I knew coming to Italy things were going to be a lot different than what they were in Oklahoma. However, I took this thought for granted until I neared the end of my trip. I began to notice the little things around me and how those around me lived. On every street you could find homeless people begging for money. People trying to sell silly trinkets or impress you with a talent, just needing a few coins. It broke my heart that so many people lived this way. I have never had to deal with this and I feel like a lot of us take our everyday lives for granted. I have a home to sleep in every night whereas these people have to makeshift with sleeping on the sidewalk with a blanket, if even. I wanted to help all these people and give them change, but there were so many and I couldn’t afford to. Instead, each time I passed a beggar I said a small prayer for them, asking God to fulfill their needs and give them protection.
I realized how lucky I am, how lucky we are, to live in the United States. The little things we think nothing of; food on the table, a bed, internet, new clothing, these things would be a huge blessing to those begging for a few coins. Yet these people get by everyday with just the few change that they do receive. They simply live their life with few things and don’t have to need everything that we think we do. Seeing this every day made me think of how grateful I am for the life I was given, however, it makes me think of why I need to have all this stuff that isn’t truly necessary. Through my experience of two and half weeks in a foreign country, it has truly opened my eyes to be more appreciative of the little things that could mean the world to someone else.
What a bittersweet day it is! I have had the time of my life these past two and a half weeks. I have made so many new friends and learned so much! It makes me so sad that this is our last day. However, we have a lot planned for this day and I’m ready to see what is in store. Dean Grillot took us to The Altare della Patria aka The Wedding Cake. We rode an elevator to the very top of the building where we could look out over the city. The view was incredible! I had a perfect view of the Colosseum. Everything up here looked so small. I took in every moment of this view, making sure I didn’t miss a single thing going on in the city below me. Police sirens overwhelmed the city (I will not miss their obnoxious sirens). Other than this, the city was perfect. I wish I had more time to explore this city. One day. 😉
We headed to the Colosseum with Professor Duclaux! I have truly enjoyed being taught by Professor Duclaux. It fascinates me that he knows so much about every piece of art that we encounter. I have learned more than I imagined I would. Being able to see the art in person and having Professor Duclaux tell you everything there is to know about it, from the artists life to the meaning of the piece, is a once in a lifetime opportunity and he has made it so enjoyable for us all. The Colosseum was so incredible on the inside. In the middle where the stage originally was, was torn up and we were able to see what was beneath the stage. This area is where they would keep the animals and the people they used for the fights during the plays. It was crazy to see this and imagine what it must have been like.
As my day comes to an end, so does this adventure. It has been nothing short of amazing. I feel like I have grown as a woman and become more independent. I never thought I would actually go through with studying abroad and here I am, not wanting to leave this country. I am thankful for those who helped get me here and those I have met through this trip. I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to now going into my sophomore year. I’m definitely not saying goodbye to you Italy, I’ll see you soon!
Today is the day my wishes come true! Our first stop was the Trevi fountain. This fountain has been in so many movies and seen millions of people. Everyone wishing for different things or maybe even the same. Professor Duclaux tells us that when you throw the coin with your right hand over your left shoulder its a wish to return to Rome in the future and left hand over your right shoulder is a wish for love. In the moments I spent down at the Trevi, even though we were scared of pickpocket-ers, I felt so happy. This place collected millions of wishes and I couldn’t grasp the fact that I was standing there now myself about to do the same. I I won’t tell you my wish but I didn’t go with the guidelines of right or left, instead I threw straight behind. Maybe it was because I was focused on getting the perfect picture, but I’ll tell you this, I didn’t wish for either.
Next stop, the Vatican! If you want to feel claustrophobic, sweaty, and nervous of people bumping into you, then the Vatican is the place for you. Haha, I’m kidding, sorta. The Vatican was gorgeous. Every piece of art was so detailed and perfect. I specifically liked the tapestries in one of the halls. I had not seen anything like this in any other place we have visited. These tapestries were amazing and detailed. I felt as if the eyes of the people on the embroidery were following me each way I stepped. It was creepy, but fascinating as to how the artist created the tapestry for its viewers. We made our way to the Sistine Chapel. “No photo” and “Silence” were repeated over and over. Molly and I began to make a joke out of it later. I secretly took a picture, oops. The Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo. The ceiling looked as if it were 3D and coming right at me. This masterpiece was absolutely breathtaking.
I can’t believe our adventure is coming to an end. Arezzo has been nothing short of amazing. Arezzo has given me 40 new best friends and memories that will last a life time. I am so proud of my PCS group for the hard work that we put in to our community service project and for pushing through the long days of class touring. It seems as if just yesterday we arrived in this foreign town, now we are leaving it as if we had been here for years and saying a teary-eyed goodbye. I will always remember the welcoming people of the town who called us “Oklahoma” everywhere in town. Salute to you, Arezzo, my home away from home!
Next stop, Rome! I was so excited to see Rome, especially the Vatican and Colosseum! This city was full of history and I couldn’t wait to experience it firsthand. My roomie was Gracie!! I was so excited to spend the last couple days with one of the first people I started it out with. Gracie and I had become really good friends and I’m so thankful this trip brought us together! We all went together to dinner where Professor Duclaux ordered our meal. I wish he were there to order every meal because he always picked us something we probably wouldn’t normally order. At dinner, I tried to sit by someone I hadn’t sat by before. I ended up sitting by Alyssa and we ended up hanging out together afterwards! One of my goals of this trip was to branch out and meet new people. Unfortunately, Alyssa and I didn’t become close until the end of the trip, but I am grateful that it happened and we can carry on this friendship! I have met so many great friends. I wish this trip would never end.
Free day means our trip in Arezzo is coming to an end! I will miss this place I have called home for the past week and a half. Arezzo has made me feel so comfortable. I usually get homesick but being surrounded by my new friends and the friendly people of this town have made me forget that I ever left home. I have already made the decision to come back for a semester because of the feeling of home here. I love this town.
I spent the whole day in Viareggio, Italy for my free day. When we first got there, we were all pretty sketched out; unsure what to expect. We arrived at the beach and it was beautiful. It was so nice to be able to go off on our own and relax. No where in the United States would you be able to sit on beach and look to the side and see huge mountains surrounding you. Pictures did not do this place justice. My friends and I played beach volleyball. It was fun to joke around with each other with the competition. I still haven’t grasped the fact that I am in Italy. Laying there in the sand, mountains in the distance, pretty ocean view, it felt like I was dreaming.
I spent the day with my two new best friends. I basically met Gracie and Molly the day of our flight to Venice. They immediately became my friends when we started talking. Looking back at the beginning of the trip though, we didn’t know each other. Now today, sitting on the beach together, I think of all we have shared about each other to one another and have become so close. I have shared so many laughs and memories with these girls that will last a life time. Late night talking and roaming Italy together made us so close! They have made this trip so fun for me! Thankfully we will live across the street from each other and will be able to continue our friendship throughout our next year!
Day 2 in Florence! I was excited for our plan to go see The David statue. When I was younger, I saw the statue but like I said before, I didn’t have an appreciation for the art like I do at this age now. The Academia had 6 art pieces from Michelangelo, 5 unfinished and 1 finished. It was absolutely incredible to stand in front of these famous pieces of art. Professor Duclaux taught us about Michelangelo’s life and how he faked being poor. I had no idea that he had been paid about $4 million for just the Sistine chapel ceiling alone. The David was built perfect. Professor Dixcloux even mentions this, Michelangelo specifically created him with exact anatomy in mind. It amazed me how a statue like this could even be made. I couldn’t believe that I was actually witnessing this historical statue that millions of people only can dream of seeing.
Walking around Florence after class was eye opening for me. There are so many people on the streets begging for money. I didn’t realize that there were so many people who were in need. My heart broke for each person I saw laying on the ground just begging for some spare change. I took a moment to think about all that I had. I had a nice home, food, air conditioning, such little things that I take for granted that those type of people would kill to have. My giving heart wanted to give as much money to each person as I could, but I really couldn’t afford to do that for the big amount of beggars I saw. Instead, as I sat there thinking about all these things I was blessed to have, I planned to say a prayer for each beggar that I came across. I knew that He could do something bigger than what I could ever do with my few cents.
Tonight was the famous annual joust in Arezzo! I had no idea what to expect. The crowds were filled with people wearing their districts flag. When I first heard of the joust, I expected men fighting each other on horse with swords. However, I was wrong, it was nothing like that. One man at a time on a horse would charge for a target and was judged on the closeness of the spear hitting the center of the target. The crowds would chant in Italian. I had so much fun watching and cheering along when the Italians did because I really couldn’t understand them. It was so incredible to be able to have gone to this famous joust and be apart of their culture
We were headed to Florence! I was so excited to experience Florence again. I had been before when I was about 10, but I feel like I wasn’t able to appreciate the art and history like I am able to today. Being so young I didn’t realize what a great opportunity it was for me to actually be in Florence. I had a complete different attitude going into the Uffizi, excited to learn. My favorite art we saw was a painting by Michelangelo. Professor Duclaux talked about how this is the only painting left of his and it being the most important. In the painting is Joseph, The Christ Child, and Virgin Mary. Professor Duclaux tells to look at how it looks as if Josephs legs are huge. The perspective makes it seem unrealistic on the way they are all positioned.
My roommate Riley and I had lunch together at a famous sandwich shop Professor Duclaux recommended called All’Antico Vinaio. This place was so crowded and known that they had three different shops right next to each other. The long line was so worth the wait! I don’t know what I’m going to do without my salami sandwiches back home!
After our long day in Florence, we were finally headed back home to Arezzo! Florence was a different pace than Arezzo. Crowded and busy, unlike Arezzo. I wasn’t a huge fan of being there. I have grown to love this town Arezzo and I never want to leave. The people are so kind and welcoming. It really has become to feel like home.
Today was our first day trip!! Boy did we have to get up early! Our day started at 7:30 am to head to Assisi! When we finally arrived in Assisi, I was so excited to explore this town on this beautiful hill. We started off by going into a Basilica church. This church had St. Francis buried in it!! I thought this was so amazing because we were actually in the presence of him! Learning about St. Francis gave me a new perspective of Christianity that I had not learned about before. I learned that only nobles were buried in churches, until St. Francis who wasn’t a noble. This was interesting to learn! I truly enjoyed how the frescos each depicted a version of a story created by the artist. I found it interesting how each person sees a piece of art in a different way.
After we were finished with class, a few of my friends and I headed to Roca Maggiore hill. Looking up to the stairs leading to the top was making me rethink the hike. My friends talked me into it by telling me how pretty it would be once we got up there. They were not wrong! The view at the top of the hill was absolutely breath taking! Literally. Not only because of the view, but we climbed up a huge hill with stairs that seriously took the breath out of us haha. Looking out over the hill made me realize what I’m in Italy for. I wanted to experience something that would show me that there is more to life. No where else have I felt the way that I had in that moment. I was in absolute awe. This beautiful land was all created by my God. I was right where I was suppose to be in that moment. I felt complete as I sat on the edge of the railing just taking in every corner of the land I could. It was as if every worry and every struggle had slipped away. I was completely invested in the moment. I wondered if this is what heaven feels like.
I never wanted to leave that spot on the top of Roca Maggiore. I didn’t want to climb back down and leave this place that made me feel so happy. I felt this happiness again though as I entered a coffee shop in Arezzo called Caffe Pasticceria. Dean Grillot showed us this place and she said it was her absolute favorite! The workers greeted my friends and I so kindly even though they were super busy. After I drank my coffee, a lady brought over a plate of chocolate for all of us to eat. It was very generous of her. My friends and I talked about the day and all we had seen. When we paid, one of my friends didn’t have enough money and the lady said she would pay for it instead. This little coffee shop was full of kindness. Not only the workers, but the friends I was surrounded by. I felt so lucky to be surrounded by people who genuinely cared about one another.
This morning PCS became famous! A local journalist came and checked out our service project! We were interviewed and put on their local television. HOW COOL! We all had worked so hard on our project and getting recognition for it was a great feeling. We had set an example for those who don’t really know about community service and were able to show the children in the home first hand how impactful it is. Community service is not common in Europe. I loved how PCS was able to do something for a different culture to help influence them to give back to their community as well.
This evening we had the full experience of a wine tasting in Italy. Driving to the vineyard was like scene on a movie. (This whole trip has been like a movie if I’m being honest). The perfect rows of grape vines could not have been more fascinating. I am not a big fan of wine, however, I was intrigued to learn about the process of wine making and how to drink the wine, that way I could bring back that knowledge to my parents! We were given a plate of assorted foods such as, bruschetta, cheese, and varied meats. Our instructor told us that white wine goes with the bruschetta, red wine goes with meats, and a specific wine we tasted called Moro Rosso red goes with cheese. When tasting the wines and eating the matching food we were told to eat, it actually gave the wine a different taste.
We learned how to hold the wine: at the bottom of the cup stem with two fingers. I learned that swirling the wine enhances the wines aroma. I was basically a wine expert now. I had so much fun delving into the Italian culture with this once in a life time experience.
I got to sleep in today! Since we finished our service project yesterday, Dean Grillot gave us until 1 pm to ourselves. Molly, Gracie and I went to a bakery and enjoyed a really yummy salami sandwich. I have found it different how Italians are big meat eaters for almost every meal whereas Americans aren’t that way really. I love salami now! I never was a big meat eater anyways, but I am embracing the culture and trying new meats! We headed back to the children’s center to clean up and get ready for press day tomorrow. I truly enjoyed our service project! It was so much fun giving back to their community while we all got to know each other better through the process. The girls and boys were so appreciative of our project. It made me feel so happy to see them get excited to see the finished rooms and put they’re own stuff back in there.
After our day trip travel guide meeting, my group had reflection time. At first I was not too excited to engage in the conversation, but I honestly got a lot out of it. The most influential topic to me that we talked about was getting out of our comfort zones and talking to people out of our normal circle. Coming into the trip I was determined to find friends in each group. I can happily say I have done just that. After reflection, everyone was more determined to reach out to other groups. I had a few more friends that I didn’t normally hangout with go shopping with me after. I had a great time bonding with them over cute clothes haha. Reflection time had a big influence on my group and I’m happy that it did!
Dinner was also with people I don’t usually hang out with. I loved it! It was such a fun dinner chatting and sharing funny stories. Highlight of the night was Dawson showing us a Chinese ring trick that can predict how many children you will have and the gender. It freaked us all out but it was so fun for all of us to watch him do it. I have enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know them! I hope these friendships last forever.