There’s No Place Like Home

There’s No Place Like Home

There’s truly no place like home. After almost five months of the most incredible journey of my life, I was anxious to return home. I have always been dreaming of the day that I would leave Ohio and travel the world and found myself surprisingly excited to make the journey back to Ohio. While I … Read more

There’s truly no place like home. After almost five months of the most incredible journey of my life, I was anxious to return home. I have always been dreaming of the day that I would leave Ohio and travel the world and found myself surprisingly excited to make the journey back to Ohio. While I was hoping for an unforgettable adventure this semester, I could have never predicted how many unbelievable places I would travel to, the wonderful friends I would make and how much I would learn about myself and the world. Although I didn’t realize it while I was in Europe, I am now slowly realizing with each passing day how my perspective on things has changed. Who knew that in five short months you could learn so much?

boardingpass

One of the things I realized while I was away is that where you are doesn’t matter quite as much as who you are with. While I got the opportunity to travel to some of the most amazing places in the world, I found myself wishing I could share every incredible moment with my family. I wished mom was with me to aimlessly walk through the breathtaking tulip fields in Holland, my sisters could see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, my brother could experience the insane crowds cheering during European “football” games, dad could hike to the top of the volcano in beautiful Santorini, and grandma could enjoy a cannoli with me while strolling the streets of Sicily, where her parents came from. Family means everything to me and the past five months made me realize even more how truly blessed I am to have them in my life.

ciaobella

What I looked forward to most upon arriving in the United States:

  1. Seeing my family (a hug from mom was my first priority after landing)
  2. DRIVING (finally getting to go exactly where I want, when I want, without worry of delays, strikes or cancellations)
  3. Getting back into the Sunday morning church & brunch routine
  4. Hot dog shop (two chili cheese dogs and a chocolate shake please!)
  5. Summer (warm weather, fun concerts, ice cream runs with Laur, and the list goes on…)

welcomehome

What will I miss most about Europe?

  1. The relaxed, slow-paced, “let life happen” atmosphere
  2. The ability to spontaneously hop on a plane to another country
  3. Nutella gelato waffles & spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil
  4. The un-replicable views of the Italian countryside
  5. The cute, flower potted, colored-door side streets in Italy

I know I will be craving another adventure, feeling the urge to travel the world, soon enough, but for now I am so happy to be back at home sweet home.

The Benefits of Traveling Young

The Benefits of Traveling Young

I graduate in just over a month. Wow. There are many different things I am contemplating as the countdown to commence has begun. Should I go back home for a job in Milwaukee, or move just about anywhere else in the country? Should I take a little travel break after I receive my diploma? What … Read more

I graduate in just over a month. Wow. There are many different things I am contemplating as the countdown to commence has begun. Should I go back home for a job in Milwaukee, or move just about anywhere else in the country? Should I take a little travel break after I receive my diploma? What about working internationally? I seem confused about my future, but optimistic I am not settling for something I would hate. In light of all these thoughts, I can across an article by Jeff Goins called Why You Should Travel Young, and needed to share excerpts of it with you. The morality if the article is that travel may not seem like it’s preparing you for a job, but there are many immeasurable assets you take away from being on the road. Read on to learn some!

“Do you think I should go to graduate school or move to Africa?”

I don’t think she was talking to me. In fact, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t. But that didn’t stop me from offering my opinion.

I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuses. Just go.

She sighed, nodding. “Yeah, but…”

I had heard this excuse before, and I didn’t buy it. I knew the “yeah-but” intimately. I had uttered it many times before. The words seem innocuous enough, but are actually quite fatal.

Yeah, but …

… what about debt?

… what about my job?

… what about my boyfriend?

This phrase is lethal. It makes it sound like we have the best of intentions, when really we are just too scared to do what we should. It allows us to be cowards while sounding noble.

Most people I know who waited to travel the world never did it. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job still did those things after they traveled.

In a year, I will turn thirty. Now I realize how wrong I was. Regardless of the intent of those words, there was wisdom in them.

As we get older, life can just sort of happen to us. Whatever we end up doing, we often end up with more responsibilities, more burdens, more obligations. This is not always bad. In fact, in many cases it is really good. It means you’re influencing people, leaving a legacy.

Youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. As you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important. The best way to do that is to make investments in your life so that you can have an effect on who you are in your later years.

I did this by traveling. Not for the sake of being a tourist, but to discover the beauty of life — to remember that I am not complete.

There is nothing like riding a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge or seeing the Coliseum at sunset. I wish I could paint a picture for you of how incredible the Guatemalan mountains are or what a rush it is to appear on Italian TV. Even the amazing photographs I have of Niagara Falls and the American Midwest countryside do not do these experiences justice. I can’t tell you how beautiful southern Spain is from the vantage point of a train; you have to experience it yourself. The only way you can relate is by seeing them.

While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Appalachian trail. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever.

Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.

You won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you. So travel, young person. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. While you still can.

Do not squander this time. You will never have it again. You have a crucial opportunity to invest in the next season of your life now. Whatever you sow, you will eventually reap. The habits you form in this season will stick with you for the rest of your life. So choose those habits wisely.

And if you’re not as young as you’d like (few of us are), travel anyway. It may not be easy or practical, but it’s worth it. Traveling allows you to feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way, like little else can. In other words, it makes you more human.

That’s what it did for me, anyway.

Thank to you Converge magazine for the post!

College Advice, Take More Risks

College Advice, Take More Risks

My brother recently shared a LinkedIn article with me called Wanted at Work: Take More Risks in College by Jeff Selingo, an editor and columnist at The Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes how risk taking is so important in college and how it will help you in the workplace. It’s safe to say, although … Read more

My brother recently shared a LinkedIn article with me called Wanted at Work: Take More Risks in College by Jeff Selingo, an editor and columnist at The Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes how risk taking is so important in college and how it will help you in the workplace. It’s safe to say, although I do not know quite yet, that you will have more freedom and room to do this while you are young and in a collegiate career. The moral of the article is that focusing on major research projects, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations and developing a portfolio are all crucial to future success.

I feel that I have accomplished all three of these, and that Mount Union prepared me for two of them. First in the research realm, Mount has a Senior Culminating Experience (SCE) for all majors. Last semester I wrote my Spanish research paper on an economic analysis of La Liga in Spain and FIFA mega-events, particularly the World Cup. For my management major this semester we are going through a game simulation of running a company, and also are required to write several papers. These two classes, among others, have helped my analytical skills. Secondly, putting myself in unfamiliar situations was easily accomplished by studying abroad in Spain for a semester. This stretched me beyond comfort zones and helped me achieve cultural and experiential learning. Lastly, through much of my time at Mount Union I have been fortunate to be part of several organization and work a couple internships, allowing me to develop a portfolio and e-presence. At any rate, I encourage students to take as many risks in college that they can, it may pay off! I hope it does for me.

Please take a moment to read the actual post by Jeff Selingo, it’s worth the read, and Mount Union will prepare you for the first two for sure, and in most cases the last! Enjoy.

Photo taken by Zak Suhar in Calpe, Spain while studying abroad in spring 2012.

Let Life Happen

Let Life Happen

After hitting the snooze button twice, I reluctantly rolled out of bed to get ready for class. I dragged my purple slippered feet to the balcony window and pulled back the floor length curtain to see the usual, dreary grey Italian sky and rain pouring from the sad clouds above. I saw that it was … Read more

After hitting the snooze button twice, I reluctantly rolled out of bed to get ready for class. I dragged my purple slippered feet to the balcony window and pulled back the floor length curtain to see the usual, dreary grey Italian sky and rain pouring from the sad clouds above. I saw that it was going to be a floral rainboot and polka dot umbrella kind of day, yet again. I struggled to get ready, changing my clothes in approximately 3o seconds flat since the apartment felt about 15 degrees fahrenheit. Slipping in to my rain gear, I then walked down the apartment stairs and out into the street.

I decided to go to the café across from the apartment for a breakfast pastry, and my bleak mood altered immediately upon walking in the door. Buongiorno’s rung throughout the air and smiles were seen on every face in the café. It seemed as though I have made their day, just by entering the café doors. Upon entering any café, restaurant, office or little shop in Viterbo, you are immediately greeted with a warm smile and truly genuine greeting. Not only the café employees, but the customers as well, treat you, a complete stranger, as if you are family. I felt as though I have been coming to this café for years, as a regular customer.

After the café, I made the trek to the Santa Maria di Gradi campus in the torrential downpour and relentless winds, walking as fast as my legs could possibly carry me. I am always in a hurry in Italy, rushing to get out of the cold and rain. The quaint little shops and medieval buildings are simply blurs; I see only my feet as I keep my head down, attempting to avoid the brutal wind. My mood returned to its downhearted state. That is until I entered my classroom and was greeted once again with multiple friendly ciao’s and sincere smiles from my teacher and classmates.

The smiles and heartfelt greetings continued throughout the day, upon arrival at the supermarket, the book store and the restaurant I met friends at for dinner. In America, if you are lucky, you may get a “hi” or a “welcome to so and so..,” if it is company policy to say so. And even then, you are only greeted with a half-smile, one that is nine times out of 10 forced.

Shortly after my arrival in Italy, I was told that it is easy to separate an Italian from an American. While Americans make life happen, Italians let life happen. Italians live in a world where “to go” orders, pizza deliveries and driers do not exist. They are in no hurry to get from point A to point B. While their snail-like moving pace on the streets simply annoyed me when I first arrived, I began to realize that perhaps they are not the ones who have it all wrong.

While American waitresses bring the check to your table almost immediately after setting your main course down, you have to ask for the bill to be brought to your table in Italy. Americans seem as though they are on a mission 24/7, always in “go, go, go” mode, while Italians have “pausa pranzo.” From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day, almost all shops and businesses are closed. This time is set aside for rest, a break from business for a few hours, time to see family or enjoy lunch with friends.

While I was rushing my way to class each day, I wasn’t experiencing Viterbo. I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to experience Italy. I never saw the friendly smiles on the streets. I never noticed the rows of optimistic flower pots placed along little shop walls. While I was only focused on the cold and rain in the morning, I wasn’t appreciating the beautiful view I had of the Viterbo sunrise from my balcony, or even realizing how blessed I am to have the opportunity to be studying in Italy.

balcony

While Italians find it a pleasure to take time to send warm greetings to everyone upon arrival, I find that a simple greeting when entering a café is enough to turn someone’s entire day around, enough to remind them to slow down and take the time to appreciate life. Taking time to acknowledge someone sincerely, and sending them a smile, can change their entire perspective. Some view Italians’ slow pace and relaxed attitudes as laziness, but I argue that it’s not laziness at all, but appreciation and love of life. While I’ve been spending the last 20 years in a rush, always on the go, trying to make life happen, I think it’s now time to simply let life happen.

Reflection

It has now been one month since I have moved to Italy and I have already seen and learned so much about not only the world, but also about myself. I wanted to look back and reflect on this past month. Highlights: Tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain Watching the sun set over the … Read more

It has now been one month since I have moved to Italy and I have already seen and learned so much about not only the world, but also about myself. I wanted to look back and reflect on this past month.

Highlights:

  1. Tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain
  2. Watching the sun set over the beautiful city of Florence (while being serenaded)
  3. My discovery of European chocolate and tiramisu gelato

Hardest part:

  1. Missing my family and friends (this could actually take spots 2 and 3 as well)
  2. The brutal walks and classes outside in the cold
  3. Adjusting to Italian culture; accepting that it’s not “wrong,” it’s just different!

Biggest disappointments:

  1. The extremely thin, burnt Italian pizza
  2. American music playing everywhere in Viterbo
  3. Trying my hardest at speaking Italian in Rome and being replied to in English

What I’m most looking forward to now:

  1. Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night
  2. Girls’ trip to Sicily
  3. The upcoming winery field trip

After all that has happened in the first month alone, I can’t wait to see what February has in store!

Weekend fun in Viterbo

Weekend fun in Viterbo

The weather in Viterbo this weekend was beautiful and today did not disappoint either. The sun has been making many appearances lately and I am loving every second of it. They say that February is the worst month in terms of weather here, but I am hoping that we experienced the worst in January. This … Read more

The weather in Viterbo this weekend was beautiful and today did not disappoint either. The sun has been making many appearances lately and I am loving every second of it. They say that February is the worst month in terms of weather here, but I am hoping that we experienced the worst in January.

This past weekend was a lot of fun and I stayed right here in Viterbo. I thought I might get bored not traveling outside of the city, but it was relaxing, fun and proved just how much I have left to discover about this quaint, enchanting city.

Friday I went to the hot springs with a few friends. We missed the bus by about 20 minutes, so instead of waiting another hour we took a taxi ride there, which was only about seven euros for a 10 minute drive. The taxi driver dropped us off at the hot springs, which you have to pay for and we had no idea where the free ones were. Thankfully, we had Nerea with us, a fellow study abroad student from Spain, and she was able to communicate with a local and ask her where the free hot springs were. The lady was so nice and told us to jump in and she would take us! So, the six of us crowded into her little car and she drove us there. It was not at all what I expected. There was nowhere to change and it was literally a huge hole in the ground, in the middle of a field, with steaming water. It was extremely awkward stripping down to our bathing suits since the Italians stare. A lot. We were told when we arrived here not to take any offense to the staring, that Italians are just curious. However, dying my hair brown and getting dark colored contact lenses, in attempt to blend in a little more, is a tempting thought. After getting past the staring, the rotten smell and not questioning the extremely mushy substance at the bottom, the hot springs were so relaxing! We stayed for about two hours and then reluctantly jumped out and changed back into our clothes (imagine six girls holding up towels for eachother, hiding behind small plants, trying to change in front of 20 staring Italians). We were not sure where the bus would pick us up and long story short… I have no doubt that the bus driver was doubled over laughing as he saw us in his rear-view mirror running down the road after the bus, waving as frantically as we could, to get his attention to let us hop on.

Friday and Saturday night my roommates and I went out at night for the first time in Viterbo. Heading out around midnight was a bit difficult for me, since I usually go to bed around 11 p.m., but hey, do as the Italians do, right? While I am not a big party girl, I had so much fun! All of us girls got fruity drinks and danced at the “Book Bar.” A lot of students from our program were there, but we also got to meet many local Italians! I only understood about two sentences that the Italians were saying, but they weren’t at all upset that I couldn’t communicate that easily. They actually taught me some phrases and words that they use.

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Sarah and I walked up to the bar and asked for “a Blossom con no alcoholico” and the bar tender replied, “Oh my heart breaks! Per que no alcoholico?!” When we just laughed, he said “OK, but next time… ALCOHOLICO!” He put bananas and strawberries in the frozen drink and it will most likely be my “go to” drink this semester.

I am so excited for this week because my dad surprised me and told me that he is coming to visit! He was asked to go to Germany for work, so he is going to stop in Italy before heading there. I can’t wait to show him around Viterbo and take him to a few of my favorite places!

Ciao for now!

Firenze Forever

Firenze Forever

This weekend I discovered Italian chocolate. If you love American chocolate, boy are you in for a treat if you get the chance to taste chocolate in Europe. My entire weekend involved chocolate, and I loved every bit of it. This past Saturday morning my roommates and I decided to take a trip to Florence. … Read more


This weekend I discovered Italian chocolate. If you love American chocolate, boy are you in for a treat if you get the chance to taste chocolate in Europe. My entire weekend involved chocolate, and I loved every bit of it.

This past Saturday morning my roommates and I decided to take a trip to Florence. We woke up at 6 a.m. to catch the first train out of Viterbo. After the first train, we had a half hour layover until the next one, so we stopped in the train station’s café and ordered pastries for breakfast. Since my arrival in Italy, I’ve always chosen the fruit pastries, but I decided it was time to test out the chocolate. I picked out a croissant filled with half cream and half chocolate. It was so good! The chocolate just melts in your mouth. It is nothing like American chocolate.

After four hours of traveling, we finally reached Florence. Although I always heard good things about Florence, it was not at the top of my “must see” list. I did not have very high expectations for the city, since I heard it was mostly known for museums. Wow, was I wrong. Florence is absolutely beautiful. The pictures I took do not do it justice whatsoever. Unlike any other buildings I have seen in Italy, these buildings were not only decorated incredibly, but were also colored with light greens and pinks. I loved the colored details.

duomo

First we saw the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church in Florence (also known at the Duomo) and decided to climb to the top! We got the work out of a lifetime while climbing all 463 stairs to the top and it was so worth it. The view of the city from the top was amazing. After the Duomo we went to a museum that held marble, gems and collections from the Medici family (the family who ruled Florence back in the day)! We grabbed sandwiches for lunch and then walked on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The bridge was lined with jewelry shops galore. Supposedly the Medici family owned it in the past and sold jewelry there. We then went to the Pitti Palace to see the Boboli Gardens! Unfortunately, we missed the last tour of the gardens by two minutes.

ponte vecchio

Since the sun was setting soon, my roommate Min (who has been to Florence previously) wanted to take us to Michelangelo Square, which is a very high hill top, in order to see the entire city of Florence. The hike there took a while. However, what was waiting for us was beyond worth it. The sun setting over Florence was literally breathtaking. At the top, there was a set of stairs and an Italian musician playing the guitar and singing. Being the sensitive girls that we are, my roommates and I all started crying while listening to Fabio (made up name) serenade us and watching the sun set over Florence. The tears were then followed by tons of laughter though, as we realized how emotional we were.

michealangelo hill

We then did a little window shopping and grabbed gelato at the cutest gelateria (I chose tiramisu and chocolate chip this time, on a chocolate waffle cone – my second taste of Italian chocolate).

The next morning we went back to the gelateria and ordered chocolate waffles for breakfast! So nutritional, I know. I also asked for a latte, expecting a glass of cold milk. However, I was brought a steaming glass of milk. Whoops. I will have to ask for “un latte freddo” next time. The waffle was delicious, but also made me miss mom and the strawberry waffles that she makes.

waffles

We did some more shopping since we saw so many sites the day before and then got gelato again, right before hopping on the train for home (attempting to try something new each time, I got mint gelato). On the train ride home, we taught Min some American slang words and phrases and in return she taught us a few Korean words. I think I am learning just as much about Korean culture as I am learning about Italian culture while living here.

We got home late Sunday night and, once again, we were all exhausted. However, it was nice to be “home.” Our program advisor told us upon our arrival that we would soon consider Viterbo “home,” but I didn’t really believe him. It’s funny how soon you can adapt and view someplace new as your home. While I thought there would never be any competition for my favorite city, I am now torn between the huge, magical city of Rome and the quaint, beautiful city of Florence. Firenze forever!

When in Rome

When in Rome

There are almost no words to describe Rome. This weekend I got to travel to the city and it surpassed all of my expectations. From eating my first gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain to standing with my polka dot umbrella in front of the Colosseum, I felt as though I was living out … Read more

There are almost no words to describe Rome. This weekend I got to travel to the city and it surpassed all of my expectations. From eating my first gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain to standing with my polka dot umbrella in front of the Colosseum, I felt as though I was living out a scene in a movie. This is the stuff you see on the big screen, with a bag of popcorn on your lap, yet I was seeing it with my own eyes. I still can’t believe I was just a few feet away from the Colosseum. I am so blessed.

The day began with a 7:30 a.m. meeting time to catch the 8 a.m. train. However, since there was about an inch of snow, the train was delayed. We were told that Italy never gets snow, so when it does snow, no one knows what to do. Trains are delayed, people go into major panic and the streets are filled with crazy drivers (and this is different from any other time?). I wasn’t too upset about the delay though, since that meant I had an extra hour to slip into a cozy café and order a breakfast pastry. Although one that I had tried before looked tempting, I promised myself to try new things so I picked out a croissant with wild berry fruit inside. Delicious!

The first thing we saw in Rome was the Vatican. I had no interest in seeing the Vatican, mostly because I had no idea about its significance or history before we went. However, the second I walked inside I was speechless. Every single inch of the walls, ceilings and floors has so much detail. It is absolutely amazing. I could have stayed in the Vatican for hours just staring at the ceiling itself.

vatican

Next we visited the Pantheon. I was surprised to learn that the ceiling of the Pantheon is open and there are slits in the floor to allow for water to drain into when it rains. Mass is still held there even when it rains. We came across the cutest gelato and crepe store right next to the Pantheon that I can’t wait to take my sisters to when they visit!

pantheon

We then visited Piazza Novana, which was a big open piazza with two fountains. Although it was pretty, I was hardly paying attention since our tour guide announced that the Trevi Fountain would be next. I was literally giddy with excitement. I was a bit embarrassed as I could not fight back the biggest smile ever from sliding across my face. Before you see the fountain, you hear the water flowing, which builds even more anticipation. Closing my eyes to make a wish and toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

After the Trevi Fountain, we visited the Spanish Steps and then we were free for lunch. While the rest of the kids in the program then went back to Viterbo, a group of us decided to stay at a hostel for the night so that we could see more of Rome! Before finding the hostel, we grabbed some gelato and saw the Trevi Fountain lit up. I was so excited for my first gelato. I got melon flavored!

trevi fountain

The next morning we visited the Colosseum! It was so incredible to be standing right there, in front of it. I decided to wait to tour the inside until my sisters visit, so we could do it together.

colosseum

After the Colosseum, we did some souvenir shopping, revisited the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon and grabbed lunch. We then made our way back to the train station so that we could catch the next train back to Viterbo. However, pleased that we got to the station literally three minutes before the train was to arrive, we then noticed we forgot to purchase tickets. Panic mode set in. Our group sent me and two of my roommates to run as fast as we could through the station to buy tickets and return within the next three minutes… even though we just traveled up four flights of stairs, a broken escalator and around the corner from the ticket counter to get to the train platform. I have never ran so fast in my entire life. The fact that I just had a slice of pizza and potato wedges for lunch was not helping whatsoever. There were two people in front of us as we stood at the counter, gasping for air, praying for them to hurry. Of course, the man at the ticket counter decided to take his sweet time. The second he handed us our tickets, I heard the train arrive above. My roommates and I looked at each other and yelled “run!” Back around the corner we went, up four flights of stairs, the broken escalator, and finally to the train platform, all the while wishing that I had skipped the potato wedges and would have been previously trained for a 5k so that I was ready for this moment. We finally reached the top of the train platform, only to see the end of the train pulling away. So, we collapsed onto a bench and had an hour to catch our breath until the next train.

This weekend was absolutely exhausting, but amazing. I am hoping that tossing my coin into the Trevi Fountain does in fact ensure me a return trip to Rome one day.

The Dying Village

The Dying Village

Today was exhausting, yet amazing! This morning I woke up early to go to the open air markets. My roommates and I met with a few other students and our program advisors and walked through a hundred or so little stands of jewelry, shoes, clothing, fabric and little odds and ends. Everything is very cheap … Read more

Today was exhausting, yet amazing! This morning I woke up early to go to the open air markets. My roommates and I met with a few other students and our program advisors and walked through a hundred or so little stands of jewelry, shoes, clothing, fabric and little odds and ends. Everything is very cheap at the market. The highlight of the market for me was the yellow lab puppy that was there. When I ran to pet the puppy, my first instinct was to yell “Hi, puppy!” but instead I said, “Ciao, cucciolo!” I am learning bit by bit.

After the open air market, we went to the fresh fruit market. I bought two fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, with the help of one of our “Italian buddies” from the program. I plan on buying basil and fresh bread tomorrow morning and making some sort of bruschetta for dinner tomorrow night. Afterwards, we walked to the art store and I bought a sketch pad and pencils for my art class! On the way back to the apartment, one of the year-long study abroad students showed us a little park, just outside the city walls. Although it is small, it is very pretty. I already know I will be spending many afternoons with my running shoes or my sketch pad there.

dying village

This afternoon we went on field trip to Civita di Bagnoregio, also known as “The Dying Village.” This village was built by the Etruscans hundreds of years ago. Due to an earthquake, the village is eroding and it is no longer safe to live there. All of the residents had to vacate to a different town. However, we were told that around eight or so people still live there! There are also a few little cafes and shops for tourists. I am not sure if I have ever seen a more beautiful place. It was so peaceful there. While it was absolutely freezing, I found that I often forgot about how cold I was walking around because I was so captivated by the village. However, while I would love to live in such a beautiful place, I believe I would get very lonely since it feels very deserted.

dying village 2

After we got back, my roommates Sarah and Kyung Min, and I went to “The Spaghetteria” for dinner. The Spaghetteria offers 300 different types of spaghetti! Anyone who knows me, knows how ridiculously indecisive I am and can only imagine how long it took me to decide on which dish to order. While my instinct was to order the traditional dish with tomato sauce and fresh herbs, I decided to order the dish called “saruzzo.” The description read: herb field and black olives. While it was not at all what I was expecting, I am proud that I tried something different! It was really good. I am sure that we will go back again to try out another spaghetti dish soon!

Ciao from Viterbo!

Ciao from Viterbo!

Ciao from Viterbo (pronounced “vee-tear-bo” I learned)! The first few days have been a whirlwind. I’m pretty sure I have experienced every possible emotion since Monday. Anxious (on the way to the airport), sad (saying goodbye), the “what in the world have I done?” emotion (walking by myself to the terminal), happy and loved (reading … Read more

Ciao from Viterbo (pronounced “vee-tear-bo” I learned)! The first few days have been a whirlwind. I’m pretty sure I have experienced every possible emotion since Monday. Anxious (on the way to the airport), sad (saying goodbye), the “what in the world have I done?” emotion (walking by myself to the terminal), happy and loved (reading notes from friends and family on the plane), proud (for locating the correct gate in the Chicago airport… a big accomplishment for me), eager (15 hours travel time = lots of time to think about what is to come), hopeful (meeting friendly study abroad students on the group flight), exhausted (sleeping for a total of 15 minutes on all three flights combined = not the most cheerful Hannah), excited… yet overwhelmed (first Italian meal served: three different types of bruschetta, three different types of pizza [each piece bigger than my head] and some sort of yummy chocolate dessert), lonely (not proud to say I was the biggest baby on the first night), ecstatic (when a cute Italian offered to show us a café with wi-fi, and I got a hold of mom through Skype!), satisfaction and contentment (after finally moving into the apartment, taking a much needed hot shower, and climbing into bed).

flower shop

Today I had my first Italian breakfast: a croissant with jelly and pineapple juice. We then had orientation and were taken to our apartments. Everyone lives in different apartments, all over the city. We have a three bedroom apartment and I was assigned my own room (so lucky!). You can walk out onto a balcony from my room and it overlooks a cute little flower shop below! I can also see the city and older, medieval buildings with my view. It is freezing and so dark in the apartments since electricity costs so much money here. Italians only leave the heat on for a few hours a day we were told and never at night. Walking up the stairs to our apartment building is also a bit scary since all lights are to be turned off, unless extremely necessary, to save money.

We were taken on a tour of the city today and I wanted to stop every 30 seconds to take pictures, but I figured I have the next four months to explore and take pictures, so I kept my camera in my bag and just took the city in. Every corner you turn looks like a set from a movie. Cobblestone streets, colorful orange, pink and yellow buildings with clothes hanging out to dry, rows and rows of vespas and beautiful, old, medieval buildings and houses with numerous pots of beautiful flowers leading down their staircases. viterbo

For dinner we went to a pizzeria (there is one about every 30 steps you take here). It was my first time looking at an Italian menu. When we sat down, we were each brought a glass of white wine. It was so funny to be served wine, since I am only 20 years old. I ordered penne pasta. The waitress spoke Italian only, so it was a bit hard to communicate. When I didn’t finish all of my meal, she looked very confused and asked me if it was good. I said yes, good! She then asked, in Italian, if it was good, why didn’t you finish it? I rubbed my stomach and said “very full” (I REALLY need to learn some more Italian) and she said “Ahhh, si!” She then rubbed her stomach, and laughed, saying “peliculo!” meaning tiny, followed by an “expanding” hand gesture… which I think meant I need to expand my stomach for all of the Italian food.

P.S. One of the most important things I learned today: Italian cars DO NOT stop. They will hit you, so watch out!