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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Fall Hair Product Hits and Misses

Tis the season to be jolly Daizies!

The products in this season’s rotation are coming to an end, appropriately timed with my near departure back to the States. Finding hair products in Italy was a trying task and I’m excited to go back home to the plethora  of natural hair products on the shelves of hair stores, Walgreens, and more! But nevertheless, I tried some new products this season. Some were great, some not so much. Here’s how things went with the product haul that took place two months ago.

ORS Olive Oil Smooth-N-Hold Pudding – HIT

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This was the main product I used to achieve twist and braid outs. The product was great for moisturizing and did a great job at smoothing.I didn’t notice any raving results with the “hold” of the product. What I would like more is if the product was a lot thicker and had a creamier consistency. Overall, I was satisfied with the product and it’s lasted a very long time. I’ll have half of the jar left to use still.

ORS edge control – MISS

I blessed up and got the edge control as a bonus along with the ORS Smooth-N-Hold Pudding. I hadn’t purchased edge control before so I didn’t know what to expected. After using it a few times, I noticed it was easier to grasp the product before doing makeup or using other hair products. This is because the oil on my hands from other products makes it hard to scoop up the gel and to spread, as it is very thick and hard. With this gel, the full length of what I consider my edges weren’t held by the product. The gel only laid the first centimeter of my hair and then the rest would just curl up.

Curls  Curl Creme Brule – HIT

First product I tried from this line and I was impressed! The creme brule reminded me alot of a leave in conditioner. Wasn’t runny at all and provided a lot of moisture for my hair. Smells so so good too! The cream helped define my curls while minimizing frizz.

Dark’n’Lovely Quick Styling Gel – MISS

I reached for this when shopping in Rome because it was the only gel in the store with a familiar brand. I liked applying it to my edges because it defined the curls, but other than that I didn’t find much use for the gel. When applied throughout my hair, I didn’t like the feel of it as it left a white film and made my hair hard.

Palmer’s Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner – HIT

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this conditioner! It left my hair thoroughly detangled and incredibly soft. It is created with olive oil which penetrates the hair shaft very easily. I went through this bottle so fast!

Blue Magic Mango Leave-in Conditioner – MISS

Yeah so this was a no. It smelled okay but was the most watery leave-in conditioner I’ve ever purchased. After a nice wash and deep conditioning, applying this to my hair seemed like undoing an entire wash day. My hair felt immediately dry after applying.

Jojoba Oil – HIT

This was always an oil I was excited to try. I haven’t experienced any wild results since using the oil but I enjoy adding it to my conditioners each week. It is light and non-greasy which makes for excellent scalp massages. Using jojoba oil helps to add shine and elasticity to the hair.

Vatika Naturals Almond Hair Oil – HIT

This was another oil that provided extra softness and shine. I applied this oil to the ends of my hair to smooth the ends and seal in moisture. It’s also an oil I will restock when I am back home.

Garnier Fructis “Hydra Ricci” – HIT

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As much as I love using DIY conditioning methods for detangling, my hair works best with a creamy conditioner mixed with water to melt the tangles. I had run out of all the conditioners I had and needed a simple conditioner to for the next few wash days. This was the first hair product that I bought at the Italian supermarkets. After careful deliberation, I googled “hyda ricci” to find that it translates to “hydra curly”. At last, a product at a general market dedicated to curly hair. I actually liked it. Not bad for Garnier. It had great slip and moisture.

Trying new hair products is always fun. It’s great to experiment with new brands and products. What works great for someone else might not work the same for you, but it’s all part of the natural hair journey 🙂

Halfway There! | Thoughts on my Experience Abroad

Can’t believe I am more than halfway done with my study abroad exchange!

This experience has already taught me so much about myself and has helped me grow to an even stronger and adaptable person. I’m proud of myself for taking this risk and pushing through my fears.”If you dreams don’t scare you then they aren’t big enough”

So how has it been?

The first few weeks in Milan were challenging. I did not immediately like Milan. I was comparing the speed of how fast I loved London with Milan and it just was not the same. After one week in London I had made a solid group of friends, didn’t miss home at all, and could navigate the city with no problem. Milan was completely different. I was not blown away by the dazzle of the city. After seeing the Duomo I was like “what else is there?”. It took a lot more effort to adjust to Italy.

The making friends part required more work than I expected. Since I wasn’t in the Italian crash course many people were in, there was no setting where I could mix and mingle. There were some awkward cocktail parties but everyone seemed to already know each other or hung out with people from their schools. It was just weird and I was exhausted from comparing myself to people who had a whole squad within two weeks lol. So I just chilled. I fell back. And took the pressure off myself of trying to find friends. If I had 2 people to hang out then oh well I just had 2 people to hang out. Patience is what I learned in the first month here. I would rather wait for people I actually like and would hang out with back home then to be annoyed and out of place in a circle of people just to say I have “friends”. So I waited. I was less stressed and developed a routine. I would go somewhere new each week. I took pictures and enjoyed the sun while it lasted. It took almost 6 weeks to feel acclimated and make friends I enjoyed being around. If I did not know how to have fun by myself it would’ve been a miserable first six weeks!

What am I going to do today that will make me happy?

YOU CAN’T DEPEND ON HAVING PEOPLE TO MAKE YOU HAPPY? What will you do when you’re miles away from the people that make you feel happy? I took it day by day (daibydai lol) and did things that would put a smile on my face. One day at a time is how I got through feeling lonely. And I soon liked it.

Always looking forward to something really helped me during the beginning stages homesickness. I would smile when thinking about an upcoming trip to Rome or finally going to Venice kept me in a positive mindset.Up until now I was literally going somewhere new every weekend. And that’s when I put things into perspective. This literally is my dream. I remember being at scholarship meetings for high school and going around saying what our goals were for college and I said “studying abroad”. My second week at UW I set a meeting up with my advisor to talk about studying abroad.  I always planned ahead and now I can live in the dream I had for over 5 years. I was seeing the big picture and I felt more joyful.

I’ve had to do so many new things on my own. Working though stressful situation and celebrating even the smallest victories are important.I think living here has helped me become proactive and confident in my problem solving skills. Getting lost, figuring out how to vote from abroad, paying rent, permit of stay procedures are all very taxing but I had to do it and did it on my own. Things like going to the grocery store would give me such anxiety. I would literally wait till I had nothing to eat because I hated the feeling of being asked something in Italian and feeling embarrassed to not know what they were saying. There was this one time when I held the whole line up because I brought non-food items to the checkout and they were having trouble scanning the notebooks. It took like 20 minutes to get it solved and after that I was just so over it. I was stressed and didn’t want to go through anything like that again but I eventually needed more food and had to try it again. How could I have known what to do on the first try? Not possible to know exactly what to do all of the time and that’s okay. Awkward moments happen. People are nice and I don’t need to be harsh on myself for not being a local, knowing the language, or making mistakes. Get your food and go on about you day because these people sure will!

With such a chill class schedule I realize this is the most stress free I’ve been since starting college. No club organization commitments, no interviews, no midterms, classes are easy, and just travelling to the places I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve worked so hard and constantly so this break is definitely something well deserved and appreciated. This was the feeling I was seeking when I applied. I had forgot why I wanted to do this, when the date to come to Italy approached. What was it that I wanted to experience again? The feeling of being free. The excitement. And new experiences that helped me grow. That is what I missed when I came back from London and immediately knew I wanted to leave again. Travelling is just so exhilarating and it is a blessing I am able to experience it.

Now that it is halfway over I guess what’s on my mind is how to take this carefree black girl feeling and transfer it back to when I’m in the States. I know I have a lot more responsibility when I am back home and I slightly don’t feel ready for it. So I am living in the moment and taking everything in. I said this last year but I do want to explore Seattle more. I want to explore it the same way I do the cities I go to in Europe. I think even though I am abroad, my mindset has changed and taking this mindset back home will make a difference in how I approach these responsibilities that can sometimes take a toll on me.

So the next time I have an interview, 3 group projects, and it’s dead week at school, I can think about how I made it through the obstacles abroad and that confidence will be with me through every new situation I encounter.

Best Pizza So Far?

It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you… without a dope blog to step to.

Everyone has been telling me so much about Spontini pizza near the Duomo and after my last delivery attempt where I literally opened the box to just dough and sauce, it was time for some real pizza. First glance at the pizza being made, I saw cheese everywhere and really thick crust so I was already sold. My heart was warmed to see a reasonably priced slice at just 3.50 euros. And yes, after just one bite I realized why there was so much hype and I have to say that it sure lived up to it! img_4283