As I have previously mentioned, keeping up a journal or blog is not a strength of mine. It recently came to my attention that I forgot to post a reflection following my return home! Luckily, I can say I am still reflecting and finally recovered from the reverse culture shock I never believed I would experience.

Returning home I was filled with mixed emotions. I was excited to be home with my family for Christmas, but I was also sad to say goodbye to the beautiful country that had been my home for four months and to all the friends I had made there.

After many tearful goodbyes in Italy and tearful welcomes in Oregon, I settled back into the life I left in September. The most difficult part for me has been staying in one place for so long. After traveling on most weekends while I was abroad, I still have that itch to explore new places and have new experiences. In addition to this, fall term was my final term at WOU before all my credits were completed, so, in addition to the change of environment I have also been adjusting to the change that comes after graduation with no longer attending regular classes and seeing friends regularly. With all of that said, it IS good to be home. 🙂


Here are some pictures from the end of my experience abroad and of my return:


Venice in December


One last look at my favorite building in Florence!


Christmas time in Florence = Singing Santas on a train

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A street art souvenir for my dad!


My last tiramisu!


An evening ice skating in Florence


Our last CIS Abroad dinner!


Home sweet home!



Two Weeks Left!

I do believe I may have missed a week…or two. So, that being said, its time to catch up!  As my time left here in Florence gets shorter and shorter the weeks begin to fly by faster and faster! During the past three weeks I have been to Sicily, Rome, Copenhagen, and after this coming weekend I will have visited Venice as well. After that I have one more week of classes, three days of finals, and then it is time to board the plane back to Portland! Its hard to believe that I will have been here for almost three months, it has gone by much, much quicker than I expected. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and I know I will soon be missing this city terribly, but at the same time I can’t wait to see my family again and be home for Christmas (it was hard enough missing Thanksgiving!). Anyways, enjoy some photos from my adventures these past three weeks! Again, I’m afraid I must apologize for being such a terrible blogger!



Sicily- Catania, Taormina, and Mt. Etna

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Due to the stress of midterms, the excitement of fall break, and the fact that I have never kept a blog or journal in my life up to this point, it recently occurred to me that I just might be a couple weeks behind on my posts! Oops. So, long story short, I have quite a lot of catching up to do! With the exception of fall break, the last few weeks have been fairly uneventful. Due to midterm preparations and the anticipation of fall break expenses, I traveled very little. I attended the Perugia Chocolate Festival, and during fall break I was delighted to be able to travel to London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Brussels! Below I will include my favorite pictures from fall break, though some of these places I visited (Old Town in Scotland, The Cliffs of Moher, London as seen from the top of the London Eye) are simply so beautiful and breathtaking that no picture could do them justice! To truly experience the beauty of each of these places you must see them for yourself!




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Free Museum Sunday!

This week we learned that during the first Sunday of every month most museums have free entry! The downside to this is that the lines to get in are also very long, and it was raining like crazy, but we were determined! During the course of a Sunday I managed to see the David, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Boboli Gardens (all for free!). I must say that while the museums were an incredible experience, the gardens were my favorite. I didn’t realize how much I had started to miss Oregon’s fresh air and greenery! I got some lovely pictures at the gardens and intend to go back soon before it starts getting too cold. I also had a delicious dinner at my Italian family’s house, ate a delicious salad at the school restaurant, and had a weekly “family dinner night” with friends! Overall it was a very well rounded week, though I have so many more museums yet to see! Here are some pictures to sum up the week, I took so many pictures at the museums, so these are only a few from each location!

Ciao for now!



One month in Florence

I have officially spent a month in Florence and have about two and a half months left to go! Though I am still getting over a cold I caught two weeks ago, I am still enjoying myself. The highlight of this past weekend was being able to spend a day in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. I have always enjoyed the county fairs back home, so experiencing this was similar to a very, very large fair with tons of people. There were rides and more food stands than I could count! It did get cold, but it was a great opportunity to attend an iconic event and explore Munich a little bit. I also got to go on a ferris wheel for the first time, it is pretty neat that it was in Germany. I also joined something at my school called Italian family club, and was matched with a family! It is a really neat way to spend time with locals in Florence and learn more about the culture firsthand. I have already had dinner with them and plan to spend more time with them throughout the term! I am hoping this will also be a good opportunity to practice my Italian language skills. Hopefully I will have more to say about this next week as well. It is hard to believe that I first arrived here a month ago. While it feels like I have been here forever, somehow it also feels like I just got here. I have experienced so much and yet have so much more exploring left to do!

Ciao for now!


Week 3 in Florence!

This post is coming a day late, though I must confess that since I have been sick all week with a horrible cold and a severe lack of familiar medications so I spent more time resting than exploring. The highlights of my week included the usual classes, many trips to the store for more tissues, a few much needed gelato runs, and a trip to IKEA on the free Sunday IKEA bus. I probably should have stayed home for the IKEA outing, since I really wasn’t feeling well enough to go, but it was an interesting experience seeing how a store that I am so familiar with in America can still feel similar and yet very different. At first glance, it looks very much the same. Similar furniture styles and prices, modern kitchens and bathrooms (though I haven’t seen many since I’ve been here), and the same Swedish meatballs IKEA has become so famous for. Upon closer inspection though it is possible to notice the subtle differences such as the bidets in the bathrooms, slightly different kitchen supplies, the fact that everything is in euros, and of course, the language barrier encountered when ordering the Swedish meatballs. Along with my IKEA pictures I included some gelato I had this week as well as some street art commonly seen on the streets of Florence. There are several of these chalk pictures and they are cleaned up at the end of every day and recreated every day for the tourists benefit. I was also able to take a short bus ride with my study abroad program, CIS abroad, to the town of Fiesole. The view was spectacular, but due to the lack of light (it was an evening trip) I wasn’t able to adequately capture it on camera. I did, however, try some delicious and weird chips that I plan to buy later (barbecue and mint flavor!) and ate a yummy chocolate thing from a small market on the way back from the trip. Hopefully I will have some more interesting pictures next week after I go to Octoberfest on Saturday!

Ciao for now!




First Week of Classes!


This last week was my first official week of classes. I will usually post on Tuesdays because I will likely not be traveling (as could be the case on the weekends) and Mondays are very busy days for me! This last week began with my Italian language class on Monday and ended with ethics on Friday. I was able to go to the market on Tuesday and truly experience shopping in Italy. Nobody at this outdoor market spoke English, so this was one of the very first times I experienced the struggle of trying to explain what I want and understand what they were telling me. I was able to practice a few of the Italian phrases I have learned, though was frequently corrected by the locals in terms of pronunciation and context. I feel like these encounters actually strengthen my use of the language and it is nice to find people that care enough to help me practice my language skills correctly! Sunday I went on a day trip throughout Tuscany, including Pisa and Sienna, where it rained on us very heavily. We also did laundry here for the first time! We took some things to the laundromat to have the use of a dryer for our towels, but it was slightly more expensive than we anticipated so we will probably hang things to dry in the future. I also went with a roommate and a friend to hike to the top of piazza Michelangelo, I will attach pictures of that spectacular view as well. I currently have a slight cold, which I expect is a direct result of that experience combined with the lack of sleep I still seem to be getting (the time change is still messing up my sleep schedule!). It seems to be a mild cold, however, and luckily I am well stocked with cold medicine from home (though I heard the “farmacias” here are very helpful). I am hoping to feel better soon so I can pick up the pace again and continue exploring! Here are some pictures from the week:




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Experiencing Italy

The last two days have been a whirlwind. Orientation began with an introductory seminar and a tour, followed by a tour of our neighborhood, and finished with two seminars, one of which we got lost on the way to! Later that day CIS Abroad treated us to a wonderful four course three hour Italian meal. Needless to say I left the apartment at 8 am that morning and didn’t return until 11 pm! There was just so much to see! Yesterday after a full day of exploring the city and running errands to get settled into my new home, FUA hosted a welcome reception with a buffet and desserts. Today is the first day to take a breath, relax, and prepare for the start of classes on Monday! At this point, any initial assumptions I in initially had coming into this experience have been changed. The main thing I have noticed is that there is a huge difference between the tourist parts and the local parts of Florence ; especially when it comes to the restaurants. In the tourist-heavy parts of Florence, there are extra charges in restaurants for tourists called a cuperto. This is charged per person and can range from 1 to 4+ Euro, many tourists are unaware of this. The service is good enough, but usually gets worse if they find you will not be tipping (tipping is uncommon in Italy, as the employees make a living wage, but many servers have come to expect it from Americans).Servers will sometimes say this to Americans, regardless of if a service charge and/or cuperto was already charged, in an effort to guilt them into tipping. At a local establishment, there is rarely a cuperto, and if there is, it is often very low. The staff are friendly, though rarely speak much English. They encourage American guests to practice their Italian and provide excellent friendly service. I will attach a picture below of a note our server made for us when we were inquiring about various Italian phrases. I have also learned a lot about what is and is not socially acceptable here, there are many things we do with out thinking in America that would shock or disgust the locals in Italy. Some examples are: asking for food to go after not quite finishing a meal at a restaurant, eating while walking in general (food is meant for the table), coffee sitting down or to go, asking to change something about the menu while ordering (this is very rude to the chef), and various others. I will try to update these as I find out more!





Since I came a few days early with my grandparents, my initial post is occurring from within Italy after my arrival and recovery from the extreme jet lag. I do have a few pictures from the ride to the airport I will attach as well. My initial thoughts before arriving were that this place seemed almost imaginary. People were constantly telling me how wonderful it was and how it was a great experience and that I would have a wonderful time, but all I had seen of Italy was out of a book or movie. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, all I could picture were these fairytale images! I expected the language barrier to be difficult, since I do not yet speak Italian, and was told the people were friendly and welcoming but that they, and the city did not always smell the best. These were my first thoughts heading into this adventure. Orientation is tomorrow and I will follow up afterwards about my reaction to actual Italian life as well as how my orientation went!