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Closing Remarks

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Happy holidays, readers, and hello for the last time! I feel like I owe it to all of you who have been following my journey to wrap up this blog with some closing remarks.  You know me, nothing goes unsaid.

REUNITED with X and Misher! (and yes, I changed my hair)

REUNITED with X and Misher! (and yes, I changed my hair)

Throughout the holidays, I have been so thankful for what I have experienced, and the people I now get to share that experience with. That includes all of you, some of whom have read all 90-something of my posts since the very beginning, when I created this blog in a Dunkin Donuts on a family vacation to Misquamicut, Rhode Island.

Readers, this has been such an amazing journey, and I am sad that I will not be writing to you anymore. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with me through everything. Blogging has become so much more to me than simply a record of what I have done and seen. This is a medium of expression for me, and I hope you know that you have now seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of this little lady!

Now, I will continue my adjustment back to living in Connecticut and at Villanova. At this point in my transition, it is obvious that American reality is much different than my Danish study abroad experience. Some people think I was simply “on vacation,” but I urge you to remember that taking five classes and dealing with the emotional ups and downs of culture shock, changing worldview, and developing transatlantic independence were no ride on the ferris wheel…

When all is said and done, this semester has been priceless in so many ways. I have grown as a person, appreciate a multicultural perspective, and gained countless friends and experiences. My journey only continues from here.

Much love, readers. Hej hej!

Things I’ve noticed when traveling through Europe

Tips for travelers that I have discovered or re-discovered throughout my semester abroad:

1) Siestas are effective (eat lunch late, rest from early mornings, eat dinner late, and make and use of nightlife)
2) Nightlife= wee-hours-of-morning life
3) The dollar fluctuation actually matters in the real world!
4) Use of the metro is SUPER convenient.
5) When packing a suitcase to travel, it’s better to pack an L.L. Bean backpack instead (airlines are a crapshoot and sometimes tell you that suitcases are too big, re-wearing jeans is necessary evil, you may be doing extensive walking on cobblestones so rolling bags are not ideal, weather can be difficult to pack for so be realistic about the forecast and be prepared!)
6) Americans are not always well received, especially by rude Italians
7) Overall levels of trust and social responsibility are different in every country. Thus, you and your possessions will be safer in some places than others.
8) YOU must find you own balance between wandering vs sightseeing/doing both.
9) People within certain cities act differently (Italians have a more leisurely walk than Danes, Greeks sit around in squares, Italians spend much time at cafes/trattorias, London metro is brisk)
10) ALWAYS have a charger for all devices AND an extra adapter (or else our plugs are useless)
11) 3 things to never leave home without: debit card, granola bar, shower flip flops!

With these tips, everyone can learn from my mistakes and misconceptions. I hope you have safe and comfortable travels!

Much love.

No Time

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When I think about how I live my life, I often catch myself saving things for later, putting them off, or having doubts about whether or not it’s the right time for them.
buddha timeStudying abroad has NOT been one of those instances. Just flying here was an obstacle for me, and I know that the person boarding the plane to the USA will have accomplished far more than the person who boarded the plane to Copenhagen. Since I’ve been here, I have been taking as many opportunities as I could, because I don’t know when, if ever, I will get another chance to come to Europe to learn, see, do, and love all that it has to offer.

With only TEN DAYS LEFT, I find myself thinking about a statement that Vince made recently: “This space in time is unique and will never be replicated.” Even if I were to come back to Copenhagen in the future (which I hope to do), I will not be living in this apartment in city center on Skindergade with fellow DIS students. Each moment we spend here is a chance to make a lasting memory, because those are the most important souvenirs. That said, my housemates in Skindy 14 have become much closer over the past few weeks, cooking family dinners, decorating the house, going out on weekends, and basically just spend time enjoying each others’ company for the last weeks of our time together.

For these last TEN DAYS, I will do everything in my power to give Copenhagen all the love it deserves, and show my appreciation to the beautiful city that will always occupy my memory as my European home. I will not waste this time, for I know I do not have it.

Much love.

SLOW DOWN, TIME!

Time seriously needs to slow down. It’s 3 AM here in Copenhagen, and I’m starting to think that I’ll be sleeping a bit less in these last 17 (technically 16 now!) days abroad. 

In a sudden burst of energy, I finished my presentation and two of my final papers today! This ridiculous burst of motivation and energy usually happens to me once a semester, so I guess this was my one turbo-charged school day. Combined with my arts and crafts day yesterday, my obligations for the semester have been trimmed down to ONE remaining paper and ONE remaining final exam!! I couldn’t feel more accomplished.

Why, then, should I quit sleeping?! The answer is obvious: TIME IS RUNNING OUT!! Although I am getting excited to see my family and friends back home, I still feel like there is so much love I have yet to express to Copenhagen. More pictures need to be taken, more sights seen, more windows shopped. Even if I was here for a year, I probably wouldn’t do it all. While that is the amazing part of living in such a dynamic and beautiful city, the truth is, I’m a little bummed that I won’t be able to feel like “I came, I saw, I conquered.” 

In the end, I know that I will have made the best of my study abroad experience. Especially now, since much of my To Do List has been accomplished, I have room for more fun stuff!

Look out Copenhagen, here I come! (again, and probably not for the final time in my life, either)

Much love.

Pizza, Pasta, Prosecco, & (Mia’s) Parents!

On Friday, November 9, Copenhagen had the pleasure of receiving Mia’s parents, Paul and Andrea Savoca. Along with Mia, they are literally the sweetest humans on the planet, and they let me tag along on Saturday to see ome of our lovely city of Copenhagen.

Mia’s first Danish!

Mia & I with our Danishes (I know that’s not actually what they are called here but I can’t help it)

Paul, Mia, & Andrea at the lake at Christiania. Love them!

Our return to Nyhavn, still one of my favorite parts of Copenhagen!

During this day around Copenhagen, I got to participate in showing Mia’s parents all the places I would have liked to show mine. You’ve seen them throughout my blog as I’ve visited them (Nyhavn, the Glass Market, my house, the lakes, Parliament/Christiansborg Castle, etc.) but it was cool to show Mia’s parents in person. They also got to observe all the little things you can’t capture with a picture, like the guttural language, fast bikers, cobblestone streets, and windy grey weather. Most of all, they experienced the charm of Copenhagen that has made me fall in love with this city.

At dinner that night, we were casually chatting when Paul suddenly said, “Bri, why don’t you just come to Italy?” Mia was equally as shocked as I was, and at first we didn’t take it seriously. But, five hours later, I had tickets to and from Italy!!

I spent all of Sunday in bed with a stomachache, while Mia and the fam spent the day in Malmo, Sweden.

Monday started the trip! We flew into Fiumicino, Rome, and drove directly to Perugia, a few hours north of Rome. Being in a car was actually mindblowing for me, and surprisingly soothing. We enjoyed the ride to the 13TH CENTURY CASTLE THAT WE STAYED IN (the Savocas seriously know how to travel!), and later drove to a restaurant where we had an amazing culinary experience.

Seriously, for real, castle.

I finally found my knight in shining armor!

The view from our window, of the terrace and the Italian countryside beyond.

view from the terrace

Best tortelloni I’ve ever had, complete with mushroom pecorino sauce.

My eggplant parm. Delish!

Paul’s octopus, which I tried and actually kind of liked!

Such a great look for Paul, reminds me of my dad eating lobster.

Mia’s pasta, made with octopus ink. It tasted really good but the color just looked so strange!

The next day, Tuesday, we made the most of our location and toured the world-famous Perugina chocolate factory, known for Baci chocolate hazelnut kisses! We saw the production of Baci and some of the other chocolates that the factory makes, AND GOT A FREE TASTING ROOM! YESSS.

fooling around with my head in the trademark Baci kiss logo

Baci white and Baci! Love them both!

Promise I didn’t eat all of these, but honestly I probably could have if you gave me a few hours. So yummy.

Post-chocolate food coma, we explored the Italian countryside some more. The first place we stopped was Deruta, famous for its hand-painted ceramics, and Assisi, known for St. Frances of Assisi.

Deruta

Deruta ceramics

ceramic electric guitar (BEN!!) made strictly in Deruta, nowhere else in the world

Assisi

Assisi

Church of St. Frances Assisi. Pretty sure he’s buried in there under the altar.

I would just like to note that Assisi is one huge hill, which makes for gorgeous views BUT a LOT of walking uphill! We definitely walked off that chocolate!!

Tuesday night we drove to Rome and checked into our hotel, Hotel Villa San Pio. At this point in the trip, I basically picked up a glass of Prosecco and a fork, and never put them down for the rest of the journey. NO REGRETS, but this week the jeans are a little tighter! (EuroDiet was not in effect on vacation.)

Wednesday began with a visit to the Vatican to hear Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly address to the public. The thing is, he spoke Italian… but thankfully, Mia’s dad is fluent in Italian so he translated. SO INTERESTING: He spoke about St. Augustine, and Veritas, Unitas, Caritas, which is literally Villanova in a nutshell. We are an Augustinian university, and Veritas Unitas Caritas is part of our University Seal as well as our core values!

Pope Benedict XVI

For the rest of the week, we basically just walked around Rome, revisiting the Colosseum (of course, since I’m obsessed) and other sites. We took the Scavi tour of the underground cemetery beneath the Vatican/St. Peter’s Basilica where St. Peter’s bones can still be seen today. Inside the Basilica is super cool and intricately designed, and the remains of past Popes can be visited as well. We also went to Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, an Italian opera (my first, and probably last, opera ever), and the Spanish Steps. Aside from that, we had great food and, of course, more Prosecco!

view of Rome over the Palatine Hill (the Colosseum is in the back)

Saw this right before the Scavi tour, super creepy as I’m about to descend into the depths of Rome

Mia took this artsy photo of the Colosseum, so proud of her skillz

Prosecco at the hotel courtyard

XTINA THEY MAKE SURE TO ACCOMODATE YOU IN ITALY

St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, the Scavi tour was under there!

Dad, orange trees AT MY HOTEL

These are posters for the strikes that took place all week. One even got violent.

before the Scavi tour, with friends of the Savocas who recently moved to Rome

The Tiber river was the highest it’s EVER been… Those are treetops. Covered.

Getting adventurous trying some meat (after a mostly-vegetarian semester)

On Friday, we did the most Italian thing I have done in Italy: we took a pizza-making class!!

cutting mushrooms

People who know me know that I am a pizza snob, but this has taken my judgement criteria to a whole new level! I will never be the same again after this delicious experience.

The next day, Saturday, we said a sad goodbye in the airport and went our separate ways. For the last time, I flew back to Copenhagen.

I cannot express how thankful I am to Mia and her wonderful parents. ADOPTED FAM, YOU ARE THE BEST!! This trip was fun, exciting, and refreshing. I am so glad to have you as my adopted family. I will never forget this amazing vacation.

Much love!

Long Study Tour to Milan, Italy

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Last week, my Positive Psychology class took our long study tour to Milan, Italy.

Class photo!

While it was definitely an academic tour, with lectures at the university by prominent figures in positive psychology, DIS did a great job of planning so it didn’t just feel like a week-long class. Some of our academic visits were creative applications of positive psych, like the spent in a meditation center of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.

We got to spend time exploring the city of Milan, eating Italian food, and even climbed to the roof of Il Duomo, a famous and beautifully built church in the center of the city!

Our hotel, Hotel Bernina, got to know each of us loud Americans very well during the night hours when we got knocks on our doors telling us to quiet down! Oops!

Inside La Galleria, a cross-shaped building lined with shops like Louis Vuitton.

Spinning around on the “most delicate” part of the mosaic bull that decorates the floor of the Galleria. Apparently three spins on your heel gives you luck and good fortune!

quick shot of me, HEY

The tram lines run all over the city and are a cute, efficient way to travel. We saw much of the city this way, and used the Metro as well.

fountain pic, classic

This old castle had a moat, which I think is fascinating. Cats live in there now. Ironic, since cats hate water.

Arc de Triumph, which has something to do with Napoleon

Il Duomo

Inside, leading up to the altar. AN ORIGINAL NAIL FROM JESUS’ CROSS is suspended above the altar!! You can see the small red light near the top of this picture–that’s where it is kept embedded within an ornate cross. To be in the presence of such an object was absolutely astonishing.

areas to light candles and pray were on the sides of the church

I decided to have a moment to myself, say a prayer for my family, and light a candle. I miss them so much at times like these.

My friend Chelsea snapped these photos when she saw me being a real person…

The bodies of a few Cardinals (or Archbishops?) are also here on display, which was both surreal and a reality check for me. I hope it’s okay that I posted this, I just wanted everyone to get the full effect of what I mean.

A pitcure from the roof of the Duomo. Of course on the day that we actually climbed it, it was cloudy out.

Close-up, you can see that atop each point, there are actually sculptures of saints! Remarkable.

Tori, me, Chelsea, Rachel, and Kelsea sitting on one of the windowsills on the roof of Il Duomo!

The classical music concert we attended as a class. Very entertaining and enriching, as I used to play the flute (through freshman year of high school).

Zoe, me, Chelsea, and Gabe enjoying intermission, with a phenomenal photobomb by Katie in the background

WINE TASTING UH HUH

Indulging in some Milanese drinks with Zoe, Chelsea, and Tori. They were delicious!

This is what happened when I tried to order that orange drink the next night at a different place… I got a giant green thing that was bigger than my face. But I was not complaining!

Cool lunch place, that served us an entire plate of meat as an appetizer with bread, fried sweetbread pockets, and chunks of parmesan cheese.

Although I am not a meat person, I did venture to try one of each of these, and actually liked some of it! Proud.

Couldn’t help myself with this stalker pic. When in Milan!

The beautiful town of Lake Como, which we visited on the last day of our trip. This picture does not do it justice. If you’re curious, google Lake Como and see why GEORGE CLOONEY owns a house here!

Lake Como

As you can see from all my pictures, my classmates and I enjoyed ourselves on this study tour. We became much closer as a result of living together for six days and sharing some truly hilarious experiences!

At the end of our trip, we did a Positive Psychology Intervention called the Compliment Bag, where each of us had our own bag, and every classmate would drop in a little note with a personalized compliment written on it. Because the compliments are anonymous, you don’t get to know who thinks what about you–it’s just a general confidence boost from everyone! Writing my compliments for my classmates was not difficult after all the fun we had together in Milan. The best part was reading all 27 compliments, which I saved in my room for a rainy day. I plan on doing this with every person I know when I come back to America, so brace yourselves!

This was my last time leaving Copenhagen for the rest of the semester. Overall, I flew on 14 planes this semester, so I am tired of checkin, security, and landing ear-popping! I’m excited to experience Copenhagen, as it has actually taken on the meaning of home for me. The third “travel break” provided by DIS will serve as a Staycation for me, where I will have the apartment to myself (with my SRA, Louise)! I can’t wait!

Much love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barcelona, London, & So Much Love

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Instead of trying to tell you about my trip to Barcelona and London, I have to show you.

These are two amazing cities. I really can’t express how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to travel here, but more importantly, how lucky I am to have two friends who flew from Philadelphia all the way to Barcelona to meet up with Mia and I. Marissa and Dee, I love you so much and I cannot wait to reunite with you at Villanova and live it up! There are no words to describe how much I love you.

Bitty, it’s safe to say I have joined you in your obsession with London. One day I hope I can take you there and we can experience the Brits together!

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Much love.

Coming HOME to Copenhagen

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There’s no place like home.

All of my homes are unique. Northford, Connecticut has the small-town feel and the people I have always loved. Villanova University is the setting of my ongoing coming-of-age story, complete with an indispensable cast of beloved characters. Now, I have added a third home to my list with the cozy city of Copenhagen, where my little American feet have trotted the cobblestone streets of majestic Europe.

While I hesitate to use the term “home” to describe the many places I have rested my head, Copenhagen and I have developed the trust required for me to view it in such an affectionate way. When I can finally let my guard down enough to consider a place my home, I know that it has had a profound effect on me. The cobblestones in Copenhagen contain memories of my footsteps; the cash register at the grocery store holds my vegetable-heavy transactions in its hard drive; the mannequins in the shop windows have seen me wandering through sun, rain, and always wind. Just as I have seen the city, it has seen me, and neither of us will ever be the same.

But, it’s not just the setting that makes the story. As the main character, I have done some serious developing since starting this chapter. Just like when I left for college, I thought that, when separated from my family and friends, I would say stuck in my past with them. Without the people I loved around me, I thought I would be worthless, incapable of functioning as the person I am without the people whose lives I am lucky enough to affect. Honestly, I derive most if my self worth from the effect I have on others. Naturally, coming to Copenhagen, I faced the same fear of losing my meaning. But now I have seen, for the third time in my life, that I fit rather easily into the same interpersonal groove no matter where I am. At first I couldn’t believe it, but after more than two months here I can tell that I have the same function regardless of the people I get to know. Discovering this about myself has given me a new and exciting kind of confidence, not just that I can stay afloat in the social world, but that I have a real and concrete persona that other people can experience and relate to. I am someone, no matter who is around me.

Copenhagen will forever be my home for teaching me that.

As my plane lands in Copenhagen for the final time this semester, I look forward to spending the final seven weeks becoming more intimately acquainted with my home. The next time I board an airplane, it will be bound for America, and my semester abroad will be over. While I know that it will never be truly over, I am deathly afraid of that moment when I know that I will have to leave this home without knowing when I will return. I am not ready!

Much love to those of you in America, but I am dragging my feet to slow the passage of time.

Much Needed Beach Day

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You all know I love the beach. Since it’s been cold in Copenhagen, and I have been busy with school (believe it or not), I have not made it down to Amager or even the harbor. Regretably.

Naturally, being in Greece, it made sense to take a ferry to an island close by and see what the hype is all about. Well, folks, I have to be honest… it was amazing.

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Of course, one beach day is never enough, but the rest of our trip was waiting, so we had to go back to Athens. Although I did contemplate skipping out on another day of sightseeing and go back…

Stockholm!

DISCLAIMER: THIS WILL BE A LONG POST. BUT IT WILL BE WORTH READING!

This weekend was my first independent traveling experience. I went with Mia & some friends that we’ve made here at DIS (Vince, Alia, Kalli, Kelsey, Courtney, David, Jared, & Casey). Stockholm, Sweden was the destination of choice–a beautiful (expensive) Scandinavian city! The adventure begins…

I found the only Starbucks in Denmark!! It’s in the CPH airport, FYI.

The BEFORE picture

The AFTER picture, on the way home to CPH.
Note: The hostel showers were not up to some of our standards, thus we did not shower all trip.

a view of the many islands of Sweden from the plane…

…and a view of me on the plane!

Swedish money is so pretty… but 100 SEK is about $15!!

With the task of actually getting there taken care of, Stockholm was calling our names. The first thing we did, since it was a Friday night, was go to a pub.

Mia & I at the pub

Mia, me, Alia, & Courtney with our Stockholm beverages

After a long day of classes back home in the Cøbes (our affectionate name for Copenhagen, pronounced Koobs) and an evening full of travel, we were content to retire after our short excursion. Our hostel was called BestHostel, in Old Town, the quaint city center of Stockholm.

Just take a look at the wifi name for the hostel.

Is Justin Beiber gay?? In Stockholm, they think so.

The next day (Saturday), we rose early and got down to the nitty gritty of exploration. I don’t know how Lewis & Clark managed to explore the whole Louisiana Territory, because my feet were killing me after one day of Stockholm!

Some highlights include:

all of us in front of the canal and the palace

Vince, me, Mia & Kalli

Vince & I in front of our hostel, with a beautiful church tower right outside

Vince & I lighting a candle inside the church, a spiritual tradition of Vince’s that he let me in on

If you can see me, I was having a moment inside the church… Mia took the picture. Uncle Louie, it was so beautiful that I had to say thanks for saving you.

Vince & I at the harbor

Me, Alia, Kalli, Mia, & Vince on a bridge

Me, Kalli, & Mia on that same bridge, with the beautiful city behind us

Me, Mia, Alia, Kalli, & Vince on a gorgeous harbor where people park their boats

riding the harbor taxi!

Mia & I having a moment on the harbor

a view of Stockholm from the Harbor Taxi

Obviously, we are seasoned explorers. We ended up at a cafe in the middle of town for lunch, munching on spinach ravioli and roasted veggies. FREE COFFEE made my day, and helped reboot us for the walk back to the hostel. On the way, we stopped at Vassa museum to see the ship that sank right outside the harbor, after sailing less than one nautical mile on its maiden voyage. Interestingly, the Vassa was stuck under the sea for almost 400 years until, finally, it was raised in the 1960’s. Believe it or not, the ship is in amazing condition–almost 98% original timber!!

The museum is built around the ship, with 7 floors surrounding the giant ship, and the roof built so that the tall masts poke through the ceiling. Here we are at the bottom of the hull.

closer to the deck

Another cool thing we found was actually right outside our hostel in the square. It was a fresh water fountain that you could drink out of!

yumm

Although most of the day went off without a hitch, there was a slight speed bump where we got caught on the other side of a marathon. There were so many runners, and when we asked one of the volunteers how to get across, she replied in broken English, “Good luck!” We knew we had to run in between the runners… and Alia snapped this photo as Mia and I attempted to dodge them.

Mia is by the light pole, and I am on the far right. Blending in? Not even close.

Although there were many parts of this day that were fabulous, my favorite was “The Bubble” (which is actually called The Skyview). An Epcot-like white spherical building, and one of the highest points in Stockholm, has turned itself into a tourist attraction. (Click here to see their website)

Those small bubbles, referred to as gondolas, carry groups of people from the ground to the top of the sphere, where everyone inside can see a vast view of Stockholm. Honestly, it was breathtaking.

Alia, Mia, Kalli, Courtney, Me, & Vince in the gondola

Hello, Stockholm!

Such a fulfilling day can only be followed by a crazy night. The ONE thing we planned before we got to Stockholm was a visit to the world’s first Ice Bar. Made entirely of ice, this bar equips its patrons with parka and gloves upon entry, handing out a complimentary drink (of choice) served inside a giant ice cube. Essentially the coolest thing ever, we could not wait to try it out. Aside from the fact that my nose froze, I’d say it was the best part of my trip! We took a million pictures…

EVERYONE

our ice cube cups!

Alia, Kalli, Courtney, Vince, me, & Kelsey

Me: Kid in a candy store. The sad thing is, this is actually a candid.

so much fun

At Ice Bar, everyone can play a little reindeer games!

Just think how many people have licked that wall–hence why I opted for a smile instead.

Dancing fools Jersey Turnpiking… For everyone who thinks we look like Snooki & Deena–not sorry.

Just us having another moment.

Overall, this trip was amazing. The rest of the night was spent in a similar manner, as we enjoyed the company of one another and lived it up in Stockholm! Sunday, of course, was spent in recovery, counting our remaining pennies and finding our way back to the airport for a flight that ended up delayed… and left us all starving. When we made it back to the Cøbes, we all heaved a collective sigh of sadness to leave Stockholm, and relief to be back in familiar territory.

As for highlights, those are the best ones. But, you lucky readers, I will leave you with a treat for  making it all the way to the end of this post! I call these The Many Faces of Bri. Enjoy!

pre-takeoff plane excitement

In front of the Vassa museum on the Harbor Taxi

 

candid.

yelling

wahhh

happy! with lipsick-ed Vince

with my finding, for Daddy–reindeer and moose meat!

caught off guard! oh hi.

in the gondola over Stockholm…

…got a little too excited!

casually sippin’

 

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