I’m back with another list of very exciting stories to tell you all.

Last week, school was very busy.  Papers, midterms, and fieldtrips were occurring every which way.  This is only because we only have 4 more weeks left of classes!  We’re already half way done with our classes portion of the study abroad experience.  It’s crazy.

We toured the London financial district during our British Life in Business class on Tuesday.  I found it very interesting that the concept of the stock exchange started in coffee shops.  These shops were so significant and made London the financial center of Europe for such a long time.  The city has plaques all over it commemorating various important coffee shops that burnt down at different points in time.  I just love learning outside of the classroom.  The British education model is very interesting and I believe that the American model could learn from a few things from it.

My Media in Britain class this week was so much fun!  We got to learn about British reality television!  After the lecture on this form, we pitched a possible show to the class and then watched a few episodes of uniquely British reality television.  It is amazing how different our interpretations of reality television are.  British TV has to fulfil a public service (though sometimes this is questionable).  In America, our reality television can cover just about anything: from pawn shops to child beauty pageants.  The class is a great way to experience the culture here through a mass media platform that reaches many households, and I am lucky to get to have this experience.

Speaking of experiences studying abroad provide, I was able to travel to Venice this weekend.  Italy is the second European country I have ever been to.  The time we spent in Venice was incredible!  Canals and colourful architecture surround the city.

However, finally arriving at our hotel was very challenging.  Buckle your seatbelts, because the story I am about to tell you is a rough one.
This story begins on Friday 1:45 in the morning.

  1. My alarm clock goes off. Brent, Zach, and I need to leave to catch a London city bus to a bus stop for the airport coach to pick us up.
  2. We catch the bus at 2:00 am and walk to the coach stop.
  3. We arrive at the coach stop and wait for our 3:03 am coach to arrive. Two other busses pass us (because they run every 15 minutes) and say they are not ours.
  4. It is 3:03 am and our bus PASSES us. The bus driver did not stop at our bus stop.  We begin to question why he would do that.  Frazzled, we wait for the next bus.  This feels like the longest fifteen minutes of our lives.  Finally, the bus pulls up and the driver lets us on without a problem after we explained the scenario.  We pull off relieved.
  5. We get to the airport and head straight for security. I accidentally left water in my water bottle that I wanted to bring to Venice with me.  So, my bag gets pulled aside and searched.  I apologized to the guard for leaving my water in so carelessly.  He said I had to dump it, but I could keep the bottle.
  6. Once we finally pass security, we decide to get some food while we wait for our gate to be announced. The gate is announced as I finish eating.  There is a 15 minute window to get to the gate until our tickets said boarding was closed.
  7. The three of us headed off on the 10 minute walk to get to the gate with supposedly ten minutes left to get there before boarding “ended”. Halfway on our journey we see a monitor for our flight saying “FINAL CALL”.  We had no idea that the window to get to the gate would be so small.  Therefore, we started running through the airport.  We thought we were going to miss our flight for sure.  Once we arrived at our gate, there was a huge  We never really were at risk for the plane leaving us behind.  However, I do not think that the airport’s “final call” wording was fair to put on monitors and freak out the passengers with.
  8. We boarded and departed from the plane easily and hopped on a bus that promised it would take us to Venice.
  9. After we got off the bus the three of us decided that we could do the ten minute walk to our hotel by ourselves and through our phones’ navigation system. BIG MISTAKE.
  10. After 1.5 hours of walking in circles in Venice, we realized that we were mapping ourselves to the wrong address and our hotel wasn’t even on the main island. We needed to take a water taxi.
  11. I routed us to the nearest water taxi stand and was so happy that we were finally almost at our hotel. My mapping app told me that we could either take the 4.1 or 4.2 ferry to the island.  Unknowingly, we took the 4.1.  BIG MISTAKE!!!!  Apparently these routes are the same except one goes clockwise and the other counter clockwise.  We needed to take the 4.2 (which runs clockwise) about two stops.  Instead, we hopped on 4.1 and rode clockwise around ALL of Venice.  This took 2 hours! LONGER THAN OUR FLIGHT TO VENICE.  Being on a crowded boat for that long was exhausting.  However, we did get to see all of Venice in the first few hours we were there.  So, that was pretty cool.
  12. After our very, very, very long boat ride we finally got to our hotel on the other island at 2:00 pm exactly, and coincidentally our check in time. So even with all of these negative events occurring, something positive came out of it.
  13. We dropped off our stuff and headed out to find some food.
  14. However, every restaurant was closed for their siesta. We finally made it to Italy and we couldn’t even eat because everyone wanted to take a nap.  The whole series of events was tragic.  We finally stumbled upon a bakery and were able to eat a light lunch to tide us over until dinner.  Then we joined the culture and took our own siestas.
  15. That night we met up with the other UF guys who flew in at night and we ate some really good Italian food. We proceeded to do this step for the next two days we were in Venice.


At the end of the day, Friday was an experience.  There were highs and quite a few more lows than we anticipated.  But, we made the most of it.  The rest of the trip was incredible and I am very happy we went.  I would argue that everyone should go to Venice at least once in their life, if possible.  The culture was amazing and the fact that we went during their carnival celebration was an added bonus.  It also helped that almost everyone we talked to spoke English.   Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip.

The main island at a distance

An elaborate carnival costume

I loved my mask

All of us at dinner in our masks

Venice was gorgeous and a lot of fun.  However, I am happy that I am studying abroad in London.  I have really become acclimated to the city life, and I absolutely love it.  You truly never know what is going to happen next.  I cannot wait to see what this week has in store for me.  But, at the same time I can wait because I want to savor every single moment.

Ciao for now,

Jennifer Saporito

It’s (not) always sunny in (Italy)

My next post was going to be about my weekend on the Amalfi Coast, but recent events have caused me to change my course of action a little bit (Don’t worry, that post will come a little bit later). This might not be the most exciting post, but I hope it will be informative and help you learn some lessons the easy way. My friends and I did the hard part for you.

Let me start by telling you that traveling comes with some risks. Some people travel regularly and never have a problem, while others come across some sticky situations that can sometimes be scary. An example of this is pick pocketing. It’s one of those things that everyone warns you about, but you don’t take seriously until you experience it. While I didn’t experience it firsthand, my roommate did. She was out shopping when she realized that her wallet was not in her purse. She had her wallet a few minutes before, so she knew that she didn’t simply forget to bring it with her. It was gone. She doesn’t know exactly when or where it happened or who took it, but it was definitely stolen and there was not much she could do to get it back. There’s a couple really important lessons to be learned from her experience. First, always be sure to keep some money somewhere other than your purse or wallet. Whether it’s in a drawer in your apartment or a pocket in your suitcase, make sure you have a stash somewhere just in case you have to wait for a new credit card to arrive. Also, be aware of your surroundings. It’s so easy to get comfortable in the city that you’re living and taking classes in, but letting your guard down completely can make you an easy target. Finally, keep a hand on your purse or wallet. It’s far less likely that someone will try to steal your belongings if your hand is in the way.

Another problem that happens more often than you would think is booking the wrong ticket. Stupid, I know. But it does happen and it will cause you a lot of unnecessary stress. My friends and I just returned from a day trip to Verona, which was absolutely beautiful. We had a great day exploring the city, only to realize 25 minutes before our train was supposed to leave that our return tickets were for the following day. I know what you’re thinking. That’s ridiculous. Why wouldn’t you book the return ticket for right day? And you’re completely right. It’s that easy. Literally the click of a button. Here’s the lesson: always double check. As any good journalist knows, proof reading is almost more important than the writing itself. The rule applies to booking travel too. It’s so easy to get so caught up in the excitement of booking that you misread a tiny detail like a time or date. Luckily, our story had a happy ending. We had just enough time to run down to the ticket office, beg some very upset Italians to let us cut in front of them in line, get new tickets (which we had to pay an extra 12 euros for), and make it back to the train to head home. I might be laughing now (with a little bit of a tear in my eye), but the story could have ended with us stuck in Verona, unable to make it back to Florence for class the next day. Don’t be that person. Double check everything. Then do it again. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I didn’t write this post to scare anyone out of walking around in the city or doing some extra traveling while studying abroad. If anything, learn from these mistakes, and your trip will be amazing. After all, it’s the tough parts that make the good parts even better. And now I have a story that I can look back on and laugh. Well, maybe I’ll give it a day or two…

Ciao from Firenze!

I got my first passport stamp in Dusseldorf, Germany, and I can’t wait to get many more!

Ciao from Italia! I have now been in Europe for almost a week and it’s safe to say that I am in love with everything about this beautiful place that I get to call home for the month of May. After a long flight with a layover in Dusseldorf, Germany, I arrived in Florence last Tuesday and moved into an apartment with my fabulous roommates: Taylor, Michelle, Ilana and Savana. Our apartment is beautiful, spacious and in the perfect location. We ate our first Italian meal (lasagna and a glass of Pinot Grigio for me) right in front of the Duomo.

Our view for dinner was the Duomo.

Wednesday was spent adjusting to the city and our program. After an orientation in the morning, we ate lunch at a restaurant called Lo Spronte. It is located across the Fiume Arno, or the Arno River, and has an amazing pesto ravioli dish. In the afternoon, we did a walking tour around Florence and learned about the history of the city. That night, after my first Italian pizza (amazing), we ventured out to a bar called Lion’s Fountain, where we met two girls from Minnesota and New York who have been studying in Florence since January. They were so sweet and gave us a list of all the best food and activities that we need to experience in our short time in Florence. It was so refreshing to hear from people who were in our shoes just a few months ago.

The Fiume Arno is just a few blocks from my apartment.

On Thursday, I had my first classes (yes, I am actually here to study). My classes are very small, so I’m looking forward to getting to know my classmates, as well as my professor, Dr. Lewis. Thursday night was our group welcome dinner, which consisted of four courses, including food such as bruschetta, salami, prosciutto, pasta, steak, potatoes and a creamy custard-like dish, which tasted like cheesecake and was topped with berries. And of course, a red wine that was surprisingly delicious.

Overall, I am adjusting well to Florence. The people are nice, the food is delicious and everything is beautiful. I have picked up a few important phrases, which are helpful because the locals love when visitors try to learn the language. There are just two things that I will need some time to adjust to: the driving and the time difference.

My first meal in Florence was perfetto!

The roads are basically a free-for-all, and cars are always speeding down side streets and alleys with no regard to the lines painted on the roads. However, the drivers are surprisingly calm. Only once have I heard a driver yell out the window at a pedestrian. Then there is the time difference. While I did not experience jetlag (it’s more of a general lack of sleep), I still have a difficult time remembering how far behind the time is back home (6 hours), usually when I post on Facebook or Instagram and I don’t receive any response for several hours. I suppose that’s just something I’ll have to work on!

I spent the past weekend on an incredible trip to Croatia, which was so special that it needs a post of its own. Trust me, you’re going to want the details. Ciao for now!

Pre-Departure: Florence, Italy

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to travel. Although I have never left the United States, I have been to many states along the east coast and a few on the west coast, and I have even been to Hawaii, but I have yet to explore the rest of the world beyond this great country that I call “home”.

As soon as I learned about the study abroad resources at the University of Florida, I knew I needed to learn more. I researched programs and went to the study abroad fair, but I didn’t move forward in the process of choosing a program until the fall semester of my sophomore year. I heard about the summer journalism study abroad program in Florence, Italy and knew it was “the one”. Meeting the faculty and learning more about the program at the first meeting was enough to solidify my plans.

My older sister participated in a program in Florence the previous summer, so I knew that the gorgeous city would be a great location to start my international exploration. Now, I am two weeks away from the experience of a lifetime and I could not be possibly be more excited than I currently am.

Naturally, there is some anxiety buried beneath that excitement. I am on the final stretch, which means that I am making lists and checking them twice to make sure I’m as prepared as I think I am (I’m not). This trip is already keeping me busy, and I haven’t even left yet. Though I can’t say I mind being busy when it means that I am leaving to explore such a beautiful country so soon.

Speaking of beautiful countries, Italy is sure to be one of the most magical places I have ever been. Disney World has nothing on the Duomo in Florence, the countryside in Tuscany and the crystal clear blue waters of Sorrento and Capri – and I haven’t even seen them in person yet. I would like to pursue a career in travel writing and/or photography, so the memory card in my camera is sure to be filled many times during my stay, and the journal I am bringing will likely be filled with pages upon pages of stories and memories of my adventures in Florence, Rome, Sorrento and Venice, eating gelato and pasta and building friendships with my fellow Gators.

As cheesy as it sounds, one thing I know for sure is that this program will be something I remember for the rest of my life. Even if I live my life as a writer and photographer, traveling across the globe and learning about new cultures every day, I will always remember Italy as the place where I first dipped my toes into the world of the unknown and began my international voyage.

Mid-Trip Reflections

It’s so crazy to think that I have been in Tel Aviv for almost three months now! And by that I mean both “Oh my god it’s been three months?” and “WHAT I only have three months left?!?!” When I left my home in Colorado at the end of June I had no clue what I had really signed up for, other than the classic Israeli stereotypes I had gathered on my 10-day trip to the country last December.  As I boarded my plane from New York to Tel Aviv, the sense of beginning a six-month stay in the great unknown was overwhelming. Perhaps if I had known how quickly Tel Aviv would seem like home, I would have been more at ease.

What are some fun facts about Israel? The time difference from here to the east coast is 7 hours. The Israeli weekend is Friday and Saturday because of Shabbat, so the week starts on Sunday. That’s probably what took the most time to get used to, and even still sometimes I get really confused about what day it is. The mediterranean is super beautiful and the beach always crowded. The main beach is a quick bus or Shirut ride away from my campus. Shiruts are shared taxis, they cost roughly the same amount as the bus but they drop you off wherever you need on its set route. Tel Aviv is a wonderful, vibrant, and beautiful city that I quickly fell in love with. Even though I didn’t speak a lick of Hebrew when I got to Tel Aviv and everything was foreign (even trips to the store to find scotch tape and peanut butter were HUGE adventures) I’ve never felt remotely out of place. Maybe that’s because of the people in Israel, who are often described as being “very direct.” Perhaps too direct for some people, but I don’t really see it that way. I feel more like Israelis just lack the social barrier that Americans construct around people they just met. Instead of treading lightly and being overly polite until you get to know a person, Israelis treat you like they’ve known you forever. That means they’ll tell you exactly what they think, whether it’s politically correct or not, but it also means they’ll invite you over for Shabbat dinner 5 minutes after they met you. Israelis are very welcoming, talkative, and interesting. For me, I think my fascination with Israelis and their way of life really manifested itself in my first month in Israel.

Shortly before I left for my semester abroad, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. As the search for the boys unfolded, I packed my bags, spent a few days wandering in New York with my mom, and arrived in Israel. That night, their bodies were found, and the following month was a little chaotic, with riots leading to rockets — even in Tel Aviv, which is really considered a bubble in Israel because it’s a very secular and increasingly international city — leading to Operation Protective Edge and a ground invasion and failed ceasefire after failed ceasefire until there was quiet again. So by a little chaotic, I mean for non-Israelis. For Israelis, I hesitate to call it normal, but it surely wasn’t too far out of the norm. For me and my fellow international students, being woken by sirens and running to bomb shelters was entirely foreign. Even though I guess it makes my study abroad experience atypical, I truly believe that I got a better understanding of Israeli life and the ever-present conflict here. It was strange how quickly it became normal for me too.  Seriously. My friends and family back home were more concerned about me being scared than I was worried about being in Israel. Being in Israel during that period of time gave me such an interesting perspective on Israeli life, and while I obviously wasn’t rooting for a fight to break out while I was there, I wouldn’t trade the experience. And by my family’s reaction and a few dozen google searches, I know that what was being reported on the news looked really scary, but I never felt unsafe. We knew what to do if a siren went off and of course we followed all of the guidelines for being safe, but above all else life in Israel went on, as it always does. This is one of the things that makes Israel very unique. I think because of the nature of living in a conflict zone, there’s a greater appreciation for the privileges that people often take for granted.

So what have I done in my three months in Israel, you might ask. Well,  I have visited the stunning Baha’i gardens in Haifa, eaten an AMAZING lunch in a Druze village after learning about their religion, hiked Ein Avdat and Ein Gedi in the south, floated around in the Dead Sea, learned about the graffiti/street art in Tel Aviv, wandered and bargained my way through the markets (Shuk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv and Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem) while marveling at pomegranates roughly the size of my head and laughing at the vendors competing for title of “Loudest Person Lane Has Ever Come Across.” I got a hair wrap from super cool Ethiopian women who opened a hair salon near the shuk to make their talent for dealing with difficult hair into a successful business. I prayed at the Western Wall, revisited my favorite ice cream shop of all time, started to slowly but surely study the fascinating and frustrating language of Israel, Hebrew, and more. So I guess what I’ve done in Israel is learned and absorbed. In all seriousness, I have learned so much, both in the classroom and out of it. I’ve met amazing people from all over the world with a really inspiring love for Israel and desire to be a part of this country.

In a surprising turn of events, I write to you now from Slovenia! After a month of summer classes and 7 weeks of an intensive Hebrew course known as Ulpan, I got a month-long break over the holidays before my semester officially starts so I decided to backpack through Europe with friends from Ulpan. My oh my has it been an eventful trip! My friend Ginsey and I flew from Tel Aviv to Geneva with the intention of going straight to Milan because Geneva is very expensive. Well, fate was having none of that. I left my wallet on the plane and after reporting it to lost and found, they told us we would have to come back the next day at 11. Welp. So we found a hostel, stayed the night, and wandered around Geneva, which was of course very beautiful. Everything was picturesque and the weather was gorgeous. To put it in Ginsey’s words, no filter needed. After wandering to the UN building we made our way back to the airport where we found my wallet! Hurrah! Except they wanted 20 francs for it. No, really. The lost and found in the Geneva airport charges you for their services. My interaction with the woman working there went something like this:

Woman: Sign here and here and I don’t know if they told you this last night but it is a 20 franc fee to collect your wallet.

Me: Ha- WHAT?

Ginsey: 20 francs?!

Woman (without reaction): yes.

Me: Are you kidding?

Woman (woman or robot? We couldn’t tell): No. This service is provided by the Geneva airport and we do not receive any money from the airlines so yes, there is a fee.

Me: Can I give you 20 shekels*?

Woman (still looking vaguely like a robot): Perdon?

Me: And what if I take my wallet and run?

Woman (WHO STILL HAS NOT CHANGED FACIAL EXPRESSIONS ONCE): Well, I would have to call security.

Me: So you mean to tell me that because of YOUR inefficient lost and found system I had to stay a night in Geneva, a city we were trying to avoid, spend money on hostels and food here, and now pay 20 francs to get back my wallet?

Woman: Yes.

*New Israeli Shekels, the currency in Israel. I had a total of 14.60 in my wallet.

So, incredibly frustrated both by the situation and this woman’s complete lack of facial expression, Ginsey and I resign ourselves to paying the 20 francs… but we don’t have any francs, we only have euros, and the exchange rate is in favor of euros. So after arguing with the woman about this too, we finally throw her 20 euro and run to catch our train to Milan. When we got to Milan, we got lost trying to find our hostel and when we got there we found out they had cancelled our reservation because the only thing we had managed to relay via Skype was that we wouldn’t be there that night, and they’d booked everything except this quasi-room in the attic with enough space for our bags, a bed, and our bodies. We were so tired we couldn’t bring ourselves to look for another hostel and we found a random restaurant where the people didn’t speak any English, mimed our way through dinner, and fell asleep within minutes of getting back to the hostel. The next day, fate had its way with us again when the machine to buy metro tickets refused to take our cards and proceeded to eat 20 euros. After being advised to wait a few minutes to see if the machine spat the money back out (it didn’t) and filling out a form, taking it to the central metro station, and finding the right people to take it to, we found out that this would be the second 20 euros we lost this trip. An angry Italian man informed us that we were basically out of luck and he got very, very upset with us when we asked what we could do. He was shouting, bouncing up and down, and waving his arms in the air as we tried to relay to him that we understood what he was saying. So that was no fun. We faxed the form with contact and bank info to the main metro office and hopefully we reduce our “wasted money” pile from 40 euro to 20. We wandered around Milan and saw a castle from the 12th century, complete with Michelangelo’s unfinished last work, Pieta Rondanini. We saw the Duomo and a whole bunch of stores that were so fancy I was afraid to look at them, and the beautiful Milan Cathedral before we grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the train station for our next trek. In short, as I’m sure you can see, our first two days in Europe were a little rough. Even so, misadventures are still adventures, and Ginsey and I have mostly managed to laugh everything off and roll with the punches.

In stark contrast to our first few days, Slovenia has been perfect. It’s beautiful here. Actually, I don’t think beautiful even covers it – it’s unreal. Ljubljana is the kind of city where every building looks like it could be on a postcard. Right now we’re in Bled, a small town about 45 minutes from Ljubljana that’s right on a gorgeous lake with a magnificent church on an island in the middle of it. So basically it looks straight out of the movie Frozen. Everything is lush and green, we ate apples and raspberries and grapes and pears and walnuts straight off the trees as we walked through the village today, and the view from where we’re staying looks like it was painted. It’s unbelievable. Today we visited the Vintgar gorge and, even in the pouring rain, it was so so so stunning. The gorge is covered in moss, with a river running whose fluctuates from a deep, mysterious blue to a bright, clear emerald turquoise. Even soaked to the bone and shivering, we loved every second.

So that’s all for now! We leave on Saturday for Berlin where we will meet another friend from Ulpan, Rebekah. Three’s a party right? If you want to read more about my first three months in Israel, feel free to check, where I’ve been blogging until now, and click on the link below for pictures!

for UFIC

European Adventures: Spring Break Part 1

Four countries, five cities and two weeks later, I have finally returned to Tel Aviv after an unforgettable spring break in Europe. Because my journey and experiences were so memorable (and lengthy), this post will be split into two parts to ensure that I don’t miss a beat.

My trip began in the land of pizza and pasta, and let’s just say, Italy didn’t disappoint with its food. The first few days were spent in Florence with friends who are studying there for the semester. We hit the touristy spots including the David, Pitti Palace, Ponte Vecchio and the infamous leather market. We climbed the stairs of the famous bell tower opposite of the Duomo and watched the sunset over all of Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo. In between activities, my friends were sure to keep my stomach full with heart-shaped pizza and delicious gelato. I loved the quaint feeling that Florence had to offer coupled with its beauty and timeless history.
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After leaving my UF friends in Florence, my Tel Aviv friends and I headed south to Rome. Though I had been to Rome before, my experience was definitely different four years later traveling with friends instead of family. We spent the first day touring around and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, while our second day was spent getting down and dirty in the kitchen.
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We booked a private cooking class with Chef Guido and his wife in their apartment outside of Rome. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. For about six hours we learned, prepped and cooked a four-course traditional Italian meal. Because Guido and his wife Elena spoke little English, a translator helped us communicate. Though it was challenging at times to understand one another, by the end we all became quite comfortable and were truly able to appreciate the art of cooking. After all, no matter what language you speak, everyone can appreciate a delicious meal.
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Our final masterpiece consisted of an antipasto appetizer, homemade bolognese (we even made a vegetarian version for me!) with handmade tagliatelle pasta, caprese salad, a veal and prosciutto dish, and finally, tiramisu for dessert. All of our hard work really paid off while we enjoyed our lunch on their outdoor terrace overlooking the countryside of Rome. What a day!
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After a wonderful five days in Italy, it was time to move on to our second country: France. From the moment we touched down, I was in such awe of how beautiful and classic the country was. The buildings and architecture looked like they were straight out of a movie, and each corner we turned was more breathtaking than the next. We truly did our share of walking, hitting the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, lovelock bridge and Napoleon’s tomb.
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My favorite part of Paris was visiting the infamous home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Versailles. The decadence and detail put into each room and on every windowpane was unbelievable. The gardens were even more massive that it’s hard to believe only two people lived here for a period of time. I can now understand why the people of France were so resentful and angry at the king during the late 1700s. We finished our time at Versailles in true Parisian fashion at Angelina’s tea room sipping on hot cocoa and apple crumble. As Marie Antoinette would say: “Let them eat cake!”
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Though Paris was grand and glamorous, this was the first time that I truly encountered a large cultural difference while abroad. The people in Paris were not particularly kind or welcoming to us, and I constantly felt embarrassed for not knowing the language or customs. There were numerous times where customer service or simple manners fell short, and we concluded that being young American girls was probably why. Although this part of the trip was disheartening, Paris was a great place that I hope to return to one day when I’m older.

We kept our heads high and continued our adventures in Amsterdam for week two of the trip. Stay tuned!

Romeo et Giulietta… Arena di Verona

For a personal travel, this weekend I decided to go to Verona to watch an opera of Romeo and Juliet. It was fantastic! Great music, great performance, awesome use of lighting and minimalistic stage. Perfect. It was at the Arena di Verona, an old Roman amphiteather used for performances. We were sitting almost at the end on the rock benches and let me say, it was amazing to feel like and old roman empire citizen watching gladiators. Among other things we saw Juliet’s house, the famous balcony, her ‘tomb,’ and the Roman arena.

We took our time to walk along the river and we stopped at Castelvecchio. We just saw the exterior because as a class we will go back to Verona and actually enter the structure and see the magnificent staircase made by Carlo Scarpa. I can’t wait!

Venice and its Gondolas

I have to say I was very excited to go to Venice as our first officila trip! It has been a week but definitely worth to go back, speacially to go to Piazza St. Marco which is always busy.
We woke up early to take the train to Venice’s station and begin our journey. My first impression of Venice was awe and excitement to see the combination of classic building, the main canal running through and its gondolas. Pure art in a lagoon!

It was amazing to be able to go to some of Carlo Scarpa’s architecture. They are the Negozio Olivetti…

and the Querino Stampalia Foundation…

Where the Venecians used to build their big ships was made into a Contemporary Art museum and Tadao Ando was the architect who won the comission to build it…

Piazza St. Marco was another story. So many people it was crazy! We could not go into the basilica but definitely I want to go back for the piazza section.

It was a long day full of walking mostly but worthwhile visiting.

OHHHH by the way! recognice the story with the locks? they have one in Venice too!

See you very soon Venice!

Arrivederci, Roma

This weekend I begin my journey back home. Today I left for Frankfurt, Germany to visit relatives who are then taking me to Dusseldorf on Saturday night for my flight back home on Sunday morning. It’s a miracle everyone, my suitcase weighed under 50 lbs!!!! It was 49.38 lbs to be exact. However, I’m pretty sure that’s what my carry-on weighs which is killing my back to carry. It is very bittersweet because I already miss Italy so much. I made so many wonderful new friends and had an experience of a lifetime. Seriously, everyone needs to study abroad. It is without a doubt one of the best things you can do. All the time and money put into it is so well worth it. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Right now I’m sitting in the Vienna airport waiting for my flight to Frankfurt (yayy for free wifi.) As soon as I step off the plane to my right I see a Starbucks and realize things are already changing (Italy has zero Starbucks, but why should they?) I can’t wait to see my family on Sunday, especially my bff sister. You might be wondering what the first thing I have in mind to eat. The answer is easy: CHIPOTLE. I can’t wait. I’m like the biggest number one nerd fan of Friends so I really can’t wait to watch that 24/7 when I get back. And in 6 days I turn 21!!! So in spite of being sad about leaving Italy I do have some things to look forward to, this does not include school🙂.

Once I’m back in the states I’ll start thinking of more things I miss about Italy but here are just a few now that I miss: I miss attempting to speak Italian, the cappuccino & espresso, how insanely beautiful it is there, speaking of beauty-how beautiful the boyyyys are too, I already miss all my new friends (who are the coolest people ever), finding somewhere new & delicious to eat, the food of course, GELATO, and trust me I’ll think of more.

Everyone should have to opportunity to travel sometime during their lives, it’s something that changes you. Unfortunately for us who live in America we don’t find ourselves with the luxury most Europeans have in traveling. Germans are some of the most well-traveled people in the world, I met someone from Australia that said they can never get the right population census because everyone always goes on vacation, and Italians close down their businesses to go on vacation for like weeks-Rome dies in August because everyone goes on vacation. It just makes me realize how much more I have to see and how fortunate I am to be able to travel to the places I do, that I thank my dad for. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to blog about my weekend trips to Prague and Ischia but I promise I will because they are so well worth talking about.

For now I just wanted to give a giant thanks to everyone from UFIC for giving us students the opportunity to partake in fantastic programs, the 4 phenomenal UF faculty members who went on this trip, all of my new friends for making this experience what it was, and to my family who I am fortunate to have support me in all my travels & ambitions.

Ciao Trastevere & the fantastic view from my apartment
Ciao apartment
Ciao gelato- tiramisu & watermelon
Ciao beautiful nights in Roma
Ciao Roma! You will be missed, but I will come back soon!


July 12th the whole program left for Florence by train. Traveling by train is soo convenient. Our hotel was situated in central Florence, next to the Uffizi so it was a great location. The hotel was so cool, each room was different and it reminded me of a castle. Oh and did I mention it had air conditioning?? Yeah, awesome.

As a group we took a quick tour around the city, needless to say Florence is beautiful. After our tour we heard a rumor about the hotel having a rooftop you could go on. So before dinner we decided to check it out. Can you say most amazing view EVER?? It was like climbing the duomo to get the view of the city except you didn’t have to pay and the duomo was in the actual view.

We had a group dinner which of course consisted of delicious food, including the best bruschetta ever and yummy dessert (seriously I’m terrible about remembering the names of things.) Friday we had tours of the Uffizi and the Accademia. Unfortunately, they don’t allow you to take pictures in pretty much any of these places. For lunch was the most delicious, fresh panini place ever. For dinner 9 of us went to a place called Anita’s Tratoria. I shared a mushroom pasta dish for a first course (which was absolutely amazing) but what I was most looking forward to was the Bistecca Fiorentina. UH-MAZING. Just look at the picture if you don’t believe me. 1 kilo of delicious steak split between 3 of us girls. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals, so you can’t go wrong with anything you get there I’m convinced.

For Saturday we went to Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce and ended the tours with some gelato of course.  Some of the group spent the rest of the day to go to Pisa (to get the famous picture of course) while the rest of us did some SHOPPING! A must is to go to the leather market, so many cute purses. Relatively inexpensive and great for gift buying (I wear my new purse allll the time now.) But beware of the creepy people and the most un-haggler sellers (so weird.) For lunch we went back to the panini place and this time I built my own, which was so good I’m convinced they should have it on their menu (and name it after me of course.) For dinner we went to Gusta Pizza, sooo different from Roman style pizza but so delicious! With happy bellies me and 3 friends hiked up Piazzale Michelangelo for the sunset and view. Naturally, I complained pretty much the whole hike (so not in shape) but quickly stopped once we reached the top. the hike was totally worth it, it was nice to relax and watch the sunset on a breathtaking view of Florence.

Florence was a great weekend trip. It’s small enough to see in a couple of days and really get a feel for the city. Unfortunately it did not beat Rome as my favorite. I have a theory that people are biased to the one they study in. Florence is so beautiful but because it’s so much smaller than Rome it’s so overrun by tourists. It seriously drove me crazy how many tourists there were, EVERYWHERE. Also, everyone in Florence speaks English, which wasn’t the greatest when trying to use Italian. A highlight was seeing the David, so cool. Oh and Florence definitely wins for food, best food I’ve had so far.

View from the hotel rooftop


Mushroom pasta
Say hello to the best steak ever


Guess I’m coming back!
The faux David