Monday, October 20, 2014

Perugia Euro Chocolate Festival.

Hi there
Can I give you all a huge, sobbing hug for a moment seriously? I was so nervous to post yesterdays blog because it's hard to admit you're not having the time of your life in a foreign country. I was afraid you all would think I was ungrateful. But the responses and stories I got were absolutely incredible and I cannot thank you all enough for them. Seriously. You all have rejuvenated me for this trip, knowing I'm not alone and can do this! Thank you :')

Here's one last post of the Eurochocolate festival from this weekend before I head off to London for five days tomorrow! I will miss you all dearly and blogging, but I'll be back with lots of photos and stories to share

 The chocolate festival was in Perugia, about two hours from Florence so not too bad at all. It's the largest chocolate festival in the world, lasting from now until the end of October! They had stands all down the streets of different chocolate brands where you could taste, buy, and obviously drool over everything. Right off the bat I was hungry, and I saw a churro stand where they were drizzling chocolate on top and nothing sounded better! I've never had churros and they were honestly so amazing...Can't wait to eat them in excess when I travel to Barcelona in a few weeks (just booked it today!). 

I went around to the different stands sampling chocolate, and even tried chocolate liquor. I loved the taste at first because it tasted like melted chocolate...then the alcohol hit and I was like, nope, not having it ha. I kept sipping it though and it was a love-hate relationship. Another really interesting thing I tried was at the Ciobar stand. I thought it was hot chocolate being churned around in these vats, but it was actually hot pudding! You can see it in the cup in one of the above photos, and it just surprised me because I've only ever had (and thought) that you ate pudding cold. Was quite nice hot! 

For myself I just bought a few praline/bon bon candies of different flavors because I was all chocolated out, but did get some goodies for my family that I hope keep until I get home. Also, I have to comment that the guy and girl dressed up and painted like they were chocolate was absolutely brilliant. They stood still like statues until someone would drop money in, and then they would dance and kiss! So cute.

Hope you all have a lovely coming week. I'll be on instagram when I can updating with @passingwhimsies if you'd like to tag along to London :) See you all soon! x

With much love, Lauren.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Studying Abroad Isn't What I Thought.

White Cut Out Blouse: Forever21.
Tan Slacks: Zara.
Wide Brimmed Hat: Brandy Melville.
Black Loafers: TJ Maxx.

Studying abroad in Italy isn't what I thought it would be--at all. I know that may seem like an out of the blue statement from me after constant traveling posts, raving about all of the beautiful places I get to visit and see and do... but this experience has been so different than I ever thought. 

The feelings started creeping up on me during the first month of  being here right around the time I went to Paris for five days with my school. I knew about the "roller coaster" of studying abroad that our professors told us about. That we would start off high, being exhilarated to be somewhere new and exciting. Over time it would wear off and we'd be at the bottom of the coaster-- feeling home sick and frustrated with all the cultural differences. And in the end, we would be happy and elated again, not wanting to ever leave and enjoying the last of our 'ride." I knew I would probably experience things on this imaginary roller coaster a bit differently and quicker than others. Having only ever spent a month a most away from my family and being an absolute homebody, it was going to be hard, but I knew I would adjust and fight through it.

The problems weren't really just for the extreme home sickness I started feeling though after the first month or so, but just so many things at once I think. I wanted to do this trip to find things out about, discover, and develop myself as a person in this big scheme of life. The funny thing is, I suppose I thought I could pick the things I would discover out about myself-- that they'd be all good things. Unfortunately, the things I've found out about myself along the way of this trip have been difficult and nothing I was prepared for.

I've always known I like to be alone. I've been a loner since I was little, having only one group of small friends and staying in that circle. If you read my blog when I was in high school, I really only had my boyfriend at the time as my only friend and had some friends, but always kept them at a distance and they were more "school friends." I struggled for awhile in college making friends and keeping them, always feeling inferior and like I wasn't good enough... Being alone for me has never been a problem. It's just what I've always known and what I enjoy.

But here, I guess I didn't really realize how important this is to my personality and just my way of life. In college, I had my mornings and evenings to myself to recharge, write, blog, relax and think and I could socialize in the afternoons with my friends and go out for dinner and hang for a little bit, no problem. But when I got here in Italy, I found myself always being with people, constantly. It's inescapable really-- I live in a city, have three roommates, and am in a small program of about 37 other fashion students. I found myself getting sort of depressed and suffocated being with people 24/7. I couldn't think straight, I felt like I was losing myself, and Paris was the breaking point where I just realized that I need a certain amount of alone time to okay. I need that to feel like myself, to have my thoughts straightened out and  my peace restored. After spending five days non-stop doing things with everyone and pushing, pushing, pushing myself to be this social person when I'm just not, I was exasperated and felt like I had lost who I was. I can't go, go, go like everyone I discovered. The constant traveling and new experiences and adversities were exhausting for me and I couldn't take it all. I couldn't "take advantage of every, single moment" like everyone else was. It was too much to go from morning till night without a break and without peace to just be. I felt like I wasn't seeing things and truly experiencing them, rather rushing through and just trying to shove as much as I could into one time period.

And all this frustrated me because I felt like I was the only one who felt like this. I didn't understand why I couldn't be like everyone else in the program and want to constantly see everything and do everything we could because "it was the experience of a lifetime." It made me feel guilty and strange because I just couldn't do this constant socializing like everyone else...I wanted to sit down in a quiet Parisian cafe and people watch over a coffee rather than running all over the city trying to see it all. I was angry and unaccepting of myself because I just felt like such a weirdo who can't talk and make friends and be in a social group. I'd rather be by myself. And I hate that, but I guess it's something I just can't change.

Things have been up and down since Paris and recently have been a lot more down. I'm not in love with Italy if I'm honest. At first I didn't want to admit that to myself. It made me feel so guilty and awful because everyone says they're so jealous and wish they were me and that this is the experience of a life time and I should take advantage of everything...I kept forcing myself to think that, hey, they were right. This is the best time of my life and I'm being selfish and dumb to think I don't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. But the more I kept trying to tell myself that this was the best few months of my life, the guiltier I felt for still feeling sad and down, and not being like everyone else. My parents sacrificed a lot for me to be here. All of my family has; they've sacrificed their money, time, love, and so much more for me to come to Italy and study abroad. And it just killed me to think that I wasn't having this amazing time like I should be, like I thought I would be. The guilt ate away at me, and I kind of just hid it and didn't even want to write about it on here because I felt selfish. I still feel selfish and ashamed. So many of you say how I'm living your dream...and to come here and write that I'm not happy feels so awful. 

Italy is just not for me. I don't love the city life-- I feel most connected with nature and being in it, and being in the center of a metropolitan life style has been hard. The weather, too has been hard. I never thought I would say this, but I miss Ohio's weather. I am so used to and love cloudy, rainy, colder weather. Here it is always sunny, always hot, and it never rains...not to mention there is no hint of fall here. Fall in the midwest is such a big deal and holds so many special memories and feelings for me. With no changing leaves here, no seasonal flavors, and no change in the weather; things feel so stagnant. Wheras in the US there are many denominations of Christianity, here there is only Catholicism. I've tried going to Catholic mass and it just didn't help at all quench my need for Christ and I found myself still feeling empty. I've really struggled with my relationship with God here because I don't have any other believers to talk with, no church to go to, and the wifi is too bad to watch services at home. To have all my resources stripped away, it has been difficult. These all may seem like small, silly things to be "sad" over, but it's a combination of all of this and just this culture that I cannot connect with and seem to adapt myself to where I just struggle. It's not that I am so nationalistic that I don't want to accept a culture that's not my own; I understand the Italian way of life and I find nothing wrong with the way people live over here. But I just cannot connect with it and it does not work for me personally.

I know you all are probably rolling your eyes reading all this (if you even made it this far) because it may just seem like a big post complaining and whining and crying when I should be more appreciative. But it's more than that. It's a build up of two months of feelings that I felt and the honesty of a situation.... I've only ever heard of good studying abroad experiences. That people have the best four months of their life. And that may be true for a lot of people, but for me, I can honestly say that it hasn't been the best months of my life and I don't think the next two months will be either. And that's okay to admit because everyone is different, everyone has a different experience and it's important to acknowledge all the experiences people have studying abroad. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations. Maybe studying abroad isn't for someone life me. Maybe I'm just an unappreciative brat who can't just enjoy what I have in front of me. I don't know. All I know is, that I want to be honest, and say that sometimes studying abroad isn't want you think it's going to be. 

Although this experience hasn't been the wonderful, life changing trip I had hoped, it has be life changing in a different way. I have learned so much about myself. Things I wanted to learn and learn this difficultly? No, not really. I wish it was easier, but I know that after this whole experience is done I'll 1. breath a sigh of relief  but 2. more importantly, be thankful for it. I don't regret coming here. Even though I am struggling and it isn't what I thought, I have never regretted coming here and I would never dream of leaving. The things I've learned about my personality, about my life, the people in my life, how to deal with situations....have been priceless and something I could have never found at home. Without this experience, I wouldn't have developed so much of myself as a person, and for that I am thankful. So I guess in a way, even though this experience isn't what I thought it was going to be, I have gotten out of it what I wanted-- to find out about who I am. It may not have been in the way I wanted (I thought it would be much more graceful and less painful), but I have and I am happy and satisfied with that.

I will make the best of my remaining two months here. I don't want to fake things, trying to make myself have fun and "the time of my life" when in reality, sometimes I just won't. But I can make the best of this time here and utilize these learning experiences, taking them as a grain of salt as I go along. 

In the end after this experience I think it will all be okay. Actually, I know it will  be okay. Life will go on, I will go back to life in Ohio, school, and home...But I will be changed forever by this experience, and I could never regret it or change the course of events I've had here.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 4:6-7

With much love, Lauren.

Prague Part III.

Hi there!

Here is my last installment of photos from Prague (and I know you all are like, "FINALLY Lauren, you've dragged this out four posts too long...). I feel bad that this has kind of turned into a travel blog, but it's just what I have the most photos of and spend most of my time doing, so I might as well blog it I suppose! Wait, I lied when I said this is the last set of is the last travel set, but I do have some outfit photos from the first day yet to post! Have to get a move on soon though because I have pictures from the Euro Chocolate festival from this weekend, and then I leave for London for five days on Tuesday...

The second day of exploring Prague was just as lovely as the first. For our guided tour, we went and saw Charles Bridge and then made our way over to the Prague Castle. The bridge was amazing...all of the fall foliage surrounding it was unbelievable, and getting up close to the arch the bridge started on you could see the impeccable details of such a historic structure. The Charles Bridge was much like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence-- full of artisan merchants and musicians keeping things lively. The other side of Prague was super charming and we made our way up, up, up to the largest castle in the world-- The Prague Castle.

This thing was massive. I don't even really have any photos actually of it because that's impossible...this thing, is like block after block long and large, and I could only really take photos of various structures inside the walls rather than the thing in its entirety. We did a little tour inside and the Cathedral was my favorite--it blew even the ones in Milan and Siena out the window. Another thing I found interesting inside our castle tour, was all of the medieval armor and weapons--pretty neat to see! After that, we were free to go on our own and I decided to do some exploring by myself because I quite like to get acquainted with cities on my own terms.

I wandered around looking in shops and such, and also went to a Medieval Torture Museum. Sounds pretty grotesque and unlike me, right? I don't know! I have an odd fascination with things like that, and it wasn't expensive so I went and thought it was pretty interesting. No photos worth showing though, ha, I'm sure I'd get all sorts of strange google image searches with those! 

It started to rain about this time in the evening and it was so delightful...the street lights illuminating the wet cobble stones in a warm glow in the evening and the smell of the fresh rain made me feel like I was home. I stumbled into a random little hole in the wall place for dinner and got goulash again because it had been so good the night before (I'm a one trick wonder), and topped it off with the delicious sweet, sugared bread again. I know what I like! 

Leaving Prague the next morning was definitely felt like home to me. A place I could see myself living and enjoying even more so than Florence. It was such a lovely trip-- my favorite thus far and I cannot wait to visit again someday! x

With much love, Lauren. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Prague Part II.

The oldest Jewish synagogue still left.

Hello everyone

Here is part two of my Prague trip, but these are all still photos from day one. 

As I said in my last post, we explored both old town and new town the first day and I was able to see the Astronomical Clock in the old town square, actually going up inside it through a series of stairs! It gave the most spectacular view to look over all of Prague where a lot of the snaps were in my first post.

Then, we went to Josef, a Jewish ghetto from WWII which houses the oldest Jewish synagogue still standing today. After all of the guided historical tour, we were then given free time for the rest of the day and myself and two friends just went around exploring, taking everything in.

That evening we went to the traditional Czech restaurant like I said last post, but then after we actually went out which was surprisingly really fun! Our guide took us to a very underground, local Czech bar that was three levels, each with a different theme. The first level was just sort of a social place to get drinks and was so crowed you couldn't move...but as you went down to the second floor, they had an awesome alternative punk band playing right on the floor. Everyone was right up close to them, singing, dancing, and swaying and it was just the coolest feeling. I loved the band and the atmosphere, and was just memorized by this awesome, authentic experience I was having. The third floor was kind of scary, ha. It was much like the second, but they had this hard core screamo band and people were obviously really messed up so I just mostly stayed to the second floor and really enjoyed myself observing everything before we went to the next place. 

We went to a video dance club that played 80's, 90's, and early 2000's music. It.was.a.blast. 90's music is my favorite, and they played the music videos to the songs on a huge screen overlooking the dance floor.  When we first got there we were really confused why everyone said it was a good place to go because no one was on the dance floor and the people who were...were old. Ha, like really old. But as the night went on, more and more people came and it got crowed and everyone just let loose and danced to all the songs. Heard some songs I hadn't in forever and stayed out until about 1 o'clock which is super rare for me nowadays (even rarer to see me go to a party). It was such a good evening of food, music, and dancing, but I was pooped to say the least when we got back to the hostel...

With much love, Lauren.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Prague Part I.

(Lol, incredibly hilarious fake Chanel down to the tweed suit and quilted bag).

Hello everyone!

Here is my first set of snapshots from Prague this past weekend. I know this is a ton of photos, but I just couldn't narrow it all down because it was a phenomenal city. I have a part II and part III that I will post soon though that thankfully don't have as many photos as this post :)

My first day in Prague was spent just walking around and exploring the city, which I'll go more into detail about in the next post since this one is picture heavy. We visited both old town and new town, but even in new town all of the buildings are gorgeous, antique structures. Strangely enough, Prague quite reminded me of my home town! Maybe it was the brick, the beautiful crown molding, or the cool fall weather...but it felt comforting to be in Prague and feel like I was home! 

I was interested to learn that most of the structures in Prague are the originals from when they were built and survived WWII bombing, unlike many European cities. Coming from the US, and especially Ohio which wasn't founded too long ago the history of these buildings and this city was incredible to me. I've never seen things so old.

Prague just has such an interesting feel to it. When people tried to explain Prague to me before I went, they were just kind of speechless and could only say..."there's just something about it." And they're so right. It's just a beautiful mixture of old and new, history and modernity, culture and new wave. It was a unique city in the aspect that there's so much to do and so much going on constantly. There were always street performers (and not like the creepy statue ones we have here in Florence that stand there until you pay them), but genuinely, talented people. Just in the old town square one day, there was a hacky sack artist, a guy showing off baby pigs, a blue grass band, a guitarist singing 90's hits, a snake charmer, some fellows "levitating," a puppeteer, bubble makers, and a guy doing extreme tricks. Some of the acts more serious then others, but honestly everyone was so talented and it was a real treat to see.

I was super excited to try out the foods in Prague and get away from pasta for a little bit (not that I don't love it, but every day gets meh). The breakfasts that were provided for us at the hostel were amazing: beans, kiwi, bread rolls with honey, croissants, apples, sausages, granola and yogurt, eggs (boiled and scrambled), coffee, orange much! When I was out and about I loved the traditional Czech dessert called Trdelník. Oh my goodness, I want this every day of my life! It is a bread that they bake over hot coals on a sort of rolling pin, then roll it on butter, sugar, cinnamon, and almonds...It's warm and delicious and I got one both days I was there, ha. For dinner on the first day we ate at a traditional Czech restaurant where I got goulash  (like a meat soup), dumplings, and fried and breaded potatoes...amazing. It's crazy how filling the meal was--after half of it I was already full. I got a coke with my meal, but most the people in my group got Pilsner beers which were actually CHEAPER than my coke! I didn't realize that the Czech Republic were bigger beer drinkers than Germany; I had an eye opener. All the food was super cheap there that I couldn't even believe it when I got my bill. I wasn't going to argue though!

Whew, that's just a little bit of my first day/first impressions of the city. I'll write more about what I actually did tomorrow when I post the last photos from Day I.

With much love, Lauren.