Finishing My Program

I know, I’m super late with this, but even a month after my program officially ended in Florence, I’m still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it’s over. My best friend studying in Japan still has another two months left, so it’s kind of surreal that I’ve finished so “early.” In fact, I’m somewhat jealous of her because she’s still involved in the experience. Everyone from my program has gone home by now, and while spending my days in Spain certainly isn’t difficult, I sometimes wish I was still in school. It’s bittersweet, knowing that my year of living in Florence is over.

The end of term came without much fanfare. I could have missed it, to be honest. With the rush of final exams and packing, I didn’t have much time to put thought into the fact that the “most influential year of my college career” had just come to an end. It doesn’t feel over, though this might be attributed to my still being in Europe. I’m sure it’ll make more sense once I get back to California, or even when I see my mother and brother in person for the first time in 10 months. Even that doesn’t scare me, to know that I haven’t seen them in so long. With technology these days, it’s not hard to keep in contact with home and friends around the world, so I don’t feel like I’ve been out of the loop too terribly because I talk to somebody at least once every day. All that being said, the end of semester ceremony was a little different from Fall Semester’s, as it had an awards ceremony. I was pleasantly surprised to be awarded the Award of Excellence in History and Political Science, so Mom was happy!

I suppose there’s a lot of reflection to do on this year of my life, and while I will be continuing this blog until the end of the summer (when I return to Arizona for my senior year), I have to say that I’m glad to have done it. At the same time, blogging is a pain in the ass. I’m not very good at regular updates and sometimes I’m sparse on the details. I use FaceBook almost religiously, so this seems more like redundancy than actually being informative. From my point of view, anyway. Those of you who aren’t my friends on FaceBook clearly enjoy whatever I’m doing here! Blogging was an interesting exercise, though, and I might be interested in continuing a new one through my last year in college. Honestly that one might be a bit more difficult to update, what with the thesis to do and all kinds of awesome classes.

Oh, introspection, right. I’m sure I’ve grown up over the year, even though I feel the same. The more overt displays of this new maturity might be my ability to cook real food now and being able to handle solo travel. I know that loads of kids might have set goals for their times abroad, and if I did, I can’t remember them now. I think it’ll take longer than a month for me to absorb the year for what it was, and while I’m aware that study abroad is a privilege many don’t have to opportunity to explore, I sank so quickly and easily into Italian culture that I don’t feel terribly lucky yet. Granted, I’m still expecting to wake up in Florence again any day now at the start of a new week of school, so I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’m done.

I had entertained for a while the idea of staying a third semester. I’m very nearly done with my degree, could have graduated this year if I hadn’t gone abroad, but when confronted with staying longer, I had some doubts. I wanted to spend my last year with my friends, not just one semester; I wasn’t sure if I could put together my honors thesis in just a semester, and shouldn’t I spend a lot longer with my director to get a good project down?; could I handle being away from home for longer than a year? There were a lot of factors to consider, and I’d been on a deadline. The various applications for another semester were due in at the beginning of March and while my coordinator back in Arizona assured me that there wouldn’t be any problems if I wanted to stay, I still felt pressured to make a choice. What sealed it for me was saying goodbye to my dad after his second visit to Florence. I nearly started crying watching him go, and I took that as a sign from the universe to go back home once my allotted time was done. The year did me well. I’m sure I could have soldiered through the third semester but I’m satisfied with the decision to return to ASU and with the experience I’ve had.

Another deciding factor for me was the academic portion. Putting the honors thesis aside, I’ve signed up for some pretty brilliant classes next semester, and I’m eager to get to work on those. I’ll have 21 credits in total, including the thesis placeholder course (I have to fill out some paperwork in person before I can take on the extra class), so it’ll be nice to actually work hard again. Take a look at my schedule:

I only have classes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, the last being a three hour seminar with two excellent honors professors. I’m definitely looking forward to my internship with the literary magazine, Superstition Review, as well, and the rest of the classes are going to be excellent as well. It’ll be great to study subjects related to my major again. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a job, too. Having two free days should be incentive, otherwise all I’ll be doing is homework and sleeping. Not that I have a problem with that, but I think my parents would appreciate me actually doing something productive every once in a while.

Anyway, this entry feels empty and unfulfilling because you’d think I’d have more to say on finishing up the year. Unfortunately I don’t but hopefully as the new semester approaches and my time in Europe actually comes to a close, I’ll have more reflections to share with you. That being said, my mom and brother will be getting on a plane tomorrow bound for Paris, so I’ll pick them up on Saturday. Next entry: my trip to Dublin and life post-school in Spain.



Amsterdam had to be the most international city I’ve ever visited. It was also the busiest in terms of nightlife and general tourism, not that this is surprising given the reputation that city has picked up over the years. That being said, the weekend after Easter, two friends and I got ourselves on a plane and headed out to this magnificent city to spend a long weekend enjoying ourselves. That weekend was probably the most relaxing trip I took during the Spring semester. While we got a lot done, saw what we wanted to see, I never felt rushed.

Getting to Amsterdam was something of an adventure, (un)fortunately. We literally got to the airport via taxi (the bus was taking too damn long to show up) a half-hour before the gate closed, and while I had checked in online the night previously, Michelle and Francesca had not. Francesca managed to get her boarding pass just fine but, for whatever reason, the machine refused to read Michelle’s passport and didn’t give her the boarding pass. Arguments with most unhelpful ticket ladies led to the threat of tears and finally one saint of an attendent made some calls and got Michelle her boarding pass. We booked it through security and to the gate, fairly throwing ourselves onto the plane in sheer relief. Too say we started off like nutters would not be an understatement. It’s a good thing that none of us really put much stock in our public image (not that anyone was ever going to see us ever again) because we looked ridiculous.

Our first day in Amsterdam was spent on the free walking tour that took us through the main part of the city, including part of the infamous red light district. I won’t elaborate too much on that portion of the tour, even though we took a specialized red-light tour later that evening, because we learned that a lot of the stereotypes and “common” knowledge is in fact false. However, I’m not entirely sure on the actuality of the situations, whether the girls in the RLD are under madams or essentially freelancers, so don’t quote me on any of that! That being said, the city was definitely more picturesque than I expected. I had heard that Amsterdam was very clean, beautiful, and the people friendly but I was blown away by the buildings and canals and the people were great! Food was pretty good, too, though we were a bit more international in our food choices than usual, going for Chinese and Thai rather than typical Dutch food.

Oh dear, I’m looking through my photos now and of course, I’ve put them all up on FaceBook but they aren’t in my iPhotos albums. Naturally. Hopefully they’re of the same quality.

We had three target locations that we wanted to visit this weekend: Anne Frank’s House, the Heineken Factory, and the House of Bols. Unfortunately, we were forbidden from taking photos in Anne Frank’s House, so all I have to offer you is the sign outside of the building:

Having been to Auschwitz in my fall semester, it was interesting to see the living situation of a family that had been subjected to the horrors of the Holocaust, and being able to see original copies of Anne’s diary, short stories, and novel was bittersweet. Apparently she’d wanted to be a famous author, and it’s ironic that her trauma and death ultimately made that dream come true. Horrible irony, but true.

Our experiences with the House of Bols and the Heineken Factory were somewhat similar, though I enjoyed the prior more than the latter. I’ve become more partial to liquor over the year, and I still can’t stand beer in any shape or form (though I spent a bit of time in Dublin recently trying to get over that with my friend Guinness). However, we spent more time in the Heineken Factory due to it being massive and more historically based than the House of Bols. We were taken through the entire process of brewing, getting tastes along the way that ended in two “free” pints of Heineken at the end of our tour. Apparently hops is what makes the beer bitter, but before that’s added, it’s actually relatively sweet. I’d drink beer if it tasted like that!

There was also one of those 4D rides that put us in the perspective of the beer as it went from grain and hops to the can. Of course, our expectations for this ride had been built up by other friends visiting previously, so I was thinking that we were in for a beer-can rollert coaster. It was a bit of a let down to be sprayed in the face with a bit of water and “boiled” under infrared lights.

Going to the House of Bols was something like entering a fun house that could kill epileptics. There were so many multicolored lights everywhere! Our entrance fee gained us two shots and a cocktail at the end of the tour, and the innovative part of the House of Bols is the number of liquor flavors they boast, over 300 developed and counting. One of the rooms had bottles lined up, stripped of their labels, and you were supposed to try and identify them by smell alone. That was the trippy room. It looked like a mad scientist’s lab met gay pride parade. I was pretty impressed.

At the tasting bar, I decided on a Pomegranate Collins as my cocktail of choice, given the option between nearly thirty different kinds of drinks from the automated machines. We were provided with a recipe for every drink we were interested in trying, but since all of them have Bols liquor in them (it’s frustratingly difficult to find in the States, only in NYC or San Fran), I don’t foresee making any of them in the near future. I also picked the blood orange and butterscotch liquor taster shots. Butterscotch was definitely my favorite. It tasted like candy!

I had a fantastic time in Amsterdam. The city was beautiful and even though we stayed out late every night, I never felt unsafe. There were so many people around all the time and no one begrudged us asking for directions, even at 3 o’clock in the morning. Our tours were informative and entertaining, and the red-light district was not nearly as sordid as everyone makes it out to be. In fact, I think every woman could do with a glow-in-the-dark lingerie set at one point in her life! Christmas present, anyone? It’d be a riot. In any case, my time spent in Amsterdam has put it at in the list of my favorite cities, and I would love to go back one day. I certainly wouldn’t mind living there, if given the opportunity!

PS: You notice I don’t mention another major aspect of the Amsterdam reputation. Don’t worry. It was around and definitely . . . interesting. ;D