Monday, April 20, 2020

Austin Takes Malta!

Hello! My name is Austin Rowland and I am a 20 year old full-honors student majoring in Arts Administration with a minor in Drama. In Spring 2020, I had the incredible opportunity to go abroad to Malta with the LIHC program. Although my time in Malta was cut short after a month due to COVID-19, my month there was incredibly eventful. Not only were the students supportive and kind of my situation and culture, there was not a single resident that I met that did not give kindness to me as I made my way around Malta. The biggest aspect of being abroad that frightened me was the acceptance of the Maltese- a problem by which I never discovered at all!

Austin and Jimmy The Dragon

While in Malta, I took 2 theatre study units while also having a dual-enrollment in two online courses at UNCG. This was very manageable, and worked out to where I only had to go to campus one day a week, and the other 6 days of the week could be spent exploring! I resided in a Hotel which serves students “dorm style”. My room was cleaned for me, there was breakfast served here, and there was a swimming pool. The area was very quiet and calm, and I did not once worry about my safety or have to deal with noise or theft. I also did not have a roommate, so it was nice and secluded.  My classes were full of students who understood me, supported me, and wanted to get to know me. That is just simply their nature. Kindness. We went out constantly, whether it be restaurants, or Malta’s capital city, Valletta.

Me and other UNCG students in Malta

I missed America as soon as I stepped onto the plane. In fact, my first question when I arrived at my residence was: “where is the nearest McDonald’s?”. There was luckily one in walking distance from where I was standing. However, as I discovered the amazing locally cooked pasta, squid, rabbit, and other endeavors- McDonald’s was a joke. I was also lucky to be in walking distance of the nearest LIDL, making grocery shopping effective, quick, and fun!

The highlight of my trip was taking the Game of Thrones filming tour. I am a die-hard Game of Thrones fan and the film tour did not disappoint! Primarily, the film tour covered "Game of Thrones", but also covered other media such as "World War Z", "Popeye", "Gladiator" and "Helen of Troy". I saw almost everything that went into filming Season One of the HBO award-winning show, and my tour guide was a crew member who worked on the show himself! The tour lasted all day, and took me around almost the entire island. I got to see where Cersei Lannister muttered the title line “When you play the Game Of Thrones, you win, or you die.”

You Win or You Die! (Game Of Thrones Tour)

I also got to see the amazing cliff dwelling by which Daeynerys gave birth to her dragons in the Season One finale. 

Dragon Birth Scene (GoT tour)

These two scenes are probably the most iconic of the show, and all my fellow fans back home demanded to see all the photos when I returned.

King's Landing Gate

The biggest disappointment about my experience being cut short was that I had planned to do so much. I had a trip to London planned on Mother’s Day weekend, birthday plans for my 21st in June with my Maltese friends, and other nights in the town which would be unforgettable. It was an emotional time as I packed up quickly, hopped into a taxi, and went home before cases of COVID-19 peaked in Malta. I speak with absolute confidence that my month there was as great as it could have been and I would change nothing. Malta is cool, calm, and collective, with people willing to include you and welcome you as their own. I hope to go back one day and reunite with the friends I had to say goodbye to so suddenly.

Popeye Village!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Shaye in Spain!

Hello! My name is Shaye Brockenborough, and I am a rising junior studying Elementary Education. This summer, I spent five weeks studying abroad with Centro MundoLengua at Asociación de la Prensa (ACP) in Cádiz, Spain! As I reflect on my time in Cádiz, I cannot help but think about all the amazing opportunities and people that I encountered along the way.

  Posing at Castillo de Santa Catalina
One thing that I really appreciated about my trip was the support of my host family and professors. Accents are a big distinguisher between people from Spain and Latin America. Spaniards have very thick accents and pronounce many of their words with a lisp. For example, they pronounce their Zs as “Th.” So, “Cádiz” becomes “Cádith.” At first, it was difficult to understand, but my host mother and her daughter (who lived next door), helped me by talking slower or using hand motions. I really appreciated their patience. In class, my professor Gloria gave us many diagrams and visuals to aid us in our learning. She had also studied abroad in the United States, so we had a special bond with her. Dr. Sotomayor, a professor at UNCG, required us to speak in Spanish during our history class. It was definitely a challenge, and because many of my peers were native speakers, the course was very fast-paced. Thankfully, Dr. Sotomayor would always have students explain things in English or put us in small groups to discuss the material. She also gave those who were not as advanced ample time to talk at their own pace. Because of this, I could tell that my listening and speaking skills grew tremendously!

My host family and roommates! Our roommate, Karen (center), was returning to Hong Kong the next day. We customized a cake from a local bakery and had an early thank you party for our host family. It was so much fun! 

My Spanish Conversation professor, Gloria!

One of my favorite activities in Càdiz was surfing on Playa de Victoria! I had never surfed before, so I was extremely excited to try it. Let me tell you, it is not as easy as it looks! I kept envisioning the movies Soul Surfer and Lilo and Stitch, but I spent most of my time falling off of my board and inhaling saltwater. Even though I was not achieving my goal like I wanted to, I did not give up. If there’s one thing my Mom has always told me, it’s “practice makes progress.” Finally, right before we ended our session, I made a momentous trip across the water on my knees! Surfing was hard, but it is definitely something I would do again. I enjoyed cheering on my friends and conversing with other surfers in Spanish.

Getting ready to surf on Playa de Victoria!

Not only did I get to experience Spanish culture, but I also learned a little French! For our free weekend, my friends and I wanted to take a day trip to Paris. We spent days deciding on what locations we wanted to tour and where we wanted to eat. It was going to be a jam-packed day, but we were ready! But, our day turned out to be a lot different than we thought. As soon as we stepped out of the airport to call an Uber, we realized that French was not as easy as it seemed. We knew nothing, and most of the drivers that we encountered did not know Spanish or English. So, something as simple as finding an Uber driver in a crowded airport took at least an hour. Then, it hit me! Being in the Honors College, I’ve learned all about the aspect of performance and play. Thinking quickly on my feet, I remembered that the Google Translate app had a conversation tab. It allows two people to speak in their native languages while translating everything for all parties to understand. Using that helped my Uber driver to take us to where we needed to be. By the time we got to our location, it was too late to do many of the things we had planned.  But, that didn’t stop us from having an amazing time! We walked around the city, ate crepes, and took pictures at the Eiffel Tower. Before we finished our pictures, my friends said, “Wait, you need a picture with your dragon!” Elisa, a name I always used in my high school Spanish classes, had been roaming around with me all throughout the trip. She was a mascot for my group of friends, and we included her in many of our pictures!

Watching Elisa in awe as she pushes the Eiffel Tower!

My time in Cádiz has allowed me to develop a stronger empathy for international students who come to the United States. Being in another country where you are not completely fluent in the language is hard, and I was thankful to have people who helped me along the way. Right now, I am interning with Duke University’s Summer Session for High School Students, where the majority of the participants are from other countries. My experiences in Cádiz have allowed me to better connect with my group of students, and we are able to bond over our diverse cultures.

On our last day in Cadiz, several of us decided to end our journey watching the sunset at Playa de Caleta. 
Posing with Elisa and fellow Honors students (L to R): Shelby, Max, Elise, and Casey at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain!

I hope that this blog post has inspired you to look into the summer program in Cádiz! It is a city filled with rich history and exciting opportunities. If you have any questions or want to see more pictures and videos, feel free to follow me on Instagram @shayebrock and check out my highlights tab “Viajes.” Hope you all are having an exciting summer! ¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Laci in Uruguay!

   “¡Hola, me llamo Laci y soy de Los Estados Unidos!” is something I say a lot here, so it felt right to start with that. My name is Laci, my major is psychology, and I’m studying in Uruguay, a country that I have definitely fallen in love with. When I arrived with my fellow honors student from UNCG I was knocked off my feet from culture shock. Our flights lasted about 24 hours, our housing was not ready when we got here, and it was COLD! Cold in South America, who would have guessed that. The first day here was rough, I won’t lie, but it paved the way for me to come to appreciate everything that I would encounter in the next 5 months.

   My first few weeks at my university were exciting and a little overwhelming. At my orientation, I remember trying not to fall asleep because it was so difficult to understand what the directors were saying. I couldn’t find the library for at least a month which is sad because my school is basically one building, but it goes to show how nervous I was to ask where anything was. I felt like a visitor in someone else’s home. Now, I find myself wanting to hang out in La Cantina (our cafeteria) in my free time between classes or, something that is very common, buy a bizcocho (any sweet pastry) and lounge in the sun on the terrace. I am excited to eat lunch with my international friends and to practice speaking Spanish to strangers. Sometimes I find myself striking up conversations just to speak to someone new.

My friends and I taking in the sun at the beaches of Punta Del Este, with my dragon Chispa (spark!). 
Tango is a tradition that has very deep cultural roots in Uruguay and almost everyone knows the basic moves and rhythms of the dance. 

   Uruguay is truly a hidden gem in South America with plenty of beautiful places to travel and wonderful people to meet. A man asked me once, “
¿Cómo te gusta este paisito?” How do you like this little country? What a question. The answer: “Me encanta todo.” I love everything. The people are very active in fighting for social justice and want their voices to be heard. Everywhere I go I can find posters about human/animal rights plastered on the walls of buildings or signs promoting an upcoming march. I attended my first big LGBT+ pride march here, which was a beautiful experience. People filled the main road dressed head to toe in pride gear and chanted words of acceptance. Glitter bombs shot into the air. Friends hugged and kissed each other.

My view from on top of the lighthouse at Cabo Polonio, my absolute favorite secluded beach town in Uruguay. It’s one of Uruguay’s well-kept secrets. 

   Graffiti is huge here. So huge that I don’t think I have ever seen a building, other than government official buildings, without some kind of graffiti on it. Montevideo has to have some of the most talented artists in the world because some of the things I’ve seen I cannot believe! While graffiti is still illegal here, the law is not really enforced and I think the city is even proud of some of the artworks, legal or not. I often see open space art galleries of street art with pictures of different graffitis with the locations and artists’ names if they are available. I took a graffiti tour and learned of a lot of wonderful artists like David de la Mano and Alfafa, both of which have popular pieces in Montevideo.

A graffiti that I found on the streets of Montevideo. It’s fun to imagine the positions the artist had to be in to paint the piece.

   The culture itself is my favorite part. There is always time to do what you want and relaxing and watching the sunset is encouraged. My first trip with my international student group to Piriapolis, another city in Uruguay, we watch the sunset at a very touristic spot with other tourist groups and surely many Uruguayans. When the sun finally slipped behind the horizon along the ocean everyone clapped. It was really cute, like everyone was congratulating the sun on setting another day. On any given day, no matter the weather, you can find a bunch of Uruguayans drinking their mate (the most popular tea-like drink) and chatting with amigos by La Rambla, a sidewalk that spans a lot of the coast of Montevideo. I am going to miss being expected to take my time and enjoy the little things, like the sun setting yet another day.

One of the beautiful sunrises at Los Dedos. Spending time to watch time pass is a very important part of Uruguayan culture. 

   As I write this I only have 2 weeks left of class and 5 weeks left in South America. I probably talked to 6 or 7 different people that have been to Montevideo in preparation for this trip, but nobody warned me of the friendships that I would make here. I have met people from all around the world and each one of them has impacted my life. To think that I would have never met them if not for this paisito is crazy and I will forever be grateful to Uruguay for bringing such amazing people into my life.

My international friends and I ate dinner at Hard Rock Cafe so I could taste some American food. They don’t eat macaroni and cheese here!

   If your still here, thanks for taking the time to read a bit about my journey outside of the US for the first time. Viva celeste, besos, and ciao.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Alex in France!

A quick note before starting: last week my phone broke and I lost all the photos I had taken up until that point. The only ones I still have are ones I sent to other people beforehand that they were able to send back to me, but this is a tiny percentage of what I took. Thus, I do not have any pictures with my honors dragon now, but I promise he is with me and, as far as I can tell, is having a good time in France.
A picture of Parc du Thabor located in Rennes

 A picture taken in Rennes most well-known art museum, the Musée des Beaux Arts de Rennes

Bonjour à tous! My name is Alex Williams and I am a senior geography major with a music minor, currently studying at the University of Rennes 2 in Rennes, France for the fall 2019 semester. While the experience thus far has been extremely positive, I did have my initial hesitations before and when arriving. Before coming to Rennes, I had never been outside of North America before in my life, nor had I ever been in a country where the primary language was not English. Although I did know a little French from taking classes in high school and university, it did not help ease my mind much knowing that I would be in the midst of native speakers who would probably know I was not a native speaker the second I opened my mouth. Nevertheless, I was also eager to be able to experience a new country and become familiar with a culture different from my own.
When I first arrived to Rennes 2, I was fresh off of an 8-hour plane ride and a 2-hour train ride, and in my exhaustion, I was unable to find the residence building in which I was to make my home for the next 4 months. In my desperation, I worked up the courage to ask a French student if he knew where I might be able to find the building I was meant to be in. Right away any notion of French people being rude or snobby (which is a stereotype I had heard of before coming) was immediately disproven for me. Not only did the student show me on a map where my building was, but he also offered to help carry my bags on the way there. As a first impression, this made me feel a lot better, however once I was alone in my room I couldn’t help but feel a little homesick already for my friends, family, and (perhaps most importantly) bed back home.
In class with two of my international friends, Kaito from Japan (who is holding the camera) and Neza from Afghanistan (who is in the middle)

A picture taken in Paris of the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background

Regardless, I pressed onward with my journey, and as time went by and I began to settle into life in France. At first, even little things like ordering at a restaurant could be a bit nerve wracking, and I’d often have French people who knew English switch to speaking English after they quickly realized my skills were not the best. However, I was exposed to the language and culture more, I slowly found my confidence building, and now I am able to maintain communication in French in most any situation I find myself in.
While being exposed to French culture has been great and I have been able to eat bread to my heart's content, perhaps the best thing about being here has been the people I have met. On top of meeting native French people who have taught me some of the French way of life, I have also met many international students as well. I have gotten to know people from all over the world, ranging from Ghana to Japan to Italy to Brazil and so on. Due to this, I have been able to learn about little things about all sorts of cultures that are foreign to me, not just that of France. With the international friends, I have made I have also been able to find people with which to share the experience of living in a whole new country, and it has easily been one of the best things about studying abroad.
In my time in Rennes so far, I have been able to become familiar with many things about France, ranging from their cuisine to the way the university system works. However, I still feel I have a lot to experience before returning home, and I hope that in the 5 weeks I have remaining here, I can squeeze in as much as I can. Regardless, this experience has already solidified itself as being one of the most memorable in my life, and I am eager to see what the last stretch has in store.
Au revoir!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Vivian in Denmark!

My Story

It is not every day that someone can say they commute between two countries every day to go to school, but I can say with a newfound confidence that I have been able to navigate this challenge with only a few hitches along the way. I embarked on this study abroad with the mindset that I would reduce the costs as much as I could so that I could allocate money to seeing all of Europe. As I result, I am living with my Swedish aunt and her husband in a small village in southern Sweden and commuting an hour or more one-way into Copenhagen every day for class.

There are times when I still do not believe that I am here living the dream that I had only a faint picture of when I was a senior in high school. I have been saving money for the past five years to do something big with my life. I am doing just that, hopping on trains across countries, taking flights to countries that I had only ever seen pictures of, meeting people from across the globe, and opening my mind to the possibilities that are available to me. It felt surreal once my passport finally arrived with its maroon cover, gold crown pattern, and the words “Europeiska Unionen Sverige Pass”. All my new Swedish and Danish friends joke that I have a way to go before I am officially Swedish, but to me, this passport connects me to the side of my heritage that I do not know as well as my Irish heritage. It reminds me of how hard I worked to get here; all the frustration was worth it in the end.

Being here has allowed me to appreciate how much my parents went through as immigrants to the US. The cracks on their hands reflect the hard labor they have had to do every single day since their first day in the US, while my hands are less than half as cracked and aged as theirs. Every day I can see how they have sacrificed for my future success and happiness. Not too long ago, the idea of college was not a certainty. We were unsure if we were going to ever be able to afford it, but because of my parents’ immigrant attitude, “by god I was going, no matter what we have to do”. Ever since then, that spirit has burned within me and pushed me farther than I ever thought I could go. I am propelled by the efforts of my parents and the efforts of my Irish grandmother who raised 12 kids by herself after my grandfather died, propelled to be what they dreamed of being but were not able to fully achieve because life does not always go as planned.

I have traveled to Germany, the UK, parts of Denmark, and different cities in Sweden, and I have many more plans to visit France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, and explore Ireland even more than I have. I have learned so much about myself that has been buried underneath stress, self-comparison, and low self-esteem. Studying abroad is the best decision I have made in life, not just because of how financial aid relieved my worries about money but also because of the time I have granted to be a kid again and to be fascinated by the wonders of life. Here I can once again reconnect with my love for new experiences and most importantly reconnect with my love for myself. At home, the days go by so quickly that I do not get the time to do these things. I am so incredibly grateful to be here living my best life, and I will look back on this time fondly. Thank you LIHC for reminding me how wonderful the world and life really is, without this opportunity I am not sure I would be as happy as I am now.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Olivia in Australia!

“Olivia Alston can you please come to gate number 37.” I nervously got up and walked over to the desk.

The worker at the desk asked for my student visa, and that is when everything hit me. I am really going to live the next four months in Australia.

My name is Olivia Alston and I am a Junior Kinesiology major with a minor in American Sign Language. I am studying abroad at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia for their T2 semester. While having the chance to stay on campus, I pretty much have the best roommates. Can you believe the first night we all made a pie together?

Standing at the Deakin University sign on campus
Not only were my roommates nice and welcoming, but the residents of Australia were all nice. I was not the only one from UNCG who went to Deakin, but I still wanted to gain more friendships. I joined one organization, and a study abroad group, which led me to many great friends. I needed to keep myself busy because I only had school 2 days a week here. While I am here I have met many friends, traveled to other countries and cities around Australia, learned how to ride public transportation, has done some cool excursions, but the best of all is learning more about myself!!!

Usually, in a new environment, I am usually the person that waits to be talked to, an introvert. Being in a new environment has motivated me to come out of my shell. I have made friends in the study abroad group, in a Christian club, 2 churches and also in my classes. The friendships that were made here are genuine, honest, and encouraging. My friendships have encouraged me to understand their culture. I have met people from Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Kenya, Vietnam, Korea, China, European areas, and Australia. Having a wide range of friends have taught me a little bit about their culture. My favorite learning experience has to be the time when Christian Union had desserts from many countries. There was Pandan Cake from Southeast Asia, Ice Kachang from Malaysia, Gajar Ka Halwa from India, and Lamington from Australia. I had fun eating desserts and learning where they came from.

Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia. They have the biggest malls I have ever seen and the best public transportation. While being in Melbourne, I have grown to be comfortable when riding public transportation because my sense of direction has been improving.

It was the first weekend in Australia, and the study abroad group decided to host a scavenger hunt around downtown. Once we made our groups, the scavenger hunt began. A few of my favorites spots were the AC/DC Lane, Melbourne Central and the many detours my group took along the way. Not only did I have fun with getting to know new people, but I learned more about how to get around the city.

My scavenger hunt group at one of the stops

At Deakin University, the students are less dependent on the school. There are no cafeterias, very minimal activities on campus, no sports team, and not a lot of residential housing. A lot of changes had to happen so I can adapt to my new norm. Cooking and creating desserts are starting to grow on me. My favorite so far is the honey bun cake I made. At Deakin University I also only have classes 2 days out of the week, Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought managing a busy schedule back home was difficult, but trying to make yourself busy is a lot harder. There is not much to do on campus, and downtown is about 1 hour away from our school. With much free time, I have gotten into the habit of working out, self-reflecting, and treating myself in my spare time.

The nature trail park near the school where I run

Being abroad has made me less dependent on my family and friends back home, it has helped me notice who I am becoming. Having more spare time has awarded me the time to self-reflect and notice how I have been changing, a positive change. Being here has helped me learn who I am without factors back home that could alter it. I love the transformation that has happened in Australia, I love the new me.

Lucas and I at the Queen Victorian Winter Market

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Katie in Italy!

   Hi! My name is Katie Moffitt and my dragon’s name is Antonio. I’m a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in ASL/Deaf Studies. I embarked on a six-week, faculty-led summer study abroad trip in Italy this past summer with four other students. I was pretty freaking nervous to study abroad because I had never really been out of the country, let alone for six weeks without my family. But since studying abroad is such a unique experience, I was determined not to let my anxiety get the best of me. People would ask me what I was most excited about, and even though I couldn’t imagine what Italy would be like, I knew that I was extremely eager to see how this adventure would influence my personal growth and development!

St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

Spanish Steps in Rome

We visited about 18 different cities, either living there for several weeks or going as day trips:

Milan, Padova, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Bracciano, Loiano, Verona, Rimini, Rome, Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Ravenna, Procida, Amalfi, Modena, Marzabotto

My professors spoke fluent Italian and have even lived in Italy previously, which was really helpful when navigating the cities and conversing with other people. They taught us some basic Italian phrases, like different ways of greeting someone, and most importantly, “Mi dispiace, non parlo l’italiano” (“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian”). Since Italy is such a tourist destination, especially cities like Rome, the locals are often forced to use the little English that they know to communicate. But if we put forth the effort and spoke the little Italian that we knew, the locals were more willing to speak a little English. In their eyes, there are two versions of Italy: the one that is shown to the tourists, and the real one that is kept private for themselves. We learned that by simply demonstrating some respect and interest in Italian culture, the Italians would often let us in to that private Italy. When I came back to the United States, I thought it was so weird that everyone around me was speaking English!
            Italy is known for its food, and let me tell you, what we call Italian food is not the real deal, nor a copy of the real thing. We were constantly raving about the gelato, cheeses, wines, breads, and meats! Even though my professors did an unbelievable job of scouting out the best places to eat, they also made sure that we knew what average and bad Italian food tastes like. Compared to American breakfasts, we barely had breakfast in the mornings because it usually only consisted of coffee or freshly-squeezed juice and a pastry, Yet, we ate too much at every other meal! We did research and asked for recommendations from restaurant owners to find the best local restaurants and gelaterias. Asking restaurant owners for recommendations is a great example of how our interest and respect for Italian culture let them feel willing to open up, and we were able to experience the authentic side of Italy. We learned how to differentiate touristy places from the places that are local favorites. A smaller menu usually meant more local, fresh ingredients for the few meals that they prepared. We got the opportunity to taste fresh lemons, oranges, mozzarella, olive oil, and so much more! We even attended a wine tasting, where we learned about how different wines are made, stored, and how they’re paired with different types of meals. There were tons of different meats that we tasted (or avoided), including chopped liver, squid, octopus, prosciutto, pork cheek, lamb, shark, intestines, calamari, and sardines. It was so hot that some days we got gelato or a granita two or three times. We also usually got dessert at the restaurant after every meal. We deserved it after all of the walking we were doing! We had wine during every lunch and dinner, at least one red wine and one white wine. It took until the last week that we were in Italy for me to find a wine that I actually liked. We considered it a miracle! 

Teatro San Carlo in Naples

Gondolas in Venice

        One cultural feature of Italy that was very obvious was how and when you ate meals. During breakfast, you rarely ever sat. While one reason for that is that you would have to pay to sit, the bigger reason was that breakfast wasn’t a meal to sit and chat over. You went to the cafe, ate a pastry, drank your coffee (usually espresso), and then left. During lunch and dinner, you had to expect the meal to take at least two hours, if not longer. It was extremely rude to rush any meal other than breakfast. Since Italians usually eat dinner around eight or nine o’clock in the evening, there’s essentially a designated snack time around 5 o’clock, called aperitivo. The purpose of aperitivo was to whet your appetite and hold you over until dinner. Even though we drank at most meals, including aperitivo, I found that I preferred the drinking culture much better in Italy than here in the United States. In Italy, the drinking age is 16 and everyone grows up with wine casually being at every meal. Italians don’t drink to get drunk. An aspect of Italy that I didn’t enjoy quite as much was the transportation. Public transportation in Italy, especially Rome, is a living nightmare! Unreliable, crowded, was rough sometimes. Over the course of the six weeks, I traveled by bus, tram, train, bike, taxi, boat, and my own two legs. But sometimes the worst experiences make the best stories, ya know?
Antonio looking out over Verona
Living in various hostels for six weeks was an experience, and sometimes it kind of reminded me of dorm life. Some of my best memories were from the hostels! Some hostels had air conditioning, some only had AC at night (if you asked for it, until they turned it off at around 5am), and some hostels had no AC at all. There were a few nights when it was so bloody hot, that we soaked our towels in cold water and laid them on our stomachs. Also, some of our hostel rooms were private, in which only our group stayed in the room, and in other hostel rooms we had to share with other travelers. During our one-week stay in Naples, we had three different roommates, from California, Australia, and Malaysia. Since we stayed in some cities for up to three weeks, we learned where the local grocery stores were. We were lucky enough to stay in a hostel in Bologna that had a giant kitchen, so we were able to cook our own meals when we weren’t out eating too much pizza and pasta. We visited so many different sites throughout Italy that creating a list would take too dang long. Not only did we see the most famous sites, like the Colosseum and Michelangelo’s marble statue of David, but we also saw so many more amazing things that weren’t crawling with tourists. We even attended several operas, in Italian of course, in the most grand theatres I’ve ever seen!
If someone were to ask me now what my favorite part was or what was the most exciting thing that I did, I wouldn’t be able to pick just one. By the end of the trip, I had collected a total of 60 postcards that I wrote for family members from every city that we stayed in. Of course I got some for myself too, and yes, I did write on all of them. I took about 4,000 pictures, which made it very hard to pick just a few for this post. There hasn’t been one day that has gone by that I haven’t thought about my trip to Italy. I learned so much about the world and myself while along that journey, and I still continue to learn from it every day. If I had let my fear of what might go wrong get in the way, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences of my life.

Hiking in Marzabotto