Monday, December 10, 2012

Life is for these moments...

Impromptu finals dance parties with your best friends.

And cake balls of course.

Photo credit: Hayley Johnson ---->

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advice & Lessons Learned

People often ask me what the best part of studying abroad has been, or my favorite memory so far. At the time I always draw a blank, but I have had plenty of time to reflect upon this question and have a few answers. Traveling the world opens your eyes to new places and experiences and people in a way I never fully understood until now. I have been so blessed and humbled by so many people along this journey and I am all the wiser for it.

To this day, one of my favorite memories comes from a little pub in Dublin, Ireland. I was with Hayley and Ashtyn enjoying the local scene and live Irish music when a kind older man came to talk to us. He wasn’t invasive and didn’t want anything but some conversation. He was a world traveler with a lifetime of wisdom and a soft heart. Our conversation lasted no more than 10 minutes, but he gave us some of the best advice about life, travelling and people that I have ever heard. Small encounters like these often mean the most when you travel. 

I have compiled a list of the best advice I received from a collection of random but unforgettable individuals.  
  1. Don't just take pictures of places. The people in the pictures matter more than the location.
  2. It's ok not to get along with the people you travel with all the time. You are constantly together and it happens. Get over it.
  3. When you go somewhere new, look AT things, not FOR things.
  4. Watch out for your friends, always.
  5. Go get lost, that’s when you really find something.
  6. You’ll never be done learning, so never stop exploring.
  7. 95% of people in this world are good.
I also figured some things out for myself. Here are a few of the personal insight I developed.
  1. Just go with it. YOLO and WTHN. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to go out on your own sometimes. You learn so much about yourself when you have no one to hide behind.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. (Not the first time anyone has heard this piece of advice, but I really grew to appreciate it this semester.) 
  4. The people you make your memories with are more important than the places you go or things you see. 
  5. The world really is small. 
  6. Things don’t always go as planned. That’s good, it makes it more fun! 
  7. Continue to expect and find the best in people.

Maybe my favorite part of this experience has been how travelling and living abroad changes you. It doesn’t make you into a new person but it helps you become the truest version of yourself. This semester has helped me to just be me, not the person anyone else wants me to be. I believe everyone should have an experience like this to discover him or herself.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Amalfi Coast

Our trip to Italy’s infamous Amalfi Coast was every bit as glamorous and stunning as I could have hoped. There is a good reason the stretch of beaches and islands are famous worldwide; Hannah, Ashtyn, Hayley and I got to experience this first hand! On Friday morning we took a train from Firenze to Napoli. As soon as we got to the Santa Maria Novella station, I realized I had forgotten my camera and didn’t have time to go back for it. I was pretty bummed out but my little iPhone camera did a great job for me that weekend! From Napoli we connected via regional train to Coast! We sat with a really sweet guy who was a local electrician. People were playing random instruments and walking through the cars trying to collect money. After about 5 minutes of accordian and tambourine music, a conductor would come kick the musicians off the train. A few stops down the track a new bunch would get on and the process repeats itself. We stayed in a little village called Piano di Sorrento that connects to Sorrento. It was a charming, small little area! We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast. Bunches of grapes grew on a terrace and fruit trees lined the entire perimeter of the property.  
After a lunch of traditional southern Italian pizza, the girls and I went into Sorrento and explored! We wound up and down the streets and took in the gorgeous views. We eventually found a staircase built  into the side of a hill that lead to the beach! We played in the waves a bit and napped in the sun. It was a lovely afternoon. En route to dinner, we stumbled upon a gorgeous canyon-type thing that seemed to pop up in the middle of the city. You look a few hundred feet down and there is a green wonderland. An ancient castle and its grounds backing up into a long crevice seemed to come from nowhere. Everything was so lush and green! It reminded me of the island in Jurrassic Park. The area is called the mills and cannot be accessed by the public anymore. We ate dinner in a caffe and headed back to the bed and breakfast.

The next morning we had an AMAZING breakfast at the B&B before heading back into Sorrento to catch the ferry to the island of Capri. Once in Capri we decided to grab a quick pizza lunch and then took a boat tour all the way around the island! We saw THREE grottos (blue, green and white) and the famous arch! The hues of the water were so spectacular. It was a range of the most vibrant blues and aquas I have ever seen. The entire island was incredible and glitzy.  After the boat tour we found a beach and climbed on the rocks by the water! The waves were splashing us as we laid in the sun. The other girls hopped in for a swim but I stayed up on the rocks and took pictures because I couldn’t get my fresh stitches wet. I bought a dolphin souvenir (duh ∆∆∆) on the way out. Waiting to board the ferry we rand into these two guys that we had seen at least five separate times in random places in Sorrento and Capri. We all laughed at the sight of them yet AGAIN and they finally came and said hi. Their names are Dan and Steve from Oregon. I bonded with guys over a love of cats and we shared all of our kitty pictures. We all ate dinner together and discussed travels, veganism, conspiracy theories and the Italian language. The six of us ate dinner at a little caffe and watched the sun set.

We had our delicious breakfast the next morning and departed for Pompeii, which is on the way back to Naploi! We walked around and just explored the old, abandoned city for hours. It was incredible! The textbooks I studied about Pompeii in never did justice to the incredible town. The preservation of the buildings is unbelievable. Frescos on walls, tile mosaics and staircases stand perfectly intact after the excavation of the city. We ate our picnic lunch in an old courtyard and enjoyed the summer breeze. After a bit of a detour (we got lost and walked all the way around the edge of the city) we caught our trains back to Napoli and finally Firenze. It was a wonderful summery trip to one of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Each year, Vogue hosts this fantastic, fashion-inspired night in cities across the world. VFNO epitomizes style and glamour as stars, designers, fashion insiders and us regular folk don our most elegant outfits and take to the streets to [window] shop and sip fancy cocktails. Vogue hosts this event to bring people into the stores and spark an interest in the fashion scene. The industry receives this boost of attention right as the Spring lines hit Fashion Week. This year, the privileged residents of cities from Firenze to Paris, Sydney to Milan, and New York to Hong Kong experienced this night in all its glamour. The doors to most exclusive and luxurious stores in Firenze were thrown open and all beautiful people wandering the streets were invited in with glasses of champagne and promises of goodies to come! I wore a black silk and jersey tie-waist dress with lace detailing at the top from Ann Taylor Loft, nude Corso Como pumps and jewelry from various stores and roommates. I spent the night flitting from store to store, soaking in the atmosphere and drinking bubbly with my wonderful rooms. We met up with other friends along the way and enjoyed ourselves so much! My favorite experience were
Meeting a man in Armani who almost didn’t believe we were American because we were too stylish (AKA best compliment ever) and talking about the fashion industry.
1. The special VFNO cocktails at Fendi. 
2. The editor of Vogue Italia visiting Luisa Via Roma.
3. The best people watching of my life.
4. We ended the night with a dolce at the Roberto Cavalli caffe.
We live on one of the premiere shopping streets of Firenze (Gucci is our neighbor!) so we heard the party going on late into the night! I had a bit of a Cinderella complex the next morning. My shining dress and enchanting carriage were gone as I looked at my window and saw every trace of the night before cleaned and put away already. I was left only with the memories of something magical. I was a night I will never forget. Until next time, VFNO!

Also, Hannah and I decided we missed our calling as models.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Ok, the time has finally come. I am doing an update on experiences and travels all the way up to Fall Break! Once a day through Thursday I will be posting a new blog about my Italian and international adventures.

This was the most charming little town filled with romance and history, but also lots of tourists! My roommate Hannah and I took the early train out of the Santa Maria Novella station at 7:20. We got there in the middle of the morning, took a picture (illegally) of a map at the station and started wandering! It took a while, but we finally found our way to the cutest little city center! There is a string of brightly colored buildings lining one side of the center, which is a large circle. A green park, complete with gurgling fountain, sits in the middle.

A historic arena and several other government and religious buildings enclose the other side of the circle. We bought the Verona card, which allows you to see a bunch of the most popular locations in the city at a huge discount! You can buy one at any tourist point! We started our day at a cute little café and had a midmorning snack of cappuccinos and cake. Hannah got lemon and I got chocolate so we could sample each other’s. 

Afterwards, Han and I visited the old arena, which has gorgeous views of the circle. The arena itself has been turned into a cool concert and event venue, but still retains all of the historical stones and architecture. We walked up and down the stairs about 5 times before we found someone to take our picture! Next we went to the Castle Vecchio, which means old castle. We spent a good amount of time exploring the castle and its grounds. 
The views were absolutely gorgeous! My favorite parts of the castle were the bridge and the cute well! The huge sword was pretty cool too. Seriously… who could carry that? 
We spent the next hour or so wandering the gorgeous streets and taking in the baskets of flowers spilling off of terraces and little winding streets. We made our way to Verona’s Duomo, which was absolutely lovely. We ate pasta for lunch at a little caffe and enjoyed the people watching. We found the Lamberti Tower after lunch. It’s something like 400 stairs to the top and Hannah and I figured why not? We got our Verona cards checked off and were about to head up the stairs when the worker winked at us and handed us lift coins! So we got to take the elevator up for free and enjoy some AMAZING views of the city. 

We went to Juliet’s balcony next. The courtyard was packed with people but it was a really cool place to see! I love the movie Letters to Juliet, and that was such an important place in the movie. Juliet’s tomb was next on list, but it turned out to be really far out of the way and rather underwhelming… nothing like the movies. We had a little time to kill and so we grabbed a quick granita (kind of like a mix between ice cream gelato and shaved ice) and sat in a sunny park for the rest of our time. We caught the train back home and talked about Taylor Swift, autumn traditions and how much we miss baking. It was the PERFECT day trip!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

YOTO- You Only Twenties Once.

I turned 20 just a few months before I began my European adventure. Obviously, this has been a great decade so far! I stumbled upon this article during my time in Dublin, and if you're in your 20s, I think it is worth a read!

21 Ways You Should Take Advantage of Your 20s

I don't love all of it, but most of it is pretty solid advice. My favorites are:
(Note, I didn't attach ALL 21 points from the article, just my favorites!)
1. Don’t feel the need to respond to every text message, phone call, and email the second it reaches you. Once upon a time, it took longer than a minute to reach someone. People used stamps and envelopes; they had answering machines they didn’t check for hours, sometimes days. No one will die if you don’t immediately respond to every message you receive.
2. Ask for what’s owed to you. Half the time, you’re not getting your needs met because you’re not making them known. Your employers, romantic interests, and friends are not going to read your mind and give you what you need unless you speak up.

4. If you’re unhappy and someone offers you a way out, take it. You don’t owe your first job years of loyalty and your first-born; you don’t have to stay in your city just because you’re on a first-name basis with the bodega guy. Do what feels right; the initial fear will give way to excitement. 

7. Play a sport you played in elementary school. Kickball, dodgeball. There are leagues for these games now. Get on it.

8. Learn how to cook. Here’s an idea — instead of spending all your money on ridiculously marked-up restaurant food, save your money by buying non-processed WHOLE FOODS and LEARNING HOW TO MAKE A MEAL OF REAL FOOD. You’ll thank yourself for learning how to cook when your metabolism catches up to you.

9. Keep making friends. You know yourself better than you ever have before, and your friends can finally reflect that.

11. Stay up late. In your 20s, you’re all, “Let’s go to another bar!” “Who wants to eat at a diner?” “Have you guys seen the sun rise from the High Line?” “In this moment I swear we were infinite!” 


17. Sit down, unplug, and read non-fiction. Do this daily. None of your peers are doing it. They’re playing video games and refreshing Facebook and Gmail chatting about nothing in particular. After a month you’ll be smarter than all of them.

18. Walk into Forever 21 and grab every single crappily-made floral dress available. Is every other girl on the street wearing it? Is it literally falling apart at the seams? Is it also actually five dollars? BUY IT IMMEDIATELY. When you get older, you will be a classy human ready to take on the future with pantsuits and blazers. But as long as you’re still in your 20s? You know—the demographic of Forever 21? Game on.

21. Go to/host theme parties. Once people age out of their 20s, no one’s trying to wear pajamas or togas out of the house. The only theme parties that exist after your 20s are ‘Wedding,’ ‘Baby Shower,’ and ‘Funeral.’


I promise I am going to do an update on travels soon, but there are just so many other things to blog about! Seeing as I have been MIA on my travel posts anyways, I figured everyone could wait another day or two! You can always check out pictures of recent adventures on facebook!

This coming Saturday marks the 5 week countdown to my return back to the US. For some study-abroaders, this is welcome news. They have loved their time here but are ready to head back to the homestead. For me, this news breaks my heart a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love America and feel so blessed to call that amazing country my home. I just really LOVE Italy, and Europe in general! There is just something here that seems to be missing back home. The essence of Europe captivates your senses and there is just something magical in the air. Thousands of years of history surround you, some of the greatest destinations in the world are a 20€ Ryanair flight away and the people seem to just shine a little brighter. Every city in Europe has it’s own look and feel, it’s own personality and vibe. No two cities or experiences are alike. Travelling and experiencing these things firsthand makes you grow as a person, plain and simple.

VFNO with Eug, Delia and Meiwen
Nelson and Ethan

I have met some AMAZING people during my time here, who have changed me and my perceptions of the world. A huge part of travelling, as I have come to learn, is the people. Not necessarily where you go, but who is there. I have been so fortunate to make the most random and wonderful friends through travels. Whether it be sweet Jacline from Georgia interning at the EU, the Spanish boys from Madrid or our Canadian friends in London, these people all helped to shape my experiences during my travels. In Florence, I have also made some amazing friendships!
The Canadians- Chris, Sean and Adam
Spanish friends- Federico, Antonio, Pablo
 My rooms and I have dinner club once a week with Eugenia, Delia and Meiwen, three lovely ladies from San Diego! Ethan from my Italian class and his roommate Nelson are hilarious Southern boys and have also become great friends.

The four specific people who I have come to love so dearly and who have really made this experience for me are my roomies. Hayley and Ashtyn from Baylor, and Christy and Hannah from Point Loma. WOW. I am so blessed to be writing about these girls right now. 10 weeks ago today we all arrived in Italy a little excited and a lot nervous. I had briefly met Hayley and Ashtyn through our mutual friend Tracie at Baylor, and I had never spoken to the other two. They are now some of my closest friends. It is amazing how well they know me and can read my thoughts. It feels like we have all been friends for years, not months. I could write a ridiculously long blog post on each of these girls and how much they mean to me, but I will restrain and simply say this: These four are life friends and I am so excited for the MANY adventures we will have together in the future! We are already planning a post graduation trip!!

When I left for Europe, I viewed this trip as a culmination of all things cool and worldly. I fancied myself a global-minded person and thought studying abroad for a semester was the pinnacle of being a world traveler. At that point in my life it was. I now see this experience not as a peak, but as a launching point. This is just the beginning of my world travels!! Until next time…Arrivaderci! 

Photo credits: The VFNO picture is Eugenia's and the picture of the Canadians is Ashtyn's!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Maremma and the Tuscan Archipelago

After the first weekend of class, my program sponsored a free trip the gorgeous corner of Tuscany! I don’t how this place isn’t famous yet, because its beauty is unreal!  This area has the green, rolling hills that Tuscany is famous for, but also beaches stolen straight from the Caribbean. The first night we arrived in Maremma, we ate dinner in the nearby seaside town of Ortobello. We had time to explore the gorgeous area before we ate a family style meal at a local restaurant! My roommates and I pretty much had a photo shoot along the waterfront at sunset. So fun! The restaurant gave us SO much food! We had fresh gnocchi and marinara sauce, bread, salad, grilled vegetables (the vegetarian entrée) and tiramisu for dessert. Wow.  

--> The next day we took a mini cruise around the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.  The scenery was spectacular, as my Grandpa would say! We arrived at Giannutri, the first island, and hiked to a beach. We swam in the clear blue Mediterranean sea and lounged on the scraggy rocks. This is where my roommates and I met our dear friends Eugenia, Delia and Meiwen! We have dinner with them once a week now! We boarded the boat and ate lunch on the sea!  They served a bunch of gross looking seafood. We went to the next island, Giglio, and walked around, taking in the scenery. After a long day of fun in the sun, we went back to the hotel and ate dinner in their restaurant.  

The gorgeous marina we departed from.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Italian Ambulances and ERs

Sorry I haven’t posted in while! It has been a busy few weeks with school and travel. Unfortunately, I am learning that the “study” part of study abroad is quite prominent here.

I experienced a lot of firsts this week: first time to ride in an ambulance, first trip to the ER without my parents, first stitches, first exploding wine bottle… You know. Normal first experiences.

Here is the story:
Tuesday was Vogue Fashion’s Night Out in Firenze. It is a really posh event and my roommates and I got all dolled up and frequented the most famous and luxurious stores in the world. Anyways, we thought a nice glass of sparkling wine before we went out would be a splendid idea. Our apartment came with two poorly functioning bottle openers, and the metal corkscrew got STUCK in the CORK while I was trying to open the bottle. I kid you not, the entire plastic part of the opener came off. We ditched the wine idea and went out to enjoy the fabulous celebration of fashion happening literally on our doorstep. (Did I mention that we live on the same street as Gucci?!)

Fast forward to the next day. I am standing in the kitchen at 3 in the afternoon and notice the corkscrew inconveniently still chilling the wine cork. I decided to try to get the corkscrew out and one thing led to another… I somehow made a small crack in the glass and the carbonation caused the bottle to explode. Literally explode. Glass and wine went flying EVERYWHERE. It is amazing that no glass got into my eyes, I could barely see from all of the wine!

So there I am screaming in the kitchen because my eyes hurt and I can’t see and I am spurting blood from my finger. My roommates Ashtyn and Hannah were already in the room, and Christy ran in shortly after. I am so grateful for these wonderful people, because I COULD NOT have made it through this ordeal without them. Someone got me shoes, someone made we wash the blood off of my hand and cut (which hurt reallllly badly) and someone decided to call the doctor. The doctor told us to call an ambulance, and Ashtyn spoke to them on the phone in all Italian! So proud of her! I was of little use as I had promptly forgotten every word of Italian from shock when I cut myself. Convenient. Meanwhile I am crying and trying to stop the blood flow from my finger without pushing the glass in the cut deeper. I also asked to call my mom, but Ashtyn literally said no. In hindsight this was smart because my mom would have freaked out if I called at this point!

The ambulance arrives and I head to the hospital wearing slippers, a large tank, a Baylor sweatshirt and yoga pants. I clearly fit in with all the posh Italians… A note on Italian ambulances: because of their healthcare, ambulances are free and people call them ALL THE TIME for EVERYTHING. So bizarre. Anyways, I am strapped into the ambulance where they clean my cut a bit (OW) and wrap it in gauze. The people on the ambulance were hilarious! Ashtyn came with me, and we all spoke in mixed Italian and English about really random things. Topics of discussion included the lack of lights in the apartment hallway and how one of the guys was going to prepare Roman pizza for dinner (step by step). I later learned that all of the ambulance workers in Italy are volunteers. I loved them already for helping me not freak out as much, but this made me love them EVEN MORE.

Once at the hospital, I am wheeled into the area with all of the doctors. All I could see was the lights on the ceiling going by. It was just like a movie! I got my bandages changed and I had to answer lots of questions in Italian/English mix. It was pretty overwhelming and I am SO grateful for Ashtyn being with me. Then came the best part… Waiting. And waiting and waiting.

We called my program, Study Abroad Italy, and they sent someone to meet us. Then it got complicated because we told them the wrong hospital and they only had my name and number. In the panic of leaving I forgot to grab my phone so they had no way to contact me! Poor Danielle from SAI went to 3 hospitals before we realized our mistake! We called again and told her the correct location. All of this took place over about an hour and half. My hand was hurting and we were so bored! Finally they called us back and we waited in ANOTHER waiting room. Oh joy! We played hangman, which was hilarious since I was writing with my left hand and it was illegible. Meanwhile, Danielle went to the wrong location of the hospital we were at (what are the odds that there are TWO with the exact same name in Florence!?)

After about 30 minutes, a nurse took me into a room. I laid down on a hospital bed and she set my hand on a metal table with a bunch of scary looking metal equipment. She poured several different liquids on my hand that stung SO badly, but they washed the glass out. Yay! We talked a bit in Italian, which apparently gave her the impression that I spoke the language decently well (important later). My cut looked really freaking gross at this point. It was deep and gaping open and my finger was very swollen. I could see a lot of little white dots in the red blood inside the cut (don’t know what that was, don’t care to know ever). The doctor came in a while after and also spoke to me in mostly Italian. He got right down to business and started sewing me up without ANY medication, numbing or painkiller. Uhm OUCHHHHHHHHHHHHH. That was the sharpest pain I have ever experienced, including when I broke my arm. OW. I remember thinking, ‘if childbirth is only this painful, it might be manageable.’ True story. After what felt like forever, the doctor said “solo una oltra” and I was like, oh good, only one more! LIES. He said that TWO more times before he was actually done. He finished and the nurse told me something in very fast Italian and left before I could say anything. I still have no clue what she said.

I went to find Ashytn and hopefully Danielle to figure out what to do next. I looked in the second, smaller waiting room and then the first waiting room. Not there. I wandered between the two feeling lost and confused for a few minutes. This involved sneaking into a door to the back every time a doctor or patient opened it from the other side--no one bothered to stop me...sketch security measures. I eventually thought to look outside and, allora, Danielle and Ashtyn were both there! YAY! We waited some more and chit chatted, and the doctor gave me the bill and further instructions. The total for an ambulance ride and getting stitches: 40€! So cheap! Then we took a taxi, got food and went home.

It is doing so much better now! It has been about a week and I am surprised at how quickly it is healing.

HUGE SHOUT OUT to Ashtyn Mathews for being the best friend ever!!! She was by my side the ENTIRE time, hung out with me for 5 hours in a gross hospital and basically loved me a whole lot! I can't thank her enough. YOU DA BEST GIRL!!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting Lost

I have learned that getting lost is a beautiful thing. Soon after arriving in Firenze, I discovered that getting lost in this enchanting city is more than probable—and this isn’t a bad thing! I have never had the keenest sense of direction, and navigating this city is about 478439075 times more difficult than back in the US. In the city center where I live, the streets wind and turn and go off in random directions. There is no rhyme or reason to their direction (or so it seems to me)! This part of the city was built centuries ago and is not conducive to traffic or finding directions. There was no grid system at the time and the streets were quite narrow because they didn’t have to accommodate motorized vehicles. Also, the streets change name at each intersection, so it is more difficult to understand directions or where you are.

All of this together—cars flying at you down the street, winding alleys, changing street names and the language barrier—makes getting lost very easy. This explains the how of getting lost, but not the why. Wandering these ancient streets while being lost has shown me many things.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The First of Firenze

FYI- this post is REALLY long.

Hey everyone! Sorry I haven’t given an update since I have been in Florence! First let me say, I am OBSESSED with this city. Everything about it is absolutely wonderful so far. We have probably walked around the entire city like 3 or 4 times—like at least 15 miles. Here is an update:

Wednesday: We flew all night and I didn’t really sleep. The cool French couple I sat by went to the bathroom several times and talked most of the night. I was SO tired when we landed! Going through customs and security I met a bunch of cool students going to Florence as well! I ended up getting Starbucks (for like $9!!) and playing every card game imaginable with some new friends during our four-hour layover. When we landed I was feeling really nervous and overwhelmed, but I was so very grateful to my awesome family and friends that woke up to pray for me when I landed! I got to Florence around 2 pm local time. We got off the plane a small bus took us to the airport baggage claim. Also, it was like 74827895894 degrees out. WHAT?? We got our luggage and were thrust into a sea of people waving signs and calling out names. I found Study Abroad Italy (SAI) after a few minutes. We were driven to our apartments by some really nice Italian guys in their twenties. We chatted a little in Italian and the driver bought us all botled water, which was SO appreciated! It was pretty scary being on the European streets for the first time since high school. I forgot how dangerous they seem! People just fly down the tiny roads and don’t care how close the other cars are. Ahhh! My apartment is up 83 stairs in the high end fashion district (more on my apartment later!), and all of my roommates were already there when I got in! It was awesome!! We walked to get our pre-ordered cell phones and found a super cute little ma and pop panini shop. We each got one, picked up some wine, and had a wonderful first dinner at home! We met with a guy who is a SAI affiliate and he explained a lot of the stuff in our apartment. Super helpful! We were all exhausted so we passed out around 10.

Thursday: Our first full day in the city! We woke up early and went to orientation. SAI talked a lot about what to do and expect in Italy. It was super boring but important information. My roommates and I walked across the Arno Rive to less touristy side of the city. We walked down a few streets and found an area with no other tourists! It was all Italian and all authentic. We ate lunch at a cute restaurant (with only other Italians) and had yummy pasta! We went back and had our second orientation. The jet lag and pasta was too much for Hayley and I—we fell asleep in the middle of the presentation. Whoops! I then went and took my Italian placement test. I CANNOT believe I passed, it was quite difficult! That was the first time I walked by myself in Florence. I walked home a new way and didn’t even get lost! We went to a free dinner put on by SAI that night. They had yummy small appetizers, champagne and tiramisu. We talked with the VP of SAI for about an hour. He is really cool and had so many tips and suggestions for us. He also has many connections to Baylor and Texas. We walked home and relaxed for a while. I discovered the art of people watching from our huge, gorgeous windows. The shutters open all the way with no screens. All of my roommates and I LOVE to rest our elbows on ledge and just walk everyone walk and ride by. It is fascinating. There are people from all age groups and ethnicities going down our street all the time! It really is magical to just observe the life pulsing below us. Our street also echoes like crazy so we can hear people’s conversations below us nearly perfectly. 

Friday: This was our first day to do what we pleased! We woke up to some really heavy rain and a city that had cooled off immensely. It felt so great not be constantly sweating.  I walked a few doors down the street and had a yummy pastry and macchiato for breakfast. My roommates met me there, and four of the five of us had to change a class. We trekked to the school building and filled out the class change paperwork. Next we went to the supermercato to buy things like milk, breakfast bars and nutella. Then we went to the San Lorenzo Market, which was INCREDIBLE! There are probably like 50 different little stalls all selling different pastas, bread, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and wines. We bought fresh fruits and tomatoes from a sweet lady named Maria. She let us try all of the fruit we wanted before we bought it and I got a huge bag of various fresh produce for only 4 euros! I also bought some fresh mozzarella and pesto from a cheese vendor and some bread. After our long morning out and carrying heavy groceries across the city, we all wanted to relax for a while! Hayley and I finally unpacked our room. We went out to a chic Italian outdoor café. We each ordered a drink and got to eat from a free appetizer buffet! We came back to the apartment and caught up with friends and family at home. At midnight, we went to the “secret bakery” that sells DELICIOUS hot and fresh pastries out the back door. It is unlabeled and you pay in cash. To order, you knock on the door and someone peaks their head out. You wait several minutes and then they come back with your steaming treats. I had a croissant filled with chocolate. YUMMMM!! We people watched and went to sleep at 3 am.

Saturday: Today! We planned to wake up and pop over to Pisa to eat a quick picnic lunch. We woke up to a downpour and decided against the idea. We made a yummy lunch of fresh bread, pesto, tomato and mozzarella and ate at home instead. This afternoon, Hayley, Ashtyn and I ventured out into Florence by ourselves. We walked SO far—literally a big circle around our whole side of the Arno! We walked through some gorgeous piazzas and gardens, and also some residential areas that aren’t very interesting or accessible to tourists. We bought gelato twice on our 2 hour 45 minute walk. YUMMMMM!!! I forgot how absolutely delicious it is. I guess I will have to get it every day now…. Tonight we made dinner as roomies. We had a yummy vegetable and potato dish and some pesto spaghetti. It was delicious!! Then we had some bread with nutella for dessert and chatted all night.

Pictures of all of this to come!! Look out on Facebook for updates soon :)

I have had the best time in the world so far. Each and every one of my roommates is so fun and sweet. We all get along quite well. I can’t wait to show all of you more of the amazing wonders of this city! Fino alla prossima volta i miei amici. Ciao!!


It's finally time for the  I am writing this on my plane to Brussels where I will connect to Florence. I have been planning this trip for a year and it is HERE!! I am so excited! Packing was CRAZY!! I’m still not sure how I managed to fir so many clothes, accessories and many many more things into a checked bag and a carry on. Holla! I feel qualified to call myself a packing pro at this point. When I checked into my flight, my bag was 5 pounds over the limit. My parents helped me redistribute the weight and I was convinced that my carry on would not fir into the overhead bins on my flights. But the best news I got all day- there was no overhead room left on my first flight and so they had to check to my ridiculously heavy carry on all the way to Florence! Needless to say, I wasn’t too upset ;)

My first flight was rather uneventful. I landed in Philadelphia (which is a rather gross and outdated airport) and grabbed a quick lunch/dinner. On my current flight, I found an adorable Indian family sitting all the way across my row and in my seat. After about 10 minutes of shuffling around and my super heavy backpack killing my shoulders, I was seated next to a cool couple who speaks mostly French. They gave it a shot with English though! They seem very kind. I feel like this will be me for the first few weeks in Italy. Thankfully I have had a year of Italian in college. A lot of people on the trip are going in without knowing ANY Italian!

I am excited about pretty much everything…. I am SO excited for the culinary delights that await me. Pizza and pasta, fresh mozzarella, gelato, Italian coffee and so many more things that I’m sure I still have to discover. I am thrilled to be living with two really sweet girls from Baylor and two I have yet to meet. I am excited to explore the city and see the hidden treasures it has to offer, as well as the rest of Italy! And of course, travelling through the rest of Europe. If only I had more time to go everywhere I would like to! Well if you have read this far you must really love me! I will try to post often. Love you all!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Wow. I can hardly believe it. When I wake up tomorrow I can say, "I leave for Florence, Italy 3 weeks from today." At times I still can barely believe this is happening, and other times it feels just seconds away.
The process of preparing for this trip started so long ago--nearly a year. I have put so much thought, research, time and effort into preparing everything. When people tell you about the study abroad experience, they tell you about their fun times traveling the world and funny stories. No one ever tells you how much work goes into this process on the front end. Whether it be the applications, getting classes approved over and over again, filling out and singing endless forms, the visa application process, trying to make budgets while converting between euros and dollars or just the mental stress, it is always more difficult than I imagined.
As the final weeks of my time at home draw to a close, I realize almost all of the preparation is done. I have filled out and turned in mountains of paperwork, complied a ridiculously detailed packing list, researched Italy, and (almost) finalized my class schedule at Florence University of the Arts. The hard work is done, and I am left to dream about Italian adventures and European delights. I imagine buying un caffe as I walk to class in the morning and making delicious meals with the fresh fruits, vegetables and produce from the open air markets. I see myself taking in some of the richest history in the world as I enjoy delicious gelatos and endless Italian meals. I picture flying to Paris for the weekend and being dazzled by the City of Lights. I have these beautiful images in my mind, and I am excited to see how they truly play out.
I am definitely a little nervous. I am moving to a country where I will know practically no one and they speak a language I am still learning. I think I am mostly just excited though. I am so very grateful for the Lord to give me such an opportunity in my life, and my parents for trusting me and helping me to make this happen. I have known for quite a long time--at least 5 years-- that I wanted to study abroad in college, though I never knew it would actually be a reality. Basically, I'm super blessed and thrilled for this chance of a lifetime.
En tre settimane, dico "Ciao USA, Ciao Italia!"