I have one more month left at the Universita Bocconi in Milano, Italia. When I look at all the things I have learned from my travel experiences and from the school, I can honestly say that I have never been more challenged in my life. My greatest fear before I arrived in Milan was taking a taxi cab by myself. I didn’t know how to read a map and I have never used trains, metros, and airplanes on my own.
The challenges I faced and continue to face have forever changed who I am. I have grown so much from this experience that there is nothing I would change or would replace my time here with. I have constantly pushed myself beyond my fears and limits I had before I came to Bocconi. Even now, I still push myself further and further, and I amaze myself at my capabilities.
I arrived at 11 pm in Milan, and five hours later I flew to Barcelona. I traveled to Barcelona with two people who I met on facebook. I fell in love with the architect Gaudi and attended my first football match at the FC Barcelona stadium. At the hostel, we met three guys from Norway and at 1 in the morning on our last night, all six of us took a five hour bus ride to Valencia, Espana to throw tomatoes at thousands of people at La Tomatina. At this event, I met a girl from Australia and we have continued to keep in touch.
After Spain, I flew to Berlin where I learned the incredible history of the Berlin Wall. I attended a Protestant Church service in German which is not too common since Catholicism is more widespread. I also stood on the very ground where Hitler committed suicide and had a sad day as I visited a concentration camp where hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. I will always remember the stones on the tombs left by present day Jewish families, and flags representing the different nations that were affected by World War II.
After Berlin, I celebrated a friend’s birthday in Venezia, Italia where I attended the 66th Annual Venice Film Festival. Here I almost touched Nicholas Cage but got Eva Mendez’s autograph. I also got to watch an interesting assortment of international films, and I was fortunate enough to sneak into the press area and listen in on the press conference.
At Firenze, Italia, my friends and I had drinks on the top of Michelangelo’s Hill after looking at David.
My friend Vance and I, visited our friend Annemarie in Poland. We met her through the Foster Global Business Case Competition since Vance and I were ambassadors; we told Annemarie we would love to visit her. Who would have thought that we would actually have the chance to?
On my way home from Poland, I had a seven hour layover in Prague. I hopped on a bus and went to the center of town. I didn’t have a map, and with my luggage in tow, Vance and I headed for a hill that had a castle on top. We probably saw at least half of the old town Prague that day and the castle on top of the hill was an actual castle; the Prague Castle.
One of the best things about being on an exchange is the people you get to meet. I have met a great group of friends, and all 10 of us took a trip down to Rome together. I made a wish at the Trevi Fountain, walked around the Coliseum, and also did too many museums I could count. We went to Vatican City, and here I was able to see the Sistine Chapel and enter into St. Peter’s and attend a mass.
I also went to Budapest. I didn’t realize I had gone on Uprising Memorial Day (October 23rd). Here I witnessed thousands of people gather to parliament for a protest.
In Vienna, Austria, I fell in love with the Swan Lake and saw an incredible opera: Lady Macbeth. The Swan Lake performance was unique: it was the 200th performance at the Vienna Opera House and instead of having three leads, the company brought in eight of the top performers in the world. I also went during Austrian day and got to meet the president of the national council in Austria’s parliament.
Paris was beautiful, absolutely breathtaking. No words can ever do justice on this magnificent city. The Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower, and of course the delicious pastries lining the cobblestone streets. This a city I have to constantly visit in my life for the people, the food, the energy, are so beautiful that it is something I crave now that I have experience Paris.
My last journey ended in Greece where I watched another UW student, Kathy Wilson, finish the original Athens Marathon. Greece, along with Paris, is indescribable. However, there is nothing like touching pillars that have been around for thousands of years or standing on the very ground the initiated democracy. In addition, I will never forget the anguish followed with joy that shined the faces of those who completed the marathon; I nearly cried when I saw a man in his 80’s finish the race, his face was beautiful and filled with self triumph of his accomplishment.
In order to have gotten to these amazing places, I took busses at 3 in the morning to take a 6 am flight. I took trains in the afternoon and walked for hours trying to find a hostel. I learned how to read a map since getting lost was too time consuming.
I am about to graduate, and I feel as though I am ending my time at Foster the best way possible. I have visited 10 countries and over 19 cities in the past three months. The people I have met are incredible and have attributed to my new ways of thinking and looking at the world. Bocconi is a great university, and this subject deserves its own blog as well. I strongly recommend doing this exchange program, it will open your eyes and you will have the most amazing time you have ever had in your life.