenment, let me tell you about my journey of getting there. So after the tour, we all went out for a beer which was pretty great. That’s one thing I love about this campus; there’s a bar on it. A bar that doubles as a nightclub. So you could imagine my excitement for the International Students Party. And I’m not gonna lie, when I look back at the first Stables Friday Party, I like to think it was pretty amazing.

Why was it so amazing?

Continue reading “The land of Ice Chronicles” and you’ll find out!

The Land of Ice Chronicles: Boarding the plane

“Today’s the big day! Today begins the journey to find truth through intense connection!”, I kept telling myself on the way to JFK airport. I was going to be in Limerick in just a few moments and I couldn’t be more excited. I was all packed and clenching my mom’s hand as we walked to get my boarding passes. I knew I was going to miss her like hell but I also knew that I was going on my very first journey to adulthood; I felt brave and confident to embark on this new journey. Despite studying abroad last summer, I’d never really done something like this before…

My mom came with me to Korea and stayed for a week so I guess in a way she might have been the reason I adjusted so quickly to the time difference. I also had tons of friends waiting for me in the land of miracles so I guess I was never really ALONE.

The thought of that made me feel liberated in a way. It meant that I would have all these adult responsibilities and have to manage them all on my own; it’s like a trial run for when I graduate and have to start doing all that stuff for real. I wasn’t scared at all and I had faith that I would make friends in Ireland and that it all would turn out okay.

So with my boarding passes in hand, I clenched my first and said: “Let’s do this”. I said goodbye to my family and got ready to step on the line to go through security check.

And that’s when it happened… EVERYTHING TURNED TO CRAP IN 0.4 SECONDS! My flight was DELAYED, which meant the connected flight was DELAYED which meant I had to stay in BOSTON for a DAY AND A HALF by myself to wait for the next one which WON’T GET ME THERE IN TIME TO GET PICKED UP or by THE GOD DAMN TIME I NEED TO BE THERE. 

What would you do if you were in my situation? Have a panic attack? Yeah, me too. I called the company I booked through, argued with airlines, cried, yelled, the whole nine yards. Thankfully my family was still there to help but that wasn’t changing the fact that I was so intensely screwed. It was at that moment I just wanted to go back home, take a semester off altogether, and just wallow in self-pity in the place I know best (NYC). But.. that clearly was NOT an option. The best option was the one the airline thought of, and it wasn’t even that great.

They put me on a direct flight to Dublin, which meant I would get where I needed to go in time… as long as I took a 4-hour ride on a bus from that airport to the University. It was an annoyance. On the bright side, however, I wasn’t the only incoming UL student that got screwed. I bonded a bit with Rachel as we sat next to each other on the plane and bus. Even though, something inside me had shifted. I wasn’t feeling that feeling that I felt before the whole delay debacle began. I felt defeated, I felt like I was on the wrong path. Needless to say, I felt like I wanted to stay home. My whole entire outlook was destroyed and I think it corrupted the beginning of my journey in Limerick.

But, as I would later learn…Experiences aren’t always meant to be amazing things that leave your heart full of joy. Experiences are meant to help you improve and grow as a person.

And that’s exactly what happened as I studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland. 

Ready to see how Ireland changed me?

Well you’ll have to wait until next week’s chapter of “The Land of Ice Chronicles”

The Land Of Ice Chronicles: Preparing to leave home

My journey to Limerick was just a week away and I was feeling a plethora of different emotions. I was excited and terrified all at the same time. I had studied abroad before and I absolutely loved it but I was unsure that I would feel the same about this country.

Ya see, I studied abroad in South Korea over the summer. That was a magnificent experience; I fell in love with everything the minute I got there and I absolutely had no problem adjusting to all the differences. It was like I was meant to be there. It was like I had found the missing piece I was constantly searching for; I’d found my home. That being said, leaving had me depressed for quite some time. It took a while to readjust to NYC but once I did, it was like I had this newfound appreciation for it. Yet, I also had this urge to explore everything else the world has to offer. I wanted to travel more and the effects of one study abroad trip were so grand, I yearned for more. I wondered if I could feel an even deeper connection in a country where my ancestors have actually been. And, on a whim, I chose to go to Limerick, Ireland and test that theory.

You can see why this would cause me to feel the plethora of emotions that I did. I mean I was building up the experience in my head thinking it would the most amazing experience I would ever have. I was thinking it would beat out Korea for the best trip ever. I was thinking I would have the time of my life and meet the love of my life. I was thinking I’d never want to leave Limerick and that I’d have this strong attachment to the country where magic, wonder, and little mythical leprechauns lurk around.

I was wrong; I was so wrong. 

Curious to see what I mean?

Find out in the next chapter of “The Land of the Ice Chronicles”

Preparing to Go Home

I have loved it here in England, but I am so happy to go home. I have missed my family’s home cooked meals. And our junk food! England’s junk food is healthier than ours. It isn’t as greasy and as yummy. I want New York pizza and bagels and our sweet chocolate! It isn’t just the food that I have missed. I have obviously missed my family, but I just saw them a little bit ago, so I’m still excited to see them, but not as excited as I would have been if I didn’t see them during Thanksgiving. But I am so excited to see my cat. I have missed animal affection so much. I will be hanging out with my cat the entire day I land. I will play with her and hold her even if she doesn’t want it. My room is another thing that I have missed deeply. I miss my bed. Being able to take a nice shower once I get home will be amazing. The shower here is very small and can have its good and bad days.

But even though there are things that I make me wish these last days to pass by quicker, there are a lot of things that I will miss. I will miss being only twenty minutes from London and having the ability to just pop into Central for a day and come back. I will miss being forced to exercise and walk places to get food or to do something that I want to do. I will miss walking down the street and seeing all the houses right next to each other and thinking, this is just like the movies depicted it. No humidity has been great and my curly hair is not ready to go back where it is humid every other day. The weather has been very nice while I’ve been here. It has been low forties yet it hasn’t felt that cold. I will probably get to New York and be very cold, but I am enjoying not having to bundle up so much here. And the museums in London! There are so many that I have gone to, yet I haven’t been to nearly half of them.

I will definitely come back to London, but for vacation. I have enjoyed living in a city that is bigger than New Paltz, but I can only live in a big city for so long. I like the small town vibe. London has been a great experience, but I am happy to be going back to a small town. I will be back London—and Florence, and Rome, and Dublin, and Galway, and Munich, and Bruges.

Family Trip Abroad

The past week, my family came to visit me. It was very nice to see them, but it was even better to travel with them. My family has traveled a lot of the East coast of the United States, but we never traveled abroad together. My sister is the only one that ever got out of the country and that was because she studying abroad. We stayed in London for a few days where I took them around to the museums they wanted to see and the stores they wanted to go to, but then we were off.

Our first stop was Florence where my sister studied abroad. I have studied Italian for 6 years, but I never got the chance to actually go to Italy. Florence was by far my favorite city I have been to. The town is just so cute and small, yet so Italian. I am definitely going back there with my sister in a few years. The food was also very delicious. Also, for future reference, the streets are all cobblestones so don’t wear heels or shoes you care about because they will most likely get ruined. There are so many museums there and so many famous artworks there. I highly recommend everyone see Florence.

The final stop on our trip was to Rome. Rome was very different than Florence. Rome has historic sites very spread out where it is a long walk to each. We didn’t do much while we were there since everything is spread out, but what we did see was amazing. We went to the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. They were all beautiful, but we walked so much while we were there. If you go to Rome, make sure to pack sneakers and make sure you have a break at the hotel/hostel during the day.

Traveling Anywhere and Everywhere

So far I have been in England a month and have gone to many places. I have been into Central London 7 times seeing a bunch of different tourist destinations and museums. I have been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the National Gallery, took a tour of Buckingham Palace and took a tour of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have seen the London Eye, Big Ben/Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, and explored the South side of the River Thames. I have taken every chance I have to go into Central London. Central London is like New York City, but it is also completely different. Everyone is a tourist there so you don’t feel weird or feel like you are bothering anyone by stopping to take pictures. Everyone is very nice as well! I have had to asked directions or questions to the police or workers of the tube. If you ask nicely they will be nice to you. Also, travel where you want to go! It’s okay to go see things by yourself. I have seen many things by myself because my friends aren’t interested in seeing it or our schedules clash.
I have also gotten to go out of the UK once. This past weekend I went with a tour group to Ireland. It was a lot of fun! If there are tour groups that your school supports then I would highly suggest that you go! I saw so much more than I would have on my own. I saw small things that most people just pass by. I wish the trip was a little longer, but there is only so much you can do while classes are in session. I highly recommend traveling as much as possible because it is very cheap once you are in Europe to get to a different country.

The Calm Before the Storm

A year ago, if you asked me if I would study abroad I would have told you that it’s impossible. Last summer I thought, why not just try and then its quickly became a reality that I couldn’t fathom to be real. Coming from lower middle class, studying in another countries university was merely a dream. I remember the day I was accepted it felt as if the moving day was too far, but that day is quickly approaching now. It is a little stressful; I have never left the United States before. Actually I’ve hardly traveled outside of New York. I have never been so far from my family before either; all of this is on my mind. I can’t help but want to focus on the positive, the incredible fact that I am about to move and study in Prague.

It’s a little daunting yes, but I can’t begin to imagine how amazing it is going to be. I know my family and friends will still be home when I get back. When I think about how it’s going to be living in Prague, I get giddy inside. In Prague I’ll be considered an adult; I’ll have to be mostly completely independent. I’ll have to learn the Czech, learn their culture and  assimilate myself. All I know is life in New York City, but I am so ready to go through this change. I feel that this trip is going to change me a lot as a person. I hope to come back more mature and grounded and I don’t think staying somewhere where I am comfortable will help me with growing. SO here’s to the big leap across the world 🙂

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.

 

 

My New Home

As I stepped off the plane and into the terminal, Spanish engulfed my ears. First thought: Shoot, what did I just do? Seriously what was I thinking coming to a country where I can barely speak the native language? How am I supposed to get a taxi to my apartment? Where even is my apartment? Is it too early to call my parents?

I somehow got a taxi to the other side of Madrid.

Stepping into my apartment was like stepping into a stereotypical grandmother’s home. I glanced warily at the old carpet, old couches, and old books on the library-style shelves. How is it possible for everything to appear so…old? Even the microwave looked like it should have been buried sixty years ago.

The landlord chattered away in speedy Spanish as I sized up the place I would be living for the next four and a half months. I offered her plenty of affirmative “Sí” answers in hopes that she would believe I understood half of what she was explaining.

Here are some things I did understand:

  1. How to flush the toilet (answer: pull on the broken chain hanging from the ceiling)
  2. They oven doesn’t work, but the microwave (if that is actually what it is) does. She clicked a bunch of buttons on it and said the words meaning temperature and time about a million times because apparently she thought this was one of the most important things I should know.
  3. The wi-fi password! My grandma-apartment is very high-tech.

When she eventually handed me the keys and left, I was left to wander the place alone. Its old appearance wasn’t getting any better. It was still a very grandma-like apartment for young students. Although I did have misguided dreams of some posh Madrid flat with a working oven, this is it. This is my grandma apartment. My grandma apartment that is less than a two minute walk from my favorite coffee shop to get the typical Spanish café con leche (the picture at the top of this post). My grandma apartment with three new friends to live with. My grandma apartment…in Spain. And that’s really all that matters.

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Fun fact: there are no dryers in Spain. No more saving my favorite shirt to wash an hour before I need it!IMG_6742IMG_6743 IMG_6744