Thursday, May 31, 2012

Travel Thursdays: Study Abroad in Padova

For today's Travel Thursday, I'd like to take a little trip down memory lane to a time when film cameras were still the norm and Skype and Googlechat didn't yet exist. A time when I decided to leave my gorgeous on-campus apartment with a view of the Charles River and super fun roommates to beef up my language skills in Italy for a semester. A wonderful, magical, and life-changing time called study abroad.

My host mom's MINI, as seen from my bedroom window

Back in 2004, I was smart enough to take the opportunity to study abroad for a semester, which I had very nearly almost skipped out on (and then I would have never caught the travel bug! Can you imagine?!). That is, until Sister made her decision to go to New Zealand for a semester; I then reasoned that I couldn't possibly stay behind while she got to see the world, so after flip-flopping between my university's France and Italy programs (I'd already studied both languages), I opted for Padova, Italy. Totally the right decision. :)

The whole experience was so amazing that the city continues to be one of my favorite places on Earth. I'd never been out of the county before that, believe it or not. (Or apart from Natalie for more than a few days at a time!) But it didn't take long for me to call Padova, or Pads as we now lovingly refer to it, home. Every day there was colorful, lively, and loud. And the city was chock full of restaurants, bars, and quirky traditions for us college students to discover and adopt.

Prato della Valle, the sight of many a picnic of ours

Piazza della Frutta, one of the four piazze in the center of town where we spent most of our evenings 

I think I look back so fondly on that time because the number one priority of the whole semester was to try new things. Live a new life, meet new people, get to know a new city... It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be so carefree and untethered!

Cafe Pedrocchi, the swanky restaurant with awesome appetizers near our Centro di Studi

A typical day was, looking back on it, ridiculously awesome. My mornings were usually free, so I'd have breakfast at home that always consisted of a bowl - yes, a bowl, not a cup - of foamed milk that and strong espresso that my host mom prepped for me plus a few cookies. Though I miss the coffee and charm of that breakfast, I have no idea how I survived so many mornings on just cookies! Oh Italy...

My Italian family | Our three-person-and-a-dog breakfast and dinner spot

Pepe, on my bed, one of her usual hangouts

Then I'd head out to the city center from my home, about a 40-minute walk (I lived the furthest away but my host family was so awesome it didn't even bug me), usually to meet up with Alyssa. I'm not really sure what we did between then and lunch... Maybe some homework? Or more likely, some chatting, a visit to the outdoor market in Piazza della Frutta or Piazza delle Erbe, and some weekend travel planning. Yeah, it was challenging. :) Eventually we would have lunch, either at the mensa (cafeteria, where they had a soda fountain OF WINE) or one of our favorite restaurants, of which there was no shortage.

 Typical afternoon and evening drinkies with Alyssa and Liz , still two of my favorite partners in crime! 

Perfectly colorful buildings | Statues with hats

A horse statue by Donatello outside the church of Sant'Antonio 

My classes were all in the afternoon at our Centro di Studi in the center of town where we also had a fabulous terrace to chill on when we had some free time. But the most important part of the day was after classes were done and before Italian dinner time. Those hours were reserved for my favorite tradition of all time: drinking a spritz (or two or three) in a piazza (a tradition I still gladly maintain to this day and have even passed on to Natalie. Without the bustling piazza, sadly.). It was the time of day when the entire city came alive and all the college students got out and mingled with orange drinks in hand.

A quintessential spritz moment with Emily

Piazza dei Signori

On weekends when we didn't travel (which was about every other one), we spent our days becoming locals as best we could.

Group picnic in Prato della Valle

After dinner gelato time

Oh how I miss those carefree days... Although let's not talk about the amount of weight I gained in a mere four months in Italy, mkay?

Did you study abroad? Where'd you go? Did you have as amazing a time as I did?

Pardon the quality of the pictures, they're quite old! All by Nicole or Emily

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