Growing Up

“Welcome to adulthood.  We’ve been waiting for you.” ~ Captain Awesome, “Chuck”

I went to the Career Fair a couple of weeks back.

It was Villanova’s Fall Career Fair, which, if you creep back far enough in this blog, I wrote about as a freshman business student, still bright eyed and bushy tailed and totally ready for anything VSB had to throw at me!

(A laughable concept now that I’ve taken FMR.)

But moving on.

I attended the Career Fair, anxious because this was the first year I’ve gone and been a real candidate for the companies there, just waiting for me.  As a junior, the representatives actually wanted to talk to me, and the recruiters actually asked for a copy of my resume, and I actually had to have a marketable elevator pitch about my own accomplishments.

It was thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

My roommate and I did all of the recommended prep work: we polished our resumes, chose appropriately professional outfits, and attended the networking event aimed specifically at marketing majors the night before.  We arrived at the Fair in our business professional getups, our fancy portfolios chock full of freshly printed resumes and our feet already aching from the requisite heels (I developed some wicked blisters, which still have yet to heal… The sacrifices I make for the sake of looking good.)  We spoke to some companies together, and other times went at it alone, but met up afterwards to walk to our next class together and analyze every interaction we experienced.

Walking around, trying to look like I knew what I was doing, I managed to successfully speak to a handful of fascinating companies, running the gambit from a healthcare startup to a huge national financial services corporation.  I handed out my resume and networked with the best of them, discussing my experience with social media marketing and digital growth.  I dutifully sent out follow up emails that night, sparking a few conversations and connecting further with some companies I was deeply interested in.  I contemplated what each opportunity, if it was offered to me, could mean for my living situation next summer and my career path farther down the road.  I went through all the motions of actively looking for an internship, and doing so intelligently and well.

In other words, I faced adulthood dead on and survived.

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret: It cracks me up that my peers and I are viewed as adults, not because we can’t operate as such, but because we stumble through life wondering if we’re actually getting the hang of this adult thing or if we’re somehow impostors.

But what continues to surprise me is that I think we are actually succeeding at learning how to be adults, my experience at the Career Fair being my most recent example.  I’m impressed with how much we’ve grown up, even from my freshman year experience – I just reread my blog post from back then and I laughed at my naivete.

It’s not Europe, but check back for updates on my journey to adulthood (or maybe just my continued college antics.)

~Abby

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I Have Returned

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~ Terry Pratchett, “A Hat Full of Sky”

Long time no see, i miei amici.

I’m a little embarrassed about the incredibly overdue and wildly late post… It would seem that I left my faithful blogging habits back in Italy.  Oops!!

I arrived home on May 16th, about 24 hours after I published my last post – the one where I got all sappy and sentimental about all the great people with whom I spent last semester and whom I miss terribly.  As to be expected, our travel went anything but smoothly – we all piled into our faithful charter bus for the last time and made it to Bologna airport ok, but our travel agent forgot to check us in and their computer systems were down.  It was stressful.  We ended up making the flight no problem, but come on – we couldn’t have been expected to leave Italy with anything less than a minor mishap!  It was us, for crying out loud; we’re a bit of a (lovable) hot mess, as a unit.

The good-byes were tough.  I certainly did not want to leave Italy, and all of my friends I had made there seemed too good to be true.  I’m lucky because I can talk to them whenever (thank God for GroupMe, Facebook, Snapchat, and modern technology in general) and I’ll see 35 of them in the fall at Nova.  But that didn’t stop me from letting the full force of the end of my Italian dream smother me with sadness there at the end.

I was really proud of myself – I didn’t cry a whole lot until I had to split off from the group flying to JFK and dash to my flight to Chicago; it was my final good-bye of the semester and it hurt more than I wanted to admit.  I hugged everyone in quick succession, not wanting to admit it was over, until Christa and I stood there and cried for a bit while random people stared at us like we were deranged and our friends gently prodded me to my gate.  I think some Parisians were genuinely concerned for me; I was speed walking, alone, frantically trying to stop crying, all around the L terminal of Charles de Gaulle.  It didn’t help that in my haze I walked to the wrong gate at first (I misread my boarding pass and walked to my seat number, not my gate number…), leading me to double back like a crazed American.  I finally stopped crying about when I realized I was at the wrong gate, instead cursing under my breath while I worked up a sweat in my maxi dress and cardigan (travel outfit of choice, ladies; it’s uber comfortable and look stylish to boot!) hoofing it to my gate.

I calmed down even further when I made it on the plane; my seatmate was an adorable older gentleman from Elkhart, Indiana, and we talked for a while before takeoff.  I fell asleep and awoke hours later, disoriented and somehow simultaneously wide awake and exhausted.  Realizing where I was (and where I was headed – I had a heart breaking moment where I was convinced we were about to touch down in Athens), I started to get exceptionally excited and wildly apprehensive about heading home.

Would it be different, now that I was a world traveler?  Would I feel the same?  Would I act in a more “European” manner?  Would I be one of those people, the ones who start every story with “When I lived in Europe…” and disdains everything American?  Would I miss gelato?

These were the things I pondered while I sped over the Atlantic Ocean, half focused on old reruns of “How I Met Your Mother” and half staring at the clouds.  And after retrieving my overstuffed suitcase, joyously reuniting with my family, and inhaling my first real Diet Pepsi since January, I discovered the answers to those questions.

Yes, it is different now that I’ve seen more of the world.  I’m more informed on the state of the world economically, politically, and fashionably – I now know, for instance, that Italians dress for the season, not the weather, meaning anyone in shorts in April will get strange looks regardless of temperatures in the 70’s.

No, I don’t feel the same having set foot on American soil after four months in Europe.  What’s odd is that nothing major has changed in my homeland but I have changed in ways that are hard to truly characterize.  I look around at my Midwestern life, loving every little corn-filled moment, but also knowing there is a whole wide world spinning on around me, just waiting for me to go on and continue exploring.

I don’t know if I act in a more “European” manner – unless that means pinning an absurd number of Nutella-centric recipes to my Pinterest boards!  But in all seriousness, I have noticed that I am more confident and independent.  I can plan, book, and execute travel plans automonously, and do so well.  I am able to handle change and disrupted schedules with much more aplomb, grace, and calm than prior to my semester abroad.  And I can linger over a meal with the best of them!

While I have shared a large number of stories about “my time abroad,” I don’t yet disdain Americana – I missed Chipotle, PB&J, and Downton Abbey too much for that!!  It’s been fun, telling stories and sharing my life with people I haven’t seen in much too long.  I just finished compiling photo albums of my time (two full books of photos, ticket stubs, boarding passes, and I haven’t even touched a lot of my memory scraps).  And getting reacquainted with all my old favorite foods had been scrumptious.  It’s not like I never left, because I’m comparing my old favorites and dreaming of my new favorites.

Because I do desperately miss gelato.

~Abby

The Last Hoorah

“Remember that time I didn’t know you?  That was a dark time.” ~ Brenna Fallows

God bless this semester.

We leave our little Urbino homestead for good in 2 and a half hours.  There have already been tears, we aren’t sleeping tonight, and our lasts have been noted with nostalgia.  We visited the fortress, went out for the Last Supper, and bid Arrivederci to our favorite bar.  Walking around a mostly empty Urbino at 1:30 am was an experience I’ll miss terribly, and as we all are sprawled around the lobby talking about how odd it is that we’ll be in America in less than 24 hours, I can’t fathom leaving.

I can’t fathom walking away from this semester, because I was lucky enough to spend it with some of the world’s best people in some of the world’s coolest places.

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The gang’s all here, and I can’t wait to see them all again in the fall.  I can’t believe I won’t be spending the summer with the 35 people with whom I’ve exclusively spent the last four months.

I haven’t even left them yet and I already miss each and every last one of my BCIC (and Humanities!) family.  We’ve come a long way from where we began, and we’ll tell you all about it when we see you again.

Mi mancherete tutti

~Abby

Stop Trying to Make Greece Happen

“Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen!  It’s not going to happen!!” ~ Regina George, “Mean Girls,” 2004

We should’ve known last weekend was too great to be true.

We had planned a trip to Greece for the weekend, a last hurrah after our final presentation to our client for CE, Terra Bio, on Friday (which went fantastically!  My team, the Foraging White Alpacas, was a delight to work with and we offered the client a great solution to enter into the U.S. market.  I’ve included a team picture below, in our business formal immediately following the presentation.  Shout out to my Responsibilibuddying Alpacas, love you lots – even when we confuse the meanings of forage and forge.)

Back row: Dom, Me, Christa, Ryan, Cam, Wes, Faraz Front row: Anita, Nikki, Liz, Sarah GO PAC GO

Back row: Dom, Me, Christa, Ryan, Cam, Wes, Faraz
Front row: Anita, Nikki, Liz, Sarah
GO PAC GO

We had a great group lunch with the client, and afterwards, we had the blessed opportunity to watch a video made by one of my classmates, chronicling our semester so far.  It was BEAUTIFUL, and moved me and a few others to tears – Emily will be the next big thing in video production, I’m certain of it.  We had to say goodbye to one of our number on Friday afternoon, too, which made the sadness more real, but also hit home that I’ll be back in the MidBest in a little over 5 days now, which is both sad and fantastic!  We took Friday night easy, as we had plans to wake up early Saturday and travel, and prepped for our anticipated voyage to Mykonos (a minor island of Greece) and Athens.

Saturday dawned, and we rose before the sun to catch a 6:30 bus to Pesaro.  Two of the girls almost overslept, but luckily they made it, and we all boarded the bus without incident.  Our trains to Rome, also, were easy – no problems at all, and we arrived in beautiful Rome early Saturday afternoon with a few sunny and warm hours to kill until our flight.  We walked around the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia before somewhat reluctantly stopping at one of the exceptionally touristy lunch places near there.  Recognizing we had little choice in the matter if we were going to make our flight, we bit the bullet and sat down, expecting decent food and rushed service.  What we received was mediocre at best cuisine and wildly rude service, all of which took entirely too long.  Not our best experience, but we chalked it up to the time crunch and our subsequent lack of ability to choose a better lunch locale.

A bright spot in what ended up feeling like the longest weekend of this semester was stumbling across one of my very good friends completely by accident!  She has spent this semester in Galway, Ireland, and it was to both of our chagrin when we realized we probably were not going to cross paths in the four months we have both spent across the pond, so when we both happened to be visiting Rome (me only for a few hours, her for the weekend), it would seem that God smiled on us and our paths crossed.  We only got to talk for a few minutes, but it was so lovely to see her again.

Her hostess for the weekend, another mutual friend who is studying abroad in Rome but attends Villanova with all of us, put a bit of a damper on things, however.  She asked what airport we were flying out of, and we (mistakenly, we later figured out) told her Roma Ciampino airport, the local hub for RyanAir and other budget airlines.  She seemed relieved, and went on to explain that Roma Fiumicino, the huge international airport, had suffered a somewhat devastating fire the day before.  We counted our blessings that we hadn’t heard anything of the sort cancelling our flight and parted ways.

On the walk back to catch an airport train, we realized that we had been mistaken – we were scheduled to fly back INTO Roma Ciampino FROM Athens, and our flight TO Athens was scheduled to leave FROM Roma Fiumicino.  But we still had yet to hear of any complications with our flight, so we continued on to Fiumicino, arriving with no problem and finding the correct terminal and check in desk.  I was a little curious as to why the mob of people was surrounding a desk marked with a Word Document print out for a sign, but chalked it up to unconventional budget airline quirks.  However, we discovered we (along with every other passenger) was waiting in the customer service line, so we obviously hoofed it to the proper check in line – which was curiously empty.  This was about when I got a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, thinking that we had somehow missed the flight, even though it wasn’t scheduled to leave for another hour.

The Italian woman behind the desk, languishing there as she gossiped with a colleague, promptly told us when asked about checking in for our flight, “Oh, no, that flight was cancelled,” the lack of concern apparent in her face.  We stood there in shock, our jaws hitting the floor in disbelief, as we sought the flight number on the “Departures” board.  It was still scheduled to take off on time, but as we stood there, one by one, the terrible red script reading Annullato popped up next to flight numbers.  We scrambled back to the customer service desk, learning that not only can they not reimburse us for a night spent in Rome since it was the airport’s problem, not the airline, but the earliest we could get to Greece was Monday – on that airline.  We all continued to scramble for a few minutes, frantically connecting to the free airport wifi in order to look up possibilities for other plans.  Staying in Rome for the night was a necessity, that much was obvious – we found out the flight was cancelled around 5:15 pm, and the last train to Pesaro would get us there much too late for the bus to Urbino.

We stationed ourselves in the waiting area, all glued to our iPhones – either trying to find someplace to sleep that night, researching flights out of the other airport the next morning, or on the phone with our moms, seeking reassurance and a calming word or two.  After about an hour and a half, Niki, Christa, Anita and I decided to scrap Mykonos and just fly to Athens on Sunday morning, stay until Tuesday, and fly out of Athens as planned on Tuesday.  We booked the flight, booked a hostel in Athens for Sunday night, and continued to research places to sleep Saturday night.  FINALLY, after too much stress and poor prioritizing – I do not know what possessed us to put off the most immediate booking until last, when every other single passenger out of Fiumicino was in the same boat, also booking places to sleep that night – we found a hotel near the Roma Ciampino airport, where we were scheduled to fly out of Sunday morning to Athens.

A train ride later, we ended up in Ciampino and followed Christa, naively listening to her phone, as we heard Siri parrot out that it was only a 20 minute walk from the train station to the hotel.  About 7 minutes in, we were led to a highway.  No sidewalk, no shoulder, and lots of oncoming traffic.  Cursing Siri, we promptly retreated to a cute little pizzeria as we dreamt of our hotel beds, so close yet so far.  The wonderful, blessed people at the pizzeria helped us call the hotel shuttle, and after a tasty dinner, we arrived at the hotel safe, sound, and without having to walk across the autostrada.

We had to print boarding passes in the hotel lobby, check in, and all shower still that evening, meaning we didn’t fall into bed until almost 1 am, but it was so worth it when we did.  One of the sadder moments was 4:30 am, when all four of us awoke from our nap and repacked up, checked out, and piled back into the hotel shuttle to get us to the airport for our 6:15 flight.

Ciampino airport was literally flooded with people.

There may have been about 30284593457 people in line for visa checks, and the security line was just a long.  However, when we finally arrived at the front of the line (entirely more efficiently than expected, it only took us a half hour) we were told to rush to security, never mind visa checks – the influx of people was caused by the fire at Fiumicino, directing people to flights at Ciampino.  So we headed to security, speed walking like the champs we are, and made our way through an equally long line in about 15 minutes, putting us at 5:45.  I made it through, and was about to put my bag on the conveyor belt when I heard a frantic “Ab, wait!” behind me.  Niki had gotten stopped by the security man.  We immediately thought it was because she didn’t have a visa check mark, so we were all set to argue, but that wasn’t the issue.  There had been a snafu with the computer – her flight was booked for Monday morning, not Sunday morning, and in our haste and haze of the 12 hours prior, we hadn’t noticed.

Niki and I went to stand in the customer service line, hoping to get her moved to our flight.  However, due to the lackadaisical Italian bureaucracy and a somewhat rude Italian family behind us in line, we didn’t speak to the woman in charge until after 6 am.  We heard there was a seat on the flight, we were all ready to go, and then we were slapped in the face with a 200 euro fee.

Needless to say, we did not get on that flight.

We sat in the departures lounge of the OTHER Rome airport, a scene frighteningly similar to our predicament almost exactly 12 hours earlier, only this time we were unsurprised by our lack of luck.  We sat there and laughed so hard we almost cried for about 10 minutes.

Without any other plan (or honestly any motivation to anything else) we hopped a train back to Rome, planning on just returning to Urbino, discussing our horrific luck.  We made it to Rome, went to purchase tickets for the next train, and after Niki bought hers, the self-service ticket machines crapped out.  The server was broken.

We stood in line after taking a number, at this point just impressed with the efficiency of the Trenitalia system as compared with the airlines.  The server was back up about half an hour later, so we purchased our tickets without incident, and made it home to Urbino, exhausted but over the moon to be home.

It was, without a doubt, the most shambly 30 hours I’ve ever spent.  But also a great story to tell.

We really should’ve listened to Regina George.  Greece was not going to happen.

~Abby

Living Life on the Edge

“There’s a great big hunk of world down there with no fence around it.” ~ Lady and the Tramp

God bless Disney for these wise words.

I spent the weekend in Cinque Terre, Italy, after a wonderful chunk of time in Urbino spent exploring and enjoying the finally beautiful weather.  Wednesday, after our Italian Language final exam (oral, written, and listening – really comprehensive, but I discovered I’ve learned way more than expected!), we handed in the rough draft of our CE Marketing Plan – almost the final step of CE!!!  This Friday we present our final findings to the client – wish us luck!

Last Friday was Italian Labor Day, so almost nothing was open, but we walked around town anyway and visited a few shops we hadn’t yet gotten to, stocking up on souvenirs now that we’re less than 2 weeks away from our departure *shudder*.  We found what may be the most picturesque spot in town, a tiny little side street up a hill with an explosion of flowers shining against the bricks.

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Saturday morning, Christa, Anita, Niki and I hopped a train to Cinque Terre, arriving in the early afternoon to Monterosso, one of the five towns and the picturesque place in which we stayed.  We got a little turned around looking for the apartment we rented, but once we found it, we fell in love!  It was an adorably small place with a beautiful patio space, a kitchen, and comfortably slept four, right in the center of town!  We dropped our stuff and immediately went exploring around Monterosso, and I absolutely adored it.  So quaint and although touristy, still wonderful.  I purchased a beautiful pair of beaded sandals in one of the many tiny shops from a hilarious local woman, and cannot wait to wear them around this summer!!

Saturday night, we cooked dinner in our apartment for us and a few friends – we just so happened to run into a group of fellow Villanovans, one of whom is a classmate of ours in Urbino (small world!), and invited them to join us for a dinner of pasta, focaccia, salad, and gelato.  I was blissfully happy (just as I was in Barcelona when we had “family dinner”), and to top it all off, the girls and I turned in relatively early (read: before 1 am).

Sunday morning, we rose early and got all geared up to hike – after AMERICAN BREAKFAST.  Ladies and gents, I had eggs and bacon for the first time in four months.  I was over the moon.  BUT anyway, for those who don’t know (as I didn’t before the whirlwind that was planning this trip), one of the main draws of Cinque Terre is the hiking.  The area on the Italian Riviera is comprised of 5 individual towns – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, and Corniglia – and is situated right up against the coastline in a string of mountains.  Each town is connected either by regional train or hiking trails with gorgeous views.  So, we ended up taking the train from Monterosso to Corniglia early Sunday and then spending most of the day hiking back through Vernazza.

It. Was. Incredible.

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Vernazza, as seen from the trails

Vernazza, as seen from the trails

The town of Vernazza

The town of Vernazza

The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza wound through a more wooded area, with occasional views of the sea and the other towns.  We stopped in Vernazza for a quick lunch, and the tiny town seemed to be abuzz with life, tourists and locals alike.  This weekend was one where I really came to recognize how very strange it is going to be when I return home and hear American English all around me – I was reeling all weekend when I heard so many American tourists and I wasn’t prepared for it!  But anyway.  We enjoyed a small lunch by the water in Vernazza before starting back for Monterosso.  The hike back to Monterosso was more difficult, but also hugged the coastline and afforded way more views of the aquamarine ocean and colorful towns.  We counted over 500 steps in one section of the hike (thank goodness we were hiking DOWN the steps… our legs may have given out otherwise!)!  We arrived back in Monterosso and directed our momentum towards the beach, where we climbed this huge, beautiful boulder that just sits in the crystal clear water.  Simply incredible.

Anita, Me, Christa, Niki

Anita, Me, Christa, Niki

Vernazza

Vernazza

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Christa and I on the boulder!

Christa and I on the boulder!

After a refreshing lemon granita (and an even more refreshing shower), we passed out and napped so hard.  Waking up in the early evening, us girls got all prettied up to take photos and enjoy a meal by the water.  Our photo shoot was wildly successful, and dinner was even better – we found a restaurant that would seat all four of us right by the water, with delicious pasta and seafood!  We watched the sunset while we ate and reveled in the perfection that was this weekend.

Another wonderful American breakfast under our belts, this morning was spent shopping and enjoying a couple more hours in Monterosso.  Our trains were, again, perfectly timed, and we arrived back in Urbino by 6 this evening.  I was blissfully happy with how this weekend turned out, and I can’t wait to see what my next two weeks have in store!  I got to explore a new hunk of the world and will continue to explore over the remainder of my time here.

Ci vediamo a dopo

~Abby

What I Learned In Boating School Is…

“Happy we’ll be beyond the sea” ~ Frank Sinatra

This weekend was our last group trip of the semester.

We spent 9+ hours on our faithful charter bus  on Thursday, driving along the eastern coastline of Italy to the little town of Lecce, nestled right into the heel of Italy’s boot.  After arriving in the beautiful city, a small group of us attended an… interesting… theater workshop.  We worked with Italian theater professionals and learned about voice projection and sustaining proper tone, which I enjoyed and considered to be helpful with public speaking, but was not expecting such an interactive experience!  We had to be exceptionally vocal and essentially perform for the rest of the group, which ended up being quite the study into performance under pressure.  Not anyone’s favorite experience by far, but funny to look back on.

After our theatrical afternoon, we ventured back into the city center to try what has been touted at the best pizza in the world, at a place called Pizza al Taglio (pizza by the cutting, roughly translated) where they cut whatever size slice you desire.  And while it may not be the absolute best ever, we all fell in love with it!  SO tasty, and many different varieties – many of us were duped by what looked like plain marinara, but was actually peppered with anchovy slices!  We wandered through the town a bit and then crashed.

We awoke early on Friday for our company visit (those pesky little things that validate our group excursions as field trips), to Conti Zecca winery in a suburb of Lecce.  It was super cool to see how wine gets made, from the grapes all the way to packaging.  I decided that the bottling process was essentially Willy Wonka’s factory for grownups, with all the fancy machines and clanking noises.  We had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting, as well, which was splendid and oh so sophisticated.

Friday afternoon, we made it to a local beach – because it is still not the season, the beach was too windy and not cleaned up, but it was fun anyway!  That night was low key; after another slice of pizza, we all turned in so we could wake up early for our Saturday activities!!

We woke up early again, but it was so worth it – our wonderful program directors organized an incredible excursion for us in the neighboring coastal town of Gallipoli (which I ADORED, the town is so cute!!).  We all split into groups of 10 and piled into sailboats for a sailing tour of the harbor of Gallipoli and the Ionian Sea!  I absolutely loved it (despite a brief 15 minute spat of nausea) and had so so so so much fun.  Our Italian capitain, Alessandro, was hilarious and enlisted some of us to help navigate the boat!  We learned that you can have the boat tipped near a 45 degree angle and still sail perfectly fine.

The water was crystal clear

The water was crystal clear

Photo creds to Shannon for the best candid

Photo creds to Shannon for the best candid

Gallipoli harbor

Gallipoli harbor

Post-boating trip, I bought a gorgeous mother of pearl bangle for cheap, and then we sat down to a little cafe that looked out upon the sea.  The water of the Ionian is crystal clear and aquamarine blue, the town is surrounded by stone walls, and the strip of beach is drenched in golden sand.  Postcard perfection in real life.  We spent the rest of the day on the beach, enjoying lemon granita (shaved ice) and gelato in the sun.  I crisped to a gorgeous golden brown and we had such an incredible time!!

Orecchiette overlooking the Ionian Sea

Orecchiette overlooking the Ionian Sea

Gallipoli beach

Gallipoli beach

Lemon Granita

Lemon Granita

Our group dinner was last night, and as all group dinners are, it was delightful.  We had a great time sitting around the table all in our own private room of the restaurant.  So fun and so yummy, with different specialties of southern Italy.  I loved the orechiette pasta, which means little ears (but what I grew up calling shells).

Last group dinner of the semester!

Last group dinner of the semester!

This morning we hopped back on the bus for another 9+ hours of travel, and we were all super relieved to arrive back in our beloved Albergo San Giovanni.  I’ll be back in Urbino for the two weeks, thank goodness, and I’m looking forward to chilling in my favorite hilltop home!

The Ionian, though, was almost too perfect for words, and I’m thrilled that that was one of our group trips – I never would have taken a sailboat around the Gallipoli coast for any other reason!

Ciao, amici

~Abby

Viva La Espana!

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Sorry for the absence, I’ve been traveling up a storm in the last couple of weeks!

My family came alllllllll the way from the MidBest to little old Urbino to spend Easter break with me, which was SO wonderful and SO perfect and just overall fantabulous.  I showed them all around my little Italian home, which I loved – now when I ramble on and on with stories or when they read this blog, they can place my stories and thoughts in actual places they have seen!

Fam on the Fortress

Fam on the Fortress

A day trip to Florence was so interesting – since I’ve been there already (first weekend, if you’ve been reading!), it was interesting to see the city through a different set of eyes.  And we were fortunate enough to see Michelangelo’s statue of David, which was simply awe inspiring.  I so wish I had any sort of artistic talent, but if I can’t have the hands meant to sculpt the next masterpiece, at least I can see the masterpieces that exist.

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

We traveled to Siena, which was a beautiful city with some GREAT shopping.  Snagged a gorgeous print dress and a fantastic pair of leather heels with my favorite shopping buddy, mia mama.  The city center is where they hold a famous horserace, the Palio, every summer, and it’s shaped like a giant shell, which was neat to see!  Easter was splendid because I got to spend it with my family, who I miss so much.

Piazza di Palio

Piazza di Palio

My buddy

My buddy

After Siena, we spent our last couple of days in Bologna – again, super interesting to see a city I’ve already visited through new eyes.  I missed my family, and it was so wonderful to see them over such a fantastic holiday break.  I was so so so happy every single second of the trip.

But now to the much more recent part of my last two weeks…

I had about 48 hours after returning from Bologna and my Easter break until I made my way with 13 other friends to Barcelona, Spain!!!

My Spanish has gotten much rustier than I anticipated and Barcelona’s special brand of Castilian (a version of Spanish so twisted it’s its own language) didn’t help anything, but Barcelona may have been one of my absolute favorite trips of this semester.  Travel was a pain in my rear simply because of the length of time it took, but the airbnb apartment we rented for the weekend more than made up for it – it slept 8 comfortably and had a terrace that looked out onto the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s church that’s been under construction for over 133 years!  Sooooooooooooo clutch and relatively cheap.

Our first full day in Barcelona was Saturday, and we did our touristy things that day.  We toured the Sagrada Familia which is absolutely, positively, drop dead breathtaking.  If you ever have the opportunity to see it, GO.  And I can’t even imagine what it’ll look like when finished.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

The stained glass was flawless

The stained glass was flawless

The ceiling of the church

The ceiling of the church

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Selfie with the Sagrada, because of course

Selfie with the Sagrada, because of course

After the church, we wandered around the city, stopping at a great little place for lunch – tapas and sangria outside in the Spanish sunshine.  We went to Park Guell, a big beautiful park (surprising, I know) with mosaics inspired by Gaudi and seriously impressive views of the city.

Barcelona as seen from Park Guell

Barcelona as seen from Park Guell

That evening, we went to a fabtastic show in the main plaza of the city.  It was a fountain and light show set to music, which was so neat!  Beforehand, we all lolled about on these big pretty steps and waited for the show to start, and we actually met a few other American students studying abroad in Spain who were next to us, too!  But the show was so cool, and a great way to spend the evening.  Night fell, and we went to one of Barcelona’s famous dance clubs on La Barceloneta beach, and we had a blast!!  The girls all somehow ended up wearing all black and white and we loved that we all accidentally matched – probably a side effect of being with all of us and only us for the past 3 months, but whatever.  We were simply excited that we could wear cute summer clothes (70 degrees at least every day.  So great).

Fountain show at La Plaza de Espana

Fountain show at La Plaza de Espana

Niki, me, Anita, Christa, Shannon, and Emily matched!!

Niki, me, Anita, Christa, Shannon, and Emily matched!!

Sunday, we slept in before heading out to Barcelona’s main drag, Las Ramblas.  We found a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was a welcome taste of home – we did learn that they are called Dunkin’ Coffee in Spain, but still donut-y delicious.  I found a super cute phone case that mimics the famous mosaics of Barcelona, and we got to explore another big beautiful park.  We all laid out, enjoying the sunshine, before one of our best activities.  A huge man-made pond was situated in the middle, and rowboats were for rent for half-hour increments for 2 Euro a person.  Obviously, we all had to patronize that establishment.

Row, row, row our boats, gently around the Spanish pond

Row, row, row our boats, gently around the Spanish pond

That night, after a yummy dinner with a hilarious waiter, we headed to one of the more famous bars in the city to meet up with some friends studying abroad in England who happened to be in Spain the same time as us.  Called the Dow Jones (yes, like THAT Dow Jones) it’s based on the concept on the stock market – every drink has a base price, and if more people buy that drink, the price rises.  For example, almost all of the boys needed to try one of the more exotic shots on the menu (*insert eye roll here*), so the price rose 40 cents after 8 of them each bought one.  And occasionally, “the market crashes” and all the drinks end up dirt cheap, which was fun.  There are screens like stock boards and a ticker in the back listing the drinks and current prices – very cool concept, and we all were obsessing over our excruciatingly Villanova School of Business mentality of all of it.  Seeing our friends was also awesome, and it was a welcome taste of home to see people I hadn’t seen since December.

Stock/Drink price board at the Dow Jones

Stock/Drink price board at the Dow Jones

Monday, we slept like the dead, but woke up so excited for the day to come.  We hit the beach around noon and did not move our butts from that sand until almost 6 pm (I AM SO TAN I LOVE IT).  Beach soccer, volleyball, and football were all played, we laid in the sand and talked while listening to music, some braved the icy cold waters, and some had lunch at a cute beach side cafe.  I was blissfully happy.

Vamos a la playa

Vamos a la playa

La Barceloneta beach

La Barceloneta beach

That night was also delightful – we stayed in, since our flight back to Italy was at 7 am Tuesday (blergh).  So some of us went to the market across from our apartment and cooked dinner for all 14 of us, others set the table for a fancy little family dinner, and the set of us who stayed in a different hostel did our dishes.  I cooked (obviously) and I was so so so happy!!

Dinner party in Spain

Dinner party in Spain

We played games and stayed awake for far too long, resulting in an extremely exhausted crew Tuesday morning.  Woke up at 4 am, walked into our hotel in Urbino at 3 pm – 11 hours of long and tiring travel, but nothing super stressful.

We spent the last two days gearing up for a presentation to Terra Bio, our client for CE, this afternoon.  I think it went pretty well for my team (fingers crossed!), so that was a load off of our shoulders.  GPE is almost over (THANK GOODNESS) and it’s starting to set in that we’ll be leaving our little Italian paradise in 4 weeks, which is more depressing that I thought it would be.

But not before I squeeze in some more trips – we leave for Lecce, Italy, for our last group trip in about 5 hours.  I’ll be back next week with an update!

Buona notte

~Abby