Sunday, November 18, 2012

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Where do I even begin? It’s been more than two weeks since I returned from my fall break where I toured Paris, Barcelona, and Milan with a group of friends. Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting on my time here because I am now officially more than halfway through the semester in Florence. The thought of returning back to the states so soon is quite a sobering thought, and I am gradually beginning to see how much my time here has changed and shaped me. Italy is teaching me how to grow up.

But first... fall break! I think I could spend forever talking about all the little adventures I had in Paris, Barcelona, and Milan. Paris was by far my favorite because it is such a gorgeous city-I can see why everyone is so in love with it. I loved the little bookshops (especially the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore), the quaint little areas... everything is so filled with history, art, literature and a sense of refinement and poetry. Contrary to the "stuck-up" French stereotype, many Parisians whom I've met here were very friendly to me despite my inability to speak French. Granted, some still had a bit of an arrogant air to them, but the city and atmosphere of France is so beautiful that I'm not sure I can blame them for being so proud and protective of their culture.

Breathtaking view of the Seine river- this may have been the moment I fell head over heels in love with Paris

stained glass windows in the Sant Chappelle Cathedral

Shakespeare and Company books!!!! (Ruth took these in secret :) )

Me about to explore my favorite little place in Paris (they have a piano!!!)

Ruth and I in front of the Bastille

Oh you know, just chillin with Mona Lisa

Moulin Rouge apparently is still up and running

Notre Dame and Quasimodo hunting

and of course, I have to put an Eiffel Tower picture in here

trying to stay warm in front of the Louvre

Barcelona was also an amazing city with wonderful architecture and great nightlife. I stayed there for Halloween (and dressed up as an American Indian). That night, we almost made it to the club until my friends and I got distracted by the sound of the Mediterranean ocean nearby. So, obviously, we ditched the dancefloor and ran barefoot towards the ocean in our Halloween costumes! I spent Halloween night frolicking around the Barcelona beach dancing as a little native American, which was clearly a better evening than any club in Europe could have given me. The rest of Barcelona was also equally as amazing, we saw a bunch of the Gaudi architecture all over the city, and I couldn't help thinking that I was walking in a huge gingerbread/candy land. Apparently this is where Disney got the inspiration for their newest film: Wreck-it-Ralph! So cool. Our hostel was also incredible and made half of our experience because coming home to them every night felt like coming home to family. So if anyone ever goes to Barcelona I wholeheartedly recommend staying at Hostel One Sants- they are some of the sweetest people ever. I did get quite a shock in Spain though because people spoke Spanish as well as another dialect called Catalan. It's definitely not the same as traveling to Latin America or speaking spanish Los Angeles! Even though I was in Spain, the foreign words of the Catalan language still made me feel like I was in a different country. 

Beautiful Barcelona

secret: that dress was 3 euro

Parc Guell, aka Gingerbread city

La Sagrada Familia- please note the funny little fruits/vegetables in the architecture, they were my favorite!

Halloween in Barcelona!!! p.s. the man baring his chest was one of the Hostel Staff joining our little party
Finally, after Barcelona my friend Lindsey and I spent a day in Milan before heading home to Florence (it's strange that I'm able to finally call Florence home). We spent most of the time in the Design Museum of Milan and ended up sketching a bunch of people around the city. It was a pretty chill day, since we were already pretty traveled-out.

Playing mirror games in the Design Museum


Today is the day after election day (but by the time I post this it will probably be even later). It’s strange though, the first election that I participated in was spent in Europe. I found it surprising to see how many Italians (and other non-Americans) cared about the election. Watching the election from Europe was especially significant to me because it meant that I am reaching the age where it is my turn to start taking part in shaping the world. The responsibility and weight of carrying the future is slowly being passed down to my generation--and I was experiencing it in the midst of a different culture. It’s a very exciting, yet humbling and frightening thought. 

Being in Europe, and planning/traveling around fall break especially has further reinforced the concept that I am no longer a clueless 16-year old traveling with her parents—letting them figure out transportation, budget, etc. I am booking trips, exploring Europe independently, learning about others and myself and realizing that with every passing day, I am gaining more responsibility as an adult. I’ve learned that traveling takes quite a bit of courage, risk, curiosity, flexibility, and level-headedness (is that a word?). There are so many instances where you run into strange and unexpected situations: people get lost, trains close early, the airport is too far away, and everyone is speaking in different languages. These were lessons that no amount of studying at SC could have taught me.

being silly in the olive groves of Fiesole

Even though I came to USC as a “young adult,” I know now that the atmosphere of being surrounded by my peers, professors, and mentors spoon-fed me in many ways. Room and board; mentorship; assistance with financial, medical, and other needs were provided and readily available to me. However, being in another country such as Italy means that most of the time, I’m left on my own to figure things out. Thus, my sense of independence, time-management, flexibility and critical thinking has strengthened considerably while abroad. I know that many of my friends here have discovered the same growth in themselves.  

And what else? I am trying to get the most out of my month left here because time is going by so fast. On one hand I am so excited to go home, but on the other, Florence is also becoming such a familiar and welcoming place to me. Lately I’ve been learning to make the most out of every Florentine day I have left to spend, but also cherish the memories I have in Los Angeles. I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s the moments in the past that can bring out the richest experiences of the present.

"not all who wander are lost"

Con tanto amore,

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