Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Readjusting & Crying About Pizza

To quote the silver fox that is George Clooney (whose house in Lake Como I sadly could not find), "I think people in Italy live their lives better than we do. It's an older country, and they've learned to celebrate dinner and lunch, whereas we sort of eat as quickly as we can to get through it." George knows what he's talking about, as I often spend my days back in America reflecting on one of God's greatest gifts that is Italian food.

It's still hard to believe that my study abroad program in Milan, Italy ended 2 months ago and that I returned back to New Jersey a little over a month ago. My first week back in New Jersey was bizarre- I no longer had to mentally prepare myself to speak Italian every time I walked into a store or restaurant. I was now hearing English everywhere I went instead of Italian, which was comforting but strange nonetheless. Every time I see family or friends they say "You have to tell me EVERYTHING about Italy!" but I'm not too sure how to sum up 5 amazing months into a few minutes. Reflecting back on this past semester has made me appreciate the crazy adventures I had. I feel so grateful and #blessed to have had this opportunity to go abroad that it would probably take me a whole year to explain every single thing I loved about Europe. Basically, I got to travel throughout most of Italy by planes, trains, buses and cars. I got to know the huge city of Milan, rode a gondola in Venice, tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain & explored the Vatican in Rome, drove the Amalfi Coast in Naples, took a ferry to Positano, and went on a solo 4 day trip to Florence.
View of Ponte Vecchio in Florence from the Uffizi Gallery
I also took a solo day trip to Lugano, Switzerland, met up with a foreign exchange student from HPU in Copenhagen, Denmark, biked around Barcelona, Spain with a dear friend and had a jam-packed weekend in Paris, France with two international students I met at my Italian school from Mexico. I ate some of the most amazing food in the world, visited family, toured the most breathtaking museums, and made some of my greatest memories- which makes coming home even harder. When I was still in Europe, I vowed that once I got back to the US I would keep traveling and see more of the United States; I didn't want to stand still. But since I've been back, I've been visiting family, friends, and taking it easy. In Italy, I was always running around on my next adventure, which is why it's nice to just take a break and enjoy my summer at home. (And honestly cuddling with my dog has been the highlight of my summer, I'm not gonna lie.)
Reppin HPU from Park G├╝ell in Barcelona

One of the greatest rewards of living in Italy was getting to come home and speak Italian with my Italian grandmother. I never realized how happy it would make her to hear one of her grandchildren speaking her native language. When I'm not practicing with her, I'm keeping up with the language app Duolingo so I don't forget it when I'm back in Hawaii. Since I dress a lot like an American, many Italians couldn't tell if I spoke Italian or if I was just a tourist, especially in Florence. I couldn't believe how many American tourists I heard in Florence that I actually heard sighs of relief when I spoke to locals in Italian. (It's also fun to be bilingual because you can eavesdrop on conversations when people think you don't understand.)

I'd like to dedicate the end of this blog post to the amazing friends I made in Italy who made my experience as enjoyable as can be. I encourage everyone to talk to students from all different countries as well as America. Every two weeks, I'd go out to dinner with girls from France, Brazil and the Netherlands where we'd compare the things we'd do in our respective countries from food to politics to pop-culture. Every time I talked to them I learned something new about the world, which makes this huge planet seem a little less unfamiliar and scary. It opened my mind to how other cultures do certain things and what their impressions of America are. One of the best things was comparing our languages and trying to explain American slang to them. We would always try to pronounce words in each other's languages (French, Dutch, English and Brazilian Portuguese) and laugh when we would horribly mispronounce them. When you study abroad, don't be afraid to break out of your shell, make friends and try something new!
Left to Right: Camille and Caroline from France, Paula from Brazil, Iris from the Netherlands and me :)
Italian friends and fellow HPU student, Hunter!
Waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower with
Mitchell and Paola from Mexico
Sarah from Tennessee (yes I had American friends too)
P.S. Here's a quick shout-out to Italian pizza. I miss you and think about you everyday. 
The entire pizza is for one person.
Notice how I added arugula in an attempt to not feel
guilty about how many carbs I was consuming on a regular basis.

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