Kate '18

Homestay Experience

During my time spent in London, I had the unique opportunity to partake in a homestay experience and live with a British family. I’m not quite sure how to begin telling you about my homestay, because overall, home life in London is a lot different than in the States. Before I divulge further details, I want to start by saying the homestay experience brought me one of my best friends. Ultimately, my homestay would not be the same without my incredible roommate Maddy- after countless sleepovers, girl talk and bonding over London, I don’t know how my life felt complete before meeting her!

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It is hard to describe how drastically different life is in London, but I’ll start off with the positives. London is HUGE and a VERY expensive place to live, and in any housing market, location is everything. The best part of living in homestays is experiencing life in one of London’s many boroughs. In a huge city, it is far too easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the city. As one of London’s most up and coming neighborhoods, Tufnell park supposedly attracts “yummy mommies who do yoga” and is home to wealthy bankers, artists and stars. Considered to be a prime London location, my homestay was just a 5-minute walk from a Tube station and a 15-minute Tube ride into central London (compared to the 45-minute commute of many others on my trip). Nailing the convenience factor, my local grocery store called Budgens was just around the corner from my homestay and I am truly going to miss it. The food in London contains far less preservatives than the States and is prided on freshness, large availability of GMO-free and organic practices. While I loved the quality of the food, I cannot wait to have a home cooked meal as I haven’t cooked in over three months now.

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Living in America, I will be the first to admit, we are completely spoiled in our way of life, and it proved very difficult to adjust to the contrasting lifestyle in London. I started with the positives of my homestay experience, but as in any situation, there are negatives as well. It felt very odd to live in someone’s family home, but not actually be apart of the family. To be quite blunt, I was also very uncomfortable with the number of people living in the house- 8 people to be exact, and this included 3 boyfriends, and we all shared 1 shower. The kitchen alone was a completely out of world sight and was comprised of 2 mini fridges (Maddy and I were allotted 1 shelf to share), a broken wash machine with the load size of one bath towel, and a stove and oven we couldn’t figure out how to use the entire semester. The washing machine is actually a pretty hilarious experience, but something I never want to endure again. After a severe malfunction, I was completely overcome by a flood of soapy blue water gushing out at me and overcoming the entire kitchen floor resulting in my clothes being completely destroyed (and to make matters worse, this with on my 21st birthday).

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I really don’t want to sound so negative because there were so many things about living in London I will miss, but I cannot wait for my room, American appliances and home cooking. This is not goodbye forever, this is goodbye for now, London!

Kate '18

Photo Contest Winners!

This past semester our Tommies have been all over the world! Along the way they have learned, traveled, explored and of course, taken some pretty impressive pictures.  The annual Annual Study Abroad Photo Contest received countless pictures and had a pretty tough time choosing this year’s winners in each of the 4 categories. Check out the winners, and then go ahead and visit our Study Abroad website while you are at it because you too can go on trips like this in 200+ countries all over the world!

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Kate '18

It’s that Time of Year Again…

It’s that time of year again… it’s finals week. We all have to go through it, and yes, it’s horrible, but I promise, you will get through it! Just to lighten the mood a little, I wrote a short poem about Finals Week.

 

‘Twas the weekend before finals, and all the students were studying.

The library is packed with those who barely sleep,

But remember, you will soon have those finals complete.

Students study away,

Drinking Bené all day.

As classes come to an end, we spend more time with our studies,

And less with our buddies.

We could all use some motivating words from mom,

On the phone she says, “oh, honey, you’re the bomb.”

The holidays are in our midst

But hey, we can’t celebrate yet, we’ve got finals that persist.

Professors hand us the test,

And wish us their very best.

When the last finals are done you may be in tears,

But we can finally have some holiday fun and ring our glasses in cheers.

 

Here are 10 tips to make your finals week a little more bearable.

1.) Take advantage of Study Wednesday. In the past, St. Thomas has done a Study Monday, but this year, it’s called Study Wednesday! This marks the day after all classes have come to an end, with the entire day is devoted to studying for final exams. St. Thomas also puts on a study day breakfast giving us all the energy we need to rock out exams!

2.) Review Sessions. Take advantage of professor lead reviews sessions for your courses. These are very helpful to taking your final exams. If your professor is taking the time to hold this session, it is in your best interest to attend.

3.) Back to the basics. Be mindful of what you are putting into your body. It is crucial to be putting the right types of nutrients into your body to optimize its performance. I know it might be easier just order a pizza, but be mindful of better options.

4.) Hydrate. Drink plenty of water. The average person needs about 64 ounces a day, and many people are dehydrated without even realizing it. I always start my day off right with a big class of cold water. This jump starts your brain and metabolism.

5.) Sleep, sleep, sleep! You will benefit more from sleeping than pulling an all nighter. I know it’s hard to get the appropriate amount of sleep, especially when you are busy and stressed, but your body really needs it. If you didn’t read the last blog on the importance of sleep, it’s attached here: Sleep Article

6.) Stop wasting time procrastinating. Find a study space that works for you. Don’t let other people or other things get in your way or bring you down.

7.) Break down your studying. There is an old concept of “divide and conquer.” Your brain soaks up knowledge with reoccurring exposure. With multiply exams to study for, it’s important to switch off between your courses.

8.) Do small things to reward yourself for working hard.

9.) Positive vibes. One of the worst things that you can do is go into a test with a negative attitude. You have worked extremely hard to get up to that point, and don’t bring yourself down with negativity.

10.) Remember this stress won’t last forever. Finals is a very stressful and intense time. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s also a very short period of time. Once you get through it, you are done. Power through, the end of finals is so close.

Good luck with your finals, Tommies!!

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Students study together May 18, 2015 in the O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library great room during the finals week "study Monday."

Kate '18

Back to the Borough

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably tell you again at least 100 more times- I am a total foodie who LOVES and appreciates good food. I seek out only the most delicious food wherever I travel and continue to be a firm believer food is essential to traveling and experiencing life. I quickly caught on that the best food is found at the markets in London.

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One of my favorite markets in London is the Borough Market which remains one of the oldest markets in the world, just celebrating their 1,000th birthday. I’m infatuated by the Borough (and my taste buds agree) because of the rich history and extensive selection of homemade food, drinks and desserts offered. With food from around the world, you can find just about anything in the vibrant and upbeat atmosphere let off by the different venders. I’ve eaten my way through the market plenty of times, but my top choice is the homemade and fresh pumpkin stuffed tortellini topped with truffle mushroom sauce and grated parmesan cheese. YUM!

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I wish I could pack the Borough Market up with me in my suitcase and bring it back for all of you to experience, it’s just that good. I’ve been to the Borough too many times to count, so I included a few of my other favorite foodie finds!

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Kate '18

“A Look at My Experience”

During my time spent studying abroad in London, I volunteered at a Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School and completed my Business 200 assignment. Business 200 is a graduation requirement for all undergraduate business majors where each student provides 40 hours of service to the community and completes a series of reflective seminars. This intimate relationship between business and the community is fostering essential partnerships to advance the long-term viability and health of both. Since 1991, over 20,000 students have completed their service in the United States and in 19 counties around the world.

I served alongside 6 other Tommies through my program at Blessed Sacrament and each of us were assigned to work with students in different grades. It is difficult to explain how much I learned and enjoyed my experience at Business 200, so I wrote a poem as my final project to reflect on the work accomplished and benefits reaped by members of the community and volunteers alike.

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“A Look at My Experience”

Upon completion of my Business 200 assignment, I reflect on all I have learned,

Where do I even begin, so much has been earned.

Business 200 is founded on serving others and bettering our community,

All for the common good we say, oh what unity.

Opus College of Business sets high expectations,

Expecting all students to spread its relations. 

Our students are well rounded,

Just as the school on which we are founded.

As a crucial component of our business education,

Serving, volunteering and giving back is what Tommies do with no hesitation.

We use our education and knowledge to do what we should,

Factor in our individual talents and we contribute what we would.

With education, faith and God by our side,

We give on to others what we can provide.

Giving back encourages us to grow and serve,

In turn we provide others with care they deserve. 

While studying abroad in London I was given the chance,

To fulfilled my Business 200 requirement with much more than a glance.

Assigned to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School,

I would be working with the kids, hope they don’t drool.

Drool and germs aside, I love workings with the youth,

It truly was the perfect fit for me and that is all the truth.

Welcome to Year Three,

Said the voices of 25 young pupils welcoming me.

The teacher exclaimed, you have come to the right place,

As this is an excellent learning space.

We appreciate you coming, your presence is of great need,

Without volunteers like you, the children would not succeed.

We can’t thank you enough, the teacher ranted,

Us too, the children all chanted.

Pulling me aside, she was quick to tell,

You are a bombshell but many are not as fortunate and well.

Coming from homes of different background,

Lower income, overcrowding and single parent families are to be found.

Accepting and learning from those different from us,

I am very much aware as we can discuss.

Going on to say, the children often do not get enough attention,

And their studies have slipped, not to mention.

The child is never at fault and we do all that we can,

Time is of the essence, so we make a plan.

Proven critical to work one-on-one with each child more,

Resulting in their learning being enhanced more than ever before.

High education standards are to be meet,

And Blessed Sacrament will not succumb to defeat.

With your help we can give the kids a future all so bright,

Oh, it would be such a marvelous sight.

Introduced to the class,

The teacher warned her pupils, you better not give any sass.

I told the children they could call me Miss Kate,

And honestly they think I am great.

Wanting to touch my blonde hair,

And try on her heels if they so dare. 

They ask in all curiosity what is the American dream,

I tell them life isn’t always what it may seem.

Infatuated by my American accent as I speak,

When in fact it is me who is enamored by their British accents and all the cheek.

Meeting on Wednesday each week,

The children and I have much to complete.

With all to accomplish in a day,

The children do look forward to me coming I must say.

School is a safe place to learn, interact and grow,

After a hard day of work there is much progress to show.

Our day begins with much clammer,

Before we move into grammar.

Education puts the children on the right path,

And lets not forget to add up the math.

Hard at work on our times tables,

We give each of the pictures labels.

I read one-on-one with each child from a book,

And if they need help, I’ll offer a look.

We sound out any tricky words, pausing at, “originate,”

One word at a time, the pronunciation much up to debate.

Next we move onto spelling and I’m very impressed with the words they spell,

The children are so very smart from what I can tell.

When the children work hard we incorporate a game or two,

Then go outside to play until our hands turn blue.

When my day with then children comes to an end,

They are so very sad, but I say I’ll see you next week to put them on the mend.

I part ways with Business 200 resulting in many take aways,

I’ll carry forth this experience into the professional world with no delays.

I have had an overall experience all too great,

Volunteering, serving and giving back is my new fixate.

Kate '18

Royal Day Trip to Windsor

I am completely infatuated by the Royal family of England and take every opportunity I can to visit the different residences, soak up all the family history and I may even be Kate Middleton’s biggest fan. My favorite new character in the Royal family is American actress, Meghan Markle, who is dating Prince Harry and has been photographed numerous times with him in London throughout the last couple of months. The mother of the Royal family is nonetheless, Queen Elizabeth II, and at almost 91 years of age, she is still enjoying every minute of her reign. Her Royal Highness spends quite a bit of time and almost every weekend at Windsor Castle, which is located just 25 miles from her main residence in London, Buckingham Palace.

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Leaving the hustle of London’s busy streets felt like such an escape as I made my way into the quaint little town of Eton and then crossed over the River Thames into Windsor. My first stop was at Eton College which is a boarding school for pupils aged 13-18. The school was founded by King Henry VI and considered to be the most elite boarding school in all of England grooming young pupils to embark into society as distinguished individuals. I found the school particularly interesting because Princes William and Harry attended school here growing up (I even saw the dormitory they lived in!) and 21 of England’s previous Prime Ministers are alumni as well.

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On to Windsor Castle! Looming over the town and quite impressive in structure, Windsor Castle is to this day, the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle. As I walked through the massive gates of the castle, I felt  like a member of the Royal family, and of course, I had my eyes peeled for the Queen and Prince Phillip. I was blown away by St. George’s Chapel inside the castle walls as well as the State Rooms which still host Royal functions today. Day trips throughout England always fill my mind with so much history and leave my heart with a deeper appreciation this beautiful country- I truly enjoyed every minute of my Royal experience today!

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Kate '18

Taking a Commercial Approach

Piccadilly Circus area is home to a multitude of high-end commercial art galleries in London selling art work from a variety of artists. Each gallery typically specializes in a specific genre of art most appealing to the gallery owner. Just a couple streets over from Piccadilly is Cork Street, which was an area formally referred to as “thee” art street in all of London. The area has since undergone a transformation and become a reflection of the changing times impacted by constant renovation and the construction of new buildings. Through the decades, Cork Street has remained a commercial gallery hub with the streets lined by top-notch art galleries displaying and selling the work of different artists in changing exhibitions overturning anywhere from just a couple of weeks to several months.

I visited three commercial galleries in the art hub of London and was immediately fascinated by how the art, as well as the business components, spoke to me as a viewer and business student. Prior to taking my Art History course this semester, I had never visited a commercial gallery before, and after watching the “Banker’s Guide to Art,” my eyes have been opened to how the art world is a thriving and ever-changing business. The business world centered around art is a competitive and unique industry compiled of wealthy individuals, fishy off-shore companies, international taxes regulations, and dealers and buyers competing with the shifting eras and fluctuating economy to ensure high profits on artwork. Stepping deeper into the hub of the commercial art galleries, I visited Messum’s, Waddington Custot and the White Cube of Mason’s Yard in the heart of London.

Messum’s, located on Cork Street, is a sleek and posh art dealer with a gallery space boasting impressive work. Founded by David Messum in 1963, the Messum is an independent family firm of art experts and recognized as long standing academic and market leaders in British Impressionism, Modern British and Contemporary painting and sculpture. The Messum is passionate about promoting the study of British art and supporting those who share their passion for it. Currently hosting the Magí Puig exhibition, I was in awe over the work and particularly connected to the stunning pieces in oil medium inspired by Puig’s travels to cities all over the world. After recently traveling to Venice myself, I would love to have the piece titled Venècia Groc hanging in my home one day. The pieces sell from $2,250 to upwards of $10,000, and the Puig exhibition displays one of a kind pieces which are truly breathtaking and leave the viewer eager to dive into the painting itself.

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The second gallery I visited was Waddington Custot which incorporates a rich heritage embracing an international reputation for quality and expertise. Hosting a wide range of work, the gallery was formed through the partnership of long-time London art dealer, Leslie Waddington and French art dealer Stephane Custot in 2011, however, the gallery was formerly known as the Waddington Galleries and was originally founded in 1958. The Waddinton Custot has exhibited work from the new generation of British painters and sculptors, post-war American art in England, Abstract Expressionist, contemporary shows, new European and American painters and sculptors and the work of young British artists. Currently exhibiting Fabienne Verdier Rhythms and Reflections, the gallery features large-scale abstract paintings produced over the last year. As an abstract painter, Verdier’s work of self-expressionism incorporates the dynamic forces of nature with fluid moments and instability. I was mesmerized by the pieces displayed in the gallery and particularly captured by the rich color and intense texture on the large canvas.

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Having recently visited to White Cube Bermondsey location, I was eager to experience the White Cube Mason’s Yard location. Each of the White Cube galleries are housed in unique buildings remodeled to very much so resemble a white cube. The sharp angles of the building and white color pallet set the tone of a modern gallery before the viewer even sets foot in the door. Inside the galleries of both White Cube locations the atmosphere is open, airy and offers a fresh taste on art. After experiencing both current exhibitions, Anselm Kiefer at Bermondsey and Magnus Plessen at Mason’s Yard, I could grasp a more thorough understanding of how ever changing exhibitions work in a commercial gallery. When I visited the White Cube Bermondsey location, an art expert was showing clients pieces they may be potentially interested in purchasing with sales tags of upwards of hundreds of thousands of Pounds. I enjoyed the Anselm Kiefer exhibition immensely and was captured by his intense use of material and textures to produce huge pieces in his astonishing 200-acre art studio. I found the Magnus Plessen exhibition quite unusual, however remained impressed by the demonstration of vivid colors and use of oil and charcoal on canvas showing the devastating impact of automatic weapons on the human body.

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I very much so enjoyed visiting a variety of commercial art galleries in the hub of London’s ever changing art world. I was overly impressed by the art and business components in Messum’s, Waddington Custot and both White Cube locations. I definitely cannot afford to invest or purchase any artwork of my own anytime soon, but in the meantime, I intend to enjoy the art viewing perks in commercial gallerias and public galleries all over London.

Kate '18

Merry Christmas Mate!

Merry Christmas from London! Tis the season to celebrate holiday cheer, family and friends, each other’s love and shop (until we drop!). I embarked on a little adventure to soak in the holiday buzz and experience firsthand how Christmas is done London style.

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The hustle and bustle of the busy streets has severely intensified and you can find jolly Londoners mulling about and headed in all directions. The Tubes are packed, transporting mass amounts of shoppers venturing all over central London to purchase the perfect gifts. The air is filled with joy as Christmas toons blare through the streets. Tree stands are popping up everywhere selling Charlie Brown sized trees with carolers singing and wishing you “merry Christmas mate.” The shops are decked in tinsel, life sized Santas grinning merrily, holiday decoration lining every square inch and over-the-top window displays. Some of the displays are so incredibly mesmerizing, it’s hard to pull your eyes away until the door man yells, “move along,” reminding you this isn’t a fairytale after all. After making my way through South Kensington, Harrods, Old Bond, New Bond, Oxford and Covent Gardens, I was completely exhausted from all the crowds (and had probably been bumped upwards of 1,000 times). At this point, I had enough London Christmas cheer for the day and journeyed home for a warm holiday drink.

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I’m truly feeling bittersweet about leaving London in just two weeks. Time has flown by and I’ve had an incredible experience abroad and traveling all throughout Europe. On the flip side, I’m also anxiously awaiting flying back into Minneapolis to be with my family over the holidays and enjoy the Christmas season in the States as well.

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Kate '18

Eating Our Way Through Camden

Meeting up with old friends is always such a joy! I had the incredible opportunity of meeting up with my friend Kristin who lives in California and is also studying abroad in the United Kingdom this semester! We haven’t seen each other in awhile, so it was so much fun catching up and exchanging stories about our time spent across the pond.

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My friends and I brought Kristin to Camden Market, which is a personal favorite of mine, and located in a borough near central London. Camden is known for having a unique range of street food and shops selling just about anything you could imagine. I’m not going to lie, the area itself is quite odd, but when you get to the actual market area, you are immediately consumed by the incredible smells of food wafting through the air and get caught up in the vibrant atmosphere.

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The food at Camden is all too enticing and choosing what to eat is always the hardest decision. I had the best (and biggest) Mexican quesadilla filled with flavorful and seasoned chicken, veggies, rice, chick peas, guacamole, sour cream and salsa- YUM! Afterwards we made our way to my favorite cookie stand which sells homemade vegan and gluten free cookies made into ice cream sandwiches. My friends like to joke the cookies might actually be healthy due to being vegan and gluten free, but who are we kidding haha! I am really going to miss all of the incredible market food in London and I am doing my best to hit up as many different ones I can during my last few weeks here.

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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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