Leaving Italy


By Mia Maggiacomo

“What do I have now to look forward to?” I said to my father, on the opposite end of a twenty minute Facetime call, getting ready for his eleven o’clock stretch yoga class.

“Seriously,” I said. “What do I have now to look forward to?” He sat back on our living room couch, exasperated and responded firmly.

“Everything,” he replied. “First, your dog misses you.” My not so little, almost 10-year-old golden-doodle dog, Merry, sat at his feet in my home, lounging as the light of the early Sunday morning shown through the windows above her head.

“She’s wicked smelly and needs a haircut, but she’s still as cute as when you left her.”

I could see the tufts of her bright blonde hair at his feet. Sitting the way she used to on mine, simultaneously crushing and affectionately rubbing the bottom of my legs. When she was little, I used to sit on the floor in our living room so that she would sit on my lap. Her body formed to the space left between my legs and she would fall asleep as if I were some comfortable pillow or mattress she could fall asleep on. Something she could trust to sleep on when she was too exhausted to stay awake in our world. Now, she just rests by my feet.

“Your mother has also redone your room,” he said. This was a Christmas I saw coming from the moment I left for Italy. For months my mother has been complaining about my room. The orange walls never correctly complimented the green framed mirrors or patterned grey carpets that I collected over the years. She said nothing matched the way it should. I sort of liked it that way, I never felt uniform or complete, so why should my room? Once when I was Facetiming my sister she showed me a preview of the “Krissy K Interior Design Challenge.” My bed frame was changed, accompanied by a new mattress, new sheets and new pillows, although I was surprised to notice that my signature collectables had not been touched.

Mia Maggiacomo, '19.

Mia Maggiacomo, '19.

“She didn’t get rid of anything,” I said to my sister, who was obviously not as amused with this room tour as I was.

“Yeah,” she replied. “She just added a few new things.”

“Finally,” my dad said, “you have your family to look forward to.” I smiled as the thought crossed my mind. My weird, crazy, perfect family.

“This year, the family reunion’s on the twenty-third. Then Christmas Eve at my sister’s the next day, then Christmas Day at ours with your mom’s family the next.”

“Why so close?” I replied. We never celebrate Christmas like this. I’m lucky if I get to see my whole family this time of year. Everyone’s moved on, grown up and adjusted to their own lives as people.

“Just the way everything fell, sort of serendipitous, huh? That’s what makes it special,” my father replied, whose hair shagged longer than I’ve ever seen and whose eyes, my friends always say, are identical to mine. During my senior prom, when everyone's parents congregated at my best friend Alex’s backyard to take photos of their girls being sent off with questionable high school boys, Alex said, “You’ve never looked like your mom. You’ve always looked like your dad.”

I shook my head in dismay, because what does it mean to look like your father. A man you value, love and look up to, but you yourself don’t share similarities with at all. I couldn’t comprehend it then, but I understood it now.

As I am set to leave Florence in two weeks, I find myself very appropriately reminiscent of my time here and what is set out for me in the future. I’ve changed for the better, my hair is longer, my thoughts are clearer and my convictions are strong. I don’t live in fear of the future, but I sure do miss the past. If I could stay, I would. I’ve found a life here that could be mine forever. But, I’ve made my choices and don’t regret any one of them. So, if to say goodbye is what needs to be done, then I will kiss the ground and cherish the moments before I remind myself that everything good goes by too quickly.

We will meet again, I know it. I knew it when we met. I won’t let go of what you taught me and how my eyes adjusted to learn who you are and what existed underneath your skin. Even though the pollution in the air at points became too overwhelming and I was always slightly at risk of being hit by a car, I’ll treasure every spot where I remember you most clearly. I hope you’ll do the same for me.

“You’re right,” I said, holding back tears which at this point I did not know what were for.

“You’re right, I have a lot to look forward to.”


Cappuccinos And A Curious Dog


By Sophia Kalogeris  

A curious, chocolate brown bull dog began to incessantly chew on a water bottle he found beneath the table next to me as I attempt to begin my reading. Gordo, his name was, would routinely roam aimlessly throughout the café until his owner, the barista, would occasionally whistle in his direction and call him back behind the counter. Mischievous yet naïve, Gordo began to take a liking to the plastic bottle cap that was hanging out of the young woman’s backpack who sat beside me. The barista was preoccupied creating intricate and tasteful designs into the foam atop the many ordered Cappuccinos at the bar, so Gordo began to nibble and subsequently, I put down my reading and watched what was unfolding. 

    Like a child who has gotten away with playing in her mother’s makeup drawer, Gordo could not help himself but to gnaw and chew at the plastic cap. Girls sitting at a table across the room began to hear the muttering sounds of Gordo’s mouth as they turned their heads and cracked a smile at his slobbering grin. I was thoroughly entertained, and all the while the poor girl whose water bottle it was seemed to be ordering at the bar, missing all the action. Do I stop him? Do I try to shoo him away to save her water bottle, I wondered? My thoughts began to spin and get lost between the lyrics of Bruno Mars songs that blasted loudly through the café speakers. I let him chew. 

Sophia Kalogeris, '19.

Sophia Kalogeris, '19.

    The café was beginning to fill up now, with what seemed to be a mixture of locals and other students like myself. The loud simmering sound of the cappuccino maker drowned out the chatter of the Italians who were conversing at the bar. The faint yet distinct sound of one’s spoon hitting the inner walls of their porcelain cup as they stirred their coffee rang in my ears. Gordo’s metal collar occasionally jingled as his neck would roll violently around the rim of the plastic bottle cap. This café was never a quiet one, that I knew, but rather an enchanting and lively stage of performers where the scene was never the same day to day. 

I loved coming here, not only for the picturesque designs in my cappuccinos, but for the experience it provided me. In all of the five minutes that I had been sitting down, I had forgotten my worries, my responsibilities, and suddenly I had also forgotten that I was still in fact over 4,000 miles from home, sitting in a small café in the middle of Italy. It’s amazing to me how such small and silly moments sometimes can completely pull you out of your element and place you in a totally different world. How refreshing and lovely it is to know that I can find the little joys of life in all corners of the world, even in this café. 

When the young student returned to her chair, cappuccino in hand, she looked down at her crippled and drooled-over water bottle cap and gave out a bellied laugh. I smiled, and turned into my book to continue my reading.


The Paranoia of Studying Abroad That No One Talks About 


By Sophia Kalogeris 

Four girls sat nervously on two twin sized beds in their Florence apartment, staring at the white walls and anxiously waiting for the thunderous silence that filled the air to ease. 

Finally, someone spoke. 

"So, do you guys feel safe enough to go to Barcelona this weekend?" 

My eyes began to peel away from the baron walls and lock with those of my friends. No one wanted to be the first to admit how they felt, with worry that she might look overly dramatic, or on the opposite end too naive about the state of our world. The scenarios in our minds spanned too vast and the comfort level for a conversation this heavy was far out of reach. Unfortunately, for us, this feeling was one we were beginning to feel familiar with. 

Sophia Kalogeris, '19.

Sophia Kalogeris, '19.

Questions of safety in traveling and in daily life abroad seemed to lurk like a stark grey cloud in the sky above us at all times, it started to feel like. Never in my life have I put into question my personal safety as much as I have in my past month abroad. Prior to leaving my comfortable Reading, Massachusetts home to fly 4,000 thousand miles to live in Florence for four months, I was aware of the basic safety protocol that one would expect to follow while living in a foreign country. However, for the most part my focus was on how I'd manage to find the best gelateria here and what caption I would pair with my future Oktoberfest Instagram. With all of this taking precedent, I still always knew in the back of my mind the golden rules that everyone tells you: to always use the buddy system when going out at night and to hold onto your belongings while walking in crowded areas to avoid pickpockets!!

I remember sitting through group meetings in Hancock classrooms where we were shown videos and countless PowerPoint slides on the importance of zipping your bag and never leaving your belongings unattended. Getting my new iPhone 7 stolen paranoid and terrified me. I am now one month into my abroad semester, and it's unimaginable how frivolous all of my material items seem to me in the grander scheme of my vital safety in this chaotic and often threatening world. 

Muggings, robberies, rape, break-ins, stabbings, protests, murders, the list goes on. In crowded streets, down deserted alleyways, in a friend’s apartment, in Florence and in other major cities. In Europe and in America alike. It's everywhere, and I'm all too aware of that. 

What transpired in Las Vegas this past week took the wind out of me whilst sitting in a crowded café late Monday morning with three friends. My Twitter feed was saturated with innumerable updates and news coverage retweets regarding the mass murder that took the lives of 59 innocent people and injured over 500. Goosebumps spread like wildfire as I read off the tweets to my friends at the table, which is when our comfortable Cappuccino talk turned into a grim and suddenly uneasy moment of realization. While we cannot live in fear, being abroad and physically completely unattached from our loved ones back home, at this very moment the only thing we could all feel for certain was the crippling fear that we were alone and there is always going to be doubts on our safety, wherever we are. 

Sophia Kalogeris, '19.

Sophia Kalogeris, '19.

Suddenly the protection of my new glistening gold iPhone 7 seemed so trivial. 

When considering coming abroad, I only ever thought about the glamorous Instagram possibilities and the incredible food I’d be eating. I dreamed about the casual weekend travels to far off cities, thought about the unique and enthralling classes I’d be taking, and the incredible memories that would transpire throughout all of it. Sure, safety was always on my mind, but only to the degree that one considers a far off grey cloud in the sky when he/she is enjoying a day at the beach.  

In a world like ours today, moving across the world for three months is something that takes serious thought and a grand leap of faith. Major doubts and dangerous occurrences will unfortunately always be something we deal with today, but it is important to stay positive through it all and to keep living. I am infinitely grateful for this opportunity to explore the world and open my eyes to new cultures and lifestyles, but I always have to remember to never take my safety for granted in any case. I cannot let my fear win, and I always have to be smart. I will say ‘yes’ to new experiences and remember to stay aware of what’s happening in the world. I will see the world and always be gracious to people. And with a curious yet cautious mind, I will continue to live my life without fear but rather with a zest for welcoming and alluring travels.


Broken In


By Nicola Barrett 

No city is perfect, and Florence is no exception. The first three weeks in this country were like something out of a movie. I couldn't believe this was my life. The cobblestone streets, the accordion players serenading my walk to class, the gelato. It was dreamy. 

But like every story, something had to go wrong. 

Early Tuesday morning, as the six of us girls lay in our beds, we were rudely awoken by a massive bang. It jerked me out of a deep sleep, so I was anything but alert. I lifted my head to see if anyone else heard the same thing, and I was greeted by the open eyes of both of my roommates. They heard it too. 

My roommate nearest the door got up to investigate. She peered out of the doorway into the hallway, saw nothing, closed our door, and we all went back to sleep. 

I figured it was the front door to the building slamming shut as someone left for work - it was 5 in the morning at this point, so that thought wasn't too much of a stretch. 

Fast forward to 5:30 and we are yet again wrenched out of slumber. This time by a scream. 

Our other housemate rushes into our room, screaming that there was a man in her room. 

It wasn't the front door to the building. It was our front door that we heard slamming. 

Everyone whipped out their phones to call the police while I did a sweep of the apartment to confirm that he ran back out the way he came. 

He was gone. 

The police didn't answer our first phone call. Or our second. Or our third or fourth or fifth. We called the university's emergency number and finally got a response. The resident director was on her way. After multiple fruitless attempts, we finally got the police on the line; they said there was someone patrolling the area and we would have officers knocking on our door soon. 

It was chaos with everyone handling the crisis in different ways - one girl was shaking, the other was angry. One girl was crying, the other was silent. 

It was violating. 

Look at the timeline - he got into our apartment at 5am, but he didn't go into anyone's room until 5:30. What was he doing for those thirty minutes? Sitting in our living room? Perusing the apartment to see what he wanted to take? Watching us sleep? 

I called my parents and informed them of what had happened. They told me not to panic and check to see if the man had actually taken anything. They called the Marist security office in Poughkeepsie to bring them into the loop and see if there was anything they could do. 

It was around 5:50 now. Still no sign of the RD or the police. Everyone checked their belongings; he hadn't taken anything. He had been rifling through my roommates bag when he woke her up with his flashlight beam, but he wasn't there long enough to do any damage. 

The RD arrived, closely followed by the police. They spoke no English, so it was a miracle that the RD was fluent. 

What it came down to was that there was nothing the police could do for us. We couldn't identify the man, he hadn't taken anything, and there was no damage. All they could do was show us how to lock our door, pat us on the heads, and be on their way. 

Apparently our door wasn't actually locked. There are four metal cylinders that slide across to lock the door, but those only close with the key. The state of our door that night was not secure. Only the bottom metal cylinder was slid across, which meant that you needed a key to get in, but it wasn't locked. Since we have a double door, if one were to put enough force into slamming their body right in the center, the door would slam open. I tested that theory after the police left, and it's definitely how he got in. If he had a key, we wouldn't have heard that initial bang. But the landlords still changed the locks the next day. 

In hindsight, our situation could have been a lot worse. He could have had a gun, he could have assaulted one of us, he could have actually taken something. 

We are living in a city, not on a campus. Every city has a seedy, undesirable population. Every city has bad people. And further than that, we are vulnerable American students. They know we don't know how to lock our doors, our bikes, our buildings. They can pick us out of a crowd and follow us home; they target us. 

We are a cautionary tale. 

Lock your doors. Close the doors to your building behind you. 

Assimilate. Don't stand out. Don't wear the American flag on your chest. 

But you can't live in fear. If I were to give advice to someone in my situation it would be to not let it get you down. This is an isolated incident; that man is not going to come back to our apartment. Don't be afraid to sleep in your bed, don't be afraid to walk down the street. Stay smart, stay vigilant, stay strong. You will be fine. Whatever is going to happen will happen. 

We were broken into for a reason, and now we lock our doors. Simple as that.


Honoring the Past of the Dachau Concentration Camp


By Tara OGrady 

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the places you go to. This past weekend I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Munich, but what overwhelmed me even more was the emotional experience of visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp. The sun hid from the day, and the mist came down like slow falling tears. This is fitting because Dachau Concentration Camp was one of the first and most popular concentration camps during Hitler’s Nazi reign over Germany. It is the only camp to have existed for the entire twelve years of Nazi rule. The silence of the space is eerie, but honorable. You can feel a sense of mourning as you walk through the exact location where hatred and horror took place. As I was walking through the grounds, I was happy to stray away from my friends and take in my surroundings. We all slowly gravitated to the places that drew our individual attention. The solitude and silence that filled the space impacted the experience even more. There is nothing to distract your attention away from what matters—educating yourself and honoring the memories of all those who were victims of the tragedy. Everyone respectfully gives their full attention to what matters most—the same reason why the Dachau Concentration Camp is now a public place; to remember and honor the terrible past and those who it affected. 

As most students in the United States, I learned about World War II and the tragedies that occurred, but it’s a different experience when you learn of the past in the same place it occurred. One section explained how the SS could at any time shoot the prisoners if they stepped out of line for any reason. And as I walked to the opposite side of the room, I saw a wall with photos of the victims and wondered if they were shot for a minor infraction, or if they died from the poor health conditions. I learned that the SS would take the prisoners who were “out of line” during that day or week, and as the thunder roared or the church bells chimed, they would shoot them so the noise was hidden. And again I’m left to wonder how one person could think that their actions, which they knew must be hidden, were justifiable. One of the many things I read was how the SS informed the prisoners upon their arrival that because of their race they lost all of their basic human rights. They told them that they would no longer be treated like humans. Their hatred was not masked in any way because racial discrimination was legal and encouraged. Across from the museum are the bunkers were the prisoners slept. There were 500 of them, but only room for 100. The beds were wooden and not nearly long enough or wide enough for one man let alone 3 or even 5. This is just one sad example of a basic human right that they unrightfully lost. 

As I walked out along the road that led me in, I took a moment of silence for all those who didn’t. I rejoined my friends in the silent circle they created on the street outside. We all looked at each other with sorrowful expressions and tried to find the words to convey the sadness we felt. In that moment we knew, that while this was a sad and emotional experience, it was also a necessary one. That’s why if you ever have the opportunity to visit any concentration camp, take it, because while it will be emotionally overwhelming, it is also important to honor, respect, and educate yourself on the horrible history of Nazi Germany. 


Taking Things For Granted


By Alli Chilicki

Air conditioning on a hot summer’s day, restaurants that are open all hours of the day and ability to use the restroom for free are a few simple things that Americans often take for granted. Although the convenience of having air conditioning in your home is essentially a given in the states, it is a privilege in Europe. Although you have the ability to grab lunch or dinner during your preferred time, restaurants close and re-open according to strict schedules in Europe. Although you have the ability to use the restroom without bringing your wallet, Europeans must remember to bring theirs. Even though I long for these things now that I do not have access to them, it has allowed me to become one with the European culture and gain a better appreciation for what I would normally take for granted at home.

Alli Chilicki, '19.

Alli Chilicki, '19.

 

Although it is early in the semester, my time in Florence so far has already allowed me to develop a great appreciation for some of the more important things that are absent in life abroad, such as spending time with family. Adjusting to such changes can be difficult, but is also rewarding and exciting. So for other students who too are studying abroad, immerse yourself in the culture of your new home and life as much as you can. Afterall, your family will be waiting for you in the airport with open arms in three short months. For students who want to study abroad, but are hesitant, take that leap of faith and think about how much of the world their is for you to see. Finally, do not forget to appreciate the small things at home before your journey begins.    


Culture Shock


By Tara OGrady

So let’s talk culture shock. Just like being homesick, it’s come early. What really puts things into perspective is not when you are surrounded by people who all speak another language, because I was expecting this, but things like paying for water and not leaving a tip are not situations I expected. It’s the little things that throw you for a loop. The fact that the cars drive wherever they please, that art is incorporated into the city’s driving signs (if there are any), that ashtrays are still on tables at restaurants, that grocery stores make you pay for the bags, that washing machines run for over two hours with a load that’s half the size of your weekly dirty laundry, that clothes air dry stiff and scratchy, that the emergency services all have a different phone numbers (the police have two), that tampons are made of cardboard, that alcohol can’t be sold after nine in grocery stores, that some coffee places don’t offer “take away,” that thunder is louder than Marist fire alarms and lasts just as long, and finally, that Clorox wipes are nowhere to be found.

Tara OGrady, '19.

Tara OGrady, '19.

It’s the unexpected things, like pigeons flying at your head out of the blue, which make you experience culture shock and feel a sense of homesickness for America. These adjustments are something that I’ll most likely get used to, but I must say that the time difference from home will always blow my mind. Twice so far I’ve wished my mom good morning as she wishes me good night. Being six hours ahead will never not be freaky. The time difference baffles me like the chicken and the egg theory, and I say now that I’ll never get over it, but I like to exaggerate. Though, it will probably take me a solid two months to stop comparing every hour what I would be doing in the U.S. at that moment. But, when all is said and done, the buildings, the views, the life, the beauty I’ve already experienced here in this first week make the adjustment completely worth it.


The A’s of Abroad


By Jennifer Gunther

You’re embarking on what is going to be one of the biggest journeys in your lifetime: studying abroad. Before you landed, you thought you had it all together. Your toothbrush was packed, your best friends were by your side, and your passport was in hand. What else do you need? As you ask yourself this question, the inner-workings of your brain are squirrelling around to find answers, entering you in the first emotion of actually studying abroad: Anxiety.

Being a 20-something-year-old traveling to a foreign country to LIVE in for an extended period of time is completely insane. First of all, hats off to you because this is a huge opportunity that you are taking advantage of. However, the reality is, it is nerve-wracking. Having anxiety about being away from what’s familiar is completely normal. When this overwhelming feeling clouds over you, embrace it. Obviously easier said than done, but coming to terms with the nerves will ground you. Take a deep breath and tell yourself you are prepared, educated and capable of studying abroad. Switch your anxiety to confidence and believe in yourself!

Jennifer Gunther, '19.

Jennifer Gunther, '19.

 

Now the nerves are finally settling, you’re entering into the next stage of abroad: Adjustment. We are all picky to some extent, so when our atmosphere is disrupted, we may panic. Well don’t panic! Change is good and it will take some getting used to as you start developing your routine. While adjusting to this new culture, you can almost reinvent yourself as well. Submerge yourself in this new culture’s way of life and figure out what’s best for you. Who knows, you may even be that green-smoothie-drinking, book-reading, jogger you’ve always wanted to be!

After you’ve adjusted well, now sit back and realize what you’re doing. You have been given the most amazing opportunity to travel the world and experience all it has to offer. The last “A” of studying abroad is Appreciation. No matter what city you have chosen, appreciate it! The people of this city are welcoming you into their home and allowing you to participate in their way of life. Go out and meet some of the locals, try their national dessert, and dance the night away. Just remember, do not be a “farang kee nok!” This is a saying in the Thai culture meaning “annoying foreigner.” Please be respectful of the community while you are studying there.

Studying abroad is incredible and only a small percentage of students get to experience it. So experience it; experience all the Anxiety, Adjustments, and Appreciations that come with it. Enjoy every minute and don’t nap the days away. Meet new people and have the time of your life!


How to Return Without Living in the Past


By Mia Maggiacomo

“Quando sono ritornata in Italia…”, has been the phrase I’ve used most often when describing to my Roman-born grandfather what I will do when I return to Italy to study abroad in Florence in the fall. The list has become endless, describing different places, food, and moments I want to revisit. I want to go to the All’ Antico Viniano Ristorante and once again taste the best sandwich and antipasto in the world.

I want to go to back to the Almafi Coast and swim in the salty Adriatic waters of Capri. I want to go back to Milan and see my friends that I made so long ago. With every new task added to the itinerary for the three months, I found myself adding the places in Italy where I’d had the most fond and distinct memories of my time there.

Mia Maggiacomo, '19.

Mia Maggiacomo, '19.

 The first time I went to Italy was in high school with my Italian class as a two week exchange where we lived with a host family in the city of Novara, an hour west of Milan. We traveled along side our host student and visited their high school, neighboring cities and towns, and traveled on longer excursions to the iconic places northern Italy has to offer. Lago di Garda, where I learned about the historical influences of Italian culture and where I felt less like a stranger in my host family.

Milan, the fashion capital of Italy where me and my best friend, Alex, splurged at a Prada outlet only to find out later that our bags were fake. Finally, Venice, where during the day we’d gondola through the city and at night we danced until my heels broke on the cobblestone streets. During the days in Novara when we were at school, Alex and I would leave the classrooms to find each other in the hallways and wonder around the building until our host students would have their lunch break. I was young and I thought I was living in moments that would never happen again. That’s what made me want to go back.

Two years later I returned with the same excitement and expectations I’d acquired from my previous travels. Only this time, I was with my family. My grandfather’s eightieth birthday brought all his children and his grandchildren to his mother country. The two weeks I spent there was a continuous celebration. In Rome, my cousins and I would run through the streets to each gelato shop and become friends with the workers so when we returned we’d get two gelato’s each instead of one.

In Positano, we hopped on a boat and traveled to Capri and saw the Blue, Green, and Orange Grotto’s and stole some coral from the underwater cave wall chasms we swam through. In Arezzo, we all stayed together in a villa where we biked every morning to the local vineyard and did wine tastings where I had my first taste of good wine. My family and I would sit under our sundeck that looked over the great Tuscan wine hills and play cards, make jokes, and silently be thankful for this experience. In those places I grew closer to my family and to the country I’d considered my second home.

Mia Maggiacomo, '19.

Mia Maggiacomo, '19.

Now, I stand at the edge of a precipice hoping to jump off and revive these experiences. My suitcase is close to being full and I’m preparing myself for the future three months that lie in front of me. I know that things will change and that so much is different from that last time I was in Italy. My optimism is without bounds, but, I’m still nervous to take the big step of letting myself go without the restrictions of the past. My memories are daunting and stare back at me sharply with strict expectations. I hope I live up to them. Until then, the only thing that I know for certain is that when I return to Italy, I’ll be ready.