I HAVE LIVED IN EUROPE FOR ONE WHOLE MONTH HOW CRAZY IS THAT? It's still hard to believe that time has gone this fast. This past week was another tiring one as I took, yet again, another weekend trip. This one however was with the university and was very historical and educational and IT WAS AMAZING. So, my advice for the week is to take every optional educational field trip that your program offers. You get to travel around with people who know the area (which is a big time saver for people who are directionally challenged such as myself) and people who know all of the history.
This field trip went south of Rome to Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. Even if you aren't studying abroad in Italy, these are MUST SEE sights for anyone who loves history or the most beautiful views of the sea in the entire world. We started off in Naples and visited the archeological museum, which holds all of the objects and sculptures from ancient Rome, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. You can see the Farnese Bull and the statue of Hercules from the Temple of Hercules, and the original mosaics of Pompeii, which are both incredible works of art. Naples is really amazing for its food also because IT IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF PIZZA. I have high pizza standards and I seriously had the best pizza of my life.
We then took a really cool hydrofoil across the bay of Napoli into Sorrento. Sorrento is SO beautiful. There are amazing restaurants and really cool shops with all sorts of handmade things. We got to go to an amazing restaurant and have a five course traditional Italian Meal. Our hostel was also a convent that was on the cliffside, and I got to wake up to amazing coffee and a view of Mount Vesuvius from the balcony. SERIOUSLY INCREDIBLE. We visited Herculaneum after breakfast (which is cooler than Pompeii from a design standpoint) and it was so surreal. It's hard to even fathom that you are looking at buildings, artwork, and even bodies that are over 2000 years old because of the way the lava preserved them.
At the end of the trip we were given two days to freely travel around the area. In my opinion, the Amalfi Coast could quite possibly be the most beautiful place in the world, so you can't really go wrong with whatever town you visit. We chose to go to Positano- which I would highly recommend if you want some amazing cliffside views and somewhere that's not really touristy. The whole town is built into the cliffside and you can only get places via stairs. I CLIMBED OVER 300 FLIGHTS IN TWO DAYS AND I STILL HURT BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT. The houses are really cute and colorful, the seafood is amazing (we actually attended a fish festival on the beach), and the views of the Mediterranean Sea are the best around. We splurged and rented a sailboat for the day to take us around the Amalfi coast. The water is so blue and warm, and we were able to see the Arch of Amalfi and swim in an explore all of the sea caves and the emerald grottos. I honestly can say it was probably the best day of my life. This trip was hands down my favorite so far, and I got to experience it with the coolest guide ever, discounted rates, and all of my friends. So if that isn't enough to convince someone to go on optional field trips, I don't know what is.
Next weekend is my first STAYCATION. The itinerary includes my first Roma soccer game, a makeshift hair salon in my apartment, McDonald's, and me pretending to be a chef- all very exciting things so stay tuned.
Enjoy these pictures of Positano :)
Wow, first off I HAVE BEEN IN ITALY ONE WHOLE MONTH ALREADY WHAT IS THIS. Clearly I am still getting the hang of things and trying my hand at adulating (some days go better than others with the whole being an adult thing), and the schoolwork is really picking up. I know, it weirded me out to that there was studying involved with studying abroad. However, I am really excited to get into the swing of things with this project because I truly believe there is nothing that could be more valuable in helping me get a job than this experience. While there are tons of places I would have loved to have studied, this is the one that I knew would help me grow the most as a person and a designer.
First of all, Rome is clearly one of the masters when it comes to good design so that was a no brainer, but then I had to consider all of the details. I chose this program because the semester project is working with an Italian fashion designer to design their flagship store at an actual site here in Rome. We were placed into pairs of designers and went through an extensive matchmaking process to be paired with a designer. My group ended up with a Roman Jewelry designer who hand makes everything from ancient Roman metals and jewels- seriously some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen. The challenges of the project are pretty big: the designer does not speak English (so I am learning Italian crash and burn style), the store must follow all European code guidelines for historical preservation and restoration, studying the psychology of European retail design, I have to learn how to do all of my calculations in the metric system, and many other various challenges. Seriously, how cool is that though? Who else can put on their resume that they learned a new language to be able to design a luxury jewelry store in Rome. So while some places may seem like your best option for studying abroad, consider somewhere that would present yourself with a challenge you couldn't find any other place in the world.
This week I will be traveling to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, and Sorrento to learn about ancient Roman retail design and how to incorporate that into my project, so stay tuned for an obnoxious amount of pictures of my designs.
I also went to Brussels this past weekend, which was absolutely amazing. It's the coolest, most diverse city and the people are amazing. We did our geeky designer stuff and got all worked up over French gothic and neoclassical architecture (woo), ate an uncomfortable amount of fries, visited the street market in front of the palace, took a waffle making class, and played in the grass at every park we could find (the only downside to Rome is the whole no grass thing). I would highly recommend the city to anyone with a free weekend. The beautiful views and the amazing culture won't disappoint.
That's all I have for you this week, but I'm sure my next post will be full of history and some sweet views of the amalfi coast. Make sure to check out my photos page also for a weird amount of waffle pictures.
Hey friends, so after a very stressful week of classes, I decided to book a last minute trip to Croatia this past weekend (last minute as in booked on Wednesday, left on Thursday). It was the perfect stress reliever of a weekend, as Croatia is so chill, beautiful, and full of history- definitely worth the spontaneous 15 hour bus ride. I've been trying to work on my spontaneity so I think this definitely earns me major points.
I realized before I left, I literally knew zero things about Croatia so here all of my cool facts and pictures for you to hopefully convince you to visit this wonderful country.
My trip was centered out of Split, which is one of the coolest and oldest cities on the Dalmatian Coast (which yes Dalmatian as in the dog which there were tons of). Split is a pretty wild city centered around the Diocletian Palace- one of the most well preserved fortresses of all time. And IT IS ALSO WHERE THEY FILMED GAME OF THRONES SO I NERDED OUT SO HARD. I actually got to eat dinner in the palace one night, which was amazing and everything was super cheap. The Croatian currency is actually the Kuna, which are these cool little fish coins. One Kuna equals .13 Euro so it's pretty weird (but also feels fancy) to see a dinner bill that is for 600 Kuna.
We also took a cruise out to the Island of Brac- also incredible as Croatia is known for it's turquoise water and beautiful beaches. The boat ride was absolutely beautiful and the beach we were on had one of those wipeout courses with all of the inflatables- which made for some pretty good fail videos of all of our athletic attempts. There was great seafood, beautiful views of the mountains, and I can honestly say it was one of the most relaxing days of my life. Also a prime spot for taking very mermaid-like photos
We also did white water rafting, which was amazing. The river wound through canyons and was the most clear water I have ever seen in my life.
The highlight of the trip though was for sure KrKa National Park. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. The waterfalls and the hiking was amazing and I could have spent weeks more just in the park. If you go to Croatia DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT SWIMMING IN THE WATERFALLS AT KRKA.
All in all, Croatia is a lovely country with lovely people and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Next weekend- Brussels with the roommates (stay tuned for pics from the Belgian waffle cooking class we enrolled in)
(also feel free to translate the title (a Croatian proverb)
It's hard to believe that I am coming up on week three already! I have been having the most wonderful time, but as always, you have to have a few rough patches to appreciate the good. I know that this is only the beginning of my challenges, but I've already learned so much and I know that will continue through my adventures.
Here are three challenges I have faced so far and how to conquer them:
1.) Navigating a new city
Navigation has been quite the undertaking so far. Rome clearly is gigantic and it wasn't exactly planned on a grid system or anything of the sort. As buildings fell and new ones were built, they were literally placed on top of one another, connected to each other, and so all of the dead ends and winding streets of Rome can be downright weird. The fact that there are no street signs also can create some issues.
My tips as far as navigation goes = MAPS.ME
It's an app like google maps but it runs without data (for those of us without an international phone plan such as myself). You simply download the map for whatever city you want when connected to wifi, and then you have it to use whenever. You can also drop pins on the map, so I would also suggest dropping a pin at every place you stop that you will want to come back to. We have made the mistake already of not dropping a pin and attempting to retrace our steps- which we have never found anything a second time. However, it has also been fun getting lost though. I would suggest walking wherever you please without a map in order to explore and find new places you like and then using the map to get back home of course. We have found our favorite gelato shop and a restaurant that serves fancy waffles as the result of getting lost.
2.) The language barrier
I've had quite a few awkward interactions due to my lack of knowledge of Italian. You can not assume that everybody knows English because, spoiler- they don't!
The easiest way to conquer this- take a class in the language! I was hesitant to do so because it is hard to undertake something as big as a new language. After just a few hours of class though, I've already found it ten times easier to understand signs, menus, and basic conversation when buying groceries, ordering food, or meeting someone new. Learning the language has also already helped with giving me a sense of belonging. Some of the challenges I have faced these first couple weeks sometimes made me feel a little out of place, but I have already felt so much more comfortable and at home with even just my basic understanding of Italian so far. It's been so fun and rewarding and all of the Italian people have been so nice and helpful in helping me learn.
3.) Cultural differences
This has probably been the hardest part because of my fear of offending someone or sticking out badly. There has been many mistakes made here, such as breaking the fruit sticker machine, holding up the bus line while trying to understand the ticket validator, and accepting the fact that they don't do coffee to go here.
The easiest way to conquer this is to do a little research, make some mistakes, and embrace it. The whole reason for this trip in the first place was to leave my comfort zone, so I have tried to learn and embrace these cultural differences as much as possible. As a perpetually early person, it's been hard to deal with the fact that things are never on time here. However, why aren't they on time? It's because Italians live very mindfully, which is actually one of the most beautiful things. They don't care if they are a few minutes late because instead of grabbing that coffee to go and running to work, they sit at the bar with their cappuccino and enjoy the coffee and the company. The differences can be frustrating at first, but once you begin to understand them and appreciate them, you'll feel much more at home.
To end on a fun note- this weekend my friends and I took a mini trip to Florence and Cinque Terre to test out our traveling/planning skills. A few minor bumps there (such as forgetting about 24 hour time and ending up with train tickets for 5:45 AM instead of PM). All in all, it was a great and beautiful weekend. Cinque Terre is a small set of five towns along the Mediterranean Sea. They are small fishing towns full of brightly colored, stacked houses (which you all have seen as one of the featured wallpapers on a Windows PC). We took a train from town to town and enjoyed the views, ate some awesome food, and swam in the most beautiful water I've ever seen in my life. Life is good.
(P.S. Currently in the process of planning a last minute trip for this coming weekend, so be on the lookout for some awesome photos)
I'm Liz Bixenman, an interior design student living in Rome for the semester. When I'm not doing schoolwork, you can find me wearing a cat shirt, reading a book, and most likely eating more carbs than I'm proud of.