What’s Life Like Now That I’m Back?

What a beautiful day for a snow day Daizies!

I’ve always dreamed of a day between Sunday and Monday where I could just and my dream came true today! Hoping for a day off shows just how drastically different things have been since coming home. Compared to my 4 months abroad, it is a more intense workload filled with a packed schedule that used to consist of traveling most weekends with school for just a few hours.

Missing the Days of Getting Out of Bed Only for Gelato!

I forgot how hectic school life can be. I have actual weekly assignments, labs, work, ongoing internship search, and midterms to prepare for. With so many responsibilities, I find myself on campus for an average of 8-11 hours per day for 4 out 0f the 5 days per week. Getting back to this routine made me miss being abroad so much. I knew when I was there, that it would be the most stress-free semester ever. I could not open a textbook for 2 weeks and still not fall behind. Can you imagine having no stress for 4 months? I had time. Every hour of my day didn’t need to be organized and planned. At Bocconi University, I had one class each day from Tuesday through Thursday. In total I was on campus for about 7 hours each week. Now, I am on campus 6 times as much.

I miss planning my next weekend expedition. After a week in Milan, it was off to the next place. My weekly tasks consisted of booking hostels, Airbnb’s, writing down directions of getting to and from airports, and planning my day in either Barcelona, Athens, Rome and other amazing places! I miss having an abundance of time and being stress-free.

Dealing With Stress

With time, I have accepted the fact that I have to stay ahead so that I won’t fall behind. Whether, I’m ready for the full workload here or not, I must do the absolute most with studying for certain classes. I am making the effort to read chapters before lectures, go to tutoring for Operations Management, and do the best I can academically. Stress is a natural thing and I realize I am more vulnerable to it when I feel I don’t have enough time to finish what I need or even relax. It can arise from feeling anxious about interviews, graduating, and deciding on a career path. 4 months away from having to encounter such demands was a break well needed. I use the experience of overcoming the anxiety of leaving to go abroad to calm myself down when I’m feeling anxious about future interviews, tests, etc. I recently thought to myself “Is this the hardest thing you’ve done?” If the answer is “no”, then I can get through this next task as well. Leaving on the exchange was the scariest thing I’ve done so far and I use that accomplishment of my fears to find strength that I will make it through whatever is next. Also, taking deep breaths are very effective at all times of the day.

Continuing With Healthy Habits?

Getting exercise and eating a balanced diet have also helped me in transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. I noticed that I never once got sick when I was abroad. Normally, I would get a cold every quarter, especially during midterms and finals. Your body is more susceptible to colds and other viruses when you are stressed, not getting enough sleep, or enough nutrition. I knew this was especially true when I found myself with a cold(and later a fever) literally one week into school. I really hate being sick and need as much energy as I can get. I now take daily multi-vitamins to help boost my immune system. I talked about how great grocery shopping was and how healthy I ate in Italy. I can proudly say I haven’t eaten a frozen meal or cup-of-noodles since I’ve been back and don’t plan on it either! I relied heavily on TV dinners, microwavable lunches, pop-tarts, fast food fruit snacks, and cup-of-noodles as my main source of food throughout my college life prior to the exchange. But since I couldn’t find these foods at grocery stores in Italy, my diet changed and I began to eat more meals that I had to prepare and less sugary foods. With this new habit, I don’t crave sweets as much and usually eat fruit as a snack. I tried eating KFC when I got back and couldn’t even finish my plate. I used to be able to eat 5+ chocolate chip cookies at a time, and now it doesn’t taste as good or pleasurable as it used to. It gets hard sometimes to make dinner after a long day and on these occasions I end up ordering Jimmy Johns!

I often would jog around the park behind the dorm when I was in Milan. I continue this now that I am in Seattle when the weather isn’t too rainy. Going to the gym is a lot harder than I expected but I do enjoy a brisk walk every now and then. I still do yoga every morning which is something I’ve been doing for the past 11 years!

Can’t Stay Still!

Once the travel bug hits you it is hard to stay in one place for too long. Studying abroad has been an exciting part of my college experience. While I have only a few quarters left of college, I hope to study abroad again this summer on a 4 week exploration seminar. In the very near future, I am excited to go to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for Spring Break wooohooo!!! I enjoy traveling so I want to do it as much as I can. Seeing new places and cultures brings so much joy and memories forever.

Thrive.

I am officially back and on the grind. I want to not simply make it through each day but I want to thrive while doing so. I believe positive affirmations each day will help me to have the mindset to make the most each day. I put post-it notes next to my bed with positive notes written on them. It’s great to remind myself “I am successful” ” Good news is coming soon” or “Do not worry” throughout the day. I also am setting out personal time for myself each day.It’s important for me to find time to destress and have self-care. It’s okay to take a nap, indulge in your favorite tv show, and get sleep!

It’s great being home with friends and family as well as having access to amazing sandwiches each day. Adjusting to the hustle and bustle of reality was a challenge, but I with God’s help I am making it just fine. I hope to enjoy the little things of life each day no matter how busy life may be.

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Top 5 Top 5 Top 5! My Favorite Places From Studying Abroad

2016 took me to some amazing places! In between going to classes, what made my semester abroad so worthwhile was my ability to travel to so many different countries and other cities in Italy. Each new place had its own perks but there were some that stood out the most. I ranked my favorite cities by my overall experience such as the vibe I received while being there, and whether I connected with the city, as well as the food, culture, and beautiful things to see. My list will start off going from 5 to 1. Also, to keep things fair I’m only ranking cities that I visited for the first time on this exchange. This means London won’t be on it since I went as part of my first time studying abroad in 2015. London will always be my favorite places in the world. But for now, let’s see which other places stole my heart.

5. Berlin, Germany

Berlin surprised me with how exciting and lively it turn out to be. At first I was caught off guard with how cold it was but looking back now, 48 degrees isn’t all that bad! Berlin is such a historical city and I learned so much from visiting the museums. I was impressed by every single meal I had in Berlin. A happy stomach equals a happy trip! Also, I wish I had brought another bag because there were so many places to shop in Berlin. I finally was able to see what was so great about Primark. Now I’m hoping Primark expands into the West Coast of the U.S. one day.

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Brandenburg Gate

4. Athens, Greece

Athens was one of my favorite place for food. Being in the birthplace of gyros was exciting to me. I literally ate gyros the entire weekend I was there. With just the two days I was in Athens, I had such a fun time seeing the ancient buildings and learning more about their historical significance in the Acropolis. Athens is another place that had an abundance of sunshine which may contribute to why I enjoyed it so much. In the midst of 30 degree weather in Milan, a weekend in Athens was like a short summer vacation.

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The Acropolis

3. Marrakesh, Morocco

I made it to an entirely different continent on my exchange and my experience was quite exciting. It was my last trip of the exchange but still showed me that there is so much more to the world. Marrakesh was unique because after getting the hang of going to new places, it’s still exciting to learn about a culture very different than the European cities I visited. I didn’t know what to expect with Moroccan cuisine but it turned out to be very tasty. Shopping in the city center was always fun and I found such unique and colorful pieces. The main thing I wanted to do while in Morocco was ride a camel, and I made it happen! Even though my exchange is over, going to Marrakesh left me with more motivation to continue exploring.

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Atlas Mountains

 

2. Rome, Italy

Of all the cities I went to in Italy, I could really see myself living in Rome. I loved Rome for its beauty. Rome is charming, full of things to do, and has an abundance of historical landmarks I could spend hours gazing upon.The Trevi Fountain alone was such a spectacle and of course the Colosseum were among some of the many beautiful places to see in Rome. I discovered a very helpful menu ingredient for ordering the type of pasta I wanted. The word is “bolognese” and this changed my life for the the rest of my time in Italy. I no longer had to eat just pasta with sauce but now I finally knew how to ask for beef to be apart of the spaghetti. But besides the great food, I enjoyed how easy it was to navigate the city. Walking to Vatican City was a workout I probably wouldn’t purposely partake in but it was still doable. I could never get enough of hearing street music and hearing the sounds of different languages.

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The Colosseum

1. Barcelona, Spain

Being in Barcelona was such an uplifting and heart-warming experience on a personal level. Initially, nervous about going on a trip to a new county by myself, this trip turned out to be a special time for self-reflection and celebration. I loved Barcelona so much because of how meaningful it was for me to finally be in a place that I had dreamed of going for so long. I was by myself but felt so whole and completely joyful. The food was amazing. I had this amazing taco that I still dream about today.

I went to Barcelona in early November and the sun was still shining. I could get around better with the knowledge of Spanish I picked up om my 2 years of Spanish in high school. Having a better understanding of the language made me feel more confident and accomplished as a visitor in a new land.I walked miles a day to see the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and caught the amazing view of the city at Turo de la Rovira. I was a Cheetah Girl and sang all around Park Guell and random beautiful streets.I think back to the happiest moments of my life and being in Barcelona was definitely one of them.

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Park Guell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Moroccan Experience

Happy New Year Daizies!

I’m back in the States now and its 2017! But  I can’t forget to blog about my final trip of 2016. After I completed finals, it was a celebratory experience to get away and finally go to Africa! I spent 3 days (Dec 17th-20th) in one of Morocco’s biggest cities, Marrakesh.

I arrived to Marrakesh by plane from Milan. It was the longest plane ride of the trips I had and it definitely felt like it. After arriving, I had to wait in the long passport control line for about 25 minutes. It was dark outside by the time I was actually in the car on the way to the airbnb but I could already tell I was in a completely different place. I loved how the architecture was different but flowed with the culture. The traffic was crazy and walking to cross the street was even more intense.

After settling down, we went for a stroll in the Jemaa el-Fna square. The center of the food area was vibrant and chaotic at the same time. There were promoters attempting to be charming and literally pulling us to their restaurants at times. First meal was an assortment of chicken kebabs, rice, sauce, bread, and potatoes. I already liked this trip because this dinner came out to be $4!

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Yummy and price-friendly dinner

The next day, I went on my first guided tour. It was great to not have to do any planning for once and just be guided through what was needed to see. The tour was through the Atlas Mountains! I woke up bright and early for an eventful day. The weather in Marrakesh was a lot colder than I expected, with some sunshine during the day and then really cold at night. I prepared accordingly by wearing layers because the mountains actually had a significant amount of snow. Our tour guide picked my friend and I up from the airbnb, and we drove about half an hour out of Marrakesh for a short tour of an argan oil cooperative. Argan oil is the most lucrative oil of Marrakesh and is native to the lands. It can be used to treat dry hair, skin, and even used for cooking.

Driving into Atlas Mountains was like slowly driving into a different season. I finally saw snow in 2016 and it was in Africa! It was about an hour hike up and around the mountains with a Moroccan lunch to conclude the trek. The last part of the tour was the camel ride! I was so excited to ride a camel. It was scary at first because the camels were literally roaring when the people were trying to get them to sit down. But once on, it was so fun. My camel’s name was Ayesha and we were quite the team!

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Rolling with my girl Ayesha!

 

My last full day in Marrakesh I saw Palais Bahia, Tomheaux Saadiens, and Jardin Majorelle. Sightseeing prices were great and ranged from about $1-$3. The Jardin Majorelle was especially unique because everything was blue with a hint of bold patterns.

I am so glad I was able to go to Marrakesh before coming back home. I realized once again that the world is so big and there’s still so much I’m excited to see. 2017 traveling, I’m ready for ya!

Mission Milan Accomplished

And just like that, 4 months have gone by. I just finished packing and have one more trip left before I am on my way back home. It feels like I’m packing for another weekend excursion but I’m packing to go across the sea back to the United States! In a way, it doesn’t feel like time went by fast at all. It feels like it was such a long time ago when I came to Milan dazed and confused with how to ride the tram lol!

Leaving home was the scariest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. I knew I wanted to travel and explore the world but taking that first leap was so terrifying. I remember the days before leaving I could barely sleep. My heart would start beating out of my chest and stomach would tighten up every time I even thought of being away from everything I knew for an entire 4 months. I did not know what was ahead of me but I am so proud of myself for stepping out on faith and taking the risk any way. I made it.

Being abroad for a longer time period taught me to be more patient with myself. Things came easy to me the first time I went abroad last year in London. Everything was simple. I spoke the language, I was in a group of 20+ people, and I was only away from home for 3 1/2. This time around, I was completely out of my element. Doing simple things, such as buying groceries, intimidated me. I had to give myself time to get used to things and work through my uncomfortableness.

I spent a significant amount of my time here in solitude and there’s nothing wrong with that. I learned to focus on what makes me happy more than moping around. Time goes by even slower when I had negative thoughts. Whether I had one person to hang out with or none, I made the experience worthwhile anyway.

Seeing a new country or city each week never got old. The excitement of visiting new places is so special and it’s what I’ll definitely miss the most. I saw amazing cities with my own eyes! Sagrada Familia, The Colosseum , Duomo di Milano, Acropolis, the pastel cities of Cinque Terre came to life as I saw them with my own two eyes. I feel so blessed to have been able to travel to all of these incredible places. It has literally been my dream to be able to do this. All things are possible

I come back home content. Milan has been my home for the past 4 months and I’ll miss and the bustle of traveling. But I am ready to come back home and prepare for the next thing in my life. While this chapter is coming to an end, a new chapter begins where I know my strength in doing something where I had no idea what the outcome would be. I overcame what I thought was the scariest thing ever and because of this I can look back on my experience whenever I am feeling nervous or anxious to go for an opportunity in the future. It I know that I am capable taking on any challenge now.

Finally in Florence

My last Italian trip was to Florence! I knew I had to make it to the city of Firenza and especially to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, just one hour away. It was a short trip and I was happy to be in the center of the city near Ponte Vecchio. Florence was an easy city to see everything within 2 days. I booked my trip for the first weekend of December to make good use of the free museum day. All of the most famous museums are within walking distance of each other so I was able to visit the Uffizi Gallery as well as the Galleria dell’Accademia. It was a successful pre-exam weekend trip!

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Florence Cathedral
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Ponte Vecchio

Meeting the Olympians – Athens, Greece

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I have always been a huge fan of Greek mythology movies ever since I could remember. On my 16th birthday, I had a movie outing to see Immortals. And gyros were my first favorite non-American dish. I was so excited to go to the root of all the things I loved about Greece and Greek culture for a couple of days.

First night there, I learned that gyros are called several different names at the restaurants, soulvaki, being the most common. I sure wasn’t let down by the Gyros in Athens seeing as how I ate gyros and fries for every meal from Friday till Sunday. I just couldn’t get enough!

I stayed in a very central location which was walking distance from all of the attractions. The Monastiraki flea ma was market was a vibrant area with the lowest souvenir prices I’ve seen in Europe. Cute and authentic pieces for such low prices.

The most notable attraction was the Acropolis. I was in  awe to look at structures that have been on this earth for thousands of years. I was standing in the midst of the settings of all the iconic Greek mythology films I was amazed by. Not to mention, the Mediterranean sunshine was an amazing dose of vitamin D.

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The Acropolis Museum was actually one of my favorite museums I visited. Their collection was what made it most interesting. In an area of such historical sites, there’s this modern futuristic museum holding all of the most exciting artifacts. I could stay in museums for hours just reading every single description and watching the short films. I like to put myself in the shoes of the people in each historical period.

It was a brief, yet fun-filled weekend trip. My craving for gyros have only magnified ten times more!

Once a Cheetah Girl, Always a Cheetah Girl -Solo trip to Barcelona!

“Hi, my name is Daizha and if I could go to any place in the world it would be Spain.” This was always my answer during icebreaker games when we had to say a place we would love to travel to. I even made a collage of all the places I wanted to travel, and Spain was right in the center. At 11 years old, I watched Cheetah Girls 2. I saw a group of ambitious and excited girls travel out of the country all the way to Spain and had the time of their lives. It was then I told myself I would see the world. I was going to go to Spain no matter what. I wanted to see different countries, cultures, and just travel. This was my dream. I would sing Strut in the streets of Barcelona no matter what.

Fast forward almost 10 years later and I am just so full of happiness because that dream came true. I’ve enjoyed travelling throughout my quarter abroad but this trip was so special to me. As a kid we all have dreams of going places and doing things, but as we get older we sometimes forget about them because of “reality”. This encouraged me even more to never let what I see or the challenges I’m facing to stop me from taking risks or dreaming big. That being said, let me tell you about my 5 AMAZING days in Barcelona!

I didn’t know what to expect from a solo trip but I had positive thoughts because it was Barcelona after all. I would highly suggest a solo trip. You have the freedom to go wherever you want, when you want, and truly be in tune with your inner spirit and just have fun with your own presence. This is how I was able to deviate from my “itinerary” whenever I changed my mind. The day before my trip I booked 2 walking tours but lol that was a wild idea because A) Getting out of the house and arriving by 11 am was a struggle and B) A 3 hour walking tour the day after hiking up a mountain was not appealing anymore. So with that, I planned my days as I woke up.

Day 1

I made an effort to go to the Guadi walking tour at 11 am. Guadi is a famous architect responsible for creating some of Barcelona’s most famous sites such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. I still headed to the meeting spot but plans changed when I looked around and saw that I was right by La Bocqueria. La Bocqueria is a large open market with fresh fruits, hot meals, and foods. It reminded me a lot of Pike’s Place Market in Seattle. Still with hope that I would make the tour, I walked to the plaza just to see where it was. With no tour group in site, I hopped intro a small restaurant and ordered some tapas. I heard a lot about tapas, it being a famous food in Spain. It was basically just bread, with a bowl of cheese and grilled peppers! I soon discovered there were tons of different styles though.

I wandered back to La Bocqueria and had the BEST blended juice ever. It tasted so refreshing and healthy! I loved it. Then I bought some beautiful scarves in the alley nearby. I just love finding cute stuff in hidden places.

*tip* If you are staying in Barcelona for a few days I would suggest buying the T-10 metro card. Its valid for 10 trips for only 9 euros! I didn’t understand what the ticket was saying (even in English) until my 3rd day when I looked it up! I ended up paying 2.15 euros for one way tickets, a total of 4.50 euros each day omg.

From La Bocqueria, I walked 50 minutes to la Sagrada Familia. My legs were full of energy so I didn’t mind the trek. The key is to stop at places along the way, so your mind doesn’t really think you’ve walked an hour! Sagrada Familia was so detailed and large on the outside, but the inside is what surprised me the most. It’s just bursting with warm and cool colors! Guadi did an amazing job on this one!

I did a quick google search trying to find street food. I was excited to find California street food and walked 20 whole minutes before being led to some alley where it didn’t even exist. Nope not today satan! So I ended up getting some amazing tacos and rice from a Mexican restaurant near the Sagrada Familia.

Day 2

Legs starting to feel the burn. Woke up whenever I sure felt like it and decided to see the best views of Barcelona and knew I wanted to shop. On my list: Park Guell, Turo de La Rovira, Diagonal Mall. The day before,  I Googled ” where were the Cheetah Girls when they sang Strut in Barcelona” and some wonderful soul answered in a post with all of the locations. Park Guell was one of the results so it was a  must!

I was a little caught off guard with the fact that the prettiest views of Park Guell had an admission fee of 7 euros. 7 euros? I kept it pushing and still enjoyed the FREE parts of Park Guell lol. Plus, the next place was free and had THE BEST view of Barcelona.

I walked from my airbnb, to Park Guell, to Turo De La Rovira. The journey to La Rovira was continuously uphill and this is where I started to feel my thigh muscles burn! But the view of Barcelona was absolutely breathtaking. I was really in Barcelona. I took the moment in and was just so happy.

Next, stop was Diagonal Mall. I was excited that there was a Primark and an FNAC where I could buy a portable charger. The Primark wasn’t as good as the one in Berlin but I still found some cute stuff for my family and I. I finally bought a portable charger and didn’t have to worry about my phone dying after a few hours!

Day 3

This was the day my legs could barely move. I had climbed almost 50 flights (according to iPhone health app) and walked over 10 miles the day before. I took my time with getting ready, and planned to take it easy with visiting Casa Mila, back to the Sagrada Familia, and the Magic Fountain. Casa Mila was another cool building created by Guadi. I don’t know why I was surprised it cost to get in but I sure liked viewing it from the outside lol! I viewed the Sagrada Familia from the outside because why not? And then journeyed to the Magic Fountain which was so beautiful to see at night! I also  was able to see the outside of Museu de National Arte Catalan because the Magic Fountain is actually right in front of the museum. The museum is free on Saturdays after 3 pm! Sadly, it closed at 6 so I had just missed the free entrance day! Nevertheless, I had fun watching the fountain light up and taking pictures.

Day 4

My last full day in Barcelona. I went to see Castell del Montjuic since it was the furthest and last thing I wanted to see. It didn’t take as long as I expected to get there but it was a lot further than the other places. I really enjoyed the museum inside of the castle because I learned a lot about the Catalonia revolt in the earlier 20th century, as well as the history of Barcelona in general. It was quite fascinating.

This was an amazing trip and such a great experience solo travelling. As a young woman, it can be easy to let fear stop you from travelling alone. But using general safety precautions, and trusting your instincts will help you be safe while having an enjoyable time!

Tips for a female solo traveler:

  • Book your airbnb or hostel in a central area
  • Don’t have your phone out all of the time when walking ( Take a visual picture of your journey and look at it to see when to turn/make sure you’re going the right way)
  • Where a purse or bag that wraps around your neck
  • Enjoy this time for yourself. Time for self-care and celebrating all of your hard work!