Tag Archives: Italy

Reflections on Italy

I love Italy. I love the food, I love the views, I love the art. Everything. There is one thing that I have been missing though. It is the one thing that has made me appreciate FIT immensely since I have been here, and that is our teachers.

I’ll admit that as a freshmen I really didn’t think that the teachers at FIT would be the absolute best. I mean, it’s not like we’re Harvard or Yale. But after three years I realized how wrong I was, and I didn’t comprehend how great they were until I didn’t have them anymore. This semester was the first time I have been exposed to teachers other than ours at FIT, and they were not all bad, but they just could not hold up to the quality back home.

I didn’t realize how much our FIT professors strive to make our lectures interesting and engaging, or how (relatively) easy it is to get help from them one-on-one. For example, I am currently taking a class called “History of Italian Fashion” and every time I walk into the classroom I find myself wishing that Lourdes Font was teaching the class. Professor Font is by far one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people I have ever met. She knows everything about fashion! I took her class “Costume and Fashion in Film” and despite it being a four hour long class on a Friday, it was one I constantly looked forward to attending. If you can make history of anything interesting to a twenty year old at six o’clock on a Friday, kudos.

As much as you may believe your professors are trying to drive you to the loony bin for all the work they give out (especially during finals and midterms), they are truly invested in your success. Linda Sands was my first draping professor and she scared the crap out of me for the first half of the semester. Every time she came by my table to check my work I felt like I was going to throw up. By the end of the semester I realized she was so harsh because she was pushing us to pay attention and make our garments perfect. Needless to say our whole class ended up loving her and we even threw her a surprise birthday party! I was so happy when I got her the next semester for pattern-making. She can be a little scary, but it’s just her mamma bear claws. I know that if I were to show up at her office with a project I was working on, she would stop what she was doing and help me solve my problem.

The professors at FIT are the greatest asset I didn’t realize I had until I lost them. They always say one of the most important things you should do while in college is make relationships with your professors. I always thought that sounded really intimidating. I mean, they’re adults with lives, and there are so many of us how could they possibly single each one of us out to care about? But trust me, when you find a class you love taught by a professor you really admire, you will create that relationship. Honestly, there have been so many professors at FIT who have helped me grow, academically as well as personally.

And don’t always trust ratemyprofessor.com. You’ll be surprised.

–Emily–

It’s Happening!

I have some exciting news, but first read this post from a few months ago.

Done? Okay cool. Well guess what? I did it! I’m an adult!! Not really. Actually I just got my act together and learned to cook a few meals…but whatever, same thing right? And I did it without even taking a cooking class! (Which, to be fair, is one of my biggest complaints about this study abroad experience. Most kids here only take about four classes and those will include “Italian Style Cooking” and “Pairing Food & Wine”. WHAT?! I’m taking six classes and none of them have anything to do with food. Ugh.) But like the proverbial baby turtle crawling its way back to the ocean, I persevered. Just look:

Parmesan zucchini - Healthy AND delicious

Parmesan zucchini – Healthy AND delicious

Roasted potatoes, zucchini and pasta with shaved provolone

Roasted potatoes, zucchini and pasta with shaved provolone

family burrito night!

family burrito night!

Just makin' risotto

Just makin’ risotto

I am now the fried rice QUEEN

I am now the fried rice QUEEN

Spinach and ricotta tortellini with chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes and shaved parmesan

Spinach and ricotta tortellini with chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmesan

the classic pesto pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and melted mozzarella

the classic pesto pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and melted mozzarella

I mean come on, that’s pretty impressive considering the first post, no? Alright fine, they’re pretty much all pasta dishes, but what can I say? I’m in Italy! (Also we thought our stove was broken for like, two months. Turns out we had one of the knobs turned wrong….oops!) Pinterest and Epicurious are two fantastic websites (who are we kidding, just download the apps) for cooking inspiration. If I can do it, you can do it! (Unless you live in CoEd or Nagler. Then you won’t have a kitchen, so you can’t do it, soz mate.)

–Emily–

Pantomimes Anonymous

Two different Italians stopped me on the street today to ask for directions. On the one hand, I was proud because these authentic Italians mistook me as one of their own. I get a strange sense of satisfaction from being able to blend in with other cultures. However, this happiness quickly became became uncomfortable and embarrassing. This is because, wait for it….I can’t speak Italian!

Yes, my name is Emily Bennett, I’ve lived in Florence for three months and I still cannot speak Italian. I am so ashamed. For most people, the biggest worry while traveling abroad is whether they will be able to understand the locals. This, of course, leads to desperate hopes that most people will know English and even conversations stating how much easier and better the world would be if everyone just spoke one language (i.e. English). But what a horrific white-washing of culture that would be! Can you imagine living in a world where no one knows the subtle romantic quality of the French language, or the explosive passion of Italian, or even the mysterious Swahili?

I get it, it’s intimidating and embarrassing to attempt to speak a language that you haven’t mastered, especially to people who have been speaking said language since they were babies. Trust me, that is what got me in this situation in the first place. When I was studying in France, it was a whole different ball game. I had been studying French for six years before I was living on my own there, so I had a sturdy background of the language and was well-informed of the culture as well. This is the first time I have ever studied Italian, and I know what you are thinking, if I live in Italy, I should be learning the language twice as fast, right? No, wrong, completely wrong. Everyone here speaks English! At least the French have the decency to refuse to speak English to you! Obviously, it would have been much harder for me to survive here if people didn’t speak English, but I think I could have done it, and forcing me to attempt even the most broken Italian in every situation would have sped up my learning immensely. However, I am a self-conscious little baby when it comes to Italian. Too quickly will I revert to English, or not say anything at all. I go to the grocery store at least once a week and I think the only things I have ever said to any of the cashiers are “si” “no” and “grazie”.

Now that my time in Italy is coming quickly to a close, I wish I had pushed myself harder to learn the language and speak it. Honestly, it is a really horrible feeling to be in a country and unable to speak the language. It is embarrassing! Not to mention completely disheartening. I don’t mean for this post to be such a downer, but if you can learn anything from my little failure, really take the time to learn the language before traveling. It will make your time there much more rewarding, and the locals will definitely like you more. Also, don’t be afraid to forget about English and instead rely on whatever of the language you do know (miming helps too). It is much more endearing to see someone struggling to speak the language than one who just starts speaking English and assumes whoever they are talking to will understand.

Buon viaggio!

–Emily–

FREE STUFF IS AWESEOME

Orientations can be pretty boring so I don’t know if you heard this, but there are things at pretty much all colleges called “clubs”. Now wait, wait, I know it sounds a little lame BUT it really translates to “free awesome stuff”. Who doesn’t love free awesome stuff, especially poor students? Sure it takes some time out of your schedule, but it can be worth it.

For example, here in Italy, my school Lorenzo de’ Medici has clubs ranging from the physical to the intellectual. I joined an Italian cinema club, so I basically get to watch an Italian movie for free every Monday. Considering movies cost $13 minimum and it’s a Monday night so what else am I going to do, it is a pretty good deal. Even more excitingly, I joined another club called “Regions of Italy”. For this, I get three or four free restaurant lunches! The owner of the restaurant explains the specialties of a specific region of Italy and then each dish we eat. Last week, the first meeting was dedicated to Northern Italy (Lombardy, Milan, Emilia Romagna, Modena, etc.). We tried pumpkin risotto (which I got the recipe for an am TOTALLY going to try to make – more on that later), peperonata, Parmesan cheese with traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena,  two delicious wines (which I like to think helped me get that 98% on my first Italian quiz right after).

I’ll admit that I was hesitant to join any clubs at first, but I am so glad I just went for it. I mean I had nothing to lose and I now have delicious free lunches! Did I mention they’re free?

–Emily–

Rome-ing (ˈroʊmɪŋ) Around

I’m a treadmill kind-of lady. Even though everyone just assumes elliptical are for chicks (current misconception) I only use them when I don’t have enough time to fully workout. In the days where I really want to go the extra-mile I run (more like fast jog haha) on the treadmill. I recently discovered that even if it is winter (in Rome not really) sometimes you just need to go outside and breathe some fresh air. While it can be very inspirational looking at your fat jiggle in the gym’s mirror (really makes you GO at it) there is a whole world outside waiting to be discovered.

Since I’m in a new city (maybe you are too) , what better way to notice bits and pieces you miss during the daily routine than by running at a new park every weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a runner but I do my best to stay on track. This past week with the company of my roommates (which make sure I don’t give up) we visited two amazing parks in different neighborhoods. The first one, Villa Doria Pamphili is a 5 minute walk from school and was built in the 17th century. Since it is on the top of a hill in Monteverde the air is cleaner (your lungs will thank you later) and the sun feels warmer. This park is made of 1.8 sq km of pure green freshness, perfect for picnics, running (any sport really), photography, reading and so much more. It was my first visit, but not my last.Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 11.59.59 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 11.59.51 PMOn the other hand, Villa Borghese park was built in 1605 and is full of culture, art and perfect foliage. It is preceded by the Spanish steps (haha yes, more steps, this is warm up) and then opens up into tall pines, gravel tracks and lawns. Inside you can find (well take a break in) the Galleria Borghese adorned by sculptures of Bernini and paintings by famous artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio and more.

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As I mentioned before, tread-mill is how I’ve been doing it but honestly it’s about to become how I used to do it. Rome is full of interesting spots and enchantingly mysterious places that you otherwise wouldn’t notice (btw so is NYC). Also, AUR has a running club which offers fun runs of 5 and 10K which I plan on doing (they include free memorabilia). I will be training and discovering Rome at and around these parks. If I were in your feet I would suggest you do that too. Here go ahead and just put one foot in front of the other:

  1. The Hudson River Greenway
  2. Central Park
  3. East River Promenade
  4. Randall’s Island

Carpe Diem,

Sadie

PS: Any recommendations?

 

First impressions – living

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Well now that we’ve gotten food out of the way, we can talk about Italy as a whole. There’s a lot to get through so I’ll just stick to my living situation for now. My two roommates (who are also from FIT) are living in an apartment in the center of Florence, right near Santa Croce. The location is ideal for food, getting to the important sights in Florence as well as close to school. The apartment itself is pretty nice. It’s a perfect size for us three and has a lofted second floor. Stairs! Like a whole staircase! Whaaaat? That would never happen in New York. I mean we ran into a few normal first apartment problems like noisy neighbors and broken wifi but like the adults we are, we got it all worked out.

fake fake david

Florence is definitely a walking city. There is no subway system and there aren’t really any cabs. There are taxis that take you to and from the airport, but that’s about it. You don’t really see anyone hailing a cab like in New York. There is a bus system but I have yet to bother to learn the routes or buy a bus ticket. It’s just better to walk, everything is within twenty minutes at the longest. The only hard part of walking is that Florence still follows its Medieval city plan so all the streets twist and are small and sometimes change names right in the middle and don’t appear on maps and are generally pretty difficult to navigate. It’s kind of like the West Village but the whole city is that way. I appreciate the historical quality of this plan, but I also want to, you know, get places quickly.

Living in an apartment is not too different than living in the dorms. We actually have more room, and since I always lived in a suite at FIT I am used to cooking and going to the grocery store and doing my own laundry, etc. The only part that is a little annoying is that Italians don’t use dryers so it takes about two days for my clothes to dry on the drying racks. Also we can have wine, like whenever we want (which is all the time, let’s be honest). And if anyone has ever lived in the dorms, they know that the ability to have friends come in and out as you please is amazing.

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Honestly, living in Italy isn’t that different than living in New York City, it’s just way older and more cobblestone-y. Oh, and beautiful. It’s more beautiful.

–Emily–

Como se dice “yum” in italiano?

emily on the duomo

I’m sorry if I have been a little quiet the past week or two, I’ve been busy getting settled into my apartment in Florence. Yup, Florence as in Florence, Italy. I have officially started the second leg of my amazing semester abroad. I have already had some interesting experiences here, but I’ll save that for another post. This subject is much more pressing: the food.

Obviously Italy is known for its food, and for good reason. I have been here for exactly thirteen days and I have already had the best gelato, sandwich, and duck that I have ever tasted. Let’s start with the Italian classic: the gelato. The first gelato i had was dark chocolate and it was the creamiest, most chocolate-y thing I have ever eaten! However, that feat was quickly defeated by an amazing hot chocolate I tried that was more chocolate than liquid. (And that was from McDonald’s! Try finding such an amazing cup of hot chocolate anywhere in America, let alone any McDonald’s in America. Actually don’t try, you won’t) Then I realized that there is a great gelato place literally next to my building that has one euro gelato. Yup, one euro! I don’t know if you can tell by my use of italics but this is all very exciting for me.

italy restaurant

For my birthday, my roommates and I went to a restaurant owned by a father and son duo that makes traditional Tuscan food. I asked the waiter (who was hilarious as a side note) what the best thing on the menu was and said “yeah that. I want that.” I didn’t know what it was but it smelled amazing when it came to the table (it turned out to be duck with really wide homemade noodles). I highly suggest this technique to anyone who finds themselves at a restaurant where you can’t read the menu. Or any restaurant for that matter – live a little!

best sandwich in the entire world period

Now, onto the best part. (Yeah, it’s getting better) I have had the official best sandwich in the world. I don’t care what you or anyone else has to say about some sandwich you ate who knows where that was “awesome”. No, I’m stopping you right there. This sandwich was the most delicious thing I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The bread was buttery and flaky and the prosciutto was salty but not too fatty and there was vegetables and this amazing buttery cheese spread thing that I don’t even know what it is but oh my goodness I couldn’t even find the words to describe it if I did. Plus it was HUGE and only five euros!! This place is also conveniently located right down the street from me (who knew I’d have such a prime location?) so I’ll definitely be eating more of their heart-stopping amazing bread and meats.

This post is getting a little long, and very self-indulgent. I’ll end with our greatest accomplishment – finding the secret bakery. It opens at 12 am and everything is fresh and…you know what we shouldn’t even be talking about this. It’s a secret! You will just have to come to Florence and ask for the secret bakery and see (I mean taste)  for yourself.

–Emily–

The Small Things DO Matter

Ciao,

Its only been 17 days and I’ve been spending my days getting used to my new university and apartment. During this adaptation time I have been able to appreciate FIT in a whole other aspect. Here I have compiled a brief list of things I never noticed and can’t seem to stop missing, for those that say small things don’t matter its all about perspective.

  1. Vending Machines that accept Credit/Debit Cards: here if you don’t have exact change you will starve or die of thirst (guaranteed).
  2. Escalators: my legs are so sore because in Italy the first floor is actually the second so as you can see on top of my morning hike I have no choice but to keep on going (iron thighs coming up).
  3. Mail/Package Notifications: getting those e-mails were sometimes the best part of my day (unexpected surprise), now I have to go to school and check on this archive under my last name through everyone else’s papers to see if I got something.
  4. Weight room: as long as it is free you can get yourself weighed at the Health Center, unfortunately I had to buy my own scale and in kilos ( it does cut my official number in half so haha it might not be thaaat bad).
  5. Gym classes are included in your tuition: we have such variety back home that having to pay 90 euros just for yoga (no offense yogis) once a week drives me absolutely crazy.
  6. Massages & Acupuncture: you might not believe it but it is also included in your tuition 12 sessions of your preference one on one with a specialist. This is just not happening here.
  7. Angel: While I always complain about it (every single semester, yes I’m sorry they need to make this better) I can check my grades daily and get constant updates. In this case I guess I will find out after my midterm and just be completely sure when the semester is over.

On the side, my birthday was this week and it was just amazing. Auguri to me on my 23rd birthday! I share some photos because even though I miss some things others are just way better here (gelatto, pizza, wine, nutella and the list goes on).

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The Happiness of a cake completely covered in Nutella

Pizza Party

Pizza Party

the pantheon at rome

We were pretty excited to be at The Pantheon for my bday!

It doesn’t matter where you are, Carpe Diem!

Sadie

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Study Abroad: La Vita è Bella

FIT offers many  diverse study abroad opportunities depending on your major and how much time you want to spend abroad. Our three main categories are FIT in Italy (we have a campus in Florence),  Summer/Winter Courses, and Semester Programs. Our school offers a synergy of incredible life experiences and education without boundaries in countries such as France, China, Australia, UK and so many more. The best part (which a lot of people like) is that our programs are not competitive which means we do not have limited spots. As long as you comply with the necessary requirements and can afford it (we do have scholarships for certain programs, hooray!)  you are off to a life-changing journey. Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 4.28.45 PM

Nowadays international experience is very valuable and considered an asset because of increasing globalization. In my field ITM, traveling and speaking a second language could be what makes you stand out from another candidate during an interview. With that in mind, I decided to study abroad for a second time but this time Rome would be my home. I’m now a student at the American University of Rome  for this Spring 2014 semester. During my time here I will try to share with you guys snippets of my experience in Italy (hoping to motivate you) and give you an honest review of this whole adventure.

I’m one week into the program and I can definitely say this has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. My apartment (yes you heard right) is located in one of the hip, historic neighborhoods Trastevere and from what I’ve heard we got the best building (I got a single my rooomroom and didn’t have to pay extra for it). I have five roommates (from different colleges such as UMD and UM) which have been incredibly nice and welcoming (for now haha). Our university is located on the crest of Rome’s highest hill (250 steps and some more, iron thighs coming up) which offers a magnificent view of the city.

stairs to school

My morning walk

 

 

 

 So far, I went to the Colosseum (the first of many), had free yoga & pilates lesson, had authentic pizza & gelato, got lost, joined the She-Wolves Soccer Team, had a cheese & wine tasting, signed up to Groupon Italia and the list goes on.  Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.56.55 PMIn regards to my classes, I have loved them (liberal arts which I chose) and they are:

  1. A Moveable Feast: Writing about Food
  2. Comparative Politics
  3. Media, Art and Social Activism
  4. Ethics and Global Policies

This semester hopefully will allow me to grow as a human being and become much more a citizen of the world. Sometimes being away from home can make you nostalgic, but I assure you it is all part of the process. At the end of the day, everything really depends on how you look at it, sure starting over could suck, but it could also give you the freedom to become who you’ve always wanted to be.

Carpe Diem,

Sadie