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The End to the Beginning

Erik Trautman

June is the month of final get-togethers and goodbyes in Bologna. One late evening we sat under a dark misty sky in front of an illuminated IMAX screen in the middle of Piazza Maggiore for the annual event, “Il Cinema Ritrovato” (The Re-found Cinema), hosted by Cineteca Bologna. It was Friday night and Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society beamed through the drizzle projecting itself onto the dominating screen, which left San Petronio masked in darkness like I had never seen it before. Contrary to our departures, Bologna was hosting its first official alumni reunion and a few words were said before starting the show. This picture serves to show the grandness of the screen.

Bologna Reunion info on screen

Dead Poets Society playing on screen.

The following Saturday marked the official opening night and the piazza buzzed with the excitement of what seemed like the entire city in attendance as Ennio Morricone’s composition reverberated off the medieval stone during the screening of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, a spaghetti western staring Clint Eastwood. These last few nights served as a reminder that despite my grown familiarity with Bologna, I still haven’t seen the city in June, which is certainly to say under a different light.

Rewind to Saturday afternoon. I’m perched under a castle eating a sun-dried tomato, pickled pepper, and mozzarella sandwich at the peak on a hilltop town known as Dozza a few kilometers outside of Bologna.

friends having lunch outside

Map of Dozza

Storm clouds brew and bellow ominously down in the valley below, however, we continue with our lackadaisical pace. The atmosphere is quite and calm like in the eye of a storm and the streets are empty besides the occasional roaming cat. Behind us murals cloak every façade of the town; underneath them lay stone plaques etched with renowned names. A banner draped across the stage at the center of the city explains the “Cinquant’anni Biennale Muro Dipinto di Dozza” (Fifty Years Biennial Dozza Wall Mural), however, visiting Dozza is still a bit like falling down the rabbit hole.

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Fast-forward to this past weekend. I’m watching fireworks launch off the region building in Indianapolis from an apartment patio just off the canal. I’ve never seen the fireworks downtown before. I’ve brought my Italian friend with me and with her I’ve brought a whole new perspective to my hometown. She stops me to take photos of sights I would normally overlook as commonplace thus realizing the beauty of my home.

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I’ve made arrangements to return to Bologna to teach English for a year. I’ve met conflicting feelings after seeing what I must sacrifice to spend another year in Bologna, but I believe I’ve made the right decision. I don’t think I’ll have another opportunity like this and I have my whole life to focus on a career and be with my fellow Americans. I’d like to continue blogging if anyone is interested in following. I’d like to thank my family and friends for their patience and support, LAMP for helping fund this experience, and the From I to U blog for allowing me to tell my story. These last few weeks have reminded me that there is always more to discover even in your own backyard and for that the final Italian word is “scoprire” or discover.

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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.

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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.

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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

Exhaustion and Refreshment

Sarah Whaley

Last week was the end of the honeymoon phase of my exchange program in Adelaide. Before last week, my days consisted of shopping, exploring and partying in the city. It felt more like a holiday (vacation) than a study experience. Then, classes began at Uni and I have to admit I felt a bit shell-shocked. I hadn’t done anything related to school since December. I’d had no academic readings to complete, no lectures to attend and no online content to continuously check (except for Facebook, of course).  I felt assaulted by the sudden amount of work and embarrassed by the inadequacy of my preparations and organization.

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Braving a smile for the first day of Uni.

 

Then, after making it reasonably successfully through the first two days of classes, I panicked and left class early on Wednesday. I left class early because the bites I’d woken up with on my legs that morning and the day before could no longer be ignored. My worst nightmare about Australia was unfolding before me: mysterious bites from an unknown creature that appeared red, angry and swollen. One bite had a red tail trailing off to one side. I made essentially the worst decision I could have made and Googled the bites during class. Top results were 1) poisonous spiders and 2) infection. I immediately excused myself from the room and went in search of the nearest doctor.

insect bites on leg

Convinced death from bites is imminent.

University of Adelaide is a smaller university than IU, so you’d think they would have walk-in doctors appointments, but that turned out not to be the case. The lady behind the counter wouldn’t even look at my bites, and her advice was to call the next day a 9 a.m. to see if there had been any appointment cancellations. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to see me until Monday. Next I tried the Dean at my residence, St Mark’s College. Her advice was to see one of the sixth year medical students at the college, but he was nowhere to be found. So I asked my friend Daniel to walk with me up the street into North Adelaide to find a chemist (pharmacist).

The chemist was kind, but when she came around from behind the counter to look at my bites, all of her professionalism disappeared. She gasped and put a hand to her mouth, then brought it down to say, “I think you need to see a doctor.” Exhausted from my earlier attempts at finding a doctor, I fought the urge to cry as I asked where walk-in appointments might be available. She gave me the addresses of two places, both outside of walking distance from St Mark’s. When I left the shop, I finally burst into the sobs I’d been holding back. I had no car and felt intimidated by the public transportation. I wanted to give up and, more than anything, to call my parents. I couldn’t do the latter and Daniel wouldn’t let me do the former, so he found someone from the college to drive us to Prospect Medical Centre.

My walk-in consultation was free, but the downside was Daniel and I had to sit waiting for hours. When they called me back after the first hour, I was excited. Finally. But all that happened was a lady who didn’t appear to be a doctor took a look at my bites, confirmed how terrible they looked and told me she’d put me on the waiting list for a walk-in appointment. I sat waiting for another hour and a half before seeing an actual doctor who told me the bites were likely from a mozzie (mosquito) and I was just having an exceptionally bad reaction to them. He prescribed me $45 worth of antibiotics, antihistamines and steroid cream.

Sarah and friend Daniel smiling

Daniel and I excited to be waiting for hours.

The next few days were hazy, both from the medication and a sudden onset of homesickness. I grew impatient with my friends in Adelaide and started intensely missing friends back home who had known me for longer than three weeks. I was easily irritable and moody and left two parties without saying goodbyes. One night I sat outside alone for more than two hours watching a light show on the theater that was part of the Adelaide Festival. When I looked up to see the stars and the moon glowing brightly in the sky, I was suddenly struck by the fact no one in Indiana could share the view with me because it was daytime there. I felt immediately far away and incredibly alone.

patterned light splashing on rooftop

Light show on the Adelaide Festival Centre.

Saturday night after leaving the second party of the weekend, I messaged my friend Ameen to tell him what a terrible time I was having. He suggested I make a trip out into the Adelaide suburbs to see him and his roommate, Ahmed. It was quieter there, he said, and I would enjoy the bus ride on the O-Bahn, a special track for buses leading from Adelaide to Tea Tree Gully. I hesitated once again out of fear of public transportation, but decided I needed to grow up and take a risk. After all, my own attempts at lifting my mood had been rather fruitless.

Sunday evening I hopped on a bus and took the O-Bahn out to see Ameen and Ahmed. It was a wonderful one-night break from the city. We took it easy, watching Australian comedians on YouTube and shows on TV. Then in the morning I woke up to the sound of birds and even the sound of a short rain. The rain cleared and we took a walk through the suburbs to grab some lunch. My spirits rose from the darkest of places to soaring heights. The beauty of the suburbs was consuming, with the hills so close by and the houses and fences a patchwork of reds, yellows and oranges. As Ameen cleaned the kitchen and I waited to catch a bus back into the city, I breathed in the fresh air coming from the open window and felt the most relaxed I’d been since my arrival in Australia. The suburbs of Adelaide felt like home.

The beautiful suburbs outside of Adelaide felt like home.

The beautiful suburbs outside of Adelaide felt like home.

I carried my refreshed mind and heart back into the city and everything felt lighter. The weather was perfect and I wandered slowly through Rundle Mall and across the River Torrens back to St Mark’s. I finished the last of my medication after dinner and saw that the marks from my bites were disappearing. I went and saw my second show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival that night and took a new path home to see all the lights and special art displays of Blinc (part of the Adelaide Festival) along the river.

a Blinc installation on the River Torrens

One of the Blinc installations on the River Torrens.

Though the second week of classes has now begun and I’m already playing catch-up on readings, I’m no longer feeling homesick and I feel more equipped for what’s yet to come this semester. Now I know the next time I feel like giving up I just have to keep going. And even though I’ve only known my friends here for three weeks, I can trust they’ll always be there to lift me up when I’m feeling down.

Sarah with friend Ameen

Ameen and I relaxing on the Barr Smith Lawns at Uni.

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My Aussie Addiction

Sarah Whaley

I am in love with Australia: the people, the weather, the places and everything in between. Though only a week has passed since my arrival, I already see myself returning. And every time someone mentions I only have 5 months left, I cringe. While I love my friends and family back home, I have yet to feel homesick once. It’s a bit overwhelming trying to satisfyingly summarize this past week of sunny days, but I will do my best by breaking it down to the simplest reasons Australia has taken my heart captive (insert “country colonized by convicts” joke here).

Reason #1: The People

I was told before boarding my first plane I was headed to the land of some of the kindest people in the world. While the thought was comforting, it wasn’t reality until my second plane hit the pavement in Melbourne. While waiting for my connecting flight to Adelaide, I met some native Adelaidians who eagerly shared everything I should do and see in the city. Then on the flight I sat next to an older couple who adopted me for a couple of hours and helped me into the airport, where I was greeted by two peers from St Mark’s College, the residential college I am staying at throughout my exchange program. A fro co (frozen Coke) from Macca’s (McDonald’s) and a night of games later, I had made my first friends. No need to have been so worried.

Even those I would not necessarily consider friends, such as the lady who set me up with a Westpac bank account, are unforgivably friendly. (“Unforgivably” because it’s nearly impossible to return their favors.) They say the Midwest is one of the friendliest parts of America, but we have nothing on the Aussies. They don’t just point you to where you need to go when you ask for directions, they walk you there. Now I think about it, I have yet to see an Aussie mad (except in jest). And that’s another thing. They all have a brilliant sense of humor and a resilience you wouldn’t expect in a county supposedly always trying to kill you with wildlife and riptides.

Not only are the locals amazing and full of stories, but being an international student has thrown me into a mix of people from all corners of the world. My tightest group of friends here met during international orientation week by a series of introductions to friends of friends. Now I’m regularly hanging out with friends from Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Chile, France, Lebanon and Egypt. Perhaps our similar situation of being students in a new country drove us together so quickly, but I already wouldn’t trade a single one of them for the world. Plans are already being made for traveling together and making home visits once the semester is over.

my international friends

Some international friends and I.

Reason #2: The Weather

If the people weren’t enough to get me out of bed with a smile every morning, the weather would be my motivation. Though a couple of days have been incredibly hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), I am loath to complain. Especially since my friends and family back home have been sending me shots of snow. I do not miss it and if I had a choice I would never return to it. My body was built for warmth and my mood was designed for sunshine. Here, I have plenty of both. They weren’t kidding when they said Adelaide is the driest Australian city either. The other day it rained for about five seconds. Though I’ve been told Adelaide can get cool in the winter, I am certain I will be the American out and about in short sleeves. I am also certain the Aussies will still be wearing thongs (flip-flops).

Adelaide from the air

Adelaide from the air.

Reason #3: The Places

This section is better told in pictures than in words:

My first impression of my new home was my room at St Mark’s. A queen size bed, two-story tall ceilings and a fireplace were waiting for me. The rest of the residential campus is beautiful too: the lawns are large, the buildings are old and architecturally interesting and the flora are labeled in case you’re interested in knowing their names.

my spacious living quarters

My spacious living quarters.

I didn’t get to see the city until the first day, but as cliché as it sounds the first glimpse took my breath away. Though the city of Adelaide is large and reasonably busy, the streets and parks are also large which helps the whole place breathe. The public transportation is easy, and from my location nearly everything is within walking distance. The walks are not dull either, but colored by the River Torrens, the numerous sculptures that hint at the artistic bent of the city and the birds (only found in zoos at home).

first glimpse of the city

First glimpse of the city.

If the city was breathtaking it was nothing compared to the campus of Uni (University of Adelaide). IU is comparably beautiful, but not quite as full of waterfalls and bridges covered in locks left by hopeful lovers. It is unreal thinking I will be taking classes there and eating lunch on the lawns in a week.

enjoying green space

Enjoying the campus green spaces.

One of the seasonal highlights here is the Adelaide Fringe and the accompanying Garden of Unearthly Delights. The festival celebrates non-traditional arts, and the Garden is full of food and drink vendors and shows. I even braved one of the pop-up fair rides with a little bit of cider courage, then spent the rest of the night laughing with my international friends as we took up three benches under the light-strung trees.

Garden of Unearthly Delights

The Garden of Unearthly Delights.

Before I left for Australia, I swore I wasn’t going to touch the water. Instead I ate my words the third day and dove into the Gulf St Vincent off of Glenelg Beach. The salt stung my eyes only at first and the water was pleasant, but everyone kept looking out for sharks. Adelaide is fairly safe from shark-traffic compared to Sydney or Melbourne, but even a dolphin fin would have had us out of the water in seconds.

Glenelg Beach at sunset

Glenelg Beach at sunset.

During a break in the international orientation schedule, a few friends and I grabbed our cameras and headed to the Botanic Gardens of South Australia. A better decision has never been made. But you’ll have to see for yourself.

Flower at botanical gardens.

A small taste of the beauty.

This is my walk to and from Uni every day. Enough said.

River Torrens

Walk along the River Torrens.

Reason #4: Everything in Between

By now I hope it’s understood why I never want to leave. But just in case someone is in need of a few more reasons: Tim Tams, Chupa Chups lollipops, the barby (barbecue), field trips to Victor Harbor, the sincerity of “no worries, mate” and this photo.

Me with a kangaroo

Kangaroo selfie.

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Ashli Does Amsterdam

Ashli Hendricks

I lost my voice in Amsterdam. The day before I was meant to fly out for my second session’s study tour, the chords of my vocals went flat. I was hacking and sputtering so much on arrival I was worried my hotel roommate might smother me with a pillow in my sleep.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam sign just outside the airport. We climbed all over it.

As much as I love to hear myself talk, my new croaky rasp wasn’t super alluring. It suddenly meant all my experiences had the sanctity and focus of a Tibetan monk’s silence. Mine just wasn’t voluntary. I was forced to be more perceptive, but given the influx of new perspective that I witnessed in the Netherlands, I’m glad.

The eerie sentimentality I felt running my hand along a banister in the Anne Frank House – hearing her dad tearily admit after reading her diary that parents can never truly know their children; the uncanny valley of robotic doll women posing in the windows of the Red Light District – dorkily wondering whether I was supposed to smile and wave, whether I was interrupting their work; the hoops of cordiality the wizard-cloaked lawyers had to jump through at the International Criminal Court – one British bigwig demanding the prosecution “get their act together” and me wanting to shout “OHHHH!” like they’d just dissed each other in a hip-hop cipha.

I’m a Human Rights major. This city was the mothership calling me home. Where I’d intended to babble my way through it and flaunt how much I already knew, I was forced to shut up. Observe. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you sound like Clint Eastwood and want no one to know.

I could empathize better. On my terrifying bike tour, in between proving it was actually possible to forget how to ride one, I went from being a cocky pedestrian to demanding why all these cocky pedestrians weren’t stopping for me.

bicycle

My trusty steed from my bike tour.

And at the refugee asylum, the point of the whole class trip, I realized I’d only relished the excitement in displacement and not reflected on the pain of it. As deeply bummed as I was to be heading home to America in a few weeks, at least I got to. At least I had a home.

I was confronted with the concept “non-refoulement,” in which some kids can’t be returned to their country because of its death penalty for leaving. There was this tragic reality of limbo etched on their faces. They were 12, but weighed with this impending doom of a deportation decision to be made. Sure, there were BBQ competitions and basketball tournaments in the detainment center, suggesting an atmosphere of RAs running a dorm. There was potential to do more in a day than most people I know, who are comfortable with Netflix as their only agenda. It was a paradisiacal version of much harsher, unsanitary conditions in other “transit zones.”

refugee housing

Refugee housing.

But it made me question what sustenance is, what a real life means to someone else. All privileges boil down to a few ID cards; a student or a military dependent or things central to my identity mean nothing to anyone if I can’t prove it. I wouldn’t even be yukking it up in Amsterdam or Copenhagen without a passport. These kids’ motivations for crossing borders were far more complex, just undocumented, so they were perceived as a resource burden: migrants first, children second.

I had to be open to other people’s ways of being in the world. Which is why I fell in love with Amsterdam’s Rijks art museum. It really hammered home everything the asylum taught me. There were yellow signs near most paintings that championed personal rather than historical viewpoints. There weren’t simply facts and figures, but an idea that “The central actor is not art, it’s you. You’re the hero of the art museum.” And I love being called a hero.

It was all about how art bolsters the dormant aspects in us: some people might be bored by an adventurous landscape because it only calls to those who need to be bolder. There’s no such thing as great art, just art that works for you.

It hearkened back to something I learned in my first session’s class, Children with Special Needs: Your worldview matters, don’t be afraid to ask that others make concessions for it. We’d visited the Handicaporganisationernes Hus, the “most accessible building in the world.” Not only was it built with same budget as any other office building to encourage universal design, but the architects were also given earplugs and glasses for tunnel vision, etc. It allowed them to experience difficulties entering a building firsthand. The designers learned ramps are only beneficial to those with electric wheelchairs, because unless you’re Joe Swanson from Family Guy, rolling yourself up an angle isn’t easy. So they adjusted the blueprints accordingly. It was so easy be considerate, our guide pointed out. All you had to do was try.

kids crowding to watch the World Cup

Kids crowding to watch the Netherlands play in the World Cup on a public TV.

The theme of my whole European extravaganza has been perspective. Not just analyzing who I am and what I want, but recognizing that in other people. Whether through special needs or refugees or bikers or being near-mute, I’m seeing the world for more than what I know it to be.

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Going Abroad to Feel at Home

JoanO

London is a city full of history and sights to see. I could spend every free minute touring the city and still fall short of seeing everything. For weeks I worried about coming back to the States and reporting to people that I didn’t make it to the Tate Modern or I never got to take pictures with a guard at Buckingham Palace. I felt like I had to spend my last days in London rushing around to all the sights I hadn’t made it to yet, but I knew I’d be sacrificing enjoying my time at each and enjoying my last weeks in this beautiful city.

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Tour del’Italia (Tour of Italy)

AnnMarieS

After having visited 14 (soon to be 15) cities/areas in beautiful Italy, I am now boldly declaring myself to be qualified to make recommendations for and opinions about traveling within the country. Today’s post will serve as a fast train to four popular Italian travel destinations; so, book your tickets, write down the confirmation code as you will NOT receive a confirmation email regarding your ticket nor will you be able to access your confirmation code after the initial time of purchase, and make sure you sit in your ASSIGNED seat that is stated on the confirmation email you will NOT be receiving—the ride is going to be fast but not troppo veloce (too fast).

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