Tag Archive | studying abroad

I arrived in Italy over a year ago and it’s not an over exaggeration in the least when I say I miss it every single day. Every. Single. Day. I have a few friends studying in Florence right now and I can’t help but feel pangs of nostalgia and jealousy as they post pictures of the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio and all the places they’re visiting- because I was visiting all those places a year ago.

I’m on a travel website right now, looking at round trip flights to different places in Europe and hoping that I find a cheap flight that I can hop onto. But even the cheapest flight is going to be out of my reach for the next few years. But I’m going to save up so it happens sooner than later.

I am SO lucky I got to experience all that I did. But I don’t want to stop. I want to keep on seeing new places and different cultures. I just want to wander and explore.

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Difficulties of an Abroad Student (or just me)

Instead of offering an Italian word or phrase for this post, I’m going to use a German one. It’s called Schadenfreude. Or, taking pleasure in the pain and misfortune of others.  If you need further explanation, check out the Avenue Q song dedicated to the phrase.

Anyway, I’m describing this phrase to you because I’m hoping that by sharing my misfortunes so far in Italy, I can make others laugh or teach them something new about the culture, or me.

This post was originally going to be titled, Nicole vs. the kitchen.  I’m not very good in the kitchen, I can eat, but that’s about it.  But other things have occurred outside of the kitchen that are worthwhile retelling.  But let’s go in chronological order, which, indeed, begins in the kitchen.

In many Italian kitchens, there is a glass stove top that is used as decoration or counter space.  I have never seen one before, was not instructed on how to use it, unlike the other students, and did not learn about the purpose until too late.

The first meal I attempted to make was a simple bowl of pasta, which basically only requires a pot of bowling water.  I place the pot on the glass and increase the temperature on the gas stove before I walk away into a different room. Ten seconds later, I hear a large crash and see glass pieces flying out of the kitchen. I run back into the kitchen to see glass coating the entire tile floor and counter along with shards around the stove.

Like this:

yep, that’s glass.

I was mortified. None of my roommates knew either that the glass top was removable. We were just glad I had walked out of the room, because otherwise my third day in Florence would have been spent in the ER.

My next incident was also in the kitchen.  Nothing as huge as exploding the stove, but more emotionally traumatizing. While putting my jar of Nutella away in the cabinet, I dropped it and pieces of the plastic exploded everywhere. I was devastated, for it’s my go-to snack. Any fan of Nutella would understand.

Another difficulty I have been facing is navigating the streets of Florence, they are much different than the city streets of Manhattan. While walking to my first last week, I got horribly lost. I got so turned around, I had no idea which way was North.  As the minutes passed, I became increasingly more panicked.  I was going to be late to class and the area I was walking into did not seem as safe as the central part of Florence.  I finally asked a friendly Italian woman where I was and she pointed to it on my map- I had walked a half hour in the wrong direction.

By this time, class had already begun and I had no idea how to direct myself back.  Looking for taxi numbers in my orientation book, I decided to call the only number I had- the LdM (my school) emergency number.  The amazing woman who answered the phone put my adviser on.  She stayed attached to the phone while she talked me step by step to my class.  I wound up being a half hour late, but I was so grateful of my adviser and that I actually made it.

My fourth event has to do with traveling in Italy, as mentioned in my previous post.  In order to get home from Cinque Terre, we had to take the train from La Spezia to Pisa, and then get a connecting train from there to Florence.  We had already been through a long day, the three of us had less than an hour sleep the night before and then our train there was at seven in the morning and our train back was supposed to be at 9:30 at night.  Usually TrenItalia is very good with their lines, but that night our train was delayed for an hour. By the time we had reached Pisa, our connecting train was gone (along with the workers at the station).  We then find out that at least the company will be shuttling us back to Florence.  We missed the first cab, and the second one came a half hour later.  Just waiting around was brutal though.  Hanging out at a train station around midnight is not the safest thing, especially in an unfamiliar town with strangers waiting beside you.  It took a great deal of effort not to fall asleep while waiting.

At least I fell asleep on the car ride back (well, I had to at least shut my eyes-I was afraid to watch the Italian driving.)

My friends are curious to see what kind of other shenanigans I’m about to encounter.  They’re betting on another kitchen catastrophe.

First day (primo giorno)

We, me and my fellow Marist students, arrived Tuesday morning, 9am here, 3am for U.S. time, ready to explore.  We arrived to our apartments an hour later. I still don’t know what to make of it.  The apartment is fairly large, or long is the more  proper term, with an expanding hallway that on either side includes entrances to two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and two bathrooms.  The bathroom quickly prompted me to Google search how to use a bidet. Not yet a fan of it.  Although the apartment is spacious, it’s old.  Which means, no air conditioning (great in this 90 degree weather!), noisy pipes, and creaky furniture. The view is nice, we’re within a piazza with other old looking buildings colored the classic Tuscan yellow.  We’re also located right next to Ponte Vecchio, which is a beautiful sight within itself.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

My roommate and I decided to do a lot of walking in order to stay out of the apartment and battle the need for sleep (sleep won around 6p.m. until dinner).  We went to a 99 cent store to get cleaning supplies, which took us an extra 15 minutes trying to figure out what was laundry detergent.  After, we went to a grocery store, which proved much more daunting than we expected, especially since neither of us cooks. A half hour later, we left with the familiar items of frozen chicken nuggets, cereal and eggs.  We’re really hoping for improvement on that part.

Later on, we walked around the different plazas and past the various vendors. I love the fact that the Florence symbol is the fleur de lis (also KKG’s symbol) and it’s on everything. Potential gifts for my fellow sorority sisters? I think so.

Firenze Fleur de lis. Courtesy of italiannotes.com/wordpress

For dinner, my roommate and I met up with our friend at a restaurant across the river. The owner of the restaurant convinced us to eat there with his charming Italian ways (and the fact that he knew English) when he saw us viewing the menu outside where we were trying to compare prices.  Our friend managed to insult the owner by asking him specific prices about everything (typical Americans, obsessed over money).  The owner was surprised when we explained to him that water is free in America.  It’s not like we can drink the tap water here though; the argument is moot. The ravioli I ordered was amazing and the creamy sauce was heavenly, nothing like I ever ate at home.

I’m going to need to learn how to cook more to resist the temptation of eating out every night.

An introduction (introduzione)

This semester, my Junior year in college, I am studying abroad in Florence.  This includes exploring and absorbing what Italy has to offer, as well as exploring other European countries.  Some of those countries include Greece, England, France and Switzerland. I hope to tackle all of these countries and embrace all of the cultures.

Some words to describe me: A writer. Ajournalism/public relations student. A sorority woman (KKG to be exact). A runner. Guided by my wanderlust.

My goal for creating this blog: I’m creating this blog to organize my adventures abroad in a more visual and appealing manner. As a journalism student, I feel this is a way to hone my skills and to explore a more creative writing outlet, one that I am not used to.  I hope to look back on the blog and see how much I have developed over the semester; in cultural knowledge and as a writer.

What I hope you gain from reading this blog: By reading my blog, I hope you gain a shared knowledge of all my travel experiences.  I also hope you get to live vicariously through me and be slightly jealous (just kidding).  There will also be plenty of pictures of your viewing pleasure. If you know something  about a topic that I don’t (which is very likely) or if something in particular I write about interests you, I would like to hear about it in the comments.

I would also hope you would gain a few smiles from reading my blog. That would be nice.

Things to look for: Weekend updates (which is when I will be doing the majority of my traveling), Italian words/phrases of the week, and the “new thing” of the week.

I’m going to try to update this blog as often as I can, but I’m sure as the semester progresses, it will be more difficult. Especially since the internet connection in my apartment is spotty.  But it will at least be weekly.

Make sure you check out my adventures ablog! (Credit to my friend, also named Nicole, for the cleverness of ablog).

Ci vediamo. See you later.