Tag Archives: friends

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,



If I am what I eat, call me Bocadillo de Jamon: Madrid

11 Apr

After a weekend of no sleep and beach parties in the Barcelona sun followed by a couple days of detoxing on the pristine Ibiza beaches, I couldn’t imagine how Madrid could get any better. Besides the little bump in the road when the airport ATM ate my debit card and absolutely no one could help me, Madrid quickly proved me wrong and stole my heart! Above all reasons to love this lively capital city is a wonderful man by the name of Chimo.

This is Chimo!

This is Chimo!

I have found that spending time with locals makes a travel experience 10 times more enjoyable and unforgettable. I was extremely lucky to be connected to Chimo because he is the cousin of my mom’s Marquette roommate’s husband. Chimo adopted the 4 of us girls for a couple days: Wined and dined us, but mostly wined as he tried and succeeded to get us pretty tipsy by midday. For our first meal in Madrid, Chimo took us out for an authentic Madrileno lunch. We first tried to meet him for our reservation at a restaurant in the city, but when we showed up the gates were up and it seemed closed down (Holy Week shenanigans..). Change of plans: Chimo arranged for us to meet at Casa Carola a bit outside the city, so we hopped in a cab and he met us there on his bike.. Harley that is. Yep, he’s a badass dad. Chimo took charge and ordered the table Cocido Madrileno, a traditional stew from Madrid. It was a rainy day in Madrid, so this hearty soup did the trick!

The base: stock and noodles

The base: stock and noodles

Beef, Chorizo, Pork Belly & Blood Sausage

Beef, Chorizo, Pork Belly & Blood Sausage

Chicken, Beef Bone Marrow & Jammon Iberico

Chicken, Beef Bone Marrow & Jammon Iberico

CHICKPEAS! Cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

CHICKPEAS! Cabbage, potatoes, and carrots

We went back for seconds.. or thirds.. fourths? I can’t remember. As much as I was paying attention to how delicious our meal was, Chimo’s stories were way too distracting! He definitely wins coolest father for life award! We heard of his wild experience running with the bulls and another event where he ran to the center of the arena and had to crack open a bottle of beer before the bull charged him, or else he couldn’t take the beer! What Europeans do for a drink, I tell ya! As if we weren’t stuffed enough at this point, out came dessert.



Arroz con leche

Arroz con leche

Torrijas - taste like french toast!

Torrijas – taste like french toast!

And the best for last! As if the wine during lunch didn’t already do the trick to the 4 detoxed girls, Chimo ordered 2 bottles of the Spanish version of grappa called Aguardiente and Orujo de hierbas. With the exception of Chimo because he’s a champ, the unanimous favorite was orujo de hierbas because it was sweeter and stung less. He had to practically shove it down Madison’s throat, but once it was down she kept coming back for more! “Arriba, Abajo, Al centro, Al dentro!” 


"Do it, bitch" - Chimo

“Do it, bitch” – Chimo


Now it was time to walk it all off! We got a tour of the city from the best, wisest, and funniest tour guide in town: CHIMO! We met back up in Puerta del Sol which is a sight in and of itself. This place is loaded with hooligans. You feel like you’re in an amusement park and it doesn’t feel safe. The costumes weren’t even good, they were cracked out versions of Spongebob, the Smurfs, Mario, and Spiderman with a beer belly.

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Before leaving the square we stopped to pop a squat on Spain’s “Km 0” point.


Chimo took us past the Opera House to the enormous Palacio Real and Catedral de La Almudena.

Holy Week procession

Holy Week procession

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You can’t really escape the gypsies and hooligans in Europe. Gypsies with their squeaky toys and headless business men congregated in the other famous plaza in Madrid, Plaza Mayor. We soon discovered how fun it is to hang out here in the late hours of the night with our 1 euro bocadillos de jamon as Luke pets babies in their mom’s arms…


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To finish off the tour, Chimo walked us around El Mercado de San Miguel right outside Plaza Mayor. This semester abroad has made me a big fan of the public markets and that much more excited to come home to Milwaukee’s. The best paella we had in Spain was right here in the San Miguel market. We also had the churros with chocolate and drinking the leftover chocolate from the cup put us right over the edge! Chimo couldn’t leave us without feeding us some sort of alcohol, why not Vermouth! I’m not used to seeing something other than beer on tap, but the sweet Vermouth de Grifo was a nice fruity change.

Paella with squid ink

Paella with squid ink


Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Vermouth de Grifo

Vermouth de Grifo

Our first night we met up with Luke and Brad who met us here from Seville. Right up the road from Puerta del Sol we discovered this unbeatable deal of a bucket of Heineken for 5 euro at Bulevart. We were sold! The big Spain v. France World Cup qualifying game was on, so it was fun to see the place riled up with sweaty B.O. smelling fans from both sides. Luke flooded the bathroom (adding to the stank) and we befriended a lonesome guy who we saw hanging out with drug dealers and prostitutes the next day. Oh the friends you make in Europe..


Day 2 and Round 2 for Tapas con Chimo!! After buying a pair of handmade espadrille sandals from Casa de Hernanz right outside Plaza Mayor, we met Chimo a couple metro stops outside the city at La Repanocha de Tapas. The owner and cook is Chimo’s friend Quique and everything he made was melt-in-your-mouth outstanding!!

Quique and his ladies

Quique and his ladies

Some people don’t like tapas, or don’t understand them, but that’s because they’ve never had tapas like this before! The name derives from when people didn’t want bugs in their drinks so they would cover them with their plate of food, therefore “tapas” comes from the Spanish word “tapar” meaning “to cover”. Just like yesterday, we let Chimo take the reigns and the food never stopped coming.

Spanish omelette with tomatoes and onions

Spanish omelette with tomatoes and onions

Goat cheese salad

Goat cheese salad

Cecina - say it with the Spanish accent (Allison's fave!)

Cecina – say it with the Spanish accent (Allison’s fave!)

Bacalao with avocado

Bacalao with avocado

Blood sausage spring rolls

Blood sausage spring rolls

Tripe (Cow stomach)

Tripe (Cow stomach)

Entrecotte from the Esla Valley

Entrecotte from the Esla Valley

Tangerine and Mascarpone ice cream

Tangerine and Mascarpone ice cream



There’s no way anyone could possibly say they don’t like tapas after a meal like this one. We undoubtedly had enough food, but it was so delicious that I could have gone back in for seconds! Allison had to excuse herself from the table when the tripe came out, but everyone else dug in and devoured it, scraping the bottom with pieces of bread. Once again, no meal with Chimo is complete without the digestivos: Orujo blanco and Orujo de hierbas.


Chimo left each of us with flash drives full of Spanish music, aka my new favorite playlist. None of us wanted to say goodbye. It felt like we had spent weeks with Chimo and it was all coming to an end. But not to worry because we all planned a Route 66 road trip together, so the good times will continue!



I won’t bore you guys with “museum talk”, but we spent the rest of the afternoon museum hopping from El Museo del Prado to La Reina Sofia. The Prado is one of the world’s largest museums, neck-in-neck with the Louvre. La Reina Sofia has wild modern art and is the kind of museum where you’ll find a massive crowd starring in deep focus at a blank white canvas on a wall.. WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT I DON’T?! As cheap college students we discovered the free entrance deals for the Prado 6pm-8pm and La Reina Sofia 7pm-9pm. A quick (free) walk through both is definitely worth it just to say you’ve gone!

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I was most surprised by how cheap Madrid is! If you’re smart, you could spend close to nothing and still have an unbelievable time! Which was very relieving as Allison took on the role as my Sugar Mama and paid for everything after my debit card dilemma. Besides Bulevart, we found a few other awesome dirt cheap places for food and drinks! One of the chicest looking is called Copas Rotas (right outside the walls of Plaza Mayor) and caught our eye with it’s unbeatable 1 Euro glasses of wine, beer, and tapas! The bartenders were gorgeous too.. you can even hear it in the sound of their voices as they call your name to come grab your tapas. I’d let them grab my tatas any day..

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Next may be our favorite and easiest to find: Museo de Jamon. It’s a chain all around the city. As Madrid’s ‘fast food’ stop, we ate here at least 1 dinner, 1 lunch, and a couple late-nights while we were there. A ‘cana’, small glass, of beer is 1 Euro and their addicting Bocadillos de Jamon are also 1 Euro. Literally it’s just crispy bread and a few pieces of their Iberian ham and just like that it’s mouthwatering, but Brad made sure to pick up some BBQ sauce to layer on and sweet baby Jesus that took it to a whole new level!

Got dat "secret" SAWCE

Got dat “secret” SAWCE

This last place was introduced to us on our last night by Chimo’s nephew Luis, his girlfriend Maria, and a group of their friends and is called 100 Montaditos. It’s also a chain and had a Panera-like feel except with cheap beer deals! For 2 Euros you get a pint of beer from the tap and a sandwich from a huge selection. From Jamon, to pollo asado, to tuna, to brie and patata, they had it all! Although I had a bocadillo de jamon stuffed in my purse for a snack on the walk home, I couldn’t pass up this steal! If you’re sick of beer, we had Tinto Verano (similar to sangria, but simpler). Ah, every sip brought be closer to sweet summertime!






It was so good that Al, Brad, and I made sure we made it our last stop before the airport the next day. Nothing says Spring Break like a little flight pregame and some Bocadillos de Jamon!

If that doesn't scream happiness..

If that doesn’t scream happiness..

Last thing on the list for a Must-See in Madrid is Parque del Retiro. It reminds me a lot of Vila Borghese in Rome because they’re so huge and there’s so much to see and do. Right near the front there’s a giant pond where everyone rents out row boats, and you’ll always find those jackasses trying to capsize. On the other side of the pond, past the statue, are more beautiful gardens, gazebos, and we even came across some vicious peacocks. Not sure if their screams were mating calls or if they were planning an attack on us.

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If this “foody” post doesn’t scream “I’m my father’s daughter” I don’t know what will. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Big Rich!

At the end of the week, the 4 of us unanimously agreed that we preferred Madrid to Barcelona, although was greatly influenced by the incredible time we had with our new friend Chimo! That said, we loved all 3 cities and could not have planned a more perfect week! Still can’t believe I just spent Spring Break in Spain.. This life I live is unreal. I don’t have many weekend trips left, but my exploration of Rome continues and is sadly coming to an end way too soon. BRB as I go ball my eyes out!

Until next time,

Buda Buda Buda Buda Rockin’ Everywhere!

3 Mar

After a very stressful weekend, a sad loss of my iPhone, and not much inspiration, one Skype convo with my mommy and I’m back on the blogging train!


A week ago, Allison, Kurt, Kyle, and I took a trip to the wild city of BUDA! Never thought I would make it there, but after many Europeans raved about Prague and Budapest I am now able to cross those 2 magical lands off my list! Not knowing too much about Budapest, except for caving and thermal bathes, we booked our trip through Andy Steve’s, son of travel guru Rick Steves, program called WSA (Weekend Student Adventures). I 100%  recommend Andy’s trips to any college students traveling around Europe! Him, his girlfriend/work partner Jenna, and our Hungarian tour guide Bogi, were SO much fun and made what would have been a completely chaotic trip, if we did it on our own, into an unforgettable adventure!!

Coming from 50 degree and sunny weather in Rome, the dinky RyanAir plane landed on the snow covered runway and the whole cabin started clapping. Apparently it’s quite the achievement for a RyanAir plane to successfully land.. well good thing majority of my future flights are RyanAir.. that’s reassuring.

545338_10151289622643465_1017268218_nOf course, no journey is complete without some sort of problem. Not even 5 minutes in Budapest and Kyle’s card is eaten by the ATM in the airport. The group’s stress quickly passed as we were welcomed into the Hungarian city with a nice piece of Hungarian ass and a babushka.

datassTransportation from the airport to the hostel was very seedy. I felt like I was riding my way into the movie, Hostel. It was late at night and we had to transfer buses on this dark, sketchy, empty street in the middle of no where. We finally made it to our hostel around 2 AM and the party was just getting started.

Let me explain our hostel. It was called RETOX Party Hostel. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will. The reception desk is pretty much a high top bar table surrounded by sloshed staff probably on their 20th beer of the night. There’s a courtyard bar that’s clearly covered in the winter. Retox is run by a group of people who took a trip to Budapest much like I did, and loved it SO MUCH that they decided to stay and make others fall in love with the city just as much. These people are the definitions of functioning alcoholics!! They party till 6am, get up at 7am, and the place is impeccable when everyone wakes up. They make Charlie Sheen look like a lightweight and Project X look like a church group. They’re smart people! Knowing what condition their hostels guests would be in during their stay, the room keys are attached to bracelets so you could never lose them. I’m surprised I returned to Rome, but I’m even more surprised that I returned without an ass tatt or nipple piercings (Just a couple of the services Retox provides). I would return to this place without a doubt!!



Beer pong off tabletops

Beer pong off tabletops


The bar looking spotless in the morning

The bar looking spotless in the morning

The greatest example of the effect Retox has on its guests was waking up the morning after to one of our bunkmate’s rolling over and mumbling in the most confused tone, “Where am I…?” We laughed about that for days. A backpacker’s worst nightmare, traveling so much that they don’t know what country they’ve woken up in. We bonded with Chip, a Georgian who tried but failed to get us drunk everyday starting at 1pm.

Friday morning we met Andy, Jenna, Bogi, and the 12 other traveling students. It was the perfect sized group and I felt like over the course of the weekend I got to know a lot of them really well! It snowed that morning and the city looked like a Winter Wonderland. We had a walking tour before our afternoon of caving, so I strapped on the “gymies”.. can’t remember the last time I wore an outfit like this.. sad.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Inside the gorgeous cathedral is St. Stephen’s actual fist, the patron saint and first king of Hungary. One great thing about the WSA trip is that they take care of all the bus/metro/tram transportation and hold onto all of our tickets and we took a TON of public transportation over the weekend that I would not have been able to master on my own. And probably would have gotten a few fines along the way. We made our way up to Buda Castle Hill where we saw St. Matthias church and Fisherman’s Bastion which are the best lookout points of the city!

st matthias


Up next was our big caving adventure!!!! The minute we got off the bus the snowball fights began. I think I got a chuck of ice straight to the head, but I was so on my game and my aim was at its prime! We hopped in our jumpsuits and hard hats and followed our caving guides through the snow.

Nothing like those saggy crotches!

Nothing like those saggy crotches!


The whole adventure felt like I was reliving my childhood: snowball fights and crawling and climbing for 2 1/2 hours. We split up into 2 groups depending on difficulty levels and I couldn’t be happier that Allison convinced me to go easier because even “easy” was a struggle. Our guide was Frodo, “cause I’m tiny and hairy!” He was a blast and in his broken English said, “Having a group of girls.. It feels like Christmas morning!” I’m sure he had no problem literally pushing our butts through the caves. He seemed to be very impressed with my caving abilities and I have Mr. Patton and my high school rock climbing/bouldering class to thank for that (nostalgic moment)!



At a few points we all turned off our lights, sat in silence, and all you could hear was your heart beating and you couldn’t even see your hand waving in front of your face. It was pure meditation. That is until we heard the other group catching up to us and decided we’d sit there in the dark and scare the crap out of whoever crawled up first. Hide-n-Seek.. literally my childhood. Frodo showed us this hole in the ceiling that he was small enough to basically dive through, so I thought I’d give it a try.. these Hips Don’t Lie. Made it halfway and couldn’t pull myself out, as mom would say to me, “You look like a stuffed sausage!”

Frodo was liking the view from behind.

Frodo was liking the view from behind.

When we finally came out, it was night time and we were covered in clay. Nothing like another snowball fight to clean off a little. I can’t believe people explore these caves for a living, it was an amazing experience I’ll never forget! We were on our own for dinner but a few of us took Andy’s recommendation for dinner at a place called, Most. We bonded with a couple girls studying in Paris, and stuffed our faces with delicious pad thai and beer.


Hostel tip: Be the first one to hop in the shower, or be prepared for an ice cold one. Everyone was soooo pissed at me for using up all the hot water, but you know what I say to that, “You snooze, you lose!” Friday night our hostel organized a Booze Cruise on the Danube river (included in WSA). Before we left, Andy bought a bottle of the Hungarian liquor, Palinka, so we all squeezed up into our bunk room for some Hungarian Welcome shots! Our entire hostel, plus a couple hostels nearby, all headed down to the river where as we waited to get on, another snowball fight broke out. While getting pelted with hard snowballs, the hostel owner screamed, “BOAT. TOP DECK. CHAMPAGNE. EXPLOSION. FACES.” Everyone raced onto the boat and grabbed their bottle of champagne. Allison and I had a lot to celebrate that night, so poppin bottles on the Danube couldn’t have been a better celebration!

You got it, Retox!

You got it, Retox!

Standard public transportation in Budapest..

Standard public transportation in Budapest..




As Hungarian legend has it, everyone is supposed to kiss someone under each of the 7 bridges we go through, but me and Allison decided it would be best to not go back to Rome with herpes of the mouth. Cause you know, what happens in BUDA stays in BUDA, except Herpes.. that shit will come back with ya.

Andy filmed the Harlem Shake Budapest edition in his underwear and a dinosaur head (keep in mind it was less than 20 degrees). Try to find me.. I’m the girl swaying back in forth because I had no idea what was going on!


After breakin it down on the dance floor all night long, the boat docked and we found ourselves hittin up the famous $1 pizza shop for some late night gourmet slices. The pizza is made down the street and then a guy runs it down to this tiny shop (very cost effective thinking!) Here’s a look during the day because obviously this was not a one stop kind of place..



Saturday morning everyone struggled to get out of bed at 9, Kurt practically punched me in the face as I tapped him to wake up, and apparently my bunkmates weren’t too happy with me snoozing my alarm every couple minutes. What’s not to love about Demi Lovato and Benny Benassi at 8 am?! We grabbed breakfast and walked around the Central Market Hall, the biggest market in Budapest. It’s right on the river because boats used to drop off all their produce and other food to that location, so they built a gorgeous market hall. Another nostalgic moment, it definitely reminded me of Milwaukee’s Public Market! Many people got the Langos which is traditional fried dough with sweet or savory toppings. Looked DELISH and if I wasn’t already dreading to put on a bikini for the first time this year I would have indulged in one as well!


We took the underground metro to our 2nd huge Budapest adventure which the city is most famous for: Thermal Baths. We went to the Szechenyi Baths which is the largest medicinal and one of the largest public baths in Europe. It’s been open for over 10o years with pools inside and out ranging from 110 degrees to ice baths. It was so cool to be in the hot baths outside as the snow fell down on us. Little old men played chess in the water, majority of them in speedos with their big bellies hanging out.. yum.

We jumped from the super hot baths to the ice cold ones to the burning saunas to the lukewarm pools. In one sauna there were 3 young kids hovered against the wall covering their eyes and mouths with towels.. I felt like I was in a gas chamber – not to be diabolical or anything. On the bright side my nasal passages were cleared right up! It was an unbelievably relaxing experience – definitely romantic!



That night Andy took us out for a Hungarian dinner and it felt like the first time we were all together telling stories and picking Andy, Jenna, and Bogi’s brains about traveling. Many people tried goulash for their first time, but Kyle and I split Hungarian style pizza and the delicious duck breast with cabbage pasta and cinnamon apples! We definitely left room for the night’s main event!

Saturday night’s event was the ruin pub crawl. Many years after Budapest’s Jewish Quarter was destroyed in World War II, some of the broken down abandoned buildings were transformed into these hip ruin pubs.


We went to the third best bar in the world, according to Lonely Planet, called Szimpla Kert. At night this pub is bumpin, with old eclectic furniture (some hanging from the ceiling), a huge outdoor movie projector, an old stripped down communist car you can chill in, and several rooms including an outdoor courtyard. Drinks are cheap, people are friendly, music is awesome, there’s a hookah bar, and the environment is trippy.


Sidenote: During the day Szimpla turns into a food market (taste testers up the wazoo) where vendors sell honey, chili, baked goods, produce, and my favorite, BudaPesto 😀


Another famous ruin pub we went to was called Fogas Haz (meaning “Teeth”) where there was an awesome DJ in the main room, tons of smaller rooms upstairs, and a huge courtyard and tent area in the back. It felt like these bars just went on for miles.


After stopping for some $1 pizza, a few of us stayed up really late hashing out high school and college stories, making fun of Kyle who passed out next to us and snored like a bear, and bonded in the best way any college students can: playing Never Have I Ever. Paxton, the clown of the group who’s studying in Prague, literally made me laugh till the break of dawn. At some point slap happiness came over me, but he was definitely my main source of entertainment that weekend, I think everyone else would agree.

Since it was so late when we went to bed and we didn’t want to wake anyone up by turning on the bathroom light, Paxton and I brushed our teeth with his flashlight headband. Trying to go to the bathroom in the pitch black stall was a hassle and I heard him outside whispering, “Need me to shed some light on the situation.” He could do a perfect Charlie Day impression, and he had no idea who Charlie Day even was, and he was our Jaimie from Eurotrip – camera and all! HYSTERICAL!

After saying goodbye to the majority of the WSA group Sunday afternoon (tear tear), a few of us wandered the streets until we found this tea house called Sirius Teahaz. It feels like you’re in Alice and Wonderland. There are all these little doors that you need to crawl through to fit in, mouse sized private rooms, and ramps to sit up in little alcoves. We took off our shoes when we walked in and sat on pillows on the ground, sipping our tea. If my cousins (or other family members are reading this) you guessed right, I obviously got Camomile. Very cool place!!




Our last stop before heading to the airport, Kyle and Kurt took Allison and I to the Candy Shop.. 😉 But really.. it’s called Sugar! and it’s any woman’s fantasy land. Cupcakes, macaroons, gummies, oh my! I got my cupcake fix and Al went straight to the gummy section! Best quote from Allison that weekend, “This trip has given me a new appreciation for gummy bears… and Jews!”


It was really sad to say goodbye to Budapest, our new friends, and even more, Retox. As much as I love my clean, warm, bed bug free bed here in Rome, I really miss Retox.. and our bunkmates.

tel aviv

Until next time,

Ciao! ❤

Pass the capr-EASY salad!

3 Feb

Before I left, Big Rich taught me a couple simple recipes for my time abroad, but I can only eat Spaghetti Aglio Olio so much. Thank God I’ve met a couple amazing groups of people that are willing to cook FOR ME!

#1: Prague Family – The name is pretty deceiving.. They all go to John Cabot, but we planned my first trip to PRAGUE together and the name just stuck. We have a “mom”, her name’s Victoria, and she is the ultimate chef! Watch out Big Rich!! Considering there’s about 10 of us and Victoria’s a vegetarian, she knows how to make us happy campers. Each week we pick a new main dish: Lasagna, Chicken Parm (hit Schroeder out of the park – Allison had 4 servings..), last week was stir fry (necessary pasta break), and next week is breakfast for dinner!!! Since I can’t really cook outside the box and Allison is a lost cause, we supply the caprese salad, wine, and elephant ears for dessert!!! The Prague family really enjoys our contribution… our other “fam” on the other hand wasn’t as appreciative 😉

First pan of lasagna!

First pan of lasagna!

Most Tuesday nights I can’t fall asleep because I’m up thinking about Wednesday dinner. #fatgirlprobz

Prague Fam gone Asian

Prague Fam gone Asian

You can never have enough vino!

You can never have enough vino!



Only requirement for joining a family dinner: Bring a 5L jar of wine! Or multiple.


#2: MARQUETTE Fam – This past week we had our first dinner with the MU Crew! I’m so excited to go back to Marquette next year with all these new friends! Dinner was a combined effort, but Hunter (blue sweater) carried most of the weight. We had a really yummy fettuccine with bacon, peas, and chicken, bruschetta with white beans, and mine and Allison’s famous capr-EASY salad. Coined the name capr-EASY because we have yet to buy basil so we substitute lettuce. GEEZ! CRUCIFY US! I think we’ve decided on Mexican with Margaritas (or just tequila…) next dinner! With Free Wifi and vino, we all became SnapChat whores by the end of dinner and well.. that’s the end of Allison’s memory for the night!




Well I just made a fatty omelette (tomatoes, onions, mozzarella, and prosciutto), so I’m going to go indulge and I’ll catch ya on the flip siiiiide!


Until next time, Ciao!!

Who the hell gets hit on in a church!

18 Jan

Something like that would only happen to me..

The great thing about having a 4 day weekend, besides the obvious, is being able to explore the city and see everything. On this exploration we headed up to Vatican City and Saint Peter’s Basilica. On the walk there (25 min away) we stepped into this little cafe/bar and had espresso & croissants. Although people look at you strange if you ask for coffee “to go” (which I would never do) I love standing up at the counter, quickly throwin down the shot of espresso, and moving on with my day.

Allison's cappuccino & nutella croissant. YUM!

Allison’s cappuccino & nutella croissant. YUM!

From there we walked right up to Saint Peter’s Basilica. There were so many people walking around the square, lots of asians throwing up the peace signs for pictures, and SO many puppies!! Honestly.. if I see another puppy in a rain jacket (with hood) or a cashmere sweater, I’ll die. I MISS MY CAMI!!!!

Many people might not know this, but during the winter months here it rains almost every day! Thankfully we made it just minutes before the torrential downpour..




Take note of my appearance for reference later on in the story..

Once the rain stopped we headed in, taking advantage of there being no lines because come April this place will be mobbed. We quietly moseyed our way around the church.





We didn’t realize that they were starting to get ready for mass, so the security guards started moving everyone back behind barricades. The security guard that shooed us back started making conversation. Fortunately I can understand Italian really well and can get by with speaking the basics, they really appreciate the effort. He was being a little flirty, but come on, when are Italian men NOT being flirty? We finally walked away and headed to the door when all of a sudden someone tapped my back, it was him again! He chased me to the door and asked for my “numero di telefono italiano”. Thank GOD I never got an Italian phone because I’m a terrible liar. Great part was that he is like 40 years old, but 40’s the new 20, right?. THE BEST PART WAS THAT HIS NAME’S LUIGI!!!!! MY LIFE! Mario and Luigi, we’ll probably just run off, get married, and have children: Yoshi, Wario, and Peach. Keep in mind, I looked like butt. Rockin the wet fro hair!



No matter how annoying, creepy, or just uncomfortable the Italian men make me feel, I’m definitely eating it all up because I know when I go home and go back to Victor’s (bar up at school) and no one tries to hit on me, I’m gonna miss it.

We spent the rest of the night shopping and walking around. I know Big Rich would get a huge kick out of this, but there are men at every busy street corner in Rome roasting chestnuts. Unfortunately, I think they’re disgusting and can’t stand the texture, but how cool!


On a more serious note.. I SAW MY BEST FRIEND EMMA THE OTHER NIGHT!!!!! DAAAAAHHHHH!!! We freaked out. FREAKED OUT. It was karaoke night at Scholar’s and we signed up for Super Bass – Nicki Minaj. Classic. Sadly, I left before everyone could witness my bomb rapping skills, but Emma did her thannng..


I also ran into other Palatine people: Gianna Abruzzo, Kaitlyn Fanning, and Chris Vainisi!! And I met the sister of the Alpha Phi who preffed me, Claire Vasiljevich. It’s crazy the people you run into when you’ve traveled miles across an ocean. It’s also crazy that I’ve made so many new Marquette friends since I’ve been here and it’s kinda sad that it’s taken the trip across the Atlantic to meet these amazing people!


Oh last night we went out with Kurt (my good friend from Marquette), his roomies, and my roomies. He almost walked out of the apartment wearing his Marquette sweatshirt, but don’t worry Giuliana I forced him to change because I was not going to be seen out with him wearing that.

Later in the night we all ventured out to Campo de’ Fiori where we met up with a ton of Marquette students. The bartender got up on the bar and was pouring shots in everyones mouths, so I thought, why not?! Bad idea. I was way to0 far from him, so when he poured it went all down my shirt and in my eye. Alcohol in the eyeball.. SO PAINFUL!! He felt terrible and came around the bar to apologize. I thought it was hilarious, but he was sweet and compensated for the mess.

The excitement continues…

Until next time, Ciao!!

Running on 2 days of no sleep

11 Jan

It started off like any ordinary day… and then just blew up in my face!

Bags were packed, to the max, which might explain why every muscle in my body aches like a mother right now.


Of course none of my lazy family members help me haul the baggage through the airport. Standard. But the weird thing was that it still hadn’t hit me that I’m about to spend the next 4 months across the Atlantic.


First, something amazing happened. As we were checking in my bags, aka where the entire day went to shit, I glanced up at my dad and sister standing further away and who was standing with them…MARK!!!!!!!!! For those who know who he is, he surprised me!!! I haven’t seen him in a month and didn’t think I would for the next 4 months, but it was the best surprise ever! And thankfully his presence kept the Marisie family unusually well behaved.












Back to the dilemma, as we’re trying to send my bags straight through to Rome we’re notified that for my connecting flight in London, not only do I need to change planes, but I NEED TO CHANGE AIRPORTS! WTF PEOPLE! #1 rookie mistake on my part, make sure you’re arriving and leaving from the same damn place! I would have a less than 3 hour layover to go through customs, get my bags, find a cab, drive 40 minutes to the other airport, check in, check my bags, go through security, and find my gate – Yeah no. At this point my mom and I are crying at the ticket counter, overwhelmed by how AWESOME life is. My dad actually says, “So you’re driving back up to Milwaukee with Mark right now, right?”

Literally a minute before my plane from Chicago took off my dad calls to see how his little princess is dealing with this and all of a sudden in the background I hear my mom scream, start balling, and yelling, “OMG YOU DID IT? YOU GOT IT? THANK YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH!” I actually got chills. My mom bought me a new flight so I wouldn’t need to transfer airports. Yup, she da bomb.

On the plane I met this awesome 23 year old German who is could be Seth Meyer’s twin. He didn’t let me sleep a wink the entire flight, but I didn’t mind. He gave me so much travel advice, like

  • In Amsterdam, hotels and hostels can be pricey and many people don’t know this but you can rent to stay on a house boat on the canal. How Epic?!?
  • A cheap backpacking tip: CouchSurfing.org is where people post to host for travelers to stay on their couch for free. Take the host out for dinner or drinks and it’s the most authentic and cheap way to travel. Safe? Ask Liam Neeson.

We also watched Pitch Perfect together (watched the Final performance scene 4 times). ACA-dorable!

I’m proud to say that I have the best 4 roommates! It’s been 1 day and I love em already! No Kimmy Jins.


They’re all from towns near me in Chicago and they’re  junior Tri Delts at Iowa University!


Alex, Steph, Kathryn, Christine, & Me

Our apartment is so cute!! The weather is so refreshing compared to the frigid temps in the midwest, so we’ve had the windows open to amazing views of hilltops and the city. The birds are chirping right now and the gusts of the wind are so relaxing.

Here’s my quick apartment tour 😉

Last night when I arrived we went to this AMAZING restaurant Tony’s. You can tell that many previous study abroaders have recommended it because the place was packed with students! Everything from the risotto con scampi, to gnocchi pomodoro, to pizza looked incredible. I got the margarita pizza con proscuitto, to die for! I actually might be going again tonight with Marquette students! On the street coming home we walked past this group of Italian men and one legitimately took a whiff of me…well that’s one way to attract a girl..IMG_3904


I think it’s time for me to take a nap. Everything’s still so surreal, but I already know I’m going to love this semester more than anything. Once again, thanks mom and dad. You guys are the shizzzz. LOVE YOU ALL!

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!