I apologize that I am finally writing a little off schedule as my final week here has been crazy with final tests and reviews and packing. This is honestly so strange to be sitting here and writing this, as it felt like I'd never reach this point. I've been thinking about what I wanted to say for this post for weeks now. How do I even begin to sum up these last four months? So much has happened, and I have gained so much. I know that studying abroad looks different for everyone, but I wanted you all to know some of the things I'm taking away from this experience and some thank yous. I know you can read 100 cheesy blogs that tell you that this experience will change your life. I read them also, and I know that you won't notice until your last weeks wherever you are how much you've truly grown.
1.) Good things do come to an end, and that's okay.
You are going to fall in love with people and cities all over the world knowing it will end, and you have to form relationships knowing you will leave. Yes, you can keep in touch, but it won’t be exactly the same. Everything is going to go by so quick and seem to last barely any time at all, but it doesn't make it less important. If anything, I feel that all of this love I have for these people and places is some of the most special. It teaches you to, live for now and really appreciate things whie they are there. My favorite memory is when I was sailing around the Amalfi Coast with my friends, swimming in caves, eating good food, letting the sun hit my face. Once my friends jumped in the water, but I stayed behind and I just looked around and was like, "Wow. Look at where I am. In this big, beautiful planet, I am here, and I am so small. This is one moment and I will never return to this same spot with these same people, but that's beautiful. If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
2.) You will fall more in love with your home country.
All of my friends and I agree on this one. As I have traveled around and met people from all over the world, I felt this sense of pride in telling people where I was from that I never had before. As I went to all of these amazing places, I realized how many amazing things exist in the United States that I had been not seeking out and ignoring for years. I didn't think I would miss home, but I've continually thought, "Wow, I live in a really nice place with really good people." I appreciate that exponentially more now. I have been so happy over here, and I had thought that in going home I'd lose that happiness. If anything, I am excited to bring my happiness home and share it and explore all I can.
3.) Take a deep breath and keep calm.
There have been so many challenges I have faced. While it was the most wonderful four months, it has also been the hardest four months of my life but it makes it that much more rewarding. Things happen. Take a deep breath, look around, and think because chances are you know how to conquer this problem or know how to find someone who can help you. I was afraid to walk more than two blocks away from my apartment without someone the first few weeks, and now I'm like put me in any city by myself and I can conquer it. I can figure out the language enough, I can navgigate like a pro, and I will crush the public transportation system. You will feel so much more confident in your abilities and so much more flexible and idependent. When things go south, just look around and breathe. You know how to do this, and these moments of frustration and sadness will pass. For every foot of sadness, there are ten feet of happiness.
4.) You learn things you will never learn in a classroom or textbook.
You can’t learn how to interact with people in another country. You can't learn what it is like to work in a foreign office system. You can’t learn how to live abroad and travel and be a new individual. Sure, you can study about another government or culture in a book, but experiencing it is a whole new learning curve. I feel exponentially more knowledgeable from all of these expereinces that I have had. The world sort of becomes your textbook. It makes you so hungry to keep travelling and learning more. I am a better friend, daughter, student, designer, and person from all of these things I have learned and am now able to apply to my life. You learn to travel not to just check things off a list anymore. You travel now to be surrounded by other places and other people and to learn from them.
My final point is a thank you, probably similar to the thank you that you will write or say in your head to your city at some point. I will never truly have the words to thank Rome for everything that you have given me.
In any city, once you get past the initial lovey dovey travel phase you will learn that every city has its problems. Rome can be messy and disorganized, but it has taught me to appreciate chaos and find its beautiful parts, that sometimes I can be a little messy, complicated, and afraid and to show up anyways. Rome doesn't try to be anything but itself. It doesn't try to be the newest or the best and to compete with these other cities. It sits here in its own little corner in the palm of history, and it is beautiful for everything it already is. I think sometimes we can all form to the people that we are around and what they expect us to be. But if Rome, and entire city, can stand proudly itself for 2000 years, so can I. It has made me want to surround myself with people who appreciate me for everything I am and who value and appreciate the differences between us. Rome, you've rejuvinated me. I feel this new sense of love for life, other people and cultures, learning, and myself. I can't wait to go and spread this to other places, but I know that a piece of me will always be in Rome.
When in Rome I took risks, I learned to appreciate myself in my entirety, I fell in love with and learned about and appreciate people from all walks of life, and I now feel so full of happiness. I know that I won't be the same now going home, and that's okay. I went away so that I could come back. So that I can see the place I came from with new eyes and extra colors. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving, but that is so beautiful.
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust
Thanks for following my adventure, and I can't wait to for you all to have more of your own.
Hello lovely people I only have a week and a half left in Rome and all the feels are hitting me as I start packing up and reflecting on my time here. I'll save all the sappy stuff for next week's post though.
Besides the stress of final tests and projects, the craziness that comes with travelling, and this weird emotional tornado-thingy that is beginning, I am actually having a lovely week of beginning to enjoy the lasts and reminiscing with my friends.
People have been documenting their experiences in all different ways, but I definitely feel like it is a super personal and important thing to do to be able to look back and reflect on your experiences and all of the things that the trip did for you. Clearly, my blog was one of my ways of documenting my time, and I truly will look at my posts for years to come to be able to see that timeline and the changes within myself. I've taken thousands of photos and made some really awesome videos with the help of my friend's handy Go Pro (something I am really jealous of and totally wish I would have had my own but will be purchashing for future adventures). However, I have been working on a few other more personal ways of documenting my adventure.
I would definitely suggest planning in advance how you are going to document your time and stick to your plan, as some of the ways require more time or things that you might need to collect as you travel.
With that, here are some of my favorite ways I found of documenting my adventures:
1. Write a Blog: Pretty self explanatory as you are reading my blog right now, but it has been a great way to share my thoughts and advice with other study abroad-ers, make connections (I actually met up with a few travellers who contacted me after reading my blog), and let my family keep up with what I am doing without having to send a billion separate emails and whatnot.
2. Keep a Journal: This is a perfect one to do on the go because you don’t have to worry about wi-fi. You can keep your journal in your bag and write whenever you have a free moment whether it’s in between classes or on an airplane. This is much more personal than a blog because you will probably be the only one who sees it. You can choose whether you will write in it every day or maybe only once a week, but make sure to stick to it.
3. Create a Video: Take short video clips of everything you do, compile it into one (or several videos), add a fun song, and woooo you have a video that you can watch to relive your adventures. My biggest tip for this one is to film the random moments that may not seem so relevant at first. All of my friend's and I's videos are about half of us just eating, dancing around, or our reactions as we walked through the streets. Those actually turned out to be my favorite clips of some of the most special moments on my travels.
4. Take the Same Picture Everywhere you Go: This was one of my favorite things I did, and most of my friends did this as well! It turns out to be sort of a fun and quirky collection of you with your favorite thing or doing something funny all over the world. I had a friend take a picture of her drinking a coke in every country to send to her family because she loved coke so much. Another friend took her picture with the Iowa State Flag on all her travels. Of course, many of you saw mine- everywhere I went and I saw a fountain, I climbed in and snapped a picture. Weird, but it really reflects me and the weird stuff I like doing. Hot tip on that one though- sometimes fountain climbing adventures resulted in some question from security people and whatnot. I would possibly recommend picking an activity slighty less questionable by the authorities.
5. Make a Scrapbook: If you are an artsy person, this would be incredible. Personally, the two I've made aren't really scrapbooks, but they are awesome keepsakes nonetheless. I did one sketchbook that I filled with all of my sketches from around Rome. I did about 3-5 really nice sketches a week and am having them bound into a book this week. The other one I did for my mixed media class and it is a book that I filled with photos that I decaled, painted overtop of, and glued in items from my travels to tell the story of my experience here. It's pretty cool and it's actually being featured in an art show when I get home!
6. Collect the same item everywhere you go: I collected postcards and a charm for a necklace in each country I visited. I had another friend collect cheesy touristy shirts to make into a quilt when she got home. Something very basic but also cute that I wish I'd done was get a coffee mug in every country... more specifically a Starbucks mug. I have a bad coffee problem that forced me to drink Starbucks in every country I traveled too. The thing is that they actually sell the cutest mugs at each one with the skyline of that city of them. They're adorable but also totally would have been too heavy for my suitcase so ignore the last few sentences of me admitting my Starbucks problem.
That's all I have for you this week! Check out my photos from my last weekend trip ever to Budapest! Also go buy some tissues and send them my way for next week's blog post.
Much Love to you all.
I am great and life is great because I just got back today from my Thanksgiving break trip to Denmark and Norway. It was so amazing and now I can definitively say I have a favorite trip I’ve been on.
Whenever you study abroad, chances are you’ll have some time to travel to other places. Clearly, I have had the opportunity to take a lot of side trips, but this extra time off for Thanksgiving offered me (and pretty much everyone else in my program) some extra time to take the one trip to that place you’ve always wanted to go. I also saved enough on other trips to be able to freely spend on this one and do all of the cool things that I did like sailing through the fjords and also stay in really nice places. I actually have also started to realize how much I didn’t know about saving money when it came to planning trips and even planning trips in the first place, and all of the ways I could have saved more on my earlier trips. So how did I do it and what did I learn? With that: a short vocabulary and trip planning lesson from yours truly.
1.) What even is a hostel?
I realized that before I came here I didn’t even know what a hostel was. Sure I had heard people talk about them, but I actually had no idea what they were.
Hostel (noun): cheap dorm-like, sort of hotels to stay at in almost all cities/ towns
When I say dorm, I truly mean dorm. You will typically sleep in a room with MINIMUM six to eight people, possibly mixed gender. All hostels are different when it comes to gender and room size. In general, the less people in the room, the more the room costs. I’ve stayed in everything from a single to a twenty person room. Bathrooms can either be shared by the room (if you’re lucky) or by the floor. Hostels also range greatly in quality. I’ve stayed in ones that could have easily been a nice hotel and I have had friends in ones where they got bedbugs and their things stolen. Price wise, they can be anywhere from ten dollars to seventy dollars per person, per night.
The best hostel booking site is hostel world.com because they show all of your options by location, price, quality, etc. and all of the hostels have tons of honest reviews. Some cities will be more expensive than others. For example, in Ireland it cost us less to stay in a Holiday Inn just outside of Dublin than to get a hostel in the city center. Just do your research and try to book at least two weeks in advance. Hostels fill up!
Airbnb (noun): paying someone a set amount of money per night to rent either a room in their home/apartment while they are there OR paying to rent the entire home/apartment while they are not there.
I stayed in Airbnb’s in Denmark and Norway and loved it, but some people find it creepy to be literally living in someone else’s life. Airbnb was created to cater to those looking to live like a local when they travel places. Personally, I loved having our own place to hang out at night, cook our own meals, have a nice bathroom, and a nice bed. You’ll understand the “luxury” of these after staying in a hostel. In Norway and Denmark, booking an Airbnb was actually cheaper because they are expensive cities and I was traveling with enough people. They can be cheaper because the rent might be $150 a night, but you split that between the four other friends you are traveling with instead of each person paying say $40 a night for a hostel. It really depends on the city, so do your research.
ALWAYS book Airbnb’s through the actual airbnb.com because all of the people renting their places have to be verified for safety and whatnot, and there will be a ton of reviews to judge them off of. Note that after you stay in one, the host reviews you too and it goes on your profile, so if you leave the place a mess and get a bad review it could affect you trying to book and Airbnb in the future.
3.) Cheap flights
Nine words: USE GOOGLE FLIGHTS AT LEAST A MONTH IN ADVANCE
Google flights rocks because it compares all airlines and prices and allows you to book separate airlines right there to allow for the cheapest combination. Just don’t forget to always clear your cookies and browsing history before searching for flights because the price goes up depending on demand.
In general the cheapest airline will always be RyanAir or EasyJet. Personally, I don’t like EasyJet because it is disorganized, uncomfortable, and you don’t get a personal item. RyanAir is all of those things too, but you get a personal item and I think the staff seem to be a lot nicer. The flights are so cheap because of strict baggage rules: one carry on and one personal item. You can bring an actual suitcase, but checking it costs a fortune. My advice would be to go to the RyanAir website and buy a duffle bag that fits their requirements exactly. RyanAir will do random checks of your carry on luggage size, and if yours is too big you will have to pay at least sixty euros on the spot. Be careful! I have seen it happen to my friends.
These flights are way less than glamorous, but I paid twenty dollars for my flight to Copenhagen, and with prices like that I can’t complain.
4.) Save on places to stay and flights and splurge on everything else.
Pretty self explanatory, but I thought I’d say it again. When else was I ever going to have the chance to sail in the fjords of Norway with my friends? Maybe never so I dropped the cash. You should do the same in order to maximize your experience.
That’s all I have for you for travel tips! This weekend is my last trip, but I am going to Budapest for all of the Christmas themed activities. As a Christmas enthusiast, I AM SO EXCITED.
Have a lovely week and check out my pictures from Denmark and Norway!
If you haven't noticed the theme of "OH NO I CAN'T LEAVE ITALY" going on in my last few posts, this one should send the message loud and clear. I'm getting to the point of wrapping up my classes, my travels, and going back to do my favorite things around Rome. It's extremely bittersweet, but leaving something you love always is. I'm in a happy place now though. I've accepted that although I've learned so much about living here and life in general, there's forever going to be more to learn. I'd call this the final emotional stage of studying abroad. It took a while to get here, and there were definitely ups and downs along the way. When you see your friends study abroad pictures it can look like they just took a half a year break from school and are living worry-free, having the time of their life. This is definitely not the case. While I too had similar thoughts of what it would be like, studying abroad is tough. It takes a lot of bravery and perseverance. So what is it really like then? It looks different for everyone, but for me, here were the five stages of studying abroad:
1.) The "WOOOOO THIS IS AWESOME" Phase
This of course is the initial "you feel like you're just on vacation and going to have a good time and kick back and relax" part of the emotions. Trust me, it will take a while for it to settle in that yes, you do really live here now, and that you won't be going home in a week. This is the fun and easy part...
until phase two hits you...
After the WOOOOO phase ran its course, the emotion that took over was frustration. This is where you decide that you're ready to adapt to life in a new country and figure things out, but it gets extremely difficult. It was so hard for me to do simple tasks like buying groceries and connecting to Wi-Fi because of the language barrier and cultural differences. Although I believe people across the world have more similarities than differences, this is the phase when I saw ALL the differences.
I’ll use something as simple as connecting to Wi-Fi as an example. I’ve never stopped to appreciate fast, reliable internet while living in the US. The only time I really noticed was when it didn’t work, which was rare. The internet here is slow and spotty if it even works at all, and on top of that I have to use a VPN to access the sites I’m used to (which still doesn't work half the time). I had no idea how to problem solve an internet issue on my own because while my Italian is fairly decent now, I still don't know the vocabulary to be able to ask questions and discuss technology. So when there was even the smallest issue connecting to Wi-Fi, or the heating at my apartment went out, or I couldn't fully translate and understand an Italian website, it felt like being alone on a raft at sea. I know that’s dramatic, but I was desperate to feel connected to familiar faces and processes.
Frustration also came in the form of finding good drinking water, figuring out how to cook in a new kitchen with new ingredients, asking our landlord about issues in our apartments, confusing interactions while trying to buy anything, and countless other acts that would be fairly straightforward had they taken place in the US. Luckily, when learning a new set of skills, frustration is usually followed by confidence.
3.) CONFIDENCE TO THE MAXEventually I did figure out how to do all those simple life tasks that needed to be done. I was able to use public transportation with ease, I was having successful outings on my own which resulted in exploring gorgeous areas of Rome I never would have thought I would see, and simple things like learning to tell the lady at the grocery store that I don’t need a bag. Cue major confidence boost. I was succeeding. Fearlessly crossing the streets in true Italian fashion to go eat at a restaurant where they knew my order or to check out a new store I heard about really is what began to make Rome feel like home. It was so great, but confidence, of course, comes in waves.
4.) DefeatThis brings us to defeat. This one is tough because I'm someone who never gives up, but I’ve definitely had moments where I wanted to pack it all up and head home to familiarity. I had a solid week of feeling defeated after just a few minor frustrations. It's tough when you're feeling confident and then some minor issue pops up and it sort of blows up all over again. It's a bit sad to remember this, but I think it’s important to share. Weirdly enough, the act of mentally giving up and snapping out of it is what took me out of this phase and into the next.
5.) HumblenessFrustration and confidence still come back in small waves, but humbleness and openness flood my mind. I’m in a state of mind where I realize I really don’t know anything about Italy or Europe in general, and that’s okay. I’ve gotten to a stage where I have my basic daily needs fulfilled with no more effort than it took in the US, and I have time to learn, explore, and try new things. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. It’s a humbling idea, and one that weirdly calms me, because I realize all I can do is try my best to keep learning, trying, and moving forward.
This week I am headed to Denmark and then onto Norway for Thanksgiving break! Norway was sort of a given because my grandma would have never let me hear the end of it if I didn't make it to the "homeland" (yes my grandma is a cute, little, old, Norwegian lady who makes lutefisk and lefse for the holidays). Tomorrow also marks the first annual friendsgiving. My heart is full and happy.
Keep checking out my photos page, and have a lovely Thanksgiving!
"Wherever you are, be all there." -Jim Elliot
I ONLY HAVE ONE MORE MONTH LEFT OF LIVING IN ITALY I CAN NOT HANDLE THIS.
For real, I am already fighting the post study abroad depression and I haven't even left yet. Since the semester is winding down so are my funds.
Budgeting has never been my strength, but I have definitely had to increase my budgeting skills here because I can't exactly call my grandma and act hungry so she will buy me groceries fit for an apocalypse stock pile like I could back at home. It is even looking like I will have some money left at the end of the semester to take part in the "treat yo self" philosophy.
So, with that, here are my semester abroad budgeting tips:
The big reveal:How much did I bring?
I saved about $5,000 dollars for extra travels, food, and spending money. The perfect amount for me, but less than some and more than others. It has been enough for me to take a trip three weekends out of each month and pay to do fun activities and tours without hesitation.
How do I keep track of it all?
A very intense Google spreadsheet is the answer for most people... but for me... I just check my online banking a couple times a week. If online banking isn't available for you, you better get good at spreadsheets otherwise you will be in trouble. There was a two week period that I didn't check my accounts and I definitely spent WAY more than I wanted to.
So, where does it all go?
Food: 20% (Mostly groceries and a few cheap meals out a week)
Beauty: 5% (A winter coat was my big purchase, but to save some money in this department I actually learned how to give myself haircuts)
Fees: 10% (Definitely a place where unexpected costs will come up. For example, just last week I had to pay an unexpected bill of about $150 to the Italian Immigration Office as an add on to my VISA fees)
Travel: 65% (This will look different for everyone, but traveling is what was most important to me on this trip, so I decided to save the most money to buy things like hostels and plane tickets)
When you’re planning how much money to bring, don’t just draw a line in the sand and say “that much!” Think about what you want to do while you’re there and how much money you’ll need to support it. Then, work out a solid weekly budget that can help keep you on track. I was lucky enough to receive enough study abroad scholarships to cover my trip, so I literally worked as much as I could this summer to save enough for all of my spending money. I try to spread my purchases out between weeks and knew I needed to be under budget on as many weeks as possible so I had wiggle room to be over budget (by a lot) during my travel weeks.
What are some places to save money?
Definitely eat out as little as possible when you are home, and when you are traveling it depends on how expensive the city is. Luckily, the cost of living in Italy is cheap, but, for example, when I am in Norway next week, it was cheaper to get an AirBNB (renting out someone's apartment for the weekend) and cooking all my food there because eating out is ridiculously priced in Norway. Then there's some cities, like Barcelona, where it was cheap to eat out and cheap to stay in a hostel. Another place to save money is also definitely skipping on buying an international phone plan. I didn't buy one and I have loved every minute of it. It's nice to be "off the grid" for a while and really enjoy the things you are seeing without having to worry about your phone or social media. You can still check everything when you have wifi and just talk to people over Skype, Whatsapp, or FaceTime. There's also plenty of awesome navigation apps that work without data too. My recommendation would be maps.me. But for sure I would say 100% skip the phone plan. You'll save loads of money and have a better experience.
I don’t know about you, but this could be the only time in my life I get to be twenty years old, living abroad with all of my friends. My advice to you? Spend all of your savings. It’s hard to see all your hard earned money spent but, what do you really have to lose? Only the lost opportunities to see some really amazing places, and trying some really great new experiences!
With that, enjoy my photos from Ireland this weekend on my photos page! IT ROCKED SO MUCH. Have a wonderful week and smile a lot because its almost thanksgiving! (That also means a story is coming about me attempting to be a domestic goddess and trying to make the perfect Thanksgiving meal.)
We all know that amazing feeling you get when you travel because there's absolutely nothing like it. Your senses are heightened so you can absorb absolutely everything there is. There's so much excitement and some apprehension, but it’s awesome, and addicting and part of the reason that I am in love with traveling. However, I think that the absolutely best feeling in the world is coming home. Home can be a person, a place, really anywhere or anything that makes you feel loved. Coming home is the end of missing something, and being reunited with that part of you is the most comforting and wonderful thing that could ever exist.
Back to traveling though, because Italy doesn't give me that traveling excitement. Italy feels like a relative or a friend who you haven’t seen a long time, giving you a hug. It's familiar, comfortable — like coming home. When I think back, I've felt this way from the very second I stepped out of the plane and into Rome.
Italy is such a special place. It is so rich in history, art, culture, and kindness. I've been to quite a few countries now, and Italian hospitality is unparalleled. They are so wonderful. Every time I meet an Italian, it's like seeing an old friend you haven't seen in years. Italians are passionate, funny, kind, helpful, happy, relaxed, and they have this spark to them that I haven't seen anywhere else. They are simply amazing and have made this trip so much easier and comforting.
I've said it so many times, but I could live in Rome my whole life and still never get bored. You’ll be strolling to class and out of nowhere pops the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. Or say you take a short bus ride and find yourself next to St. Peter’s Basilica and surrounded by the most famous work of renaissance architecture. Living in Rome is a constant exploration. No matter how long you have lived here, due to the rich history, the narrow unorganized streets, the large number of cafes and the size of the city, you can always find something new to marvel in. Every day I look around and think "WOW. I live in Rome."
I truly know now what "all roads lead to Rome" means. From the beginning of time, Rome has always been the eternal city. No matter what happens in the world, Rome will always go on, and that in itself makes Rome one of greatest cities in the world.
Time has been moving so quickly lately, and the thought of having to leave Rome is heartbreaking. I can't even tell you how many coins I've thrown into the Trevi Fountain hoping that its magic will pull through and I'll be back to Rome again. Every time I come back home to Rome, I fall in love with the city all over again. It sounds odd, but cities truly are like people. I've realized that through my travels. Each city has a distinct personality. You can feel this mutual love with them, dislike, or friendship. In this time in my life, there is nowhere I belong more than Rome.
Thanks for listening to me ramble about my weird city-person relationship. If you haven't felt it already, keep having adventures and you'll find your place. Life is short and the world is wide, so keep being curious, friends.
Hello all, sorry for posting a bit later than usual, but I was gone a whole week on an academic field trip in PARIS. How amazing is that? First off, the city totally exceeded by expectations, and for traveling with 27 people, it went so smoothly. Because it was academic, everything we did had to relate to what we are currently studying in Interior Design classes. It seemed a bit like it would be tiring and boring at first, but this trip really taught me how to travel as a designer and not just a tourist. Everything that we did really taught me about Paris- what it is made out of, how it works, why it works, etc. It presented me with so many cool opportunities that I would never have gotten had I just been roaming around and looking at the sites just to check another monument off my list. For example, I saw the Eiffel tower, but we discussed it from a design standpoint. I learned about the architect and everything that took place that turned the tower into the icon of Paris. We were also given two days at the end of the trip for our own travels and to finish up our independent studies we did of retail design. So with that, here are some highlights of my Paris trip from a design standpoint.
The cool part about being in a fashion capital was that we got to go really in to depth with retail design psychology (i.e. how to create brand loyalty, the changes one makes within store locations to appeal to that specific demographic, codes for altering historical buildings, etc.). This particular photo is from the pre-opening behind the scenes tour we got to do of Hermes Paris. The store is built inside of a 1920's swimming pool and is totally amazing. I also got to visit and interview designers from Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Fendi, and Chanel.
From a design standpoint, the Eiffel Tower is 300 times cooler. We talked about why it became an icon of the city, how it came to be, the ins-and-outs of the structure and how it physically works, and basically everything there is to know about it. To get there, we walked across that cool bridge from the movie Inception and we had a picnic under the tower. So actually it was the most romantic day of my life with 26 other people.
The Palace of Versailles was for sure the trip highlight. It was definitely a design geek out session, since it is the epitome of about five different styles of French design because it was used for so long by different royals. It was extremely beautiful and educational also in learning about the past monarchy and how each of the royals shaped French culture and the city into what it is today. I also recommend buying a ticket to the gardens. It was totally amazing in fall, but it made me want to see them during every season.
These three photos are from my two days of personal travel. As you can see I clearly made a good academic choice and went to Disneyland on Halloween. Not totally educational, but I got to dance with Disney villains and eat candied apples so I'd call it a win. The other two photos are from a famous French cemetery where Oscar Wilde is buried and Sacre Couer. Sacre Couer is an amazing church on top of a hill that gives a full view of the city of Paris. You can actually go as late as midnight so you can see the city in its full lit-up glory. There's also a really good crepe stand at the top of the hill for those of you who, like me, will be almost dead after just one flight of stairs.
If you couldn't tell yet, I LOVE Paris and am stoked to be going back for my own independent travels for CHRISTMAS. I will actually be attending the Christmas Eve service at Notre Dame, which is one of my life goals so YAY because Paris gave me so many things to check off the bucket list.
In a last minute turn of events, I was invited to visit a friend in Germany this weekend. So after two days of being home, I will be on a flight to Cologne, Germany on Saturday morning. I am visiting a brewery, the cathedral, and a CHOCOLATE MUSEUM. My next blog post depends on if I ever am able to snap out of my Post-Germany Food Coma, so wish me luck.
Have a week as wonderful as you all are.
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'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.