Finding New Favorite Spots

Submitted by Paige Sullivan on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

Had the best day of my life visiting Switzerland

At eleven weeks into the semester, I feel fully acclimated to Rome and well-adjusted. However, my Italian speaking skills are lackluster. I took a trip to a new part of Rome to work on these skills. I went to a deli where the only language spoken was Italian, alongside a friend of mine that could help me translate. Being in this deli, I realized how much the main areas of Rome cater to tourists through their English-speaking and English menus. This experience in the deli felt so authentically Italian and inspired me to spend lots more time on Duolingo.

At the end of this week, I took a trip to Switzerland with some friends. It was a super short trip, but perhaps one of the best trips I have ever gone on! We flew into Geneva and spent the first day there hanging out at a spa on the lake which was a crazy experience. We got to heat up in a sauna and then jump into Lake Geneva to cool down! Later that evening, we got Swiss fondue, which truly changed my life. It was spectacular! We finished the evening with some Swiss chocolate, of course!

The following day, we went to Montreux, Switzerland, which was more in the mountains. We made a last-minute decision to go to Montreux, so we decided to ask the locals for recommendations on how to spend our day there. It was perhaps the best day of my life! We sat by the beautiful lake, took a cable car up a mountain, and got some more fondue. It was especially awesome because everyone we talked to was from a different country than the last, but had moved to Switzerland. We were the only Americans in sight, which was really wonderful! Overall, Switzerland’s culture felt much more laid back, and I am truly dying to make it back– despite it being one of the most expensive countries in the world. (Submitted during Week 11).

Sampling more fondue

Back in class, I took a trip to the Jewish ghetto, which was very eye-opening. The Roman ghettos originated as far back as the 1500s and were abolished in the late 1800s. During World War Two, 2000 Roman Jews were sent to camps, and only 100 survived. What was especially insane about this trip was that we saw photos of the Jews being transported using a train station that I used to travel through frequently. It is chilling to think such tragedies happened here not even a century ago. 

This week was spring break back at UD, so my friend Olivia came to visit. Olivia had just come to Rome over the summer, so this was less of a touristy visit. She wanted to be more immersed in what we do on a daily basis as study abroad students, so I brought her to some of my favorite spots, like the botanical gardens and Villa Borghese, a beautiful park that I love to read at. 

Over the weekend, we were also able to visit Brussels and Amsterdam! Both cities were beautiful. They were both very vibrant and eccentric. I knew this of Amsterdam but was surprised to find out that Brussels had the same energy. The architecture was beautiful, and it was a weekend filled with french fries as they originated in Belgium! I felt very lucky to be able to travel with a friend from home, and show her the highs and lows of budget travel as a study abroad student (Submitted during Week 12).

Making Rome feel like Home

Submitted by Paige Sullivan on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

After spring break, it was a bit difficult to get myself back into a routine, especially because the school that I am currently studying at holds midterms the week after spring break. This meant that, once again, I spent most of my week in the library! Luckily my midterms were in the form of papers and assignments more so than actual exams, so I was able to pace myself. Being abroad and living in a city as wonderful as Rome, it is definitely difficult to remain in a routine and do homework instead of exploring the beautiful city, but also important to remind yourself while you are here. 

Giving my family a tour of Rome

This weekend, I actually had two back-to-back field trips for my art history class, but I was very excited about them! On Friday, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Pompeii. I have learned about Pompeii and been fascinated by it since I was a child, so it was so awesome to be able to visit it, and for a school trip nonetheless. Upon arrival, we were told that Mt. Vesuvius could erupt at any moment, but with new technologies and transportation systems, it would never be catastrophic the way it once was. It really was fascinating to see how well the ruins were preserved and learn about such rich history.

The following day, we had a field trip to Ostia Antica, which is a village that once existed but was preserved by mud. It was a truly beautiful sight and was very cool to imagine what a quaint Roman village it once was. The most interesting part was the bathhouses– they were so cool! It was awesome to stay in Italy for the weekend and learn so much about the history of the area I am living in! (Submitted during Week 9). 

This week was definitely the best yet because my family and my best friend visited! They traveled all the way from New Jersey to come see me. It was great timing for their visit, as I am a little over halfway through being abroad, and the homesickness was getting intense. Their time was limited, so I had to show them all around Rome as efficiently as possible while also going to class and staying on top of schoolwork. I would say that I did a pretty good job at tour guiding. I knew my way around Rome with no assistance, which was a very rewarding feeling.

Introducing my best friend to Rome’s food scene

Within one short week, we were able to see Campo di Fiori market, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Vatican City, the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill, and Palatine Hill. It worked out great because my family was able to visit Pompeii and Naples while I was in class. Then, we took a trip altogether to Florence over the weekend, where we saw David by Michelangelo and went to so many cool markets and shops.

The best part of their visit, however, might have been the awesome food we ate. Although I do live here, I can’t eat out constantly, or else I would go broke. Luckily, you can’t come to Rome and not indulge! That would simply be doing it wrong. I had the most delicious cacio e pepe, truffle pasta, mushroom risotto, and so much more. We also ate lots of fried and steamed artichokes, which is a very traditional Italian appetizer. I personally prefer the fried artichokes, which is a Jewish style! It was the best week ever. It was also my family’s first time in Italy, and our first time ever in Europe together. I’m so grateful to have had this time with them (Submitted during Week 10).

Breaking Away for Spring Break

Submitted by Paige Sullivan on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

Seven weeks into the semester, schoolwork picked up a lot! I spent the majority of this week in the library. John Cabot University has a beautiful library. If you enter and walk up the stairs, there is a beautiful view of the courtyard from just about every seat. In art history class, I went to the Ara Pacis in Rome, which was an open-air altar created for sacrifices during the Roman Republic. In business class, we talked about reasons why businesses such as Starbucks and Ikea flourish in some countries but fail in others. 

Visiting la Sagrada Familia

After lots of homework and learning, however, it was the beginning of spring break! I was lucky enough to start out my spring break in beautiful Lisbon, Portugal, where we visited places such as Sintra and Cascais from there. Portugal was an amazing experience, the people were so kind, and the views were incredible. We learned that people living in Portugal have a higher life expectancy due to the amount of hills that they must climb to get around, which I can totally understand! Also, I learned quickly that Portuguese food in America is not at all what it is in the USA. It is much more centered around cod than I was aware of!

Overall, it was a wonderful city and just the start of spring break! (Submitted during Week 7). 

This week was the continuation of spring break, and I would describe it as the most exhausting yet unforgettable week of my life!

Enjoying a private boat tour in Barcelona

This week was spent in Spain after leaving Lisbon. We hopped on a plane, and suddenly we were in Madrid. Upon arrival, we realized how big this city really is. In Rome, everything is within walking distance, so I truly get my miles in. In Madrid, however, walking everywhere is impossible, and it is more practical if you metro everywhere. It is very cheap to get a metro pass, and it is easy to use. In Madrid, we immerse ourselves in Spanish traditions such as flamenco dancing and tapas. The flamenco show was incredible, and the costumes were beautiful. The tapas were similar to Italian aperitivo, where you pay about 8 euros for a drink and get food along with it. The difference, however, is that the food at tapas is never ending and delicious!

After Madrid, we moved along to Barcelona, where we went to La Sagrada Familia and saw many beautiful artworks by Gaudi. We also stumbled upon a food market where I got freshly squeezed juice and a delicious empanada– some of the best things I have eaten! Barcelona reminded me a lot of Miami in that it is a city with a beach. We, of course, took advantage of the beach by going on a private boat tour and ended the trip with paella along the water. I feel very lucky to have experienced so many beautiful places in only one week, and I am very excited to come back one day! (Submitted during Week 8).

Getting to Know Rome

Submitted by Paige Sullivan on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

Spending an afternoon in Tivoli

After five weeks of living abroad in Italy, it is crazy to think how normal this lifestyle has become for me. After three weeks in a row of travel, my friends and I decided to take this weekend off to just reset and refresh. This week gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I have learned so far in my journey abroad. First and foremost I feel as though I have learned the importance of independence. Coming to a new country alone is never easy, so it is important to have a sense of security in yourself to be able to get through any tough days. Also, despite how great the people you may meet abroad are, it is important to recognize that not everyone is going to want to do the same thing as you all of the time, which is totally okay! Independence is key here, because as long as you have a sense of comfort in doing thing alone then there is nothing stopping you. 

This weekend, I spend time resting and resetting, but also exploring Rome a bit more. Though I only live 20 minutes walking distance away from Vatican City, I had not yet been so this was a great opportunity to visit. I got the chance to go to mass inside of St. Peter’s basilica, which was an extraordinary experience. Vatican City was overall amazing, and I still cannot believe that it is its own nation!

I also went to the Porta Portese market which takes place every Sunday in my  neighborhood of Trastevere. This market truly has anything you can imagine, from bags to clothes to household needs. It had hundreds of vendors and was a super cool experience! Overall, it was a very chill but good week! (Submitted during Week 5).

Today marks the end of another week in Rome! This week was another great week. I found some new great parks, as well as some great sports for treats like tiramisu and gelato Once again we did not book any overnight trips as we had some makeup days at school, but my friends and I took a day trip to Tivoli, Italy. The train was only about 45 minutes from Rome, and it was super affordable! Tivoli is known for Vila d’Este, a museum and garden. The museum had lots of wonderful art, and the garden was absolutely beautiful. Apparently the fountain is seen in the Lizzie McGuire movie, which I thought was pretty funny!

My first time having cacio e Pepe

The people in Tivoli were insanely nice and friendly. We went to a cafe as well as a delicious restaurant with a beautiful view, and the staff at both were so friendly and welcoming. As much as I love Rome, the people are not as friendly, but this is simply because it is a big city and also because that is just the culture.

This was my first time having cacio e Pepe surprisingly! Cacio e Pepe is a Roman dish centered around Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper, and it was absolutely delicious! I will certainly be ordering it again.

I am so grateful to have been able to see this beautiful little town that filled my heart with so much joy (Submitted during Week 6).

Roaming Outside Rome

Submitted by Paige Sullivan on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

After three full weeks of living in Italy, I’m starting to feel like this is real life! I have started to get into a routine and it has helped me to acknowledge that I really am here for four months. I only have classes Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, which is super different than what I am used to in Delaware. I have never had a semester where I don’t have class five days a week. This gives me loads of time to walk around Rome exploring, and also time to travel! This week, I focused on my studies and getting my work done during the week because I ended the week with a trip to Paris, France!

Paige’s views during her visit to Paris

It really is surreal being able to hop on a two hour plane ride and ending up in a new country with a completely different culture. We hopped right off our 6am flight and headed straight to the Louvre where we spent the day embracing the beautiful art, then followed that up with some French onion soup. One thing that I was excited to go to Italy for was the cheese, I am a huge cheese lover and have heard great things about the freshly made cheese. However, I have to say, French cheese was something like I have never experienced before. I ate more cheese this weekend than I have in my life. The pastries were also insanely good, and I found myself wondering why they tasted so different than they do in Italy. After pondering that out loud, my friend taught me of the butter line. Essentially, the butter line is in invisible line that divides Europe into the region that prefers butter and the region that prefers oil. Paris lies in the butter region, making their pastries more fluffy and flaky, while Rome is in the oil region. Such an interesting fact!

We went on to see the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and essentially as much as was humanly possible for the time we were there. I certainly learned the importance of time management while traveling, but it was probably some of the best 3 days of my life! (Submitted during Week 3).

The end of week 4 has come, and it sure was a crazy week. I made it back to Rome on Sunday night, and went straight back into classes Monday morning. This was my first weekend internationally traveling, and it was certainly a weird feeling being in class knowing I was in Paris 24 hours prior. Despite this, I made sure to promise myself that I would be on my A-game and get all of my homework done efficiently and effectively, since I am studying abroad not just living abroad! 

Dublin is known for its pubs, like The Temple Bar

What truly made this week so crazy however, was that come Thursday it was time to head back to the airport for a trip to Dublin, Ireland! The culture of Ireland is super different than that of Italy. Just walking down the streets, there are pubs everywhere filled with people who are singing and dancing, the happiness is almost infectious. Below is a picture of the world famous Temple Bar!

While in Ireland, we toured the Guinness Storehouse, James Distillery, Dublin Castle, St. Partick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and also did a coastal tour and went to a village called Howth with some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen! Overall, it was a very large change from the Italian culture that we are used to, and it was absolutely awesome! I am Irish and my last name is Sullivan, so seeing Sullivan’s pubs everywhere and feeling really immersed on my own culture was great. I was so sad to leave, but will definitely make it back to Ireland one day! (Submitted during Week 4),

The Real Hustle and Bustle of Rome

Submitted by Paige Sullivan on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

Today marks the end of my fourth full day in Rome! It has been such a crazy experience thus far. I live in the Trastevere neighborhood, which is across the river from the real hustle and bustle of Rome where the monuments are located. Trastevere is made up of thin cobblestone streets which are shared by pedestrians and cars. That was the first huge culture shock to me, how wary you need to be of cars and motorcycles when walking around. There are numerous restaurants and bars within a super short distance of my apartment, it is almost never ending. Second, the drinking water comes from wells on the side of the road. You would think that the water is dirty, but it is actually clean mineral water that tastes great! Getting over the language barrier has been a bit difficult, but us Americans are lucky that many Italians speak English. On the bright side, I have learned many Italian words so far, and am hoping that by the end of my stay in Rome I will be able to speak a bit of Italian. So far I have just spent my time exploring my neighborhood and different parts of Rome, and today I actually went to the Colosseum which was awesome. Next week, I’m hoping to make my way to the rest of the monuments alongside the start of classes (Submitted during Week 1).

Posing at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

It has now been two weeks of living in Italy and I am loving every moment of it! I will admit, it was a bit harder adjusting than I have originally thought. The first two weeks felt slightly like I was just on vacation, so starting week 3 I am dedicating my time to establishing a routine and really being a resident of Italy and not just a tourist. Before coming abroad, UD provided us with modules to teach us about culture shock, warning of the honeymoon phase that develops into a phase of frustration and adjustment. I believe that all my friends and I kind of just brushed this aside thinking it would not really affect us, but that is definitely not the case. I spent the first two weeks experiencing these things, but that is okay! My advice to anyone planning on studying abroad that is worried about this would be to just live in the moment and take it day by day. Also, make sure to save up so that you can do everything that you want to do and live to the fullest!

This week we started classes, and I can already tell it will be amazing taking international business based classes in a foreign country, I am already learning so much about how Italian businesses as well as other European businesses function! This will be super helpful for me in my future endeavors in this field.

I was lucky enough to take a trip to Florence and Tuscany this weekend, and it was wonderful! We were able to learn of the history of wine and the process of making it, as well as see some beautiful sights of the Italian countryside. It was also super interesting to experience another city in Italy, I thought Rome and Florence would be way more similar than they were! Overall, I am feeling super blessed to have this experience. Stay tuned, as I will be traveling out of the country in the coming weeks! (Submitted during Week 2).

Acclimating to Life in Costa Rica

Submitted by Erin Lay on the 2023 spring semester program in Costa Rica…

Breakfast, including gallo pinto, a fried egg, ham, shortbread, a fruit bowl, and orange juice

As a picky eater, I normally have a hard time finding foods I like to eat. I have been a picky eater my whole life, whether it’s the flavor or the texture. I was very worried to come to Costa Rica for this reason. I had so much anxiety the night before leaving for Costa Rica about whether or not I was going to eat enough. I decided the best way for me to overcome this was to try everything. Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried almost 100 new foods and drinks. My favorite meal I’ve eaten so far, is the  chicken burrito that we had the very first night. We had a fruit juice, that my group determined was tamarind juice and a pineapple carrot cake for desert. Each morning, the cafeteria serves gallo pinto, also known as, rice and beans. I have never liked beans before, but I fell in love with gallo pinto. So far, I haven’t found too many foods that I didn’t like. I hope to continue to try even more. (Submitted on January 9, 2023)

In all of my education, I never took a Spanish class. I’m realizing now that it would have been more beneficial for me to take Spanish than Latin in high school. Costa Rica has been amazing and luckily most people know English, but there are a few times my friend has had to help translate. I found out after arriving in Costa Rica that my camera doesn’t take SD cards over 2gb. This became a problem when I had only brought 128gb SD cards with me. My friend and I left the research station we were staying at to try and find one at a local store. I was so lucky my friend went with me because I did not understand any Spanish. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find one, but I had one in my camera already. I just had to limit the amount of pictures I took. (Submitted during Week 2)

Every morning since we arrived at Palo Verde Biological Station, I have woken up early to see the sunrise. There is a dock that leads to a large marsh here. There are so many birds that hang around the dock. The sunrise is so beautiful and makes waking up at 5:30am worth it. At night, we can see so many stars. I like to go lay on the dock and look at them. There is less light pollution here than in Delaware so we can even see some planets. The dock here has easily become my favorite place so far. There is always new things to see and enjoy. (Submitted on January 21, 2023)

Enjoying the sunrise

Reflecting on Experiences in Rome

Submitted by Elliana Olivo on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

A weekend trip in Vienna, Austria

As study abroad is coming to an end, I never thought I would say that I am tired of travelling. I have loved every second of my life abroad but I am definitely ready to go back to America. One of the main reasons I studied abroad for an entire semester was because of my love for traveling and exploring new cities. However, while balancing school work, new adventures every weekend in a new European country and city I have not had any time to rest and just relax in Rome. There is a constant pressure to go to a new place or try a new spot you haven’t seen yet because of the short time we are living in Europe. Usually I am a person who thrives on this type of lifestyle but the travel time, time zone differences and cultural shock this often is a lot even for me. Although Rome has felt like a second home for me in some aspects, it is not America. There are a lot of aspects of the U.S. that most of us miss living in Europe for this long. Especially our families and friends back home and our usual lives we created during our last two and a half years of college. Routine, familiarity and relationships. (Submitted on April 24, 2023)

Although this semester is coming to an end I wanted to do a round-up of everywhere I traveled these past few months abroad. Starting with my home country Italy, Rome is my home base. After every long weekend it is such a relief to come back to our apartment and weekly routine of classes. Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre were major highlights of my travels. As well as, L’Aquila, Capri and Sorrento to finish off Italy. Some last minute trips that soon became some of my favorite cities include Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I traveled to these three places within the last two weeks of being abroad and they were so different from the rest of my weekend getaways. Some obvious choices we went to in the beginning were London, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona. Although these famous cities were fun to explore and experience they did not compare to Lisbon, Portugal and Nice, France. My least favorite cities were Pompei and Ostia that we went to one weekend for a class trip. We did learn alot about history but they were long days with a lot of travel time that we had to go to for a grade. If I had just a few more weekends left in Europe I would travel to Malta, Switzerland, Morocco and probably all of the south of Italy including Sicily and Positano. Being in Europe for such an extended period of time has taught me alot about myself and the different cultures we have visited. I definitely plan to come back to Europe but in a shorter amount of time with more days in each place I go. (Submitted on April 26, 2023)

Closing the chapter of my semester in Rome is a hard pill to swallow. Not only is this week bitter sweet but a time in my life that I will never forget. Living in a different country has taught me a lot of things. 

1. Always make more time for yourself and your family. 
2. Travel is precious and should always be cherished.
3. Always be open to new experiences. 

Although Rome has slowly become my new home it has made me miss my home in the states. What I will miss most about Italy are a few things. Most importantly, my friends I made here over the months. Not only do I have roommates for the first time but I formed a friend group that I hope to have forever. The food. The Italian diet of pasta, bread, croissants and cheese is mouth watering but I definitely need a break from the overload of carbohydrates. Last but not least, Italy has been and will always be my favorite place to visit. Maybe not somewhere where I will live for the rest of my life but I know I will be back dozens of times more. (Submitted on April 29, 2023)

Cinque Terre in Italy

Learning and Living in Italian Culture

Submitted by Elliana Olivo on the 2023 spring semester program in Rome, Italy…

Visiting a pasta market in Rome

Last week while traveling to Southern France, the airlines warned us of potential strikes in the areas around Paris. Fortunately, we were able to avoid any major repercussions of the strike but our flight from Rome to Nice was delayed. Paris transportation was put on strike however and some citizens were seen throwing garbage around the airport and major train stations. This incident reminded me of the constant Roman strikes on transportation we have dealt with this semester. Every other week or so, the buses stop running at random times or don’t go to certain areas of the city. Usually, John Cabot University has been able to warn us on such occasions but it is never consistent. Personally, I have never experienced any strikes living on the east coast of the U.S. except for one strike on the education system in regards to teaching salaries. Speaking of transportation, the bus system in Rome was hard to navigate at first. With the language barrier as well as, last of places to purchase tickets walking was our best option. Fortunately with the help of our University we were able to figure out tips and tricks to getting around the city. Apple Maps has been a huge lifesaver when it comes to finding out which bus to take for different locations and what times they will come. Unfortunately, they are not updated when strikes occur but other than that they are quick to catch delays and show different routes to any destination in most of Europe’s major cities. (Submitted on March 28, 2023)

With only a few weeks left of studying abroad living within the culture of the Italians before we go back to the American lifestyle. One of my roommates came to Rome to visit me this week and as we were talking about the abroad lifestyle we compared our cultural experiences of Spain and Italy to America. For me in Italy when I first got here it took a little getting used to with the slower culture and different daily habits that I picked up from the locals. For instance, when they get coffee in the morning it isn’t the to-go experience that is typical in the U.S. many Romans like to stand by the bar or sit outside with their espresso or cappuccino with a light pastry for breakfast. My friend Katie and I said we would try to bring back some of the European lifestyle with us back home such as a slow morning before school or dressing up for outings other than special occasions. Another habit we picked up on were the Europeans eating habits and food shopping. Rather than shopping for a week’s worth of food like in America they focus on fresh foods at daily markets or specific vendors for different types of foods. During my time here I have noticed I go to the food market either daily or every other day to stock up on groceries. The vegetables also go bad much quicker here with less preservatives. Thankfully, they have less options for unhealthy snacks therefore I have been eating cleaner with my home cooked meals. The fresh foods and smaller portions also have had a different impact on my body with less stomach aches and the feelings of being satiated not overly full. (Submitted on April 5, 2023)

Reconnecting with family in L’Aquila

My family tree has expanded this week. My grandmother flew to Rome this past week to visit me and to share her hometown in L’Aquila. Just a short bus ride away, her small town in Abruzzi soon became my home for the weekend. My distant cousins and relatives accepted us into their home with no hesitation. The hospitality was unlike any other I have experienced in the past. Food was constantly brought out, conversation was ever flowing and the smiles never stopped. Even with the slight language barrier, my little knowledge of the Italian language and my grandmother’s translations allowed us to get to know each other in the short amount of time I had in the small town. When I first knew I was going to live in Rome for a semester I had asked my grandmother to come visit me so we could travel together to the place where she grew up before she moved to America. Once the plan was finalized I was a bit nervous to meet new people that I wasn’t familiar with and have a completely different lifestyle from what my grandmother and I experienced in the United States. Although we did have our differences it was so fulfilling to teach one another of our culture and daily customs. Some examples that we shared were the family gathering after church for pasta and lamb on Easter Sunday. We differed in a way with our house structures and daily lifestyle however. The town they live in was so small and was up in the mountains of L’Aquila. (Submitted on April 11, 2023)

Visiting Landmarks in Athens

Submitted by Alexandra Hall on the 2023 spring semester program in Athens, Greece…

Enjoying Greek coffee!

Traveling outside of the country for the first time has been one of my life’s best experiences. I did not know a single person and have since made a group of friends to explore the city and town of Agia Paraskevi, Greece with. In the photo above, you will see the Holy Church of Saint Paraskevi – Mesogion. The Greek Orthodox church was open to the public to walk through when there wasn’t a service, and everyone inside was very respectful and quiet. What surprised me the most was the difference in architecture compared to the United States churches. There were paintings on almost every wall and a massive chandelier that had tangerines hanging from it. I’m not sure exactly why there were tangerines on the chandelier, but I am guessing it’s because of the many tangerine trees scattered around the town. Do not eat the tangerines because they are not sweet whatsoever and taste like lemons. Overall, the first couple of days I experienced in the town of Agia Paraskevi, Greece have been astonishing. (Submitted on January 12, 2023)

After being in Athens, Greece for almost two weeks, I have noticed the Greek’s love for coffee. Unlike Americans, a vast majority of the Greeks I have met drink their coffee with no sugar. Usually, half the students in my classes have a coffee with them, even during my night classes. My new friend Elina, who is Greek, told me that most Greeks drink up to six coffees a day, whether it’s espresso, cappuccino, or traditional Greek coffee. I even got to try the traditional Greek coffee, and I will tell you I made a big mistake when drinking it. Once I reached the last couple sips of my Greek coffee, I mixed the grounds that had settled at the bottom, not knowing they were the coffee grounds. It was bitter and unpleasant, but the rest of the coffee was very strong, which I enjoyed. There are cafes on almost every block in Agia Paraskevi, and the baristas are always very welcoming. While my friends and I were enjoying some coffee and chatting between our classes, a man walked in with his dog. We asked to pet the dog and then he handed us the leash as he went to sit outside. This surprised me because in America that would have never happened to me. The Greeks are trusting and extremely intelligent, especially in my classes. Day by day I am learning more about Greek culture and it has been very eye-opening in a positive way for me. (Submitted on January 20, 2023)

Visiting the Acropolis

The Acropolis is Greece’s most popular tourist attraction, yet I didn’t visit it until my third week in Athens. I had been yearning to visit the Acropolis since I arrived, and when I finally did I was astonished by the city’s beauty. The ability of this ancient citadel to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters for centuries amazed me, but with the help of construction, it will last even longer. My friends and I arrived close to closing time, so we had to rush to the top. It took around 15 minutes to make it to the top, and it was all uphill, so if you ever plan on visiting the Acropolis, wear sneakers. The Acropolis stands at one of the highest points in the city, so you can imagine the view is even more amazing in person. Once we had to leave, we saw many people sitting by a nearby rock that overlooked the city, so we decided to sit and enjoy the view for a while. There are still so many more historical buildings and landmarks I have yet to visit, but starting off with the Acropolis was a great choice. (Submitted on January 29, 2023)

After being in Athens for over a month, I felt the need to venture out and go out of the city. I found a mineral lake about thirty minutes from my college campus, so my friends and I decided to take a bus there. When we arrived, we could see the clear blue sea on our right, and the lake on our left. Walking to the entrance of the lake felt surreal because of the beautiful pink flowers and mountains that surrounded the lake. It was 45 degrees out and definitely too cold to be swimming, but after seeing the locals get in the water, I knew I had to jump in. The lake felt cold at first, but I got used to it once I was under. Another fact about the lake that intrigued me was that the water has healing properties and it stays relatively warm all year round because of the underwater currents that spread through the multiple underground caves. While swimming in the lake, an older lady who was a local recommended a restaurant nearby that grows all their produce surrounding the restaurant. My friends and I decided to go to the restaurant and the food was so fresh. We got a salad that contained broccoli and cauliflower grown right outside. Getting recommendations from locals has been rewarding every time because they are the ones who know the hidden gems. (Submitted on February 12, 2023)

Connecting with nature outside of Athens