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Italy 2012: Raeanna Doyle

5/8/12

Ciao! Well, the time has finally come! With finals being over, moving out completed, an internship landed, and a few shifts during Berkshire week out of the way I can finally focus on what I’ve been waiting for! I depart Omaha tomorrow at 1:40 p.m. and begin the journey to Rome, Italy!

I have been preparing for this study abroad program in many ways. Getting packed was only one of many tasks that I have been battling to complete before departure. It took many shopping trips to finally feel like I had just what I need, however I’m not sure I’ll ever feel totally prepared :) In addition, I have been preparing for this trip in a different way. I bought a few books about historical buildings in Italy, including Brunelleschi’s dome and the Tower of Pisa. I will be presenting on the tower when we visit Pisa!

I have also been reading up on Italian culture. I know through this reading that social norms and daily practices can be very different in Italy than here in the U.S. Obviously the language spoken there is Italian, so I watched YouTube videos to familiarize myself with simple Italian phrases and pronunciation techniques. I am expecting that the language barrier could be challenging, so I bought a phrase book and downloaded a translation app for my iPhone. I’m excited to visit a place where English is not their national language!

The course that the program counts for is history of architecture. Since I am a civil major, this course isn’t required, but I find it to be a very interesting topic and of course a unique experience! An online journal is required for this course, and I think this will be a great way to document my time abroad. So I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get much sleep tonight. I still have some packing to do, so I’ll only be thinking about Italy for the rest of my time here!

5/9/12

We made it to Rome! Traveling was long and uncomfortable, but definitely worth it. We departed Omaha at 1:40 p.m. Tuesday and arrived in Charlotte at about 5 p.m. their time. That flight wasn’t too bad, minus the part that I hit my head pretty hard standing up to leave the plane. We had a very short layover and we were on our way to Rome. The plane was huge. I was in a middle seat next to Nate and a guy who was also participating in a study abroad program from a different university. We were served a meal on the plane, and when I was trying to put ranch on my salad, the ranch decided to explode. It landed mostly on Nate and I couldn’t stop laughing. I was very clumsy. Also, I snapped the plug in to my headphones. That wasn’t very graceful of me either. We eventually made it though so I am grateful.

We took a shuttle from the airport to hotel Mimosa. It took at least an hour (or so it felt) to reach the hotel. One of my first impressions of Rome is that the driving is crazy. Aggressive is a popular driving style here! The buildings are all so old and beautiful. There are so many monuments all over within a short distance from one another. Our hotel is on the second floor of a building. It is small, but seems reasonably nice.

After checking in, we were all very hungry. We set out to find some lunch. It was an eye opening experience. There were people everywhere. We finally settled on a pizzeria where we paid by weight of our slice. I got some pizza that had bacon on it. It definitely hit the spot. Finally, after getting a little confused on our way back, we made it to the hotel and I slept for a while since I got literally no sleep on the plane. When I woke up, we got ready to go find dinner. We ended up eating at a small restaurant outside near our hotel. I got a margherita pizza which was awesome. Already have eaten pizza twice, so I guess it’s a good thing that I LOVE it. The rest of the group should be arriving tomorrow. We have to check out of our room here and then check back in a little later. This should give us time to explore and eat lunch. Hopefully we will all be more well rested than today! I am excited to start the program here and see all there is to see

5/10/12

Today started at 10 a.m. when we checked out of the hotel. We decided to take a map and just start walking around Rome. We ended up walking an hour and fifteen minutes at least in one direction. We passed by the Pantheon (which is super close to our hotel), the Spanish steps, and many other monuments we weren’t completely able to identify. After walking a while, we ended up in a wealthy mobbish looking part of town -gated driveways, nice cars, people in suits.

The amount of people walking around Rome was surprising! Again, the driving was crazy, but we are getting used to it. When we finally decided to turn around, we had to look for a familiar landmark that we could easily find on our map. We found one – Termini station. We headed back toward there and on our way stopped for our first gelato experience. I had two flavors, strawberry and melon. The strawberry was so good! After enjoying that little break, we wound our way in and out of the curved streets with names that all sound alike. In some of the busier areas there were people trying to sell roses and toys. I’m getting good at ignoring them after today!

We arrived back at the hotel around 2:30 and found that many of our fellow classmates had arrived. For a while, Kate and I sat in the Nates’ room and talked until our meeting at 6. It was a brief meeting and right after we headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. We split up between two tables and ordered our meals. I had fettucine with basil tomato sauce. It was delicious! The restaurant gave each of our tables a bottle of wine on the house. That was quite good as well. After, we got gelato and Dr. Erdogmus generously covered the cost. I had lemon and mixed berry. Wonderful! (since we walked a million miles, I figured i would act like I didn’t have gelato already today). We also picked up a picnic lunch for tomorrow. That should be good.

When we got back, a group of eight of us went out to see the Trevi fountain. It was beautiful at night. I threw a coin in as is the tradition there. If you throw a coin in over your shoulder, it means you will come to Rome again some day. Next we again went to the Spanish steps. Then we visited other landmarks, including the twin domes. We walked a lot once again tonight. It was really fun though and it was nice to meet some of the other students! Tomorrow, the program starts. We are meeting at 7:30 a.m. I am going to call it a night, since it’s already after 11.

5/11/12

Although it is now Saturday, this post will be about our first day of the program which was yesterday. We had a 7:30 a.m. start for breakfast and left the hotel a little past 8. Our first destination was the Colosseum. What an awesome sight to see! We were given a good amount of time to explore the Colosseum, and we were encouraged to sit down and sketch. I wanted to sketch only a portion of the building, but I ended up sketching a panorama-like view (it just happened). It’s crazy to think about the engineering that went into the creation of the Colosseum and also how it was a gathering place for so many citizens to be entertained by the events that happened there.

After the Colosseum, we saw the Arch of Constantine. This arch portrayed the victory at the Battle of the Milanian Bridge. It also shows aspects of the change to Christianity from Pagan reliious beliefs. Next, we went to the Palatine. This is a large hill that is said to be the starting location of Rome. It is one of Rome’s 7 hills. We stopped here and had a picnic style lunch. Every two people shared prosciutto, olives, bread, salami, cheese, and sun dried tomatoes. This was a very nice experience because we got to relax and enjoy a decent view of the Colosseum.

After lunch, we moved on to the Roman Forum. A lot of this is very damaged, but the remaining structures give you some insight into what it used to be like. It was a market place and there was even a location where people came to practice their right to freedom of speech. There were a couple of museums associated with this location, and we went through them both. (All of this sightseeing included so many stairs.. I think my quads are going to be huge by the time this trip is over). The museums concluded our program for the day.

We were given a time to be ready for our first group four course dinner. We went to a restaurant nearby. We were served water and bruschetta first. I have got to say, the tomatoes are really growing on me. Next, we were served a pasta dish called noodles with pepper and cheese. It tasted basically like the name sounds. It was very good. All of our dishes were traditional Roman dishes. Our second course was a meat dish with gravy served with potatoes, peas and carrots, abd salad. I forgot what the Italian name for this dish was, but Dr. Erdogmus said it translated to “jump in my mouth.” It was delicious. Finally, we had dessert. This was basically a cream puff covered in chocolate mousse. It was a great way to end the meal!

After dinner, a few of us headed to a Piazza and watched various artists paint. The area was very beautiful at night. Next, we went to Campo di Fiori, which is a popular night spot around our area. We sat at a bar there for just a little while. It was a good time and gave us a chance to hang out and relax while experiencing some of the night life. That pretty much sums up the first day. We were extremely exhausted by the end of the day.

5/12/12

Today was another early morning as we set out to see another part of the city. Our first stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. This is such a beautiful building with so much history. Just looking around the area was a unique experience in itself. Right away you could see some of the 140 statues of saints that line the building. I was not completely expecting the basilica to be as huge as it is. It was astonishing really. Every single part of the basilica seemed to be somehow covered in an art form of a sort. Part of it was blocked off because there was a service in session. We were supposed to get to climb the dome before we headed to the Vatican, but three of the guys were way late for our meeting time, so we were unable to fit it in. Let’s just say people were not too thrilled with this.

The Vatican museum was enormous. There were so many statues in it that I could not come close to keeping track of what they were. So many of the statues were missing heads or different limbs. We walked through many rooms with different paintings. The styles were very similar. There was a ton of people in the museum, so it was kind of hard to take our time going through the various rooms. Eventually, we made it into the Sistine Chapel. This is such an amazing place. Michelangelo’s paintings are spectacular. There is so much happening in all of the different parts of the painting.

After we finally made our way through all of the museum, we walked to a place for lunch. It was a nice little place and it was a great break from another day on our feet. We ended our day with a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo. This was used as a defensive structure. We could even see cannons on our climb to the top of the castle. The view at the top was amazing. We could see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. Dr. Erdogmus pointed out that there is a wall that extends from the castel to the Vatican. To be honest, being up so high made me a little uneasy, but it was definitely worth the view.

Back at the hotel, a couple of us took a break by playing Pitch, a card game. This is how we spent our time before we got ready for dinner. Ten of us found a good restaurant near the Trevi Fountain. Let’s just say the food was great and so was the wine, but the bill may have surprised us just a little bit. I tried pesto and tiramisu – both fantastic. After, we went to the Trevi Fountain again. We talked to some American students there, which was semi interesting. We left there and hung out near the Pantheon. It was a pretty funny time. Now we are back at the hotel getting ready to go to bed for another early morning tomorrow!

5/13/12

Today was a good day. We started off by going to the Pantheon. While waiting for it to open for the day, we sat down and sketched part of the building. My sketch turned out surprisingly well compared to my attempt at the Colosseum. Once I stepped foot into the Pantheon, I was instantly in awe. The dome is the 2nd largest at about 142′ in diameter. We spent a decent amount of time in there until our next stop, Campo de Fiori.

Among our other destinations today were the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popollo, and a DaVinci Museum. This museum had models built based on his plans he created long ago. It was a pretty cool place and not very big at all.

We went to a place recommended by Dr. Erdogmus for lunch. It was a pizza place that we were able to eat at for 3 euros each. I enjoyed the pizza a lot. Since the last church for the day didn’t open until 3:30, we were able to go back to the hotel for a while and rest our feet a little bit since we did so much walking.

The church we went to see was right near the hotel. From the outside it didn’t look like much, but the inside was very beautiful. It is gothic style architecture with some additions of Baroque from later on. I really enjoyed looking around and appreciating the style. This concluded our scheduled program for the day

For dinner, we sat outside and ate our meals. I ordered spaghetti with some sort of tomato sauce, and it hit the spot. After, we didn’t want to head back to the hotel right away, so we went to meet up with another part of our group at Piazza Navona, but we never found them. Instead, we stood and listened to various musicians. The first was a duo of an electric violin player and a guitar player. A lot of people were listening and there were some characters to say the least. The other musician was playing an electric guitar. It was a nice atmosphere. It was kind of funny because both of the different musicians at some point played Hotel California. Everyone just loved it. We headed back for the night after the weather started becoming pretty chilly. Here, we played a game of cards and talked and now I’m journaling and thinking about sleep. Tomorrow is our scavenger hunt, so that should be interesting!

5/14/12

Monday morning, we all met in the lobby of the hotel at 8:30 to begin our scavenger hunt. This was kind of a way to go around the city applying what we have learned and hoping we were heading in the right direction. The group was split up into five groups of four people. My group consisted of Ariel, Sean, Adam, and me. All of the teams were give a paper with six clues on it. They were riddles that contained information about a spot we visited earlier in the week. They asked for specific types of pictures of these. It was a race that some groups took competitively and ran the whole time. Our group only ran for a little bit of it. To start out, we were given a clue about Campo de Fiori. It asked us to take a picture of the statue of Bruno located at the center. Our next clue pointed us in the direction of Area Sacra. Since the cats of Rome live here, naturally we were asked to get a picture of one. Then, we were given a clue about the church we visited near our hotel. We were to take a picture of the gothic style ribbed architecture of the ceiling. Finally, we had our longest trek to Trajan’s column and the Colosseum. We got a picture of the column and a sewer cover with SPQR (senate and people of Rome) on it. We took a picture of an ionic column on the Colosseum and a group picture in front of it. Finally we headed back to the hotel. We did not win, but it was still a fun activity. I thoroughly enjoyed working quickly to solve the riddles and find our way around the city.

The rest of the day was a free day. Seventeen of us decided to go back to St. Peter’s and climb the dome. This was an amazing experience. There are so many stairs up to the top and very narrow pathways. I felt claustrophobic at times, especially when the walls became curved due to the dome structure. Some staircases were spiral and steep. When we finally made it to the top, it took me a few minutes to recuperate and look off the edge. The view was breathtaking. Although it made me extremely nervous to see people so confidently leaning on the railing, I was able to relax and enjoy the view. Again, we were amazed by the beautiful city of Rome.

After climbing back down, we went through the basilica again. There was some sort of procession passing through with a bunch of people singing a song that sounded sort of sad. I have no idea what they were saying, but the feeling it gave off was interesting and slightly eerie. I forgot to mention that before we went anywhere, we all stopped at the market for lunch. I got a salami panini and s fresh fruit cup. We all were definitely pleased with our choice of lunch because of the great value. As with everywhere we went, there’s always vendors trying to get your attention to sell you strange toys, roses or sunglasses.

We headed back to the hotel after St. Peter’s. We rested a little, then went to dinner. It was a smaller group of people and we went to a restaurant where I had a vegetable pizza. I found out that I love eggplant on my pizza. The rest of the night was funny. A group of us went walking around Rome for probably three hours. We saw the Colosseum all lit up which was awesome. I really like the feeling of Rome at night because it seems like people are really enjoying theirselves. Actually, as I’m writing this, I can hear loud singing coming from a group of people. Time to write about the next day, our final day in Rome!

5/15/12

Tuesday was our last day in Rome. Dr. Erdogmus had scheduled lectures and a tour of the university Sapienza in Rome for us. We walked to the university campus where engineering students study at around 8:30. There, we met with a professor at the university. She was a very friendly lady with a lot of interesting information. First, we started by listening to lectures from her and two other women who performed research. The projects they have worked on sounded very interesting. These included robustness assessment, energy harvesting, fire safety, and structural safety to name a few. Of particular interest to me was the work regarding damage due to foundation settlements. In some areas, these were caused by building on former locations of rivers. This is related to why the tower of Pisa leans, so I was interested to hear about it. I am becoming more and more interested in soil, as strange as that may sound. It’s probably a good thing though since my internship will deal a lot with that type of work.

After lectures, we got a little tour of the building. We were told that facilities aren’t the best for the university. Sometimes students have to wait a long time before they can find a place to study. This is really odd because we are not used to that at all back home. Also, the tuition is around 2000 euro a year. This is hard to believe, but the lack of facilities may be explained by this somewhat. The students at the university were all very well dressed unlike at UNO where there’s a big mixture. You don’t ever see sweatpants being worn by Italians unless they’re exercising. I am not used to this at all!

We took a lunch break at a snack bar outside the building. I had some type of panini which I didn’t enjoy much at all. It wasn’t horrible though since it was a little break at least. I enjoy socializing with everyone and just taking in the experience of being in Italy.

Next, we took the metro to the other campus. This was pretty cool and a different experience than we had before. It was a very short ride. So many people seemed to be using the metro, which is really cool as I don’t think we utilize/have good public transportation systems in the U.S., especially not Nebraska. There are over 140,000 students at the university. This is a crazy amount! We walked through a green area where students were everywhere. We were kind of being stared at a lot, which was pretty funny. It’s always funny to hear people make comments in Italian about Americans. I’m not sure if they think we don’t hear them or what, but it isn’t a rare experience.

After spending a short amount of time on campus, we headed back to the metro and back to the hotel. A group of us decided that we would go back to the restaurant that we loved from a couple of nights before. We had the house wine, which was delicious. I ordered a dish called corsara, which was spaghetti with a red sauce with tomatoes, shrimp, and pepper. I loved it. I had a lot of fun at this dinner. On our way back, we stopped and some had gelato. We also bought a bottle of limoncello. We tried it back at the hotel and it was very tasty. Then I joined some of the guys and watched Gladiator with them. Well, actually I fell asleep and got teased about snoring a little bit. Oops! Finally I went to bed and packed up since we were to leave Rome the next morning!

5/16/12

Tuesday was the day we traveled to Florence! We checked out of the hotel in the morning and said our goodbyes to Rome. Dr. Erdogmus got cabs for our trip to Termini station. I don’t know how exactly people are okay with driving as crazy as they do here. I pretty much had to close my eyes a couple of time as we squeezed our way through traffic.

Once we made it to the station, we were missing a cab full of some of the guys. We were planning to take a 9:30 train out of Rome, but we ended up having to get tickets for a 10:45 train. The station was very busy and full of travelers with suitcases. We huddled all of our stuff together so we could keep a close watch on it. When we finally found The missing guys, they told us they were just on the other side of the station. That relieved some stress for the group. Some of us went inside to check which platform we were departing from, which ended up being #1. While we were waiting, it was just Dr. Erdogmus and I for a few minutes. Some lady came up to us and asked if we needed help. That was the first sketchy feeling encounter I had in Rome and it kind of hit me that there definitely are people trying to take advantage of tourists.

We joined the others and boarded our train. The train ride was cool. We were facing the back of the train, which felt weird but the views outside were great and full of countryside looking scenery. The ride was only just over an hour and super easy. When we arrived in Florence and had all of our luggage, we made the trek to the hotel.

Instantly, I could feel that we weren’t in Rome anymore. It seemed calmer here and elegant in a different way. Our hotel is large and our room is on floor 4, which is actually the 5th story. It’s kind of unnerving that there are no window screens in the rooms. Our room is smaller but not bad. Some of the guys got unlucky and have bathrooms with no real shower. The shower head is on the wall opposite the toilet and no curtain or anything. I’m glad we got a real shower.

After checking in, we went to a place to eat. I enjoyed my spicy pepperoni panini. We walked back to the hotel and went up to floor 6 where there is a terrace with a beautiful view of the duomo. It is extremely breathtaking. The duomo is so amazing.

Next, we walked to the science museum. This was pretty cool because it contained a lot of work by Galileo. There were different rooms and exhibits. Everyone was particularly interested in seeing the display containing a finger of Galileo. It’s kind of weird to imagine that it was actually a part of his body. Very cool though.

Finally, we went to Santa Maria del Fiore and climbed Brunelleschi’s dome!! It was an easier climb than in Rome. The dome is just awesome. I’m glad I read the book about it because I was fully able to appreciate its wonder. The view of Florence from the top was awesome. It’s funny though, because I agreed with some of the guys that it seemed like the best building was missing from the view because we were on it!

We went to dinner at a nearby place. I enjoyed my first Italian experience with ravioli. After, I went out on the town with some of the guys. There are some very American bars around the hotel. They were alright, but I didn’t feel like we were in Italy unless we were walking around on the streets. There was a surprising amount of people out for a Wednesday night, but it allowed for a good time. We made it back to the hotel to rest up before our next day in Florence.

5/17/12

Thursday, yesterday, was our first full day in Florence. We started the day early again and made our way to our first destination, Piazza Michaelangelo. On the way there, we saw Pointe Vecchio. This is the oldest bridge in the area. There used to be many types of businesses, but now it is only full of goldsmiths. It looks very beautiful.

To get to Piazza Michaelangelo, we had to climb up a ton of stairs. They seemed to never end, but when we finally reached the top, to say it was worth it would be an understatement. It is a high point where you can see all of Florence. The view was astounding. At the top, there are vendors, a church called San Miniato, and a statue of David (not the original). We spent some time up there and eventually made our way back down.

Our next stop was Santa Croce. It is a gothic style church that is based on a Franciscan cross. It contains 116 chapels. Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli are some of the famous people buried here. We spent some time in the church looking at the architecture and the tombs. I really enjoyed spending time in here. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I’ll have to keep a mental image of the building in my head. After this, we took a short break and hung out in a piazza. I bought a cappuccino for myself and a proshuitto panini. There were gypsies all over the place. Usually, they’re ladies with distinctive older looking clothing shaking a coin jar holding a picture of a child. They’re pretty easy to spot.

Once we all felt a little rested, we started off to our next place for the day. We walked to Santa Maria Novella next. This is a Dominican church that was built in the 16th century. Like many buildings in Florence, the front was decorated with Tuscan marble, which is recognized by the colors green, pink and white. Inside the church, it was interesting to observe the architecture. As you walked closer to the altar, the bay size changed from rectangular to more square in shape.

Finally, we went to San Lorenzo, which was designed by Brunelleschi. Donatello and some of the Medici family are buried here. The bronze doors were created by Donatello. This church is renaissance style as seen by the more simple circular arches. Once again, it was great to be inside and experience first hand the beauty of the building. This was our last stop for the day.

We were given some time to rest before our group dinner at 6:30. The group dinner was a lot of fun and very delicious. We ate a picnic dinner on the terrace of our hotel. We had meat, olives, artichoke hearts, cheese, cherries, strawberries, and bread. For dessert, we had biscotti. I loved it all. After, we decided to walk as a group to Piazza Michaelangelo again to watch the sun set. It was very crowded with people, but very beautiful. There were a lot of people speaking different languages that seemed to be having a great time. We walked back and then went back on the terrace to watch a documentary about Florence. It focused a lot on Brunelleschi’s dome and the Medici family. It was pretty interesting, but I suffered through it a little because I had a horrible migraine. So, once the movie was over I journaled a little bit and went straight to bed. Best decision ever.

5/18/12

Friday was a day full of museums. Our first museum of the day was called Bargello. This museum was full of statues and paintings much like the other museums we have visited so far. We spent about an hour looking around. I would write more about this, but it’s kind of difficult to recall details. One thing that stood out was there was a small statue of David by Donatello.

Next, we went to another museum called Academia. This is where Michaelangelo’s David is kept. The statue is huge and is an important symbol of Florence. This museum was more interesting to me than the first one because there was a mixture of older and modern art. The most random thing we saw was a statue of a guy kneeling over a puddle of water with tears coming out of his eyes. The part that was so surprising is that it was a colored, realistic looking statue in the middle of old art. The guy was even wearing white adidas tennis shoes. Also, there was a random video of a little girl sketching. We couldn’t even see what she was sketching. It was very confusing. We spent about another hour here then split up for a lunch break.

Jen, Kate and I decided to spend our lunch break in the market area. First, we went to the supermarket and bought food to share for lunch. We bought bread, olives, mozzarella, salami,tomatoes, and apples. We sat on the steps in front of a church and people watched while we enjoyed our meal. Once we were finished, we walked through the market and looked for things to buy. There was a lot of people walking through the long line of makeshift shops. These were full of scarves, clothes, jewelry, etc. We stopped at a couple and Jen and I each ended up buying a dress. We haggled with the lady for a better price and each ended up saving a couple of euros. I don’t think I’ve ever tried haggling prices before so this was a new experience for me. I would say I’m probably not pushy enough to be very effective, but I think with some practice I could get better at it.

After lunch, we went to our last museum for the day which was Uffizi. We had two hours to make our way through this museum. There were over 50 rooms filled with art. It was good to go in order according to their numbering system because it was mostly chronological. In the middle, there was a terrace where I sketched a clock tower for a little while. There were so many paintings in this museum. I found that I like the colorful paintings the most.

After we finished, we went back to the hotel and got ready for the night. Once everyone was ready, we went out to eat. I ordered a margherita pizza and we all shared the white house wine. I enjoyed this pizza very much. The dinner experience was great. After this, we hung out in the hotel and then went out to a few bars. We all had a great time. It was overall just a funny night. The next day was our free day, which we were all looking forward to.

5/19/12

Saturday in Florence was our first free day. Due to exhaustion from waking up early and being on the go often from day one, a group of us decided to take it easy all day. I slept in for a while in order to feel well rested and energized.

After waking up, the group went out to lunch. I am pretty sure that the pizza we had was my favorite that I’ve had in Italy so far. We actually went to the pizzeria at which the Jersey Shore cast worked at during their season in Florence. It’s really popular to visit for Americans who have watched the show just for that reason. so my expectations for the food weren’t very high. I was pleasantly surprised though because my artichoke and salami pizza was delicious.

Next, we decided to go wander through the market. It was pretty busy again. I wanted to find some souvenirs to remember Florence by and I think I was at least partially successful. I won’t say what I bought on here because I would like to surprise people with what I bring back. I worked a little harder on haggling and I feel like I got some decent deals. We continued our relaxing day at the hotel.

We went out to dinner and got gelato after. I feel like I have to get gelato when I have the chance. Earlier on this trip, Dr. Erdogmus said that we’d regret it if we didn’t get it every day basically, so I believe her :)

After dinner, I went with a group of guys to an Irish pub to watch the big soccer game that was on tv. Everyone at the bar was really into the game. I enjoyed the experience because I have never seen people excited about soccer in this way. I’m not exactly sure who was playing, but the only part of the game I really understood was the shoot out at the end. I feel like that’s pretty exciting no matter who’s playing. Oh, I almost forgot that there were two extremely drunk guys from the Netherlands that were loud and obnoxious. They kept getting dirty looks from everyone there. We went back to the hotel after the game and called it a night. I’d say it was a successful day in that I went out and about, but didn’t wear myself out in the process! The next day we were to depart Florence to go to Milan. I really do miss Florence already.

5/20/12

We said goodbye to Florence on Sunday morning. It was pretty sad to have to leave since we all pretty much agreed that it had been a great time and a wonderful place. I would love to visit Florence again. Bono was right to have said “ooh Florence” the way he did when we visited with him before I left. It was more calm than Rome but had as much to do at the same time.

Milan was our next stop. We had to walk to the train station with our luggage in the morning. We got tickets for the fast train and waited to board. I found out that I don’t mind the train process at all. I could really get used to traveling in that way. When I come back some day, I will definitely feel confidently about making my way through Europe by train. So we got on the train and made our way to Milan. We journaled a little bit then played a game of pitch. Card games really help the time pass. It wasn’t a very long ride anyway, so it was smooth sailing.

When we arrived in Milan, we had to take the metro to a stop closer to our hotel. Again, I don’t find the system as intimidating as I initially did. I mean, there’d are some sketchy type people in the station, but besides that it’s not bad at all. I love that the people of Italy utilize the system! Nerdy to get excited about, but I don’t care because I think it’s awesome. We walked to the hostel in the rain. This took a good 15 minutes. It was sad that it was a rainy day, but it didn’t stop us from seeing the city.

Milan is the second largest city in Italy and I could tell. It just felt like there was a lot of people on the streets, most of which seemed to be locals. Milan didn’t feel like a popular tourist location at all. It was a nice change. First, we ate lunch at a cafeteria in the huge shopping mall. Then we walked around and saw the area. The galleria was one of the first glass and steel structures. It really is very beautiful. There were so many stores and a lot of them looked expensive. Of course there was a McDonalds in the middle of it though. I feel like McDonalds and Walmarts ruin a lot of pretty places.

Next, we went to the duomo. All I can say is wow! We climbed to the top in the rain. There we could see the ridiculous amount of detail put into the building. There are over 4000 statues. It is a huge white building built in gothic style. I honestly don’t know how to describe it because I couldn’t do it any justice by writing about it. It was AMAZING. Probably my favorite building so far.

After staring at the amazing duomo, we headed to Castello Sforzesco, which was a defensive structure built in the 19th century. Basically it looks like a castle with a courtyard in the middle. One of the guys almost got tricked into paying for a little yarn bracelet which was just hilarious. The guy handed him the bracelet and tried tying it on him, but before he could Dr. Erdogmus yelled “no!!” and he escaped. The guy selling then cussed him out. He was pissed! We couldn’t stop laughing for a while.

Our last stop for the day was a small museum that had some work by DaVinci in it. There were paintings and statues. We didn’t stay too long, but I enjoyed it while we did. For dinner, me and the girls bought groceries and ate picnic style again. My favorite! The olives were particularly delicious! We were all pretty tired so we just hung out in a common area then went to bed kind of early. It was a good first day in Milan.

5/21/12

Monday was our free day during our stay in Milan. Dr. Erdogmus had suggested that we all take a day trip to Venice. A large group of us decided that this was a great idea, so we prepared to make our way to the train station at about 8:15 a.m. Again, to get to the train station we took the metro, which was extremely busy at this time. Italians tend to start their days later than Americans, 9 a.m. opposed to our start time of 8 a.m. When the train arrived, we all literally had to push our way onto it and some of the group didn’t make it and had to wait for the next one. I made it onto the first about a second before the doors closed. We arrived at the station and bought our tickets to Venice. At this point we were all a bit disappointed that it was raining, but we decided to stick with it anyway. Our train left and we arrived in Venice around noon.

When we got there we split up into groups and walked in different directions. I had a goal to meet up with my aunt and uncle along with our Austrian relatives they were visiting. Jen, Ariel, Kate, Adam and I stopped at a restaurant to eat and use their free wifi. I tried to get ahold of uncle Raymond, but unfortunately I was unable to pull this off. However we moved onto our adventure of finding our way through the maze that is Venice.

The water was just beautiful despite the cloudy weather. I was amazed with the entire area. We bought a map of Venice and decided to walk to St. Mark’s rather than take a taxi, although that would have been pretty cool too. This way we got to walk by a lot of shops and navigate through the tiny little alleyways and through small spaces that reminded me of tunnels. Eventually, at around 2, we arrived at the Rialto bridge. What a pretty bridge! I loved looking over the edge and seeing all of the gondolas and boats. I feel like I could have spent more time in Venice on a day with better weather and had a blast exploring.

Next, we continued on to St. Mark’s square. All of the stores were awesome. I particularly enjoyed looking at all of the items made from murano glass. I made a few purchases, nothing big, that I was proud of. We walked near the water and danced in the rain a little bit :) .. Kate and I took a cute picture of this. I was very thankful for my umbrella, but we were all walking around with drenched shoes, socks, and feet. Venice was worth it though. We hung out for a while, then went back to the train station to go back to Milan. It was a very soggy ride, so we were happy to arrive back to the hotel to change.

I went with a couple of the guys to dinner. Apparently, a lot of bars/restaurants in Milan have a happy hour most nights. We took advantage of this. We paid around 9 euro for a drink then got an all you can eat buffet for free. The food was very good quality and the atmosphere was extremely enjoyable. After this, we called it a night. I’d say it was a very successful day filled with wet feet and beautiful views.

5/22/12

So I just realized earlier today that I haven’t talked much about our breakfast experiences while in Italy. All of the hotels besides the hostel in Milan have served us breakfast in the morning. Usually it consists of some type of roll with jam. Also, there is juice and coffee. It’s a lot different from the breakfasts served in hotels in the U.S. and I’ve got to say I do miss my usual morning choice of food.

Since we were still in Milan on Tuesday, we ended up having a free morning. Our lectures at the university had been cancelled, but since we weren’t able to make it to the national science museum on Monday, we were to meet at 3 to go there. Before this, we slept in a little bit. Then, the girls and I decided to go to the supermarket to buy ourselves lunch. Again, we enjoyed a wonderful picnic style lunch. Olives are pretty much my favorite thing ever. Also, I know it’s a huge surprise, but I have been eating and enjoying fresh tomatoes during my stay. I feel very accomplished because of this. :)

So after lunch, we hung out and got ready to go to the museum. We walked over to it, which probably took a good 15-20 minutes. This museum was one of the most interesting ones we visited because it contained such a variety of exhibits. We saw a lot of work by DaVinci. It is pretty amazing how much he studied about so many different topics. I enjoyed seeing his drawings about hydrology. I actually didn’t know he studied it at all. Some of the other exhibits included telecommunications, clocks, packaging, and Steve Jobs. We were all pretty amused by that. We were given a time deadline of 6 p.m. to be out of the museum, but just before 5 a huge noise came over the intercom and told us they were closing. We basically were kicked out. It was kind of a funny situation.

On our way back, we stopped at a bar that had another happy hour deal. We paid 6.50 for a drink and all you can eat. The entire group took advantage of this. It was a lot of fun socializing and having a good time.

After, we split up and some of us got gelato. We also took a wrong turn so we had to find our way back. This didn’t end up being too difficult. For the rest of the night, a group of us went out to see what the Milan nightlife is like. We ended up walking through a pretty busy area. You could definitely tell that most of the people out were locals. We stopped at a bar and hung out for a while, then eventually took a cab back because it was too far to walk back. On the way to the cab, one of the annoying street vendors was trying to sell roses. I was ignoring him with my arms crossed and he literally stuck the rose in my arms and said it was free for me. I wasn’t flattered at all because those people are sketchy. I just kept on walking with the group and went back to the hotel. Overall it was a very nice last day in Milan. I would love to return someday and be able to take advantage of the crazy shopping that they have.

5/23/12

On Wednesday morning, we left Milan and headed to Ravenna. It was pretty nice that we were picked up at our hotel by the private coach bus that we will be traveling in the rest of the trip. We were told that it would be about a 3 hour ride to Ravenna. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, but I got a lot of sleep which I really needed. We made one stop at a gas station, so we got some snacks and drinks for the rest of the way. While we were taking our break, a bus full of Italian guys pulled up and were trying to talk to us. One of the guys told our guys that they had very beautiful women in America and pointed at us girls. I thought it was kind of funny.

So we finally made it to Ravenna and we weren’t disappointed one bit. Ravenna is so quaint and pretty. It isn’t full of tourists at all so it is more quiet and more Italian. When we first arrived, we were able to check into our hotel. I loved it there. It felt very homy and beautiful. I shared a room with Jen. We were very happy with the room and bathroom situation plus we had a balcony that looked out into the courtyard in the back of the hotel.

Once we were all done checking out the hotel, we went out and got lunch. I joined most of the group and got some very good artichoke and olive pizza by the slice. I enjoyed sitting outside and eating because it was interesting to observe the passersby. There weren’t a ton, and the ones passing were mostly on bikes.

We all met up as a group and started our walking tour of Ravenna. I learned that Ravenna used to be the capital of the western Roman Empire. Also, the buildings are all mostly built in Byzantinean style. (not sure how to spell that). We were first shown the main square, Piazza del Popollo. This square was a lot smaller than the ones in the other cities we have visited, but like the others it was full of restaurants and shops. Next, we visited Dante’s tomb. It’s interesting that it’s in Ravenna since he was a florentine, but he had been exiled for life from Florence, so he moved to and was buried in Ravenna.

Finally we went to a church to see the Byzantine style. The one we went to was Sant’ Appolinare Nuovo. This basilica was full of amazing mosaics. It was built of thin bricks instead of marble like a lot of the there we’ve seen in Italy. When we were inside, it was somewhat startling to see how much the walls have shifted over the years. The walls looked basically wavy. A lot of the columns had reinforcing steel around them as well. I think I prefer other styles over Byzantine.

After this, we headed back to the hotel. We rested for just a little while, then Kate, Jen, and I went out to explore the shops. Most of the stores were basic clothing stores, so I didn’t end up finding anything I really wanted. We went to the supermarket after meeting up with Ariel. We bought food to enjoy outside in the courtyard for dinner. The temperature outside was perfect for a picnic. For me, the experience rivaled the fanciest restaurants we’ve been to. For the rest of the night we relaxed and hung out with some of the others. There didn’t seem to be much open at night in Ravenna, which probably had to do with it being a weekday. We packed our bags and called it a night and prepared ourselves for a long day ahead.

5/24/12

Thursday morning we ate breakfast at our hotel in Ravenna and packed all of our belongings onto the bus. We were to have a busy day ahead with visiting Pisa then San Gimignano. Dr. Erdogmus had told us to pack a small overnight bag for our stay at San Gimignano because it is a hilltop town that we had to kind of hike up to.

First though, we started the three hour drive to Pisa. The bus rides are usually pretty quiet, which is fine especially in the morning. It gave us a little extra time to rest up for the day. While riding on the bus, I enjoyed looking out the window and just appreciating the beautiful scenery of Italy. I can honestly say that I’d rather drive through Italy over Nebraska any day. I am still contemplating how I’ll feel when I get back to Omaha where nothing is nearly as beautiful as most things in Italy.

I was especially excited to visit Pisa for one reason, the ever famous leaning tower of Pisa. When we got to Pisa, we parked the bus and had to get a ride over to where the Piazza del Miracoli is. This is because there are so many tourists that there’s really no room for parking nearby. We actually got to ride in what looked like a train on wheels. It was really funny because although there were signs posted warning you to duck your head when you got off, of course I hit it as hard as I possibly could. I feel like maybe I’m clumsier when I travel. I was instantly happy when the tower came within view of us. I guess I am kind of a geotech geek, but I’m okay with it.

However, before we could climb the tower we had time to eat lunch, which was a touristy experience that was almost impossible to avoid. All of the restaurants within walking distance seemed to cater to the tourists. Also, we were given time to shop and take pictures. There was no way that I was going to pass up the opportunity to take a cheesy picture with the tower holding it up. I love it. It was pretty hilarious watching everyone try to arrange themselves and others for these same types of pictures. It’s just something you have to do, and if you don’t you’d regret it. I forgot to mention, Pisa gave me my first experience ever having to pay for a bathroom. What is that anyway? You’d think the bathrooms would at least be nice, but NO. They even had the men’s side closed so both sexes were using the women’s side. Gross.

We met up and prepared to climb the tower. Before we did this, it was my turn to give my presentation about the tower. I really enjoy talking about the geotechnical problems and dedication to preservation that Italy has, so it went smoothly except for one thing. I was in the middle of my presentation and all of a sudden this Asian tourist lady yells “scuzi scuzi” and tries to get us to move. Apparently where we were standing was the only place her and the three other ladies with her could take a picture. So we just stared at her for a few minutes while she kept yelling scuzi and grazie over and over again. Luckily, I didn’t get too flustered and I was able to keep going with my presentation. It was just an odd experience.

Once I finished, we climbed the tower. The tower has 296 steps to the top on the side that we climbed; the other side has 292 due to an attempt to correct the lean by building less steps on one side of the belfry. It was a pretty unnerving experience climbing up a leaning building. I was okay with it though because I know that analysis of the tower has been done and if it wasn’t stable enough, tourists would not be allowed to climb it. The view from the top was very pretty. I’m hoping during my future career, I will help with the design of buildings with no careless mistakes to cause a lean; architects at the time knew that the tower was being built on a former bog, which caused unstable soil, so it could have been avoided. Despite this, I am impressed with the efforts that Pisa has taken to preserve the tower. I feel like in the U.S. it would just be knocked down and forgotten about.

After the tower, we visited the basilica and the baptistery. The basilica was beautiful inside and out. For me, I still felt like the tower stole the show. The baptistery was very interesting though. It is well known for the unique acoustics. Everything is super loud in there. At one point, everyone was told to be quiet and a guy stood in the middle and sung some notes. It really sounded amazing. It’s just awesome that people have the ability to design a building to be like that. We have some students who are interested in acoustics on the trip, so I think it was great that we got to experience that. This ended our day at Pisa.

We got on the bus and started the drive to San Gimignano. It would be a huge understatement to say that this is an extremely spectacular, beautiful town. Even the drive there was full of amazing views. We arrived and had to walk uphill to our hotel. Our smaller overnight bags were shuttled up so we didn’t have to carry anything. I honesty wouldn’t have cared though because I was so in awe with the scenery. Our hotel was located in the main square and it was very, very nice. Again, me and Jen shared a room to ourselves. Gosh I loved the place.

We didn’t have much time before dinner, so we got ready and went upstairs to the hotel restaurant, which as expected presented another great view over the town. Our dinner was wonderful. It was a four course meal. The rice dish that we had was my favorite along with the ravioli. I took pictures to document the experience. After dinner, a group of us went out to explore. We climbed to the top of some castle type structure and hung out there for a while. Someone got the brilliant idea to tell scary stories so I was a little paranoid the rest of the night. I was scared by Kyle jumping out of the bushes and by Alex asking me who it was behind us. I think everyone was pretty entertained by that. We walked through some trails then went back to the hotel. It was a fantastic day full of so many wonderful things.

5/25/12

On Friday morning in San Gimignano, we were to visit the few places we were unable to make it to the night before. This included first climbing up a tower. I’ve got to say, we are pretty good at walking up stairs by now. There were a few rooms in the tower with frescoes we were able to see. I think I was especially bothered by climbing up this tower. This is because the stairs we climbed up definitely weren’t originally part of the tower. They seemed more makeshift than anything. To top it off, when we were about to reach the top, we had to climb up a ladder. I know everything was stable, but I don’t like the holes between the stairs. However, once we reached the top the views were worth it for sure. We were up so ridiculously high, so we could see everything. I got some great pictures from up there. We climbed back down, which again was nerve wracking, but I felt great once we made it.

Next, we were led to a medieval torture museum. Dr. Erdogmus let us spend whatever amount of time in there that we wanted with a deadline to meet up an hour and a half later in front of the hotel. Most of us could only stomach the museum for a quick 20 minute walkthrough. Ugh, the things that people did to torture one another are hard to even speak aloud about. I would write about them, but I honestly can’t bring myself to do it. So, instead of spending much time in there, Jen and I went shopping! There are so many shops lining the street with so many nice items in them. I probably could have spent a whole entire day searching for gems. Instead, I took less time but found some great souvenirs for myself and others. Also, I helped Alex pick out a purse for his girlfriend. I think she will be very happy with it. Jen and I wandered around a lot before we had to meet up.

We were sad when we had to leave. Once we met up, we prepared for the long drive to Paestum. The bus ride took about 8 hours in total including our lunch break and other stop. The bus driver can only drive legally for four hours before he has to take a 45 minute break, so we had to bear with this technicality. Generously, he decided to buy the group a soccer ball, so our break was super fun. We circled up and played keep away from two people, whoever it happened to be, in the middle. I’m sure anyone walking by could tell that we were American by the lack of soccer skills exhibited by most of us. It was a blast nonetheless.

Finally, we reached the agriturismo at Paestum. To be a real agriturismo in Italy, we learned that the food has to be homegrown. This made us very excited for our group dinner that night. We also learned a lot about the process they use to make their own buffalo mozzarella. At the dinner, we were not disappointed. The meal started with an appetizer that included the mozzarella. It was delicious. It’s a hard food to describe, but I’d say it’s milky yet spongy. It tasted great with bread and on its own. The rest of the meal consisted of pizza made with the same type of mozzarella. This was a great meal to end the long day of riding in a bus.

Since the hotel had a pool, a group decided to jump in and swim despite the cold temperature of the water and the not extremely warm weather. I joined in on the fun because I can’t resist swimming and you only live once, right? It was a lot of fun even though my teeth were chattering the whole time. I’m glad I didn’t miss out though because I know I would have regretted it if I didn’t. After the swimming, it was time to warm up and go to bed and get ready for the long Saturday ahead.

5/26/12

Saturday had come and we all knew the trip would soon come to an end, but we still had a place to visit. After breakfast, we got on the bus and started the drive to Pompeii. This bus ride took about an hour and a half. We were all still very tired since it was early, so most of us just slept on the way there.

Pompeii used to be a city before Mt. Vesuvius erupted and covered it with about 6 meters of ash in 79 A.D. This happened about 17 years after a major earthquake hit the area and caused damage as well. Now, it is a place tourists visit to see what is left of it after preservation attempts.

While walking through the area, we stopped to talk about the different sites within Pompeii. We saw what used to be the main city square, a few theaters, some houses, and a brothel. At many of the different locations, we looked at renderings of what the area most likely used to look like. It was pretty awesome, but hard to imagine that these ruins used to be inhabited by about 20,000 residents.

The weather was beautiful besides a few threatening raindrops, so the day was overall very enjoyable. We took our time walking through the area. The streets were kind of hard to walk on because of the broken up cobblestone, so we pretty much had to stare at our feet while we walked. There were several close calls on people tripping and falling.

We stopped and ate lunch in an area of Pompeii. We had bought sandwiches and fruit before we entered the area in order to save money. I just loved being outside, so it was nice to stop and relax for our lunch.

After we made our way through all of the significant spots in Pompeii, we walked back to the bus and got ready to go back to Paestum. We weren’t done for the day as we still had to visit the ancient Greek temples that still stand in Paestum.

Paestum was an ancient Greek city that was founded toward the end of the 7th century B.C. There are three temples still standing in Paestum. These are the temple of Athena, the Basilica (temple of Herra), and the temple of Poseidon (2nd temple of Herra). The Basilica is the oldest of the three. They were all probably built in between 450 and 550 B.C. It really is impressive that these structures are still mostly standing so long after they were built. I really enjoyed seeing these structures because they are very historic and beautiful.

After walking through the area with the temples, we spent a short amount of time in the museum of Paestum. This museum contains a lot of the ancient Greek artifacts, so it was interesting to walk through.

We walked back to the bus after the museum. While walking, a lady sitting outside of a restaurant yelled “Goooo biiiig reeeed” and of course we all responded with go big red! This woman was from Nebraska as well. It is pretty amazing how many people we have ran into that are either from Nebraska or went to school at UNL.

Back at the agriturismo, we all spent some time by/in the pool. The guys were playing some sort of violent water polo, so the girls and I just laid out. It was a great time for relaxing before our last group dinner.

The group dinner didn’t disappoint. We were served more dishes made with buffalo mozzarella, which I really don’t think I could ever get sick of. The lasagna was great and I think I had the best bruschetta I’ve ever tasted. The overall experience was wonderful. We were all having a great time socializing with one another. A lot of toasting took place, which was fun. Dr. Erdogmus gave us all her end of the trip speech, which we all really appreciated. She did so much for us before and during this trip and we all are grateful to have had her experience be our lead.

After dinner, we all sat in the area by the pool and just talked about stories from the trip. I think this was the first time that it had hit me that the trip was coming to an end. Hearing all of the stories was hilarious even though I had experienced some of them myself. It was a really good group of students to go to Italy with even though the girls were greatly outnumbered. I feel like I really did make some new friends along with learning so much more than I thought I could.

The night came to an end and we prepared to leave for Rome in the morning. We were to leave early so that we would have some free time during the day.

5/27/12

On Sunday, we had to leave the agriturismo in Paestum after one last breakfast there. It would be our last bus ride of the trip together since we all parted ways on Monday.

The bus ride back to Rome was again pretty quiet. I was pretty excited to go back to Rome and have the day for one last shot at walking around to explore the shops and people watch.

We arrived in Rome early afternoon and immediately checked into Hotel Mimosa, which is where we stayed at the beginning of the trip. Us girls actually got the same room as before. Everyone was very hungry when we arrived, so we split up into different groups and went to get lunch. Kate and I decided to have one last picnic-style meal. Luckily, we remembered where the nearest supermarket was, so we got there very quickly. We bought the usual ingredients to our meal and went back to the hotel to eat. This was by far the cheapest meal I had eaten the entire time we were in Italy. We were both pretty pleased with our efficient shopping skills.

After lunch, Kate, Jen, Nate H., Kate and I all went out to go shop for souvenirs. We made a group decision to wander in the direction of Trevi Fountain as there are many stands and shops there. I was on a mission to find some quality purchases to bring home with me for myself and my family. I had some luck and was able to finish my shopping for the trip. This was probably a good thing because I was running out of euros and having to withdraw more would have complicated things slightly. I just didn’t really want to have an awkward amount to try to exchange once I got back to Nebraska. It ended up working perfectly though.

Walking around Rome was a lot of fun, but we all became very thirsty and went back to the hotel. There, we got ready for dinner. Most of the group thought it would be a great idea to go to dinner all together at the restaurant we ate at the very first night. This was the place that sold the ‘sexy wine.’ Seventeen of us ended up going to dinner together, which was a really fun way to kind of celebrate the time we spent abroad. Jen and I shared two different dishes, one was spaghetti with a spicy sauce and the other was a spicy salami pizza. I guess we were really in the mood for spicy. The food was delicious as was the free wine they gave us. We all had a wonderful time.

To end the trip right, a group of us went out to a pub and hung out for the last time on the trip. We basically took over the place. Although I didn’t get much sleep for the next day, it was definitely worth it. We all said our goodbyes throughout the whole night. I never thought this part would be so hard! It’s not like we don’t all live in Nebraska.. :)

5/28/12

Monday morning felt so early. I woke up and two of the girls had already left to the airport. Kate and I spent some time packing up our belongings and searching the room to make sure we didn’t forget anything. It was really sad leaving the hotel knowing that we weren’t going to return any time soon.

We took a shuttle to the airport. Six of us shared one – Kate, Nate R., Nate H., Matt, Cam and me. The ride to the airport went by pretty quickly, but I had a hard time staying awake. I was trying to drink as much water as possible in order to avoid becoming dehydrated on the much dreaded nine hour flight home.

At the airport, we didn’t exactly know where we got dropped off. We ended up having to take a shuttle to the international part of the airport. This bus was extremely crowded. There were some old ladies trying to cram their way on the bus until someone pointed out that there was another one right behind us. Once we got to the right building, we checked our bags and went to wait to board the plane.

The plane ride was long, but it was so much better than the way there. I slept for a part of it, but not too much because I didn’t want to be jet lagged horribly when I got back. I watched a movie, listened to music, and just relaxed. It probably helped that I had an aisle seat this time so I didn’t feel so claustrophobic. When we landed in Charlotte, I was very pleased that we made it.

The line for customs was somewhat long; we had to wait for at least an hour. Once we got through, we rechecked our bags and went to find our gate. Cam and I went to find a place to eat. We settled on Chili’s to go and I had a burger for the first time since before we left.

Finally, our flight to Omaha had begun. It was supposed to be about two and a half hours, but it was actually shorter. Nate and I pretty much cheered when the captain said we were going to land in ten minutes. It was ABOUT TIME!

Being back in Omaha is bittersweet. I definitely missed my friends and family, but there is nothing comparable in beauty here to the whole of Italy. I learned so much and met so many great people on this trip. I am so extremely grateful to Dr. Erdogmus for putting up with all of us and for organizing the whole program along with teaching us things that will be valuable for the rest of our lives. I’m also grateful for my mother pushing me to go out of my comfort zone and travel overseas. I definitely believe that the experience has changed my outlook on a lot of things in a great way and has majorly boosted my confidence in finding new adventures daily.

Italy 2012 will be all I talk about for a very long time.

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