2017 Reflection

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

One year ago from today I greeted my parents and their backpacks and carry on suitcases at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Stazione. The LeMay (grand) European tour started in Florence and ended in Milan with stops in Rome, Munich, Athens, and Crete in between.

Looking back on 2017, I can confidently say it was a terrific year––one of the best to date. I recall ringing in 2017 on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo with Steven and KT while witnessing fireworks all over the city, hoping 2017 would be as amazing as 2016. It’s safe to say it was.

2017 taught me a lot about change and self-discovery in addition to overcoming challenges, compromising, and adapting to new situations. I achieved many goals throughout the year too. I published stories in my local newspaper, walked on to a division I sports team, made the most out of my remaining time in Florence and Europe. And I finished my first college semester in the United States with a 4.0!

I welcomed new people into my life in 2017, and I let some go too. 2017 came with many goodbyes. All three grandparents moved out of their homes (and my second home) and into apartments. I said ‘Ciao’ to Florence for who knows how long. I said ‘Arriverdici’ to my student-expat life and all the treasures it encompassed.

Spending the holidays at home was the perfect ending to an incredible year. Sitting around the Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner table reminded me of how sweet life is simply because of those who are a part of it.

In 2018 I look forward to my first collegiate lacrosse season, turning 20 (YIKES), and working somewhere new during the summertime. I’m sure there will be spontaneous adventures, highs and lows, and a plethora of memories along the way.

Cheers! xo ~ e.

PS* Read my story that was published today here! 🙂


Emma: Freelancer Edition

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

This summer has been the summer for achieving goals.

  • Running my first 10K
  • Working in corporate
  • Eating healthy consistently (minus last night’s chicken tenders at the Dairy Bar)
  • Spending a lot of time with family
  • Reading books in addition to watching Netflix

One of my proudest accomplishments is being published in my local newspaper, the Manchester Journal. My dad worked for the Bennington Banner when I was very young. I clearly remember asking my mom how come Dad always worked and never picked me up from school. I rarely saw him, because he cranked out articles every day! He initially sparked my fascination for writing and print publication. Naturally I grew up reading the BannerJournal, and the Vermont News Guide. Being featured in them a few times was always a highlight too.

Before the summer began, I had a goal to be published in print. I wrote the article for the Florentine that was published online, but I wanted to see my name and my words on paper. Everything’s digitized now that print publication feels more ‘authentic’ or special.

I emailed the editor of the Journal, Greg Sukiennik, asking if they had a freelance budget. To my surprise, he got back to me a couple hours later saying he could help me out and meet with me after viewing some samples. Lucky enough for me, I had some to share that weren’t academic papers!

We met at Spiral Press Cafe during the week on my lunch break, and he was genuinely interested in my writing interests. It’s rare to find people who invest in young students (especially in the journalism industry).

Greg basically gave me the freedom to write about anything/anyone relevant in the community. He also said he would give me assignments. One day at Tuttle, I came up with the idea to write about Pierce Fulton, a Stratton native, who released his debut album. I got the green light from Greg, contacted Pierce’s manager, and interviewed Pierce that weekend in addition to getting a quote from his music teacher at BBA. It was quite the process!

At my mom’s camper that weekend, I proudly typed up a story (over 1,000 words). The response I got from Greg was to cut it to 750 words. Edit, edit, edit! I learned a lot from that first writing experience. News writing is something new to me (blog post to come in the near future). I was ecstatic picking up the paper on Friday morning at Stewart’s. I frantically flipped through it to find the picture of Pierce I submitted and my name. Such an adrenaline rush. There were some corrections, but overall, it was a success.

The most recent article I wrote is about the young musicians in Manchester this summer. This was a piece assigned to me specifically by Greg. He wanted me to capture What’s it like to study music in Vermont for the summer? This story took a lot of time, work, and effort. I met with four students and two directors within two days (on top of interning for 8 hours/day) and wrote the story in one afternoon at my grandparents’ house. I had a clearer idea of how to write it (I had 950 words this time) and used the suggestions from my last story to improve.

Having people mention an article in the grocery store, sharing my writing with the community, my friends, and family, and seeing my work in something I’ve read for years is a humbling and rewarding feeling. My passion for writing has deepened, and the skills I’ve acquired will be useful in the future. Stay tuned for my next article about John Werner’s 40th Annual Arlington Soccer Camp. I’m super stoked for this one–I grew up attending and volunteering at his camp! xo ~ e.

Please give my newspaper stories a read! Links below 🙂 I’ve also updated my ‘Publications’ page with some FlockU clips as well to check out.

Sweet music

BBA grad Pierce Fulton releases debut album

One Month Out

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ciao a tutti! It’s been a while. I apologize for the absence on my blog. I’ll admit that I do miss blogging daily from Florence/Europe. It’s been exactly one month since our jet left the tarmac at Florence Peretola Airport. And now it feels as though my entire freshman year is a distant dream, unattainable to reach again. I’m going to be very honest with you. The first two weeks in the United States was very hard. The immediate symptoms of reverse culture shock hit me like the wind in my face caused by the ATAF bus that blew past me every at 8:42 AM on my way to class. I felt lost and unsure of my place at home, since I had been away for so long. I realized friendships had changed, and old habits felt uncomfortably foreign. But with work and time, I gradually began to feel more at ease and confident with my life back at home. One of the worst feelings of the world is not feeling in control. And for those first two weeks, I felt anything from in control. Now I’m working 40 hours a week and cherishing my weekends. I’m exercising as much as I can and eating as much as I can that doesn’t come out of a packaged, plastic bag. On Father’s Day, I even got back on the racquetball court with my grandpa who revived my competitive spirit.

I also had some friends give me a harsh yet greatly reality check. I was reminded of my privilege for spending nine months abroad– one that many are not presented with during their entire lives. As I complained about little peeves in the United States, Vasudha told me to be grateful I’m not living in a third world country. These messages prompted me to shift my mindset. I forgave myself for having a challenging time adjusting due to missing Florence tremendously, and I started to get really excited for the next adventure to come in Poughkeepsie starting in the fall. The freshmen who were in Florence are now super pumped to start our American college careers on a traditional college campus. There’s so much to look forward to (decorating our rooms fully, joining clubs, playing sports), and the option of another experience abroad is tangible. I thank technology for allowing us to stay in touch. We reminisce about our year through iMessages, phone calls, and letters too. Although we will never relive our freshman year abroad, I truly believe we will carry the lessons, challenges we overcame, and travels with us for the remaining of our college careers and beyond.

My schedule has shifted vastly now that I’m back in the States. I’ve quickly come to terms with the fact that kids & teenagers should be in no rush to be an ‘adult’; forty hour weeks are not the most luxurious privileges of being an adult! I am thoroughly enjoying my internships– learning a lot about the corporate world. This introduction through both internships is really beneficial to my education and career goals. Here’s what my typical day looks like:

6:15 Wake up

6:45 Leave the house

7:20 Arrive in Manchester

8:30 Start work

10:00 Fifteen minute break (walk)

12:00 Thirty minute (unpaid) lunch

15:00 Fifteen minute break (walk)

17:00 Finish work

17:15 Work out in the gym or at the local park

18:15 Leave Manchester

18:45 Leave the grocery store

19:15 Arrive home and cook, eat, shower, and unwind for the day

21:00 In bed! Reading or Netflix

21:30 Lights out

It’s a brutal schedule, but it makes up for my rather leisurely days in beautiful Florence. Several of my friends are visiting my home away from home this summer, and I’ve written up an itinerary for them! Look out for further posts soon. Thanks for stickin’ with me! xo ~ e.


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.