Buon Natale e Buon Anno

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The tree lighting at the Duomo… yep, I can’t believe I took this picture either

The city of Florence is currently decked out for Christmas even though both “Natale” and the New Year have passed. The storeowners on each street join together to determine how they will decorate each year and it creates a unique feel throughout the city as you walk from one street to the other enjoying the change in lights, all of them white and sparkling as they light up the gorgeous city of Florence. After a lot of

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Via Romano and the bike lights

judging, my favorite street is the “bike light street,” Via Romano (see picture). On December 8th, amid studying, I went to the tree lighting by the Duomo and joined in to the countdown as they lit up a tree Rock Center style right in front of the Duomo. To put it simply, it was fun, beautiful, and filled with tradition.

 

At Polimoda, we ended classes on December 15th and finishing the semester almost came as a surprise. These past four months were the fastest of my life and I still cannot believe I am halfway done with my time here. I have been to over 12 major cities and five European countries. Nine months seemed so incredibly long, but suddenly I’m past the halfway point and completely baffled that I’ve made it this far and my time left is so short.

Unlike at FIT in New York where a sense of community can be hard to find in the Big Apple, I feel that I am friends (and not just acquaintances) with more than half the program here in Florence. I have more FIT friends abroad than I ever did in the city and for the first time I have a sense of community at school with Florence acting as our campus. All the FIT girls got together and enjoyed the last few days before the fall semester girls left. I had to say goodbye to some of my closest friends as they headed back to the states for next semester. Though they were happy to return home, they also were sad to leave such an amazing city and experience behind them.

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Chianti with my main men: my dad and brother!

 

Since the semester ended, my dad and brother came to visit me in Florence and than we traveled to Rome together for the New Year. It was unbelievable to see them and show them my life for the last four months. As we FaceTimed my family on Christmas, my grandma offered to fly me home for a few days if I found a decently priced flight. Though I had my mind set on staying in Florence until May, I definitely underestimated my homesickness. Once the offer was put in the air, I simply had to look into it and found a round-trip flight home for under 600 dollars (yes, dollars, not euros… This is not a joke). I am currently blogging from a five-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany as I wait for a flight to bring me to the Empire State for 5 and a half days. I am ecstatic to arrive in New York for a few days, see my family, friends, and boyfriend, and then return to Florence, the city I currently call home, in less than a week.

I’ve been spending my break in Florence hanging out with the other full year FIT girls who are killing time over break, dying the tips of my hair a reddish pink (boredom), taking yoga (which is totally new to me and may become an addiction), and buying presents for everyone at home. As I purchased the gifts for those who couldn’t experience this with me I realized once again how grateful I have been for this opportunity and the opportunity that presents itself in the next semester. The people who got me not only to Florence, but also to this point in my life are the people who have stuck around through the ups and downs. I’m slightly embarrassed to write such a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason and I can’t not say it. Grateful is an understatement.

 

My dad clearly trusting the daughter that has lived in Florence for 4 months by using a map...

My dad clearly trusting the daughter that has lived in Florence for 4 months by using a map…

I ended my first semester abroad surrounded by amazing friends who created amazingmemories. My bank account is lower than I can ever remember and I miss people more than I thought I would, yet I never doubt how worth it this is. I ended the semester with a great GPA and a better understanding of not only my major, but more importantly, myself. I secured an internship for next semester with The Florentine, a paper produced in English in Florence. In their next issue they are publishing an article I wrote and it will be distributed to the biggest reading base I have ever had (Eeekk!!). My family came to visit and see the sights and take in the beauty of this incredible Renaissance city that I’ve been lucky enough to call home. Now, I am fortunate enough to get a few blissful and exhausting – because lets be real, jetlag will beat me up first in New York and then when I return to Florence – days at home. So for now… arrivederci Firenze and and hello New York!

End of Semester

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Florence at Christmas

The end of semester always comes with it’s own challenges. The hours get longer the work harder. It’s expected of you to be on the top of your game. Yet it comes with it’s own rewards, the time and energy you put in shows. The work you produce is commonly the best of the semester and is what shows your progress.

As most fashion design majors know it’s during those last few weeks that you forget what sleep is, or that normal people have a life outside of classes. You focus solely in the work and forget everything else. So by the time your final class roles around you’re both proud of your accomplishments and absolutely exhausted.

I think one of the things that always startles me about the end of the semester is that it seems to go by so quickly it’s as if four weeks go by in just over two. The next thing you know your almost done and its time to go home again. Living in Florence has been amazing and I’m so glad that I’ve had this opportunity. It’s given me a chance to grow as a person and to experience things I never would have been able had I not decided to study abroad.

So I will take this time as a break to enjoy the holidays and time spent with my family as an opportunity to rest and relax before diving back into school. So with the end of third semester comes the beginning of fourth, and next semester promises to be just as momentous as this semester has been. From the trip to Paris in February to the trials of fourth semester it promises to be an adventure.

Bragging Rights

Last Monday we had a really casual day of school. We woke up, had some breakfast, and simply went to class… Except class was in Geneva, Switzerland and it happened to take place at the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. To say that it was amazing is an understatement. If you’re wondering how exactly I ended up at 20 years old, in a sound proof room, at the organization that regulates trade across the world so am I, so I’ll start from the beginning.

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Looking serious at the WTO (or at least trying to look serious)

After learning about the WTO at the beginning of the semester in class, a student simply asked if we were capable of visiting it while we were in Europe. A few weeks ago classes ended about twenty minutes early for a quick meeting. All 50 of the FM students grouped ourselves into a classroom to hear Kaplan ask, “So who would be interested in a trip to Geneva to visit the World Trade Organization?” The room sat in pause for a moment as we took in the question before everyone as a group said the obvious answer: we’re more than interested. Fast forward to this past Sunday morning at 6:15 AM and you’ll see a group of students, in their most fashionable form of PJs, waiting for a bus to take us to Geneva. As we all boarded the bus, people immediately put in their headphones, draped blankets over their laps, and pushed pillows behind their heads to sleep for the beginning of the eight hour bus ride. We arrived in Geneva around 3 pm, checked into a hostel, and had the night free to browse the Christmas markets and freeze our butts off as we explored yet another beautiful European city. After some amazing cheese fondue split with friends, I returned to the hostel and fell into an exhausted slumber that lasted till we woke up to attend our oh so casual Monday classes.

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A peek of the WTO conference room

The world trade organization was just ten minutes down the street from our hostel. It drizzled on us as we walked in, all wearing our best business attire. We handed over our passports in exchange for a badge and after going through security we were led to a conference room. Complete with tan padded, soundproof walls, three long tables with mics and comfy, swivel desk chairs at each spot, and a booth where translators would normally sit, I felt about as official as I could get. After about five minutes of us taking photos and feeling too cool for out own good, in walked a woman who works at the WTO. She gave us an amazing presentation of how the WTO works, how meetings usually go down, and how decisions are made. She told us that a consensus vote for the WTO means that everyone must agree on all the regulations being set. If even one, super small country disagrees with what is proposed the regulation isn’t passed. This has currently led to the longest lapse of time between new WTO regulations, about 11 years. We also discussed the way meetings work. As much as I was hoping to hear juicy details about men and women in business suits yelling in multiple languages and jumping at each other across the table, it’s apparently much more civilized than that (who woulda thought?!). The tables are set in a way that is meant to provoke conversation and matters are handled respectfully. If anything gets out of hand, our guide, a secretary for the WTO steps in and guides the conversation. The WTO has three official languages, French, Spanish and English, although translators sit in glass booths to one side of the room, available for assistance if needed. As the meeting came to a close, I felt educated, lucky, and honestly pretty awesome. A Monday morning at the WTO? Just a day in the life.

Next we went to WIPO, or the World Intellectual Property Organization. We learned about patents, trademarks, design rights and more in a meeting equipped with headsets and mics once again. Patents on average take about 4 years to get passed. On the other hand, design rights, which protect my fellow FIT peers and their work, are usually passed in a couple of months. These rights last for about ten years before needing to be renewed. They allow men and women to protect their intelligence, their artistic ability, and their creativity. My favorite fun fact from the WIPO meeting was about the most well-known and recognizable brand in the world: Coca-Cola. Their trademark is worth a whopping 67.8 billion dollars.

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The view out the bus window when I tore my eyes away from Harry Potter

After our meeting, WIPO provided us with sandwiches and waters before we had to board the bus to head back to Firenze, equipped with eight hours worth of Harry Potter movies (if you’ve gotta be on a bus for that long, you have to at least have quality marathon movies ready). In case you are struggling with the math (or not even doing the math), you’re correct in thinking we didn’t even spend 24 hours in Geneva… But it was 23 and a half hours that were well spent! After learning about these organizations in textbooks for years and hearing about them on the news, they finally became a real, whole concept to me. Next time a teacher mentions the WTO or WIPO in class, I can say I’ve been there… those are some pretty sweet bragging rights if you ask me.

Final Days Abroad

So this is it, this will be my last blog post from over 4,000 miles away in my quaint little apartment on Via del Porcellana.  Every post I have mentioned how time passes by so quickly, but I guess it’s just the truth. You make plans to do something crazy or something big or out of your comfort zone, like studying abroad for four months or even a year, and then when you do it, it’s over in a blink of an eye. As much as I truly love Florence, I am greatly anticipating my arrival home. Being here was an amazing experience and a wonderful learning opportunity, but home will always be home for me. My parents have just left Italy after their week long stay and time went by even faster when they were here, but that was of course expected. We had a great time as we went to Rome and then traveled our way back to Florence. It was a great experience to have them here because I was able to show them everything that I have learned and what I have been calling my home for these past couple of months. I felt like I knew Florence like the back of my hand and they were able to see how much I gained for this experience. 10562971_10205320574004334_4845110130351646487_n Two days and one long, hot, 16 hour bus ride lead us to Genova, Switzerland for a last minute school trip. We went to Genova to visit the World Trade Organization and the WIPO. We left early Sunday morning and took an 8-hour bus ride to Genova, Switzerland. We checked into the hostel and were given free time to explore the city. We got Starbucks, because that’s clearly what college girls are obliged to do when they haven’t had it for so long. Then we walked around the town and saw the Christmas markets and lights that were hung up all around the stores and streets. We also learned that the Swiss Franc is more than the Euro so we found ourselves at McDonalds for dinner that night. The next morning we were off to the WTO and the WIPO for meetings. We were able to speak with the secretary of the WTO and a director from the WIPO. Both had great first hand knowledge and information to share with us. We learned a lot about both non-profit organizations, what they do and how they are run. After we got back on the bus for another 8 hours and found our way back to Florence. WTO_logo_Album_300512 Well, here’s too my last 17 days of calling Italy my home. Finals are coming up and classes are coming to an end. My suitcase is getting fuller and closer to being shut for it’s arrival back home. My experience abroad will truly never be forgotten (and I’m not just being sappy and saying that) it’s just the truth. Now, onto last minute Christmas shopping in the markets, eating as much gelato as I can and taking in the last bits of the Tuscan air.

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Florence vs. NYC

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Florence in the Rain

Florence is obviously very different than New York, for one it’s a small renaissance city in comparison to the busy metropolitan city that is New York. However the differences are more than just that, everything from classes to mass transit and of course the food is different.

The Pros

  • The food is not only better but also cheaper – unlike New York good food is very easy to come by, you can pretty much find it everywhere. The food especially from bars, the Italian coffee shop, is cheap; lunch probably won’t cost more than five or six euros. Even the food you find in the stores is better, Italians have a deep love for food and it shows, they demand the best and they get it.
  • It’s a lot prettier – This may seemed a little bit biased, but it is true. This is partially due to the age of a lot of the buildings and the craftsmanship that has been put into their construction. It makes for amazing apartment views that seem like there a painting and not your view.
  • Coffee lovers rejoice – The Italians are coffee people which means that not only is the coffee really good it’s also a lot less expensive than coffee in the US is, for example a cappuccino is only € 1.20.
  • You can walk everywhere – or close to it, Florence is a small city, which means that if you can’t walk to where your going you can definitely bike to it. Florence also has a great bus system that is both inexpensive and fast.
  • ART! – Florence is known as the birthplace of the renaissance for a reason, you can simply walk around and see the history of the city around you. There are also a multitude of museums around the city that have major works of art in them.
  • Smaller classes – Florence is a smaller program than New York so there will be less people in your classes. For me I think the most I have is twenty, but my major related classes only have six people. This means more space to work and more time per student from your teachers.
  • Closer Knit School – in total there are about 70 people studying in Florence, and because of FASA events we are much more of a group than in New York where the amount of students means you will never know everyone, or even close to it.

 

The Cons

  • You will get sick of Italian food – turns out there is a limit to the amount of pasta one can eat. However Florence doesn’t have the variety of food that you can find in the US, which is sad. On the plus side once someone finds say a good Chinese food place word spreads fast.
  • You will walk a lot – for me it takes about twenty minutes to get pretty much anywhere, be it school, the supermarket, or the city center. Walking this much can be tiring and it does mean that you need to plan your time better. There are also a lot of stairs here and very few elevators.
  • There is no Netflix or Hulu – if you are a TV person like me this can be a crushing blow, because nether site is technically speaking allow to stream content in Italy. So plan ahead bring your favorite movies with you or buy season passes of your favorite TV shows.
  • Tea people and Starbucks lovers beware – there are no Starbucks in Florence, there is only one ‘American coffee’ place in the whole city and it doesn’t even come close. Tea can also be hard to find, it your not to picky your supermarket will sell tea but it’s so so. Personally I found a teashop, which is where I now buy my tea but if you like tea bring at least some with you.
  • Store hours are very different – In Italy stores aren’t open as late, most places with close by eight at the latest and on Sundays count on them only being open for a half day this includes most supermarkets. Places will also close for lunch, this can be for only and hour or up to three. Bottom line look at the store hours for the places you go most often it will save you time and hassle in the long run.