Better late than never?
So long story short, I studied my butt off in January in attempt to do anything but fail my 10 courses. Yes, 10 courses. Then I had a week between my last exam and my departure so I spent as much time with friends as possible. Then I came back and it would have been too hard to write a final blog post because I was so sad to be back in the US. Then my computer stopped working (and my car needed repairs but that isn’t relevant to this story). Now I have a new computer and I’m ready to give you all a summary of my last month in Europe.
At the end of December I went to Cannes. I did some exploring on my own which included the Christmas market, the old city, the port filled with yachts and taking advantage of the after-Christmas discounts! Then I met up with my friends Anthony and Sam who grew up in Cannes. We walked along the Boulevard de la Croisette as well as the most impressive street of stores and shops, Rue d’Antibes. Also I took pictures on the red carpet, naturally.
New Years. We went to the highest point in Nice to watch the last sunset of 2013 over the ocean. At midnight we went to the beach to see the fireworks from Monaco and Cannes. That was pretty fabulous. Then we went to a pub with live music and danced and such! Here’s me with my friends Silvia, Sonia and Giorgia.
Then I went back to studying until one of my great high school friends (we were in Paris together) came to visit for the weekend! She is living in Mallorca, Spain and teaching English for the year. We rode the Ferris wheel, walked on the beach, saw the sights and went to Monaco.
Then…..you guessed it, I studied some more. My record for how many consecutive hours I was in the library was 9. Finally, on January 22nd I finished my last exam and the following day I got on a plane to Rome. I knew some of my friends from Hamline would be there for a January term class but I didn’t anticipate getting to spend a lot of time with them because of the demands of the class. So without a care in the world I got onto an airplane with my backpacking backpack and a guidebook to Rome without much of a plan. That was when I seriously realized how far I’d come since arriving in Dublin nearly 5 months earlier. I realized how independent and self-sufficient I’d become. It was a really empowering feeling.
I really enjoyed the hostel that I stayed at. I met some great people and bonded with the French speakers the most. The first thing I did was get out my map and figure out how to get to the legendary Trevia Fountain. I succeeded and then proceeded to walk back to the hostel that evening on a different route, where I passed a restaurant/pub with live musicians. Of course that was enticing to me so I did something that I probably would have never envisioned myself doing: I sat at the bar alone and ordered a beer and chatted with the bartender. Because it seemed like the perfect thing to do on a rainy evening in Rome. Also it is one of the better ways to receive compliments like, “You’re too pretty to not have a boyfriend!” Here’s my best selfie at the Trevia fountain.
Day 2: I went to the Colosseum with a new acquaintance from the hostel. It was so majestic! Very incredible. Then I went off on my own to see the Pantheon, Piazza d’Espagne, and just to wander around. That’s a great thing about Rome. It’s much less daunting to wander around Rome than a city like Paris or London, because it’s not as big as those cities. So the density of cool things to see is higher. I think it’s pretty obvious where I’m at in this photo.
Day 3: I went to Vatican City with another new friend from the hostel. We waited in a super long line to see the San Pietro Basilica; there’s a mediocre picture of me there below that doesn’t do that gorgeous place any justice. We also went into the Vatican museums but really all I wanted to see was the Sistine Chapel. The museums were cool but the Sistine Chapel really took my breath away. We stayed there for like 15 minutes I want to say, just staring. I didn’t want to leave. On the way back we walked along the river that goes through and then accidentally found the coolest neighborhood that my Italian friends had told me about, Trastevere. It had the rustic charm that I had always imagined Rome would have. So basically we walked around until our feet hurt.
My last day in Rome was really only a half day, and I got on the bus to go to the airport just as it started to pour. So that was fortunate! Anyway, my last morning I wanted to go to this huge flea market that I’d read about in my guidebook. It was definitely an interesting and mildly overwhelming cultural experience! Getting there was a challenge because it was a bit of a hike from the nearest metro station! It was a great ending to my weekend in Rome.
The moment I got back to Nice I started rehearsing with my friends who performed with me at my going-away party/concert. I wanted to make sure I could say goodbye to as many people as I could rather than leaving without a goodbye. A couple weeks before we auditioned for the manager of a pub in the old town and he said we were good enough to perform! The night of my concert was definitely one of my top 5 moments of all 5 months I was there. I invited everyone I was facebook friends with in Nice which totaled about 100 people. And in the end I think about 70 of them came and brought their friends! To see how many people cared about me enough to come see me sing on a Tuesday night when they had 9am class the next day…that is when I started to realize just how blessed I was with all of these incredible people in my life. My friends in the pictures below are Andrea (from Italy), Vinh (from France) & Piotrek (from Poland), and Guillermo (from Spain).
The next day it rained. It’s like Nice was sad to see me go too. I spent all day packing and then stayed up all night with friends until I left at 5:30 the next morning for the airport. After flight delays and missed connection flights, I finally landed in Minneapolis 26 hours later.
Now, I’m going to try to make some overarching statements about my time abroad. But really I can’t even put how I grew and what I learned into words. I became more or less fluent in French. I learned about a bunch of different cultures from the people I met of different nationalities, and even the French that I met from different regions. I learned that beer is my favorite alcohol and tequila is my liquor of choice (especially with salt and a slice of lime). I learned to navigate a bunch of subway systems and confusing streets. I learned to hold back the tears when faced with a really challenging situation, and just push forward until the problem was solved. I discovered that after a night out, when the buses have stopped working and no one has a bike, 1 hour is considered walking distance. I learned how much Italians really do love their pizza and pasta. Sure I learned some things in school too, but that’s not what I will remember the most. My “study” abroad enriched my life and helped me see what it’s like to separate myself from the comforts, friends and family of home that I hold dear and take my own risks. My experience was more fabulous than I could have dreamed. Thank you to all who have supported me and encouraged me along the way.
Europe, I’ll be back soon.