Throwback: First Days in Australia

I flew to Australia dec 26th and landed dec 28th (yay long flights and time changes!).the next day I went straight to this festival in the bush with some of my friends and their friends. It was hard to get used to the sun, get used to the time change, and used to the culture. I realized that I was very ill-prepared for this trip as I hadn’t really planned anything. Looking back I definitely would have made plans and bought flights prior to arriving in Australia.

“It’s New Year’s Eve and it’s T-minus 8 hours until midnight! We are 17 hours ahead of my hometown Austin and I’ll have 17 hours less in 2017 and 17 additional in 2018 (assuming I don’t change times at nye next yeah aha).

I’m at the festival Lost Paradise And experience what an Australian festival is like. So far I’ve realized that while it’s fairly similar to any other camping festival I’ve been to, I don’t know any of the artists playing because they are mostly Australian. The one artist I did know somewhat well and was excited for was FKJ who played yesterday and exceeded my expectations immensely. He’s pretty much a one man show.

Some of our squad at Lost Paradise

It’s really really hot outside. Like extremely hot sun. I was pretty sun sick the first day, but by today (day 3) I’m feeling much better and well rested. Just hoping I make it through the night this time without passing out. I’m not even drinking much, just water and Powerade.

The group I’m with is some of my friends from their exchange in Austin plus their friends. Thankfully I didn’t have to bring anything like tent or chairs or sleeping bags and it was all provided. These people are incredibly nice and fun. Their into festivals and the music and costumes and it’s inspirational! I’ve been slacking on my creativity and sewing lately and it makes me want to just sit in my room all day and create things.

I’m a little worried about the cost of everything in Australia as I have been slacking on budgeting and really planning activities and things to do and such. After the festival I’m really gonna bunker down and get 👏🏼 things 👏🏼 done 👏🏼.”

Throwback pt 2: 13 Hours in Mexico City

Part 2 of my 2017 spring break throwback. We had an overnight layover in Mexico City while coming back from Cancun. It was a little stressful because it was one of those instances where everything went wrong.

“We were excited to get a taste of Mexico City, to see what real Mexico was like. Cancun was felt a bit like one big tourist scam; picture Las Vegas and Miami teaming up and conquering a Mexican coastline and putting a few signs in Spanish to make it seem like Mexico still. Cancun is nothing like Mexico City.

Our adventures in Mexico City only lasted 13 hours and every waking moment was a bit of a fiasco, like how most traveling goes anyways. We show up to the airport and order an Uber, they are cheap and we were told by a friend to use it. Our uber driver knew absolutely no English, spoke so fast I couldn’t even catch a single word, and he didn’t even seem to understand the fact that we did not know what he was saying. I had imputed the hostel address from google, but his app took him somewhere a few blocks away. These 10 or so blocks made a world of difference. As we were driving to this supposed destination we saw piles of trash in the street, stray dogs everywhere, giant pots of food being cooking on the sidewalks, and even an open fire of burning trash on a curb. He stopped on this one street and looked at us and pointed at the phone and we were like “no….” We used our phones to map out to the correct destination and handed it to him to use. He still continued to go the wrong way and due to the one-ways and blocked off roads, we were going in circles for a while. Finally we just asked him to go back around and let us off at this intersection that was two blocks away. I knew some Spanish and tried to communicate with him and direct him, but I started to go “Italy mode” which really means I get a little more aggressive and forceful with my words and directions. He thought he wanted to talk to the police at the intersection so he rolled down the window and said “hola,” but we were like nooo and Connor made a motion of walking. We got out and raced to the hostel because we were a little sketched out and stressed by what we had just gone through.

I have been practicing my Spanish for the past few weeks and being in Cancun I practiced a little bit and started to get better at listening and hearing the words (something I’ve always had trouble with when learning a language). Mexico City was very different. Our uber driver spoke so fast, it just sounded like gibberish. I went into a bit of shock and could not remember much of my Spanish. I prayed that the Italian word for things was similar enough that it would make sense. Compared to Cancun, this was a place where you needed to know spanish. I’m sure if I spent a week there I would build my confidence and practice enough to where I could get the hang of it.

Our hostel was fine and felt safe enough. We had to go around the corner to buy some water though. I’ve come to appreciate clean water so much more. In America, and in Europe, the tap water is for the most part, safe to drink. I would get through security at the airport and just fill up. I’d fill up several times a day at the hostel, etc etc. I love my water. Having to buy another plastic bottle everyone and constantly having to buy it, going to the store to buy it…. it was so inconvenient. We went to the store and it was locked, so we had to knock and wait for this guy to come to this window in the door and essentially take our order. I’m so nervous about speaking Spanish and I timidly squeak “dos aguas.” He closes the window and comes with a couple of big bottles, we give him some pesos, we get the change and we walk back to the hostel.

We are staying on the 5th floor, and right above us is the hostel bar, which sounds more like an intense techno club. If we weren’t so tired and stressed out, we probably would have stayed and enjoyed it. We had a tiny single room which fit our double bed, with about 1-2ft of clearance on each side. The next morning we learned that the plugs didn’t work and our phones had not charged at all. The wifi was even worse than at the Oasis, but at least somewhat-ish worked. Breakfast was pretty good at least.

We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, but it was a Sunday morning so not much was open. We weren’t as nervous or scared and so we could just enjoy Mexico City for a bit. Our hostel was right in the historic district so we got to see the cathedral. It was actually really nice during the day.

So we got a uber for only $84 pesos back to the airport. So when we got to the airport we were about 1 hour and 45 minutes early. We were greeted with long lines for baggage check and only spanish speaking employees.

Throwback – Cancun Spring Break ’17

In honor of Spring Break 2k18, I bring you some posts about my experience last year in Cancun. I was too lazy to get it posted here, but not too lazy to write about it on my phone. Go figure. It was a great time, although a little more expensive and less spanish-y than expected:

For spring break this year I wanted to do Mexico. I have never been and now that I have a passport, I decided it was time to check out those white sand beaches.

We had a wonderful time meeting people, hanging on the beach, practicing our Spanish, and dancing all around. We saw a circus show and a Latino-themed show at our resort. The shows had some amazing dance numbers including a quad-skating dance number. This was incredible impressive because they were skating and dancing, but also used props to propel themselves off the ground while the partner skates. It was something I had never seen before, and I was awestruck.

I am also newly inspired to learn to merengue, it was so graceful and fast and beautiful to watch.

We made a lot of cool friends who we went on spontaneous adventures with, such as checking out the club scene downtown, or checking out the in-house “discoteca.”

Cancun was also not as affordable as I had expected. Our resort was all-inclusive so drinks and food and resort activities were included in the (hefty) price tag. I was given advice by some to bring US dollar bills for tips and also not to drink the water (only bottled water or purified!). We took note of all the suggestions, but still didn’t quite know what to expect.

The peso is down, so you would think that things are cheaper. Strange thing about this place is that the American dollar is such a commonly used currency. You are constantly asked whether you want to pay in USD or pesos. Be aware of their “tipo de cambino” or their exchange rate because sometimes it is better than the actual rate and sometimes it is worse. I definitely overpaid a few times because I wasn’t quite paying attention.

We stayed at the “Grand Oasis Palm” which we soon learned that this was the family resort and not the spring breakers destination resort. Honestly it was probably for the better, sure there were kids all around, but there were still tons of people our age and we got to relax a lot more.

This resort was also the root of many inside jokes between us and our new friends. The motto of this resort family is “Oasis Loves You,” but the love is hardly felt because of all the hidden fees and lackluster service. We arrived at the hotel and were told we had to pay a $30 insurance fee because we were under 25. Also it has to be USD cash. Well okay… thanks for the warning. The food was decent, better some places than others. The lines to get drinks and food were always long, you had to tip if you wanted any service. It was hard to find or get bottled water anywhere. There were all these extras you could buy and everything was so expensive.

We constantly talked about how we “love waiting in lines” and “we love to tip.” We laughed and joked around because we knew it was annoying and frustrating. Our friends were supposed to be in a different and nicer Oasis resort, but they had overbooked their hotel by 300 rooms and sent the rest of the people to ours.

We bought a deal on Expedia which was a combo of visiting the Chichen Itza Ruins and also swimming with Dolphins. The Mayan ruins tour had pickup at 5am. I made it, but my friend Connor didn’t. We stayed up all night with out new friends and when 5am rolled around she was not having it. I went and luckily slept the three hours on the bus. It was really cool! The mayans had a lot of rituals related to the harvest, including some blood sacrifices. Their architecture skills were impeccable. Every spring and fall equinox the sunlight creates this pattern down their mountain temple that has 7 triangles leading down to the bottom where there is snake head sculptures.

The dolphin experience was also pretty cute. I’ve never gotten to pet a dolphin, but they felt like a sharks leather, but a lot slimier. The dolphins were so nice and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. We paid almost $100 to get our pictures from the dolphin adventure. We got a cd-disk and it was fine, I was going to put it in my laptop. But nah, my computer decides to eat the disk and we realize my computer has a dead CD drive and we will have to manually get it out later. We’re hoping there are pictures are actually on there. Note: My dad pried the CD out and we were able to download the photos on a different computer!

One of the nights we decided to go to the clubs downtown. All of them included an open bar in the cover price which ranges from $60 to $100. We paid $65 to go to Mandala which played a variety of top 40 and electronic music. It was different than most clubs because it was all open at the front. You could still see the whole street that the club was situated on. We had taken a shuttle with some other people in our hotel and they gave us a table. It was so fancy, like we were getting table service. They brought us a bottle and these milkshake tasting shots, plus they kept refilling our ice. It was great service! Although later we learned that some of the guys in our group were tipping nicely, go figure.

The morning we had to check out we made it right at check out time. Problem was they cut off your resort wristbands during checkout, meaning we couldn’t get food anymore. We got to keep them, minus this part with a number that they cut off. We took the sewing kit from our room and sewed them back on our wrists so we could go and eat still. It worked, and no one said a thing.

The last difficult encounter we faced was getting to the airport. We had booked a super shuttle to take us there because it was cheaper than the taxi. Turns out we booked it for 4 days in the future and not for that day. We asked the front to call a taxi and they said it would be $25 usd or 400 pesos (equivalent to approximately 20 usd). We didn’t have anymore cash so I went to the ATM which only dispenses US dollars, charged me $5.80 for use, and a 10% “exchange rate commission fee.” It was a very expensive taxi (especially compared to our shuttle).

We made it to the airport in which we had a flight to Mexico City and an overnight layover there before we finally headed back to Dallas.

Irish Working Holiday Visa – Updated!

Update: So I mailed out my application on Monday, it is Friday afternoon and I have just received an email from the consulate in Chicago that my application has been approved and I can move on to step 2 of the application! This is really exciting as I had expected it to take over a month to hear back, but it was within the same week! I cannot contain my excitement. I already have tickets to enter Europe and go to France, but now I just need to buy tickets from France to Ireland and then tickets showing I’m leaving Ireland. I also need to find some medical insurance that will cover me for an entire year abroad. I’ll do some more research and update when I have found some options! I also should look into booking an appointment with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, better sooner than later!

Original: Today is the day! The day I finally mailed out my visa application for an Irish working holiday visa. It was such a relief to finally have all my documents together and to have it out in the certified mail.

Below is my checklist of all the documents I needed. I was most hesitant about sending out my university diploma, but after having sent it and talking to a nice postal working I am confident i’ll get it back in pristine condition. I’ll update when I hear back in about a month!

  • Apply for VisaFill out WHA Form
    • Photocopy of US Passport
    • 2 Passport Photos
    • Current ResumeGet 2 references – I got them to write letters recommending me including their contact information
    • Diploma
    • Bank Statement Make sure it says at least $4,000 by end of the month (I borrowed money from my parents for this)
      • $352 money order – Buy at Post Office
  • Visa Part 2Buy Return Airline tickets – or at least tickets showing you are exiting Ireland at some point within a year
    • Find and buy medical insurance for duration of trip
    • Original Passport

Note: I would have taken a photo of my final envelope, but USPS doesn’t allow photos of postage due to fraud. I’ll snap a pic when it is all returned to me.

I’m back and better than ever!

So it’s been a while since I’ve been blogging, and even longer since I last logged into my website. I found several posts in my drafts that I hadn’t even posted. Why? Who knows, maybe they are unfinished, I went ahead and just published them, unfinished or not.

Like I said, its been a while, almost a year and a half! Since then I’ve been to Mexico twice, Australia, New Zealand, several places around the US, and have plans to go to Colombia and move to Europe! I graduated college and have been working on my spanish… so lot’s has been happening!

Part of my reason for not posting is because I was lazy, but also I was having trouble updating my themes and updating photos on non-blog part of my website. So I stopped. But now I’m back and better than ever! I have posts that I wrote on my phone that I plan to post (unfinished or not), I want to write about my past experiences, my experience in getting an Irish Working Holiday Visa, my journey with spanish, etc etc.

Stay tuned and much love. Cheers!

What the EU flag means to me

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece based on my experiences in Europe. I may get some things wrong or say something you don’t agree with, but do not fret because it’s not the end of the world.

I have been in Europe approximately 5 months. When I first arrived I had a slight notion of what the EU was, but I didn’t even know there was a unifying flag. I questioned: what is the blue flag with stars and why it is everywhere?

I’ve learned a lot these past 5 month, talked to a lot of people, and read a lot of European news. I’ve realized that countries are proud to be part of the EU, especially the less western ones like Slovenia and Croatia. I’ve also realized a lot more countries than I expected are in the EU. You have to have certain standards of living and infrastructure, and there are only a few places left in Europe without them.

Visiting the EU parliament (museum) taught me a lot about what the EU actually *does*. It was created after WWII when Winston Churchill stated that Europe needs to be more like the United States and be the United Countries of Europe. The EU was formed to prevent another atrocity like the first two world wars to happen again.

Besides promoting unity and conflict prevention, the EU allows free economic trade and an overall currency that is together, stronger and not quite as susceptible to some currency. The Italian lire for instance was in bad shape when the switch was made. 1800 lire for 1 euro? They had 10000 lire bills and more. A few too many zeros on that to be considered a strong currency. The euro though is strong, comparable to the US dollar. Only two countries are exempt from the euro, Denmark, and the U.K. (Mention of brexit to come). The rest are supposed to phase into it at some point, some places accept both euro and the local currency, even if they aren’t in the stage of phasing out.

Milan Sights to See

Duomo

-Lucky shiny leg

-Damage from bomb, thought to be the leg, actually just a random part on the door

-Statue of liberty, the original (lady liberty eventually was a mix of this and French statue)

-took forever to build

-Visconti family

Visconti family seal

-Snake eating a human, seen on the inter soccer team and a car logo

-Viper because of Dante’ poem

Hospital business school

-don’t touch the grass, because of the graves

Bones chapel – Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa

-decor came from hospital graves

Opera house – La Scala Opera

-Amazing acoustics, best in the world.

-You haven’t made it in opera unless you’ve performed here

-bombed, but rebuilt within a year exactly because of the amount of photographs that were available

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

-Built to commemorate Italy being unified in 1861

-lit by gas lights at first, but was the first place in Milan to get electricity

-First Prada store opened here

-Savino, first restaurant in galleria

Merchant market

-Great acoustics

-where the word bankrupt came from

Stock Market Exchange

-the finger, the guy

Ultimate Guide To Study Abroad: UT to Bocconi

Guide to Studying Abroad at Bocconi University (especially if you’re a UT student)

School

-Classes

I would say the school is easier than UT in a lot of respects. Although, it depends on your type of person. If you procrastinate til the very last minute, it might be a difficult choice. All of my classes consisted on only two grades: a final and a project (mostly group projects). Only one of my classes actually took attendance, which means that you don’t *have* to go to classes if you really don’t want to. You can choose to take a course non-attending, which means you only take the final at the end for your grade. Because most of your grade (attending and non-attending) is consistent of one final test, there is nothing that “forces” you to read your book or keep up with the lectures until about the last month of school. It is better to make a schedule and pace yourself so you don’t have a ton of work at the end of the school year.

Don’t stress too much about the class schedule. If a class section says “for incoming (exchange) students” that means that you can only choose that class section(s), even if others are offered. Management and finance classes will be the hardest classes you take. Corporate finance at bocconi covers more than the regular FIN 357 and is not the beginner course for students at bocconi, so it might be best to just take it at UT.

Registration at Bocconi is not as stressful as UT registration, but do be prepared and log in at the correct time to be guaranteed of what classes you want.

-School culture

There is this group called the “Erasmus Student Network.” As an exchange student, you are on erasmus, which is what Europe calls its exchange program. Europeans will tell you that being on erasmus is all about partying, which is exactly what the ESN group told us at their introductory meeting. “We are here to get you wasted.” Not even kidding. I was shocked that a group like this was allowed to say this! But the drinking age is 18, so you will probably end up drinking a lot, more on that later.

Italy smokes a lot of cigarettes. The percentages are only like 5% higher, but their tobacco laws are completely different. You’ll begin to appreciate that UT is a tobacco free campus. People here step one meter outside the entrance/exit and light up. This both blocks the entrance (very inefficient) and makes you have to walk through a cloud of cancer to get to your class. Plus the foyer smells like stale cigarettes. Wonderful.

Bocconi is a really small school. Maybe like that size of my entire high school campus (main building, parking lot, soccer field, included). It was really different from UT, but nice because everything was close together and all my classes were housed in two buildings.

Milan

-What to do go

Check out my blog post on Milan Sights to See for some good advice on what to go do. I know you’ll want to travel to other places, but take at least one weekend a month to do Milanese things, relax, and study (yes you don’t want to get too behind). Traveling every weekend is stressful and you will get tired of it.

-Food and Grocery

Buy your groceries from the Esselungo (“Long S Superstore”). Buy fruit from the farmers market or the local grocery store as it will go bad faster than normal. Fruit is really cheap and extra delicious! Also the juice is all great, my favorite being the “Arancia Rossa,” aka blood orange.

Milan is special in that is has “apertivo,” which is a buffet-style dinner and drink combo. For around 10 euro or less you can get a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) plus a buffet of food. It was originally meant to be just a snack and not replace dinner, but there are definitely some places that could fill you up all day. Typically aperitivo is between 7pm and 11pm, although it varies place to place. The nicest places are in the Navigli area, right near bocconi. My personal favorite is MAYA. It has a great never-ending selection of italian dishes, and even a chocolate fountain!

-Renting an Apartment

Join the “Bocconi Rents” facebook page in preparation to finding and apartment for the spring semester. A lot of students go abroad, which means there are a lot of open apartments. If they want a true cultural immersion, having an Italian roommate would be great for learning the language and having a personal guide of the city. I would also advise against sharing a room with more than one other person. A two-room apartment would be great for 2-4 people, but no more. 

Dorm life. Americans typically get placed in the Arcobaleno dorm, which is a 15 minute tram ride from the school. It also has no wifi (only ethernet cables) and no oven, which limits what you are able to do. You also can’t have guests past midnight. If you want to meet A LOT of people and do a lot of social activities, it is the place to be. A lot of my friends were living in the dorm and they liked it, but weren’t ecstatic about it.

Things to do after you have housing:

Get your Italian tax code (you’ll need it for the bus pass). It’s not that difficult, you just need to bring a few documents to the tax office. Wait in line to get the form, fill out the form, get a number, and talk to the representative when your number is called.

Go to the duomo or centrale station to get the student bus pass (10 e + 22 e per month)

Go to the Trenitalia ticket office at centrale and sign up for cartafreccia (this gives you discounts on the national trains, which get expensive. ALWAYS TAKE THE FAST TRAIN if possible) 

Go to the permit of stay sessions and get that done 

Italy & Travel

-Italian culture: stereotypes of Italians: They smoke a lot, eat a lot of carbs, are late all the time, like to vacation more than work, and sometimes are rude. But if you try to speak italian with them and try to engage with them, they can be very pleasant and make good friends. Try and talk with other students and start to learn their point of view. Esp with this being an election year, it was very interesting to see what they had to say. 

As a women: Do be a little cautious of the men. They are very “hormonal” and can be very fiesty. If you aren’t interested, let them know sooner or later. At times they can get aggressive. Italy, for the most part, does not necessarily treat genders with equality. Even women don’t always see themselves as equals. I had a friend tell me that an italian girl said “american women don’t put out enough.” Be cautious. (Also Italian men are not as attractive as you would think. Most have hairstyles dating from the 90s or look old for their age.)

Food: To cook pasta you gotta put A LOT of salt into the water. Not a sprinkle, but a couple of dashes. I promise your noodles will be cooked to perfect “al-dente.” Italy is serious about it’s food. Every type of pasta is to be served a certain way with a certain sauce and there are other rules about what kind of meat or vegetables or ingredients are allowed to be used. I don’t know the rules, but you can view them here. They take their pizza seriously too. Pizza is different throughout the man regions of Italy varying from thin crust to thick crust to the type of dough and ingredients used. Pizza is delicious and it’s always something that I am excited to eat. Most of the pizza is brick oven or wood fired and it’s great.

Be Aware of “Coperto” when you go out to a restaurant! They will charge you $1-$5 each person just for sitting down. Water is also NEVER FREE. Bring your own bottle or pay ~$1.50 per liter of fizzy or natural water.

Drinking: Italians drink with almost every meal. They have these rules about digestion and a lot of what they eat, drink, and do relates back to having good digestion. Alcohol is typically served with an aperitif, similar to a spanish tapa. It is a little snack that you eat with your drink, since drinking is supposed to increase your appetite. Italians don’t typically binge drink like americans. In the clubs you’ll see people who are extremely wasted, but usually they can still handle themselves. Taking a drink at a meal (or every meal) is very common and alcohol is part of their culture instead of a taboo.

Language: Take the crash course. Take the test. Right now: download Memrise, Duolingo, or other language learning app or guide and push yourself to do at least 5 minutes or 1 lesson a day. Getting acquainted early will help you a lot and prepare you to take on Italy. The “gli” sound is the hardest and sounds like “yee” (sort of like “yee-haw!”). 

smoking: Like I said, Italians smoke a lot. Marijuana is still illegal, but you’ll occasionally smell it on the street and the police don’t really do anything about it. Beware of the guys who try to sell it to you on the street. From what I’ve heard they will either rip you off, or give you something of really bad quality. So best to avoid those types entirely. Not only do italians like to smoke right in front of doors, they also like to block the whole sidewalks while they smoke and chat. It’s rather difficult to walk anywhere and breathe at the same time. The laws here are very different. It was only last year that they started putting smoking kills and warning on the cigarette packets. They have stores here called “tobacchis” that carry mainly cigarettes, lotto tickets, and other little trinkets. They also sell postage stamps and metro tickets. I hate giving them my business, so I bought the month metro pass and I send my postcards out from other countries (also italian mail is really expensive and not super reliable).

Selfie Stick Guys & Rose Peddlers: These are the most annoying people you could ever encounter. They aren’t just in Italy, they are in every single big tourist area. “Selfie Selfie?” They will ask as they shove yet another retractable metal stick in your face. No does not work because they won’t leave. The guys with the roses are just as bad. Maybe you’ve encountered them on 6th street. They approach mainly couples and hand a rose to the lady. If you take it, the guy will pressure your friend (who usually would be male) to pay for it. The catch is that the guy is supposed to pay for it, otherwise he will look like a jerk if you have to return it. Ignore these guys as well AND DO NOT TAKE THE ROSE. DO NOT FEED THE PROBLEM. The first day you might think it is cute but after 4 months you might be willing to buy one of those dumb selfie sticks so you have something to prode these guys away with.How do you get ride of them? Saying “go” usually works best. In Italian you can use any of these phrases. Vai (you go, informal). Vai lontano (you go away, informal). Remember saying no does not work. It’s okay to be rude because… well italians are pretty rude themselves.

-Places to go in Italy

I went to almost every corner of italy, but it is still a rather large country and didn’t manage to hit everything. Besides the typical Rome, Venice, and Florence, I got to experience so much more. Notable CinqueTerre, 5 cities with ancient hiking paths between them and beautiful waters, Naples, not as sketchy as people (plus a lot of good day trips around), Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet, Como, there’s a lake…..

-Travel within Italy

The train is the fastest and easiest way to get around Italy, and even to some neighboring countries. An in-depth explanation of the trains in Italy can be found in my post specifically about the trains in Italy. Make sure you sign up for the loyalty card as soon as you can to get your “under 26 discount.”

There are several bus companies in Italy, the best of them being the Flixbus.

You can fly to some places in Italy, but in most cases the train will, in the end, take just as much time. The only places you really need to fly to are Sardinia and Sicily.

-travel outside of Italy

Unless you are heading to a nearby country, you will want to fly. Flights are super cheap in europe, sometimes as low as 9-euro one way! Check below for some recommended websites.

If you are traveling to France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, or even Croatia or Germany, you can take a bus and/or a train. The easiest train connection are from Milan to Nice (france). There are no trains that go through the alps, so if you want to go to Munich, you’ll have to bus or fly. To get to Slovenia I took a train to venice and then from there a bus to the capital city, Ljubljana. Heading into eastern europe and it gets harder to figure out the train routes and schedules, luckily I was with a local who know just what to do.

-Resources

Some websites I like to use to plan my travels

goeuro.com – search travel options

rome2rio.com – search how to get places (will you need to take a train and then a bus or just 2 trains? etc etc)

skyscanner.com – good for finding flights. Also allows you to choose “everywhere” so you can find the cheapest round trip flights for some weekend

studentuniverse.com – sometimes have even cheaper flights than sky scanner

hostelworlds.com – if you want to book a hostel, this is the best website to check reviews

famoushostels.com – Europe’s Famous Hostels. These are some of the funnest and best deals in Europe. Makes for really good suggestions on where to plan your next trip.

airbnb.com – hotels or hostels can sometimes be pricey, so it’s worth looking into the price of rooms

themilanlife.com – ENGLISH blog about Milan! I didn’t find this until after I left Milan, but glancing through it, there are some great suggestions and tips for making your way through Milan. Best and most important part though… it’s in english. Phew.

The Armani SILOS

I had a friend invite me to go to the “Armani Silos,” yet I had no idea what it was. She said it was the first sunday of the month, so it was free. I couldn’t pass down free, plus it was a good excuse to get out of the house and take a break from studying.

The Armani Silos might as well be known as the Armani Museum. I had no idea what to expect, but I was awestruck. The first floor is a temporary exhibition that at the moment feature photos of athletes in armani sportswear. Most of these were olympic athletes in celebration of the recent Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. The floor was designed with the surface of a running track, even having painted lines to simulate the lanes.

Walking up the stairs we begin to see garments from past Giorgio Armani collections. They were some of the most exquisite, and well-crafted items I have ever seen in person. Most of them were beaded, a laborious task. They had gowns and outfits, accessories, and more from the fashion shows since the birth of the Armani Brand. Check out the gallery below to get a glimpse of what this showcase has to offer.

Traveling in Italy (using metaphors) – Another Rant

Here is another one of my rants on Italy, this time I used a bunch of metaphors and similes. Some of  these metaphors are actually based off of real things, like travelling for an hour and a half and the place you are going to is closed. That happened when we tried to go to Pompeii. Anyways I’ve changed a lot of my thoughts since I wrote this. I’m not always this cynical, just when I’m fed up with frustration. Maybe you can relate.

Traveling in Italy is like driving down the road when all of a sudden a yeti comes and totals your car.

Traveling in Italy is like scoring a touchdown, only to realize the ref called a flag just seconds before you succeeded.

Traveling in Italy is like your boss giving you a raise, but then your house catches fire.

Traveling in Italy is like smelling a beautiful flower, only to realize it is the devils breathe.

Like finding a perfect tinder match, only to learn you are being catfished.

Traveling an hour and a half on a train, only to realize the place you were trying to get to is closed.

Trying to buy a discount card, only to realize you didn’t read the fine print that said you had to be an EU citizen.

Running to the bus because it was on the other side, hopping on just in time, but catching someone’s mucus spit on your backpack.

Buying a nice quality bag, only to realize the supply exceeds the demand and you overpayed.

Every train being delayed, except for the train you arrive a minute late to.

Having your phone company tell you 4G data is free all day, but  getting the edge network (slowest data) 70% of the day.

Getting on the wrong train when your train at the same platform is late, and end up passing your destination and having to retrace your steps.

Asking to try on a pair of shoes a size larger and being told you can’t because they won’t fit your feet, but buying them anyways and then fitting perfect just like you thought.

Traveling in Italy has been really hard. Everything may be going well, but then a curveball is thrown at you and it can ruin your day. We’ve learned to not let everything be ruined, but instead we laugh. We laugh a lot because things are constantly not going as planned. The country is beautiful, but the people are not. The country is rich in history, but has a corrupt and poor economy. Lots of nature, but equally as much pollution (and cigarette smoke). Point is, Italy is not all that and a plate of pasta. It is full of pasta, very good pasta, but the country itself can be defined in one word: Challenging.

Everything is challenging. Whether it is transportation, information, eating at restaurants, finding something open, etc etc etc. The store is never open when you want it to be. The train never comes on time, except when your running late. The internet almost never provides enough information, and your stuck having to fend for yourself and think quick on your feet.

Even the language doesn’t make sense. There may be 20 words for one little thing, but you have to choose the exact word based on where you are, you are are, who the other person is, what your relationship is, what time of day or year, and more. For a foreigner they aren’t too picky, they’re mostly happy to see you trying. Though as a foreigner it can be pretty tricky to try and understand if: A) they are using different words than you know (or are used to), B) they talk fast and complex even after you ask (in Italian) to slow down.

So many people come to Italy and you hear them talk about its beauty and how it was so amazing. There are different kinds of people who travel though, some book tours, others live it out themselves. Those who book tours (both all inclusive and individual ones) typically have an easier time seeing and doing things. Everything is planned, they don’t have to worry about other costs or something going wrong. Those who live it out themselves typically choose to plan things on their own, without the direction of a guide. The latter also typically go more so off the beaten path. The former ends up sticking to touristy things and definitely getting a different experience.

I am the latter. I am stubborn and I like to plan everything myself so I have room for flexibility and exploration. I’ve been on a guided tour of a whole city and it sucked. I felt trapped. I couldn’t explore or spend the amount of time I wanted to at places and not everywhere we went was I interested. I like to experience the real culture, not a fake one that tour guides try to make it out to be. When you live in the rough, you learn to adapt. When you live in Italy, you begin to expect nothing to go the way you planned. That is what I have become. I have let go of my expectations and nothing can surprise me anymore.

I don’t think everyone has the capacity to travel abroad. I’m sure other countries leave people feeling this way, but Italy seems so much more so than all the others I’ve been to. Italy seems to be rough on other travelers I have met along the way. Everything is backwards, people are rude, Sunday is the worst day of the week because everything is closed, and you become an early bird because the only thing to do in Milan after 8pm is go to a club or bar with equally posh Italians who all look 20 years older than their real age because they smoke so much. It’s been really life-changing living in Italy, and traveling abroad in general. I have 2 months left until I go back to the mothership, and I cannot wait. I will go home a new person, with new skills, new knowledge, a new perspective, and knowing everyone who thinks Italy is the greatest place ever…. is wrong and they must not have actually been to Italy.

I think the reason people talk so well of Italy is because they had such an amazing guided tour experience. The country truly is beautiful, and if you are paying the people then they are nice. Otherwise expect to get shorter on your change.

Would I recommend living or studying in Italy? No. Just don’t do it. Visit Italy while you are abroad, but don’t make the mistake in living there. If you really feel so inclined, then be prepared knowing it’s challenging.