The Sinking City: Venice

My time in Italy is coming to an end faster than I thought it would. I had a few more places that I wanted to travel to, and for my last adventure I decided to go to Venice. Venice is one of those places that is it’s own kind of place. There is no place like it on the planet and it is a must see for anyone that loves to travel. I went this weekend with my friend Colleen, who I met in Switzerland on a different trip, as a last big trip because towards the end of the semester we are too busy with studying and the old bank account is not what it was at the beginning of the semester. I have been extremely lucky to get to travel as much as I have, and now I have three weekend left to enjoy Florence the way that it should be enjoyed. I figured that if I lived here for the semester I should probably go see the sites in my own city. However, this blog is not about Florence it is about Venice.

Venice is one of the coolest places I have ever been. For starters the whole city is sinking so the streets are made up completely of water canals. Some things that Venice is famous for are their beautiful masquerade masks and their glass. When we went Colleen and I were able to see a glass blowing demonstration. The people that glass blow are typically men and the skill is passed from father to son through generations. You could tell when watching a demonstration like that, that it is a skill which has been acquired from a young age. The man that did our demonstration made a glass vase with a beautifully intricate handle in under five minutes flat. If that doesn’t impress you then I give up. Afterwards Colleen and I did what girls do best, we went shopping!

I had tons of fun in Venice and I can’t really tell you what I bought when I went shopping because some of you may be getting presents from there. ūüėČ Venice was definitely a beautiful place and I am beyond grateful that I was able to see so much and learn so much about such a unique city. It was definitely my favorite place in Italy that I have been to. For all of you travellers that want to conquer Italy make sure that you go to Venice. There truly is no way to describe it sometimes you just have to take it all in for yourself. My days here are numbered and I am going to take the chance to see the rest of the place where I live. Florence has been the experience of a life time for me, and I know that I will want to see it all while I can in the best way possible. I will see you all soon and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving! Eat some Turkey for me!¬†IMG_2155 IMG_2157 IMG_2170 IMG_2165

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Breaking Barriers and Finding Myself

The thing I wanted out of studying abroad was to get away from Iowa and to figure out who I am. I wanted to see a different part of the world. I wanted to make new friends that liked to travel as much as I do, but maybe the most important thing I wanted to accomplish here was getting outside of my comfort zone as well as discovering what it is I truly want out of life. Sometimes when you have responsibilities back home it can be difficult to remember to work on yourself once in a while. As it happens I have been learning a lot, and I now know more than I did when I left home.

For starters the midwest including Iowa is very small town. Everyone is friendly and they have a can’t wait to get to know you attitude. If you are like me you went to school with the same people from elementary and then graduated high school together. Some of those people might have even ended up going to the same college as you. My best friend and I have known each other since we were little munchkins playing t-ball together, and to be honest it seemed a little impossible for me to ever think about leaving my family. I didn’t know if I would be able to handle being truly on my own. I guess the main reason I decided to go ahead with this crazy idea was because I truly wanted to do something different.

My neighbor, Brandy studied abroad as well as a few other girls I went to school with, and seeing all of their ¬†pictures online ¬†made me realize that, that was something I wanted to do. I was in no way prepared for the challenge I was going to face in the next few months. I didn’t know that I would be so homesick, but I also never expected to have so many great experiences along the way. If you get the chance to study abroad take it. Don’t just do two weeks, which yes you can do, but ¬†it challenges you more if you have to go through a semester. You have to get used to a new way of living and a new cultural norm. I don’t think you really grasp how different until you have been in a different country for at least a month. I will never be used to the streets being so small. Seriously guys they are tiny!

I figured out how to navigate while in other countries, and if you know me you know that I am the world’s worst map reader. Seriously, I am pathetic it really isn’t even up for debate. Sure, I got lost for the first two weeks of being here and sometimes I still get turned around, but now I actually know where I’m going. It only took me a month before the end of the semester to figure it all out. To be honest though figuring out where I’m going and finding things like the grocery store weren’t even the hardest part of this experience. I know the hardest thing for me was living with people I had never met. Imagine throwing six girls who have never met each other into and apartment and then saying well have a good semester I hope this all works out for you. It hasn’t been the easiest experience, but it has taught me to keep my big mouth subdued… you thought I was going to say shut right, yeah dream on kids.

All of us have different personalities but the easiest way I can describe us is stereotyping. Grace from Massachusetts is the Betty Crocker/ Martha Stewart, she can literally do anything and everything. Courtney from Michigan is the mom, she makes sure we are all behaving and basically takes head count when we go out. Lexie from Colorado is the down for anything girl. She is literally up for anything whether it be skydiving, hiking, jumping off a cliff, or just going out she is ready to go. Trish from Michigan is the messy roomie, she will be the first to admit this too, she is also very funny. You can’t help but laugh with and at her antics. Andy from Michigan, who is my immediate roommate, is the flower child. She is very creative and into art. She is probably the most well read person I¬†have ever met who is my age. We are also polar opposites which makes life interesting she is quiet, I am loud. She is a night owl that stays up until the wee hours, and I am an early bird which means I get up an hour after she falls asleep. If you haven’t guessed it by now my role in this group of girls is the drama queen, I know you never saw that one coming, but I guess I tend to make a huge deal out of everything. I prefer to say that I add flair and or finesse to the group, but to be honest they probably all wish I would chill out. As a group we have all learned a lot and grown not only as students, but as people.

I am beyond excited to be coming home soon, and even though thirty days seems like an eternity I know it is going to fly by. I will be home before I know it, and this was definitely the experience of a lifetime. I miss home so much, but there are also things here I am going to miss. I will miss the fact that no one is in a rush to really do anything. The first week in one of my classes my professor told all of us to chill out and take our time it wasn’t a race. This cracked me up because truthfully in America everything is balls to the walls get up and go compared to here. I will miss the rich history here. The city is full of signs of the renaissance. Every street you walk down breathes it. In fact the apartment building I live in was built in the 13th century, that’s older than our country! Most of all I will miss the people I have met here, and the experiences I have had along the way. Life is a journey and I truly believe that as people we are all meant to travel. Sometimes it just takes leaving your home to truly find out who you are.

The Beginning of the End

If you weren’t aware of this I guess now some of you will be. I suffer from terrible anxiety. Not only have I been extremely homesick I have also been overly anxious. I have to take medicine for it, and since I have been in Italy I have been having problems with it. I have been having trouble with it for quite some time so instead of worrying and fussing, I decided it was time for me to sit down and blog it out. It’s really hard for most people to understand that don’t suffer from it. It’s kind of similar to depression because if you haven’t been in the shoes of that person that is feeling this way you really have no idea what they are going through.There are many things that can mess with it and trigger a panic attack, some of which might surprise you. Basically as soon as I get home I am going to enjoy a lot of caffeine and a trip to the chiropractor. ¬†At times it can be hard for people to relate to me and me to them because they just don’t understand why I seem to be acting so crazy. Trust me if I could hide the crazy I would.

It isn’t that I don’t like Italy. Actually it is quite the opposite I really love it, but it isn’t home and it is for that reason that I seem to be a ball of nerves. It has only gotten worse since we came back from break too. As fast as the time seems to be flying by it also seems to be going at a snails pace. Which makes me feel like I am stuck at the beginning even though it is about at an end. Every day I wake up I just keep wishing it was in my own bed with my own pillow and not in a foreign country. Study abroad is great, but it does not come without it’s trials. It has been the scariest and hardest thing that I have ever done. Yes, I am exceeding lucky to have been able to take this opportunity and use it to the best of my ability. However, that doesn’t stop me from missing what’s familiar and close to my heart. Being away from my family has been the worst part of all of this as well as being away from my friends. In case you didn’t know they are all pretty amazing people.

This week it seems to be eating at me more than usual. I have been taking a class that I don’t really like that much, but it is a good thing that I am in it because I am learning a lot. It just seems to not be as good of a distraction as I would like it to be. I still have a few places to travel to so that should offer a little relief, but I know that until the day comes that I am packing my bags and heading out the door to be reunited with my family I am just going to have to deal with a little craziness. It isn’t like I’m not managing, but it is still hard to do even though I’m almost done with the semester. I should probably stop counting the days because that only seems to make it worse. I don’t know how else to cope with it I suppose.

The one thing I really wanted to accomplish by writing this was to tell people that they are not the only ones that suffer from anxiety, and that just because you do it does not mean that you can’t do something crazy like study abroad for a semester. I also want people to understand that I’m not complaining about Italy and studying abroad. I am not venting because I hate it here so much that I feel it is necessary to write about all of the crap, no. I just want people to understand that it is hard for me to be outside of my comfort zone. I don’t like to feel uncomfortable, and I’m pretty sure that no one really does. But, I am sticking it out. I am trying whether it looks like it or not. So bear with me and try to understand that I am slightly deranged. It isn’t your fault that you think I’m crazy just like it isn’t anymore my fault that I have bad anxiety that occasionally causes me to go cuckoo. It’s the beginning of the end of the semester, and for me accepting it as such is the first step to feeling better.

The Eternal City

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Here is another blog coming at you from Florence, Italy. I can’t believe that I only have forty days left here after today. This seems kind of crazy to me. I am beyond excited to be coming home soon, but let’s be honest I still have a lot of traveling to do and such a short amount of time to do it. I still need to conquer Venice and of course the one place I really want to see Pompeii. I have been taking a lot of pictures and hopefully by the time I come home I will know a lot more about photography. For this past weekend’s adventure my roommate Grace and I headed to Rome.

When we decided to head to Rome Grace and I got our tickets the day of because before we could leave I had class. We booked out hotel the night before and in the early afternoon we took the fast train to Rome. I must say that I was really surprised at just how fast the fast train goes. What normally takes three hours took us an hour and a half. I was really excited to get to Rome, and our hotel was close by the station so that was really nice. Once we checked in we went to go see some of the city. We walked around a bit and went inside a church or two, but we were meeting up with Father Dellaert, a family friend, so we decided we had better get to the Pantheon to meet up with him.

Our original plan was to go and check out the Pantheon and then go meet up with Father, but that’s the thing about making plans they never turn out the way you want them to. Unfortunately at the time there was a Mass being held inside the Pantheon so instead we grabbed a seat on the stairs of the fountain in the middle of the square and people watched until Father got there. Then we received a personal tour of a very beautiful city by an amazing tour guide. It was really great getting shown around by someone who knew a lot about the city as well as some sites that we probably otherwise would not have gotten to see. We saw many churches which was really cool, and Father knew so much about the architecture and the reasons they were built as well as who built them and when. Like I said we had an amazing tour guide. One of the highlights of our night tour was seeing the site where Julius Caesar was killed, which apparently now is a cat sanctuary, who knew.

If you know Father, and I am sure many of you do, you know that he is one of the nicest people on the planet. He took us out to dinner at a little local restaurant after our site seeing, and the food was amazing. We shared a few stories from back home, some tales about our travels, and all of the things that go along with living abroad. After a really great meal and tour of the city we parted ways at the Spanish Steps, and we decided to meet bright and early the next day to tour St. Peter’s Basilica as well as partake in mass as it was a holy day. After parting ways with Father Grace and I were pretty tired from our travels so we went and got some gelato and then turned in for the night.

The next day we woke up bright and early to eat a quick breakfast and then grab a bus to the Vatican. We weren’t really aware that you were supposed to buy a ticket before getting on the bus because we thought you could just buy one once you were on, like in Ireland. So we kind of bummed a ride to the Vatican, but our bus driver was nice and he didn’t seem to be too upset that we were free loaders. Once we got there Father was waiting for us in the middle of the square. He told us the history of the square and some other stuff about the Vatican, but the real surprise was once we got inside. The line was short because we had gotten there so early. Tip, if you ever plan to see the Vatican the earlier you go the better chance you have of getting in without waiting in line forever.

The inside of the St. Peter’s Basilica is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. It was so beautiful that it is hard to believe that human hands made it. Honestly the artistry that went into it alone is mind boggling. I mean I can’t even draw a tree!

There were several priests doing mass at the different altars for people, and we also received a little sneak peek into where the priests go to prepare for the masses they say in the basilica. Looking around there was so much beauty it was hard to concentrate on just one thing at a time. There was also a choir practicing so the whole place was filled with beautiful music while we were there. One of the cardinals was going to be doing mass at one of the bigger altars for All Saints Day so there was a good number of people seated getting ready to celebrate mass. After we had mass with Father the three of us walked around the basilica for a bit and he gave us more information about the place. We then went and had cappuccino at a little coffee shop not to far away said our good byes to Father, and then we actually bought tickets this time to get on the bus and head to the colosseum.

On the way to the colosseum we stopped and took in some of the Foreum. It was really cool to see the city ruins and imagine how they must have lived in the past and how it all must have looked. After waiting in line for about an hour Grace and I finally made it inside the colosseum. I am sure you would agree from seeing some of my pictures that it is quite impressive and must have been even more so when it was brand new. I can’t even fathom a place so big and old being new, but it must have been something to sit there in the crowd and watch people and animals battle to the death. It seems barbaric to think about when you sit there and realise that all of the people there gathered in such an extraordinary place were there to watch such awful events. The colosseum wasn’t just a place for death though they also put on plays and other things, but i’m guessing people got bored easily watching all of the fluffy stuff. We were done with all of the sites we had wanted to see pretty early so we got back to Florence in the late afternoon on Saturday.

All in all it was a pretty great weekend full of amazing memories and beautiful sites. I will say I was a little disappointed that I didn’t basically relive the Lizzie McGuire movie. No, I didn’t run into Palo and have my twin save the day while I rocked it at a ¬†concert that everyone is overly excited to be at. Maybe to some of you it seems strange to think about a children’s movie in this way, but I feel like that movie may have been slightly exaggerated and that’s my childhood so sue me. At any rate it really made me want to watch it!

It was kind of nice that we got back to Florence when we did because on Sunday night Grace and I were able to go to the international market. Apparently each season they have a market and we were able to go enjoy the fall market. However, we will sadly not be around to enjoy the Christmas market as we will be heading home. People from all over Europe come to sell their products and there were even people from Brazil. I was able to take a lot of pictures, but sadly being the dumb blonde that I am I somehow managed to ruin my film. Nice going dork! It was okay though because I was able to get some good souvenirs and enjoy more than just the Italian culture. It is good to be back in Florence, and I am going to try to make the most out of the time I have left. I will see you all soon and hopefully it won’t be snowing too badly when I get back. I can dream!