When Life Gives You Lemons… Go to Rome!

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

Roommates Roam Rome!

Roommates Roam Rome!

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

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

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

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

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

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

Wouldn't be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

Wouldn’t be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

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

Palatine Hill

Panorama of the Palatine Hill

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

IMG_1725

The Colosseum!

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

Tamara

IMG_1644

As seen in our airbnb

 

 

My First Month At Wales!

I can’t believe I’m studying abroad in Cardiff, Wales! I’ve been wanting to do this since I was little. I always wanted to travel to Europe and my dreams finally came true.

Now that I’m settled in. I thought I give you a recap of what’s been having in the past month.

I traveled six hours from New York (with Amsterdam being a layover) to Wales. I got about four meals, two hours of sleep, and one movie in (How To Train Your Dragon 2 anyone?). Sadly, I didn’t get to explore Amsterdam, but hopefully I’ll get the chance to later on. However, at one point, I was more excited to drop off my heavy luggage, shower, and sleep than anything.

It’s weird being known as an exchange student. I’m always use to people coming to America and now I’m the foreigner. For the first week there was so many things to learn and see. I felt like a freshman all over again. I got a City Centre tour (small version of Time Square) and of campus (3x bigger than SUNY New Paltz). The real challenge for me was to learn how to go from campus or the City Centre to my flat. It took about three days to get it right. The first time it took about two hours in the pouring rain with a ripped up map.

My first month of classes went well. The courses I take are Reading Old English, Graphic Memoir, and The Making & Shaping of the News. So far, they’re interesting and small enough that my professors already know my name.

Overall,I’ve been enjoying my time at Cardiff!  I also made friends from different countries 🙂 I explored the area near my flat and found a lot of food places from around the world. There are also places to visit like Cardiff Bay (It was beautiful!), Roath Park, and the National Museum of Cardiff.

I still keep thinking that this is a dream and that I’m going to wake up any minute now. I can’t believe I’m here

Benvenuto a Milano!

10957997_10153107012508921_5835893846868267034_n

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

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

My school id card!

My school id card!

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

Fellow SUNY sister Sarah and myself at orientation

Fellow SUNY sister Sarah and myself at orientation

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

Welcome to Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore!

Welcome to Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore!

Exploring snowy Milan with my roommate Ashley, and housemate Bethany

Exploring snowy Milan with my roommate Ashley, and housemate Bethany

 

Ciao USA

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

Saying goodbye to my summer staff at Asian Fusion

Saying goodbye to my summer staff at Asian Fusion

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Selfie with Kara at the airport

Selfie with Kara at the airport

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

Saying goodbye to my dad at the airport

Saying goodbye to my dad at the airport

Kisses from my mom at the airport

Kisses from my mom at the airport

Starting Winter Break In France

L’Université de Franche-Comté grants us a total of three weeks of vacation during the spring semester, starting with one week off at the end of February for winter break. I had the opportunity to travel with Gissel and Trish to Lyon first.

We found an apartment to stay in on www.airbnb.com. I greatly recommend this website for whenever you are looking for affordable accommodations during your travels. You create an account and can browse through countless offers, tailoring your search to certain price ranges, lodging types, and specific locations.

The first day in Lyon we discovered the Parc de la tête d’or to visit the botanical gardens and the zoo. Unfortunately it was too chilly so some animals couldn’t come out.

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

Plants from South America

Plants from South America

"Le Petit Panda"

“Le Petit Panda”

Absolutely breathtaking

Absolutely breathtaking

This guy looks embarrassed. He's probably just cold

This guy looks embarrassed. He’s probably just cold

 

Unfortunately my camera had broke so my iPhone had to suffice for the rest of the week. The next day we explored Vieux Lyon where we found breathtaking churches and ancient Roman ruins.

Amphitheater

Amphitheater

These churches are too big to capture in one picture

These churches are too big to capture in one picture

Vie of Vieux Lyon

View of Vieux Lyon

 

We purchased tickets for a Segway Tour for our third day in Lyon. What started off as a joke turned out to be a great experience. Where can I find myself a segway?

There goes Gissel practicing

Gissel practicing, it’s not as easy as it looks!

Proud of my nearly learned skills

Proud of my newly learned skills

 

And at night we attended Oh! Paradis, a one and a half hour drag show for 25 euros that included desserts to share and a drink each. Please excuse the quality of my photos, I was heartbroken that I no longer had my camera.

1782186_10152277859486410_1450153326_n

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury

Madonna

Madonna

 

For my first drag show, I was not disappointed. I sang along to the songs I knew and just stuck to dancing for the ones I didn’t. Those three days in Lyon were incredible. Although three days was not enough, it was off to Nice to meet up with Gabby and Anna!

Introduction To My Newfound French Life

As I think about the past two and a half months of my life I can’t seem to understand how all of my experiences fit into that small span of time. So let me start from the beginning.

I can still remember the day I landed at the Charles de Gaule airport in Paris with seven other New Paltz students and no idea how to get around like it was yesterday. For the first few days I didn’t understand any signs around or anything anyone was saying. But my relaxed personality kept me from feeling a culture shock and I adjusted to French life almost immediately.

The view from my room

The view from my room

 

Wall art everywhere

Wall art everywhere

Looking back over two months later I realize many things have happened. Starting with the obvious, my French has greatly improved. But what I did not realize right away was that I had never truly had a conversation in French before my departure. My confidence in the language only arose from conjugating verbs in class and reciting prewritten sentences that I had plenty of time to construct beforehand. Now I find myself debating topics in class and bonding with people that don’t speak a word english.

So far this semester I have made a bunch of incredible friends from all around the country, I learned to rock climb with French directions, and I’ve been to two Rugby games.

The dorm rooms are small but we fit

The dorm rooms are small but we fit 

Trusting Gabby to bring me down

Trusting Gabby to bring me down

 

Merguez and vin chaud from the rugby game

Merguez and vin chaud from the rugby game

 

I’ve also been lucky enough to enjoy the two excursions included in the SUNY program – the first to Haut-Doubs.

Enjoying the cheese factory in Haut-Doubs

Enjoying the cheese factory in Haut-Doubs

The cheese factory: where the magic happens

The cheese factory: where the magic happens

 

It was impossible to capture the beauty of the waterfall that serves as a border between Switzerland and France

It was impossible to capture the beauty of the waterfall that serves as a border between Switzerland and France

We're standing on the Switzerland side of the waterfall while the picture was taken from the France side

We’re standing on the Switzerland side of the waterfall while the picture was taken from the France side

The second trip to both Geneva, Switzerland and Annecy, France was even better.

Le jet d'eau, or the geyser, in Geneva

Le jet d’eau, or the geyser, in Geneva

We enjoyed a beautiful boat tour on the lake of Annecy

We enjoyed a beautiful boat tour on the lake of Annecy

 

We even got to explore the Centre Ville of Annecy at night

We even got to explore the Centre Ville of Annecy at night

 

Though the culture here is much more relaxing than New York, I have had all but a dull moment this semester. We’ve even been lucky enough to enjoy a week off at the end of February for winter break, which made it possible for me to explore other parts of France, including the Carnaval de Nice. Stick around for my next post to see how incredible that vacation was!

Ferrero & Friends

The day of…

¡Feliz día de acción de gracias! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This is my very first Thanksgiving not spent with my family–is this that growing up thing Peter Pan feared so much? Thanksgiving in Madrid is definitely no Thanksgiving in New York, but I’m not complaining either (we had our first dust of snow of the season this morning!). When I woke up this morning I yelled, “It’s Thanksgiving!” but quickly felt an emptiness. Spanish stores and food markets have skipped right past to Christmas decorations and treats, so to pay homage I made myself a savory turkey wrap for lunch :p I also put up a little holiday decoration once the leaves started to fall!

Gobble gobble!

Gobble gobble!

When I returned to my room after a quick run to the supermarket, I found a really sweet surprise: a Ferrero Rocher gold, bow-topped box and a Kinder Sorpresa** sat neatly on my desk! My roommate, who was studying at her desk, had bought me the sweets as a Thanksgiving treat, knowing that I missed celebrating at home. Even though it was such a small, simple gift, I felt so happy. She also knew how much I wanted to try a Kinder Sorpresa before I left Spain. I gave my roommate a huge hug as she told me how she wanted to make the a little more special for me.

My roommate gave me a fancy box filled with Ferrero Rocher. I also got to eat my very first Kinder Sorpresa...yum!!

My roommate gave me a fancy box filled with Ferrero Rocher. I also got to eat my very first Kinder Sorpresa…yum!!

 

Although I know of a few international students gathering for potlucks tonight, Thanksgiving generally isn’t celebrated here in Spain…for a rather obvious reason (it’s a celebration of pilgrims’ emigration from Britain to the United States.) The Spanish articles that I’ve read about the holiday are primarily about Black Friday, the ways Americans celebrate the holiday., and President Obama sparing a turkey named “Popcorn.”

I wanted to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade online but I couldn't find one working link...but I did watch some of the NBC news leading up to it.

I wanted to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade online but I couldn’t find one working link…but I did watch some of the NBC news leading up to it.

The night of…

I went out to Sol with a few close friends [Thanksgiving night] and noticed that a few bars were offering special Thanksgiving menus (pumpkin cream, turkey, cranberry sauce, etc.) I didn’t go to any of these said bars, but I had a really nice night with three of my closest friends here. I felt really happy–even though I wasn’t celebrating the holiday with my family in New York, I was celebrating my time here in Madrid with these friends who’ve made this place a new home. Earlier in the day I was able to Skype with my mother, who showed me her lovely dinner table arrangement, and I got to see my cute dogs as well.

Being away from home this semester has led me to feel thankful not only on Thanksgiving day, but the entirety of my semester abroad. When you’re away from the comforts of home and are pressed to do much more than you’re used to on your own, you learn how to appreciate those things you had so easy. I’m thankful for having such a loving family and caring friends, thankful for coming from a country that is relatively very open to change, thankful for being able to receive a quality education, thankful for being able to spend almost five months in a completely different country…and my list can go on and on.

As I said, Thanksgiving in Spain is no Thanksgiving in the United States, but I had a wonderful day reflecting on the marvelous things I’ve been blessed to give, receive, share and experience.

 

**Kinder Sorpresa, otherwise known as  Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs, is illegal in the United States due to safety reasons; each Kinder Sorpresa has a toy inside, but the chocolate itself is really delicious.