Studying In Rome: Week One

Studying In Rome: Week One

Well, not studying yet, but still learning

As surreal as it feels, this Monday marks one week since I left home to spend the next four months studying in Rome. It feels like I just got here yesterday after leaving New York behind with my dad, carting four bags between us. The two of us have spent this week experiencing Italy for the first time while I went through orientation at John Cabot University, feeling like a freshman again.

Our flight left in the afternoon, last Monday, and the trip took close to 12 hours. It was my first time leaving North America, so it was also my first flight over water. Without human life beneath us as we passed over the ocean, the night brought complete darkness. I had almost given up on seeing anything from my window seat when I realized that without the light of the world's cities and towns over the ocean, every star was beginning to come out. As tired as I was, I spent hours staring out the window, watching the sky light up.

Our flight stopped in Paris for an hour, so we had just enough time to get through customs and grab a croissant. Not completely unsurprisingly, an airport croissant in France is 10 times better than any other croissant I've ever had. The flight from France to Rome also gave us complimentary croissants, though they were kind of cold and soft. The flight was short, though, and we landed in Rome around 9 a.m. (or 3 a.m., our time). The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the airport were the surrounding palm trees -- always a good sign when leaving an airport -- and that the sun was bright and warm. It became a little easier to be away from home.

That first day was spent exploring Rome and sitting in a hotel fighting jet lag. We walked through Trastevere and then crossed the Tiber at night, hoping to find some ruins. It turns out that ruins are scattered throughout the area, right in the middle of walkways and shops. We almost walked straight past Largo di Torre Argentina, where Caesar was stabbed, and ended up walking along the side of the Pantheon without realizing it until we had stepped directly in front of it. One of my favorite parts? Even though you're standing right in the middle of a city, the lights are not enough to blot out the stars. We could still see them scattered above the Pantheon and over the square.

The next morning was spent checking in at the school, getting my ID photo taken, and getting my new apartment keys. The apartment is on Viale di Trastevere, a main road about a 20 or 25 minute walk from each of the school's campuses. We took the scenic route through Trastevere's crisscrossing cobblestone streets, winding past churches and restaurants and little shops. By this point, it was the afternoon, so I figured I might find at least one roommate waiting, but I ended up arriving to an empty apartment. The first thing to catch my eye was the blue tile terrace that looks out on pine and palm trees and colorful homes and buildings cluttered over the hill across the street. The rest of the apartment is pretty spacious and open -- definitely enough to house seven girls, even though the seventh has not made an appearance yet. As the first in the apartment, I got first choice of the beds, so I grabbed one in the quad and started unpacking. I ended up meeting roommates as early as a few hours later to as late as the following night, until they'd finally assembled into a group of amazing and funny girls whom I can't wait to spend the next four months with.

Our orientation and exploring with my roommates and dad have brought me to various places throughout Rome, finding good food and ancient ruins, and I've still only seen pieces of it. I've had handmade pasta and seen the Roman Forum, learned how to actually say "bruschetta" and walked to the Colosseum. The city is huge, but small enough that the idea of walking never seems all that daunting. Classes start on Monday, my first being a figure drawing class and a class on writing about Rome, and even though I'm still a little jetlagged and missing home, I'm actually excited to make that 25 minute walk when the day comes.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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I'm A Midwestern Girl With Big City Dreams

The first time that I visited the city, I felt like that was where I belonged.

College is a time in everyone’s life where people are thinking about and planning for their future. As I think heavily about my future and dream job, there is one thing that I will never forget: where I came from.

Growing up in small-town Iowa has been the greatest blessing. Everyone knew me, and I knew them. I loved being able to play and run around our spacious backyard. The free-ness of driving down gravel roads with the windows down and feeling the warm summer breeze.

I never had to worry about our neighbors being too loud, or waking up in the middle of the night because of sirens or honking horns. My hometown community was very supportive and I felt the love and sense of belonging every time I stepped foot on the field or in the classroom. I wouldn't have wanted to grow up any other way.

However, the first time that I visited a large city, I felt like that was where I belonged. Driving into Chicago for the first time and seeing the large buildings was mesmerizing. I longed to explore the depths of this large, mysterious place. Something about the rush and the busyness of the city made me feel at home. I knew right away that I could see myself living in a place like this someday.

Unfortunately, our occasional trips to the city are way too short. Since my first visit, I've dream about living in a small, cozy downtown apartment and waking up every day to the excitement of the city. Sipping my coffee and staring out my window at the bustling streets and non-stop activity. I long for daily walks down the sidewalk, passing by store windows and seeing the unique styles of clothing everywhere I look.

The city always has something to do, and the size makes me feel a part of something much bigger than myself. Growing up, my friends and family always described me as a "city girl," and living in the city seemed to fit my style, personality, and dreams.

Don't get me wrong — I loved everything about my childhood and how I was raised. In fact, I don’t think that I would appreciate the city and all that it has to offer if it wasn’t for my country roots. The city was something completely different from my life in Iowa, and that is why it excites me so much.

I am confident that my Midwestern values will serve me well in the future. My roots will most definitely follow me, and don't be surprised if you catch me jamming to country music while strolling the streets of New York City someday.

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

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5 Places You Must See The First Time You Visit Anchorage

Check out a few of my favorite Alaskan sites.

About a month ago, I went to Anchorage, Alaska for the first time with my fiance. We spent four days bouncing around the city and trying to see as much as we could. We had the time of our lives. These are just a few of the highlights from our trip, and I think absolutely everyone needs see all of these places the first time they visit Anchorage.

1. The Anchorage Museum.

The Anchorage Museum was by far our favorite place that we went on this trip. We loved how the museum blended historical information with modern displays, and we definitely spent more time than we should have in playing with all of the interactive elements in the "discover" section. Plus, standing in front of the museum makes for a picture-perfect pose:

2. The Mount Baldy Trailhead.

This is definitely more for those who enjoy being in the outdoors, but we had a blast hiking up Mount Baldy. The trail is technically in Eagle River, which is about half an hour outside of Anchorage, but it's worth the drive. When we went, it was extremely icy and slippery, but every step we took rewarded us with amazing views and awesome memories. The icy conditions kept us from making it to the top, but we're hoping to try again on a summer trip in the future.


3. The Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall/The Midnight Sun Cafe.

We spent a good amount of time at the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall picking up souvenirs and presents. The mall had everything from adorable Alaskan gift shops like Once in a Blue Moose to your basic Bath and Body Works. We also really loved The Midnight Sun Cafe, a little local restaurant that is located right underneath the sky bridge to the mall. We dipped into the cafe several times and we loved everything we tried from their Mexican hot chocolate to the casual sandwiches and chips they served.

4. 49th State Brewing Co.

This was our favorite restaurant we tried in Anchorage. They have a really great atmosphere and awesome food. My fiance tried their yak burger and I had a really awesome crabby grilled cheese and seafood chowder. This restaurant was a bit pricier than most of the other places we dined at in Anchorage, but it was worth every penny.

5. The Moose's Tooth Pub & Pizzeria.

My runner up for favorite restaurant is the Moose's Tooth. This is just a casual pizza joint, but we had a great time hanging out here, and I really enjoyed the Chicken Parmesan pizza I got. It probably wasn't the most amazing pizza in the world, but it is definitely a step above Domino's or Pizza Hut. It's fun and silly to go somewhere that was so stereotypical Alaskan.

Enjoy your trip!

Cover Image Credit: Tommy Tang

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