Archive for Europe

“Abroadicitis”

Abroadicitis. Not really a word…just a serious condition I’ve discovered and am consequently naming.

This plague is spreading throughout Europe faster than volcanic ash from Iceland, and it’s targeting many current American abroad students. Abroadicitis’s primary symptoms include an unjustifiable superiority complex when comparing the social scene of one’s abroad home to others, and hypersensitivity to any person or thing that dares to threaten the predominance of an individual’s respective host city nightlife.

My first encounter with a Abroadicitis victim took place one night on my February trip to Rome. After unexpectedly bumping into an old friend (who’s spending his semester in Prague), I asked him about how his trip was going. His response puzzled me.

“Prague # 1, Barcelona #2.”

While displaying my most inquisitive facial expression, I asked him what he meant.

“Dude, Prague’s # 1. Barcelona’s #2.”

Having not yet personally visited either of these cities, I wondered what lead my friend to provide such a strange, spirited, and assertive response. Apparently a “things are great, how’s Florence?” didn’t suffice for him, and I needed to know why.

My slightly-inebriated comrade followed up with a brief rant about partying ’til dawn with “beer being cheaper than water” in the Czech Republic’s five-story nightclubs, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Two Long Islanders were reuniting in one of history’s most  beautiful and influential cities (after a month of traveling Europe), and world-class partying was the first thing that my friend wanted to report to me. While I’m no stranger to having a good time, bottles are “popped” daily all around the world. You’d think that interesting culture, locals, and sights are all worth mentioning too.

There’s some serious Euro-ego when it comes to abroad raging. For some foolish reason, many associate partying later with partying more or harder. Did you folks ever think that maybe you stay out longer because you simply start drinking later? Table reservations and relationships with suave, surname-lacking promoters are sadly highlights of many of my peers’ current semester. To me, however, these are more characteristic of New York City’s “Thanksgiving Eve” than a true, once-in-a-lifetime trip of self discovery and personal growth.

I came abroad to Florence to soak in unfamiliarity. Through seeing the world, meeting new people, and sharing my experiences with others, I believe I’m doing just that. Partying is simply the bonus, and a friendly reminder that I’m still a college student, after all.

Living in “the food capital of the world,” I feel bad for those suffering from Abroadicitis in “#1,” “#2,” or anywhere else where the adventure’s metaphorical “dessert” is confused with its main course.

Vagabonding

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything substantial. Traveling has exhausted my body and mind, and I’ve been struggling to shake a nasty case of blogger’s jet lag.

Despite feeling a little physically and mentally taxed, the past four weeks have been the most exciting times of my life. Trips to Sicily, Paris, and an epic Euro spring break spanning from Barcelona-Dublin-London have further demonstrated the once-in-a-lifetime nature of my study abroad experience.

Everywhere I’ve been has been memorable, and I can tangibly feel my cultural understanding and maturity increasing.

I’ll remember Sicily for it’s natural beauty, delicious seafood, and for unknowingly entering a Palermo gay bar with my friends (we must’ve missed the neon sign reading “Club SEXO” on the way in. After a few drinks “on the house,” we put it all together).

Mediterranean Man

Mediterranean Man

The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and Disneyland Paris were incredible, and I enjoyed the challenges of  adapting to the language barrier in France (my first destination where I couldn’t always get by with English, Spanish, or broken Italian). While a few locals made me feel unwelcome at times, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that France’s rumored anti-American sentiment is exaggerated by most.

Bromantic

Bromantic

Barcelona truly is the party capital of the world. Three nights of Charlie-Sheen like raging were awesome, but my time in this enormous (and virtually sleepless) city made me appreciate the comforts of my more walkable, and laid back home city of Florence.

Currently, Dublin is my favorite place I’ve visited on this European adventure. I’ve never met people with as much pride in their culture (and their livers) as the Irish. Great live music and the world’s best Guinness made the Temple Bar nightlife unbelievable. I only wish I had more time to venture out of the city and through Ireland’s countryside. I’d love to return in the future and truly “dig” the whole country in a Kerouac-like way (reading On the Road while “on the road” has me constantly reflecting on my travels).

A "Belgium Dip" at the top of Dublin's Guinness Storehouse

A "Belgian Dip" at the top of Dublin's Guinness Storehouse

It felt like I spent most of my time in the UK “minding gaps” in London’s Underground. I mastered the rails while visiting historic wonders like “Big Ben,” Tower Bridge, Royal Albert Hall (where I caught an awesome Arctic Monkeys’ concert), and my favorite spot-Abbey Road. As a Beatlemaniac, it was surreal to walk across this iconic street. For laughs and respect to my rock hero Paul McCartney, I crossed barefoot and with a cigarette in hand. Let’s just say it may be a while before I change my Facebook photo.

Here Comes the Fun in London

Here Comes the Fun in London

With just over a month left on my abroad experience, I can say say my travels have, and will continue to change my life. I’m more aware, independent, and full of life than ever before, and I will strive to carry this overseas when I return to the States. Once I recover from my jet lag, that is.

The Orange Blues

Ciao. I’m writing from my abroad home in Florence, Italy after an exhilarating, recent weekend excursion to Amsterdam. While Holland’s capital is well known for its green (Cannabis and locally-brewed Heineken are both legal for those over 18 and 16, respectively) and red (the city’s Red Light District is world famous), I spent much of my trip with Orange on my mind.

iAMISSING 'Cuse

I AMissing 'Cuse

My current semester in Europe has been an eye-opening experience that I will always treasure. I’ve escaped my comfort zone, met interesting people, and have had a blast while traveling throughout many beautiful cities like Rome and Pisa. Still, as with most choices in life, studying overseas has had its tradeoffs.

While I thoroughly enjoy exploring the world, it is hard being away from the Syracuse University friends and lifestyle I’ve grown to love.  Giving up a semester on campus is indeed a sacrifice, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about school daily. In addition to missing the routines and people back at SU, being thousands of miles away from one of the nation’s top-ranked college basketball teams has made my European experience bittersweet.

Despite all the wonders of modern technology, the six-hour time difference and my apartment’s lack of a television have made keeping up with the Orange a grueling task.  Italy’s weak Internet signal makes streaming online broadcasts virtually impossible, and scrambling to local bars to catch live games has been incredibly chaotic. Sure, it’s cool watching games in a foreign place, but it’s impossible to do so without wishing you were packed in the Carrier Dome’s student section watching the action in person. Italian soccer matches are definitely intense, but not quite the same.

Is Fiorentina Purple the new Orange?

Throughout my time at school, I’ve attended virtually every home basketball game. I’ve even followed the team on the road to Rutgers, Seton Hall, and Madison Square Garden to show my support. Not being in Syracuse for the College GameDay rout over Villanova made me feel record levels of what I somberly call “The Orange Blues.” Still, I’m trying hard to keep things in perspective. I’m enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while doing my best to fully experience another.

I always believed this year’s Orange team would be successful, but Coach Boeheim’s squad appears to have what it takes to be special. Watching Syracuse contend for a national championship while abroad was never something I gave much thought to, but now I’m starting to prepare myself for this very real possibility (winning the upcoming Big East Tournament would certainly help the team’s chances).

Could an Orange title run simultaneously make me feel better and worse? While I’m whole-heartedly pulling for SU, I can’t fathom what it would be like to miss the on-campus celebration. It’s tough wanting to be in two places at once. Still, viewing this year’s basketball team as an added bonus to my abroad experience is a good way to appreciate all that I have going for me on two continents. Perhaps it’s also the only way to cope with the onset of what the Italians would refer to as “Marzo Madness.”

Wesley Johnson

Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson

When in Rome…

As a local, it’s hard for me to imagine what a first trip to New York City is like for a foreigner. I’d presume one’s initial Big Apple experience is both memorably exciting and overwhelming. That’s exactly how my past weekend’s trip to Rome felt.

With only three days in this magnificent and historic city, it was definitely challenging to see everything I wanted to. Fortunately, I traveled with an organized group that allowed me to follow an intensive traveling itinerary while still being able to appreciate plenty of free exploration time.  I learned many things about Italy’s capital, but most importantly, I discovered that I am much more comfortable living in a smaller, more “walkable” city like Florence. Still, Rome is a place everyone should see at one point in their lifetime. The Colosseum, Vatican, and Trevi Fountain are three of the most amazing sites I’ve ever laid eyes on, and I feel privileged to have seen these attractions at such an early age.

American Gladiator

American Gladiator

I’m glad I was able to snap some quality photos and “Flip” my amazing experience in Rome. It’s important for me to visually document my abroad endeavors so I can share them with others. For future Rome travelers, however, I advise you to use caution when attempting to capture images from within the iconic Sistine Chapel. Even Ethan Hunt would have difficulty sneaking past the Chapel’s fleet of camera-detecting guards (I was only able to get a few seconds of footage before being forced to put my Flip back in my pocket). It’s kind of amazing how when graced with the presence of one of the most beautiful works of art ever created, people will spend more time trying to technologically record their observations than they do actually experiencing them. I was certainly guilty of it, and believe me I wasn’t alone (literally hundreds of people were told to conceal their cameras during my twenty minutes in the chapel).

My time in Europe is getting more exciting by the week. I’m planning on visiting Venice this weekend, and I’ve got a journey to Amsterdam booked for the end of the month. With all of this Carmen Sandiego-esque  traveling ahead of me, I’ll do my best to truly take everything in.

Abroad-Week 1

My first week in Italy came to an exciting close with a busy day of traveling in Pisa and Lucca. It’s been an eye-opening seven days, and I’ve already grown to love my reformed lifestyle in this beautiful and culturally-rich country. While some parts of my European transition have been difficult (such as a lagging Internet connection and an absence of television in my apartment that may force me to watch Tuesday’s Lost premier on an iTunes delay), I’m fully appreciating this life changing experience that’s only just begun.

Some early trip highlights have been trying interesting foods in Florence (pear ravioli and goat have so far been the most memorable), hiking to the top of  the Duomo di Firenze bell tower, and climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s been a wild ride and I can’t wait to see what Week 2 has in store.

Leanin' Back in Pisa

Leanin' Back in Pisa