Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tempo di dire addio...

...alla mia bella casa a Roma!

What a ride it has been! From the excitement of the first few days, to the moments of fear and shock in the following weeks, my journey in Rome has been an emotional ride from start to finish. I took a leap of faith when I decided to leave behind my home, my family, my friends, my school and everything that is comfortable, and move to a different country where the closest thing to home is my tiny dorm bed. In the weeks leading up to my departure, so many thoughts rushed through my head second guessing my decision, but the thoughts of excitement and good vibes definitely outweighed the bad. Saying goodbye to my parents at the airport and embarking on my LONG flight to Italy seems like only yesterday, and now I must say goodbye to the friends I have made along the way and return home.

There were many challenges and bumps along the way, sleepless nights along with lazy afternoons but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. Despite the many tear-filled Skype dates with my mom in the beginning of the semester (every day), I was able to find a place in the culture and embrace it fully. I have traveled to places in Italy and throughout Europe that have changed my perspective on the world completely. I have seen amazing sights, and met amazing people in every city that I had the privilege of visiting. I still cannot believe that I have been to places that I never thought I would see in my lifetime, like Prague, Paris, Florence, and the island of Capri.

Aside from the people and architecture that I experienced along the way, I also had the opportunity to embrace the natural coastlines and mountains of Italy, as well as amazing cuisines along the way. While I thoroughly enjoyed my share of pastas like carbonara and penne alla vodka, I have also broadened my palate by trying food I would have never eaten in America. These new foods include wild boar's head in Florence, Ox tail, artichokes alla romana, lamb, duck and mussels. From the amazing chocolate and nutella filled pastries and crepes, to the brilliant gelato, to the flavorful pasta and pizza dishes, I have to say I will miss the fresh foods I have eaten while abroad.

I was also blessed with seeing history unfold before my own eyes. I spent a great deal of my semester at St. Peter's Square, saying farewell to Pope Benedict, and then a few weeks later, welcoming Pope Francis! I watched as Pope Benedict was taken away in the Papal helicopter after his retirement ceremony as he waved a hearty goodbye to the people who flocked to Rome from all around the world. I was there, again, during the papal conclave, when thousands of people stood in the freezing rain for hours, and were ecstatic to see the white smoke billowing out of the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. I shared in the delight of the millions who then swarmed the square to hear the famous words, "Habemus Papam" "We have a Pope!" followed by Pope Francis's first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. What a whirlwind adventure it has been to have been in Rome for such an important time in the Catholic church.

Grazie mille, to my wonderful family and friends who encouraged me to take this leap of faith and experience the most amazing four months of my life. Thanks to you, I have been able to cross so many wonderful experiences off of my bucket list! I could not have done it without you! I will be seeing you all very soon, and I can't wait to hear about everything I have missed at home!

Ciao, Rome!
A presto, Pennsylvania!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Things I'm Excited For in America

1. Being able to communicate with strangers without looking like a complete idiot. Granted, I have been able to learn enough Italian to understand the basics of what people are saying to me, however, when it is my turn to reply, I almost always freeze up and utter a quiet, "Non lo so." or simply rattle off my answer in English and hope that they don't think I've gone mad...

2. Real breakfast foods. Don't get me wrong, I love a good pastry like the rest of Italy, but I also really love a good breakfast plate from a local diner every once in a while.

3. Driving a car. I have definitely become accustomed to the lifestyle in Rome, and being able to walk everywhere. It is relaxing and a great way to add some extra fitness into your day. It is also really nice to be able to simply walk around in the evenings when we don't feel like just sitting at home. I am still very excited, however, to be able to hop in my car and run to the store if I need to, and also to not need to take public transportation... EVER.

4. Screens in windows. This may seem like such a silly thing to miss, and I have to say, I never thought something like this would make the list, but recently as the weather has been much warmer and our apartment windows have been open, we have accumulated a lot of bugs... Gross.

5. Hot showers.

6. My mom's cooking! Whether it be just a summer night after work, or a trip home from school for winter break, there is nothing that makes me feel at home more than my mom's cooking! After being away for four whole months, I am sure it will be even better than I remembered.

7. My family. No matter how many miles separate us, or how long we go without seeing each other, every time we have a chance to all get together we have such an amazing time. I am so excited to be spending another summer at home with them!

8. Free water at restaurants. Such a small detail, but it makes all the difference. Plus, you're much more likely to be dehydrated when you have to pay for your water at dinner.

9. My friends. Although we don't see each other as often as we would like, it's always nice visiting when I am home from school on breaks. This semester has been the longest I've ever gone without seeing them, and I know we will have amazing adventures this summer!

10. Clothes dryers. So many of my clothes have been ruined in our washing machine throughout the semester, and some are also suffering because we do not have a dryer. I am tired of crunchy socks and sheets.

11. Having a data plan. I've had more connection to the world than I thought I would while being here, but I am very excited to be able to have access to internet at any time, rather than just when connected to Wifi. It has been nice taking a step out of the world of Iphones at times, but I am ready to be back.

12. Shopping malls. I love wandering the streets of Italy and stopping in all of the privately owned shops, but I also miss being able to go to the mall and finding everything that you need in one building, without worrying what the weather will be like.. Shopping in the rain is not fun.

13. Coffee to go. Places like Starbucks and other coffee shops in America are my favorite because I can go and get a coffee at the drive through that lasts me quite some time. I love the cappuccinos and coffee in Italy, but places rarely serve it to go, and they are always tiny.

14. Seeing my cats. While they're not always the happiest felines on Earth, they are still two of my favorites!

15. Dollars. Even though euros are much prettier, and people of Europe take much better care of their money (never written on, and rarely accepted if torn or damaged), I am so excited to take 20 dollars out of my bank account and not lose money in the process.

16. Sheetz! The best food and a place to fill your gas tank all in one!

17.  Sweatpants in public making you look like you tried in the morning.

18. Stainless steel pots and pans. Unfortunately the dangers of teflon have not yet made it to Italy, and our IKEA pans often leave questionable substances in our pasta water... gross.

19. Sidewalks. There are some sidewalks in Rome, but for the most part, pedestrians take to the streets and are in constant battles with cars over who has the right of way... I've gotten used to ignoring the cars and letting them go around me, but sometimes the situation gets a bit tricky. Plus, the new hybrid cars are typically silent, causing a few surprise attacks. Yikes..

20. Not worrying about the time difference. I've done okay with the six hour time difference for the most part, but I will be glad to be back in America and not have to worry about what time it is and calculating the difference before calling someone. 

I have loved being in Italy, so please do not take this list to mean that I had a bad experience. This time abroad has been amazing, and I have learned so much about the culture in Italy, and throughout Europe in general. I know that these experiences will continue to bless me with a new perspective on the American culture once I return home. I wouldn't have traded this opportunity for anything, but I am also very comforted by the thought of being home in about a week. What a bittersweet feeling it is to be leaving the place that I have called home for the past four months and made friends who quickly turned into family and return to the place I have called home for 20 (almost 21) years and be reunited with my family and friends who I left behind for this journey abroad. Just as everyone warned me of the culture shock I would experience when I left for Italy, people are now telling me how hard it will be to return to America after becoming a part of the culture in Italy. I do not yet know exactly what my journey home has in store for me, but  know that the challenges it will present will help me grow even more; just as they did when I slowly (but surely) found my place in Rome.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Last Blast: Tuscany Edition

Hello again, dear friends and family!

This past weekend, Katie, Jacqueline and I went on our final trip to Tuscany with our school. We had an amazing time, and just like on our Campania weekend trip, we stayed in a beautiful hotel. This trip, we stayed in Siena, and also visited Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano and Florence. We did walking tours of each city, and had a winery and vineyard tour, followed by an amazing wine tasting. It was great to have one last relaxing weekend with Katie and Jacqueline before the busy days of finals week began.Along our Tuscan journey, we took a tour of Montepulciano where the scenes of New Moon were filmed!

The square where Edward exposes himself to the Volturi!
The scene filmed in the square!

 The landscapes were beyond beautiful, and the little towns were filled with locals and not many tourists! (except for us...)

 The winery tour! My favorite part of the trip!

 Jacqueline's photo shoot!

We had a wonderful weekend, leading up to our final week of classes. It is a surreal feeling to be finished with our classes now, and have only a few finals left in the coming days. What a bittersweet feeling it is to be going home in nine short days! I have enjoyed every second of my Italian adventure, and I cannot believe how quickly the time flew! As sad as I am to have to say goodbye to my life in Italy, I am so excited to return to America and see my friends and family. My brother Mike will be running in the Pittsburgh marathon the day after I get home, and I am excited to cheer him on! Then soon afterwards, we will be in a wedding frenzy trying to finish the last minute details before Jordan and Mike's big day.

I'll be sure to post pictures of my awful attempts at packing over the next week... something I am really not looking forward to!