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I left my heart in Rome.. because that’s where it belongs.

23 May

Leaving what had become my home and my adventure for the past 4 months, I clearly needed to be sedated. I can’t really tell you much about the hours leading up to my departure mostly because I tried to black them out (theoretically and literally), but also because I find them too depressing to put into words. Saying “goodbye” to the people who had become my makeshift family, using my last bit of Italian before it would be no longer accepted, and soaking in the last bit of being the minority that was either praised or hated by the natives, it all meant that my time in Rome was quickly coming to an end. Sooner than I would have hoped for.

Now, I’ve been home for almost a month now and I have experienced a wide variety of emotions since returning. Those emotions include nostalgia, mild-depression, satisfaction, and bliss. There are many things one must prepare themselves for when coming home to America:

  • It’s fugly
  • Your clothes won’t fit
  • Food doesn’t taste half as great
  • You will actually feel safe crossing the road
  • You will feel a hell of a lot lazier due to the lack of walking EVERYWHERE
  • English isn’t THAT great
  • Friendships may/may not be the same as when you left
  • People don’t care as much about your experience as they say they do/you had hoped they would
  • NO ONE understands, unless they’ve also studied abroad
  • You WILL binge eat and most likely gain more weight than you did abroad

I found this excerpt about returning Home and I couldn’t have explained it any better:

“Home is a funny thing. All we wanderers, and expats, and wanderlusters, and adrenaline junkies, and road-trippers – we can’t help but come back broken hearted. We find ourselves back in the old places, passing time in old jobs bartending or selling cars, with one foot out the door and half an eye on the next adventure. Our hearts hurt. We get stuck in the past and can’t seem to reconcile where we’ve been with where we are. Faces and memories fly by – and you can’t get over the fact that you’ll probably never see most of them again.

But we forget to count our chips. We forget that – for better or worse – it’s all part of the deal. The adventure. The heartache. They don’t mix too well, but they sure ain’t sold separately. The true travelers venture out for experience and much more. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and open our eyes as wide as we can and stand it for as long as we can stand it, because – that’s living. Heartbreak is the nature of our business, the necessary flip side to falling in love in Paris, drinking a Stiegl at the top of a mountain in Austria, trying to get yourself up on a surfboard off the coast of Beirut, passing time getting to know people and smoking hookah on a seaside dock in Saudi Arabia.

It’s hard to leave pieces of your heart lying on the ground of city streets 3000 miles away. But it’s beautiful. We weren’t meant to come back with a fluffy conscience and a clear head. My heart aches for old memories. I miss old friends. And I always will. There’s no getting over it. But that’s what happens when you live with heart open and palms up. My heart didn’t get taken. I went with it open. It hurt then because I knew it wasn’t forever – and it hurts now because the times are behind me. But in the emptiness there is love. Parts of myself are gone. They belong to people and places far away, and that’s where they’ll stay. And if you want to have adventures, you have to be OK with that. You have to know from the start that the thing is going to change you – and then you have to let it.”


WATCH ME- Study Abroad 2013 Compilation

Thanks to all my blog followers for sharing my experiences with me and commenting! This blog wouldn’t have been as satisfying and enjoyable without all of you! I hope you get to experience everything that I have been so blessed to experience.

I want to dedicate “C’era Una Volta” to everyone I met (new friends, my Italian family, bar owners, family friends, and old friends) in Europe who turned my “Once upon a time” experience into the unbeatable and unforgettable time of my life.

Until another time,



Hopelessly Romantic

4 Feb

The exploring continues..

We had a pretty busy weekend here in Rome and it starts with a hike up to the Borghese Gardens on Thursday. This time it wasn’t just Allison and I, we recruited Kurt and Seamus (another Golden Eagle) to adventure with us! First stop: a slice of pizza! Kurt showed us this yummy place right up the street where we can get a huge slice for 2 E, so I got one with tomatoes and red chili flakes!

pizza trast

We met up with Seamus and had to take the boys to the Pantheon because they hadn’t been there yet. What have they been doing?! They’ve been here almost a month! Well I guess Seamus has an excuse since he had to deal with a schizophrenic roommate who almost tried to kill him for the past three weeks.. after that pit stop we had to take them to Giolitti’s because they hadn’t been there either! Ridic, I know! These boys need to get out from under their rocks.

Mmm pistachio and chocolate hazelnut gelato

Mmm pistachio and chocolate hazelnut gelato

From there we aimlessly walked, following signs towards Piazza Navona until the signs stopped but we didn’t hit Piazza Navona.. weird. I know it’s nice to sometimes make a plan of where you’re going and follow it, but my biggest advice so far is to just walk with no direction and you’ll eventually stumble upon something great.


Judd Nelson-ing the hell out of this exploration!

Judd Nelson-ing the hell out of this exploration!


65 and sunny in February - Take that Chillwaukee!

65 and sunny in February – Take that Chillwaukee!

After a while we crossed back over the Tiber, which by the way has gone down immensely and you can see the walking path and more graffiti that the water had previously covered. We walked straight down through Via del Corso to the Spanish Steps. It was absolutely packed because of the amazing weather; couples kissing on the steps, soakin up the rays, being all cute and romantic..



After daydreaming on the Spanish Steps (which I’m a pro at if you don’t already know), we continued walking north! If I ever become rich I’m staying at the hotel right on the top of the steps! And if at the end of the semester I have more than 2 euro cents to my name I’m grabbing a cappuccino at the rooftop cafe overlooking La Piazza del Spagna.

Next: Villa Borghese Gardens

We took a road lined with orange trees up to the entrance of the gardens. This place is MASSIVE! There’s so many paths you can walk down and so much to do! Of course the minute we walk in I spy couples laying on the grass, probably having picnics, living out my romance dreams. DISCLAIMER: This place made me realize how much of a Hopeless Romantic I am and it actually makes me sick!!!! There are bikes to rent, paddleboats on a little pond (Notebook style!), horse and buggy rides, a dog park, museums, a zoo, and so much more. ROMANCE CENTRAL, if you ask me! Fingers crossed with Valentines Day coming up..

Orange trees!

Orange trees!






Hopelessly hoping to go back again soon… but it will most likely be with Allison..

It was a long, long day but it concluded with a beautiful view from Ponte Garibaldi and some yummy pizza and wine on the patio at Carlo Menta.


Pizza Capriciossa: prosciutto, hard boiled egg, & mushroom

Pizza Capriciossa: prosciutto, hard boiled egg, & mushroom

The next night we spontaneously went to the Roma vs. Cagliari partita di calcio! 😉 Stadio Olimpico is just a short 20 minute ride north and tickets for girls were only 11 euro, 5 euro cheaper than guys.. winning! I don’t think I mentally prepared myself enough before hand for the chaos that is Roma fans! It was the craziest environment and made me miss MUBB games a little bit. No matter where you’re sitting, the people around you make the experience what it is.



I’ve never heard the world “Vaffanculo” so many times in my life and I was enjoying every minute of it! (Look it up if you don’t know what I’m saying). We sat behind a group of guys who were constantly lightin up joints with the security guards right next to them, I’m tellin you, the atmosphere was unreal. Roma’s goalie was a mess and you could tell that none of the fans wanted to put up with him, they were quick to boo and swear at him for every goal he missed. When Totti scored a goal you would think they had won the world cup, and it looked similar to this:


Saturday Allison and I had a girls day! Although we should be getting pedicures because walking so much has destroyed our feet.. we chose pastries and shopping instead! We started our morning at the open air market in Campo de’ Fiori (blog post about that coming soon!) and then headed towards the city center. As we approached my favorite little bakery – I’ve posted about before (with absinthe and yummy pastries – we got a whiff of warm croissants, powdered sugar, and buttery cookies. So obviously we had to go in and try something new: Una mezzaluna gigante con nutella e crema.



Our shopping addiction led us to Brandy Melville, which if I had an endless cash flow I’d buy the whole store! I’M OBSESSED. They need to stop holding out on us and open one in Chicago! Unfortunately I really need to watch my budget, so I bought a cute headband that ties on the top of my head, a homeless gray beanie, and we got matching gold necklaces! As soon as we left it started pouring, so we “coincidentally” dipped into Zara to find cover. Another obsession. Here we got matching burgundy beanies. Killin it!


We still had an hour to kill before the start of Carnevale Romano, so we crossed the street into a church to hang out. Yes, that’s what the cool kids do here.. hang out in churches. If I was homeless in Rome, I would totally take advantage of the churches.. who would stop me?! After we sat in a pew contemplating and reevaluating our lives for a while it was time to head to the parade. There were people everywhere lined up along Via del Corso. Live music, people dressed in costumes, and lots and lots of rain!



Although the huge festivities happen in Venice, I’m so happy I didn’t go this weekend because all I’ve heard was that it poured, was cold and miserable. We were soaking wet too, but at least we didn’t pay for it! The parade was really cool to see, it smelled like horse poop but I’m glad we stuck it out.



Check out more :

We ended the weekend by making and devouring a huge pizza.. there’s nothing we can’t make.. or eat.


Back to school for 3 days, then weekend again! Wahooo!!!

Until next time, Ciao!

Arrivederci! I’ll miss you..

9 Jan
After a year of planning and excitement the day has finally come to depart on the trip of a lifetime. There are a few things about life in America that I’ll miss. More importantly I have many people to thank for their support and I’ll miss them so much. Here’s to you!
  1. Hot showers. Thank God for dry shampoo.. 
  2. Free ice water at restaurants. I’m cheap and prone to passing out from dehydration..this might be a problem.
  3. My dad’s famous cooking. Ha, who am I kidding..I’ll be in the land of delicious cuisine!
  4. My entire wardrobe and all my shoes :””(
  5. Chinese nights with my best friends
  6. Down to Earth, genuine midwesterners. It’s hard to beat us.

Speaking of, I’ll miss..

Marquette best friends

Marquette Best Friends

Alpha Phi Sisters

Alpha Phi Sisters – Good luck during recruitment!!

MUTV Family

MUTV Family

Abby Family

The Abby Family

Best friends from High School

High School Best Friends

My Pham Bam

My Pham Bam


Auntie Janet's Booze Camp

My Cousins (& Aunt and Uncle)


My Baby, Cami

But most importantly,


The parents that make it all possible and my sister, Dominique

I’m so grateful for all of you and I’m so excited to share my journey with you. Next time you’ll hear from me I’ll be in Italy!


Until next time, Ciao!

Bottom of the Family Totum pole

8 Jan

The sadness my family feels over my departure is unreal. It’s so great to see that they will miss me just as much as I’ll miss them. Nothing is making me more excited to be leaving tomorrow night than these kind Twitter posts..



























































2013 Study Abroad Bucket List

4 Jan

Fortunately, I have been very lucky in my 19 years of living to have traveled to many places around the world. (Thanks to Mom and Dad who sacrificed a lot to make it all possible). Having already climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, taken a cheesy tourist picture in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, made a wish in the Trevi Fountain, ridden a donkey up Greek islands, sled down the Swiss Alps, seen the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, ridden a gondola in Venice, and much more, my bucket list for this Spring looks a bit different than many first time travelers’ lists! So without further adieu, the top 30 things I want to accomplish before this experience is over..

#1 Meet a millionaire at Monte Carlo Casino

#2 Enjoy a “treat” in an Amsterdam coffee shop

#3 St. Patty’s Day in Dublin

#4 Go to an AC Milan soccer game

#5 Walk the red light district

#6 Spend Easter in Vatican City

#7 Cliff dive off the Amalfi Coast

#8 See Fun. perform in Rome

#9 Recreate the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover

#10 Make a guard at Buckingham palace laugh

#11 Go to Carnevale in Venice

#12 Ride a hot air balloon

#13 Make lifelong friendships

#14 Take a picture of any city from a high rooftop

#15 Revisit wineries I interned at in Tuscany and Piedmont

#16 Meet relatives in Rome

#17 Take a doubledecker bus tour of London

#18 Leave a note in Juliet’s wall in Verona

#19 Pregame my flight home (In the airport)

#20 See Jersey Boys or Les Mis in London

#21 See Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter

#22 Tour of BBC Television Centre before it closes

#23 A Guinness, or Jameson distillery tour

#24 Ride the London Eye

#25 Ride a vespa..without crashing (very common)

#26 Ride a camel in Morocco

#27 Hike Cinque Terre

#28 Go to a Fashion Week event in Paris, London, or Milan

#29 Watch the sunset from the Duomo

#30 Make my mark on the Lennon Wall in Prague

As you may have noticed, “Meeting a millionaire” in Monaco is #1 to ensure I can afford the following 29 goals. That is my first piece of advice. Kidding! But if it works for you, “Good on ya!” I hope you enjoy my journey towards completing this list and use my study abroad guide when it’s your turn to explore the world!