Month #8

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I write this blog post in complete disbelief that I am writing my eighth and final monthly update from Florence. I just finished reading my month #1 post, and it genuinely feels as though I wrote it much more recently than September 26. I am still sipping on many cappuccini, eating lots of pasta, pizza, and gelato, and loving living in Florence more than ever this spring.

You’ve been along for this crazy adventure, so you already know how happy I am to have embarked on this freshman year journey. It has involved many hours of study and writing papers, exchanges of letters internationally, planes and trains, checking in and out of foreign cities, trips to Conad and BNL, views of the Duomo, live music in Piazza della Repubblica, glasses of red wine, and memories that will make perfect stories. Naturally there’s been growth in terms of confidence, independence, and problem solving that I wouldn’t have experienced in Poughkeepsie this year.

This month makes previous months feel different, because I know Florence will be my home again someday. I’m nowhere near ready to say goodbye to it temporarily, and I tell myself that I will be back again for a longer period of time when my student days are over. Several occurrences this month made me feel as though I really belong here. For example, being asked in Italian if a woman could take an ashtray next to my foot at Cafe Murate where there were no Americans to be seen. Ordering a cappuccino at Ménagère and being asked “E cornetto oggi?” (and a croissant today?). Offering advice to people as to how they should spend a couple days in Florence. These little things make me feel as though I am a true expat. And I’ll tell you that it’s an empowering and rewarding feeling.

For the first time in 8 months, I got emotional today thinking about my imminent flight back to the United States. Don’t get me wrong; I am very proud to be an American, and I am very excited to see my friends and family. However, it is extremely difficult to think about saying goodbye to a place and a lifestyle that was once so foreign and is now so familiar. I am gearing up for yet another change, so of course I am going to be stressed and uneasy! I have to remind myself that “Life isn’t meant to be spent in one place.” So I’ll always be moving.

Looking back and reflecting on all these months though, I’ve come to the conclusion that Florence did its job. Florence reminded me that love exists, learning to make yourself happy is the best thing you can do for yourself, and curiosity is what gets you places. Grazie mille Firenze. Per tutto. A dopo. xo ~ e.

Second Semester Goals

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yesterday at Ditta Artigianale I took some time to write some goals. Writing goals is an efficient way to remind yourself of how you can be a better person. I often write goals in my planner, on my phone, and in my head. But sometimes you need them on paper somewhere visible: a constant reminder. I have two colorful notecards with my spring semester goals. One lives in my planner I can’t go anywhere without and the other on my bulletin board next to my daily workout plan (which hasn’t been used for way too long). I encourage you to create reasonable spring goals to keep you chugging along through the end of winter! xo ~ e.

  • Drink coffee 3 x/week (max.)
  • Exercise 3 x/week (min.)
  • Walk to Piazzale Michelangelo 1 x/week
  • Explore the other side of Florence more
  • Take more day trips to small, Tuscan towns
  • Eat gelato 2 x/week (max).
  • Try new restaurants in Florence 2 x/month (max.)
  • One episode of Netflix/day
  • Take advantage of Free Sunday every month
  • Practice Italian for 30 minutes every day
  • Do not buy extra stuff
  • Call friends & family on the phone biweekly
  • Work hard to maintain a satisfying GPA

Month #5

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I write my Month #5 post on my iPhone during my flight from Paris to Florence. I honestly don’t feel like I can write much about my month in Florence, for I was traveling practically the entire month! To recap, a month ago from today I flew from Budapest to Pisa. Then I had a week in Florence to myself which included a day trip to Verona and Juliet’s house. My parents arrived in Florence on January 3, and we spent four incredible days together in my temporary city and Rome & the Vatican for one day. Starting January 7 we were on the constant move. Munich, Athens, Crete, and Milan. I didn’t get back from our exquisite European vacation until January 19, and next thing I knew I was on a plane to Prague four days later. I didn’t book Prague until the day my parents arrived– spontaneity! On Sunday, I take a train to Bologna and fly to Kiev after a quick layover in Amsterdam. Classes start the day after I return to Florence! Can you keep up with my January itinerary? I’m having a hard time doing so!

Month #5 was clearly my month to travel. On top of academics, traveling in Europe was my second priority. And after this month, I feel like my desire has been fulfilled. It’s been one adventure after another. It’s crazy getting texts from my friends saying, “You’re going where in mid January while I’m in class?” or “Where are you now?” My interactions with my friends and family via technology remind me to stay humble throughout this experience yet to take full advantage of the opportunity. Not everyone gets this chance in their lifetime, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Walking around in all these different cities and being in the presence of historical landmarks is the ultimate traveler’s dream. I have several epiphanies on every adventure as I remind myself to “Take a look around and think about where you are right now.” Being well traveled as a young person is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. The experiences I have will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I am grateful I squeezed as much possible travel as I could into this month, for I didn’t have any classes or work. No commitments, no deadlines, no stress. As a result, it made sense to take the time and travel. I know I want to travel spring semester, but it’s challenging to travel on the weekends during classes because of homework and other school obligations. I’m hopeful that I will feel more comfortable planning my time and weekends away after already studying abroad for a semester. Traveling is a constant learning experience. Booking your own transportation and accommodation, figuring out how to get from the airport to the city center, converting money, dealing with the language barrier, and budgeting. I will admit, I feel guilty that I couldn’t even say “hello” or “thank you” in the native language of some of the destinations I traveled to. I, along with many other people, rely so much on others to speak English when really I should be making the effort because they are (by speaking a second language). That’s something I want to improve on next semester. Some key, simple phrases can go a long way.

Meeting one of Sasha’s dad’s coworkers on the train to the summit of Zugspitze, seeing Lauren at the airport in Milan, and finding Isabel at our gate in Charles de Gaulle were all small world moments during my travels. The world appears to be big, but in some ways, it’s small. You never know who you’re going to run into or what you’re going to see halfway across the globe.

Lastly… Aside from ringing in 2017 in Florence and traveling all over Europe, this month’s biggest highlight was spending two and a half weeks with my parents. I can’t even describe what it felt like seeing them walking off platform #9 at Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Having them in Florence felt like my study abroad experience was complete. They are the ones who have supported me on my journey long before August 26, 2016. They not only got to see where I’ve spent the past five months, but they also embarked on a well deserved and long overdue vacation. My dad finally visited Europe, something he wasn’t sure he would ever get to do, and my mom checked Greece off her bucket list. I felt like a big piece of home was with me in these foreign places which made our vacation even more special. We are quite the dynamic travel trio. Thank you Mom and Dad. For everything.

So this month was certainly filled with adventure, planes, and various traditional dishes. I don’t regret not going home over this long winter break, because I had the chance to see parts of the world I probably never would have at this point in my life. It’s been nothing short of wonderful having time off school. With that said, the driven student in me is very excited to get back in the classroom and on the study grind. Danke, ευχαριστώ, grazie, díky, January. This month’s travels and travails won’t be forgotten. I feel so lucky to be able to return to Florence after each adventure! xo ~ e.

Being a Vermonter in Europe

Saturday, January 21, 2017

While I was in Crete earlier this week, I had an interview for a summer internship. My parents and I happened to be in Lidl (a grocery store) when I got the phone call. We had a nice chat for half an hour, and I thought I answered the questions well despite being on ‘vacation mode’. One of the questions I was asked was something like, “What are your plans for after graduation? Do you want to stick around in Vermont or get out as fast as you can?” I thought about what to say for a brief moment before I answered, but I’ve continued to think about it after the phone call was over.

That question led me to the conclusion that I could not be more grateful to have grown up in Vermont and embark on this adventure. Throughout my childhood, I grew to value community and life in a small town. I practically knew everyone in Manchester’s surrounding towns, and I couldn’t go to Shaws without seeing a familiar face. I continue to enjoy that aspect of Vermont. Simultaneously, I knew there was more in the world outside Vermont’s small borders. I craved to explore new places, live in a city, and be somewhere with more diversity in its people, culture, and scenes.

Florence has certainly fulfilled my desire. I am so awestruck by the European way of life. I have now traveled to cities in Italy, Spain, Hungary, Germany, and Greece. Vasudha said to me the other day along the lines of, “You rarely complain when you travel because you truly appreciate where you are for what it is.” It was quite the compliment, and she continued to say “It must have to do with the fact that you’re from Vermont.” Come to think of it, I think she’s right. After living in Vermont for so long, I am completely mesmerized by everywhere I’ve been. They’re so unique and different than the Green Mountain State, so I spend more time treasuring them than focusing on their imperfections. I also don’t have as many expectations as people who grew up in a city might have. They can compare their homes in Boston or New York to Prague or Rome. But you can’t really compare Bennington with Athens. Living in Vermont makes me feel like everywhere I else I go is bigger in a lot of ways.

I’m very thankful to have spent my earliest years in Vermont because I grew up in an environment where people (for the most part) are down to earth and genuinely caring. My life in Vermont has also allowed me to appreciate a life both inside and outside of it. It’s taught me to find the beauty in things that many people wouldn’t consider beautiful. It’s taught me that bigger doesn’t always mean better. It’s taught me that I am proud to be from Vermont, and Vermont will always be considered home. With all that said, I have loved breaking through its boundaries by temporarily living 4,000 miles away. I have seen, learned, and listened to things I could have never dreamt of in Vermont. I encourage my fellow Vermonters to get out and adventure in other parts of the country and the world. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in a foreign environment. You’ll find there’s a bigger part of Vermont in you that you may have realized… xo ~ e.

Month #2 in Firenze

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I’ve now been a student Florentine for two months and one day, and the time couldn’t be going faster. This second month in Florence has been a lot of lesson learning. I’m learning more about my budget, thinking about what I need to do more of (exercise) and less of (eating gelato and not exercising), and figuring out balance. I have a better handle on classes especially now that midterms are over, but it is challenging to balance classes with exploring the city, traveling, and running errands, etc…

My Italian has gotten better, but I’m nowhere near fluent. I am proud of being able to order food at cafés and gelaterias in Italian. In Pisa, I told the woman working that I was American and studying in Florence in Italian, and I thought that was progress. It was nice being in Pisa because not as many people spoke English there, so it was full Italian immersion. If I had full Italian immersion, I’m sure I could pick up much more Italian. I’m working on it!

I feel much more comfortable in Florence because I have a much better sense of the city and where things are located. Two months ago I had no idea how to get from place a to place b. Now I do! I’ve given directions to people a few times. It’s moments like those when I feel like a real person living in Florence.

I had my first international travel experience for fall break (Ibiza, Spain) and am looking forward to my solo trip to Venice tomorrow. Traveling here on trains and planes is so common here, and it’s nice to experience it. I promised myself I wouldn’t do international travel until my second semester (aside from fall break), and I’m sticking to that promise. I don’t plan on traveling a lot in November, and I will be traveling a lot in December and January. I definitely have the train system figured out here and am taking advantage of the convenient train system.

I still haven’t experience severe feelings of homesickness. I miss the people back home, but I don’t wish I was living back home right now because it is so different and exciting here. I miss Emma Willard more than I thought I would. Emma will always be a part of me, and it’s the people and experiences there that prepared me for this year and the rest of my life.

I decided to sign up to volunteer at a local Italian school to help teach the young children English. I’m very excited to volunteer once a week on Fridays! More to come on that and it’s another way to add to my experience abroad. I’ve always liked spending time with kids.

My parents have officially booked their tickets, and I couldn’t be more excited for them to visit. We are going to explore Italy, Germany, and Greece together! My friend, Fayla, is also coming after finals for a week. We plan on meeting Juli in Rome for a couple days too!

Lots to look forward to. I can’t believe we’re a quarter of the way through the year. My goal for the next month is to really take advantage of opportunities in Florence and work more on my Italian. xo ~e.

Midterms Day 4

Thursday, October 20, 2016

I made it! Survived my first set of college midterms. One down, seven more to go! Unfortunately, I was woken up this morning at 2 AM from a stuffy nose, dry throat, and hot flashes. For some reason, I always seem to get sick during exams! I stress myself out so much to the point where my immune system shuts down on me.

I took ibuprofen and managed to fall back asleep a couple hours later before waking up at 7 to study. My COM midterm went well; I felt prepared for the short answers and did my best on the speech analysis. And the cooking midterm was not extremely difficult. I had to write about a well-balanced diet, carbs, fats, sugars, cooking techniques, optimum nutrition, and a few recipes we’ve done in class.  It was a lot of writing, but I got through it one sniffle at a time!

Officially on fall break now! It’s hard to believe this day arrived. 6 months ago I was dreaming about where I would spend my fall break. I never could have guessed Ibiza, Spain or Venice, Italy. Not all college students have this kind of opportunity! I’m still feeling lousy, but I spent all afternoon in bed. I went out for pizza and am going to grab some gelato before bed.

A lot of my friends are leaving for Greece tomorrow morning, so I’ll have the apartment to myself and the space to get better before my travels begin on Sunday. Florence is doing maintenance on the water pipes, so we have very low pressure water until the morning. Always something interesting going on! xo ~e.

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Pre-midterm lunch I made for myself yesterday

10.2.16

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sundays are for rest & relaxation. Today I recharged from my eventful trip to Cinque Terre. I woke up at 8:30 AM, blogged, journaled, did homework at Ditta Artigianale, walked across the Arno, did laundry, ate a hamburger for the first time since being in the States, wrote letters, and briefly watched a football game at the Lion’s Fountain. It was a productive and relaxing day, even though I still didn’t learn how football works. One of these days…

It’s hard to believe that it’s already October. We have this week of classes and next week before midterms! I didn’t have midterms at Emma Willard, so this will be a new experience. I know that I need to start studying soon and pay lots of attention in class! After midterms though I’ll be jetting off to Ibiza for a getaway. I am looking forward to that, and the trip will serve as motivation to get through midterms.

I’m thinking about Emma Willard right now, for they are in the midst of selecting a candidate for its new head of school. They have narrowed it down to three finalists who will be on campus to meet students, parents, and alums. Too bad I’m not there to put in my own two cents! The Emma Willard Varsity Soccer Team also beat Berlin twice (our rival school) which is great news. I truly miss playing on that team.

Ready to go for another week of classes. I hope you had as fun of a weekend as I did! Below is the text for my COM speech I delivered on Thursday. xo ~e.

Good evening everyone. Thank you so much for being here to celebrate John and Lisa’s 30th anniversary. I am so happy their steadfast friends and both sides of the family are present tonight.

As I thought about my parents’ marriage, I remembered wandering near the Duomo one night a few years ago when I heard a talented musician singing, “When the night has come / and the land is dark / and the moon is the only light we’ll see…” As some of you know, Ben E. King’s classic hit “Stand by Me” was my parents’ wedding song. I knew they were with me, even though I was 4,000 miles away.

Tonight I want to touch on three major aspects of their marriage that have contributed to how they have stood by each other for 30 years: UUs, Chinese food, and friendship.

Firstly, my parents met at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bennington, Vermont. My mom was finishing chemo when she met my dad on a Sunday morning. You can’t help but smile when he tells you, “She was and is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” She asked him on a date to a museum, and the museum nut in him couldn’t say no. The UU Fellowship continues to be an essential part of their marriage. As UUs, they have been able to embrace their own spiritual beliefs within the same religion. They will gladly share their fondest UU memories with you.

Secondly, I can’t help but tease my dad for casually asking my mom to marry him in a Chinese restaurant without a ring. Regardless, it worked. To this day, eating Chinese food and taking a leisurely, evening stroll is their go-to date. Not to mention they indulged in authentic Chinese cuisine halfway across the world when they fulfilled their dream of adopting a baby together. It’s not about the steamed dumplings or the shrimp with vegetables but rather the precious time John and Lisa share together.

Lastly, and most importantly, the secret to their successful marriage is that they are best friends. They will tell you the key to a happy marriage is friendship. If you can’t spend time with each other, support each other, and make each other laugh, it’s not going to work. I have witnessed my parents’ friendship grow stronger every day because of how deeply they care for each other. My mom recently received a job offer that involved being away from home during the week, and my dad whole heartedly encouraged her to take it. When my dad faced one of his greatest challenges, drawing live caricatures at street fairs, my mom was right beside him. These are only two examples of their endless support for each other. I’m sure you all have your favorite John and Lisa stories.

As we reflect on their years together, we realize how unique John and Lisa’s love is. When I think about love, I automatically think about my parents.

Together they overcome unpredictable challenges.

Together they learn more about themselves through each other.

Together they became the best parents a girl could ever ask for.

Together they write their own love story.

I’d like to propose a toast to John and Lisa. Here is to 30 years of a wonderful marriage and many more to come. With the help of your friend Ben E. King I will always be here to remind you that, “Whenever you’re in trouble, stand by [each other]”.  To John and Lisa.