December 29, 2012

The Magic Scarf

Pashmina scarves are one of my favorite travel accessories. In fact, I have already packed three of these scarves for Italy. Here's why:
1. Scarf
I love to wear my pashminas as scarves. Wrapped around the neck, they look cute and are also very very warm. They also change up an bland outfit (I'm packing mostly neutral colored clothing for Italy).
2. Blanket
Pashminas are wider than normal scarves, so they work pretty well as blankets. In cold climates, I wear the scarf onto the plane and then pull it off to be a blanket. And in warmer climates, the pashmina can be stuffed into my carry on bag since they are so compact.
3. Over the shoulder
The last use is sort of like a jacket. Its great to throw over your shoulders if its a little chilly out. And if the pashmina has a nice/ sophisticated pattern, it can look great for even more formal occasions.

Wearing my pashmina as a scarf in Amsterdam

December 16, 2012

Goodbye JMU

A card and picture collage from my small group (thanks guys!!)
Leaving JMU is bittersweet. It has been my home for the last three semesters and I have truly fallen in love with it. The people here are the nicest and the campus is so beautiful. I love standing on east campus on clear days and being able to see old campus and the mountains in the distance. But more than anything I will miss my friends. They have each impacted my life in a different way and helped change me into the person I am today. I can't imagine my Madison experience without them. But leaving school means big things for me. After a much needed three week break, I will have the opportunity of a lifetime! My biggest dream has always been to live in another country, and now that dream is being fulfilled.

This is not goodbye. Not at all. Its just see ya later. So, JMU, its been an amazing year and half, I will see you next August!

December 10, 2012

My world travels

I decided to take a break from studying for my Physics final (ugh!) and write a little post about where I have traveled in the world.

I'll start off listing where I have been in the U.S.- Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee and California.

Canada, Mexico & Aruba- I first traveled out of the country when I was just a little baby to attend a family reunion in Canada. I obviously do not remember this. My next world travel was to Aruba, an island in South America, when I was six years old while my mom was on a business trip. Then when I was a little older, about 5th/ 6th/7th grades, I went on a few cruises through the Bahamas and got to go horse back riding in Mexico.

Ireland- When I was 10, my grandma took me to Ireland. We flew into Shannon and traveled around the southern coast of the country. I stayed in bed & breakfasts, saw lots of sheep, ate in pubs and even met my very first drunken man, who very kindly gave my Aunt driving directions in Dublin.

Australia, Fiji and New Zealand- The summer between the 8th and 9th grades I had the amazing opportunity to travel as a People to People Student Ambassador. It was by far the most amazing trip I have ever been on.

The resort I stayed at
-Fiji is absolutely gorgeous with crystal clear waters and lovely beaches. I loved kayaking around in the shallow waters, finding blue starfish, swimming in the river the movie Anaconda was filmed in and overall experiencing everything paradise has to offer. "Fiji" brand water was uber cheap there, too, which was awesome.

A classroom at the school
One of my favorite experiences was visiting a village. It was interesting to see that despite the beauty of the island, many of its residents lived poorly. Women in the village HAD to wear skirts (I had to wrap a sarong over my shorts as a form of respect) and were served food last. It was really interesting to see how others lived and how different the United States is. I also visited a school. There was no power or "proper" toilets. The students wore uniforms and many didn't have shoes.
 We attended a rugby game with the students. They were playing against a rich Australian school who had flown in for the game. Pictured left are two girls who posed for a picture for me while we were at the game.

I also went to an arts village. There I watched a man walk across hot rocks from a fire. Afterwards, I got to try different coconuts including barbequed coconut, and coconut milk. I also bought a hand carved wooden axe there that I still have today.
Holding lizards at a Zoo
Two men opening a coconut on Mystery Island

-New Zealand was very cold and rainy when I was there. This aspect may have made it my least favorite place I have ever visited, though I would still go back there in a heartbeat.

  One of my favorite parts of being in New Zealand was staying with a family. I stayed on a dairy farm with a family for 3 nights and got to see how the average family lives. They had two daughters (right), many cows and three cats. I got to see cows being milked on these big machines and got to pet baby calves. I also got to ride on an ATV. This may not seem that cool, but I am from the suburbs and this was the only farm I have been to.

Another night, I got to stay with a Maori tribe. Everyone from my group stayed on mattresses on the floor in this room (left). The tribe members taught me how to four strand braid and gave a demonstration of traditional dances. When we first arrived, we had to greet all the elders by rubbing our noses against theirs, which was cool since it was another new cultural experience.

We also did a lot of cool activities. I planted a tree to help conserve a forest, went street luging, repelled off a cliff,  and spent a day at an obstacle course/ camp. (None of the pics below are of me..)

 -Australia was another awesome place to visit. I only spent a few days there in Sydney, so if I ever return, I will definitely have to hit up some other areas, such as the outback.
The best way to explain these short few days is with some pictures.
Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (I'm in the center-ish partially blocked by another girl's head)
Me with a koala!!
Feeding a wallaby

At the Olympic Stadium (Not in this pic..)
At Sydney Harbor, with the Opera House and bridge in the back

England, France and the Netherlands- This past summer, I went to London, Cambridge, Paris and Amsterdam. It was a really fun trip and I am looking forward to maybe visiting Paris again while I am abroad.
Big Ben

The London Eye

The London Eye

In a telephone booth

Cambridge- My family friend was a professor/ writing a paper at Cambridge University. So I got to visit Cambridge and it was very beautiful.

 We went punting (though a professional "drove"). On the way we saw some beautiful views of the school. This is one of the famous buildings. While there, I learned that only professors are allowed to walk on the grass.
The Anchor, where Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett often ate in the 1960s

The Eagle is a cool pub where WWII soilders signed their names on the ceiling
Paris- Paris is absolutely beautiful. Just gorgeous. A must see. Ahh, I want to go back! (though the people are rude..)

The most BEAUTIFUL view of Paris is from the top of the hill. It is a must see in life. So put it on your bucket list. I cannot even describe how gorgeous it is. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it is my favorite from my entire trip.

The Eiffel Tower
Macaroons... so delicious.. mmmmm

Notre Dame
Moulin Rouge

Amsterdam- I will wrap up this very long post with Amsterdam. The city is really awesome and has a really laid-back vibe. Its known for marijuana and the red light district, but there is so much more to it. There are beautiful canals, the Anne Frank house, cafes, and many museums.
I don't have a picture of it, but I visited the Anne Frank house. It was really cool to see a piece of history and actually walk through it.I learned so much and I think it is the coolest museum I have been to.
Some houses on a canal
Belgian Waffle with Nutella, bananas and strawberries, yummy!

We finished off the trip by taking a ferry (but really it was a cruise) back to London.

If you made it to the end of this post, CONGRATULATIONS! I know it was long, but I hope you enjoyed it and got to see a little bit of the places I have been so far. I can't wait to add to the list and have more amazing experiences.

December 5, 2012

Last pre-departure meeting and finals

Tonight was my final pre- departure meeting and I had the opportunity to talk to some of my fellow study abroad-ers. It was nice meeting new people, but I was, of course, my usual awko taco self. Hopefully I'll be making friends, otherwise I'll be #foreveralone the next few months. I, did, however have a good conversation with the staff member in residence (I think that's her title...), and she was super nice! 

In other news, I cannot believe it, but its the last week of classes! When did it become December? (and why is it so warm outside?) Finals are quickly approaching-- I had one yesterday, another on Thursday and then four more next week. Its so crazy to think how fast this semester has blown by! As of today, I have 35 more days until I move to Italy. With that journey so soon, I'm finding it hard to concentrate on the current semester, but I am powering through. Winter break is sure to fly by and soon I will find myself on a plane to Paris (and then another to Florence).
Here's a little video of my first final. I had to build a robot! His name is BuddytheElf and I programmed him to run entirely on his own (no remote control).

That was a little random, but I am just so stinkin' proud of him. Anyways, I should be posting a few more entries before I begin my daily dairy when I move to Florence. Ciao!

October 23, 2012

94 days in Firenze

Benvenuti! This blog will be dedicated to my journey studying abroad in Firenze (Florence), Italy. Anything and everything-- from pictures to videos to random thoughts-- will be posted here.

I applied to study abroad in November of 2011 and was accepted into the program in January 2012. Its been a long, exciting year waiting for this opportunity. Now a little over two months out, I am more nervous and excited than ever. I have began applying for my student visa, booked my flight, decided which classes I want to take, met one of my professors and had three pre- departure meetings.

Starting on January 8th, 2013, I will be documenting my 94 days in Firenze.