Kate '18

Florence, Italy Here We Come

“Now arriving at Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station,” a voice in choppy English boomed over the loudspeaker of my train car. I could literally feel my heart skip a beat- wow, I was actually in Florence, Italy. This was too good to be true and a moment I had dreamed of my entire life. As I stepped onto the crowded platform, I was immediately swallowed into the hustle and bustle of the station and all around me I could hear rapid Italian firing off. Alex instantaneously locked eyes with me in the crowd and consumed me in the biggest bear hug. I couldn’t wait to be spending my long Thanksgiving weekend in Florence eating and exploring my way through this gorgeous city on the second part of my Italy adventure, and to top things off, on a 4-day date. Alex, who is also a junior at St. Thomas, is studying abroad for the semester in the small town of Montespertoli, right outside of Florence where his program is held in a castle at a winery estate. After spending three months abroad, Alex has become quite skilled in Italian and I have to admit, thee BEST tour guide in all of Europe.

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Florence (Firenze in Italian) is a stunning city tucked right into the Tuscan wine making region of Italy referred to as Chianti. Famous for the food, masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, and of course, wineries, I instantly fell in love with Firenze and the vibrant, yet laid-back culture. I just wanted to take in the whole city and let each and every picturesque sight engrain in my mind permanently capturing this beautiful image.

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Often referred to as “Eataly,” the Italians really do know their food, and I can honestly say, Alex and I ate our way through Florence and had gelato too many times to count. My first meal in Firenze, and actually my Thanksgiving meal, was at Il Mercato Centrale which is the Central Market of Florence. Nestled right behind the leather market and shopping hub of the city in an old historic building, the impressive structure underwent a massive renovation two years ago and now offers an extensive variety of authentic Tuscan cuisine. The bottom level of the market sells local ingredients including butcher meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, olive oils and cheeses. On the upper two levels, the open atmosphere houses 12 individual stalls each selling unique Italian specialties ranging from pastas, pizzas, cheese, Chianti wine, baked goods, gelato, chocolate and much more. With so many delicious options offered, each section feeds into a large seating area for visitors coming together to enjoy outstanding food and drink, good company and the Italian lifestyle. Walking through a foodie paradise, I was faced with the tough decision of deciding what to eat each time I ventured through the market. Another perk of traveling with your best friend and boyfriend is food is always better when shared because you get to try more of everything. After multiple trips to the Central Market I experienced the gnocchi, Arancino, a homemade vegan burger and margarita pizza. Gnocchi pasta is incredible and can best be described as a potato noodle served with a delectable tomato sauce and fresh cheese shredded over the top resulting in the entire dish melting in your mouth. Alex could hardly wait for me to try a traditional dish known as Arancino, which is essentially a large ball of yumminess stuffed with rice and ham coated in bread crumbs and then deep fried. My favorite thing I ate in Italy was by far the margherita pizza. I honestly would eat this pizza for every meal, it was seriously that good, with fresh ingredients and handmade dough cooked perfectly in a wood fired pizza oven and then served with with locally produced olive oil drizzled over the top.

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Let’s talk about all the LEATHER! As many of you may know, Florence is also famous for the leather markets which are outdoor markets lined with different stalls selling a huge assortment of leather goods. The leather market is pretty intense and not for the weak hearted- all of the goods are beautiful, however as a bartering war zone, the feisty men running the booths mean business and know every trick in the book to scam gullible tourists into paying premium prices. Don’t worry, I was not your typical gullible tourist and actually did my research beforehand, so I knew what I should be paying and stood firm on my ground during the negotiation process. I am completely obsessed with my butterscotch colored leather handbag and black fur lined leather driving gloves which were both early birthday presents from my sweet boyfriend who spoils me all too much.

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One thing I particularly loved about Firenze was the stunning architecture framing the city with every corner you turn. The buildings are all painted warm earthy tones and blend right into the side landscape. Large open piazzas are scattered throughout the city and Alex and I could often be found at Piazza Della Signoria or strolling alongside the Arno enjoying chocolate mint and Nutella gelato while soaking up the sunshine and each other’s company. Piazzale Michelangelo over looks the entire city offering an impressive panoramic glimpse of Florence and is the perfect place to watch sunset over the city. Crossing back over Ponte Vecchio bridge into the main area of Florence over the Arno, this Medieval stone arch bridge is lined with shops and live music, perfectly depicting this image stright out of a fairytale.

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Seeing the statue of David was completely surreal. He is HUGE and absolutely breathtaking. Located in the Academia and weighing over 12,000 pounds, the statue dates back to 1501 when Michelangelo was commissioned to take on the daunting challenge of carving this enormous block of abandon marble. After consultation with da Vinci, the impressive statue was completed in 1504 and commentates David’s defeat over Goliath with the help of God and relying on intellect rather than brute strength. David’s eyes look towards Rome and he is the symbol of civic pride for the Florence republic. Comprised of all too realistic details and encompassed of tense muscles in his arms, thighs and calves, David’s veins budge from his hands symbolizing his stance in preparation for battle against Goliath. There a longstanding debate between scholars whether or not this depiction of David represents him before or after the defeat, but I personally believed there are striking details hinted in the tense statue and expression which lead the viewer to be convinced it is prior to his defeat. I was utterly blown away by the statue of David and I could stand in from of him for hours just soaking up the dominating presence and taking in the impressive work of Michelangelo.

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The Duomo is a stunning piece of architecture work and the lifetime masterpiece of Filippo Brunelleschi. Known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo is the main church of Florence and impressively statues over all of the city and is truly unlike any other building or cathedral I have ever seen in my life. With a 48-hour access pass, Alex and I gained entry to the actual Duomo itself, the Bell Tower, the Baptistery, the Crypt, the museum and attended mass inside the Duomo. Climbing over 1,000 steps in total, and resulting in me being extremely out of breath, every step to the top of the Bell Tower and Duomo was worth the view. At the top of each, Alex and I marveled over the top of Firenze and from this bird’s eye perspective, were blown away by the beauty of the city and gained an extraordinary glimpse of the layout of the capital city of the Tuscan region.

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I firmly believe food and drinks are essential components of a travel experience. Usually a long line indicates something is incredible, and especially when it comes to food, waiting in that line is completely up to your personal judgement. In this case, standing in the enormous and winding line outside of Vinaio sandwich shop was no exception. With fresh thin cut prosciutto, an entire ball of mozzarella cheese sliced over the stop, black truffle sauce spread over the warm homemade bread and rocket overflowing from the sides, this may have been the best sandwich of my entire life. The Italian culture is centered around spending time with close friends and loved ones, and the people of Italy are not afraid to linger over a meal or drinks for hours. My trip consisted of being fueled by shots of expresso throughout the day so I could stay up and fully grasp the Italian culture by going out for Aperitivo at night. I LOVE the concept of Aperitivo, and Alex and I partook in this cultural tradition of grabbing drinks and appetizers from 7-9p.m. multiple times throughout our trip. Aperitivo is celebrated by buying a drink and then unlocking unlimited access to the appetizers changed out regularly over the course of two hours. At night Alex and I would then see where the night took us and would either get drinks or gelato and then venture though the displays of Christmas lights or alongside the lit up Arno and Ponte Vecchio bridge.

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As you probably know by now, I am a huge fan of the arts, but never in my life did I ever think I would be standing in front of the tombs of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rossini, Machiavelli and Galileo (and that is just naming a few). In the Basilica Santa Croce, these impressive figures of the renaissance lay to rest and I was in complete awe as I made my way through their tombs. Coming to life right in front of my eyes, I could almost see how these important figures shaped Florence, the country of Italy, and even the world as we know it today.

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On Sunday morning, I stepped one foot onto the streets of Firenze and immediately felt as if I were actually running in the Florence marathon. The race had completely overtaken the city as determined runners made their way though the streets cheered on by eager fans. I was immediately engrossed in the contagious atmosphere, although sadly my time in Firenze was quickly diminishing. As Alex and I made our way to the airport I was filled with an immense amount of gratitude. We just had the best weekend of our lives in Florence, Italy, and while celebrating Thanksgiving in another country is very different than that in America, it reminds you there is a whole other world out there just waiting for you. Florence truly did steal a piece of my heart and I’m so incredibly blessed to have experienced such an amazing city with my best friend and boyfriend right by my side. I would do it again in a heartbeat, ciao Firenze!

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Kate '18

Venice, Italy- A Very Nontraditional Thanksgiving

As I celebrate this Thanksgiving abroad many miles away from my loved ones in the States, I reflect on all I am thankful for in my life. I am very blessed to be on this trip of a lifetime traveling all throughout Europe, and incredibly grateful for my family who made it all possible and helped me be where I am today. While I don’t get to spend the holiday indulging in turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, I will be making up for it with plenty of pasta, pizza and vino! Italy has always been on my bucket list, and over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I will be traveling to two cities in Italy- my first stop being Venice!

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Departing out of Gatwick Airport in London, I was so excited to take on Italy to eat, explore and adventure my way through this beautiful country. I had a very picturesque image in my head of what Venice would be like, and I have to admit, it completely surpassed and shattered all expectations. The second I got off the plane I wanted to start eating as many carbs possible (fun fact, carbs and calories do not exist in Italy). Fast forward a couple hours and I would find myself in a very authentic Italian restaurant with a glass of Merlot in hand as I indulged in the BEST carbonara of my entire life. The noodles were so fresh and with each bite I could taste a little bit of heaven.

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Venice is stunning and very much so a city comprised of many small islands with canals intertwining through the earthy colored stucco buildings. Crossing from the mainland to the island, you grasp a better understanding of how Venice is essentially floating on the Adriatic Sea. In the main area of the city, the Grand Canal in lined with restaurants, shops, and gorgeous Renaissance and Gothic palaces. Motor vehicles are prohibited on this pedestrian island and other than walking, the main form of transportation is by water taxi or gondola. Bridges cross over the canals connecting the cobblestone streets for travelers in the city. In every direction you are surrounded by immaculate sights and truly held prisoner to the city as you are left gawking in its beauty. I literally had to pinch myself to remember this was real life and not just a dream out of a fairytale.

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You have probably had a Magnum chocolate ice bar in your lifetime, but not many can say they had a custom made and hand decorated Magnum bar in Venice, Italy. The Magnum store is right off of the Grand Canal and I was immediately I enticed in by the potent smell of rich chocolate wafting onto the street. Inside the store there is an assembly line where you choose which flavor of ice cream you would like in the center of your bar, then you select which flavor of chocolate you would like it dipped in- milk, white or dark. You go on to choose which toppings and type of chocolate you would like drizzled over the top. My Magnum ice cream bar was to die for, and the answer is yes, I did have a chocolate ice cream bar for breakfast, but after all, it is Thanksgiving, right?

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You cannot go to Venice without riding on a gondola throughout the canals. It is the only way to fully experience the city, and it’s also the only place in the world with a water infrastructure like this. I forgot how much I missed inhaling the salty ocean scent and the feel of the cool sea breeze on my skin. It is a myth that the city of Venice is sinking and will one day no longer exist. In actuality, the water level is continuing to rise and creeping up on the buildings each year. The gondola boat driver paddled through the canals and would yell, “Oyyyy,” when turning the sharp corners as a form of communication with the other boat drivers. I enjoyed every second of my 30-minute gondola ride and gained an entirely new perspective of the city from the waterways.

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As a foodie, I consider food and eating to be just as much part of traveling as the adventure aspect. After having the best pasta of my life the night before, I set out to seek authentic Italian pizza. I found little pizza shop nuzzled into a side street and the ordered the prosciutto. This flat crust pizza was incredible and I am currently enjoying it for the second time as I eat my leftovers while typing this blog.

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I fell head over heels in love with Venice, and it was extremely difficult to leave this city straight out of a fairytale. I will continue to eat my way through Italy when I arrive in Florence later tonight, continuing the second part of my Italy adventure.

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone! Eat lots of pumpkin pie for me and enjoy time with those you love and cherish the most.

Kate '18

Next Top Model: Jasmia Robinson

Jasmia Robinson walked into the room like she owned the place- she was gorgeous, chill and very British. When I heard an actual model was coming to speak to our Communications Journalism class in London, I was excited, yet quite intrigued, because honestly had no idea what to expect. After revealing a brief background on herself and what lead her to be where she is now, Jasmia jumped right into stories of the past and her time spent in the reality television industry. There are striking differences between the reality television shows Britain’s Next Top Model and America’s Next Top Model British Invasion.

Growing up in London with an African American father and a white mother, Jasmia Robinson was devastatingly shy, but wanted more than anything to break into the modeling industry and prove she had what it took to succeed. Britain’s Next Top Model is a famous reality television show thriving off of the competitive modeling industry, gossip, lies, and vicious girls in each others faces 24/7. After an intense round of applications, Jasmia advanced and stepped up her competitive edge. Armored in her high heels, bikini, and edgy style complete with her nose ring, Jasmia hit the runway for her final tryout on the show. The producers were instantly drawn to her and loved her nonchalant vibe, complete with her bubblegum popping and London street style. Jasmia was the definition of London cool and the producers knew this shy girl with a blooming personality was a must for the show because viewers would eat her right up. The judges fired question after question at her, and as the end of the grueling process, Jasmia was offered a spot on the show. Looking back, Jasmia admits she never felt so bare, exposed and stripped of everything in her entire life than that moment standing in front of the judges in her final tryout.

Things quickly elevated in Jasmia’s life, and before she knew it, she was uprooted from her friends, family and everything she knew in life and instantly thrust into a world very foreign to her own. Reality quickly set in as she had never been away from home before, and was about to undergo an utterly life changing experience that could result in being the best thing in her life, something that could completely shatter her entire existence. From the time of her tryouts, the producers told Jasmia she needed to be something more than who she was in order to be successful on the show. With the flick of a button she would need to be bitchy when necessary, interact with the other girls through conflict and take on the challenges throughout the show. Reality television thrives off personality, drama, and juicy gossip, and as characters on the show, the models are engrossed in the competitive industry and forced to engage in vicious plots aggravated by the producers. Being a complete stranger to this lifestyle, Jasmia needed to up-play her personality, and in order to do so, become someone other than who she was or the producers warned her she would quickly be eliminated from the show.

In the reality television industry, the show owns you, and the company controls what you do, where you go, who you can talk to, and even how you feel. After signing strict contracts and nondisclosures, the contestants must abide to the rules of the producers and adhere to the strict policies implemented. For the first time in her life, Jasmia was completely out of control of all that was happening in her life as she had morphed into a person she didn’t even recognize anymore. 4 days of filming go into a 1-hour episode alone, and the producers can essentially sway perceptions of the girls anyway they want. The film crew works around the clock and the models never got a break as the cameras were in the models faces 24/7 and privacy and personal space were nonexistent. The 14 girls were in constant competition with one another not only to remain on the show, but also clench the best modeling jobs and agencies. The sad truth is, Jasmia admits feeling the need to muster up the strength to carry on with this charade in order to continue on in attempts of winning this absurd mind game. Engrossed in the reality of the show, Jasmia felt trapped and very out of place.

After the show ended, Jasmia went on to find out the the winner of the show was predetermined and all of the other girls are left on to be characters and add drama. After taking 3rd place on the show, Jasmia left a changed person. She had never wanted to be a reality television star, she wanted to learn more from the professional side of modeling and did have a lot of takeaways in that regard. The show portrayed her as being someone completely different than who she was and fierce battles lay ahead of her in efforts to prove to her family, friends and the modeling industry she was not the person the show portrayed her to be. Fast forward 5 years and Jasmia was invited to be on America’s Next Top Model British Invasion. As this was her second time in the competition, Jasmia went into the show thinking she would be able to handle things differently and was adamant in staying true to herself and further advancing her modeling career.

One question remains, when is enough finally enough? When do you draw the line and choose yourself over the modeling industry? There is not clear cut answer, but between her experiences on British Next Top Model and America’s Next Top Model British Invasion, Jasmia took away valuable lessons on sexuality, race, and cultural differences. Jasmia was eliminated from America’s Next Top Model British Invasion because the producers pushed her beyond her comfort level and continuously badgered her for details of her ex-partner who was stabbed as a result of her rise to fame. She knew when to draw the line, but had she stayed on the show another line, makeover round would have been the following week and the hair team had plans to shave off all her hair into a buzz cut and dye it into the colors and lines of the British flag.  Jasmia remains grateful for her time spend on America’s Next Top Model British Invasion as it gave her international exposure and helped her break into new industry and further establish herself as an African American model in the American and British modeling worlds alike.

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Kate '18

Trip to the Tate Britain 

The Tate Britain is the oldest gallery in the Tate network and opened its doors for the first time in 1897 impressively comprised of the personal collection of the founder, Sir Henry Tate. Referred to as the “slightly less sexy sister of the Tate Modern,” I was intrigued to experience the Tate Britain for myself as galleries within the Tate network boast notable collections with an unimaginable amount of effort embedded within the blueprints and composition of the galleries. The arrangement moves in chronological order guiding viewers through the eras of the past from 1500 leading up to modern art. During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, liturgy movements dominated each era being Shakespeare, poetry and novels respectively. The artists produced stunning masterpieces and gave the people exactly what they fancied. During the 19th century, artists became extremely wealthy until the art world came to a halt in 1910 when there was a dramatic shift in the taste of artwork. The modern world no longer wanted these kinds of work, but fortunately the stunning pieces of prior centuries were covered up and hidden in the backs of museums or at private estates to be preserved for future years to come.

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My Art History professor skillfully navigated our class throughout the gallery as we paused at iconic pieces to dive deeper into the story below the surface. I love art because there is so much more to a piece than what the viewer initially grasps. People see different things and there is often hidden meanings, messages and lessons embedded into the careful brushstrokes on the canvas.

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Augustus Leopold Egg, Past Present, No. 1, 1858 

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past Present, No. 1, 1858

 

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past Present, No. 2, 1858 

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past Present, No. 2, 1858

 

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past Present, No. 3, 1858 

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past Present, No. 3, 1858

Augustus Leopold Egg painted a collection of three pieces titled Past and Present No.1, No. 2 and No.3. This proved to be the most fascinating art story I had ever heard and with every twist and turn of the story, the details and clues were extraordinary. Moving through each of the three paintings, the story morphed and became more dynamic as clues connected events of the past while foreshadowing the future. In the first painting of the series, Past and Present No. 1, there are links to Adam and Eve the Fall with the apple and serpent temping the woman and succumbing to temptation. There are two halves of the apple lying in the painting and the woman’s half rolls to the floor rotting away. The open door foreshadows the woman being cast out of the family home, and the two portraits hang on the wall, one of the man and the other the women, are crucial links between each of the three pieces. Past and Present No. 2 shows the two daughters grown up and quite a bit older. The two portraits remain hanging on the wall, but the mirror casts a shadow over that of the man, and the eldest daughter is wearing black in mourning and comforting her sister, hinting their father has passed away. A woman with child who is a homeless prostitute in Past and Present No. 3, shows the mother many years later after she was thrown out of the house in shame. The woman sits near the river and contemplates the past and considers suicide. As she looks out at the river, she has no way of knowing the two daughters she left many years ago are doing the same thing and wondering where their mother is after all these years. Dramatic and engaging stories within paintings such as this series by Augustus Leopold Egg prove to be prime examples of the Victorian era. Paintings held stories of moral warning and people would contemplate the meaning behind these works and consequently take a message home with them- I certainly did.

I immensely enjoyed the Tate Britain and below are a couple other pieces I was instantly drawn to within the gallery. Each of these works demonstrate what the people craved during the Victorian era. These impressive works transport the viewer into another time and allowed them to escape their everyday realities and retreat into a magical time of the past.

Sir William Quiller Orchardson, The First Cloud, 1887

Sir William Quiller Orchardson, The First Cloud, 1887

John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shallot, 1888

John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shallot, 1888

 

William Powell Frith, Derby Day, 1856-8

William Powell Frith, Derby Day, 1856-8

This famous painting shows a social event that classes from the bottom to the top alike attended.

Kate '18

2 Exams and 1 Lost Oyster Card Later…

After a long weekend in Dublin, Ireland, I returned to London to both an Operations and Marketing exam awaiting me bright and early on Monday morning. While studying abroad is amazing, we are here for school, and unfortunately, taking exams is not the most fun thing to do, but it is part of college. I have always gone into exams with a positive mindset and confident attitude that I put forth 110% effort into succeeding. I do whatever it takes to prepare, and yes, I did stay up until 2:30am last night studying. That being said, the best part about taking exams is the feeling you get when you walk out of the classroom and you are done! All I can say is let’s celebrate with FOOD!

On the way home from school, I had a rather unfortunate mishaps and lost my Oyster Card to the treacherous pit in the Tube due to being bumped in the crowded rush hour conditions. Oyster Cards are essentially the “magic” passes to all of the transportation in London, and it’s not a good thing if it’s lost. After quite a bit of panic, the situation was resolved by the generous help of the Transit workers and my school.

Check out this amazing pizza place a couple of my classmates and I discovered near our homestay in Tufnell Park, London. There is a special deal every Monday where any pizza is 2 for £12. YUM, I think Aces and Eights should consider opening up a location in St. Paul in the very near future.

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Kate '18

Oh, the Luck of the Irish

For my entire life I have always dreamed of traveling to Ireland. During my semester abroad, there are plenty of long weekends which equate to being the ideal opportunity to travel within the European countries. I’ve already traveled to Scotland and Paris, and this weekend it was time to take on Dublin, Ireland!

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Our Air B and B where we stayed for the weekend was located in the Temple Bar, which is a famous area in Dublin where the streets are lined with pubs and people from all over the world coming to grab a bite to eat, drink pints of Irish beer and dance to live music. On our first night out in Temple Bar we went to two different pubs- the actual Temple Bar and the Dubliner. The Irish bars are friendly, fun and upbeat, and literally everyone in sight drinks Guinness beer which is brewed locally in Dublin.

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I immediately fell in love with Dublin because it was not too crowded or touristy, and the city was completely walkable as cute pubs, shops and markets lined the streets. The Irish accents are very thick, I honestly couldn’t differentiate at times if locals were speaking English or Gallic. Another thing about Dublin is people start their days in the pubs early- and by early I mean around 10:30 in the morning. I have learned to enjoyed beer and my favorite drink was the Smithwick’s Blonde Irish crafted ale. Just to clarify, the legal drinking age in Ireland is 18 years old, so all of the students in these pictures are of age.

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One of my favorite stops on our trip was to the Christ Church Cathedral Dublin. The guide was sharp, witty and full of a good amount of Irish humor. I was completely engrossed by the history of oppression and triumph Ireland experienced throughout the years and I remain utterly shocked and saddened by the fact the country’s population has yet to fully recover from the potato famine that struck the country many years ago. It is said by locals that Ireland remains to be a prisoner of history and remembers all too much, as England tends to overlook and forget periods of the past. It was actually the wildest church tour I have ever been on, and the guide did an excellent job of divulging the traditions of Ireland through stories and tales of the past. I particularly loved ringing the bells in the Bellvry which date back to 1820 where there are 19 ropes leading to the 19 bells ringing every 15 minutes over the town. We also toured the Crypt and Treasury which hold graves and impressive treasures of the past and mark the tomb of Strongbow.

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When I travel, I love to eat and drink my way through cities while making stops at historical landmarks all over the town. Dublin was no exception to this travel protocol of mine, and the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College proved to be trip highlights.

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By far my favorite part of the trip was the Kilmainham Gaol prison tour. We rented bikes and ventured through the city, arriving at the prison gates where the tour engaged us in stories of political prisoners during the years of Ireland’s fight for independence. During the restoration phase, the prison actually served as a movie set in efforts to fund the process. While both a sad and crucial component of Ireland’s history, the prison preserves years of the past, commemorates hardships of Irish tradition and brings the past alive.

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The Guinness brewery in Dublin has been in operation for over 255 years and to this day, is the oldest brewery in Ireland. Producing over 3 million pints a day, each one is said to be perfect. I had never actually tried Guinness prior to the tour but surprisingly, I enjoyed the velvety smooth taste of this dark beer. The brewing process runs over the course of 9 days and in the Aroma and Tasting Room I learned the proper way to taste a Guinness. It is all about the smooth inhale and gentle exhale of breath, allowing all of the chocolatey butterscotch scents to overwhelm your senses. The glass is then enjoyed by raising your glass and cheering with the phrase “Slonka.” I then ventured through the Guinness Advertising and Academy wings where I learned all about the advertising and marketing techniques, as well as how to pour the perfect pint.

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I completely fell in love with Ireland and already can’t wait to go back in the future. Now I’m back to life in London and unfortunately have two tests tomorrow, but I know with a little bit of Irish luck, I’ll do just fine.

Kate '18

Lighting up London- Happy Holidays!

There is nothing more beautiful than Christmas lights, and lights have recently been popping up all over London as the Christmas season begins! Oxford Street was closed this past Sunday from 12pm-7pm to traffic for the first time ever in honor of the Christmas lights being turned on. The streets are packed with Londoners and tourists alike bundled up in their hats, mittens, rain jackets, and “wellies,” holding their favorite holiday drink from a nearby Costa or Starbucks. Within the next couple of weeks be prepared for more lighting ceremonies and holiday festivals, as well as the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping to intensify. I don’t know about you, but all I can say is let the Christmas season begin!

Cheers and happy holidays!

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Kate '18

Abstract Or What Is That?

Tragedy, doom, suffering and self-inflicted harm are a common tone set between the 7 featured artists of the Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts I visited for my Art History course in London. These artists lived and worked in the United States in the years following the Second World War which ended in 1945 and the pieces range up to the 1970s. Abstract Expressionism is defined by a broad range of artists who use this form of free expression of individual experiences to express their own personal and subjective responses to the world. Their art is a direct reflection and reaction to the world and time they lived through. In constant competition amongst one another, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman’s work bares striking resemblance. The paintings by Arshile Gorky, Helen Frankenthaler and Ad Reinhardt are also featured in the exhibit, as well as the three-dimension sculptural work of David Smith and photography of Barbara Morgan. Similarities of Art Expressionism lie in the ideas, approaches and influences, as well as the scale of their work. These artists worked in the medium of oil on canvas, and would portray meaning behind their work using control and purpose, often using the time era or their immigrant influence to depict a new form of artistic language.

Rumored to be the most expensive gallery ever created and worth an excess of a billion pounds, as I walked through the exhibit, I was completely overcome by the Abstract Expressionism art. I could immediately see impressive, large scale work that was utterly beautiful, but completely incomprehensible. Yet, as I looked closer into the pieces and examined the attention to detail and careful planning and purpose, the form of self-expressionism of the artists became quite apparent to me.

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Arshile Gorky, “Water on the Flowery Mill”

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Jackson Pollock, “Night Mist”

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Jackson Pollock, “Mural”

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Willem de Kooning

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Mark Rothko, “No. 15”

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Clyfford Still

I loved this exhibit, and I felt our guide did a remarkable job of explaining the backstory behind each of the artists to our class as they lived terrible lives and suffered a great deal due to personal tragedy, health conditions, accidents, deaths and even suicides. This opportunity to visit this exhibition of Abstract Expressionism art is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as this collection is considered to be truly priceless.

Kate '18

Tommies Eat Their Way Through London

As a foodie, I have made it my mission to seek out only the best food when I travel because I am truly a food snob. Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that all of the food in London is pretty much the same as you will find hundreds of local pubs with a good selection of pies and the typical fish and chips. However, if you are looking for really good homemade food in London, you need to hit up the markets. There are markets scattered all throughout the boroughs of London and I am eating my way through all of them during my time here.

The Camden Market is nestled into the Camden Lock and in the center of Camden Town. The Camden Market is vibrant area with over 1,000 retail stalls selling fashions, music, art and TONS of food! Open 7 days a week, Camden is a place is London that really never sleeps due to its lively nightlife and this incredible market.

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Today I ate the best sweet potato fries of my life and the most delicious ice cream sandwich!

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I have now been to the Camden Market several times because you could honestly go countless times and never eat the same thing twice. Sorry if I am making you hungry!!

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Liz '17

Keep on going

We are now just over half way through the semester. The workload of all of the projects, tests, papers, extra credit opportunities, and presentations are beginning to pile up in the classroom. Of course this doesn’t include the extra  activities outside of the classroom including work, clubs, applications, sports, hanging out with your friends, sleeping, eating…basically everything outside of school. I don’t know about you but every time I get to this point in the semester I kick myself in the back a little bit because I know if I would have spent a little bit more time on everything the last two weeks of the semester, I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed right now. Many of my friends tell me that I am too busy, but I just respond by telling them that I like to do a little bit of everything and fill my day up…or at least until I literally just can’t anymore and have at least one mental breakdown, if not more. Sometimes I wonder why I let myself get to this point, and then I remember that not only do I struggle saying “no” to things, but I also just like to be busy and doing things, no matter what that “thing” is.

So, take it from someone who literally needs to schedule out time in my day to see my boyfriend, eat, and sleep that it is okay to be busy. Last semester while I was abroad, I had virtually nothing to do (especially compared to my life currently) and it began to stress me out because I thought that I should be doing something. It was at this time that I learned that it’s okay not to be doing something 24/7 and that sometimes you need to have some “me time” where you get to just sit, breathe, and relax, even if it is only for a few minutes.

I feel that my mental breakdown will be coming soon, but I am trying to do everything in my power to avoid it this semester. I was the one that chose to get as involved as I possibly can and to try and do everything, so I need to do my best. So, I am here saying that you’ve got this. Don’t give up now and just keep going. Before you know it Thanksgiving will be here, and shortly after that we will be studying for our finals. All of a sudden before you realized the semester had even started, it is going to be done with and you’ll be left wondering why life is flying by so fast. Enjoy it. Enjoy your undergrad because before you know it, it will be over. Even if you think that you need some extra sleep or shouldn’t go out to celebrate your best friends birthday, do it anyways. I know this might sound crazy, but it will be things like this that you will regret not doing. Of course school and work should be a top priority, but it’s the nights you spend with your friends that you will remember forever.

So hang in there, you’ve got this!!!!