Italy

“The More Things Change…”

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I don’t know that I would call myself a runner. I can run, but I often don’t. Instead, I jog. Daily. During the past year at the UW, while balancing work and classes, this meant getting up at 5:00 am. I managed- and it’s become a daily ritual since (though not the super-early part). Every (almost) morning that I have been abroad, I have gotten up to go jogging.

The feelings I get from these experiences are indescribable. I have felt the wind and the rain coming off the North Sea as I’ve made my way over the cliffs around Scarborough. I’ve watched the sun rise over Venetian canals, pounding over eerily empty bridges at the near-dawn hour. In Budapest, I have yelled with Hungarian runners from the tallest hill in the city, celebrating our morning uphill run and our victory over the steep slope (that’s my translation of what we were yelling… everyone else was speaking Magyar, but still, the camaraderie was there). The Sonian Forest of Belgium was magical in the way that story tales are magical- for the first time since I was six, I believed in fairy tales again.

In Italy, especially in Milan, running doesn’t seem to be popular. In fact, most Italians think it’s strange. Still, some of my best Italian experiences have been while running. I’ve run with the Hash House Harriers, a group of ex-pats who refuse anything to do with competition. I struggled to fourth place with my classmates and professors through the Bocconi Run, an 8K race put on by the university (much like the Dawg Dash back home). My running community is amazing- and I don’t mean just the runners. The tabacchi shop near my house has an early-morning breakfast crowd, always ready to cheer me to my finish and often, to buy me a cup of espresso after.  I have been offered more rides home by well-meaning Italians (who fear I am only running from necessity) than I can count. In their generosity, when they realize I truly mean to continue jogging, I am often given a water bottle (or in one notable case, a beer) to help me on my way. At first strange, I have come to realize this generosity is just part of being Italian. I’ve learned to accept it, and return it when I can.

In a way, I feel like I’m back at home when I jog. It doesn’t matter that I often don’t speak the right language- all that’s needed are nods of acknowledgment, easily given smiles, and the ability to high-five anyone and everyone. The rules of running (or in my case, jogging) don’t change from country to country. The feeling of camaraderie is always there, the belonging. Some are more willing to accept me as a foreigner, some encourage me to run with them (as they insisted in Germany), but for the most part, these are passing relationships that start my day off right by reminding me that though I am far from home, I am never far from a friendly community that exists everywhere.

Next Sunday, I’ll be running my fifth marathon- though my first abroad. In Athens, it’ll trace the original route of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens to declare the Greek victory in battle, and then died. I’m hoping to avoid the death part. Understandably, I’m nervous, but I know that I’ll be racing in a running community. Even though they speak Greek, the language of running won’t change that much.

Barca-Barca-Barcelona

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I arrived in my flat around 11pm on August 22nd. I only stayed for 30 minutes to shower and pack all my things. I had met up with Jenna Jones and Daniel Ong; we were set to leave for Barcelona the next morning at 5am. I had met Jenna and Daniel on Facebook; a group was started and we planned a trip to Barcelona and La Tomatina over three different time zones.

I entered my flat in awe; the rooms were large and each with the exception of mine had a small rusty balcony. Our kitchen was modest with aging wood and furniture that was slowly dying. A random long couch sat in our narrow hallway; there isn’t a living room.

The bathroom is tiny. The bathroom is really tiny. The shower is a tiny box with the length of one of my arm.

But it is okay, because I am set to leave for Barcelona in 6 hours.

Once I arrived in Jenna’s flat, I passed out immediately. My nap was too short for soon enough, we were on the tram and then on a bus on the way to Bergarmo airport to take Ryanair over to Barcelona. Nausea was a strong sherryonepresence during my take off and the bright yellow and blue cabinets that adorned the interior of the plane did not help calm my mood. When we arrived, the entire plane clapped. I don’t know whether or not to be happy or terrified at the fact the entire plane clapped that we actually landed.

After arrival, we took an hour long bus ride from the airport all the way to Barcelona. I sat next to a man who spoke in Spanish to me most of the time. I liked him. I liked him because I got to practice my Spanish. It was pretty sweet, he actually understood me.

The first night at Barcelona we attended a FC Barcelona game. The stadium was packed with screaming fans going crazy for their team. The game and experience was so epic, thousands among thousands going crazy for futbol. It’s comparable to a husky football game but with 10 times more the spirited fans.

The next day we headed down to Las Ramblas. It was very very very hot, in the 90’s. There were a ton of street vendors selling los flores y los regalos y mas. In addition, theresherrytzo were moving statues; there was one dressed as Jason who came up to me and tried to scare me away. I love Barcelona. The entire city is breathtaking and if I could live here, I would be happy forever.

We took a two hour tour around Barcelona. I went shopping and got completely lost but managed to find a specific plaza where there was this Gaudi tour. I got to see three of Gaudi’s masterpieces. It was during this tour I fell in love with Gauid’s artwork. Looking up at his architectural masterpieces was incredible. My favorite part was the Gaudi Park with the famous mosaics.

No words can ever do justice in describing the brilliancy of this man therefore I leave you with these photographs.

In addition to the FC Barcelona game, all the sigh seeing, we also went to The Mediterranean. I got to swim in the clear turquoise water that tasted like it had a 5 to 1 ratio (salt 5 cups for every 1 cup water). I actually experienced my first sun burnt. I’m Filipino….I don’t get burn. But here I did.

After 4 nights in Barcelona, it was time to head back to Milano.sherrythree

Milano Life Part 2

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

It is so hard to be consistent with a blog when on an exchange program.  That’s good though in a way because it means that I have been doing a lot, experiencing a lot, and meeting a lot of great people.  If you are reading this and are contemplating doing an exchange, my advice is…DO IT!  It will be the most unique, interesting and fun experience of your life.  Companies love it.  You become more cultured by just merely observing different people in different countries with sometimes completely different lifestyles from what you are used to.

One of the best moves I’ve made this year was to join a group of Italians in my Market Research class for a team project.  It was a bit hard at first since most of them didn’t speak English very well, but with the combination of hand motions and basic knowledge of each other’s language, communication became possible.  Being in this group is not particularly the best for efficiency or effectiveness purposes for the project we need to complete, but it is such a good way to meet more Italians and gives me a chance to hang out with them outside of class.  I went to Aperitivo (Italian-style buffet) with them and they introduced me to their group of friends.  We hung out in all the places where the locals hang out.  They showed me all the popular places where students get drinks and just chill at night.  I had the best time, and they were all so welcoming and friendly.  I look forward to hanging out more with the Italians.

I also have an amazing buddy though the Bocconi buddy system.  He actually does a great job of following through with things like showing us great Aperitivos and setting up soccer matches between us exchange students and the Italians.  We, of course, have beat the Italians every time so far, but it’s getting closer and closer each time. :P   I’m not good at soccer by any means, but I’m getting the hang of it.  I scored a few unorthodox goals, and my teammates have been really nice about being patient with me and have actually taught me some techniques.  We often times go to the pub across the street and watch soccer on the big screen.  It’s a good past time and bonding experience with the other guy exchange students.Vance (2)

A week ago we found ourselves in Rome with a great group of 10 people.  All exchange students from Bocconi, and the group was composed of really good friends we’ve made throughout these past couple of months.  We did an obscene amount of sightseeing in Rome for the 3 days we were there.  I was completely exhausted every single night in Rome.  The Coliseum, Pantheon, Palatine, Roman Forum, Vatican Museum, St. Peters Cathedral, Borghese Museum, Trevi Fountain, etc.  The trip was very artistic and historical, as well as tiring.  A highlight of Rome, aside from the sites, was having the chance to take the group to a Filipino restaurant there.  It was so great to have a nice sit down lunch with the group and to share with them a part of my culture.  Well until next time.  Ciao!

Milano Life Part 1

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

VanceRight now I am sitting in Anne Marie’s cabin on the outskirts (the woods!) of Warsaw, Poland in the afternoon.  We knew Anne Marie from UW’s Global Case Competition last spring as she and 3 others represented the Business School over here in Warsaw.  From the very beginning, Anne Marie has been the most amazing hostess.  She has graciously let us stay at her Mom’s beautiful house in a nearby suburb of the city center.  We really couldn’t ask for anything more, and don’t know what we did to deserve such great treatment, but we are so appreciative and hope that we can return the favor somehow in the future.  After we arrived and dropped our stuff off at Anne Marie’s house we headed for the City Center and walked along Anne Marie’s favorite streets.  Spontaneously we decided to have a food extravaganza in Poland and to try out all the best restaurants and cafés in the city center.  Thus far, the best and most successful food run (with sushi, croissants, drinks, and polish food) I’ve had in Europe, and that says a lot since I’m living in Italy.

We arrived here in the woods kind of late last night because of traffic, but it was definitely worth it. It’s a beautiful cabin in the middle of the woods which is peaceful and relaxing.  Definitely something I needed after always being out and doing things in the city.  It’s nice to relax, talk, and eat by the fireplace in the middle of nowhere.

So now I am going to try and summarize Milano, which is no simple task.  Adapting to living in Italy has definitely not been easy, but at the same time, hasn’t been too difficultVance (1) because of the great friends we’re surrounded with here.  One thing that you must get used to in Italy, besides the fact that no one speaks English, is how many things are so inefficient and unorganized.  It’s Italy though, and you just have to accept it.  Stores just don’t like to open on Sundays or Mondays.  There are no dryers for your clothes.  Cars drive on the sidewalk.  One thing that is always very organized here though are the parties put together by Bocconi.  Bocconi never fails us, and you can’t help but have fun and be happy here.  Bocconi just doesn’t allow you to be bored and not have fun.  They do a great job of organizing parties and events to meet people, eat free food, and get the best deals to the most prestigious places in town.  Because we are from Bocconi, we never wait in line anywhere and our always treated as VIP.  The group of friends we’ve established so far has been such a blessing.  I am so thankful to have met such a great and diverse set of friends.  Finland, Portugal, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, London, France, Mexico, Norway… basically the EU.. etc.  Such a great group of people who I would already miss so much, if I were to leave now.  I hope to stay in touch with all of these people and to have a lot of them visit me in Seattle so I can show them around.

A Birthday in Venice

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Italy has been amazing so far. I really love living in Milan, a transportation center with planes, trains, and buses to just about everywhere in Europe. For my 21st birthday, I took the train to Venice to celebrate with friends. Venice is an amazing treat unto itself. The city really is built right on the water. It’s exactly like the pictures- only the pictures don’t convey the amazingness of it, nor the charm, nor the sheer incredibility. Imagine stepping straight from a boat right into a store. It’s amazing. And so bizarre. I felt like I was floating on water for days after.

Kathy1Venice is navigated by a series of vaporettos, or passenger ferries. You can walk from some islands to others, but not all of them can be walked that way. Instead, you have to take the ferry. Luckily, being under 26, we bought cards valid for transport for 72 hours.

Friday, we went to the Venice Film Festival. We got tickets to the premiere of “The Bad Lieutenant” because it was in English, and “The Prince of Tears”- which was in Mandarin but had English and Italian subtitles.  Then, because we had tickets, we went into the main building and celebrity stalked. We went to the press conference level and mingled with reporters while eating amazing cheese, and drinking wine. We eavesdropped on the press conference with Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes, and then for “The Prince of Tears”.

After, we wandered around Lido and waded in the Adriatic Sea, before heading back for the red carpet stuff. Pressed against the barrier, we were able to have front row views of the stars for the Bad Lieutenant. And to see Paris Hilton (though really, what was she doing there? Seriously, not appreciated at my film festival…). In real life, well, Nicholas Cage looked pretty haggard. Eva Mendes though was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.  Sherrylyn, the girl I was with, got her autograph.

Then we watched our movies. I didn’t particularly care for the Bad Lieutenant. Too strange for my tastes, though seeing it at the Venice Film Festival was amazing. The Prince of Tears though, I loved it. It’s a very sad movie, but the colors were gorgeous. And the music was good.

Saturday we went swimming in the Adriatic, watched glass blowing on Murano Island, and just enjoyed being in Venice. We did ride a lot of boats.

Thursday, though, my birthday, was just about perfect. I arrived in Venice, met up with people, had a great Italian dinner with wine, and then we ate coffee-flavored gelato. Pretty awesome. Especially because at night the street lights are tinted pink. Pink! It’s amazing. And you can see this trail of buoys with pink lights on heading out to the horizon… endless. We listened to the street musicians playing violins and watched the gondolas float by, and really, just enjoyed it. It felt very decadent, my word for Venice.

Two Week Break

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Today marked the first day back to classes for me after an awesome two week break from Bocconi.  Here, the school is not as quick-paced as I am used to with UW’s quarter system.  Students at Bocconi are given two weeks off from classes for midterms and most classes offered to international students don’t have midterms.  This means that my finals will be essentially all or nothing, which is something to consider if you’re thinking about studying here.  Fortunately though, this meant I had two weeks to travel around Europe with my friends.

1.JPGMy break began in Greece where I spent two days in Athens and two days on the Greek island of Mykonos.  It was really cool to see the history in Athens, and I’m happy to say that I can now cross the Acropolis off my list of famous world sites to visit.  Mykonos (that place in my picture) was just as great.  I was even able to swim in the Aegean Sea literally two days before Halloween.  Swimming in late October was definitely a new experience for me, as a Seattle native.  After Greece, I spent a couple days in the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, which were only about three hours away by train.  One of the great things about studying in Milan is that it’s so central.  With the help of a great train system and budget airlines (EasyJet and RyanAir are the best!), you can be almost anywhere in Europe within a couple of hours, even on a student’s budget.  I also happened to be in Switzerland during the election.  Probably one the coolest and most intriguing things that I have witnessed in my two months in Europe was my train ride back to Milan when almost everyone on train was reading the Swiss newspaper with Obama plastered on the cover.  Everyone seems to love him in Europe.  Following Switzerland, I made one last trip to Berlin, which totally exceeded my expectations.  There was just so much to see there and I can now cross the Berlin Wall off my list as well!

After my jam-packed two weeks of traveling, I am realizing more and more that there’s still so much more that I want to see and experience.  The only thing working against me now is time.  I can’t believe I only have a little over a month left.  Perhaps, another study abroad experience will be the solution…

First Impressions of Bocconi University, Milan & Italy!

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

bergamo-alta.JPGHi all!  My name is Tim Tran and I’m a junior majoring in Finance and minoring in International Studies.  It’s hard to believe, three and half weeks have already passed since I arrived in Milan, Italy, to study at Bocconi University (Univesita’ Bocconi) for fall 2008.  I came into Milan at the beginning of September to take an intensive Italian crash course offered to exchange students.  This took place before official business courses started and the rest of the Italian students arrived.

With over 1,000 international students, Bocconi is definitely a school with an international flavor.  Because all the exchange p1010101.JPGstudents were essentially in the same boat (in a new city where we all knew no one), everyone was extremely open and friendly.  I quickly made a bunch of friends from all over the world and by the first weekend, we were already traveling Italy together.  This was not something that I expected to happen so soon, but it’s definitely something that I love about this school.  With its smaller size, it’s much more intimate than UW, which, to me, was a welcomed change.  Just in the past few weeks alone, my friends and I have made day trips to Lake Como, Verona, Cinque Terre, and Bergamo, all awesome destinations no more than an hour or two from Milan.  The city of Milan is great as well.  Milan is definitely fast-paced compared to the rest of Italy (though still slow by American standards) and there’s a lively night scene.  It seems like the city never sleeps!

p1010472.JPGThe native Italian students, who arrived a week or two after the exchange students, are also very friendly and approachable.  Bocconi has a great international student buddy program that has hosted numerous events to help exchange students experience the school and the city.  These events have included a traditional Italian dinner, an AC Milan soccer match, and what seems to be a Milanese favorite, aperitivo (Italian for happy hour).

Classes have started now and so far, I am enjoying them all.  It’s funny that even though I’m half a world removed from home, the current events that we talk about in class are heavily focused on the US financial situation.  It has definitely been interesting to hear the Italian perspective on the recent financial crisis in the US!

Overall, I enjoying every moment here.  Occasionally, I crave the Ave’s Asian food and I can surely do without all the second-hand smoke I’ve inhaled, but these little things in no way detract from the fact that I am having a blast in Milan!

The Beginning of My Adventure in the Fashion Capital of the World – Milan, Italy

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

jenny1.jpgI am a junior in the Foster School of Business with a concentration in Marketing (declared) and perhaps Finance (still deciding).  I grew up in San Pedro, California which is roughly 20 minutes away from Los Angeles, before embarking on my four year scholastic journey at the University of Washington.  Attending school in Seattle was quite an adjustment for me since I was used to assuming everyday would turn out to be a sunny one when in SoCal; however, I love U-Dub mostly because of Foster!  The students and faculty that compose it truly are all diamonds in the ruff, and I feel so lucky to be a part of its community as they are responsible for facilitating my study abroad experience.

jenny2.jpgEver since I was a young girl, I wanted to travel the world to see what cultures from centuries in the past had left behind, in addition to what present-day societies were creating for future travelers to uncover.  Foster’s International Exchange Program provided the perfect means for me to fulfill this dream.   My international exchange, thus far, has been better than I could have imagined.  When I applied for the program, my first choice was to attend Università Bocconi not only for the fashion in Milan but because the school is ranked as the number one business school in Europe, third in the world (above Harvard).  Bocconi not only provides an academic challenge, but Milan offers a genuinely Italian experience.   I think I have eaten more pasta in my first 2 weeks than I have during my first two years at UW!  The night life is ridiculously abundant, the exchange students are extremely eclectic, and the list of things to do is exponentially growing.

I am thoroughly enjoying my study abroad opportunity.  I visited Cinque Terre- a group of five gorgeous beach towns along the Italian Riviera known for its very rigorous 6 km hike- last weekend and will soon be venturing to Venice; Munich for Oktoberfest hosted by Bocconi; and Cadiz, Spain to visit a friend also from UW on exchange.

jenny3.jpgAlthough I am having a wonderful time now, when I first arrived in Milan, I felt very overwhelmed.  Being away from home and in another country is a very different experience when compared to just changing locations in the United States.  You have to make new friends, figure out the society and language, and adjust to being away from family/friends.  The good thing is that within a few days those intense feelings of fear disappear, and you find yourself completely comfortable in a foreign place.  Just remain positive and embrace the opportunity that you have achieved; it will truly be unlike any other and the memories will be unforgettable.

Aprile a Milano

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Ciao everyone,

April at Bocconi University means midterms. There are no classes for these two weeks, but still campus is abuzz with students. The library is so busy these days that on Monday my roommate, and I couldn’t find seats together! Like nothing I’ve seen at a library before. It’s been an experience, to say the least. I myself have two midterms to study for. One is a finance topic, and I’ve been studying with classmates, half of which are fellow exchange students, half of which are Bocconi students. The other midterm I have been spending more time preparing for, as the course is in Italian and the exam is timed. Fortunately it’s multiple choice, that helps!

I’m really enjoying taking courses in Italian. It’s been a challenge, but my Italian has improved so much. The experience of being an Italian-as-a-second -language student has developed my studying skills. Also, I feel like the class environment is different, and in that respect I’m having a real immersion experience. For instance, the students in my Italian classes applaud at the end of every lecture. It’s nice!

jenepher.jpgLast weekend I went to a soccer game and it was a blast. This was something that I was looking forward to when I came to Milan. I wasn’t especially a soccer fan before coming, but it’s definitely a part of Italian culture, given the coverage it gets on TV and newspapers. San Siro stadium is an enormous structure, and the fans come looking serious about their soccer. The crowd in the section below mine stood and sang and cheered through the entire game! It was so much fun! Although it was a smaller game (AC Milano vs. Cagliari), the stadium was nearly full. We’ve already bought tickets for our next game. It’s AC Milan playing Inter, which are both Milan teams, and they call it the Derby; so it should be an exciting event.

So next post I’ll have the results of two suspenseful events. Bocconian midterms and the Derby!

A presto!

Spring Break

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Just returned form a two week Spring Break. I was so luck to be able to visit 5 cities in such a short amount of time. First I was off to London for three days. I chose to see Les Miserables and Wicked while there and I am so glad, they were wonderful productions. The second day I was there I walked through the whole city and did some major site seeing but didn’t have much time to go into any of the more popular sites or museums. I did however get to see the Tate Modern. I did a quick walk through; wish I could have stayed longer because it was very impressive. The next day we went to an Arsenal Game at night. The energy of the passionate fans was indescribable. I wish soccer was as popular in the states as it is in Europe; in my opinion it’s as fun to watch as college football. 

eliz.JPGThe next day we took off for Dublin just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Though it’s a religious holiday in Ireland there was quite the festival in Dublin. We were lucky enough to have a hotel on the route of the parade so we watched it from the roof. It was a beautiful day, definitely a St. Patrick’s day I will never forget. We spent the next day meeting up with friends from Dublin and exploring the city. For our final full day we took the train down the coast and saw some beautiful towns along the water. It was great to get a change of pace and see the countryside after having been in cities for so long.

From Dublin we were off to Paris. We were very lucky to find an apartment for only 100 euros (more…)