Indiana University Overseas Study

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Must-Do’s in Berlin

Erica Ewen

As I really get settled in to my temporary life in Berlin, I’ve experienced a few things that are a must if you are ever to make it here yourself. Most are free or only cost a few euro and are well worth the time and money – you won’t regret it!

The Berliner Dom (or cathedral) is a must see and I highly suggest you purchase the audio tour version, which is just a headset you rent that accompanies you for only 3 euro extra. The architecture and history of the Dom are amazing and it is in the heart of Berlin’s Museum Island, so it doesn’t have to be your only stop!

inside the Dom

Other than the main room of worship, there are multiple other floors you can access along with the crypt in the basement and a 360 degree walkway around the top of the Dom which comes with unbelievable views!

looking over Berlin

Another must-see in Berlin on Sundays is the flea market in Mauer Park. It has a little bit of everything for everybody with street music, food, and knickknacks galore. I sipped on some fresh squeezed orange juice while walking around, looking at the many interesting things different people had to offer. One of my favorite booths had boxes and boxes full of the neatest doorknobs. Odd find, but I’m sure they would give flare to any welcoming door.


The doorknobs and OJ were just a drop in the bucket of what this flea market had to offer. I went back last week just to watch the people and get more juice!

If you’ve done all these things in one day, odds are you are ready for some food! A Turkish-German staple here in Berlin is the Döner. It comes in many variations depending on where you get it, but always has meat, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an array of sauces, if you so choose. It is comparable to a Greek gyro, but is really in its own category.


I’ve had several since I’ve been here and I haven’t had a bad one yet. I can already tell I’m going to miss them when I’m back home. A few more weeks to go, but I’m loving it here!

Erica Ewen - exploring German History through experience

Casa Means “Home”

Erik Trautman

I’ve been thinking about home. It’s a bit of a fuzzy idea for me, something I can’t quite pin down on a map. I remember three houses I lived in with my family. I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah but what I remember of it is skewed since I moved when I was seven (still nearly a third of my life). We went back as a family for spring break last year, the last year before my brother went to Colorado and I set off for Bologna.

I’ve lived in Indiana for fifteen years, those years that really determine who you are. Marvelous and ugly memories surface when I think of Indiana, but that’s true most everywhere you’ve called home. When I returned to Utah I felt at home amongst the snow-topped mountains and red desert rocks. It’s environmentally where I want to be, however, there are things that draw me back to Indiana: friends, family, and comfortable living. Most recently, Bologna has been my home, but I adopted different home this week, Cassano delle Murge, Puglia.


Nearby Matera has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Numerous films have been filmed here, including Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”

Cassano is a small town in the periphery of Bari. I didn’t ever plan on seeing it but I was visiting a close friend. Small towns are the root to Italy’s charm. Aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and cousins all lived close together, many on the same hillside, some in the same apartment building. Their Italian was freckled with a dialect that sounded more Russian than Italian. The strawberries were wild and picked that morning from the countryside. Those miniature berries packed more flavor than any strawberry I’ve ever had. Every relative had a cherry tree growing in their yard. I ate focaccia made by my friend’s grandmother, the recipe for which has been passed down through generations. What made this place home for her were family and tradition, a different way of eating, and a different way of speaking.

My friend’s mother teaches dance to a class of seniors called “danze del popolo,” dances of the people. They performed three dances from around the world: Greece, Brittany, and Armenia. Before the first dance she explained that Greeks who have immigrated throughout the world may no longer know how to speak Greek but many still know this antique dance. They brought a piece of home along with them as they searched for better lives.

danze del popolo

Danze del Popolo

danze del popolo

Danze del Popolo

What is home then? Is it the location of your family or a traditional way of doing things like cooking or dancing? These are manifestations of home but during my stay I’ve come to realize home is a state of mind. Home is comfort and familiarity and you can create that state in any part of the world, home is in your head. I’m not sure where my home will be three months from now, but wherever I end up I hope to take home with me.

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Erik Trautman

Having returned home for the holidays I’ve been bombarded with the same question from family and friends, “How’s Italy?”. “I need a more specific question,” is my typical answer. Trying to synthesize a semester’s worth of experience aboard in a few sentences is like trying to throw a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle together in an afternoon, it takes time to understand the full picture. I’ve told them about some of the bigger events that have been covered in my previous blogs, but that doesn’t fully answer the question. Small clusters of experiences and insights in Italy remain disjointed but still speak volumes about the larger picture, that is my overall experience. In the name of these overlooked fragments I bring to you a mosh-posh of events that have escaped my previous blogs over the past few months.

Failed Attempt at San Luca

The “seven secrets of Bologna” are scattered throughout the city. You may pass them everyday and not know, I passed under one for weeks and didn’t notice it. I’ve discovered five of the seven, rather four and a half. Saint Luca sits on top of a hill on the periphery of the city. A week after arriving in Bologna a couple of BCSP students and I decided to climb the longest portico in the world to reach the pristine sanctuary. Bologna is famous for its covered walkways or porticos. Some date back to medieval ages when noble families tried to extend their properties by building not on public space, but above it. Now they are great because there’s always a place to hide from the rain, which is a frequent requirement here.

We left for Saint Luca a bit after seven o’clock with the intention of arriving just before sunset, which we would enjoy from the top. There are 666 porticos you must pass through to reach Saint Luca. I believe we reached portico 657, not because the hill on outskirts of the city becomes a mountain where you climb it one step at a time, but because we were met by a locked gate. Little to our knowledge, Saint Luca closes at 7:30; we had arrived about 20 minutes too late. That didn’t deter us, however, and we enjoyed the sunset from a nearby parking lot. This mishap gave us the unique perspective of San Luca from across the sanctuary grounds as the walls absorbed the last rays of sun light against a pink blush sky. I promised myself there to make the most out of everyday. I still haven’t entered the sanctuary, hence the four and a half secrets discovered but the sun sets earlier nowadays and I only have two other secrets to check off my list.

San Luca

San Luca from across the sanctuary grounds


Sunset from the parking lot

down the portico

Looking down the portico from the top

Stephanie’s first bus ride

If you ever visit Bologna you may spend a few hours turned about in the labyrinth of alleys that seemed to wind you around in circles. I suggest studying a map beforehand just to know some of the main areas. The downtown area seemed expansive upon arrival, but really to traverse it from one side to the other may take forty minutes on foot. After some time you should begin to get your bearings – that is, until you explore beyond the “walls” where an entire other city awaits you.

I say “walls” because the ancient wall is for the most part is­­ non-existent and has been replaced by an always-churning beltway of cars and buses, which rotates around the city like a carousel. The historic downtown, however, is still commonly referred to as the area within the walls. The gates of the ancient wall, on the other hand, still stand and are common bus stops.

If you plan on leaving the city center frequently you will most likely spend some time on the bus. Pay attention on the bus; it’s somewhat of a social experiment. You can see the man in an Armani suit standing next to an empty seat, checking his watch incessantly. Two rows behind him, a woman of Middle Eastern descent struggles to control her two wandering toddlers. At the front of the bus, a group of Italian teens gossip loudly while at the back, two raggedy looking men bob around in their seats, asleep. There’s plenty to learn observing the passengers but don’t get distracted because the bus itself can throw you for a turn. The same line has different stops on weekends and holidays and you can find yourself in unfamiliar neighborhoods with no knowledge of how you got there. That’s what happened to Stephanie the first time she took a bus. She eventually ended up at the bus station, far away from the city center. Naturally, she was frightened as she followed the bus driver into the station in the middle of the night, but what started like the plot to a bad horror film ended in the most encouraging way possible; the bus driver personally drove Stephanie home in his own car.

UN Dinners

My near and dear friend from the BCSP program, Katelyn, lives with four boys, bless her heart, and one other girl. Their apartment is somewhat a madhouse of guests due to them being a welcoming bunch and having an expansive kitchen that overlooks the scenic canal. Some of my best memories are of late nights at Katelyn’s surrounded by friends. One night, Katelyn’s roommate, Theo, invited eleven people to a potluck dinner. We collectively represented eight nations, and the food at the dinner was just as diverse. Theo made Indian food, Caroline made stir-fry broccoli, and Conor made a roast loin. I never expected to meet such a diversity of people in Italy.

dinner with friends from around the world

The man with the ladle on the left is Theo (French/English), to his right is Philip (German), Julian (German), Tommaso (Italian), Caroline (Canadian), Me, Gabriel (American) and the three people not shown are Nathan and Oscar (Belgium), Conor (Irish), and Katelyn.

Oktoberfest Bologna

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany lasts from September 19th – October 4th. I was disappointed to hear I had missed it from returning BCSP participants who had made the trip. Luckily, Bologna holds its own version of the celebration and this time I was prepared – well, for the most part. We had a little difficulty reaching the fair grounds outside of town but my roommates Loris and Andrea came to meet Stephanie, Katelyn, and myself at the bus stop. The smell of wurstel and pretzels called from behind the flap of a giant tent. As we approached, I heard the hum of an accordion, chanting, and the stomping of feet. Behind the tent flap was a strange scene of Italians celebrating German culture, but I was glad to share and take part in the slightly altered celebration.

Stage at Bologna's Oktoberfest

View of the stage

my friends and I at the fest

The whole gang


My roommates and I decided early on that we would do Halloween costumes as a group. We juggled between zombies and the Scooby Doo gang, but eventually landed on the Addam’s Family. The results are uncanny. Loris went as cousin It and spent most of the night bumping into things due to his partial blindness on account of the hair and sunglasses. Andrea and I watched the Addam’s Family movie to get into character, and Francesca did all our makeup.

our Halloween costumes

left to right, top to bottom: Andrea as uncle Fester, Arianna as Morticia, me as Gomez, Francesca as Wednesday, and Loris as cousin Itt

Months had passed since our last gathering as a whole program. After pre-session ends everyone splits off on their own path. It was strange spending so much time with a group of people, getting to know them through shared hardships and then having many of them disappear. I kept in touch with a few and had some BCSP students in my classes but many of them I felt had dropped off the face of the earth. Perhaps it was that separation that made Thanksgiving feel so nostalgic. We all dressed our best for our last hurrah together at an exquisite restaurant off Strada Maggiore, and who knew italians would have such an outstanding grasp on Thanksgiving cuisine. There were rolls, green beans, turkey, cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin soup is still talked about to this day. It was my first Thanksgiving away from home but I still had so much to be thankful for.

dressed up for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving night

Concrete Jungle

One aspect of the Bloomington campus that I have really come to miss and appreciate is its integration with nature. The smell of trees and the sound of birds in the morning are rare commodities here in Bologna. I noticed this the day after Thanksgiving when I was walking back from Katelyn’s apartment in the morning. I turned the corner and heard birds chirping. You may not give this a second thought but it stopped me in my tracks. I looked around at the pigeons confused for a moment by what had snatched my attention. I looked up to see a birdcage hanging out of a second story window. For the last few months the only birds I was surrounded by were pigeons and I had not noticed the absence of birds chirping until that moment.

Groves of nature have found a way, however, to tuck themselves into the crevices of the medieval city. In a small park behind the an art faculty building off Via San Petronio Vecchio, a tiled ping-pong table sits atop a dirt patch in the shade. The net is a thin metal sheet and makes a derisive ding for every foul. Two curved wooden beams make up benches that border the table. The beam on the outside is raised, stadium style, and they have about enough space for three people but are occupied by various bags. Many epic matches have transpired there, including one Facebook official tournament, which seriously humbled my confidence at ping-pong.

Playing ping pong in the park

ping pong in the park

A kilometer or so outside Porta San Mamolo the hills of Villa Ghigi peer out over the south central city center. We went together as a program and picnicked at the peak and played games; although the Frisbee I brought wasn’t adept to the hilly terrain. It was our first trip as a program that was purely recreational and therefore it was truly appreciated. After the picnic I learned an Italian card game called scopa from a couple other students. It’s played with special cards that I hope will make a good stocking stuffer this holiday.

hills of Villa Ghigi

The hills of Villa Ghigi

Our group

Our group from a tree

As the semester comes to a close many students begin to reminisce on their time here. I’ve heard from quite a few that their favorite memory was the program trip to the Agriturismo. The muddy gravel road that snaked up the hill to the farm had me feeling shaky in the charter bus that honked at every bend to warn the traffic ahead. Once my feet touched the sacred ground, however, I never wanted to leave.

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I write these stories to you from the heavenly Fram Café, which sits at the foot of my block off Via Della Braina and Via Rialto. I’ve become somewhat of a regular here. My favorite barista greets me with a friendly, “Ciao” when I pass her on the street and this morning there was no need to order because she already knew it would be a cafè macchiato. It’s my last day in Italy before I returned to the United States for Christmas and nearly a month break before I return in January, the new year. I hope to keep the promise I made myself on the hill surrounding Saint Luca, to make the best of my time here, and to take the optimism I feel into the next six months in Italy. The Italian word for the day is “ricordi” or memories.

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Blue, Green and Silence


Classes are such a perfect mix of cultural and academic education that sometimes I forget I’m technically in school. One of my professors puts as much effort into emails about the best markets in the city as he does into his thoroughly entertaining lectures about the UK political system. In another class, we spent an hour at the Science Museum learning about climate change and the makeup of our atmosphere, and later went to Whole Foods to examine their policy of environmental consciousness.


Barrios de Lima


I love to wander. Finding new places to explore is an easy way to get to know a new place, practice language skills, find beautiful views or interesting curiosities, or just to escape from daily life for a while. Luckily, Lima feels like it was designed for such exploration. It’s an enormous city (in population and in area), and one that many people who come to Peru don’t give nearly enough time or attention.


History In the Making


The recent royal birth of Prince William and Kate’s first child has London buzzing. You could really feel the excitement surrounding the birth and pageantry that the royals are famous for providing. There is also a sense of relief now that the waiting is over. The news stations and media outlets surrounded St. Mary’s hospital for days providing unending coverage on the Duchess of Cambridge’s status. Tradition is everywhere when the royal family is involved, and history will not soon forget this birth.


Blurred Lines


A good reason for studying abroad is to begin to blur the lines of the world. Confines of countries and cultures are arbitrarily drawn and constantly changing. By exposing yourself to a new culture or country, while there can be grand differences in communication (languages or hand gestures or body language) and appearance and superstitions, many things stay the same.


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