Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spring Break

Guten Tag/ Hello/ Bonjour/ Ciao!

It is hard to believe I set foot in four different countries over spring break! I can't say it was spring weather though. I left Italy last Friday, stayed in Germany for 3 days, England for 3 days, and France for 2 days. I am now on the flight back to Italy. It has been a whirlwind of a week, but a great one nonetheless. If I were to give you a play-by-play of the week you'd be reading this for hours. So to preserve your sanity I will narrow it down to my top five experiences in each country. 

Top 5 experiences in Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Mainz, Germany:
5) The language - It is like they transform a whole sentence into one word. 
4) Trying for hours to get into the apartment we were staying in (my friend's cousin's apartment) just to find out we had the wrong door. 
3) The delicious food - I was missing meat and Germany certainly had a lot of that. 
2) Thai Massage - Lindsey and I stumbled upon a cheap massage place in Mainz & decided to check it out. I had never had a Thai massage before so I wasn't expecting them to climb on top of my back. I have to say it was great though. 
1) Our accidental trip to Frankfurt - We missed our stop on the train to Mainz, so we just stayed on until we hit Frankfurt! It is very unlike me to be ok with something like this, but this experience is certainly teaching me to be flexible. 

Top 5 experiences in London, England:
5) The Generator - This was my first experience in a hostel and I loved it. It reminded me of a dorm and it was a great hostel to stay in. It was clean and the staff was very helpful. 
4) English - I can't lie; being able to speak English and have everyone understand me was glorious. It had been a month and a half since I had that luxury and I missed it. The accents are great, too! 
3) Fish and Chips - I was a little apprehensive before trying this specialty, but knew I had to do it. I'm not a fan of fish, but the cod we had was great. It wasn't too fishy, so I definitely enjoyed it. 
2) The London Eye - We got to experience London from up in the sky. It was beautiful at night, but I would love to do it again during the day. What was so great about this was the group we were in. The people in our pod consisted of couples trying to have romantic dates & families with hilarious boys running around ruining the dates. It really made me miss my brothers, but the boys cheered me up after having to run to The Eye in fear of being late. They were also the second group of people to mistake me as Canadian while in London. I am still confused about that. 
1) Warner Brothers Studio Tour - HARRY POTTER! I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to get to see the real set where Harry Potter was filmed.

Top 5 experiences in Paris, France:
5) Walking around - It was fun to walk around at night and experience Paris after dark. We followed a Travelocity App walking tour (download it if you're traveling - you can use it without wifi) through the highlights of Paris. 
4) Breakfast - I clearly have a problem talking about the food in every country, but I can't deny my love of food. We had breakfast just across from our hotel both mornings. It was a delicious, authentic, and huge French breakfast including a croissant with jam, 2 slices of baguette with butter, fruit, tea, water, and orange juice. It was great. 
3) Eiffel Tower - I was excited to go up the tower & besides the freezing weather it was great. We went all the way to the summit and got to see all of Paris with just a walk around the top of the tower. 
2) The Catacombs - This was beyond creepy, but I enjoyed the odd experience. I can now say I've seen thousands of skulls in just an hour. 
1) Crepes galore - I had way too many Crepes in 2 days: two chocolate with banana, one chocolate with strawberry, one just chocolate, and one with strawberry jam. That's ridiculous, but I have no regrets. I can now say I have found my desert of choice. 

I can't believe I got all that - and more - done in one week. I am so blessed to have this experience and it wouldn't have happened without each of you. Please know you are beyond appreciated. 


P.S. "Baci" means "kisses" in Italian. Instead of writing "love" at the end of letters they use "baci". 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013



Siena was beautiful and we got to see some really awesome art, political, and church history while we were there.

The basic purpose of the trip seemed to be art.  I am in art history and really am starting to appreciate art.  I have never been that into it, but it is starting to make an impact on me.  The frescos (big wall paintings) were amazing & I really enjoyed seeing them all.  Here are a few pictures of some of the frescos we saw!

Inside the Cathedral

The pulpit in teh Cathedral 

My absolute favorite part of the trip was seeing the frescos in the Town Hall (Palazzo Publico) of the good and bad government.  It was beautiful and so symbolic of what would happen if a good or bad government was in control.  I was amazed that the paintings were made so long ago and were still so moving.  I wasn't allowed to take pictures, but here is a picture from our class PowerPoint.

Bad Government
Good Government 
In front of the Town Hall

The Cathedral 
I saw the actual head of Saint Catherine in the San Domenico Church.  That was quite odd, but interesting.  I'm not a huge fan of seeing dead people's body parts, but the meaning behind it was cool.  We also experienced beautiful fresco of Madonna & Child in the Town Hall and got to go in the Cathedral, which was breathtaking.  My pictures don't do it justice at all.  The paintings and floors and pulpit and everything are so symbolic of the life of Christ or the saints.  I really enjoyed learning about the saints.  I am a Southern Baptist Christian, so we don't have saints.  Catholicism apparently has one for just about everything.  It is interesting to hear about them and their believed purpose/powers.

Here is my group in front of the Town Hall of Siena!
Ciao - Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Italian Language

I've come to recognize that the Italian language is often able to be understood without much instruction.   I don't understand full sentences, but I'm grasping a enough to get an idea of what they are saying.  It is a pretty language and I wish I was fluent in it.  I am excited to learn a language I can speak and use on a daily basis.

My italian professor is hard.  She doesn't speak English during class unless we are completely lost.  This is helpful, but difficult.  The other day I learned how to introduce myself:
Mi Chiamo Samantha ---------- My name is Samantha
Sono Americana ---------- I am American
Sono di VA Beach ---------- I am from VA Beach
Abito a Firenze ---------- I live in Florence
Sono Studentte ---------- I am a student
Parlo Inglese ---------- I speak English

I think that's right.  Sorry if I spelled something wrong, I'm still learning.

I'm hoping to catch on quickly so I can use the language without having to stop every two seconds to think of how to say, "I don't speak Italian."  I get so flustered when people speak to me in Italian, but I'm happy that I have friends in the program that are really good with the language and are happy to help me out!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I made it!!


I am so happy to finally be in Italia, the travel portion was horrible.  I officially hate getting to Europe.  I flew Norfolk to NYC, NYC to Rome, and Rome to Florence.  It was a long trip and I didn't get much sleep, so that was difficult.  The only good part about flying is the view from above.  Here's a picture I took on my flight from Rome to Florence.  If you squint you can see the Alps in the background with snow on them.  Pretty cool, huh?

So far I am loving Florence.  It is so beautiful & pictures don't do it any justice.  It is disappointing becauase I will take a picture and then look at the monument/scene and notice it is just not the same.  Here are some of the pictures I have taken so far!

This is the view from my window!

This is the Ponte Vecchio!

And again!

The Carousel 

Piazza Della Republica 


Yet again!

Palazzo della Signoria

Those are just a few of the beautiful buildings and places I have seen so far.  The food is delicious, except for my first meal.  That was nasty.  It was Filetto di arringa marinatta, which apparently translates to nasty uncooked fish.  Here's a picture: 


All of my other experiences with food have been awesome though.  I don't understand how any Italian is thin, and they all are.  It's crazy.  At dinner I have to ask for "un po" (a little) because I can't eat as much as they (my host home).  I am not living with a host family, but do get to eat 4 meals a week with them!  We have a bowl of pasta to begin with, then comes the meat and veggies, then as dessert we have fruit and nuts with coffee.  Every meal is served with "vino" (wine) and water.  We have to mix the wine and water because it is so strong.  Well here are some pictures of the food I've had so far!

Ciara and I at the restaurant! 

My first pizza from Gusta Pizza across the street.  Best pizza I have ever had!

Finally about where I am staying!  I have an apartment within a flat in the Palazzo Capponi with a roommate, Christina!  She's great.  I also have 7 other people that I live with.  I seriously love them all.  I eat at a home stay - the Marconi family.  They have a dog, Gina, and she's awesome.

Here is Gina!

Well, ciao for now! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013


This is going to be my motto while studying abroad!  I thought it was fitting.  Thanks, Mark Twain.

Photo from Pinterest!

My Anxieties

This time tomorrow I will be at the airport saying goodbye to my family and to Randall.  While I'm beyond excited for this adventure that awaits me, I'm definitely getting nervous.  I guess it finally hit me that I'm actually going to Italy.  It kinda blows my mind.

I wanted to record my anxieties to look back on.  That's a lot of what this blog is about.  Yes, I want to keep everyone updated, but it is sort of a diary for me, too.  I will be keeping a journal while I'm there and I hope to write in it every day, but we will see if I can stick to that.  I know it will be cool to look back on later.

This is what I'm nervous about:
  • Being away from my family and Randall for so long
  • Missing my friends at JMU
  • Not getting along with everyone in the program
  • Getting sick in another country
  • Forgetting something I need at home
  • Losing my passport 
  • Getting pick pocketed 
  • Not being able to learn the language fast enough 
  • The time change - not being able to talk to those at home when I want/need to
  • Hating the food - I'm so picky, but I'm going to try everything
  • Getting stuck beside a smelly person on my 8 hour plane ride
  • Jet lag 
  • Somehow missing my flight 
I know some of those are silly, but it's what I'm worried about.  I pray these anxieties go away so I can get pumped for tomorrow!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Final Countdown!

In 3 short days I will be on my way to Italy!  I can't believe it is already here.  I remember last year when I was so excited about getting accepted to the program!  I am seriously in awe that I will be in another country in just a few days.  I feel like I haven't really come to the realization that I will be gone so soon.  I keep thinking it is still a few weeks away, but it's not.  

Today I am going to make sure I have all my medications and first aid sort of stuff packed and ready to go!  That's some important stuff and I don't want to have to worry about being sick in Italy.  I'm currently getting over some sort of cold or something.  Luckily the symptoms are going away, but I am still praying that I will be totally fine by the time I board the plane!  

Does anyone have any other tips on what I need to do before I leave?  Or do you have any clue where I can get Euros?