Rose: Home for the Holidays
Hanging out at the Jersey Shore!
After our first semester ended, I stayed in Florence for about a week after my last class and then returned home, to Hoboken, NJ, for the rest of the break. Because I am planning on staying in Europe for an extra month after this semester ends to do some traveling, I decided to go back the the US for most of winter break to see my family and friends. After a long, work-filled semester, it was time for some well-deserved rest and relaxation! I arrived in New Jersey a few days before Christmas and my grandma and uncle were there to greet me along with my immediate family. It was wonderful to have a group of people to come home to, enjoy the holidays with, and, most importantly, eat delicious food with. Being able to spend time with loved ones over the holidays is always a treat, but it was especially nice to be able to regale them with stories of my time abroad and, now that we are thousands of miles apart again, I will have to start to build up more tales to tell them once we are reunited!
One helpful part of going home for winter break was that I was able to bring all of the projects that I had completed last semester and anything that I found I didn’t need in Italy back to my house, which will definitely make packing at the end of the year much easier. For any Fashion Design students studying abroad, I recommend putting all of your draping projects and other things that you won’t need during the second semester in a large suitcase and then packing the clothes you want to wear over break in a carry-on. Then, after your vacation ends, you can pack the clothes back in the carry-on and then put that inside of the big suitcase, thus helping you to travel lighter and making your trip back to school much easier.
It was great to be able to return to some of the typically “American” things that don’t exist in Florence like eating at diners, going to the mall, and taking part in some of my favorite activities like roller skating with friends and visiting the Met. However, even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time back in the US, I was happy to find that it felt as if nothing had changed when I returned to Florence a few days before this semester started. It was just as natural to be in Italy as it was to go back to Hoboken and it was as if I had never left in the first place! That really shows how comfortable I am here now and how Florence truly has become a second home for me and, upon discussing this with many others, everyone else in the program! Now, after a rejuvenating winter break, I am ready to approach this semester with an open mind and open heart and I’m very excited for upcoming trips, events, and our Final Exhibition!
May: Traveled Solo To Foreign Cities
Checking out my future summer house in Versailles, France!
Traveling solo was one of the best adult decisions I’ve ever made. It wasn’t an ideal choice at first. You see, I had always wanted to travel around Europe with friends. But I couldn’t because it was challenging to organize a three-week travel itinerary when everyone had different interests, commitments and budget. Most of my friends were going back to the States for the winter break and those who would stay behind had already been to some of the places I wanted to visit. So initially, I felt like a loser since I didn’t have anyone to travel with. But the more I researched about these foreign cities and the more I planned out the itinerary alone in an Excel workbook entitled “Meizan’s Winter Adventure”, the more I started to feel excited and confident about my travel plans!
So I packed my clothes in a carry-on luggage and set out on my journey after spending Christmas in Florence. First, I spent several days in Rome, Vienna, Prague and Berlin with my boyfriend who was a lovely travel companion. Then, I began my nine-days-solo-adventure to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. It was nerve-wrecking at first. Being completely alone. But the moment I checked-in to my hostel in Amsterdam, I already felt like I belonged. I started meeting other travelers who were also backpacking alone or with their friends. Since all the places I visited were major European cities, English was a sufficient language to communicate with others. I went on walking tours at each place which I found was a great way to learn about the history of each city and to meet other travelers while being entertained by the freelance tour guides. From Belgian waffles to Parisian snails, I tried as much food as I possibly could have, guilt-free. I did everything I wanted to and nothing I didn’t. I took mid-afternoon naps, started to drink tea, skipped going to the Van Gogh museum, nursed myself through sickness and cold, learned a few French words, took way too many food pictures and made a handful of good friends from all over the world.
Now that I’ve gotten a taste of traveling alone, I crave more! I plan to travel with my friends and loved ones in the future because it is one of the best bonding activities, but I also want to continue going on solo adventures. When you are all you have and are able to make all judgments and decisions by yourself entirely, you become so observant of your surroundings and learn so much about yourself. So if you find yourself a chance to travel alone, I say take it! Just make sure to do your research, pack a small bag and bring an open mind!
Stephanie: The Best of Both Worlds
My younger sister (on the right) and I in Disneyland Paris for Christmas!
With finals behind me and about a month of freedom ahead of me, I was ready for a break. I boarded a plane and headed to London. I wandered the city for the afternoon where I then headed to Scotland by night bus. I arrived in Edinburgh dark and early the next morning. The sun didn’t rise completely until about 9am and the clouds hung close. Thankfully the wind wasn’t too bad and the rain was going to hold off for the weekend. Edinburgh was beautiful, the dark medieval buildings built into a complicated labyrinth on the hills. In the center of the city was a spectacular Christmas market complete with food, warm drinks, cute presents, and skating rink. Next destination Glasgow, where the weather unfortunately took a turn for the worse and was cold, wet, and windy. A much larger more modern city, however still with its medieval charm.
My time in Scotland ended with a train ride back to London where I met my sister for the rest of the holidays. This was the first time my sister was in Europe. So after quickly showing her London, complete with beautiful Christmas light displays, the huge winter carnival/market in Hyde Park, and all the necessary sightseeing, we headed over to Paris for Christmas. I have already been to Paris and so I gave my sister free reign to choose the itinerary, we spent Christmas day and the day after in Disneyland Paris. When we weren’t in Disneyland we were wandering the streets enjoying the holidays, the sights, and the food. Although cold, the skies were clear for our entire stay. Our final stop was Florence, so I could show her where I had been for the last four months. The city was complete with holiday decorations, beautiful trees in front of the Duomo and Piazza della Repubblica, the strings of lights hanging from the streets and of course the fantastic food. It was a successful holiday season, the first one spent away from my whole family, but it was amazing to see Europe during the holidays, it was unique from everything I was used to.
On the first day of the new year, we flew back to Oregon, where I lived with my family before coming to Florence. I spent the last two weeks of the break relaxing and catching up with family and friends. It really was the perfect balance to my winter vacation, traveling to new places, revisiting favorites, as well as getting a taste of home.
Cannon beach, Oregon coast