Hello all! I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post. Assignments all started piling up on top of each other. But now that a bunch are done, I can finally get back to blogging. Since last speaking, I have officially hiked. I hiked in the Comeragh mountains. I’m not going to lie, it was actually really difficult. I had never done an actual hike before. Or, one that was that challenging. We walked through a lot of grass and mud, I learned. My timberlands went through a lot that day. The views are beautiful. The mountains overlook green pastures and see a lot of sheep. The sheep are dyed a bunch of different colors. The ones I saw were either blue or pink. Then we got to a spot for lunch. There was a pond and the mountains were in front of us, and they were covered in patches of fog. It was really cool to see, and pretty unlike anything I’d seen before coming to Ireland. By the end of the hike, I was exhausted, but I am really glad I did it. It was really hard, but I have to admit, looking back, it was rewarding.
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 Television, Fashion Images and the City of Milan: A Sociological Perspective on Modern Italian Fashion, Citizenship 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.
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.
“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.
During my first trip in Ireland, I went to many different places. I just had to sign up for it and it was on a first come first serve basis. We went to a beach that was in a cute little town. There was a surf club learning how to surf on the sand. It was big and quite beautiful. The houses in the town were small and pastel colored and I’ve always found those to be beautiful. We also went to the Barrens, which is a national park. There’s a bunch of cliffs overlooking the water. That’s a really fun place to just climb on rocks and take in the scenery. The big trip of the day was to the Cliffs of Moher. This is a very famous place to visit in Ireland, and it has the reputation of being beautiful. The cliffs are 702 feet at their highest point. While walking around, there’s some areas where you have to step over a jagged wall to get to the next part and while doing this, you’re between the wall and an electric fence. We went to the cliffs on a foggy day, so at first the fog essentially blanketed everything. But the fog did clear a bit, and the cliffs and water were in view and the scenery is breathtaking. There’s also flowers that grow by the cliffs and those make it even more pretty. There’s also a tower on the cliffs, and it’s foggy when you’re far away from it but as you walk closer to it the fog clears and that’s really cool to see. The cliffs overlook a bunch of different counties that you can see across from the cliffs. The cliffs are definitely worth going to, as they’re beautiful as well as very well-known. On the bus, we had a tour guide who was very informative and engaging. We drove past areas in the country where Gaelic is the primary language. This is really cool because people in Ireland now learn Gaelic in school, but it’s typically not spoken as a first language and many people in Ireland still don’t speak it very often or very well. These areas are in the deep country and the houses are surrounded by pastures as far as the eye can see. The houses are so isolated and it would seem you’d need a car to get everywhere because there is literally nothing but land surrounding you. That was a really fun day and definitely a great start to my Ireland adventures!
I am taking four classes for my psych major and one class just for fun. I am taking psych of personality, psych of work, psych and everyday life, empirical psych 1 and Irish Traditional Music. The classes are taught by lecturers, not professors/ The lecturers use powerpoints and put them online, so in that sense they are similar to professors at New Paltz. Some lectures also require tutorials once a week, and they are taught by TAs or matriculated students. Classes are also called modules. The classes are generally pretty similar to the classes at New Paltz. They’re basically typical college classes. However, one big difference actually deals with the registration process. As an international student, I was allowed two weeks to try numerous classes. You don’t meet your advisor right off the bat. You make up your schedule on your own and you have to do it manually, unlike at New Paltz where it’s done online and your schedule is essentially generated for you. Another main difference is the classes seem to be less personal. I have only one class where the professor knows my name. The coolest class is Irish Traditional Music. That module has two lectures a week and then one hour of learning Irish dance. It’s really fun. It’s a very unique class and I’m glad I had the opportunity to take it. There is going to be a performance at the end of the semester. I am looking forward to it. I think it will be really fun. Irish dance is very unique and it’s an integral part of Irish culture and this was such a rare opportunity to take this kind of class and I’m really glad I decided to do it. That class and Empirical Psych are my most hands-on classes. In empirical psych, we do research by conducting experiments. In a lot of my classes, there are concepts discussed that I remember learning about in my classes at New Paltz.
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.
If you live in on-campus accommodation, you live in a village. These are a bunch of houses that each come with their own kitchen/living room, two bathrooms and multiple single rooms. You don’t have a roommate. Dorming is very different here. It feels to me like you have a lot more freedom and just more room in general. You really are living in your own house. Having your own kitchen is important because the norm is to make your own food. That was hard to get used to at first, but I enjoy cooking so I didn’t mind once I got used to it. It’s also really nice to have your own room. I also notice a huge difference in social interactions. It seems like people in Ireland are just generally so much nicer. You can strike up a conversation with people sitting at the table next to you at the pub and it doesn’t feel weird. People just seem generally more at ease with talking to people and getting to know them and it’s just really nice and really fun. People also dress so much more nicely when going to class. A lot of guys wear Adidas pants, but the girls can get pretty fancy with makeup done and nice clothes. I have yet to see a single person wear actual sweatpants to class. It’s a very different atmosphere. I feel like students are slightly more mature here, partly because of the way they carry themselves and the way they interact with others. But they also really know how to have fun. I have really enjoyed getting to meet new people here and observe how this culture differs from culture in the US. The international students here come from a wide range of countries
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.
On the airplane heading to Ireland, I was talking to a few people before take-off and mentioned I was studying abroad in Ireland. I was so excited and I just wanted to talk to everyone and just tell them. I happened to be taking the plane with some people from New Paltz, so it was nice to have people to talk to before getting on the plane and departing. When I first arrived, I quickly unpacked and then activities for orientation week began. It was very overwhelming at first, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I was really homesick and anxious at first. I really missed New Paltz and loved ones over there, and of course my family. The feelings of homesickness I felt were similar to the feelings I felt when I came to New Paltz as a Freshman. The feelings I used to feel when missing home were now the feelings I felt toward New Paltz. I guess it makes sense, because if I weren’t in Ireland I would be in New Paltz, and I had gotten so used to it and had made myself a home there. But it was special for me to realize how much I had truly grown to love and appreciate New Paltz, and how much of a home it had become for me, despite the fact that when I first arrived, all I wanted was to come back home to Manhattan. While it was a really hard transition at first, things got better, and it definitely helped to rely on loved ones back home. There were a lot of texts, phone calls, and video calls to people back home. Changes like these always feel impossible to overcome, but with time, things get better, and I am really glad I decided to embark on this experience.