Another week down in Rome and I can not believe how fast the time is going. This halfway point has me in a mix of emotions. I can't wait to see my family when they come to Europe, but I also don't know if I'll ever be ready to leave. This last week has brought a lot of surprises and challenges, but also a lot of really amazing moments. With that, I'd like to share some things that I wish I had known/ brought with me and some really cool "off the beaten path" places in Rome that are definitely worth exploring.
Things I wish I had packed:
1. My first bit of advice for this is that no matter how many pinterest boards you look at about packing and studying abroad, none of them will really help you all that much at all in the long run. Italy was extremely hot when I arrived, but I just had to go and buy a winter coat last week. Packing is hard because there are so many variables: The weather is unpredictable, and your travel plans may change (example- I decided to go to Norway for Thanksgiving break in which I will need heavy winter stuff that I would never need in Italy).
In general, I wish I would have packed less summer dresses, another pair of jeans/ pants that are jean-isn (I brought three), and more dress clothes for things like presentations and fancy activities that we have done as a group (I brought about 1.5 outfits).
2. Another thing I wish I had packed was more cold medicine and cough drops. I brought enough to last me through about one cold... and now I have had about three or four colds. It gets a bit hard to take care of yourself when you are living with so many people, and It's so exhausting traveling all the time and going right to school.
And for my two things I wish I had known
1. Culture shock is so real.
It is sort of an emotional roller coaster. It seems that these moments come at a weird time, but just remember that it is totally naturally. I have seen all of my friends on this trip have a moment at one point or another. Sometimes you will just be brushing your teeth in the morning and you'll get really upset because you just want to go to Target and buy all your things in one place. Or I'll be walking around looking for a lunch spot, and then I'll get upset thinking about how I wish I could have my usual lunch date with my mom at Panera. Like I said, it's totally normal to have these moments and to miss things. These difficult moments will help you appreciate the good ones even more.
2. You will get more out of this experience if you have less expectations and an open mind.
You can't plan memories before they happen. Things don't always go as planned but I think that's sort of the beauty and fun of it all. Some of my favorite memories of this trip are ones that just sort of happened. The other day we got frustrated when our tickets for the Colosseum didn't work, so we started angry walking away and stumbled on this beautiful park that overlooked the city and had the most amazing day. Just keep a smile on your face and be open to things that seem to find you.
With that, here are some pictures from this last week here in Rome. I am flying to Paris today to do some studies on luxury retail design, so i'll be getting tours of Givenchy and Hermes and I AM SO EXCITED. Be on the lookout for my macaroon and Disneyland Paris pictures, and be sure to check out all of the new photos I edited from the Biennale on my photos page!
Hello friends, I just had possibly the most fabulous week of my life. It was crazy and stressful, but also so beautiful and rewarding. As mentioned in my last post, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Venice and participate in La Biennale, which is the world's top design exhibition. It was so cool to be surrounded by world famous designers and have my work displayed next to theirs. The theme of the show was "Reporting from the Front", in which groups from all over the world had to present an issue that currently exists where they live and present on how design could solve the issue. Our presentation and installation was over the Bakken Pipeline, and we had three of the most famous designers in the world come review our project and give us a lecture afterwards. So basically I was geeking out all weekend because DESIGN IS SO COOL, I got to see some of my Ames pals, Venice is gorgeous, and I felt super proud of my achievements with my major. It just served as a really good reminder of why I do what I do, even when I get frustrated or feel unsure about it. If something is well designed, it will last forever- not necessarily physically, but the impact it has on people. To me, that is such a beautiful way to leave my mark on the world. I get to serve others while doing the thing that I love most- creating. YAY for happiness.
Enough of my design talk, and back to the really cool part- Venice. For being possibly the most inefficiently built city ever, it is so gorgeous and there is so much to do. No matter where you are studying or just traveling around Europe, I would definitely put this city on my list of must-sees. Without further delay, here is my list of the best things to do over a weekend in Venice.
1.) The Grand Canal
Transportation from island to island can be done in a few places by foot over a bridge, but the coolest experience is taking the Vaporetto through the grand canal. You can purchase a pass for a day or for the whole weekend, but it is a must-do experience to live like a true Venetian for the weekend. Island hopping on the boats is honestly one of the coolest parts of the city.
2.) Take a Gondola ride
PLEASE BE YOUR BASIC INNER TOURIST SELF AND PAY TO RIDE IN A GONDOLA. While is is expensive and touristy, it is literally the cutest thing you will ever do. (PS all of the men rowing them DO wear striped shirts I can confirm)
3.) St. Marks Square
Yet another touristy area, but it is so beautiful. If you are lucky enough like I was to go at Aqua Alta (when the city is flooding), you can be your inner kid and run around in the puddles (like an entire foot of water) that are covering St. Marks Square.
4.) La Biennale
This isn't me suggesting this for designers- this is literally such a wonderful and powerful exhibition for everyone. The events change so check to see what part of the Biennale could be going on during you visit. There are things like performing arts, architecture, art, writing, and all other areas of the arts. You won't be disappointed.
5.) Get lost
My favorite tip for everywhere I travel. Whether you want to or not, you WILL get lost in Venice. Looking over cute bridges into the reflections of the brightly colored houses in the canal will make up for the fact that you have no idea where you are.
6.) Go up to the top of the Campanile
When you're at the top, you will get the most amazing view of the city. Perfect for panoramas and cute pictures to send to your mom.
This weekend I will be having another staycation in Rome! We have tickets to the soccer game, are finally going on a Colosseum tour, and will be checking out the aqueduct parks and the Vatican museum! I know, it basically is a crime to have lived in Rome for two months and still not have gone in the Colosseum, but I've finally made it. I'll also be doing some prep work for my design project in Paris, because I fly out next Wednesday to spend a week doing cool design things.
Don't forget to do the things that make you the happiest. Have a good week, friends.
HELLO EVERYONE I AM SO HAPPY BECAUSE I JUST RETURNED FROM SPAIN AND IT ROCKED A LOT. For real, I have dreamed of going to Spain forever, and I just got to spend the last four days in Barcelona so life is good. I would highly recommend Barcelona to anyone. It was such a calm city compared to Rome. The buildings are this beautiful mix of old and modern and Guadi's occasional, wonderful work or architecture sprinkled throughout the city. I pretty much packed my days as full as I could, but even then it is still one of those cities that you could live your whole life in and never discover everything. So, without further ado- here is my list of the top things you HAVE TO see (and tips for them) if you take a trip to Barcelona.
1.) The Olympic Stadium
Barcelone hosted the 1994 olympics and built this super amazing stadium surrounding this big hill near the coast. Tip- walk here and ride the sky tram up the hill first before visiting the stadium. There are these amazing gardens, fountains, and restaurants on the hillside and about halfway up you can buy tickets to ride in these little pods over the city to get to the top of the hill. The views are amazing, and at the top is a cool old military fort overlooking the sea. On your way down the hill you will run into the olympic stadium, which is a dream come true for all olympics lovers like myself. There are these amazing fountains on the plaza that slowly takes you up steps into the main arena. You can actually now pay about 10 euros and go down onto the field to run on the track, kick a goal, and even get your picture taken on the podium with your country's flag. IT IS THE COOLEST AND I SHED A FEW TEARS.
2.) The Catalan Museum of Art and the Magic Fountain
Pro-tip one- this can also be reached by walking down the hillside from the olympic stadium (so it's basically the coolest walking tour ever). If you love art like me, this is the most amazing place to go, and it's in this incredible palace-like building that has about eight levels of waterfall fountains in front of it. At the very front is the famous Magic Fountain, and if you go at night on a weekend you can catch the fountain show that has some really cool light affects and often some fireworks.
3.) Park Guell
This is the only proof you need that Antoni Guadi was literally the coolest designer ever. The park has so many brightly colored mosaics, fountains, and interesting architecture that this is something you can't skip. Plus if you are a America's Next Top Model or a Cheetah Girls fan, both were filmed here so you can take all the fangirl pictures your heart desires. Aside from that, it is such a breathtaking space that you can spend hours exploring. There's even a little museum about Guadi that you can visit that comes with the price of your ticket. A tip for the park- buy your tickets ahead of time. We learned the hard way and ended up having to make the journey to the park three separate times before we got in.
Last but not least
4.) La Sagrada Familia
Another Guadi building, who would have guessed? This will literally be the most beautiful and inspiring space you will enter in your life. Construction has been going on for over 100 years and it is still not even finished. This massive church has some of the most innovative architecture, and it uses light and natural geometry in ways that I have never witnessed before (that was such an interior designer statement to make). Plan to spend about two hours here and make sure to explore every corner of this place, as there are some pretty cool hidden sections. Tip- again buy tickets ahead of time online. There is a student discount of a few euros but you can also buy tickets to go to the top of one of the towers and overlook the whole city. If you leave Barcelona without seeing La Sagrada Familia, you have not lived.
Overall, Spain was one of the most amazing places I have ever been in my life. There is such a beautiful mix of cultures that you can see and feel all over the city. It truly is beautiful and inspiring.
Tomorrow morning I begin the highlight of my trip, the Venice Biennale. The Biennale is the world's most prestigious design show, and I get to participate in it. I am twenty years old and I AM IN THE BIENNALE IT IS LITERALLY SO COOL. But basically for the next three days I will not sleep, design my life away, and be ridiculously nervous until the presentation so stay tuned for pictures and stories from THE LITERAL HIGHLIGHT OF MY LIFE.
I'll also get to see glass making, ride in a gondola, and I have tickets to a soccer game when it's supposed to be down pouring so yay for new adventures. Life is so good everyone.
I love traveling more than anything, but I'm sure as most of you know, it could quite possibly be the most mentally and physically exhausting thing on the planet. We were all pretty worn out from weeks and weeks of trips, so we decided to make this last weekend our Rome Staycation- which is just as amazing as traveling because Rome is one of the most amazing cities in the world.
Night one of staycation, however, did include a slumber party and eating way more food than I'm proud of. I am proud of the fact though that we made homemade brownies, mozzarella balls, and teriyaki chicken. Hot tip on cooking here (or any foreign country)- before you go to the grocery store do your research on what the names of the items are called wherever you are or if that country uses an alternative to that ingredient. We failed to do our research for some meals and ended up a few times with a cart 3/4 full of a meal and then realized that the other 1/4 of the ingredients don't actually exist in Italy. Now we've gotten the hang of things and we have our own shared pinterest board of Rome recipes- so basically what I'm saying is that our kitchen is exactly like an episode of Chopped.
Friday night included a lot of calories and our favorite movies, which was a perfect break from running around everywhere.
Saturday morning we visited the area of Piazza di Spagna which is where the Spanish steps are located. This is also the luxury shopping district so yay for looking at really cool things that you'll never be able to afford. The afternoon was filled with finding lots of really cool hidden areas in Trastevere (the neighborhood we live in). Trastevere is filled with really quirky and adorable restaurants and shops but also some really famous historical sites are tucked away here. We saw Villa Farnese and Palazzo Farnesina- which are two of the most famous places as far as Interior Design goes. They both belonged to the super famous Farnese family, who commissioned Raphael to paint the ceilings. Napoleon even lived in the palace for a while.
Sunday we took the metro out to the EUR district- which is where all of the really modern and Facist architecture is. It's really interesting to compare the monuments and buildings of Mussolini's Rome compared to ancient Rome. The area is also full of really amazing parks and museums so I would highly recommend a day trip to the area. We also went to the Roma vs. Milan soccer game at night and it was so incredible to see the olympic stadium and to witness Roma win in the most exciting game of the season.
Staycation 2016 was much needed and a definite success. I could live in Rome my whole life and still never see everything that it has to offer, so I've added a lot more weeks to my calendar to explore. It's easy to get caught up in traveling and wanting to go everywhere, but it really is so wonderful just to have a weekend to relax and explore your city.
Next weekend I'm heading to Barcelona (which is one of my ultimate dreams) and I'll get to see some of my favorite works of architecture, the Picasso museum, and the Salvador Dali house so basically I am going to be freaking out all week. Also it's the International Food Festival in Rome so pictures to come your way of me being the champion of calorie consumption.
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.