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!

 

2016-10-23-14-31-06

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.

 

 

Hola, Desde España!

Where do I even begin? Maybe Granada? Sevilla? The airport? The people? Or our advisors? I don’t know where to start. I fell in love with the views, the culture, the people, the history and everything else that España has to offer.

So, let’s start at the beginning. First, I have to say that saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. I definitely knew it was going to be the start of something good. But I still cried like a baby. To be honest, I’m crying right now thinking about it. Once I said goodbye, I knew I was going to be okay and that it was time to go on this adventure.

When I finally arrived at Granada, I couldn’t believe how amazing it was! Our advisor, Miguel and professor Luis were waiting for us with a private bus. And, let me tell you, Miguel and Luis instantly became family to me. How is that even possible? How can two people that I’ve never met before feel like home to me? In a matter of three days, they showed me the wonders of Granada and won my heart. These places included the Alhambra, Dobla de Oro, Granada’s Cathedral and more.

I keep wondering, how did I get so lucky with this program? I know some people who were unlucky with their programs, but I feel loved and welcomed by everyone here. In Sevilla’s program you get the best of both worlds–we have our own apartment and amazing human beings like Miguel, guiding us along the way. Also, another cool thing was that we had Christian, our SUNY New Paltz advisor there. Do you know how amazing that was? I felt protected and I still do. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life.

This is where I belong. I’m ready.


img_0466

img_0703

img_1051

img_1817

img_0672

img_0713

 

Pre-Departure

A week before my arrival the nerves were setting in. I had a constant countdown in my head starting from the beginning of August right up until the day before my departure. As the numbers dwindled down to single digits I felt a combination of excitement, curiosity, and fear. I had only been to Europe once before for two weeks, but an entire semester abroad brought about a mixture of feelings I did not know I could feel all at once.

Studying abroad in Italy was my dream for as long as I can remember. I could not believe the time was finally coming when I would immerse myself in an entirely different culture in a place I had always wanted to visit. My trip did not seem real to me. I knew the reality of it wouldn’t set it until I was tucked away in my window seat of Alitalia. I did not know what to expect once I arrived in Italy. What would my apartment be like? Would I get along with my roommates? How many different schools were being represented at my new university? My head was spinning as new questions popped into my head every time I thought about my trip.

When I realized I only had a week to go before I embarked on this journey, I could not control my excitement. My suitcase was teeming with clothes I definitely didn’t need to bring (but when do I not overpack?) and my passport was ready to be stamped. Of course, I knew how hard it would be to say goodbye to all the people I love at home but I kept telling myself how amazing and memorable this experience would be.

Au Revoir, Brussels

Tonight is my last night in Brussels – I can’t believe it! This experience, as I’ve said so many times before, has been amazing. This past year was an extremely hard one for me, and I felt like things wouldn’t get better. After experiencing this new culture and exploring this beautiful country with the friends I’ve made here, I can proudly say that I feel the complete opposite way now. I’m so incredibly thankful I was given the opportunity to come here.

I just checked in for my flight and moved my seat so I could sit near some friends. I used the Delta App, which is extremely convenient! I’m hoping I can sleep on the plane; I didn’t on my last flight, which was not fun. It’s safe to say that I will sleep for two days straight once I get back to the States.

I’ll be heading out with the rest of the New Paltz crew for a final group dinner at around 7. It’s going to be bittersweet, I’m sure. My flight is pretty early tomorrow morning, so I sadly won’t be doing anything tonight other than sleeping, packing, and saying my final goodbyes.

Chocolate and Cantillion

My time abroad is coming to a close, and it’s so bitter sweet. I really miss home; if only I could ship my family, boyfriend, and friends over here. Europe is such a beautiful place and I’m so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to spend two weeks in this amazing city.

Our first briefing for this morning was canceled, giving us the morning off. Myself and two other New Paltz students decided to check out the Chocolate Museum. We had the chance to watch one of the workers make chocolate – he even gave us a sample. It was delicious, to say the least.

This afternoon, our group took a trip to a nearby brewery. The owner of the brewery, Cantillion, was a man who was extremely passionate about his profession and his hatred for the European Union’s regulations. It was interesting to hear this perspective from a person who lives within the EU, especially because I’ve only heard positive things about it since I’ve been here.

These past two weeks have been extremely busy, so it was nice having a day to decompress! ☺

The Journey Continues

Hey everybody! Bonsoir from Brussels, the place I’ve been calling home for the past few days. During this short period of time, I’ve traveled to some amazing places throughout this amazing city. Along with discovering some really cool places, I have also discovered some of the ins and outs of Belgium’s culture – I’ve picked up on some basic French, tried some of their renowned, delicious drinks, and I’ve seen waffles displayed in places that I never thought I would see them displayed.

The only language I am fluent in is English, and I have a basic understanding of Italian because I took it for years in both middle and high school. French is something I’ve never been exposed to and never learned about, until now. I’ve learned how to ask questions like ‘Where is the Metro?’ and I’ve learned how to simply say ‘thank you’ to someone. At first I was extremely confused, but once I started hearing other people use the language (along with using Google Translate) I was able to quickly catch on.

Another aspect of Belgium that interests me is the type of beers they have. After our first day of the Model EU Simulation, all of the participating students went to a Student Mixer that was held at a bar. We were given two free drink slips by the women from Vesalius College who coordinated the entire event, so we all tried some of the drinks that they had. It was so crazy to me that their popular flavors were far different from the ones from the United States. They had Pecheresse, which is peach flavored, and Chocolate!

My favorite thing that I’ve seen on this trip so far has to be the waffle vending machine. I kid you not, there is a vending machine that actually sells waffles! It only costs .90 euro, too!  The machine was at Vesalius College, where the simulation is taking place, and I can honestly say that it was the most beautiful part about the school. It’s great location in the city of Brussels definitely is a close second…

IMG_1964

♥ The Waffle Vending Machine ♥

 

Save the Drama For Your Mama

Il Dottore Selfie

Il Dottore Selfie

So as most of you know I took a Dramaturgy course in Milan this semester.  Our class finished up on Monday, and we had our final on Tuesday.  This final was unlike any I have had in my four years at New Paltz.  We as a class had spent our semester writing a play, in true commedia dell’arte fashion.  We had two professors for this class: Laura & Stefano.  Laura spent the first half of the semester teaching us the history of commedia dell’arte.  Laura also helped us to write our scenes.  Luckily for me, someone who has never written a play before, we were able to work in groups.  With the help of Stefano we brought the words to life.

This was a long process.  We went through many drafts, many opportunities for editing.  Just when we thought we were done, there was always another change to be made.  Stefano made cast decisions, and then for the second half of the semester we blocked and staged our production.  I was cast as Il Dottore, the heavyset, old, know-it-all man.  This was quite the humorous role for me.  I have done a lot of theatre in the past, but I must say I have never done anything in the style of commedia dell’arte, so this was a first!

My mom actually sat in on the class a few weeks ago, so that she could see what I was up to.  Needless to say, seeing us all in the masks, she got quite a kick out of it.

Monday was our final run-through, and despite (poorly timed) illness on my part, Tuesday we performed for the last time.  The show: The Tooth Puller can be watched here on Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLKQ_gNPa20

And with this my friends, I am done with classes, and in full finals mode!  Tomorrow I have the end of year celebration and then I am actually off to watch Stefano perform in a commedia dell’arte play at Piccolo Teatro!

Till next time!  Keep practicing those lines, and those lazzi!

Tamara

The Cast & Crew of The Tooth Puller

The Cast & Crew of The Tooth Puller

Prove Yourself Wrong Everyday

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Ok, so I am sure you are all wondering about the significance of my blog title for this post.  Normally, you can count on Tam for a pun, joke, essentially any type of humor.  And don’t get me wrong, I did have a couple of silly titles in the works, but none of them seemed to reflect my true feelings towards Cinque Terre (my latest adventure).  So the truth is this post is a little less Tam the ham and a little more real life.

This trip was my last planned group trip.  Anything else I do from here on is either on my own, or will be a carpe diem with friends.  After visiting Cinque Terre, a place that I honestly had never heard about before arriving in Milan, I must say I am in awe.  First off I must suggest that those who visit should decide to embark on the hike through the towns.  In my opinion, and others can fee free to disagree, the beauty, the essence of Cinque Terre can only be found in the hiking.  Sure, you can take a train from town to town.  But these towns are super small, and they sort of blur together.  However, this is not the case if you hike.  The hiking unlocks the raw Cinque Terre, and unfolds some of the most incredible views I have ever seen in my life

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre

Brooke, Heidi, Taylor, MK, Madison, Alyssa and I mid hike

Brooke, Heidi, Taylor, MK, Madison, Alissa and I mid hike

This was the biggest group I have done a multiday trip with, there were seven of us, Brooke cleverly named us the Cinque Chicks.  Seven can be a difficult number to accommodate, it isn’t even, and it is quite large.  We lucked out, this really was never a problem!  These are some of my favorite ladies in Milan, and I probably couldn’t have accomplished as much as I did this weekend without them.  To be honest, at first I was kind of confused as to why we were going for a whole weekend, but upon leaving I wished we had left for Cinque Terre even one day sooner!

Cioppino at La Cantina di Miky

Cioppino at La Cantina di Miky

We arrived Friday in two groups.  Brooke & Heidi scouted out Monterosso earlier in the day, and the rest of us joined later.  Monterosso was probably my favorite of the towns.  It was on the larger side, as compared to the rest.  But most importantly to me was the beach.  My mother always jokes that she gave birth to water babies.  Although I disagree with my mother on many things, this is not one of them.  I love the water, it brings me joy, it brings me to life.  There is nothing more relaxing to me then soaking up some sun in between trips to the ocean/lake/pool/literally anything.  So to arrive Friday and see a beach really made me a happy camper.  Upon our arrival we walked around for a bit, and then Heidi and I dipped our toes in the crystal blue Mediterranean.  We grabbed dinner, I made sure to have seafood of course, and then we were off to our hostel.

View from 5 Terre Backpackers

View from 5 Terre Backpackers

Our hostel had the most amazing view, two cats roaming around, as well as hammocks.  Plus this was all for a relatively good price.  Definitely one of the nicer hostels I have stayed in.  I didn’t even realize but we had our own room, which was a nice change of pace.  I did not think there would be a room for seven!  One great thing about our hostel, was that because it wasn’t directly in Monterosso they provided daily, free shuttles.  Everyday I took the 9am shuttle to Monterosso, and the 6pm shuttle back to the hostel.

So Saturday morning we awoke early enough to enjoy our free breakfast of cornflakes and coffee, and then we were off!  I won’t lie, I felt like I was in over my head Friday when we got off the train to see how many people had walking sticks in hand.  I am not a nature girl.  I have lived in New York City for 22 years, and my ideal nature is Central Park.  Although hiking isn’t my forte, I knew I could not come to Italy without visiting Cinque Terre, so I figured I would suck it up for one day, and then Sunday, the beach would be my reward.

First off you have to pay to hike, which I found odd.  Why must I pay to be at one with mother nature?  Oh well, no big deal.  We also had to make sure to use the bathrooms in the towns, because there were no bathrooms on the trails.  This hike truly is and was meant to be a whole day affair.  We were told the first part of the hike was the roughest.  In my opinion, we were lied to…

Don’t get me wrong, the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza was without a doubt nearly impossible for me, but I actually found part two of the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia to be the real beast.  Maybe most people find the first part of the hike the roughest because it is longer, but man oh man did I struggle.  Europe has faced me with lots of opportunities where I have had to push my physical abilities in order to take in all that is around me.  I am used to walking, we walk a lot in New York City, heck I don’t even have a driver’s license, but the walking I have done abroad is far more grueling then anything I have ever experienced.  Hands down though Cinque Terre was my Everest.

I am overweight, out of shape, and have eaten my fair share of pizzas in Italy.  Never, do I think I have doubted myself more so then I did on this hike.  I was embarrassed, and disappointed in myself.  It did make me feel better to see five of the others struggling just as much as I was (not Heidi, this was a walk in the park for her).  But I’m not sure if the other girls were as close to giving up as I was.  I just felt like my body could not do what I was asking of it.  Which is why this hike truly tested not only my physical limits, but my emotional limits as well.  If I was alone, there is NO doubt in my mind that I would have waisted the 7.50 euro, and headed back down to give up.  But being with these other girls, all of us motivating each other, stopping for breaks, water, and pictures in between, gave me hope.  I just wanted to be able to do what my friends were doing.  And spoiler alert, if you have not already gaged this from the title of this blog post, I was able to do it.  All seven of us successfully survived a full day of hiking, mostly uphill, on unpaved stairs.

Prove yourself wrong everyday.  Because this is what I did in Cinque Terre, and it truly impacted me far beyond what I could have imagined would come from a weekend trip.

Selfie time for Heidi, Alissa, and I

Selfie time for Heidi, Alissa, and I

And that is the thing, if I was unable to do this hike, I would have never been able to view Cinque Terre with the essential bird’s eye view.  I am proud of myself for pushing myself past my limits and completing what I nearly gave up on.  Proving yourself wrong is one of the most rewarding experiences you can face.  Truth is because of the shuttle we only had time for tre terre, however Sunday before our beach day, and before our train home, Alissa, Heidi and I trained to the other due terre.  So I indeed was able to see all cinque!

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

I think I was on a high from the hike, so this weekend really was just what the doctor ordered.  The towns were adorable, the gelato, delicious, and the beach relaxing.  Dear readers, please keep in mind all that I have said in this post.  Never give up on yourself, you are capable of anything and everything.

XO
Tamara

Beach day in Monterosso, in the Mediterranean Sea!

Beach day in Monterosso, in the Mediterranean Sea!

PS.

To all of those students (both New Paltz and elsewhere) who graduated this weekend, conGRADS!  I am technically a member of the class of 2015, so I guess this makes me a college grad!  I do believe this will all hit me a bit more, once I am done with finals.  Sure, I may never get to walk across the stage and collect my “diploma,” but I’m pretty sure Cinque Terre was an adequate alternative!

Sometimes you just gotta stop and smell the flowers!  Greetings from Corniglia, Cinque Terre

Sometimes you just gotta stop and smell the flowers! Greetings from Corniglia, Cinque Terre

TAMsterdam

I AMsterdam

I AMsterdam

Hello all!

I have returned from my most recent adventure, Amsterdam, or as I have been referring to it as: TAMsterdam.  Amsterdam was very pretty, I must say that.  There was a ton of water, there are canals everywhere.  Our tour guide assured us that it was the Venice away from Venice.  There were also a ton of bikes.  Our tour guide told us that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam.  Although this fact sounds crazy, I must believe it to be true.  There were bikes everywhere!  You had to make sure not to get struck by one, while crossing the busy streets.  Amsterdam is relatively small as well.  You can take busses, or trams around, but walking is just as simple.  Plus with walking, you really can take in all of the sights!

11263151_10153329129668921_6102854310211856955_n

11208675_10153329129773921_6733189024393518330_nWe arrived late Thursday night, and just hung out.  But we awoke extra early Friday morning in order to visit Anne Frank House.  I tried to book tickets in advanced online, however the first available tickets were for July 4th!!  Needless to say that would’t work.  I will be back in the US then!  Luckily for me, my friends are troopers.  So Friday morning Heidi, MK, and I headed off to the long line that would await us.  We rose early enough though, so the line really wasn’t too bad!  I was very pleased that we got to the museum, and still had plenty of the day left to explore Amsterdam.

Patatje Oorlog with Heidi & MK

Patatje Oorlog with Heidi & MK

Ok I know I always go on and on about food in my blogs.  But hey can you blame me?  Food is a big part of travel!  Amsterdam was no exception.  I found it similar to London, in the sense that it had such a mixed bag culinarily, something I did not expect.  First off we had to have the fries.  Why oh why must sauce cost extra?  Of course I am going to buy sauce, because what are fries without it?  So why must I be charged extra for this necessity?  I must say I prefer Belgian fries from Brussels to Amsterdam fries (mostly because the ones I had in Amsterdam were frozen), but the sauce is better in Amsterdam.  It may sound weird but the Patatje Oorlog is a must try!  This concoction consists of peanut sauce, mayonnaise, and onions.  It is super unique and super yummy!

Red Velvet cake twinning with MK

Red Velvet cake twinning with MK

Beyond fries, one must have Stroopwafel, cheese, Indonesian food, and Poffertjes.  Stroopwafel is incredible, not only do we need it in the United States, I am also kicking myself for not bringing some back to Milan.  We bought a package of these thin wafer like waffles, sandwiched with caramel in the middle.  The bag was surprisingly heavy!  They are sweet, but not too sweet, and just an overall satisfying snack.  Indonesian food is very popular in Amsterdam.  Although I spent more on it then I would have preferred, it truly was one of the best meals I have had abroad.  We all shared a bunch of small dishes, with a big bowl of rice.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat, so you can try everything.  As for the Poffertjes, they are tiny dutch pancakes.  We dipped them in butter and mugs of hot chocolate.  There were other culinary gems, including my fave RED VELVET CAKE.  But that is not as exotic.

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

We ventured to the I amsterdam sign to take some touristy pictures, and then we were off to the Van Gogh museum.  These tickets we had booked online in advanced, so we got them for less money, which is always a good thing!  The museum was actually really big.  I was quite tired, so I felt I could not take it in, to the best of my ability.  But I powered through as best I could.  Not being a huge art, or museum fan, I liked how interactive the museum was.

Skinny Bridge with MK & Heidi

Skinny Bridge with MK & Heidi

The next day we decided to sleep in, and walk around.  We went to the Skinny bride, because I had heard a lot about it.  Amsterdam was one of the places where I really just compiled tips from everywhere.  We got some food tips from Buzzfeed, some tips from Kara (who visited during spring break), as well as some tips from a guy named Alex we met at a club in Milan a few weeks prior.  Fun fact, Alex too is a SUNY student, a Binghamton Bearcat studying abroad in Amsterdam.  The world is a tiny place!

The big flaw I must point out has to be the amount I spent on bathrooms.  I should not have to pay to pee.  But Amsterdam was after my pockets, more so than any other destination.  So make sure to carry extra change with you!

We embarked on a lengthy but entertaining walking tour.  Our night ended shortly after dinner.  And we woke up the next day to head back to Milan.  Lucky for me, our bus was running behind schedule so I could get my touristy I amsterdam photo, alone.  This was the greatest pro of flying so early in the morning.  Although after how early we flew from Dublin to Milan, any flight after 8pm seems like a piece of cake, mmmmm like that red velvet cake I had in Amsterdam 😉  Till next time readers!

Tamara

10985383_10153329179058921_2380950968547224200_n