Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Housing in Florence

Honestly i think the API packet prepares you for the worst where, in reality, all the apartments I saw were amazing.  As soon as I landed I prepared myself for a tiny, dilapidated apartment with bunk bed stacked three high.  I figured the program directors were just candy coating the pathetic truth when they wrote "The apartments are quaint, authentic Italian buildings...the rooms are normally sized for Italy but will be smaller than you are used too..Hot water is limited so be sure to turn it off when you shave."My only thoughts were, YIKES!  Instead I had a beautiful, spacious apartment with french door windows and white linen drapes reaching from ceiling to floor.  It was picturesque.  My room was almost too big, my roommate and I did not need that much space.  We had a small European kitchen with a hotel room sized fridge and a dinning room.  There was a little TV in a sitting area but it pretty much went un used.  We have two bathrooms for 8 girls  which turned out to work out just fine.  The tenants who lived there previous left blow driers and electrical adapters.  Every girl seemed to bring her own towels, a few of us borrowed some from the hotel next door, they were pretty willing to share with us.  It was only me and one other girl who brought sheets, the ones they had were surprising fresh looking but I still preferred my own.  We didn't have a problem with bugs like the manual prepares you for but we can probably attribute that to the scented bug-be-gone plug ins we put around the apartment.  I don't know anybody who did a home stay in Florence but all the apartments I saw were just as nice.  All were pretty close to one another which was centrally located, only a 10 or 15, if you like to mosey, minute walk to most classes. 

Just as a side note for those who are nervous about randomly assigned roommates, I don't know anybody who had a problem.  I had 7 flatmates and 1 roommate and I adored 5 of them and got only with all of them.  You have to remember that by picking Florence, out of anywhere else in the world, you already have something in common. Also being away from home and unsure about your surroundings helps you bond.  You will have roommates that want to see something or shop someplace you do so its an automatic buddy system.  I couldn't be happier with group of people in API, I would have lived with almost all of them. 

Until next time,

View from our window

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Classes In Florence

None of my classes transfered back to UWL, which was a perk of traveling in summer because I didn't fall behind, except for maybe in my finances.  I study fashion illustration and fashion buying concepts and absolutely adored them both.  I am a marketing major with both a Graphic design and cultural anthropology minor; the classes I took were mostly to satisfy my curiosity.  Each class was pretty long, they have to cram a lot into a 4 week class, but I enjoyed both the lecture an homework.  I use the term "homework" loosely because it was really more like fun projects to do on the side.  The class added to my experience, it did not take away from my free time or exploration time.  Fashion illustration cost quiet a bit extra for supplies but it was a good purchase to make.  At the end of class we had successful drawn 2 full lines of clothing, the first wasn't in color and were more like sketches, the second acted as our final and was incredibly detailed.  Skill level didn't matter, it was all about you improving from your first day.  We went to a famous costume museum, the Ferragamo museum and a huge trade show as field trips.  The coolest part was going to the trade show Petti,  it was the Mans show with buyers from all over the world coming to view next seasons lines.  I still have my portfolio from this class!  Fashion buying concepts was more of a business class, which I liked, but we also got to get out of the classroom for field trips often.  We went to a leather craft factory/school to see how leather coats and purses were made,  this is no Ma and Pa store, pictures of Robert Downey Junior and other celebrities that have graced the store were hanging on the wall.  This school has world renowned craftsmen who design leather goods from scratch per customer, it was amazing.   The final for this class was a paper on home of the major fashion houses, we went into the stores and found price points, observed store lay out, and evaluated the service.  My project was on Gorgio Armani, it was like espionage work because the stores didn't like us doing it.  

Although I had a strong passion for the classes I took I left with a long laundry list of classes I wished I had more time to take.  Among the highly reviewed by my friends were: Wine and food pairing, photography, figure drawing, history of the mafia and italian cooking.  

There was no student in my class that spoke italian, our teachers were italian but they spoke english to accommodate us.  So that should not be a concern. You can't really go wrong, the only time intensive classes were the literature classes.  

Anybody wanting to a see a portfolio, let me know! 


Monday, April 18, 2011

Emotions of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad took my emotions everywhere from arrival to well into returning to the US. The day I left for France I was a mixture of excitement and nervous, more excited than anything else that I was finally going to live in Paris. I had never traveled by myself before and was freaking out that I would miss my flight or lose my luggage or something - of course none of that actually did happen it was all nerves. After the long flights and finally arriving in France, everything seemed surreal, it took a couple days for me to realize that I was actually living in Paris and it was real. Inital adjustment to the French culture was easy for me since I wanted to experience it all and was so excited to try out something new.
Leaving was a completely different situation. One of my roommates and I were the first to leave out of our close knit group of friends and we all did cry and reminisce about everything that had happened over those 4 months. It was really weird leaving, as sad as I was that I was leaving, I was also overflowing with happiness that I got to go abroad.
I'm sure you've all heard about reverse culture shock and I defiantly had a bad case of it. When I got back to the US, I missed my new friends, and I missed everything about Paris and living on my own. Sure I was happy to be home and be with all my friends I missed but, rreadjusting back to your own culture and what you are used was the weirdest, most confusing thing for me. Luckily, one of my best friends had studied abroad and many of my friends studied abroad at the same time as me so it was very comforting to have people to talk to and understand what you go through cause it is really hard to explain!
Thankfully technology like skype helps a lot! I still skype or talk on the phone all the time with my friends I meet while living in France and we already had one reunion in Las Vegas!
Thats all for now,


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Emotions are big part of studying abroad. When I was leaving, the only emotion I felt was excitement. I was excited to leave, excited to go back to Spain, excited to speak Spanish again. I'm the kind of person who lives for putting myself into situations where I don't really know what's going to happen. By having a laid back "go with the flow" mindset, I was able to avoid being overly nervous and frustrated when my trip there turned into a disaster.

When you first get to your study abroad location, you are in the honeymoon stage. Everything is new and exciting, and you're always in an ecstatic mood. If you're there long enough, this feeling mellows out, and you return to your normal range of emotions. There are, however, overwhelming traces of excitement that still occur. They can happen when you're visiting a new place or doing something fun, but I found that I got this feeling at strange times. For example, sometimes I would simply be walking out a store and be thrown into the noise of the street, the warmth of the air, and the language being spoken all around me. It was in times like this that I just felt that I was doing something truly amazing and life changing, which is a good feeling to have.

Leaving is always a sad thing. I overslept the morning of my departure, so I was really rushed. My host mom was crying, and I was trying to comfort her while trying to finish packing my suitcase. Once I left house, all I wanted was to be back home. Not that I really missed my home, but if I couldn't be in my new home in Granada, I definitely didn't want to be traveling for 24 hours. It's strange to think that in a month in a half, I will already have been back home for a year. I still think about Spain all the time and try to keep in touch with all my friends. I'm just waiting for the next opportunity to put another stamp in my passport.

un saludo,


Monday, April 11, 2011

Nightlife in Paris

I found there to be very many differences in nightlife in Paris and Europe in general. First, the French do not go to clubs till after midnight. Dinner is eaten later than American, but not as late as Spain, but, dinner is a big deal and takes hours, so nightlife obviously starts later. There are many different options for going out, from rowdy bar hopping in the Latin Quartier to high class clubs on the Champs.
Depending on what you want to do, you need to plan according for drinking and for dressing. For girls- When your going to a club, dress to impress. When in doubt, wear black and heels. Once you start going out, you'll figure out what people are wearing and can blend in from there. Cover charges can get very pricey, most clubs have times every night or days that ladies get in free. If not, the only bonus to cover charges is that usually include a drink ticket. Speaking of drinks at bars, it is incredibly expensive. Buying a drink or two is all that is needed and will cost you 20 Euro in Paris, especially at clubs. I went to many techno concerts too, tickets at these venues were pretty cheap- usually 15 Euro- and you got a show to go with your night at a club!
We went clubbing a lot during the beginning but with the high prices, the desire died down and we started to prefer hanging out at bars and clubbed less. Bars in France are a place for people to just hang out, have good conversation, and a couple drinks. These are the places that we would meet many French students. In neighborhood like the Latin Quartier where all the college students were, there were an array of bars from very chill places with live acoustic music, to rowdier places blasting American 80's and 90's music.
If you want to go out when traveling - if you plan to travel. I would recommend pub/ bar crawls. They are cheap, all your drinks and cover fees are paid for, you meet many international travelers, your whole night is planned out to the best bars/clubs in the city and there are "chaperons" that watch you and take you place to place, and you most likely will get a t-shirt! I did one in Prague and two in Rome and they were a blast! I felt a lot safer doing these too cause we were in such a large group and we wouldn't make the mistake of choosing a bar to go to that sounded fun, but ended up being shady.
Have fun, and be safe!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spanish Night Life

I really enjoyed the night life in Spain. First of all, it's important to know that in Spain you don't eat dinner until 9 or 10 at night. Because of this, it's very normal not to go out until midnight or later. There were a few times at the beginning of my trip when I went out before midnight, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you enjoy empty bars and closed discotecas.

When you do go out, many Spaniards and internationals alike will start the evening off in a bar. Here you have a few drinks and eat tapas. In Spain (unless you are in a club) you are expected to eat while drinking. In my city, in every bar a free dish came with every single drink each round.

Clubs are fun, and at the beginning of my stay I went to them pretty frequently. After awhile, the excitement died out a little and I only went to them every once and awhile. I did, however, go to Kaptal in Madrid which was a 7 story club. It was a very interesting experience and if you get the chance, I recommend checking it out.

House parties are extremely rare in Spain because, well, there's really no reason to have them when you can go anywhere else to drink. I did go to one once, but I've never heard of anyone else going to one.

My advice: go out with a few friends you're comfortable with and meet natives. Not the creepy, sweaty ones who take of their shirts on the dance floor and grind on everyone and everything in site, but people you have good conversations with. It's a great way to branch out and meet a ton of natives.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Housing in Paris

Housing was a very big concern to me when choosing which program to study abroad through. With CEA, I had 4 options: apartment with other Americans in your specific program, home stay, dorms in an all American building, or dorms mixed in with French students. In part of the preparation work for CEA I had to rank where I wanted to live and also take quizzes to match roommates together- my roommates and I became extremely close and I still talk to them today! Possibly due to the personality quizzes? Maybe. Anyways, I ended up in an apartment with 3 other girls in my program in a building that had 2 other apartments with people from my program. My apartment a very different living situation than I had ever lived in before, but I ended up loving it. It was a duplex, and my bedroom was a loft shared with one other girl. CEA provided pretty much everything we needed: couches, table, chairs, bookshelf, and all the kitchen utensils (first one they checked for was a wine opener, only in France). I was on the fourth floor and luckily there was a elevator for use for the days we had luggage. I really liked the locations with CEA, all the housing was located in the heart of the city, meaning that no one lived in the suburbs of Paris. This was a huge bonus because everything was so easy to get to. My apartment specifically was located in the 13th arrondisment (district) of Paris, close to the boarder of the 5th. I was able to walk to huge landmarks like Notre Dame in about 20-25 minutes. Also, my apartment builing was with all Parisians, which gave us a chance to get to know our neighbors, most were adults or small families, and create more French friendships.
Another big question with housing in linens, to bring or not to. I would recommend to bring your own, you can probably find information from your program or other alumni what kind of bed to expect. For me, a bed, a duvet, and a pillow were provided. I brought my own sheets and pillow case and bought a duvet cover once I arrived.
Heres a couple pictures of my apartment when I first arrived!

Thats all for now!
A Bientot!