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All done yet nowhere near done…

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Well, I did it. I have graduated from SUNY New Paltz with the rest of the class of 2013, and I graduated with my Italian study abroad sash and my XAE honor cord. What better way for an Italian major to graduate than to walk in the Italian National Team’s colors? Through the course of just four years, there were many decisions I had to make and even more hardships that I had to overcome. Along the way, I made some of my dreams come true and added some more goals to already long list of stuff I want to do during my lifetime. Now that I have graduated, aside from about $30,000-$40,000 in loans, nothing is in my way, and I will start to cross things off that list. Congrats Class of 2013!

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Life Since Europe…

I returned to the United States on 23rd December 2012 after having been in Europe since 27th June 2012. Since that day I have not wanted anything but to go back. The longing for Italy and Turkey is overwhelming, and my need to travel is consuming me. I have been trying to keep myself busy with work (only about two days a week) and with school, but my schedule really is not that crazy this semester. Graduation looms ever nearer, and the stress of not knowing what I’ll be doing after it or where I will be is driving me nuts. I desperately need a decently paying job (don’t we all?), so that I can start paying off my loans, and so that I can leave the country and travel a bit. I do not want to wait to travel until I’m older and retired. I want to get out now while I am young so that I can truly experience the wonders of the world.

When I first came back from Italy, I had planned on tutoring students who were taking Elementary Italian 101 and 102 classes, but even though I am the only Italian major on campus, all of the Italian tutoring positions had already been taken by previous tutorers. This dampened my spirits in more ways than one. Not only had I been counting on that job for a bit more money on the side and to make my résumé look better, but I had been counting on it to keep in touch with the Italian language since there are no longer any upper level Italian classes taught at my university. While tutoring I would have been reviewing the materials that the students were going over as well as helping them speak. I am losing touch and a lot of my Italian since I did not receive this job. I had considered sitting in on the Intermediate Italian classes, but these classes are held during the same time as my other classes so that was not an option for me. I read through the online Italian newspapers and such, but it’s not the same. I only have two friends at this university who are native fluent speakers, but neither live on campus anymore so I do not really see them anymore. I really need to go back to Italy sooner rather than later.

One thing that I have really been starting to work on is my Turkish. Being that my boyfriend is from Turkey and no one in his family (besides his sister and himself) can speak English, I believe that it best for me to learn Turkish. Lately, I have been understanding a lot more of what is being said when listening to him and his friends speak, and my goal is to be able to be conversational by the time his parents fly in from Turkey for graduation the middle of May. I finally have Rosetta Stone, and after only one use, I am already remembering more and more. I plan on labeling everything in my room (hopefully my roommate won’t mind too much) and doing Rosetta Stone at least once a day for an hour. One of the most difficult things about this language for me is the sounds. I did a linguistic project on it and I found out that there are numerous sounds in the Turkish language that we do not have in English. I had guessed this, but I felt much more at ease when I found out that I was not losing my mind or sense of hearing. Another thing that is hard for me is that I have had and probably will not have formal instruction in this language. This is a language that I must tackle on my own. I’ve taken numerous languages throughout my schooling career (Spanish, Japanese, Swahili, Chinese, and Italian) all of which I excelled in, but learning a language without formal instruction is foreign to me, and I must learn how to do it. I feel that with Rosetta Stone I will be able to excel more than I would have done just learning by myself from a book, so I am happy about that. So a recount? Decent fluency in Turkish by the middle of May. Ready, set, go!

Europe really has been the only thing on my mind since I have been back. I know now that the United States is not the place for me. Wherever my place is, I do not know, but eventually I hope to find it. I am nothing but miserable here, and I would love to turn that around. Personally, I am not sure if I could permanently live in Turkey, but I could definitely try it out for a few years. Italy, the South, Firenze, or Torino, I could definitely live in. There is so much left of the world to see though. I need more time. I need more money! Oh, America, you grossly overcharge your students for the schooling costs. The “education” that we receive is nowhere near worth what we are charged. Europe, you’re doing it right when it comes to costs. I’ll leave the cost situation for another time though.

Europe, I miss you dearly.

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Thanksgiving in Italy

As most of us know (and for the foreigners who do not), the United States celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. Typically, it is a time when people travel all over the country to be with their friends, their family, and their loved ones that they haven’t seen in a while simply to partake in the traditions of cooking, eating, and being together. This year was a bit different for me since I am in Italy, and Thanksgiving is a holiday that is unique to the United States. Here in Urbino, there are only a handful other Americans; most of the Erasmus students are from European countries. There were a few of us however who still wanted to do something for Thanksgiving. Since I absolutely love cooking, I went a little overboard, but it was Thanksgiving; you’re supposed to go overboard! The one American girl, who is also from my home state of Pennsylvania, was going to be gone all day, so she would not be able to cook, but still wanted to join in for dinner so she brought some wine instead. The one American guy, who goes to my school in the states, decided to make a desert; he made fried apples with cinnamon and sugar, which was surprisingly good. We lack an oven so certain things were a bit difficult, but we managed. I went to the grocery store and picked up a few things that I’d be needing for the dinner, such as the turkey. They did not have a whole turkey, which was a bit of a disappointment, but I knew they weren’t going to have them. Instead, they had some giant turkey breasts. I picked up one giant turkey breast which was also overpriced, but I just did not care because of the fact that it was Thanksgiving. Earlier on in the day I had started to cook. I made some roasted red peppers with olive oil and garlic on the stovetop, and I then put them in the fridge because, I’m not sure about elsewhere, but in United States, roasted red peppers are typically served cold. When I came back from the store, I decided to get the turkey going right away, even though we were not going to be eating for another couple of hours. Since we lack an oven, I decided to put the turkey breast in a pot with onions, spices, and a broth, and to then slow cook it with the lid on, so that it would be nice and juicy. Along with the turkey and roasted red peppers, I decided to get some carrots and corn going as well. I started boiling the carrots first so they would soften up and then added the corn with a bit of salt, pepper and a little bit of butter. After putting that aside, we decided that we should make some stuffing. So, my friend who is from England started the stuffing, which was then also cooked on one of the only two burners that we have on the stove. Bread, spices, onion and garlic, zucchini, and egg were thrown into this stuffing, and being someone who doesn’t normally like stuffing, I’d have to say that this one was exceptional. When the stuffing was finished, we started boiling water in order to make mashed potatoes. After throwing in some garlic, butter, and a splash of milk, I hand mashed the potatoes, and Thanksgiving dinner was just about complete.  The English girl then made some gravy from the broth that the turkey had been cooking in for the past few hours, and we were ready! Aside from the three Americans, myself included, we had people joining us from England, Lithuania, Germany, Belgium, Australia, and France; we called them our adopted-Americans for the night. For them, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I kept inviting them. I was very proud of myself when everyone kept complementing me on my dishes and especially on the turkey; the other girl from Pennsylvania who is a vegetarian had some turkey for the sake of tradition and then helped herself to seconds of the turkey because she liked it so much! We ate and drank wine, went around the table and shared stories (mostly about American history and customs and the like) and what we were thankful for, and of course we got into some discussions about Native Americans. Personally, I always feel a bit guilty celebrating Thanksgiving since I do come from some Cherokee background, but I mainly do it the traditions, the food, and just being together with everyone. We then had the fried cinnamon and sugar apples that had been made, and a giant block of Italian chocolate that the Australian girl had brought. All in all, I’d say that Thanksgiving in Italy was a success. We were together, we had a grand time, and we ate a lot of food. I found it interesting that the first time I hosted Thanksgiving, I was out of the country. Who would have that would ever happen?

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La cucina…

Here in the student residential dorm of Tridente, each block has its own kitchen. In each kitchen, we are provided with a table, a few chairs (the chairs are typically from each person’s personal dorm room), a small fridge that can barely contain our belongings, a stovetop with just two burners, and a sink. There are a few of us in the block who like to keep the kitchen clean because, after all, it is the place that we cook and eat. There are however a couple of people in our block who use the kitchen and who do not clean up. They think that they can just use the kitchen for whatever they please, and the next morning, those who actually need to use the kitchen will be so disgusted that they’ll just clean up the mess; normally, they are in this thinking. They use the pots, pans, plates, cups, and utensils that are not theirs, but what is worse is that they fry potatoes at least every other night, leaving the burners and surrounding area of the countertop saturated in oiland all of the dirty pots, pans, plates, and utensils in the sink. This is not only unsanitary and disgusting, but it is extremely unsafe! How can someone in their right mind leave a stovetop covered in frying oil? How? I do not care how drunk these people are, they should clean up their mess. Try to be somewhat respectful of those who you live with and who need to use the kitchen every day. My one friend and I cook every day for lunch and dinner and waking up to these messes is just becoming tiresome. To top it all off, the sink is now clogged because they do not use the stopper when they put stuff in the sink. We’ve asked them to clean up their messes, but they do nothing. We’ve reported them, but there is apparently nothing that can be done about their piggish behavior. When we reported them the people in charge just said, “We all know who it is, but there is nothing that we can do about it.” It’s true though. It is only ever a certain group of people here in Urbino who are causing all of the trouble.  They are the ones who are constantly drinking and partying every day and night of the week, which is disturbing to those who are trying to study, or to those who are trying to sleep. They create mayhemImage wherever they go. They are up all hours of the night and are never quiet. They will come back at four in the morning and somehow decide that drunkenly frying up some eggs is a good idea, thus creating even more of a mess for others to clean up. It is simply out of control, and, at this point, I wonder why Urbino allows them to  come back every year, since they have the same problems with this particular group of Erasmus students each time that they come. If this kind of behavior were to occur at my home school in New Paltz, these students would be, at minimum, fined, warned, and locked out of the kitchen. But here? Apparently, there is nothing that they can do. To say that is frustrating beyond belief would not even begin to express my feelings on this matter.  Just one more month… one more month…

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Rimini!

Rimini!

I went to Rimini last weekend with a few friends. It was quite nice. We walked around everywhere and saw a few churches and stores. I was almost mugged a gypsy women as I was walking into one of the churches, but as soon as she opened my jacket pocket I stepped into the church, and she disappeared. Definitely an interesting experience. We walked around through the parks and the city, and when I say we walked everywhere, I mean we walked everywhere! Wow. We walked for about 8 hours just taking things in. We went through the Saturday market, which was huge and I found a cute little Juventus jersey for my baby brother there that I couldn’t resist buying. Afterwards, we headed to the beach. Being that it is November in Northern Italy, it wasn’t a laying out and tanning beach trip. No, this beach trip consisted of sifting through thousands of whole shells, trying not to step on mollusks and clams, and witnessing a massive crab graveyard. There were probably hundreds of thousands of small crabs, just belly up on beach. It was low tide, but we assumed that there must have been a storm somewhere off shore. We finally found our way to Le Befane (the mall there) and indulged in some well deserved and needed McDonald’s. After a bit of window shopping and resisting buying everything in the mall, we headed back to the train station (about a forty minute fast paced walk), only to find out that our train was delayed 40 minutes. This news worried us since we had a specific bus that we had to catch once we got to Pesaro to get back to Urbino. We had already bought our tickets for the train, but decided to hop on another train headed toward Pesaro, because we could not miss that last bus. If need be we would just pay the extra fare on the train. When we got onto the train, we were lucky enough to find one of the Harry Potter like compartments and just relax for half an hour. The ticket guy did not come by at all so we were lucky. When got off of the train, we saw that he was just in the next compartment. It was close, but we made it! We were even a little early for the bus back to Urbino, which was great. All in all, the Rimini trip was long and exhausting, but it was a great day with some great people.