26 February, 2013

I'm Getting Better!

This is quite the delayed post, as I wrote it in my head on Wednesday morning, but I didn't have time to write it until now.

If you knew me back in high school or freshman year, you would probably call me anal or a perfectionist.  I had really high anxiety, and it really got in the way of things.  So, come Wednesday morning, when my roommate's alarm goes off a full twenty minutes after my group of friends from my on-site class was supposed to have left for class, you would think I would go in full panic mode.  And in all reality, I kinda did.  I called Brad on the brink of tears, gasping for air, asking him for directions of where to go.  I whispered profanities under (and over) my breath as I quickly got dressed, put on contacts, and left for a museum in who-the-hell-knows part of Rome.  I had a river to follow and a white building to look for.  I left my apartment by 9:15, which was the start time of class, and finally arrived at 10:15, a full hour late.  It was kind of nice, because I got time to get my heart rate down.  After awhile, I came to realize that there was nothing more I could do about the situation.  I was on my way to class, and if I couldn't make it or find the group, I just couldn't.  My iPhone had literally turned off in my sleep, meaning that there was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent it.  I hadn't known the way to the museum before that morning, so I had no better way of getting there than following the River (I later found out it was extremely close, I just took the roundabout way).  It was amazing, because previous me would have been crying and huffing and puffing and pouting the entire way there, and for the entire day afterward.  In reality, I was calm and collected, and I even laughed about it the minute I arrived to class.  I have come so far in only two years, and I'm so proud of myself!  However, my high anxiety isn't gone, and I will be sleeping in my mom's hotel room tomorrow night so all of their phones can have an alarm set for me!

21 February, 2013

Something is Missing in My Life

I'm going to Paris tonight to meet up with my family!  As exciting as this is, it is also really, really scary.  I have to find my way to the hostel, stay the night, and find my way to the other large airport in Paris... all in less than twelve hours.  Either way, I'm so excited!  Paris is where it all began, where the wanderlust was born.  I was fifteen when I first traveled across the ocean once I was old enough to really understand what traveling was.  I fell absolutely head over heels with the city; the life, the love, the beauty.  Thinking of Paris gives me butterflies.  My room back home is Paris themed, and I will be taking that 6x4 foot poster with me to every home I own.  So, I'm sitting in my Roman apartment now, all packed and ready for Paris, I just have to wait four hours for my plane to leave.  Thus, I decided to sit down and watch one of my many films that I own that take place in Paris.  I chose an old favorite, Paris, Je t'aime.  I was absolutely obsessed with this film whenever I discovered it, around ninth grade, and I haven't seen it in awhile.  You'd think that watching this movie wouldn't make me miss or yearn for another culture, since I've been living in a different country for the past two months.  However, there's just something about that damn language.  I'm watching this movie with the sound all the way up because I want to hear every word, every syllable, every sound.  I love the way a French sentence just blends together, that you have to really know the language in order to hear every word.  And I miss knowing every word.  I was never fluent by any means, but I was certainly proficient, and I miss it.  I need to learn a language.  I need to pick one, live in that country, and become fluent.  While I am here in Rome, I am constantly thinking in French, because my mind automatically goes into French mode when it's trying to think in foreign-language mode.  Watching this movie is making me realize how much I miss speaking French.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to invest in some Rosetta Stone when I get back.

20 February, 2013

I Want to Explore with You

My friend Sarah showed me this amazing piece on Thought Catalog, and I had to share it with you.  It was written by a girl named Carrie Laske.

"Come ride on trains with me, and we’ll get out of town. Sit across from me, and let’s look out the window at all the new landscapes rushing by as the sun casts a parting glow on our cheeks. Only a few more hours until we’re there. Where is ‘there’? Maybe it’s a small city where we can amble along the river and take pictures of statues we don’t recognize. Maybe it’s a college town where we can eat toasted sandwiches and watch the undergrads haul their books to class over sidewalks covered in leaves. Or maybe ‘there’ is a coastal town where it’s always too cold to swim so we stand on the sand in our jackets and watch the seagulls dipping and diving. The fog is too thick to watch where the birds go, but we imagine they go to eternity because that’s all we can see from here. We have open eyes, salt in our hair, and I just want to explore with you.
So come sit on planes with me. Watch the fluid greens and blues and whites come into focus and become lakes, fields, and houses. Feel the change in the air as we exit the sliding glass doors and step into a new world. Rome, Barcelona, Kerala, Seoul. A bus will take us into the city, and we’ll watch with our noses pressed against the window as rolling hills change into streets and avenues and promenades. Row upon row of ancient beige buildings opens its arms to us, and we’ll see more people than stars. More lights than stars. More palm trees than stars. The night — foreign and new — is waiting for us. In the early hours of the morning when we’ve finally had our fill of music, wine, and conversation with strangers we’ll come back to the sleeping hostel past curfew and pour ourselves into tiny beds and fresh sheets. We’ll sleep knowing there will be breakfast and coffee in the morning, and I just want to explore with you.
So come climb into the passenger seat with me, and let’s drive down south. We can have the wind in our hair and nothing but the highway in front of us. Let’s pause only when we’re hungry or when we’ve run out of gas. We’ll stop at diners boasting fifty cent coffee in neon letters and at gas stations overrun by weary families and truck drivers who have miles to go. We’ll stop — no, we won’t stop. We won’t stop for anything until we get to the bottom, until we’re standing at the beach with the smell of the ocean in front of us and gumbo cooking behind us. We’re outlaws, pioneers, lovers, companions, triers of new things, witnesses of god or whatever it is we think we see out there. We won’t talk, we won’t touch, we’ll just be there, and we’ll be in love, not with each other, but with the unknown, with the things we can’t see and don’t understand.
Come do this with me because I want to explore with you. I want to see new things with you, to wander alongside you with our eyes as wide as children’s and our hearts just as free. I want to walk next to you down roads we’ve never walked on before and hear words we’ve never heard spoken before. We will touch things, taste things, and it will all be new. You’ll be new, and so will I. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know you, that I’ve never met you before, but I saw you today on the street — just for a moment, just before you turned the corner — and I want to explore with you."

Why I Think Everyone Should Study Abroad

I have been in Rome for six weeks now, and I think you all know that I absolutely love it.  My little time here, in comparison to the four months I will be spending here in whole, has already convinced me that studying abroad is one of the most amazing things someone can do while in college.  Yes, I am traveling (and spending money) all the time, and no, I can't even imagine going back to Gustavus.  I am living my dream right now, basically just spending four months in Rome, whereas normally I would have to come back to work or whatnot.  But, I don't think that this is worth the money and time just for fun.  Studying abroad is so much more than that.
For how little time I've been here, I've already been changed.  I can feel myself growing and learning every day.  I've learned to stop judging, that someone's personality is so much more beautiful than a first impression can give off.  I've learned how to be by myself, and what I need to do to make myself happy.  I'm learning how to be an independent woman and, more importantly, a grown up.  If I have issues, I can't really ask my mom.  I have to learn to deal with it myself.  Yes, SAI is here to help me, but they can't help me with everything.  Going abroad instantly puts you out of your comfort zone, and it pushes you into so many experiences that are not necessarily happy or fun.  I had to figure out how to get myself to the airport in Rome, get on a flight, and get myself from the Athenian airport to my friend's apartment, not knowing one word of Greek. I was scared, but you know what, it worked out.  I'm less afraid of doing new things, because I've already done so many new things that I know they're not as scary as they first appear.  I've done so many amazing things that scared me, and I am such a different person because of it.  I love who I'm becoming, and I wouldn't be that person without this experience.  There is nothing in the United States that compares to what you experience when you study abroad.  Yeah, it's really hard.  I've had my fair share of breakdowns.  It's not a cake walk.  But in the end, it makes you a stronger person, more able to face the things that this world has to come.


By the way, I was walking up my stairs to my apartment and had a mental fight with myself.  If you read my earlier posts, I couldn't figure out which floor my apartment was on when I first got here, because I didn't know if 3rd floor meant the 3rd floor in American or European terms.  Well, its European.  So I put it in my head that I was on the 3rd/4th floor.  Well, as I was walking up the stairs today, I was really confused, because I had walked up three flights of stairs.  I said to myself, "But I'm on the fourth floor.  This is most definitely my floor, but I could have sworn I was on the fourth floor.  This is only the third floor."  So basically, I was thinking like a European.  I'm the only one who thinks that's cool?  Okay, whatever.  I just wanted to share it with you.

18 February, 2013

Quirks of Italy

In case you're bored of my philosophical blogs, I thought I would have a normal one that most students write while studying abroad.  Here are some random things about Italy:

  • The yogurt is so amazing.  Every time I take a bite of it, I want to say, "DAMN that's fresh!"
  • The mozzarella.  To describe it to an American, I'll tell you what Nikki called it today when I ran into her: "Weird mozzarella cheese that comes in water."  When you buy it from the grocery stores, the bags have water in them, and that keeps them soft and amazing and SO MUCH BETTER than the crap we have in the states.  Seriously, its not even the same.
  • The tomatoes are SO DAMN GOOD.  If you knew me well back home, you'd know that I didn't eat tomatoes.  Well, today I made myself a sandwich and I put an entire tomato on it.  They're just that good here.
  • Cobblestones EVERYWHERE.  Seriously, the only paved roads that exist are the main ones.  I am basically constantly staring at the ground to make sure I don't trip and fall on my butt.  Which has yet to happen, but I've had a lot of close calls.
  • Gelato is everywhere.  Absolutely everywhere.  If you're hungry for gelato, you should just turn 360 degrees and I am 100% positive you will see a gelatteria somewhere in the distance.
  • Not hungry for Italian food?  That's too bad.  We're in Italy, dammit, and I'll be damned if you want to eat anything other than Italian food!
  • Everyone wears boots.  Pretty sure this is a modern world thing instead of Italian, but I'm always dressing up, because its just what people do here.
  • It's really easy to not pay for public transportation.  I was in Prague for a good hour and I was already fined 500 CZK (which is about $26.50) for not paying for a ticket.
  • Wine is dirt cheap and damn good.  In the states, if you bought a dollar bottle of wine, 1) does that even exist 2) its going to taste terrible.  Boxed wine, yes, boxed wine is amazing and only about a euro.
  • Everywhere you go has history.  I just found out today that a restaurant in Campo di Fiore, the piazza that all of the American students go to party, still has the arches from the first ever stone theatre built in Rome.  How crazy is that?
  • Ancient Rome is about 6 or so feet below modern Rome.  Thus, anytime they try to do something normal, like build a metro line, it takes them years.  "Damn it what did I hit this time, oh, is that an ancient ruin?" Yes, yes it is.
  • Roman statues are thought of as white, but GUESS WHAT they were painted! Yeah, my mind was blown, too.
  • People go grocery shopping multiple times a week, and thus they don't use grocery carts.  They have these bigger versions of grocery/target baskets that have wheels that you carry around with you.  They're so much easier than carts, and I love them.  Also, food spoils really quickly because it is SO DAMN FRESH, which is why they go shopping so many times a week.  You don't want to know what my milk was like after I was in Athens for the weekend.  Nasty.
Well, that's all I can think of for now!  Ciao!

17 February, 2013

I've hit a wall.

And it's not a fun one.  I got back from Prague today, which was an amazing weekend spent with amazing people.  But I got back late this afternoon, realized that I have a ton of stuff to do (I have a midterm on Wednesday... how is this even possible?!), and just got so completely exhausted.  Body and soul.  I can't figure out what it is.  I was in Athens last weekend, Prague this weekend, and I'm going to be in Paris this weekend, so maybe it's the physical act of constantly traveling that is exhausting me.  I also feel like I'm constantly running around, trying to experience life, because four months feels like no time at all.  However, four months is a long time, especially when you never give yourself time to recuperate.  I am constantly going out and trying to do fun things, which means that I'm giving myself very little sleep, and not focusing on school enough.  I'm getting really nervous about how my traveling is going to interfere with work, as well as my friendships.  Always being gone on weekends makes seeing friends difficult.  Plus, I'm really missing the comfort of having friends around me who I know love me through and through.  I'm not saying my friends here don't love me, but we're all new.  It's freshman year all over again.  Just this time, my mom is a little more than an hour and a half drive away, and she's not up for the day until at least 2pm, if not more.  So, when I get tired and just want to watch a movie or just hang out, I really start to miss having my friends live in my apartment or the apartment building only ten minutes away.  In general, I've been here long enough that I'm getting so tired that I feel like I need a break from my life in order to build back the energy to continue living it.

On another, still not quite happy note, this Friday was the eighth anniversary of my father's death.  What was ironic, yet so completely needed, was that I found a writing on the Lennon wall that day of someone writing to their father.  It reads, "Every day I think of you... I miss you... I love you... You're always with me papa. Je t'aime."  It was just a really good way for me to enjoy Prague while still remembering him on that day.  Also, I received so many messages from such a variety of people telling me that they were thinking of me.  I felt so loved that day, even by people I have just recently met.  It really made the day better.

14 February, 2013

Realizations

When my father was sick, he made a goodbye video for us.  My aunt recorded it, and she didn't give it to us until the fifth anniversary of his death.  Well, I watched it, and I sobbed, as would be expected, but it really hurt me to watch it more because I realized how much I had changed.  When my father was talking to me specifically, he told me to continue writing.  He said he knew I had a talent and he loved reading my stuff.  Well, at that point, I didn't write anymore.  I was a senior in high school, and I was set on becoming a doctor.  I was obsessed with my intelligence and how my smarts were going to get me so far in life, and I wanted to be the best at the best and at that point in time I thought the best was a doctor.  Well, I've realized that smart people exist in all fields of life, and I have actually met smarter people in my non-science fields, because those classes really teach you how to think rather than just solve problems.  Back to the point.  I was in the airport last week, and I was thinking about how much I love to travel, and how much I love airports.  And I wanted to write about it.  On the way back, I was in a very interesting situation with the plane being delayed and not having enough cabin space for everyone's bags, and this was all in a culture different than my own, and the science part of me was having so much fun observing.  I just felt like a sponge, taking it all in.  And I wanted to write about it.  Both times I was kicking myself for not bringing a journal or computer or anything to write anything down with.  All weekend, I was just craving to blog.  I think you can tell, too, with the number of blog posts I write, that I love to write.  It's become a passion for me.  I don't write stories, but I just love to write about my experiences.  I was talking to my friend Sarah and told her I wanted to write, but I wasn't good enough at it.  She goes, "Why the hell not?  You like to write, so write.  Do what you want to do."  And then I remembered that it made me so sad that my father knew me as a writer, and that I was no longer one.  Well, I thought, why aren't I one?  I haven't changed, my love for writing didn't disappear, it just stopped being a priority.  I have a terrible novel in my closet at home that I tried to write when I was in fifth grade, and I remember how much fun I had writing it.  And I get so much joy from putting my thoughts into words on a page or screen.  So, I'm going to write.  I'm at this "Who-the-hell-knows-what-I'm-going-to-do-with-my-life" point in my life, and I could become a travel writer.  Or I could just write for fun.  But I've realized that I love to write, and I'm extremely excited about it.
This post was probably inspired by the fact that tomorrow is the anniversary of my father's death, and I won't have a computer to post or write anything about it.  I'm off to Prague today, and don't worry, I packed a journal this time.

13 February, 2013

I'm Becoming a European.

Well, not really.  I wish, but in all reality, I will never be able to wipe off all of the American or (especially) Minnesotan off of me.  I am coming to terms with the fact that no matter how long I live here, I am always going to come off as a non-Italian, and probably as an American in general.  For instance, I went to the Italian Ballet tonight.  We got an e-mail with directions and dress code, which said, "Just so you know, Italians wear a lot of dark colors."  What color did I wear, you ask?  I wore black pants, a white shirt, a hot pink scarf, and my bright green blazer.  I did it knowing that I was going to stand out, but it wasn't until I was at the theatre that I realized how much I would stand out.  Baby green glows when put on a background of black, navy, and brown.
I have been here for five weeks, however, and that is having an effect on me.  I will always be American, but that doesn't change the fact that I am no longer a tourist in this city.  I feel that, though I will never be a Roman, I am still a distinct category from American now.  My clothing taste is still American, but I've developed some taste and habits from the Italian culture that I would not have had otherwise.  Tonight at the ballet, we were told to dress up, so a lot of girls wore skirts.  However, some of them wore really short skirts... without tights (GASP).  I'm not saying that Americans are sluts but... they definitely don't dress as conservative as the Italians.  And I got really excited when this shocked me, because it means that I'm no longer 100% American... I'm down to, like, 95%!



Ok fine, I'll admit it.
That "like" just bumped me back up to a 96%.

12 February, 2013

Making Friends!

So, let me be the first to tell you if you haven't already heard, but studying abroad is basically like redoing freshman fall, just in a different country.  My first or second night here, I was getting ready to go to bed, when I got a facebook chat from someone asking if I wanted to go out.  In all honesty, I really didn't.  But I wanted to make friends.  So I put clothes on, put on some make up, and went out.  Now I'm going to Prague with these people on Thursday! So it was totally worth it.  I've also had to get out of my Minnesota Nice comfort zone and invite myself places.  I've realized that my homesickness isn't really homesickness but loneliness, and so I like to keep myself busy and surrounded by people.  And that means that you have to ask if you can join in on things.  It definitely felt awkward at first, but it had to be done.
One of my favorite things about being here is the people I have met.  Honestly, my friends here are not people I would have picked out of a crowd as future friends.  In fact, two of my friends here go to the same school as me, yet it took a flight across the world for us to actually meet.  We have different friend groups at school, like we don't even know the people we each live with different friend groups.  However, despite these factors, we have become friends.  And my friends here are actually some of the most interesting friendships I have ever had.  We're learning in social psych about how a lot of our thoughts about the world and ourselves are enforced because we surround ourselves with people who have the same views as us.  Well, here I'm willing to be friends with anyone, because we're only here for four months and I'm really just trying to make every day worthwhile.  So, I hang out with people who have different views of me and different lifestyles, and I love it.  One of my best friends here is straight out of Jersey, and I love it.  Her accent is adorable, and she's just a ball of energy.  I guess what I love about having these friends I wouldn't have expected to have is the fact that I'm learning how amazing and beautiful people are, and how these differences are what makes life exciting.  Before, I probably would have judged these people as annoying for being different, and I admit that I made some rude comments when I first got here.  But I'm learning that my way of life is not the only acceptable way, and I've become a lot more accepting.  It's hard to say this, because it makes me feel like I was a mean person before.  But the moral of the story is that, if I was mean, I am learning not to be.  Which is all I can hope for!

11 February, 2013

Reflections

Ah, to be back in Rome.  Don't get me wrong, I loved my weekend in Athens, but there's something about being home that just makes you feel a lot better after a long day of traveling.
I'm really, really happy to have my first out of Rome trip over with.  First and foremost, I now know how to get to and from the airport, which is what scared me the most.  Secondly, I can now understand Rome better.  It was really annoying this weekend saying "I don't know if this is Roman or European but in Rome...".  Yes, I've been to many places outside of Rome, but you don't really GET a culture or a city until you live in it.  The longest I've been in a European city was in Meaux, and that was five years ago.  And it was only two weeks, which included the whole getting-used-to-being-in-a-foreign-culture stage, which for me didn't involve observing the culture.  So, now that I've been outside of Italy, I can start to realize the differences.  Like the cars.  The cars are small in Athens, but HUGE compared to Rome.  Which is strange, since Athens is much larger than Rome.  I think what I've come to love about Rome is its perfect city-yet-not-a-city-ness.  Rome is most definitely a city.  It is a lot of people in a small area, and there is always something going on (unless its 22:00.  Thats too late for some things and too early for others.  Like the bars).  However, you can walk the entire city in an entire day.  It is clean.  I loved my weekend in Athens, but being back I can realize that I love Rome especially.  I told Dany that I have this attachment to this city that "anyone who studies abroad must have".  She told me that I was wrong.  She said she loves Athens, but it's a love-hate relationship.  Well, I hate nothing about Rome.  My issues with the pharmacies and the grocery stores are just that, my issues.  While reading Eat, Pray, Love, I read the part where the author was talking about how she loves Rome but its not her city.  While reading it I agreed that it wasn't my city and I probably couldn't live there my whole life.  Now I'm not so sure.  Now I just want to stay here forever and make a life here.  Who knows what'll actually happen, maybe I'll travel somewhere else and realize that THAT is my city.  I have no idea where in the world I will end up, but that doesn't matter right now.  What matters is that I have three months left to study abroad, and I am doing it in a city that I love through and through.

09 February, 2013

My Traveling Pros and Cons

While waiting at the gate for my flight to Athens for two hours, I read the section in Eat, Pray, Love where the main character is living in Rome.  Not only was it amazing to hear her talk about the city I've been living in for four months, but it made me realize all of the things I've been missing!  Some of her favorite things, or some of the things she says "the Romans do" are things I've never even heard of.  I have some catching up to do.
My favorite thing, however, was when she was talking about what made her a good and bad traveler.  For instance, she's really bad at the "blank" look, so when she's lost while traveling, everyone knows it.  I, on the other hand, am very good at this look (while traveling, not while lying. I'm a terrible liar).  When I was on the train to the airport on Thursday, I looked so calm, cool, and collected that multiple people came up to me asking what direction the train was going in or what the next stop was.  Inside, however, I was having a full on panic attack because I had no idea if I was on the right train.  And I just panic a lot.  Which is a bad part of me as a traveller.  I like to know exactly what I'm doing and where I am, which is why one of my new favorite lyrics is "I need to know I can be lost and not afraid."  Getting lost is FUN, and I have always been able to find my way back eventually.  I'm also a bad traveler because I am willing to settle on the first "low" price I find, so I always end up overspending as a whole.  I am also a traveler who just shows up in a country, not knowing what there is there, which is highly contradictory of my always wanting to know where I am business.  This is good because I have no expectations and thus am usually satisfied with what I end up doing, but it is bad because then I'll leave and miss something HUGE.  Like the bridge in Prague that everyone told me was their favorite.  Good thing I'm going next weekend!
I'm a great traveler because of my positivity.  I think that's my favorite part of my outlook on life.  I never thought I was any more positive than the average person, but I've realized that I rarely complain about anything travel wise.  I think I complain more about people because people can control themselves; situations cannot.  Plus, I highly believe that your outlook on a situation can have a huge influence on the outcome of the situation, if that makes sense.  I was crabby when we were in Naples, which then caused Pompeii to be purely "okay" rather than the "amazing" I had wanted it to be.  I have been in some strange situations in Rome, and I honestly haven't been upset about most of them.  Living life is taking it as it comes.  And if you're just going to bitch about what you're doing, then why are you doing it?  Also, I'm in Rome.  In another age, I would be married, working, and pregnant at this point in my life.  But no, my mother is so amazing that she lets me be dependent enough on her that I can just drop everything and move to Rome for four months.  Also, my family could be struggling to pay for food and shelter, but God has blessed us with enough that I can take what can only be called a four month vacation.  I realize these blessings every day, and this is why I feel there is no need whatsoever for me to complain.  If I am going to complain about stupid things here like my cold shower or the baby centipede that likes to scare me whenever I go to the bathroom at 4am, then I should just pack up my things and go home.  Because there are stupid things like that everywhere.  But no, instead I choose to appreciate them.
Also, culture shock is one of my favorite things in the world.  People who hate culture shock make me sad, in all honesty, and a little angry.  Yes, there are people that do things differently than you.  So what.  Okay, I guess culture shock is not the right word, but ethnocentrism.  The United States does things very well, I will tell you that much.  But if you are going to say that we do it better than others, I cannot believe a word you say.  Because there is no way to know unless one experiences things themselves.  And even so, we are raised in one culture, and can never truly understand how other cultures view the experience themselves.  We may hate how they do things in a communal society because we were raised in such an individualistic culture.  Yes, my social psychology is coming out in my blog post.  What about it.  Point is, I make a decent traveler because I am unafraid of the differences.  Yes, I am scared of stupid stuff like grocery stores and pharmacies, but I am willing to face those fears and enjoy it.  I am willing to eat things like silk worm pupae and smile about it, even though it is the grossest thing I have EVER eaten.
Now I'm not saying I'm this amazing traveler and that you guys should all take tips from me, because I am still a beginning traveler.  I have never couch surfed (still scares the crap out of me, but I've heard its extremely worth it), nor have I ever back packed (summer after senior year? I think yes if money allows).  I have yet to travel alone, and its really hard to convince people to spend money to travel the world with you. So I have things to work on.  But my strength is maximizer, so instead of focusing on what I have to work on, I like to focus on the good things and go from there.  Sorry if I come off as super egotistical in this post.

Day One of Athens

I'm finally out of Rome!  That sounds awful, but I chose to study abroad in Europe so I could travel.  So, I left yesterday at three thirty to get to the airport to fly to Athens, and I got to my gate!  ...two hours early.  Oh well, I know how to get to and through the Roman airport now!  Always look on the bright side, right?!
Well, I landed in Greece last night, and I was able to find my way to a cab just fine, and luckily he was able to speak enough English that I was able to converse with him most of the way to my friend's apartment.  What I've realized annoys me about Greece: the damn alphabet.  Okay, that sounds offensive, especially since I don't mean it the way you think I do.  Being that I have not only taken a significant amount of science courses, but am also in a sorority, I am very familiar with the majority of Greek letters.  Just not phonetically.  This is not my first time in a country with a different alphabet, just Chinese doesn't even look like words or letters to someone who doesn't know the language, and I've learned the Arabic alphabet in my month of Beginning Arabic, so I can at least try to sound out those words like a four year old.  So, here in Athens, I just stare at letters that feel like they should have meaning to me, yet I can't even imagine what it sounds like.  I feel like an idiot.
My friend Dany had a make up day of classes today, so I walked around alone for a bit.  It was really, really exciting.  She's really independent and has travelled alone before, and has tried multiple times to get me to do the same.  Well, it's nerve wracking, and this was a way for me to kinda travel alone while not really being alone.  Because I knew that I was going to see Dany come 19:00, I didn't feel like a loser walking around Athens alone.  I went to the original Olympic stadium, which was absolutely gorgeous, and had an even more amazing view of the acropolis (I cannot WAIT to get there tomorrow!).  I was in a bit of a stupor, being as I was walking around Athens.  It's weird, I've traveled a lot, and it wasn't until I was walking around alone that I truly had this epiphany moment that I was across the globe from home.
Another fun fact about my day, I got a tattoo.
Oops, forgot to tell you that.  Well, it's one I've been wanting to get for a really long time, and I was really nervous to get it.  It's a little big, in fact it is quite larger than my other two, and I was nervous that I would immediately regret it.  Well, it's on my back, so no one will see it in my professional life (if I have one, who knows).  Also, it is so extremely meaningful to me.  It took about an hour and a half, and when I finally got to see it in the mirror, I almost cried.  I basically put on my Harry Potter face, which is the face I put on when I am so excited that I am almost in tears.  I basically get this look on my face when I am talking about how much Harry Potter has changed my childhood, and I got this same look of pure joy and excitement on my face when I saw it.  And now, looking at pictures of it, I still can't believe that THAT is on MY body.  So much joy :)

Oh yeah, and this is what scared me today :)

07 February, 2013

Sunscreen - Part 1

So I found this really awesome video a while ago, and my friend Robbie showed it to me again a few months ago.  Since I've started blogging a lot, I've always wanted to analyze this video and talk about what I think about some of the video.  I was going to go part by part, but today I want to focus on a different part.  Who knows, I may never do another Sunscreen blog post again.  This one is important to me though:
Do one thing every day that scares you.
I've always agreed with this statement, yet I've never actually listened to it.  I am constantly trying to live my life to the fullest, yet I let my fears hold me back.  I've been sick twice while I've been in Rome, and the first time, I kept holding back on going to get medicine, because the pharmacies scare the crap out of me (even more so than the grocery stores).  Well, I let my illness go from uncomfortable to almost in tears I was in so much pain.  I had to go to the SAI office, where one of the women who worked there finally took me to the pharmacist and got medicine for me.  Well, I'm a little embarrassed.  I'm twenty years old, I should be able to go get my own damn medicine.  Well, lo and behold, I now have an upper respiratory infection.  I've been half miserable all day and last night, and my friend Dany told me to grow up and go get some medicine.  It doesn't help that I'm leaving in less than an hour for the airport to go see her, and she doesn't want to deal with me complaining for the next three days.  So, I realized that I have to face my fears and go.  I've faced my fears before, like I'm terrified of heights, yet I didn't let that hold me back from skydiving.  However, being afraid of heights will rarely hold me back from doing something essential.  I've gone up tall buildings before, I just don't stand right next to the glass.  Being afraid of going to the pharmacy, however, could get me really sick and possibly lead to even worse ailments by leaving things untreated.  The pharmacies are really weird here, too, where basically nothing is over the counter, and you have to talk to an actual pharmacist in order to get medication.  This is why I'm so terrified of going.  Well, you should all be happy to know that I bucked up and went to the pharmacist.  Not before stopping at the SAI office and having them write down "my chest hurts when I cough or walk too much" on a post it note, so I could look even more like a stupid American.  Well, guess who forgot it was siesta.  This girl.  So I guess I'll have to face my fear in Greece, which will be even scarier, in all honesty.  Anyway, the moral of the story is that you have to face your fears sometimes.  Life gets too boring if you're constantly running away from things, or avoiding them at all costs.  So, today's fear that I'm conquering, since pharmacies are no longer an option: flying by myself.  Yes, I've flown by myself before, but it was always out of an airport where I spoke the language (MSP or Paris CDG).  Today I'm not only flying out of an Italian speaking airport into a Greek speaking airport where I will get in a taxi driver and somehow get him to get me to Dany's apartment, but I am also having to get to this Italian speaking airport, which I've never been to, all by myself, where I will have to figure out how to check in and whatnot.  I don't understand why I'm so scared, because I absolutely adore flying, but I am.  And I'm really excited to face this fear, because it means that I get to see Dany, who I haven't seen since August.

03 February, 2013

Going Back to Gustavus - month 1

So this is really far in the future, but I will have to go back to Gustavus someday.  And it really weirds me out.  At this point in time, in the beginning of February, I cannot actually fathom going back.  Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I just feel like I need to move on with my life.  Not the people; I'm going to have an amazing year with my future roommates! (#gatsbygirlswag)  However, I'm not ready to go back to St. Peter.  I'm not even saying I'm against going back to the States right now, just St. Peter.  I chose a small school in a small town because cities scared me.  Being here, I am in love with the city.  The life, the sound, the always-being-able-to-do-something-ness of the city.  St. Peter is just so small.  I think the whole living-in-the-moment-ness that I love about Rome isn't just about Rome, but partially because I'm in the city.  I'm planning for a future that will get me as far away from St. Peter as possible, whereas here I'm not trying to leave.  I think I could find that in a lot of cities, all over the world, including the United States.  I still want to live in Europe after I graduate, but if I don't end up doing that, or if I end up coming back, I just know that I need to be in a city.
I'm not going to lie, after being here for less than a week, I looked into graduating a semester early.  I came in with a lot of credits, so I easily could have graduated a year early if I had planned it out properly (which I didn't).  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with where I am in my life, and I truly believe things work out the way they're supposed to.  So I'm not upset to be staying at Gustavus for the full year next year.  My study abroad came at the perfect time of my life, and I would not do anything different, were I to plan out college differently.  When I get upset with living in St. Peter, I still do not regret going to Gustavus.  The professors I work with and the friends I have made are the ones I would have picked, had I had the entire world to choose from.  My love for Gustavus entirely stems from the relationships I have made.  And those relationships will continue past Gustavus, and especially, St. Peter.  This realization is making it really, really difficult to think about going back now.  However, I'm not going to sit and complain about it, because this is my life and nothing is going to change where I am for the next academic year.  I'm sure it's mostly the new-ness of living in Rome, and I'm sure that towards the end I'll become happy to go back and see my friends and family.  Not yet though.  Hope that doesn't offend any of you.

The Dreaded Grocery Store.

I know I've already mentioned how I hate the grocery store.  Well, its true.  It's the scariest place to go in all of Rome, I tell you.  I've met some creepy guys, especially last night at the bar - lets just say that I had my head petted multiple times from someone who refused to take no for an answer to buy me drinks - but they don't hold a candle to the fear and dread that the grocery store instills in me.  I woke up this morning around 10:30, which isn't that late, but also isn't early.  My roommates are both on trips without me, so I just kinda walked around the apartment listening and singing along to music, and then I realized that I had no food.  As I was about to start getting ready lazily, I realized, it was 11:00.  That means absolutely nothing to you guys, but let me tell you, if you're hungry on a Sunday, it better be before 12:30.  Otherwise you're going out to eat.  How dare you expect someone to work on  a Sunday afternoon so you can buy food!  This is the American in me coming out (yes, I do have one, as most of my friends here would be surprised to know), because it is such an inconvenience for me to have to get ready and get to the grocery store before then on a Sunday.  They're the Lord's day, I shouldn't have to rush to get out of the house!  But, I needed food, so I threw on a sweatshirt over my pajamas, brushed my teeth, put my hair in a semi presentable bun, and went.  I felt like I was getting stared at the entire time, because my outfit was extremely American (no one wears sweatshirts here).
Another stressful thing about the grocery store is how fast paced it is.  The grocery store right next to my apartment is really long and skinny, so you basically have to keep moving.  The first time we went, we tried to stop and talk about what we needed, like "do you think we need this?  Can we share this?" or whatever.  Well, the Italians do not like you stopping.  I once stopped to talk to my friend Anya, and we actually were told to stop and keep moving.  So I stopped going with my roommates, and I feel like I'm getting timed, so I literally walk through, grab what looks good, and go.  Then the check out line.  I feel like there's not a good way to describe it, but I'm just terrified that I'm going to be too slow.  You have to learn to multitask; to put your things in the bag you brought in a convenient way while paying while putting your money back in your wallet while walking out the door.  I hate it.
I don't understand why the most basic thing in the entire world here is the one thing that actually terrifies me.  Oh well, I can't love everything about Italy!

Midwestern Love

Being in Rome, I've met a lot of people.  Mainly, I've met a lot of Americans.  What's truly amazing about this is the fact that Americans are so insanely different from one another.  Midwesterners are so different from East Coasters from Southerners from West Coasters.  We're basically a bunch of different countries that speak the same language, or at least our cultures are that different.  Ok, our cultures aren't insanely different, but the way we handle the same culture differs.  Being surrounded by East Coasters mainly has made me realize what makes a Midwesterner a Midwesterner.  We are so insanely passive aggressive.  My friend spent twenty minutes saying he didn't care which room we got when planning for London, when he obviously preferred the private 4 person to the public 8 person hostel room.  If I have an issue with someone, I don't say anything, I just complain to someone else, and then that person asks me why I won't just talk to them.  "Well, because that would be rude!"  So yeah, we have issues in the Midwest.  We won't speak our mind, and we'll let people walk all over us because we don't want to bug them.  However, I love it.  No, Minnesota Nice is not something that is helpful in all situations.  I've been put in quite a few awkward situations because my Minnesota Nice refuses to let me say, "Sorry, but I'd rather go to bed than do this" or "no, I don't want you to come over" or whatever.  Maybe it's because I was grown this way, but I love how nice we are.  I love how much we don't care about so many things.  Like, honestly, brands mean nothing to me.  Yes, there are Midwesterners who care about that (*cough*Mitch and his cars*cough*), but in full, we're so chill.  Now I'm not saying that we're better than the rest of the U.S., I'm just saying that I fit in really perfectly with the Midwest, and I didn't realize it until I got here.  If I lived in the states, I always dreamed of moving to Pennsylvania or Connecticut or whatnot.  Now, I'm realizing that the Midwest is the perfect fit for me.  That doesn't change the fact that I want to live outside of the U.S., but being here has given me such an appreciation for what I have.  I love Minnesota, and no matter what people say, it will always be where I came from.

And no, to all of you jerk faces out there who "correct" me when I tell you where I'm from, I'm NOT from MinnesOOOOta.  It's Minnesota.  I'd know better than you.
#stateofhockey

01 February, 2013

Wait, since WHEN is it February?!

I hate when I say mom-ish things, because it makes me feel old, but I have to say this: Where did January go?  How is it already February?  I would normally not care that much; my mom always complains about Christmas coming up too fast, which has no real effect on me.  This, however, is different.  I'm only here for four months.  And a month is gone.  Ok, I won't have been here "a month" until February 8th, but February is really short, and so I'm just terrified that I'm going to blink and it will be March 8th, and then April 8th, and then God forbid May 8th, where I'm on my last trip before I leave.  There is no real way to explain time passing here.  I simultaneously feel that I've been here in Rome forever, yet it still feels like I just got here.  I'm so excited for my family to come and see me, but I'm almost not ready for that, because that means I'm halfway done.  I hate to be that stereotypical study abroad person, but I never want to leave.  My life is so exciting now, and the future feels so completely open right now.  I can do anything and everything I want.  And it will be exciting.  In the states, I feel like I am constantly working for a future that isn't going to come.  No, I don't feel like I won't ever reach my dreams, I just feel like I'm constantly working for the future rather than the now.  Here, everything feels so in the moment.  This is how I want to live my life, appreciating everything about the world around me.  This is how I feel like I'm making my life count.  No, I'm not saving the world.  But for me, this is the life that makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.  And I don't want this part of my life to end!

I love where I live.

You're probably thinking, "YES Madison, we GET it, you just LOOOOOOVE Italy, don't you.  Can you just tell us about it instead of talking about how amazing it is, PLEASE?!"  Well no worries, this post is not about how much I love Italy.  Instead, it's about how much I love my apartment.  First, I only have two roommates, so we have a lot of space compared to other apartments.  I know someone who has five other roommates, so she literally was dreaming about having her own fridge.  We do not have this issue.  Plus, Italian apartments all have very strange layouts, and we were blessed with a great layout.  You walk in, there's a bathroom on your right, and Julia's room on your left.  You walk forward to a very open living room/dining room, connected to our kitchen.  We probably don't have any more space in our kitchen than our friends Brad/Reed/Mitch/Garret, but their kitchen is long and skinny, whereas ours is a square, making it easier for Victoria to make our amazing family dinners.  Speaking of, our family dinners consist of twelve or so of us who get together once a week and have dinner and wine.  It started on accident; Victoria invited one apartment of boys to come over, and then she posted it on a facebook group that had three more people on it, and then someone else was with two people who were invited, and just showed up.  It was a stressful first day for her, since she didn't realize how many people she was cooking for, but it has become a great tradition that made the transition from the US to Rome a lot easier.  Hopefully this tradition lasts throughout the semester!
The only picture that really shows how open our apartment is.
Ok, so the inside of our apartment is great, but that doesn't even hold a candle to the placement of it.  My friend Luke lives in the apartment provided by SAI that is the furthest from school, and he has to take the tram to get to school, otherwise it takes him 30+ minutes to walk there.  I can get to class in 5-10 minutes, no problem.  We live right by Piazza di Santa Maria, which is a fantastic point to know in order to get to the different bars/restaurants around Trastevere.  We had Gustie dinner last night, and my friend who lives a ways down was surprised at how well I knew the streets.  It made me feel really awesome, because I feel like I'm becoming so much more than a tourist here now, but also it just made me appreciate where I live even more!  I am so close to everything!  There are three grocery stores on my street, as well as one euro gelato (for the cute girls) and amazing cannolis within a minute of walking time.  Seriously, though our apartment is not the nicest (its a little dingy), I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I love living here, and leaving it is going to be so depressing!