Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Places That I Went!


Places That I Will Be Back For!

Cinque Terre
Almafi Coast 

The Luck of the Irish!

One last hurrah of my study abroad experience! I can honestly say that the best was saved for last! This was my favorite trip and favorite place (besides Rome, Rome doesn't count because it became my home). Ireland was definitely on my list of places to go, but I didn't know if my funds would be sufficient to get me there. I knew I would regret it if I didn't go, and I am so glad I did. I can't wait to go back someday. Ireland is exactly how I pictured it, so green and peaceful, and with the friendliest people I have ever met, so happy and jolly. They definitely know how to have a good time. The accents are also very alluring. Then there's the whole singing thing, live music and singers present in every pub. I can see how people fall in love with Irish guys (I might have watched the movie P.S I love you too many times), not to mention Ireland itself! 

Caitie and I left for Ireland on our last Ryan-air flight for awhile on Thursday night (Nov. 29th). We started our Irish experience a little early with a little Jameson whiskey on the plane. We got in pretty late, and headed straight to our hostel because all the pubs we passed were already closed for the night. With only one day in Dublin, we hit the ground running with a tour of the Guinness factory when it opened at 9:30 am. We might have been the first ones in line. The factory is shaped like a giant Guinness glass, and the Guinness in Ireland just tastes so much better in Ireland. After this we headed to Kilmainham Gaol. This jail played an important part in Irish history with many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and executed there by the British. Children were arrested and held there for stealing something as small as bread, or other petty thefts. The youngest prisoner was said to be five years old. Today it is one of the biggest unoccupied gaols in Europe, and rumor has it (by a lady on the tour) that it is the most haunted jail in Europe. Several movies have been filmed at Kilmainham (like The Italian Job, and several others). Touring the jail gave me goosebumps, and seeing the courtyards where the executions took place were especially haunting. After this, we walked around Dublin towards the Temple Bar area in search of the famous Temple Bar where we had the best nachos, some Bulmers, and enjoyed the live bands! After this we said goodbye to Dublin much too soon, but headed on a bus to Galway. When we got to Galway, Caitie and I did a little shopping, and both got Claddagh rings, which originated in the village of Claddagh, a part of Galway City. An interesting fun fact, all Claddagh rings have to be inspected in Dublin, and marked with an engraving inside the band before they can be sold. We spent the night in typical Irish fashion, at the pubs. 

Kilmainham Gaol
at the Guinness Factory, Dublin

bright doors of Dublin
Saturday morning was my favorite day of my study abroad experience- it was no joke- the perfect day. Caitie and I woke up early and walked to Salthill beach, where there is a 2km promenade. It was the perfect start to the day, watching the sunrise over the bay. There was so much seaweed, (and nerdy, I know), but it was the best smell ever! I wish I could have bottled it up and brought it home with me. A light house on an island off the bay was one of the last things that the Irish saw during the potato famine, when they left the country by boat. After this, Caitie and I went on a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. This was without a doubt, the best money we spent in Ireland. Our bus driver was so great, we learned so much as he shared interesting facts with us the whole drive. We had several stops along the way to look at castles, dry stone walls, a famous restaurant for lunch (where we had beef and guinness stew that was to die for!), and to admire one of the largest tomb stones in Ireland. 40 people were excavated from a single tomb. We had exceptionally good weather for the Cliffs, which made it that much more magical. Words cannot even describe, you'll just have to see them for yourself. And if that's not possible, the cliffs do make an appearance in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince & The Princess Bride! That night we joined a "12 Pubs of Christmas Pub Crawl" with some new friends that we met, although we didn't get the memo about dressing in Christmas attire. 

Dungiare Castle
one of the largest tombs in Ireland
Salthill Beach

Cliffs of Moher 
I wasn't ready to go back to Rome home. I can't wait to go back someday. 

So that's all I know for now! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thanksgiving in Madrid!

Hola! (So that’s the extent of the Spanish that I know)

The Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, school provided us with a Thanksgiving dinner, made by our adorable mensa ladies (mensa is Italian for cafeteria). Besides having mashed potatoes, corn, bread, and turkery, we had fresh cranberry sauce, vino of course, and pumpkin ravioli-which is up there on the list of some of the best things that I have eaten while I’ve been here. It was so cute. The tables were arranged into one big table, and you could tell by the decorations that they were trying to make it feel as warm and homey as possible. 

Wednesday morning we left bright and early for Madrid, Spain. It was crazy that we had just gotten back from Venice and Verona, had one day of class and were already packing up to go on our next adventure! Not much down time. Three weekends of traveling in a row is exhausting! But I’m glad we are cramming a lot in here at the end. There’s so much to do and see, but it will make going home just that much more relaxing. 

After landing in Madrid, we headed on a free walking tour of the city. Caitie and I were planning on meeting up with our friends for lunch after, but without cell phones, we weren’t sure how that was going to happen. As fate would have it, while we were walking on our tour, we ran into Rima and Rhythm. We are always just meant to find each other because we always stumble into each other at the best times. They were on their way to the Palace, so we ditched our tour guide and went with them to see the Royal Palace. We did manage to see a couple places on our tour, and we learned some cool stories about Madrid. We saw Plaza Mayor (which is where markets, bullfights, and public executions during the Spanish Inquisition took place), Puerta del Sol, the longest running restaurant in the world, and the original walls of the city. The Palace was stunning and the second largest palace in Europe after the Louvre Palace. It was a shame that we couldn’t take pictures of the inside of it. 

Wednesday night, we got tapas and sangria for dinner, which are like appetizers- delicious. That night we went out for Rhythm’s 23rd birthday! The nightlife is so much different than in Rome, and it’s safe to say that I don’t think I would have been able to handle it for a whole semester if I had studied there. They don’t eat dinner until after nine, don’t hit the bars until after midnight, and don’t get home until the early hours of the morning. It was nice getting so many free drinks for the weekend though, promoters will chase you down and give you free mojitos if you make an appearance at their bar. 

Roommates at SLU and abroad!

Thursday (Thanksgiving) we slept in. For lunch, I had some turkey...on a subway sandwich. Caitie and I met up with Rima and walked around the city, taking in some more sights and doing a little shopping. We saw this really cool temple that was a gift from the Egyptians to Spain. Thursday night we went to a club that had no cover charge for Americans since it was Thanksgiving (holla!). We had a blast and danced the night away. 

Friday during the day, Rhythm and Rima and I went to Retiro Park, which is so beautiful! That night we went to a live Flamenco show with a live band and several dancers. I’m so glad we did this, it was such a cool experience, definitely something to see, and something I never expected to see. 
My Gandhi sisters at Retiro Park 
Flamenco Show 

Saturday, Caitie and I said our goodbyes to our SLU Madrid friends and headed on to our next destination: Lisbon, Portugal. Lisbon was such a fail. It rained the entire time (torrential downpour, not sprinkles) we were there (which was under 24 hours), and we were really unprepared for it. We are all for trooping it, but this was impossible to put up with. The locals said it was really unusual to have rain, but what can you do. We did make it to Belem, which has the “world’s best pastries”. We spent the evening in our hostel relaxing and our hostel provided us with authentic Brazilian food with music and dancing, so that was a fun time. Sunday we flew back Rome home. 

Brazilian Dinner 

It was harder than I thought it would be to be away from family on Thanksgiving, but I’m very thankful that I will be home in time for Christmas. Being with Rhythm and Rima helped too. Just so you are warned, I have a heightened sense of Christmas spirit this year; I’m in the go big or go home mentality with being away from America for so long. 

On Tuesday, Caitie and I shadowed some Roman PT’s at a hospital near our campus called Villa Stuart. It was very similar to home, but this was a private hospital, not a public one. About 10% of Italians go to private hospitals, and 90% go to public hospitals. Shadowing at a public hospital would have probably been a lot different, and interesting to see. But Villa Stuart is a FIFA Medical Center. FIFA has one hospital in every country, and this was where Rome’s was located, so there were lots of soccer players getting treatment. We shadowed a PT who was doing rehab with a Russian tennis player named Vitalia. When we got back to school, we googled her, and she has a wikipedia page and was pretty legit- so that was really cool. We are pretty sure that there were some famous AS Roma team soccer boys there too, but we don’t them well enough to recognize them. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

V is for Venice and Verona!


Last post I left off with telling you about Rima and company's upcoming visit! They (Rima, Caitie's roommate at SLU-Laura, Ross, and Shannon) got into Rome on Thursday morning while Caitie and I were in class. We met up with them Thursday night, and Caitie and I crashed with them in their hostel without getting in trouble. The people that were sharing their hostel room must have been confused to see Rima and I cuddling together in the little hostel bed, but it was nice not having to go back and forth from school to downtown, and it gave us more time together.

Friday night we took them to our favorite restaurant, Il Chiodo Fisso, which is a restaurant that we went to with our school one of the first weeks. It has amazing four cheese gnocchi, which is what everyone got (and loved). We got gelato at Old Bridge, and took them around to our favorite bars, including the chocolate bar!

Saturday we hiked up the Dome of St. Peters. It has 551 steps, but it was so worth it for the view of the Vatican and Rome! We went on a free walking tour with them, and stopped by all of our favorite places, like the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. I know we have actually been learning something in class because Caitie and I knew pretty much everything that our tour guide said on the walking tour, and our friends were pretty impressed I think. They came to visit at a really great time because unfortunately, I think I was starting to get so used to being in Rome that I was taking it for granted a little. Seeing how excited they were to see things made me excited and want to make the most of the time that I have left in this amazing city.

View from the Dome of St. Peter's
Sunday, Rima and I went on a solo date in the morning to the flea markets while the others waited in line to see the Pope speak, and go to church. We had a successful shopping morning at the Porta Portese, which is the weekly Sunday markets in Rome. It's about a mile long row of tents with all kinds of things, which you can get pretty cheap when you barter with them. After this we went to a place called the Secret Keyhole on the Aventine Hill. It's next to the headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which houses the modern Roman Catholic continuation of the Knights of Malta. On a green door, there's a little keyhole that offers a spectacular view of just the Vatican dome framed perfectly in trees. It's definitely off the beaten path, but if you're ever in Rome, it's worth going to. There's also a beautiful orange grove that we walked through on the way back to the metro. We stopped at some other places, the Circo Massimo, which used to be a race track in ancient times, and what visit isn't complete without a visit to the Colosseum. It was a great weekend! Especially knowing that we would see our friends again in two weeks-only this time on their main stomping grounds- in Madrid for Thanksgiving! 


This past Friday, I left for Venice with Caitie, Lynn, Catherine, and Nicole. We flew there, which was cheaper than taking the train. We took a water bus from the airport to the main part of Venice. We didn't know what to expect since we had been hearing that Venice was experiencing the worst flooding it has had in 22 years, even being deadly (the outskirts of Rome have been experiencing some flooding also). There was no flooding in sight, and the only signs of the flood were a couple of platforms that were being put away. So that was a relief, but I was a little disappointed that we missed out on all the excitement. I loved Venice, although a lot of people said they didn't like it, or that it was too touristy. It was just so unique and unlike any city that I had ever seen. There were no cars, even the emergency vehicles were boats. It was pretty touristy, but I didn't mind it. We did a little shopping as Venice is known for it's glass. It's also known for its masks for Carnevale, (or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday). I'm excited to wear mine in St. Louis for Mardi Gras this year =).  Then we took a ride on a gondola! We brought a little bottle of wine, and had a fabulous time. All the other gondola's that we passed were couples, if that tells you anything, but it was well worth the money and something I can check off my Roman bucket list. Our gondola driver refused to sing to us, joking that if he sang, we would fall in love with him, and we were much too young for that.
One strike for Venice is that the food was not very good. We even ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe haha, which we were pretty excited about (I got my hands on a pulled pork sandwich!)
Nicole, Catherine, Lynn, Me, & Catie in Venice

                                                                             the only signs of flooding that we saw-raised platforms

A little hiccup in our travel occurred Friday night. Our friends left for their plane ride back to Rome, and Caitie and I stayed in Venice because we were headed to Verona on a train early the next morning. When we booked the hostel, we kind of forgot that Venice was an island, and we definitely underestimated how big it actually was. The cheapest hostel that we could find was on the main land, but of course we didn't look this up before we booked it. The train station was on the island. So we would have had to take the water bus to the mainland (which would have taken about three hours, not to mention how long it would take to wait for a bus and find our hostel), then turn around and do the same thing again very early because our train was to leave at seven. So Caitie and I decided to just stay on the mainland, walk around Venice at night, and forget about the hostel since that would be cheaper. We did this for awhile, but after we got cold, we had to stop in a bar for some beer to warm up. Then we decided we could just sleep in the train station since we had an early train. But we forgot that the train stations in Italy have open ceilings, so it was just as cold in there as it was outside. We tried to be troopers and made it until around midnight, but then we caved and got a hotel room a block away from the train station. It was a lot cheaper than we were expecting and I'm so glad we did it because a hot shower and a bed felt so nice! Not to mention we got a free breakfast in the morning. So all was good when we got the hotel room. We decided to take a later train to Verona and slept in a little later. We got into Verona around one and headed straight to the Casa di Giulietta (the house of Juliette).

Caitie's mom likes the movie, Letter's to Juliette, and said that she wouldn't let her back in the country if she hadn't made a pilgrimage to Verona (haha). We were expecting to see the letters below the balcony, but all that remained were the wads of gum that held the letters to the wall. They removed the letters because the city is starting to offer wedding packages for people to get married there (just like Vegas), so that was a little sad. There were lots of love locks, and it was very touristy, but we went on the balcony, and rubbed the breast of the Juliette statue for good luck in love. One of the student life assistants (SLA) at our school (they're like our RA's) heard we were going to Verona and told us to climb as high as we could, so climb we did. We found a beautiful overlook of the city, it was breathtaking! Verona felt like a tinier version of Rome, it even had a miniature colosseum. You could definitely feel how old the city was in the buildings though. Caitie and I took the night train back to Rome, and got in at about 6:30 am. It was a successful weekend. I only have one day of class this week and then I'm headed to Madrid, Spain, and Lisbon, Portugal!

Happy Thanksgiving! Eat extra turkey and pumpkin pie for me  =)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Hunger Run to Hungary--Fall Break


Sorry it's been awhile since my last post (Mom, I know you've been waiting not so patiently :) - I've been having a hard time finding time to blog with studying for midterms and Fall break so brace yourself for a long post! 

If you read my last post, you know that I stayed in Rome last weekend (October 12). Friday night a group of us went to an Apertivo, which in Italy is like a "happy hour" with appetizers. You pay a cover and it includes a drink and unlimited appetizers. We went to a place called Fluid, which was uniquely decorated and had really good appetizers!

Saturday, six of us set out to rent vespas. The plan was to take them to a hot springs in Tuscany called Saturnia, which is about three and a half hours away. This plan flopped, which was probably a good thing since I don't know if our vespas would have made it all the way to Tuscany. We ended up taking them to Lake Bracciano, which is closer to Rome. It's one of the major lakes in Italy with black sand, volcanic origins, and really warm water. We made it to the lake right after sunset. I'll spare all the details from the vespa ride (for mom's sake), but it was quite an experience. I'm glad everyone made it back safe. I'm glad that I can check riding a vespa off my Roman bucket list, but it was a little scary riding through Rome with the crazy traffic and crazy drivers. The fact that it was raining didn't help things much. 

Sunday and the rest of the next week was spent studying for midterms. The most un-stressful midterms week that I've ever had, although they were all on the same day. Some girls in my history class were nervous about the midterm and when they asked the professor about it, he said, "don't worry about it. go to the calcio game the night before, and go to beer and pizza afterwards, and you'll be fine". So we'll see!

After such a stressful midterms week (haha), my school gave us a week-long Fall break, in which pretty much everyone travels. Several people stayed in Rome for the whole week, but it was like a ghost town the one night I stayed in the dorms. A lot of people went on school sponsored study trips to Greece or Poland. I would have loved to go on the Greece trip, but it was just too expensive. So I found another way to get myself to Greece. 

Friday, I went on a day trip to Perugia, Italy for the international chocolate festival with my Fall Break travel companions, Marymar and Catherine. Perugia was an unexpectedly beautiful medieval town near Tuscany, about a three and a half hour bus ride away. The chocolate was to die for! All kinds of food, drinks, and other objects made of chocolate. PARADISE! 
Chocolate shots at the Chocolate Festival!

Sunday, I ran the Hunger Run 5K in Rome. Several kids from my school, and several faculty participated. I was a little nervous about it because of how out of shape I am considering my gelato and pasta intake, but it was great! I surprisingly ran the whole thing, and we ran past the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Baths of Caracalla. It was such a beautiful route to run, something I'm not used to when running at home, so it seemed like a lot less than 3 miles. There were fans (and tourists) all along the route cheering us on so that was really cool too. After the race, students from Loyola and other students were invited to the US Embassador David Lane's house for an all-American BBQ with hamburgers, hotdogs, and chips (YUM). We ate on his roof-top patio which had a gorgeous view of the outskirts of Rome, the old wall that lead out of the city, and the Via Appia, which is the street where all the crucifixions took place because they couldn't take place inside the city. We drove on this street and past all the catacombs later Sunday night while heading to the airport to catch our flight to Budapest, Hungary! 

Everyone at JFRC who ran the Hunger Run
The view from our rooftop BBQ at the Ambassador's house 
We got in to Budapest late at night and were met at the airport with a man from the hostel (he had a sign with our names on it- a dream of mine come true haha!). The cheapest hostel we could find turned out to be a dream come true. It was an apartment with free wifi, a kitchen area, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a big balcony, and a bunch of freebies including free bikes to rent! I'm pretty sure it's nicer than the apartment I'm living in for the Spring semester, which made it very hard to say goodbye to after three wonderful nights of spoiled livin'. 

Our first day in Budapest, we spent at the Szechenyi Bath and Spa, which had 16 different rooms of pools and saunas with different minerals, and different temperatures. It was very relaxing and crowded. For dinner we had kebabs. So good! That night we checked out the night-life. Budapest is known for it's ruin clubs, which have old, random pieces of furniture as decorations. Like bathtubs instead of chairs and couches. The Hungarians have their own, unique style of dancing in clubs, haha it was very strange. I couldn't stop laughing at them. I'm sure they were laughing at me too though. 

Szechenyi Bathhouse 
Tuesday, we took our rental bikes around the city. The bikes were free, but were incredibly squeaky and loud. Everyone would stare at us as we squeaked through the city. Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It is divided into two parts, Buda and Pest, split by the Danube River. We biked to some famous monuments including the Chain Bridge, the Parliament building, the Castle, and Fisherman’s Bastion. We definitely got quite a workout and we had beautiful weather the second day. Tuesday night we hung out at the apartment. We actually watched a re-run of the Presidential Debate because we were so starved for English speaking TV, and that was the only channel in English. We went out for dinner at a nice restaurant close to our apartment to try some traditional Hungarian food. I had goulash, and chicken wrapped in bacon, which were both delicious. You know how much I love my bacon, and I very seldom see it in Rome. 

Wednesday morning, we went on a free walking tour of Budapest. It was freezing this day, and silly me, I forgot a jacket. It suddenly felt like winter and snow, when it hasn’t even felt like Fall yet in Rome. Budapest was great because it had a lot of free things to take advantage of, or things were a lot cheaper than in Rome. They use a different currency, forinths. These Hungarian are crazy, 1000 forinths are equal to about 3.5 euros. Thank goodness I have a currency app on my phone or I would have been so confused about the ratio. It still felt weird to spend 950 forinths on a coffee, it seemed like so much, when actually it was cheaper than Rome. (Mom, I finally got my first Christmas ornament!)Even though Hungary is part of the European Union, they aren’t ready to switch over to the Euro yet economically. Our tour guide said it could be 20-30 more years before that happens. 

Our impression of the Hungarian people (besides being strange dancers) is that everyone was very nice and eager to help us, but the people seem to be more sullen, sad, and more poor than the people of Italy. Our tour guide explained that the Hungarians have a more pessimistic attitude because of all the oppression they have experienced throughout their history. They were constantly on the losing side of every war, and had to rebuild physically, but also emotionally after all the devastation they experienced. We were there on their big national holiday that celebrated the anniversary of their revolution from the Soviets. There was a massive anti-government protest going on downtown. After our tour we walked around the city for a little longer before catching our plane. We got back to school around eleven at night, repacked our bags for Thessaloniki, and went to bed. 

We had to leave school at seven to catch our flight. Before even getting to the airport, we had a lot of traveling to do. From school, we have to catch a bus, to catch the metro, to catch the shuttle, to catch the plane. We did this all back to back Tuesday night to get back to school and Wednesday morning to get to Greece. It was weird that we were doing everything twice in less than 12 hours, so we were a little tired when we got to Thessaloniki. But, we almost didn’t make it to Thessaloniki. Our shuttle from Rome to the airport’s door broke. By the time we got a new shuttle, we were stuck in morning traffic. Everyone on the bus was pissed off at the driver and shuttle company. Talk about Italians being passionate, they sure are when they are angry. But we made it to the airport, and luckily we made our flight. We would have missed it had we been 15 minutes later. The flight went smoothly. After finding and checking into our hotel, (Hotel Atlantis), we walked around the city. Thessaloniki was bigger than I was expecting, although everywhere we needed to go to was within walking distance (except for the airport, and the beach). Thessaloniki’s on a port, and the apartments reminded me of Rome. We caught our first Greek sunset Thursday night at the harbor, which was beautiful. We had gyros for dinner. I absolutely love them! Thursday night we went to some bars along the harbor. 

The night life in Thessaloniki is great because it’s a college town, so most of the crowd was our age. Because of all the riots about the economy that have happened in Thessaloniki, we didn’t want to tell people we were American because it might have made us a target for pickpockets, so we pretended we were from London for the weekend. This was a little hard for me because I’m not the best liar on my toes, but good thing I had Marymar and Catherine with me haha. And it’s a good thing Marymar had traveled to London a couple weeks ago when we ran into some actual people from London who had a lot of questions for us. Haha what are the chances!

We spent Friday at the beach, which was about a 45 minute bus ride. The water was a little too chilly to swim in, but it was a sunny day and perfect for laying in the sun in a swimsuit. We ate lunch with our toes in the sand on a restaurant on the beach! I had a REAL Greek salad and some Greek seafood. Delicious. The feta cheese was to die for. For dinner we went to an outdoor restaurant with live music. There was some Greek dancing and glass throwing (OPA!). 

Saturday was rainy, so we went on a bus tour of Thessaloniki, and learned a lot about it. We did a little shopping afterwards although a lot of stores were closed because coincidently we were there on Thessaloniki’s national holiday also. Who knew haha. 

Sunday we packed up and headed back to Rome. Even though I didn’t see or ride a donkey, I loved Greece. I can’t wait to go back someday and see more of it, especially the more touristy parts, where all my friends that went on the Greece trip went to, like Athens and Santorini. 

Arch of Roman Emperor Galerius 
I’d say my Fall break was really successful. Marymar and Catherine and I got along really well traveling together for 10 days. It was weird not knowing any Hungarian or Greek, and I can’t say that I picked any of it up haha, especially Hungarian because it’s a bizarre language. It’s a non-indo European language with over 40 letters in it’s alphabet, compared to about 26 in most languages. It was interesting that I noticed a lot of similarities between the two places that I went to, and also similarities to Rome. Both places had national holidays while we were there, both were a lot cheaper than Rome, and both had Starbucks, unlike Rome. Both were part of the ancient Roman empire, and Thessaloniki had some actual ancient Roman ruins still remaining. Both places had bath-houses influenced by the Turks, and really cheap flights from Ryan-air! Haha both were luckily graced with our presence for Fall Break too =) 

So back to Rome. Sunday, I was sweating around running a 5K, and when I get back the next Sunday, it’s definitely Fall in Rome. By law, our school isn’t allowed to turn the heat on in buildings until November 1st, so thankfully we only had two days of cold in our building. Last night we had our school Halloween party, and tonight’s Halloween calcio.

I’ll be staying in Rome this weekend, playing tour guide to some friends from Madrid!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 11, 2012



First things first let me catch up where I left off. Wednesday the 26th classes were cancelled so we could attend the papal audience in St. Peter's Square. Caitie and I had a rough start to our morning after being sick, but we rallied because we didn't want to miss the pope! Our seats were pretty good actually. Less than twenty rows in front of him. I could see his little white hat bobbing and his arm outstretched so I would say that's a success. He gave a shout out to "all the students here from Loyola University Chicago studying in Rome" and gave us a blessing, along with our friends and family.

Thursday night, a group of us went to a place that everyone around here calls "the harry potter bar" because they have shots that are named after Harry Potter characters. I promised Michel, Caleigh, and Ashley that I would find the bar and take a shot for them since they adore Harry Potter as much (if not more than I do). Caitie and I had the "harry potter" shot. It had cinnamon and was lit on fire!

Saturday we spent the day at Borghese Park, which is like Central Park in NY. It's huge! We only saw a small part of it, but it was very pretty and I definitely can't wait to go back. Saturday night we intended on going to a reggae and dub-step party, but on the way, we ended up in a club called Mood.

We got up early Sunday morning in search of the flea markets in Trastevere. We never found them haha, but we're hoping to this Sunday.

Tuesday, October 2nd was my first tutoring session with my nine-year-old pupil, Sara. Her mom, Tania met me at my school and we walked to pick Sara up from her school. She gets out of class at 4:20 and I walk her to her piano lessons at 5 while practicing English with her. She is so adorable. She doesn't know much English yet, and was very shy the first day, but that was okay because I was a little nervous about it too. Sara is going to be trilingual at the age of 10! She already speaks Italian and Croatian (her mom is Croatian and her dad is from Rome), and she's been playing the piano for years. Such a little stud. She loves the song "Payphone" haha, and I'm going to introduce her to some more English songs (Justin Bieber anyone?).

Wednesday was my first exam. Time to start putting the "study" in study abroad. My test was for my Art in Rome class and I think it went pretty well. Wednesday night was calcio. My orange team continued our domination with a win.

Thursday, October 4th, I went to the Premio America, which is an awards ceremony that celebrates the relationship between to America and Italy. It was held in their state official building, so that was pretty cool. Italian vogue director, Franca Sozzani got an award. And the real reason I went is because Andrea Bocelli got an award! As we were walking out to leave, he was waiting for his limo, and no big deal, but I was about 2 feet away from him! If his car hadn't come so soon, I'm pretty sure I would have been able to get a picture with him. For those who don't know, he's a famous opera singer. You should probably google him haha. Afterwards, Caitie, Marymar and I went out for pizza, wine, and gelato. Just a typical night in Rome =)

Friday morning, we left bright and early on the train for Napoli on the way to the island of Ischia. After the train ride, we hopped on a ferry to the island. I did not like what I saw of Naples. I already had a bad impression of it from what people at school had said about it: dirty, and smelly. This was spot-on. They don't have dumpsters or trashcans so there's trash everywhere. My fifteen minutes in Naples was more than enough, I'm really glad we don't have a trip planned there, because I don't think it'd be worth it. But the ferry ride of Naples from afar was very pretty. We stayed at a bed and breakfast, right on the port of Ischia. There were about 15 of us who went on the trip. 3 of the boys were scuba certified so our dives were separate from theirs.We wet-suited up when we got there around 1. Our first dive was in shallow water, about up to our necks. We learned all the basic stuff and got used to all the equipment. It was a little difficult the first day, especially since our instructors spoke very broken English. It was also weird having weights wrapped around your waist to hold you down, a big tank of oxygen on your back, and having to think and remember to breath like normal into the tank. After our practice dive, we all went to dinner together and then went out that night on the town with our scuba instructors. The nightlife in Ischia was pretty quiet since summer's over and it's the off-season.

Saturday, us girls got up early and went shopping along the main drag. Everything was pretty expensive, but Ischia is known for its ceramics (and lemons), so I got a couple little souvenirs. We met our instructors around 2 for our second dive. We boated to the Baia di Cartaromana, which was absolutely incredible. I was a little nervous, but my second dive went so much better than the first time, I didn't need to come up above the water at all. I realized how mental scuba diving is. It's also a little exhausting haha. We were about 20 feet deep for 30-35 minutes and saw some fish, coral, and starfish. It's a whole different world under there. The scuba certified boys got to go into some caves and saw barracudas, and octopuses. I'm so glad I went, and tried it. I would definitely do it again.
Saturday night we went exploring a couple bars in Ischia.
Sunday morning we went in search of some sand beaches, but didn't have time to make it there before catching the ferry, so we climbed on some rocks, hopped on the ferry, and made it home around 9.

This past Tuesday night, we went salsa dancing in a part of Rome called Testacchio. I have never been salsa dancing before, but it was so much fun!

Wednesday night was of course, calcio. Orange team is ranked number one and we won again (3-2)! Not to brag or anything but I scored our first goal of the game.

So that's all I know. I'm staying in Rome this weekend to study for midterms next week.
Sending lots of love!