A Year in Review

2012-12-22_16-20-29_633Well my year in Milan officially ended with my graduation on December 20, 2012. I received my degree in Materials Engineering and Nanotechnology from Politecnico di Milano(shown above) and will eventually get a second master’s degree from Drexel University in Electrical Engineering. It has been a crazy year of ups and downs, but as it draws to a close I can’t help feeling a little sentimental. Perhaps it was the little Italian brat kicking the back of my seat the entire airplane ride from Milan to New York, but I thinks I’ve had enough of the Italians for now. Just kidding,  I loved living in Italy for 9 months and even though Milan was not my favorite it felt a bit like I was leaving home when I was riding to the airport on Friday morning.

People asked me what I missed about Milan when I went home for a few months before my return to present my thesis and I guess I hadn’t been away for long enough to truly miss it but now that I will not be returning for a long time(if I ever do return) there are some things I find myself pining for. First of all, I am going to miss all my amazing friends(In no particular order): Monica, Arturo, Carlos, Liliana Z., Liliana C., Lesya, Sara, Baran, and Berk and of course all the others in my classes that I studied with. And of course, the food. Where else can you find amazing gelato at any ice cream shop and even in grocery stores? And 3 euros for pizza? Awesome:)

I am also going to miss being able to hop from country to country on cheap airlines like easyjet and ryanair and plan vacations to places like Paris or London or Rome for under $300. When you live in Europe it is so easy to get around and I think many Europeans take that for granted. Here in the US, a flight from Boston to New York(which is literally like 45mins) is at least $150, but you can get a flight from Germany to Turkey for that much. I was so fortunate to be able to get to so many places while I was studying abroad.

I started traveling with ESN and went to Tuscany where I got to see Florence, Sienna, Lecco, and Pisa. I got to spend my 22nd birthday in Florence, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. It was perfect!(Well except for the bus incident) Then, my sister and I explored the beauty and history of Italy during our two week tour where we went to Naples, Rome, Florence, Verona, and Venice. Then for New Years Paul and I met in London and spent the festivities exploring London, Liverpool and Glascow. I went biking in Belgium for Easter, and later Brian and I took an impromptu vacation to Paris. After moving to Madrid in the summer I took a a two week friend tour where I moved from Germany to Turkey to London, visiting a bunch of friends on the way and meeting some new ones. One of the best parts of this year was meeting all the awesome people from my travelling around and staying in hostels. Hopefully we will all keep in touch:)

This year has been full of magical adventures but also a lot of hard work and struggles. I had some serious homesickness there for a while, as well as a huge problem with Italian bureaucracy. I lost a wonderful band director and spent most of my summer in a basement laboratory, but everything was worth it.

I have  learned a lot this year, academic and otherwise. I somewhat embraced the relaxed Italian attitude and feel like I am much calmer when dealing with stress because nothing can be as bad as dealing with Italian bureaucracy haha. I finally feel like I am fully committed to my research and am excited to start my Ph.D in January. And so, friends, family, EAGLES participants, and those few strangers who stumbled upon this blog and took the time to read it, I say thank you for tuning in but this is the final post I will make. Happy Holidays! May your new year be filled with travelling, adventures, and new experiences!

xoxo,

Alyssa

And we’re back-18-12-2012

Ciao!

So for those of you who don’t know I have come back to Milan to graduate. My presentation is Thursday at 10 am:) Then hopefully I will get to graduate that night! After some delays getting out of Boston and into New York I just made my flight to Milan and got to my hotel around 11:30am Italian time. So now I am just going over my presentation and relaxing. I am meeting with my Italian advisor at 2:30pm but otherwise I have nothing exciting to do in Milan today. I think a nap is in order this afternoon.

xoxo,

Alyssa

Back in Milan 17-09-2012

Ciao

I am back in Milan again, in a hotel in the middle of nowhere near the Linate airport. It’s a beautiful hotel and there is a barn and horses here:) I could smell it as I got out of the car and, unlike most people, I kind of enjoy that smell. I always wanted to live on a farm for some reason haha. I had to get a shuttle to the hotel because it is in middle of nowhere and with two bulky and heavy bags and a solid carry on, I wasn’t really up to taking shuttle to Centrale or Linate and switching to  cab because it was way too much work. My driver was very nice and it was actually not so expensive and saved me a lot of hassle.

I still say that I am coming home with a lot less than I brought with me as I dropped stuff in places on the way. Some of that was intentional and some of it not. But for all those following in my footsteps if you learn one thing when you are abroad, it will be how to live as a minimalist because dragging along a lot of stuff is annoying and obnoxious. 

I had quite an interesting trip to the airport this morning. I don’t know if it was because I was tired or just excited to go hom, but I had an interesting perspective on my journey to Milan this morning. First it started with me trying to get through the hallways to the elevator of my hotel in Madrid in utter blackness because the motion sensors on the lights didn’t pick me up until i was halfway down the hall. Then my cab driver came and his cab smelled like baby prostitutes (this is a mean girls reference haha but it perfectly describes what the car smelled like) and he had  what I think Turkish music on in the car although the guy looked an irishman (pale skin and red hair) and spoke English with a British accent so he might actually have been from or visited the UK. 

Then I got to the airport and it was like I was moving in slow motion and everyone else was in fast forward. I fun my way to the check in counter and there were Americans behind me speaking a mile a minute (Nicole S. they could have even given you a run for your money) and in my head they sounded like Alvin and the chipmunks. Then the lady at the check in was like did you pay for a bag after I had told her that I did. Then she gives me a strange looks and she gets on the phone so I am kind of confused and she starts speaking super fast in Spanish arguing with someone about me paying for a bag and I thought she was going to make me pay again but when she gets off the phone she says I paid for two bags and only needed to pay for one and I should complain online. I checked my receipt again when I got to the hotel in Milan and I swear I only paid for one bag,  but I am at least going to contact them and ask what she was talking about. Hey, I could use the 50 euros man.

Everything was actually okay until i went to get on the plane. I had some breakfast at a Tapas bar because it was one of the only things open but it was fine. Just got some tea, orange juice and a brioche. Then in AirEuropas infinite wisdom they decided to board the plane from both ends, which is usually fine, except they did not do it properly and it was a complete disaster. Before we boarded the plane they said the front half of the plane should board from the front and the back half should board from the back. Makes perfect sense, except when the first bus got there they made everyone board from the front which again would have been fine if they continued that but they made the second board from the back and did not give any regard to the tickets people were holding. Therefore I was literally in the last row of the plane and had to push past people and there was another American I passed who was in the 5th row of the plane and had to push her way there from the back. We were both displeased to say the least. I expect something like this from Ryanair or one of the other cheapo companies, but AirEuropa? You need to get your stuff together.

Anyways, I am so excited to come home tomorrow! Wish me luck that everything goes well with my flight to America and I will see (some of you) soon:)

xoxo,

Alyssa

Home stretch-15-09-2012

Hola!

I am now in my final days in Europe, all my tests are taken, my research(well at least the experimental part) is completed, my bags are packed and I am ready to come home. I will fill you in on my last couple of weeks here, but before I do I wanted to let you know my pictures from London are finally in the Photo Gallery, so check them out!

So last week as you know, I had my final exams in Milan, which went pretty well. Then Tuesday I said my final goodbye to all my friends(who could make it) in Milan. We went to this all you can eat sushi restaurant which was amazing and then got gelato at the Duomo. I can even say now I will miss Milan a little bit, but mostly will miss the great friends I have made and the fun (and stressful) time we have shared.

Then I flew back to Madrid for my final days of experiments and just finished everything in time. I have all my experimental results done and only have the theoretical computations and actual thesis writing to do. I sent my last night in my new apartment and had to say goodbye to my lovely host Minia this morning. We didn’t see each other much, but the apartment was beautiful and was perfect for the time I was there.

I had a lovely conversation with my cab driver this morning except he did most of the talking. I can understand a lot of Italian and Spanish now, but actually speaking still evades me. But he understood what I was trying to say. I hope to continue to improve my language skills when I get back to the states and I am a  Drexel ambassador for the Italian and Spanish students in the EAGLES program so hopefully I will get a chance to practice:)

Anyways, I fly to Milan on Monday and then will head to the States on Tuesday where I am sure my parents will be anxiously awaiting me. I can’t wait to see everyone and be back on US soil although I am going to miss Europe.

xoxo,

Alyssa

The never ending exam period-09-09-2012

Hello loves,

I am back in Italia and of course, something had to go wrong when I got here. Luckily it was only that my hotel couldn’t find my reservation. Turns out they had ever even heard of the company I booked through, and the price was completely wrong, so I just had to pay full price for on night and move to a cheaper hotel the next day. Don’t worry, I am safely settled in my new hotel and have been studying essentially non stop since I got here.

I tok one exam Friday and did pretty well and now just have the most difficult exam I will take at PoliMi on Monday. No big haha. And I may still have one more exam to take on the Monday before I leave…how indicative of my time at PoliMi; it seems like the exam period is  never ending. Anyways, I am pretty sure the hotel staff thinks I am insane because the only time I have left the hotel the entire time I have been here is for exams and to get food. They are probably wondering why I bothered to come to Italy if I am going to stay in the hotel room the whole time. I would be wondering the same thing if I wasn’t so stressed about my exam Monday. Once I pass it I will have a second to breathe before I run back to Madrid to finish some experiments and then in a week and a half I will be back on US soil🙂

Anyways, just wanted to let you know that I am still alive and back in Italia. Now back to studying!

xoxo,

Alyssa

While you were sleeping-31-08-2012

Hello all,

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated because there is nothing too exciting happening. I live to work and study. I have to move to a different apartment in Spain tomorrow:( My current apartment has no internet(I bought a usb internet thing), the hot water keeps going out because it is windy and we have gas heating and there is this little flame that keeps the hot water on and it keeps blowing out, and my new roommates like to constantly turn the light right outside my door on and off all night despite me having asked several times to use the other light. So it’s time for a change.

Next week I go back to Milan to take more exams and I am not even close to ready yet, but I will be (maybe) haha. I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to take Pavan’s exam(I am sure all my PoliMi friends will agree). Then I come back to Madrid for a few days before flying back to Milan to take my flight home. I know it’s kind of stupid but I need every second in Spain I can get to finish my experimental work. Speaking of working in the lab, Victor and I were waiting for some of our gratings to be washed so we had some fun playing with the camera. Here is how awesome our outfits for the clean room are:

Victor and I in the nanolithography lab

Yeah that’s right, be jealous. That is pure style right there.

Anyways, things are actually going really well in the thesis department. The exam situation is iffy right now but will hopefully work itself out this weekend when I will be studying 24/7 in my new room. And , get excited, because I will be back on USA soil in 19 days! After being away for a whole year it’s going to be amazing to be back home. but also bittersweet because Europe is awesome. I will even miss Milan a little bit…a very little bit lol. But I will miss all of my awesome friends! And the food, but don’t worry because I am bringing recipes back:)

xoxo,

Alyssa

 

Internet down:( 23-08-2012

Hello all,

So the internet in my apartment is out:( Long story short, the bill didn’t get paid and a new service will not be able to be set up for awhile so I am without internet for about a week and a half at home, which means no skyping and limited contact because the only way I can get on the internet is at work or in Starbucks. So don’t worry if you can’t get a hold of me immediately. If you do need to contact me your best bet is to e-mail me since I check it fairly regularly at work. I will be moving to a new apartment n Milan September 1st at which time I should have internet access, but I don’t know where I am living yet so I can’t say for sure. Anyways, I am still alive and working hard on my thesis/exams.

xoxo,

Alyssa

London! 20-08-2012

Hello!

I am finally back in Madrid safe and sound. I got back yesterday actually but was too lazy to update this blog. I did, however, upload all my pictures to facebook and Brian will give me a bunch more so I’ll put some of my favs up here. By now the ones from Germany and Turkey should be up, but if they aren’t let me know.

London was so much fun! The first day I got there before check in time for the hostel so I left my bags in the luggage room and wandered around Hyde park and the area surrounding my hostel. Don’t laugh, but I got KFC for lunch and then got coffee at Starbucks so I could use their free wifi;) Then I went back to the hostel and met up with Brian. We took a long walk in the completely wrong direction so we got to see a different part of London than most tourists do, but don’t worry they were nice neighborhoods so there was no danger. We made it back to the hostel and met a lovely Canadian couple, Blase and Matt. We went to a British pub with them and had dinner and a few drinks. We actually ended up hanging out with them most of the time we were there because they were super cool.

Also, they were really the only other people our age in our room. Our hostel was not really a youth hostel…there was boy/girl scout paraphernalia hung everywhere and there were lots of kids and people over the age of 40 who would turn the lights out at 9pm and yell at people for talking past that time. TRAVEL TIP #1: If you want to go to bed at 9pm and get a good night’s sleep get a room in a hotel NOT in a youth hostel. I try to be respectful to everyone, but it works the other way around when you are living in a room with 12 other people.

Anyways, the next day Brian, Blase, Matt and I tried to go on the free walking tour of the city, but we couldn’t find it so we rented bikes and had our own little tour. We biked to Buckingham palace and Westminster Abbey and tried to ride in the middle of a horse procession because we didn’t realized that the road was closed for it. But it was all good. We ended up ditching the bikes near Westminster because it was raining. Then we wandered around on foot for awhile and eventually stumbled upon the London eye. We went on the London Eye and saw London from above which was super cool. Since we bought joint tickets for the London eye and the aquarium, after lunch we went to the aquarium. The aquarium was nice, but I swear we look at the same fish from seven different angles. I think there was really only one tank and then there were some separate turtles and penguins and that’s it. First we saw the tank from above then walked around it then through it and then looked at if from behind. And we saw at least 20 signs warning us f the dangers of poaching sharks for shark fin soup. But we enjoyed ourselves anyways.

After that we wandered back to our hostel and got ice cream on the way and saw a couple of memorials. That night Brian and I went to see the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s theater, which was awesome. It is my absolute favorite musical and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did Brian. Brian took all the pictures there since I forgot my camera, so it might take a bit longer for those pics to get up online.

The next day, we hung out with Matt and Blase again. We wet over to the Tower of London and spent almost all day there. It was beautiful and creepy at the same time. We saw the Crown Jewels, which were sparkly haha. They were lovely actually. We also saw the weapons room, the royal chambers, and the torture chambers, although the British weren’t huge fans of torture so it wasn’t that big or impressive. Then we wandered off and had a late lunch. Blase and Matt had a dinner date on a boat on the Thames so Brian and I went on a London Ghost tour. It wasn’t all that exciting but it introduced us to the East end of London where we spent the next day shopping. We also learned a bit about Jack the ripper and some of London’s darker history. After the tour we were hungry so we got fish and chips from a little corner store which was reminiscent of Captain Scotty’s in it’s hayday.(For those of you who don’t know it is a restaurant in Cape Cod that all the Bellingham descendants and East Sandwich beach cottage kids went to all the time)Then we had a couple of drinks with Blase and Matt since it was their last day in London.

The next day they left for a music festival and Brian and I went shopping. We poked through all the backstreet vintage stores and went to Spitalfield marketplace in the East end where a lot of artisans come and sell their stuff and we both had a bit of luck:) WE had fun shopping all day but got worn out easily. We went for a nice dinner the next night and I had one of the best veggie burgers ever.

The last day in London I met up with my friend Jack, who Kate and I met while traveling in Italy this past February. Even though he lives close to London he’s never really been sightseeing so we walked all around the city taking pictures and catching up. We actually found out you can go to the top of the Wellington arch:) I think you are supposed to pay but we didn’t and no one stopped us so check it out the next time you are in London;) The view is not nearly as impressive as the one from the top of the arch in Paris, but it was still cool and not something most people do. We eventually made it to the British museum but only had about 45 minutes to look around before it closed. Jack headed home and I went back to the hostel where I proceeded to basically fall into bed. I wandered out to get some dinner because I hadn’t eaten all day and read a little about the elections before passing out.

The next day Brian and I had a 9:30am flight so had to leave our hostel by 6:30am. Waking Brian up is like waking the dead and it took 10 minutes of me shaking him and finally shouting to wake him up. We made it on time to our plane but by the time we got to the airport and got through check in basically only had time to grab a coffee and muffin and get on the plane. The flight was fine and we landed, get a cab and got back. So now I am back to the work and the stress. I have three exams to study for and a thesis to write so I probably won’t be updating too much and if I do, it will probably be a rant haha. But I will be uploading my photos from London soon so keep a lookout for that.

xoxo,

Alyssa

Turkey!(The country not the animal)-13-08-2012

Hello all!

Sorry I haven’t been on the internet a lot. I’ve been out exploring and hanging with my Turkish friends. I am now safely in London, chillin in a Starbucks near my hostel waiting to check in (I can’t check in until 3pm London time)/ for Brian to arrive. But don’t worry I am enjoying my tea(as much as one can enjoy Starbucks tea) and a piece of carrot cake so life is good.

Th first day in Istanbul I met up with my friend Baran and we went to all the traditional touristy sites on the European side of the river. Because I stayed in Kadikoy(which is on the Asian side) we took a ferry over to the European side which was a lovely view. We passed by a famous landmark called the maiden’s tower where a king locked up his daughter to protect her but she ended up dying here anyways due to a poisonous snake sneaking onto the island via fruit basket. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it even though we passed several times going back and forth from the European to Asian sides of Istanbul.

We went to the Blue Mosque, Haga Sophia, the Toful Palace and of course tasted lots of awesome Turkish food Don’t worry, we took some pictures at these sites which will be up in the pictures section. We also went to the Grand Bazaar so I could get some gifts for people. This is a notorious tourist trap, but Baran haggled the price down for me:)

If you go to Turkey, definitely go with a native because they know all the best places to go! That night, Baran and I met up with our friend Berk and his girlfriend Bengisu. We had a beer and watched a football(soccer, not American football) match and Baran and Berk’s team won so it was a good night. Then we walked along the water’s edge at this little park and watched people set off lanterns into the night sky. It sounds super poetic when I put it like that but it was really lovely and I was lucky to have such good weather(if not a little hot) the whole time.

The next day Baran and I went to Taksim and the Istanbul Modern art museum. The art museum was really cool…figuratively and literally lol. The art was amazing but t had the added bonus of being air conditioned, which I really nice because Istanbul is really hot in the summer. We also got Baklav at one of the most famous places in Istanbul for Baklava and it was delicious. We then got some traditional turksh food for dinner and then went to this little café right near the water and drank tea. It was really nice.

This was kind of an interesting time to come to Turkey because it is Ramadan and Turkey is a mostly Muslim nation so many of the people fast all day. Even though Baran mentioned this , Istanbul is so big that I didn’t really encounter it until I got to Bursa. I left Istanbul Friday and caught a ferry from Kabatas to Burssa. Unfortunately the shuttle ferry from Kadikoy to Kabatas took a break from 10am-5pm so I had to leave super early to cautch my boat at 1pm. But I just drank some chai and watched the boats come in and out of the harbor then read some magazines that I picked up at the airport. (BTW Mom, Dad or Kate I love Scientific American and would love to subscribe to it once I am back in the USA and my birthday is in December just n case you forgot *wink wink nudge mudge*) The ferry ride was pleasant. I luckily am not affected by sea sickness and I mostly just slept on the 2 hour boat ride.
Benay, my friend from Drexel who I stayed with in Bursa, met me at the dock and we went to her old town which dates backs hundreds of years. We sat in a café near the water and drank chai. I have developed an addiction to Turkish tea (Chai) and am lucky that I am heading to London next or I would go through tea withdrawl. I bought some apple tea to bring back from Turkey but forgot to get chai. But it’s no matter because when I get back to the USA I need to find a Turkish market anyways so I can make Dolma, which is the rice inside the grape leaves. Benay’s mom taught me how to make it! But I am skipping ahead.

We went back to Benay’s house and I met her parents, who are super sweet. They didn’t speak too much English, but it was way better than my Turkish which is pretty much nonexistent. BTW Benay and I have decided we are each going to learn half the languages of the world and then travel around the world together. Dragging our boyfriends with us of course;) We hung out at Benay’s house for awhile and we felt bad because we ate dinner around 6pm but her mom was fasting so she had to sit and watch us eat And you can’t even have water or anything to eat or drink during a muslim fast. We ate again at 8pm with her mom and thus began the story of how I gained 5lbs in 3 days lol. I ate so much Turkish food because Benay’s mom and aunts all cooked me food and I felt bad not eating (plus it was delicious). If there is one thing Turkish people know how to do it is cook. Even their tea and coffee seems better. When Benay’s family heard that Dolma is one of my favorite foods they all cooked it for me and wanted to know who’s was the best, but I loved them all.

Later that night we went to the Bursa cit center and wandered around. We got ice cream and visited a mosque during prayers. Then we sat and had Chai before returning home. The next day we went up to the mountain in the center of Bursa with Benay’s boyfriend and had tea and snacks that Benay’s mom packed in a little café overlooking Bursa. It was a beautiful view. Then we went to a mall and got coffee and wandered around for awhile. That night we had dinner with Benay’s aunts and cousins who all cooked for me. We took a walk around Benay’s neighborhood then went to bed. The next day we again went to the mountain with Benay’s parents to have have tea and lunch, but before that we went to this centuries old village nestled in the mountains. to get some fresh produce. It was a lovely walk through the village and I got to see how people used to/still live there.

We then went to this little café where we ate and I drank this traditional yogurt drink which was pretty good. They eat a lot of yogurt in Turkey There was this tree in the center of the café which is super old. I probably will put up some pictures of it in the photo gallery. Some of the pictures were taken with Benay’s camera/phone so it may be a little while before I can get them. Anyways, that night I went to a party held by Benay’s dad’s work, which was kind of weird for me because no one spoke English and it was for the workers of the company, but everyone was nice and apparently I was super popular because I was from the USA and studying in Milan/Madrid. After that Benay’s mom taught me how to make Dolma. I didn’t get to bed until 2am and then had to get up at 7 to catch my ferry to Kabatas at 8:30. I checked into a hotel near the airport for the day and had plans to walk around the city center but ended up washing some clothes in the sink and sleeping instead.

Turkey has been so amazing and I want to thank all my friends here for guiding me around/ letting me stay with their families. You are always welcome to come visit me! I will miss you all already!
Xoxo,
Alyssa

Arrived Safely in Istanbul-07-08-2012

Merhaba!

I am hoping that Google translate didn’t screw me over and that’s really how you say hello in Turkish. But anyways, I have arrived safely in Istanbul and my goodness is it gorgeous at night. I can’t wait to see it during the day. I am putting up the pictures I took in Stuttgart(which is not many because it’s not all that exciting) and the pics I took of Istanbul at night. I enjoyed my time visiting with Magda but unfortunately it reminded me of my friends and family at home and if I wasn’t having so much fun travelling I would be dying of homesickness now. lol. Stuttgart wasn’t all that exciting. It it really a commercial city where there’s not that much to do, but I was really only going there to visit Magda who is suffering some homesickness as well.

After our little miscommunication Friday night, we found each other and on Saturday we went to a farmer’s market in the center of Stuttgart and bught a bunch of fresh and delicious food. It was the first time in a long time I have seen American size portions, like sandwiches as big as my head so I bought a sandwich for breakfast that lasted me until 3pm haha. Then we went home and Magda coked while I worked a bit on my thesis. Sunday we just hung out because it was rainy and everything is closed on Sundays. Monday we went back to the center to do some shopping and putzed around the center of Stuttgart, but it was pretty lousy weather. In the afternoon we went and explored this large grocery store which took us a good hour to wander around although we bought very little. Today Magda had to go back to work so I just kind of hung out at her place until I had to start travelling around 10am. I finally arrived at my hostel not too long ago and the night manager does not speak English but luckily there is a nice Turkish boy on the third floor of the hostel who helped translate and he introduced me to an American woman from Washington who gave me the whole run down abut the hostel. Anyways, I am getting pretty tired and I want to get up early tomorrow to explore Istanbul with my friend Baran so I am going to upload those pics and go to bed. Nighty Night!

xoxo,

Alyssa