Please check back soon to read the blogs of our Fall 2013 Italy Study Abroad student, Karli!
Please check back soon to read the blogs of our Fall 2013 Italy Study Abroad student, Karli!
Well I'm finally home from studying abroad and I have to say I already want to go back. This experience has been life changing and I strongly encourage everyone to take a semester and go abroad. Being abroad has changed my worldview and taught me so much, it was an experience of a lifetime.
To be honest, after traveling so much every weekend, I wasn’t too eager to go on this trip, but it actually ended up being my favorite trip of all of them. The Amalfi coast had the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my life. It was a perfect combination of everything I love about nature- where mountains and trails meet wavy beaches and coves. It was absolutely perfect. We went on this trip with the tour group Euro Adventures. We took a bus down from Rome to the southern tip of Italy to find Europe’s most famous and beautiful beaches. We really lucked out on the weather; it was gorgeous out. I highly recommend this trip to anyone coming to Italy or even Europe in general, but to get the most out of the experience you should go when the weather is nice.
We stayed in Sorento in little cabins called bungalows that had hammocks in the yard and porches to sit on outside. It felt like summer camp all over again! The first day we went to Positano, which is the honeymoon capital of the world. The beaches and cliffs are an amazing view and the water is teal and see-through. I went swimming for a little, but since it was only April the water was freezing. It was still well worth it. The bus ride up to positano alone was amazing for site-seeing because to get there, you have to take the bus up the winding roads on the cliffs overlooking the beaches. After a day at the beach, we grabbed a train to Naples (where pizza was born). We ate at the same restaurant that Julia Roberts went to in the movie Eat, Pray, Love. The margherita pizza was the best pizza I have ever tasted in my life, so Naples did not disappoint.
The next day was one of the best days of my life. We went to the island of Capri and hiked up a 3,000ft mountain. The leader of the trip that took us on the hike was a 70 year old priest named Bruno who was one of the coolest people I have ever met. He took us up the mountain to see the greatest views I have ever seen. After having lunch and hanging out on the top of the mountain, we walked down to the Blue Grotto and go to go inside the cave. The Blue Grotto is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and has a natural teal florescent colored water. It was the private bath house of Cesar Augustus and it’s an amazing site to see. Later that night, we went with Bruno to one of his favorite Italian seafood restaurants right on the water.
The next day, we explored Sorento’s town and bought some souvenirs to bring hoe. I found an original painting of the island of capri that I bought for my mom, while everyone else stocked up on lemon cello, which is made from the famous sorento lemon’s.
Although it’s really hard to compare the places I’ve been to choose which ones were better because everywhere is so different, the Amalfi coast was definitely one of, if not my favorite trip. I highly recommend it to anyone and the hike in Capri is a must.
I went with the tour group Bus2Alps for an 8-day spring break trip to Greece, which I highly recommend to anyone planning on studying abroad in the future. The trips are fairly cheap, include some meals, transportation and hostels. It’s always fun to travel but sometimes planning everything out and constantly checking schedules gets tiring and aggravating so it’s nice to go on trips that are planned out by a leader so you have time to sit back and relax.
We began the trip with an overnight ride on a cruise ship from Italy and eventually landed on the Greek island of Corfu. It was such beautiful scenery with mountains and tropics all in one place. The Islands surrounded it looked like a scene out of Jurassic park or Lost because of the green mountains on the shores peaking through fog clouds. The place we stayed at for the first few nights was called the Pink Palace, which is a famous resort known for it’s wild pink toga parties and boat cruises. Including a boat cruise around some of the smaller islands and a day at a private beach, we were able to enjoy a few days laying out in the sun relaxing which was a great break from the city life in Rome and the constant movement of traveling.
At the end of our stay here we attended a party hosted by the resort, where everyone is required to wear a bright pink toga. There is traditional plate smashing ceremony with Greek music and dancing at the end of the night. It was an absolutely amazing time.
After a few days in Corfu, we made our way to historical Athens. We went on a walking tour of the city and got to see famous sites such as the Temple of Zeus, The Acropolis and the Parthenon. In Athens, we tried out a new sensation that has just come over to Europe called fish baths, where you soak your feet and legs in a tank of little fish from Thailand and they suck off the dead skin. If you are ticklish, I would not recommend doing it for more than 10 minutes, but it leaves your feet feeling amazing! After the fish pedicures, we explored the famous flea markets in Athens (where everything is extremely cheap!). I got a pair of traditional leather greek sandals for a great price and we tried a lot of the local food from street vendors. Aside from being one of the most beautiful places I’ve been so far, Greece also had some of the best and cheapest food.
The smoke was white! I was there in Saint Peter's Square, in the middle of 250,000 other people for the election of the most recent pope; Pope Francesco. We just went on a whim to go see the smoke before leaving for the weekend and that happened to be the night the smoke turned white. As soon as the smoke came out, people in the crowd became hysteric. A woman behind us started screaming Bianca! Bianca!. All of the church bells in Rome began to ring simutaneously, and from everywhere in the city people flocked to the Vatican. It was crazy to be a part of. I've never been in a group of such a huge amount of people, and the most moving part about the whole thing was the utter silence that the crowd stood in when the pope finally came out to address the crowd. In the midst of hundreds of thousands of people, you could hear a pin drop in the silence that ensued just to hear one man come out and speak. I'm not a very religious person, but it was an amazing experience and I got to be in the middle of history in the making.
I saw the new Pope once more, in the same square with even more hundreds of thousands of people for his Easter Mass.
Prague is literally a fairy tale. The buildings and the entire city looks like something out of a storybook, or part of a medieval theme park from Disney. I could have walked around just looking at the buildings for days (if it weren’t so cold of course). We got there and found the St. Charles Bridge right away and immediately got off the tram to explore it. The bridge was full of tourists, jewelry vendors, artists, and musicians. The first day we got there we tried the traditional goulash in a bread bowl, which was so good. It turns out this was by far the most challenging place when I’ve visited when it comes to a language barrier. Like in Austria, we couldn’t begin to pronounce the street names to ask for directions to get around, but if I thought I was unfamiliar with the German language- Czech was ten times more alien. While people in the hostel spoke some English, a lot of other people didn’t so it was kind of challenging to get around and figure everything out on our own. The language barrier didn’t matter that much though once we had a map and were out walking around, everyone was really friendly for the most part. We visited the Prague Castle, which is the biggest in Europe. It was huge and the gothic architecture of the cathedral was breathtaking. Along with the castle, we visited the old town and the new town. The old town is home to the oldest astrological clock in the world. The new town square is the site of the famous protests where two college students set themselves on fire in desperation to end communism in the Czech Republic. The free walking tour we went on taught me a lot about the history- specifically the political history of the country, that I didn’t know before and it was really interesting to learn. The weekend I went was the first weekend of the opening of Easter Festival, which meant the old town square was full of stands selling traditional food and trinkets. Another famous landmark we visited was the John Lennon Graffiti wall. I’ve always been a big Beatles fan, but John Lennon has been a personal hero of mine for as long as I can remember so I was really excited to see the wall that was originally made by his fans in the Czech Republic on the day he was shot in the 1980’s. The wall started as an ode to John Lennon and also a cry out against the communists in the country that the meaning of communism had been lost and wasn’t working or serving the people. Since then, the wall has been spray painted over and over and is mostly covered in Beatles quotes or peaceful lyrics rather than political opinions.
After a couple days of sightseeing, we went to a place called The Pub where there is a tap at each table and a scoreboard to see which table is ahead, a favorite to a lot of the locals. We also went to the biggest nightclub in central Europe which has 5 floors, each having a different musical theme ranging from oldies to hip hop to electronic. In the morning we found a bagel place, and had the first bagel since I left America. When we asked for directions to the bagel shop, the hostel guy asked us why bagels were so popular to Americans because no locals would ever eat there. Overall, Prague exceeded my expectations completely. It was romantic and beautiful and I could have spent much more time there than 4 days. I definitely would like to go back someday.
The weekend in Madrid was one of my favorites so far. I figured that since I’ve taken 6 years of honors level Spanish, I would be able to at least get around in Spain, but I was very wrong. Speaking the language surrounded by natives and not in a classroom is so much harder! Luckily one of my friends here had a friend who lives in Madrid and speaks fluently so he was able to take us around. Our tour guide was a student who decided to spend a semester abroad in Spain and loved it so much that he transferred schools and is getting his degree as a full time student in Madrid, which I thought was really awesome. Another misconception about Spain that I had along with being able to speak Spanish, was the food. In my mind Spanish food includes tacos and spices, but the traditional food in Spain is actually very bland. Four of us stayed in a shared hostel, which was my first time rooming with strangers. I was a little skeptical of how that would be, but it ended up being absolutely fine. Most of the people that stay in hostels are traveling kids or students as well and it’s a good way to meet new people and make friends from all over the world. The hostel offered us a free walking tour, which we went on and got to see everything and hear all the history of Spain. Madrid was one of the only cities in Europe to still have buildings designed in a Moorish Arabic style, so a lot of the buildings were really different from anything in Italy or other parts of Western Europe. The next day, we went to modern art museum, which was so different than anything I had ever seen. There was a huge range of art from Picasso to demonstrations of the Spanish revolution. It was a nice break from all the ancient roman and Christian art that can be found in most Italian museums.
Later that night, we went to a famous discoteca called Zoologico where everyone paints their faces or wears animal masks. It was a great time. The next day we went to a flea market which Madrid is famous for and bought some cheap souvenirs. I had a blast the whole time there and definitely would like to go back someday.
My dad and my little sister came to visit me in Roma, and so did two of my best friends and sorority sisters from SHU for spring break! I felt almost like a native while I was showing them around to all my favorite places and to the tourist sites. My dad was impressed by the little Italian that I've learned while I've been here. He took me out to Alfredo’s, which is the home of the original Fettuccini Alfredo. My parents both went to Alfredo’s 25 years ago when they came to Italy together, so it was nice to be able to experience that too.
When everyone left, I was a little homesick for my friends and family, but I had to leave for a flight to Madrid hours after saying goodbye, so I didn’t have much time to be sad about missing home. It was amazing to be able to share part of Rome and my trip with them too!
Traveling to Austria was definitely a unique experience. It’s hard enough to get by in Italy, barely speaking conversational Italian but to be in Austria and not only not speak any German, but not even be able to pronounce any street signs was a huge challenge. We took a walking tour in the freezing cold and although I was cold, the snow on the buildings and in the mountains made it ten times more beautiful there. We saw the hotel that Michael Jackson dangled his baby out of, the Opera house that is supposedly the most beautiful in the world, and the sites where Mozart was both born and performed.
Salzburg was my personal favorite of the two cities. It was such a small pretty town in the Austrian Alps. We went to a beer hall, which was oddly located at the basement of a church, where we got to sit at long tables with Austrian townspeople and try their world famous beer, sausage, and wiener schnitzel. The people were so inviting and friendly (even those who didn’t speak English at all) and the food was amazing. At the end of the trip, we took a sound of music tour and saw all the sites where the musical was filmed and learned the history of Salzburg along the ride.
This past weekend was Valentine’s day weekend and we had a family dinner with heart shaped pizzas and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert! Now that everyone is traveling most weekends, it’s hard to get together as a group all the time so these weekly dinners are a great way for everyone to catch up and hear stories of traveling and adventures from the previous week. The boys even bought each of the girls a potted flower for Valentine’s! There were street vendors with Happy Valentine’s day balloons, but the words were written in English and I think that it’s a predominately American holiday. Even from thousands of miles away in Connecticut, my boyfriend still at sacred heart managed to get some flowers and chocolate to me too!
My roommate’s best friend from home, who is studying abroad in Florence this semester, came to visit us for Thursday and Friday to tour Rome. Then on Saturday, they went back to Florence together and at the last minute I decided to join them. I was hesitant to go and spend money on another trip at first but I am so glad that I did. Florence is by far my favorite city that I have been to so far. It’s only an hour and a half north of Rome by train, but the two cities are so different! Florence is an artistic town with street artists and bohemian flea markets and people walking around in loose clothing with dreadlocks and tattoos. It has a very calm relaxed feel, much different than the rush of Rome. We went to the world famous leather market and I bought myself my first real leather backpack and a belt. We bartered with the salesmen to bring down the price from 80 Euro to 55. I recommend the leather market to everyone who comes to Italy! While we were in Florence, the chocolate festival was going on at the same time with free samples of all different types of chocolate everywhere. We walked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, and the hike was by far worth the amazing view. Kim, my roommate’s friend from florence bought us a bottle of red wine and we each had a glass on the steps, watching the sunset down over the entire city view of Florence. It was beautiful. I bought a painting of landscape on the top of the piazza and then we headed back down the hill for dinner. During dinner we met some other students studying abroad in London who were actually all from UCONN. It was ironic to talk to these strangers living in London, visiting Florence but who were from Fairfield. Even in Europe, it still really is a small world. I’m amazed at how many ways people here are connected. After going out, we went to one of the notorious “secret bakeries” where you have to be quiet outside and knock on a secret door to illegally buy baked goods after hours from the bakeries!
My last day in Florence, we climbed the tower next to the Duomo, and (after 414 steps) saw the highest point of Florence. It was another amazing sight to see. We also were able to explore the Boboli Gardens and sit in the sun looking at the amazing landscapes. I’m so glad I was able to take that trip, it is definitely one of my favorite places.