Kristen, Student Blogger: Cinque Terre

Italian Riviviera Tour

Another weekend filled with hundreds of pictures. I love being able to take so many decent pictures from my phone (and we can keep praying it doesn’t run out of storage). The school scheduled an Italian Riviera tour at the beginning of the term and we finally got to go in it. It definitely was of the most beautiful views I’ve ever. The tour started from the school where we got on a bus that took us on a 2 hour bus ride to Genoa. On the way to Genoa we drove through mountains and then eventually got to the coastal views as well. It was unreal how many people were living in the middle of the big rolling hills, so secluded and on such steep slopes. Once at Genoa we went on a walking, guided tour of the city with a tour guide. Genoa is home to many historical battles and bombings. Luckily, much has been fixed to still be an important port for boats today. One of the interesting facts about Genoa is that they have one of the lowest birth rates in the world. Their population has dropped significantly over the past few years because of this reason. Many families are choosing not to have kids or having few.

The first thing we saw was a museum sitting at one of the port entrances. It serves as a piece of artwork for the city. It is very deceiving to people who pass by, as everything is painted on the building, including parts of some of the windows. The church that we entered in after was built in the medieval times, as you can tell with the black and white painted stripes. When we headed back to the port, we went up in a glass ball elevator that brought us to the top to look over the whole port.

After this short tour of Genoa, we headed for Saint Margherita Ligure. Saint Margherita was beautiful with all of its flowers and ocean views. We immediately got off the bus and headed for lunch. We ate focaccia, an Italian version of “white” pizza. You can basically get any normal pizza topping on it, except other options as well, like pesto focaccia. After pizza we headed up a hill in the city to a church that looks over the city. (A common theme in Italy apparently.) We then all headed back to the bus to grab our stuff and check into our hotel.

I think it was an agreed decision between all USAC members without speaking about it, that we would all be meeting at the beach as soon as we dropped off our stuff. Even though their beach was much like a rock driveway that would require a chair or 10 towels to find comfortable, we somehow still enjoyed ourselves for a couple hours all together on the beach. Following the beach, my group of friends decided that we wanted to splurge a little to a nice seafood dinner by the sea. Of course, the TripAdvisor app was my go-to to finding something that qualified and had good reviews. It was less than a mile away. The typical Americans we are, showed up as soon as it opened at 6:30PM and got to pick our table out of the whole restaurant. I ordered pasta with crab, which meant real crab parts in my pasta. Maybe this happens in America too and I just haven’t been to a fancy enough place but I don’t know how you’re expected to get the crab out gracefully at the table. We were all really impressed with our meals, though.

The next day, Friday, we had a day trip to Portofina. We were told Portofina is where a lot of famous people come to vacation. I don’t know if it is cheaper to access by boat or if a charter bus can’t really access the town, but we took a large boat to the island. All the program students headed to the roof for the views. Well, given that that is where everyone headed and we were unable to get a seat up top. We got booted to the bottom of the boat. The bottom of the boat was closed off by greyish plastic windows that we were not excited about sitting behind. Therefore, we headed to towards the front of the boat. We didn’t think about the idea that the ocean would be able to move our giant boat… or the waves the would fly overtop of the side of the boat. In summary, we were soaked in saltwater by the time we got to Portofino. It was fun though, there was an Australian couple next to us that laughed about the whole thing for a 10 minute boat ride that we had of getting soaked.

We went on a hike when we got there and then met up for gelato after. The hike went up around to the other side of the port where we first stopped at a church. On one side of the church was more of the trail and the port. On the other side was the open Mediterranean where huge waves crashed against the side of the rock wall. It was such a cool spot with an amazing view. I definitely can see why the celebrities would choose to vacation there. Our last stop of the hike brought us further up over both the port and ocean where a small castle at the top sat. We were told many famous people choose to have private weddings at this spot. We got the next hour to shop and eat lunch if we wished and then meet up for gelato. We saw a couple of really cute shops on our way up that we wanted to check out. There is a reason that these shops are located in Portofino, though. One of the first articles of clothing that I picked up was a pair of shorts that had a price tag of over $200. We didn’t buy anything in Portofio, except for a post card and lunch.  🙂

Once our boat arrived back at Saint Margarita, we hurried to pack up our stuff out of the hotel and catch our train to our villa for the weekend. Our program set it up perfectly that we spent Thursday and Friday’s days off touring the towns and then we got Saturday and Sunday to ourselves. We booked a villa for Friday night through Sunday morning to stay at near Santa Margarita and Cinque Terre, in La Spezia. Never have I stayed somewhere so nice. It was a bit of a hike for the cab driver to take us to, but he got all 8 of us to the top of a tall hill where our villa sat.  We had a gorgeous view of La Spezia’s port and the mountains behind it.

The closest thing to a store was right down the driveway and offered just as much as a gas station might offer for food in the US. It provided enough that we could make some dinners and not have to eat every meal out although. We stayed at the villa for most of weekend, except to hike Cinque Terre. We walked the 45 minutes to La Spezia’s train station and it took us directly to the trails of Cinque Terre. If I thought our villa had a great view… I was sure to be proven wrong by the abilities of Cinque Terre’s views. There are 5 cities that mark Cinque Terre. They create sections of a trail that connects them all together. We hiked the longest and “toughest” section of the trail, which took us just under 2 hours. The first 45 minutes was all up hill so it required a couple stops to get everyone up. The whole walk up was walking through fields of grapes and other plants.

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Once we got to the main trail is when the real views came in. I don’t even know if my pictures do the views justice. The ocean was beautiful and to be on the side of mountain was even cooler. The trail ended at another little town where we ate lunch and then headed back to our villa. The different colored buildings must be a thing of most those Italy’s coastal towns in the area because most of every town we went to for this 4 day weekend had them. Back at our villa we got to relax and hang out in the pool and beautiful weather for the rest of the weekend.

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Kristen, Student Blogger: Milan

I arrived in Milan Thursday morning to meet up with my friend, Britney, and her family. The train took me straight from Torino’s central station to Milan’s. It is amazing how the train has become so easy and fast to use, rather than driving and flying. It is not always the most comfortable or great-smelling, but definitely fast and convenient. I think I’m really going to consider more use of America’s public transportation, instead of my car, when I get back in the states.  Britney’s mom needed to order some train tickets so Britney and I headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we forgot the room key so we got to hang out in the hallway catching up with each other for a half hour. After getting ready we headed out for the city of Milan. We were staying a 7 minute walk from one of Milan’s most famous site to see, the Duomo. Well, we accidentally went the wrong way and walked the opposite way of the Duomo and into the middle of a castle within 2 minutes. We then walked into a huge park that ended with an arch leading into the rest of the city.

Also located in Milan is Da Vinci’s Last Supper. We headed towards there in hopes to get in. Too bad, we were informed that we should’ve bought tickets to see his art weeks in advance, Therefore, we only got to see the outside of the church. Finally, we made our way back to finding the Duomo afterward. The line to get in was very long so we decided we’d get tickets to see the inside and the top of it the next morning. There were many restaurants located on the top of roofs right next to the Duomo, so Britney’s mom snuck in and got us a table. We happened to hit aperitivo time, which gives you free appetizers when you buy a drink. It’s weird to see, but we noticed what looked like high schoolers drinking at the bar too. As the drinking age is only 18, it was actually probably okay to do.

Afterwards, we got ready to head down to the river at night, which is what the landlord suggested we do. It was one of the coolest, younger scenes I’ve seen in Italy. There were huge crowds just gathered around the river. Given that it was the middle of the Euro Cup, a huge screen projection was set up for the crowds to watch the game. In the water, skiers were going by too. We found a nice little restaurant on a corner to eat and split meals. We were there pretty late and one of the last people in the restaurant, as Britney insisted on learning some Italian from the waiter. Britney knows quite a bit of Spanish so she actually wasn’t too bad at picking up most of the words.

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The next day we headed to the Duomo with both of her parents where we were able to go on the roof. From the roof we could look over the whole city, which seemed never ending. We decided later we’d come back and go on the inside since the line was so long. We then walked through Milan’s famous fashion streets. On these streets there were highly known brands like Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany & Co., and Dolce & Gabbana.

Our next adventure consisted of trying to find Da Vinci’s famous horse. Britney had covered the creation of the horse in class so her kids had insisted that she find it. The horse was on the other side of the city, so a metro was definitely necessary for the trip. Once out walking towards it, we found ourselves walking around a huge horse racing track. We had been walking for about 25 minutes before we realized we had taken the wrong way around the track. Americans really takes for granted their gigabytes of data when not having the ability to have the maps app open looking for directions constantly. Well by the point we got to, it didn’t seem worth it to turn around so we kept going around the outside wall of the track to the other side. Britney’s mom is a really big fan of horses, so when we got to the other side and realized there was an actual horse race going on, it was necessary to stop. It was only a 1€ entry fee and another race was about to begin in 20 minutes. Perfect timing! What an experience to just stop in on a horse race in Milan and cheer on some horses. Da Vinci’s horse was right next to the stadium when the race was done. He had started the project for the Duke of Milan but during times of war and studying of horses, Leonardo Da Vinci did not finish the project. Through the help of a group of people dedicated to the expertise that Da Vinci had, they were brought together to finish the horse. This information all came from our little tour guide, Britney!

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After the horse races, we headed back to the Duomo one last time for a look inside. The line was much less. It was weird, a church service was actually going on when we went in.  So, a service was going on in the front and people were also in the confession rooms on the side. We then went back to cleaned up and got ready for a last dinner in Milan. We headed for the street, Via Brera, where it was filled with a bunch of Italian restaurants. How someone picks the perfect restaurant, when there are tons of waiters in the street begging you to look at their menu, offering somewhat similar food, with a slightly different variety and half of it not in English, I will never know. We picked a great one though! The more you order the more free things that come along with it. So we got tons of classic Italian foods, with wines, pastas, bruschetta, zucchini, and bread. Definitely, was one of the most classic Italian meals that I’ve had in Italy.

It was so nice to just be able to relax for weekend and catch up with a friend. She will be a friend that I can share the memory with for a long time as we both will be together and have jobs in Chicago starting in September!

Kristen, Student Blogger: Pre-Milan

This week has been a pretty relaxed week in terms of feeling like I’m pretty well settled in and have a feel for how to operate things better. I might be only saying this now as I, for the first time, walked to the train station by myself and found the platform without feeling like I needed to attempt to ask anyone if I am in the right spot. Instead, an Italian asked ME to make sure the platform was heading to Milan! I am on my way to Milan to meet my friend from home, Britney. Her dad has business in Milan and her brother is playing American football in Germany currently so she is traveling around Europe for a couple of weeks with her family. She was originally going to meet me in Torino, but the outbreak of riots while in Paris prevented her from being able to take her train. So now I’m meeting her and her family in Milan!

This week has been pretty interesting in terms of my school work. My first lesson came on Monday during my first exam for Economics and Politics in the EU. Essays for tests are more common in Italy. While preparing for a multiple choice test on the treaties of the European Union, I got slapped in the face when I actually found out I needed to memorize a lot more than I thought I did. Overall, I hope he doesn’t grade it too terribly hard, but we shall see. I definitely will be studying differently next time.

In my other class, we had to interview a person of a different culture and talk about the values and differences that exist, through a report. I got the chance to interview one of the Italian students in between classes. There were differences that existed, as the sports that she grew up with, such as ice skating, tennis, gymnastics and horse riding. Sports that were not-existent at my small, high school growing up. Similarities existed with her relationship with her parents, values of getting a job and moving away from home. What I found the most interesting, was her view on her own country. It is well known that Italy is growing through an economically hard time. While speaking to her, she informed me on her disgust for her countries views. She thinks Italy is in a political sink-hole that is “going no where”, seeing now future. Her plan is to go to America or England when she graduates from her school. I guess I should be able to understand as Illinois is also in financially hard times, but it’s hard for me to imagine leaving the country. It would have to be hard living in a place where you believe there to be no future.

In my Economics class, we happened to be talking about the views the Italian citizens and the economy of Italy, in their current state. Italy has the lowest birth rate of world. My teacher, along with many other reasons, sees this as a potentially threatening problem for future generations. Italy has become sort of a retirement home for the older generations and no new minds are coming through. His view is also that the students who see and focus on a future, are the one leaving, while those content, are staying. Dr.  Dastru continued to explain that one of the reasons a crisis began to occur was the retirement plans the Italian government set up back when Italy was prosperous. Rules were set up that allowed workers to retire after merely 15 years of work. He personally knew a family member who did this and still currently, reaps the benefits of the retirement plan. So this was allowed for many government worker for years. Only recently did they end the outrageous retirement plans when realizing that they couldn’t keep up. He, personally, would like to see more educated discussions on why Italy is doing financially bad and how to fix the problem.

A lot of these views vary greatly from what you see in America or what would happen in America so I think that is why it is so interesting. On the other hand, learning these kind of things would probably not seem nearly as interesting while at home, instead of Italy.

Kristen, Student Blogger: From the Middle of the Atlantic

5/16/2016~writing from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean
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Ciao everyone! I am Kristen Rohrer and I am starting my travels to Turin, Italy for the next 6 weeks today! I have started this blog to a) provide a source for other first-time study abroad-ers/out of America-ers traveling to Italy, b) anyone interested in studying abroad with EIU’s partner, University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), c) update my friends and family, and d) there may or may not be a scholarship involved. So I will be posting at least twice a week for the next 6 weeks!
Let’s quickly recap what I learned not to start doing at 8PM the night before your flight:
-figure out the baggage size limit or the type of luggage you can have because you’re too lazy to navigate the website
-realize you might not have the right electric converter because you simply went on Amazon and searched for an American-to-Italian converter.
-accidentally not talk to your mom for 2 weeks and than need to catch her up in the middle of it all to make it a late night for the both of you
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In all honesty, there are plenty of sources online for how to pack for your destination country online. For Turin, it is known to rain a lot, they use public transportation more often than their personal cars, have weather of 70s-80s at this time, have cobblestone streets that make uncomfortable shoes undesirable and it is “more Italian” as it isn’t as touristy as Florence, Milan and Rome. It is located a quick (less than 4 hours) away from at least Milan, the coast, and France. Most everyone on my trip got connected through email and then Facebook and a messaging app called GroupMe about a couple months ago. Most all of us hope to be visiting other cities on our weekends. The classes and group flight was organized by the University of Torino and we were told we have 57 students participating this semester, from 25 different colleges and 23 different states.
Alright, so I am writing this post on my flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. It’s just over an 8 hour flight, but things are going pretty smoothly so far. My parents and sister were so kind to so spend their day driving me to O’hare for my 4 o’clock flight. Once I checked in and attempted to convince my worried mom that everything was going to be okay, I headed through TSA. Rumors had it that yesterday it took 3 hours to get through security but luckily, it only took about 20 minutes. 10 minutes was time of which it took for me to get my passport, state ID, computer, iPad and phone out of my too perfectly packed carry-on and personal bag. Once everything got packed again, I headed for my gate where I followed a girl in that I recognized from the GroupMe. We found the other 3 girls on the group flight with us and got to hang out for a couple of hours to get to know each other before getting on the plane.
Currently, on the plane, I am sitting next to 2 brothers who are a junior at NIU and a freshman at a college in Elgin. They have been super cool and fun to hang out with so I lucked out! They are touring Saudi Arabia briefly and then visiting family in Ethiopia with their parents. Maybe this is normal, but we passed right over the Statue of Liberty on our way out of the country. Too bad it was covered by clouds… But the flight info map on the wall showed us where we were at in time so my x-ray vision could pretend to see it. I will be getting to Germany at 7:15 AM where we will meet up with more USAC students and fly out to Turin at 12:05 PM. It is so crazy that I’m headed to a different country. Woohoo!!! Can’t wait to get there.
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It’s Your Chance to Have the Summer of a Lifetime!

Our deadline for summer faculty-led programs is January 31st! Don’t miss the opportunity to have a summer you will never forget. There are so many options to choose from, and we can help you find the program that fits best for you!

Always dreamed of traveling to Italy? We have two programs there this summer! Want to improve your Spanish? Head to Argentina! Maybe a tropical destination is more your style- apply to go to the Bahamas! There are also a variety of other subjects such as business, biology, music, english, and more! Click on the photos below for additional program information.

Stop by our office in 1207 Blair Hall with any questions you may have, and get started on your applications today! An amazing summer awaits!

Mediterranean Cuisine: Florence, Italy

Mediterranean Cuisine: Florence, Italy

The Good Life: Italy

The Good Life: Italy

Summer in Salzburg: Austria

Summer in Salzburg: Austria

Summer in Argentina: Cordoba, Argentina

Summer in Argentina: Cordoba, Argentina

Health and Wellness for Life: Novi Sad, Serbia

Health and Wellness for Life: Novi Sad, Serbia

Science and Schooling: Andros Island, Bahamas

Science and Schooling: Andros Island, Bahamas

Summer Archeology: Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Summer Archeology: Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Incredible India: Creating Global Educators - Hyberabad, India

Incredible India: Creating Global Educators – Hyberabad, India

Intercultural Communication and Co-Cultural Experiences: Ireland

Intercultural Communication and Co-Cultural Experiences: Ireland

Nation Building in the New South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nation Building in the New South Africa: Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Kruger National Park, South Africa

Sustainability, Energy, and Development: Barcelona, Spain

Sustainability, Energy, and Development: Barcelona, Spain

Business Study Abroad: European Union - Croatia and Spain

Business Study Abroad: European Union – Croatia and Spain

Plant Usage and Culture in China: Beijing, Xi'an, and Sichuan Province, China

Plant Usage and Culture in China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Sichuan Province, China

The Sport Industry in the United Kingdom: Winchester England (with field trips to London)

The Sport Industry in the United Kingdom: Winchester England (with field trips to London)

English Literary Landscapes: Grantham, England

English Literary Landscapes: Grantham, England

Beneficial Language Barriers

Venturing to a new land that uses a foreign language can definitely be frightening. From birth we are brought up in a society that allows us to vocalize our needs, ideas, and feelings and understand others while using a common dialect. Being aware that this convenience may be hindered while traveling can most certainly be intimidating, especially while preparing to study abroad.

Before my study abroad experience in Florence, Italy I was nervous about the use of the Italian language. I had only 4 years of beginner Spanish skills under my belt, and knew the Italian language would be difficult for me to use. Luckily, in Florence, most of the locals spoke at least a small amount of English, which helped me in common situations. What I found most helpful was the Italian language course I was enrolled in at my university abroad. This class instructed me to actively use the Italian language, and made interacting with locals a more enriching experience.

There was only one scenario where an Italian man and I did not share a single common word. He was my waiter in a small restaurant in Siena, and immediately had difficult time explaining that he did not speak or understand English. Although we had a language barrier- through the use of smiling, nonverbal language, and a lot of hand waiving, I was able to partake in one of the most memorable lunches during my time abroad.

Language differences are not a factor that should scare the student from studying in a foreign country. If anything, it should be a reason that makes the country even more intriguing. Whether you’re studying abroad to practice a language, or going only understanding English, immersing yourself in a land of words that are unrecognizable only benefits you as a student, and more importantly a person living in a multicultural world.

Traveling Europe while Abroad

Studying abroad in Florence, Italy was a remarkable travel experience in itself. However, due to ample amount of time overseas and yearning to explore, I decided with conscious pre-planning and budgeting to set sail from my home away from home in Florence and discover new cultures in the European countries of Greece, Spain, and France.

My first adventure began with an overnight cruise to the island of Corfu, Greece. My friends and I booked the trip with the #1 European Travel Company Bus2alps, and had a memorable time on their planned excursion. During my time in Greece I jumped the waves in the Ionian Sea, devoured one too many gyros, and even attempted to learn a traditional Greek celebratory dance, key word- attempted.

Next on my travel list was a sporadic trip to Barcelona, Spain.  Two friends and I decided to book a flight with Ryan Air to what later became my favorite visited country outside of Italy.  My first stop in Barcelona was the warm beach on the Mediterranean Sea, followed by a night of shopping down the city’s most famous streets, “Las Ramblas.” While making my way through the city I viewed the enchanting Sagrada Família Cathedral, and thankfully discovered the Spanish delicacy, Paella, which quickly became my new favorite dish!

Before my time abroad came to an end, friends and I booked one last excursion to the French Riviera. Our primary bus stop was to the popular city of Nice, where I admired oceanic views as well as inspiring French couture. In between our destinations, my friends and I took a train ride to Monte Carlo, Monaco to gamble at the world famous Monte Carlo Casino, which consequently was a loss in euros, but a gain in wonderful memories! My journey ended in the city of Cannes, where movie stars around the world gather for the annual film festival.

These three trips fulfilled my experience abroad, and allowed myself to come home a more adventurous, knowledgeable, and cultured individual. Traveling while studying abroad is a factor I am most grateful to have experienced, and has inspired me to voyage to other new and intriguing destinations in my future.

One Graduate Student: 3 Continents

Amber Rigsby is about to depart on her third study abroad program.

You heard right: her THIRD.

She is a graduate student at EIU, hailing from Family & Consumer Sciences. In 2010 she wandered through China on a Biology program. In 2012 she spent her Spring Break in Florence, Italy. As of last week, Amber landed abroad once again, this time in South Africa for her longest program yet: a whole semester.

When you look at these three programs, you wonder how she got started. She told us she originally decided to study abroad in China because a friend had just returned and said it was amazing. Rather than take her friend’s word for it – she signed up for Plant Life in China with Dr. Gordon Tucker, and went to see for herself.

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First time abroad: China

While wandering in China she admitted, “I wish I knew some of their language before I left because most locals wanted to communicate but the language barrier prevented us.” For a first time study abroad program, a month in Asia was ambitious, to say the least. The group visited 5 cities, and saw everything from a university to the Great Wall to a kiwi factory and two national parks.

Italy? A different story. The program is called “Food, Wine & Fashion” and is led by faculty in Family & Consumer Sciences to an EIU partner school: Apicius Culinary Institute in Florence, Italy. Amber and her classmates spent a very busy week visiting museums, taking cooking classes, visiting fashion boutiques and taking in the scenery in Tuscany.

Ponte Vecchio Florence Italy

Next Up: Florence, Italy

South Africa will be different. As she notes in her blog, this is the longest time she’ll be away from her family.

The FCS Semester in South Africa focuses on Human Services and Early Childhood Education, and the students will visit schools, interact with locals and learn about the communities they live in. The group of students will work with Dr. Frances Murphy and briefly with Dr. Dagni Bredesen, taking upper level coursework for a whopping total of 15 credits. Of these, Amber will be taking advantage of a Graduate Internship course while she’s abroad.

Cape Town airport

Cape Town airport, Photo courtesy of classmate Demetris

Amber is one of our many scholarship students, and she worked hard to research various fundraising opportunities to supplement her journey. She is a true testament to not letting anything stand in your way. Her advice to other students is: “Go! It’s a great opportunity that will lead to an amazing adventure and you never know when you will get that chance again.”

If you want to read along on Amber’s adventure in South Africa, check out her blog at: http://ambersspiritualjourney.wordpress.com/

Amber in South Africa

Amber in South Africa

Student Blog Spotlight: Erica in Italy

How can you go wrong with a title like: Eat, Paint, Louvre?

We are loving the updates out of Italy by our Florence based student blogger, Erica. Her photos alone will convince you to book the next flight out, and after that one pizza photo … you may also be encouraged to buy some lunch. Join her on her six-week whirlwind adventure en Italia!

 

Check out Erica’s latest posts and photos here: http://ericabyoung.wordpress.com

Going Back to Italy [recap!]

I’m back! It’s been nearly two weeks since I returned from the best spring break trip ever and I’m still weaning off of my Italian high. Before I left, I was anxious. In fact, I wrote about it. I was curious about how I would feel returning to where I studied abroad. But as soon as I arrived, I felt right back at home, like I had never left. The immediate love I gained for Italy during my semester abroad hit me just as hard the second time around, however things were a bit different returning as a tourist and not a student. I quickly realized that my spring break trip could best be described as a giant tease.

My 6 short days back in Italy consisted of seeing friends and new places. I spent the majority of my trip in Rome, visiting a friend who is currently studying in the region (I’m very jealous). To ensure I was able to do all I wanted during the week, I was forced plan out every minute of my trip, which was something I never had to do when I lived there before. Luckily I scheduled time to see the sites of the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps. I also made sure to indulge in thin crust pizza, stracciatella flavored gelato, and even find time to purchase a fabulous pair of Italian leather shoes (I mean, how could I not?!). However, what I realized I missed most from my first time in Italy was the abundance of time I had. I missed the freedom of being able to wander the streets without any planned schedule. I longed to forget about the decreasing number of days I had during my trip, and hoped get lost and explore for hours like I how I used to.

The biggest tease came when I arranged a day trip back to the city of where I studied, beautiful Florence. As soon as I stepped off the train flooding memories of my days living within the Florentine walls danced in my mind. As I started going down memory lane, I wished I had more than 24 hours in the city that changed my life. I was able to visit my favorite squares, restaurants, and people of the city, as well as touch the door that led to the apartment where I spent the best months of my life. Emotions were present, and as great as it was to relive those happy days, grief struck when I understood that my spring break trip couldn’t compare to the time I experienced in Florence a year prior.

Going back to Italy for spring break was a gift I couldn’t be more thankful for. I was enchanted once again by the beautiful culture, and saying goodbye the second time around may have actually been harder than the first. Italy has a way of grabbing my hand, and squeezing so tight that I feel as though I cannot let go. Returning as a tourist was not my ideal way to spend time in my favorite country, but I’m confident one day I will be able to return again in future for a longer stay, and just like I used to, be able to wander through the streets for endless hours once again.