A Week Full of Joy

The day has finally come that I post from America once again. Since my last post, I have finished my time in Florence, flown stateside, and settled back into my life in Michigan a little bit.

Throughout my last week in Italy, my travel home, and my first couple of days back,  I have felt an overflow of emotions. Multiple times I thought to start a draft, but, honestly, I had no motivation or I was overall just confused about what I was feeling. I had no idea what to expect when leaving. I was looking forward to seeing my family, yet I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. My first couple days home felt overwhelming. How was I supposed to transition back to my home when I was homesick for a place I’d only known for a short amount of time?

I found the answer to this question at mass last Sunday morning. On this particular morning, I was looking forward to participating in my first English-speaking mass since August. Luckily for me, I was home just in time for the third week in Advent. For those of you who don’t know, the third week in Advent represents joy. I will spare the details and cut to the chase; the answer to my previous question is joy.

The message during mass was all about finding the joy even in the worst moments of life. I can’t remember every detail to the homily, but the overall message of choosing and finding joy spoke to me. It is completely normal to feel all of the things I am feeling post-study abroad. Instead of letting every negative emotion or thought consume me, it is important to find the joy in even the smallest of places.

I’ve chosen to find joy in the new puppy my mom has gotten. He makes me laugh and forget about any sadness I may feel. I’ve found joy in holding my stepbrother’s baby. All the times I’ve gotten to spend with those I’ve missed, I have felt joy. Snuggling my other dogs and relaxing has also brought me great joy. My family has helped me find the joy in everything. Despite how I may be feeling, finding and doing the smallest things that bring me joy has been the biggest life-saver thus far.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that this has cured any negative feelings I may have, but I do know it makes the days a lot better. I’m thankful for the experience, but most especially, I’m thankful for my family.

Sincerely,

Krystal, With a “K”

P.s. Below I have attached the link to an 8-minute video I made summarizing the last 3 and a half months.

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A Day In The Life: FIRENZE

Each of my days begins quite similarly: slow. I’m not sure if it’s the European lifestyle rubbing off on me, but I have dedicated extra time into each of my mornings to enjoy this new, slower lifestyle. Now that the semester is winding down and I’m headed back to the states so shortly, this routine is more of something I had in the past couple of months. **This post uses the 24 clock or military time because that’s what we use in Europe**

Rise & Shine

Depending if it’s a class day or a day off, I try to wake up around the same time every day. This doesn’t always happen due to my rather inconsistent bedtimes. My alarms go off anywhere from 07:25-08:30. If it’s a class day or I went to bed early, I am usually up and sipping my coffee at the table around 08:30. If I wake up later, 08:30 is my first alarm and I’m not out of bed until around 09:00 or 09:30. My goal is to wake up and not lay in bed on my phone which I sometimes do by lacing up for an early run.

COFFEE

This is an essential part of my mornings. I’m talking Lorelai Gilmore, “I need coffee in an IV,” essential part to my morning. Since moving to Italy for the semester, I have ditched my drip coffee ways for the only option in my apartment: espresso by Moka (or a percolator). Unfortunately, I can’t just drop my American coffee-drinking ways, so I either make a cappuccino or an americano to sip while I scroll through social media and news apps or while (like this morning) writing.

Mid-Morning & Early Afternoon

If it’s a class day I spend much of my day in the classroom or bouncing from one part of the city to the next to make it to class. On Tuesdays, I like to go with my roommate to our school restaurant for lunch before my second class of the day. The rest of the week or the weekend I spend this time walking around Florence, trying to find new places to get caffè and do homework all while enjoying my other favorite places. Lunch is usually thrown in somewhere around 13:00.

Afternoon & Evening

At the beginning of the semester, if I didn’t go for a run in the morning, I would go for a run after my classes, during the golden hour. I loved hitting the city streets while the golden sun gracefully fell down each building or reflected off of the Arno river. Although I still love this time of day, it is much harder for me to see it because I don’t get home from class until around 18:00. For the days I don’t have afternoon classes, I usually end my walks during the golden hour. Other times, I find myself doing much of my homework at my apartment or, more times than I’d like to admit, scrolling through my phone.

Evening

Most of my evenings are spent hanging out with my roommates in the kitchen. Everyone has different stuff going on each day (and even some nights), but during the evening is when we find ourselves spending the most time together. This is also when we find ourselves cooking dinner, exchanging parts of our daily happenings, and whatever else roommates talk about.

Night

Not long after eating dinner, I find my way to my bed where I spend too much time on my phone or laptop. Sometimes I’ll surf the web for more things to do in Florence while others I watch Netflix or scroll through social media. Due to my earlier mornings, I find myself falling asleep anywhere from 22:00-23:30. Even that seems late on my earliest of mornings. Lately, due to my lack of motivation and anxieties for returning to the United States, I don’t find myself sleeping until after around 01:00.

It varies day to day, but for the most part, I find myself in a similar schedule. Despite the exciting city environment, my daily life doesn’t differ too much from my school life at home. Okay, you got me; I do way more exploring here. . .

Leave a comment below if you liked this post or if you want to see more like it.

Ciao,

Krystal, With a “K”

Moments in Firenze

Originally, I had a different post in mind. It was a day in my life while abroad. Since writing it (sorry it took so long) I have decided on a completely different, more pressing, topic. Time: it’s a very funny thing. You either have too much time, not enough time, people wasting your time, people begging for your time- the list goes on and on.

For me, I’ve always had this love/hate relationship with time. Most of my hate comes from my fear of it, more specifically how fast time seems to fly.

I am already in the last month of my study abroad experience in Italy. The time has flown by so quickly. There was so much I had planned for my time abroad, and there was so much I didn’t even know I wanted to do until I got here. I always say that you really can’t plan every day of life, and this place has truly taught me the reality of that.

Knowing I only have less than a month here is mind-boggling. I’m trying to use every second of my time here to do something I love or something new. Of course, I still have class and studying which takes up time, but all my free moments will be used wisely.

As for my weekends, I will spend them with the new people who have changed my life. The people who have been on this crazy experience with me. I will continue to find new places for me that are in fact not new at all. Exhibits, churches, memorials, statues- everything.

To think that a little over a year ago I started forming plans to come here. I don’t think I knew what was truly in store for me. I have fallen in love with people and places that I never even imagined possible for my life.

I’m going to leave this post with one of my favorite quotes:

Don’t count the days, make the days count,” -Muhammad Ali

So, here’s to making the rest of my seconds, minutes, days, and most importantly, moments count (more than usual)!

Ciao for now,

Krystal, With a “K”

Greece Island Hopping

Ten days, three islands, and one trip of a lifetime. My Greece Island hopping adventure has officially come to an end, so I thought it would only be fitting to post my latest travel experience with all of you.

I used a student travel company that I have mentioned previously, Bus2Alps, which did all of the heavy lifting for this trip. They organized the travel and much of the itinerary. Usually, I would follow everyone else’s advice to travel on my own because travel companies can charge you more, but due to not knowing anyone who I would want to travel to Greece with when I booked this trip prior to leaving for Italy in August, I decided I didn’t want to travel alone. There are pros and cons to traveling with any student travel company which will become evident throughout the rest of this post.

IMG_3046Our trip started with a bus ride from Florence to Ancona where we got on a ferry for 24 hours. Personally, I didn’t mind the “ferry” which was more realistically a small cruise ship. It was a long day of travel, but I did upgrade to a cabin where I could sleep for the majority of the trip if I so chose. This ferry was the first place that I truly started to get to know the other students traveling with me. This is by far the best part of traveling with a student travel company because you get to meet so many different people. From the ferry, we had a short bus ride to our first hostel in Athens.

I absolutely loved Athens. We got to do some shopping as well as historical stops. Thecolum Acropolis and the Ancient Agora. I was able to get into both of these sites for free with my international student I.D. Nothing was cooler to me than the thought of stepping on land that people from thousands of years ago, before Christ, had also stood on. I was literally touching columns that I had once seen as a little girl in my history books. It was a truly humbling and surreal moment to be able to experience these places and this city first hand. I also got my first taste of authentic Greek gyros in Athens as well as my first ever bubble waffle cone. Both are to die for, and I surely will never forget them.

 

bluedomeAfter a couple days in Athens, it was time to catch another ferry to the island of Santorini. Santorini is most commonly recognized by the eye-catching white buildings and blue roofs, and not to mention, Oía which is home to the most photographed sunset ever. Santorini was right out of a movie. Everything seemed so dreamlike. This island is also known for being one of the most luxurious vacation spots in the world, so I was thankful for my opportunity to see its Red and Black Sand Beaches as well as its famous sunset as a student. I was also able to visit the highest point on the island, at an ancient Monastery where I repped my home university, CMU. Aside from loving the sunset, I enjoyed Santorini’s other views and, of course, more gyros. We stayed in a town called Fira while in Santorini which was where a couple of my new friends and I found our favorite gyro spot that we visited four separate times in two days as well as a nice cliff bistro that featured an unforgettable view.

 

Our final destination for our trip was the island of Corfu. Of course, we had another day of travel to get there due to the distance from Santorini to Corfu, but it was totally worth it. Corfu was a completely different island than the other two. We stayed at the famous Pink Palace hostel. They were not joking when they say it’s pink- it looked like Barbie’s beach getaway. Here we got to relax under the sun on a very cool rock beach, make it to Corfu town, and experience the famous toga party offered at Pink Palace. This was definitely something I had yet to experience in life. Due to tourist season ending, the island seemed empty which I liked, but I would love to see this place at the height of the tourist season when the hostel alone can hold over 700 guests. My favorite part of this island was the rocky beach where I sat for hours searching for new rocks. It was eye-opening to see boulders that made up the beach becoming sand firsthand. No two rocks were the same. Nothing was more peaceful to me than looking for rocks with my new friends, stopping every so often to show off a new one or try to skip a flat one.

 

By the end of the ten days, I was beaten. It was a lot of traveling to islands that are not that close to one another. This is where Bus2Alps gets much criticism, and although there were extra costs (just like any another vacation), I give this trip a huge thumbs up. I loved the people I met, including the guides, and I can’t imagine trying to book these three islands on my own. This truly was an amazing experience that I will never be able to forget. I am truly blessed to have met such awesome people whom I hope to connect back in the states with.

Sincerely,

Krystal, With a “K”

Bucket List Checkmarks: Oktoberfest

Ever since we were kids, we’ve had mental lists of things we have to do and the places we need to go. In the past few years alone I’ve checked off numerous places on my personal list, like Lambeau field, the Bahamas, California, New York City, and tons more.

As I’ve grown older and been blessed by my God with endless opportunities to travel and experience life, I’ve been able to add to my list.

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to check off another place on my bucket list that I wasn’t aware was one it until I got to Europe. Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Although it was too short of a weekend, I had the time of my life.

I’ll try my best to quickly summarize one of the best times of my life: After what seemed like extensive and exhausting travel with late buses and hotel complications, I found myself begging that the fest would be worth our troubles. If only I had truly known what I would be in for.

We went to the actual event on a Sunday that started with the impeccable luck of finding a dirndl place actually open (stores in Germany aren’t usually open on Sundays). Once we got dressed and made the trek from our hotel to img_2540

Oktoberfest I couldn’t wait any longer. I have been to multiple large events, for example, the Houston Rodeo, but this, this was different. Carnival games, food, and people of all kinds everywhere.

There may be a catch to this in the fact that half the reason I had such an amazing time was that of the people I went with. I was lucky enough to take my close study abroad friends to meet up with my cousin and his friends. Endless pretzels, beers, and laughter filled the rest of the day. We chose to ride the ferris wheel that overlooks the whole festival and city, and if I could suggest doing one carnival type thing, it would be to ride the ferris wheel.

During the evening my friend Jamie and I  finally got our fix of Starbucks that we’ve been craving (because Germany has theIMG_0586 coveted coffee company that Italy doesn’t want) which helped me feel even more at home in the cool fall weather that was hitting the city. At night we wandered around Munich making our way to the Hofbräuhaus. Drinking beer in the original hall that made it through the World War II bombings is something I will surely never forget.

In the end, all day we acknowledged the fact that we were living in a bucket list moment. My heart was so full from being able to experience the fest with close friends and one of
my cousins who has been like a brother to me. I am definitely not taking Oktoberfest off of my bucket list, as I plan to someday in my future go back, hopefully with more family. Oktoberfest was one of the best days of my life thus far, and I can’t wait for the day I can go again with more of my favorite people.

Sincerely,

Krystal, With a “K”

An Open Letter To My Pre-Study Abroad Self

Dear Krystal from a month ago,

Can you believe that you have lived in Florence for almost a month already? You have literally been planning this semester since December of last year. You formed the dream in your heart years ago, and today you are thriving here.

Isn’t it funny how life always finds a way to work itself out? Before coming here, you felt unsure about the decision to move across the world for almost four months instead of moving back to something you knew and were comfortable with. You had anxieties watching friends move back to school two weeks before you could leave. Italy was a gray area with no previous experience to base ideas on. You couldn’t imagine not being an hour and a half away from home let alone in a different time zone.

Again, life tends to work itself out, and now, more than ever, you are loving this life. IMG_6715With the help of your family, friends, and a whole lot of prayer, you settled in quite quickly. Isn’t it crazy how you started with nothing; no prior experience of places or food or culture, and now you are completely immersed in all of it every single day.

Just think about the first time you felt at home in this foreign city; when you saw the Duomo. You and your new roommates were trying to find an orientation building when you all of a sudden ran into it. How could you not have noticed the huge reddish-orange dome took up your whole view? You couldn’t help but fall in love with the city right then and there. You even make a point to see your Duomo once a day. It is hard to imagine that you once lived your life without this jewel.

Now the people. You have met people from all walks of life, different cultures and religions, and from numerous cities and countries. You have become close with strangers from class, and now you can’t imagine your life without them. Meeting people and hanging out with people who have the same travel bug as you have immensely motivated you to take a different street just because.

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Now that you know your surroundings, your favorite places to sip coffee, most delicious gelato places, and the best views of your coveted Duomo, enjoy every last second of it. Aside from learning about this place you are learning about yourself. Learning about a new culture while trying to take classes has given you a new sense of self and placement in this world. Don’t forget that breathless feeling. You are so blessed to be able to call this life yours. Don’t forget to live each day to the fullest, and to soak up every ray of sunshine.

Sincerely,

Krystal, With a “K”

Florence Frenzy

Frenzy (/ˈfrɛnzi/): a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior.

Just a little bit over two weeks ago I stepped off a plane in my new home, Florence, Italy. The first 24 hours of my stay were full of uncertainties, fear, excitement, and exhaustion. The lack of caffeine and sleep from traveling left me in a state of shock, and it wasn’t until I had my first glimpse of this Renaissance city’s crown jewel that I knew I was right where I belonged.

img_1056.jpgFrom the Duomo (the so-called crown jewel) to the people I’ve met so far, this city has already captured a huge part of me. I’ve spent most of my first days exploring both the touristy parts of the city as well as the more authentic side. I already have my favorite gelato and coffee places, knowing my order in Italian at both. I have totaled more than 300,000 steps since being here, and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

Aside from exploring my city, some new friends and I adventured out to Cinque Terre.IMG_1079 Literally meaning five lands, this city sits on the northwestern coast of Italy. We traveled with a student travel company (Bus2Alps) to see three of the five towns. The best part of this day trip was the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso (town four to town five). The hike IMG_3805was difficult in the beginning, starting with virtually a straight climb up narrow, makeshift staircases, but the views on the mountainside made it all worth it. Once we got to Monterosso we made our way to the famous, fresh margarita buckets and then to the beach where we swam in the saltiest water I’ve ever set foot in.

My classes are unlike anything I’ve experienced back home in Michigan. I focused on taking classes that would count as electives here so that I could really experience Italy’s culture. IMG_2087The classes are once a week, but they are two and a half hours long each time we meet. I’m working on my Italian both in class and in the city daily. I’m learning about the history of Florence’s architecture in my ceramics class by using the same methods that early Florentines used when creating the city. I’m exploring the wine culture of Italy and discovering that I, in fact, do like some dry wines with two wine tastings each time we meet. I’m learning more about my personal camera and photography in general in my street photography class. Finally, I’m discovering the healthy lifestyle of the Italian people in and health and fitness class where we hands-on learn why this culture is so much healthier than ours.

As you can see, there is a lot that I am doing with my time here in Florence. I am in love with my life more than I ever have been before. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to make my dream a reality. I want to thank anyone who encouraged me to do this, and of course, I want to thank my family for love and support. I will try to keep my blog updated as much as possible with my upcoming travels and Florence discoveries.

Arrivederci!

Krystal, With a “K”