Maria Yoon

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy last day of November! Tomorrow I am going to start my advent calendar my mom mailed me. I’m going to miss reading our annual advent calendar about the birth of Jesus this year. But this advent calendar is particularly special because it’s not only counting down the days to Christmas but also counting down the days until my parents arrive in Firenze!

Yesterday Maria Yoon, aka Maria the Korean Bride, visited the Marist Italy Office for a presentation and Q & A. She was a very cool lady! Read more about her story on her site here. Long story short: she executed a social experiment that involved marrying people/objects in all 50 states in order to learn about marriage, love, and commitment values in the United States. As a Korean American, this was especially intriguing. Her documentary was recognized by the Huffington Post and is on Amazon for $2.99. I made the entire room crack up in the beginning of her presentation by referencing “50 Shades of Grey.” As you can imagine, it was pretty funny.


Big academic day tomorrow! Time for bed. xo ~e.


Coffee with a Stranger

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This morning I did something children are taught to never do: meet with a stranger. But today I took a chance and didn’t listen. It turned out to be a positive experience!

I’m in a Florence Facebook group where people  living in Florence post jobs, events, etc… A woman from Boston recently posted that she and her husband just moved to Florence, and she was hoping to meet Italians or expats for coffee to get to know people in the city. I saw on her profile that she works in marketing and thought she would be someone nice to talk to about careers and living abroad. I messaged her, and we made a coffee date for this morning at 10.

I got to La Milkeria at 9:50 to do some journaling and ordered a cappuccino ginseng. Lisa came promptly at 10. We automatically recognized each other from our profile pictures and sat down to chat. She was very friendly! It was nice talking to an American who isn’t 18 years old! Her husband was offered a job in Florence (he’s a buyer for TJ Maxx & Marshalls) not long ago, and it’s perfect since they got married in Tuscany two years ago. Lisa has her own business, a marketing consultant agency, that she can work at from anywhere. They met at Bentley University where they both majored in marketing.

She was very impressed by the fact that I chose to spend my freshman year abroad. She told me it will serve me very well in the future. We talked a bit about internships and careers, but we talked mainly about traveling and Florence. They moved just last Sunday, so she’s very new to the city. I sent her a list of my favorite cafés. They also have two cats, and I offered to take care of them whenever they are on a trip. I would love to live abroad someday for work, and she said that COM is the perfect field to go into for that. I told her my mom is jealous of the House Hunters International scenario she has going on.

We talked for about an hour and said to keep in touch. It was a pleasant meeting, and I’m glad I took a chance and did it! I’m not saying to talk to random people all the time, but if it seems right, go for it. Today I did! xo ~e.

An Eye-opening Experience

Monday, November 28, 2016

This morning I woke up at 5 AM. I fell asleep before 9:30 PM last night because I was so tired! Today I had a third permit to stay appointment. It has been quite the process getting permission to live in Italy for 9 months! 30 sleepy FFEs left San Gallo at 7 AM  before making their way to the immigration office 15 minutes away.

As we approached the building, there was a long line of people anxiously and impatiently waiting outside. It was chilly this morning too. Elisa, one of our advisors, arrived shortly after we did and got us into the building. We cut about 100 people in line, and they were not happy, glaring at us as we walked past them.

The immigration office reminded me of a Subway station. The lighting was very dull, and it was loud. There was a loud alarm that would go off every 10 minutes or so. We all waited in line to give the friendly man our paperwork and get initial fingerprints scanned.

People whispered in line how uncomfortable they felt in line because we were all stared at by many people of color. They were waiting just like us, and they weren’t doing us any harm. It made me feel ashamed in a way because there we were complaining about how early in the morning it was and how slowly the whole process took. These people weren’t all going to be granted residence in Italy. And these people were probably waiting for much longer than we were.

I enjoyed the experience. I didn’t feel unsafe or threatened to any degree. It was cool because the scene is something I never would’ve seen at home in southern Vermont. I can’t stress how much more diverse Italy is. There may be a white majority, but it doesn’t feel as apparent because there are so many people of all different races and ethnicities. It’s the type of environment everyone should be used to and familiar with.

We waited until 10 on benches until a man told us that we had to come back and do our fingerprints on Thursday. There were many cranky freshmen leaving the immigration office. It was a bit of a pain that we wasted two hours there waiting, but I didn’t mind. It was a memorable two hours. Here’s the poem I wrote while waiting to help describe the experience:

Monday Morning by Emma LeMay


The black benches we sit on resembles

the darkest charcoal pencil

The walls are the color

of its overused eraser

A wave of drowsiness and hunger

fills the impatient and anticipating room

along with the echo of an overtired baby

and its overtired parents

Chatter about ‘sketchy people’

shouldn’t be heard by the ears

hidden under the panda hat

A majority of the people here are in loose jeans

Not us though.

Leather boots, warm scarves, cold fingers holding iPhones

We’re in the seats that have hosted thousands

Some were not as lucky

We are one

But really

We are two

xo ~e.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

What a nice weekend in Florence. I relaxed, watched too many episodes of “Gilmore Girls”, tried a new type of coffee today (cappuccino ginseng– tastes like a chai tea latte), and did hours of homework.

The Firenze Marathon took place today. This morning I did my weekly grocery trip to Conad, and I watched the runners whizz past me on their 26.2 mile long course! There were two African American men I saw very early (around 10:30), and they were way ahead of everyone else. I came back over an hour later and saw hundreds of people where I had saw those two men. There was a lot of excitement and Italians cheering the runners on. The finish line was right in Piazza del Duomo. Just soaking in the view had me feeling emotional. The people finishing the race had their arms in the air, and their kids finished through the line with them. And all these people cheered on runners they didn’t even know. It was quite the scene. It was a perfectly beautiful and crisp day for a marathon. Someday I’ll run a marathon. I did run two miles tonight! I’m 1/13 of the way there!

Sasha and I had our coffees and did our work at a cafe where we could see the runners pass. The girls sitting next to us spoke Russian, and Sasha talked to them! It’s so cool hearing her speak. She says she misses it.

Busy week ahead, but I’m going to get through it. I hope everyone had a fun and safe Thanksgiving weekend! Be sure to check out my latest FlockU post about hostels. xo ~e.

Word of the day: corregere (to run)

Month #3 in Italy

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I can’t believe I am writing my Month #3 in Italy blog post. How has 1/3 of my time here in this beautiful country and city already passed? I can’t fathom it. These past three months have been some of the happiest months of my young adult life. I can’t get over walking past the Duomo every day, walking to class early in the morning on the city streets, grocery shopping every Sunday, going to the bank to withdraw money on Friday, and being with people who love the abroad experience just as much as I do. This month has made me realize how truly mature the people are in this program; we are all independent, driven, and enthusiastic about learning and gaining a global perspective. Obviously we couldn’t do it without the support of our friends, our parents, our grandparents, our cousins, aunts, and uncles. This is an experience I will always be grateful for, and I’m not even close to being ready to say goodbye to it. Luckily, I don’t have to for six months! I cannot imagine being a semester student getting ready to leave in three weeks.

Here are the highlights from the past month:

  • going to Ibiza for fall break
  • traveling alone for the first time to Venice for my pilgrimage
  • realizing I will most likely not be fluent in Italian come May because I am just too suffocated by English throughout my daily life
  • lowering my weekly budget from 100 euros to 80 euros
  • starting to volunteer at a local elementary school
  • celebrating Halloween & Thanksgiving away from home
  • the 2016 Presidential Election
  • getting my haircut
  • going on a class field trip to Genoa, Levanto, and Cinque Terre

Three months later and I feel more comfortable with the Italian way of life, navigating the city, and talking to the locals. I’m able to recognize people on my street and in the grocery store. I can try and make small conversation with the baristas. The waiters at La Ménagère don’t even ask me if I want to see a menu anymore. I go to the grocery store and am not spoken to in English like the other Americans. It’s these subtle details that make me feel less like an expat in Florence. I am going to continue working on my Italian, but I have acknowledged that I won’t become fluent since I’m not fully immersed in it. I will say that volunteering at the school and hearing the kids speak in Italian is very beneficial to my own understanding of the language.

A month from now I will be on a plane flying back from Budapest. I will have completed my final exams and have begun my generously long winter break. I am so excited to experience a European holiday. It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas in Florence with the Christmas music in the shops and bakeries, the lights strung throughout the city, and the Christmas decor. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. xo ~e.


The starting line for the marathon tomorrow


Walked to a shop today where journals are handmade


Christmas galore in a department store


Where’s Buddy the Elf?

Black Friday in Florence

Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Black Friday! Black Friday in Florence is a thing here; all the stores had a 20%-30% off storewide sale. I don’t think anyone died from being trampled like in the U.S. every year on this day.

Last night’s Thanksgiving dinner was great. We had a nice, long 3 hour dinner. They served us a vegetable soup, croutons, and a whopping plate of Thanksgiving food: mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, blueberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. Pumpkin pie from Mama’s Bakery for dessert! We all went around and said what we were grateful for at our table. Everyone felt homesick, but we made the most of our Thanksgiving with our new Marist family. It was wonderful. A Thanksgiving to remember.


Celebrating Thanksgiving with the Fox Fam

Today I did homework and went to volunteering. I sat with the second graders today. One girl, Camila, talked my ear off the entire time! She was very cute, and her English was great. She told me her parents don’t speak English; she just learns at school. The other girl sitting next to me used my fingers to count all the way to 100. They also tried on my rings and got a huge kick out of that. I couldn’t help but smile for a full hour.

I’m listening to Christmas music now that Thanksgiving has happened. There are some great Christmas playlists on Spotify! I highly recommend them if you’re on Spotify. There’s no snow here, but the lights lining the city streets and Christmas music will surely get me in the holiday mood.

Jill’s mom is in town, and she took me out for breakfast and dinner today. We love when parents come to visit because they take us out! It’s also fun chatting to them and telling them about our experiences here. We had salad, pizza, and a dessert sampler tonight. Absolutely delicious.

Tomorrow we’re going to climb the Duomo and the bell tower. I also have lots of papers to do! Nice to be in Firenze this weekend. xo ~e.

Happy Turkey Day

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Turkey Day from Firenze! Sitting in class for 5.5 hours was not my ideal Thanksgiving, but it is still a day to give thanks and appreciate all that we gratefully have. I am getting ready for our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinner right now; I can’t wait. I felt a tad homesick today because I’m not home for my favorite holiday, and it isn’t recognized here by Italians. To ease my homesickness, I did some journaling on past Thanksgivings that were celebrated at home. I thought I would share my reflections with you.

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Take a moment and make a list of what you are thankful for because there is so much to be! xo ~e.

I have celebrated a majority of my Thanksgivings at Nana & Pop’s house. It’s the only Thanksgiving I know, and it’s the best. Dave, Louise, and Carl would normally arrive late Wednesday night, and the LeMays and Granny Barb would arrive in the afternoon on Thanksgiving Thursday. The Dauenheimers blue Toyota would be in the driveway, and sometimes Elita and Roger’s Sudan would wait there too. The dogs (Goldie, Ranger, Charlie, and Kiara) would greet us before Mom, Dad and I would bring the green beans or Brussels sprouts and homemade cranberry sauce upstairs.

As soon as we opened the door upstairs, it smelled like Thanksgiving: family and food. Nana, Pop & Louise would be in the kitchen, and Nana would say “Hey, look who’s here” before giving us hugs and cheek kisses. We’d hug Dave, Louise, Carl, and Ranger then eat hors d’oeuvres and help cook in the kitchen. I’d sit on the counter table and answer questions about Emma Willard and college. We’d chat, eat, and drink as we waited for all the guests. Pop would always say, “Someone’s coming up the driveway.” We wouldn’t know who until they entered the door upstairs. We’d all say “Happy Thanksgiving!” whenever someone new entered the warm house. Normally it was the Rosses, Leslie & Howard, Kelly one year, and someone from UUs.

The living room and kitchen were always loud as we all snacked and chatted. Mom & I typically set the table around 6 PM. When the food was all set out on the counter and Pop finished carving the turkey, Nana rung the dinner bell. We’d all gather and sing a hymn to the best of our abilities before claiming our seats and filling our plates. I go back and forth between the sun room and the dining room every year. There was always an abundance of green salad, turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. Doesn’t get better than that.

We would thoroughly enjoy the delicious food and company. It was the rare one day of the year when we were all together in the same house. Clearly it was special. I’ll always associate my Thanksgivings with food and family at Nana and Pop’s. This year everyone in the family is celebrating in their own ways, but I hope next year we will all be together again.