Taming Firenze: Trump Europe

There’s something very odd about being away from your home country during such a tumultuous shift in power. Watching policy changes, scandals and shake ups, you feel impacted yet removed, affected yet unaffected. For the past few months, I’ve been an outsider looking in, feeling confused and helpless 4,500 miles away from home.

With Trump’s first 100 days in office and my return to America looming not-so-far in the distance, I realized that I have not yet stepped foot in Trump’s America – that when I left The Land of the Free, I was in Obama’s America. And I can’t be sure what I’m coming back to.

While I have yet to see Trump’s America, I have become extremely well-versed in Trump’s Europe.

The status “American” has become less of a badge of honor and more of a Scarlett letter (the letter “T” to be exact – often seen plastered in large type on the faces of towering sky scrapers). The first remark out of every European’s mouth when they find out I’m American is simply “Trump!”

The most recent Gallup Poll has Trump’s approval rating at 41%. Based on my observations of this diverse continent across the pond, Europeans don’t think too highly of him either.

The following photos are of Trump sightings throughout Europe. They do not necessarily reflect my thoughts, I’m just documenting images that I have seen. Warning: some of these photos are a little bit more PG-13 than others.

Germany:

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Ireland: 

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Italy:

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It’s strange to see the way Europeans perceive Trump. Many people here have yelled at me and even blamed me for for what’s happening in my country.

Whether or not Europeans are correct in their hatred of Trump is not for me to decide. But when the president of the nation you call home is so widely demonized across continents, maybe they know something we don’t.

The reach of our country is far; its power unparalleled. When we act, the world watches. It might be time to pay attention to what the world is saying and collectively change our behavior before it’s too late.

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Taming Firenze: Chianti

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Some stories need to be told with words. Others with pictures. Chianti is a difficult story to tell with either. It is the humming wind, the fresh mountain air and the rows of grape trees lining the hills. It is the sun and the clouds – the world breathing around you.

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Directly between Florence and Siena, Panzano is a small village in Chianti. That’s where we escaped the hectic city, the flocks of tourists and the narrow streets.

In Chianti, we stretched our limbs and took a much needed break. For two hours, we weaved our way across the rolling Tuscan hills through vineyards and farms.

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After our hike, we rewarded ourselves with a wine tasting and a lunch. Here, we toured a small, family-owned wine cellar and learned about the time, love and care involved in the wine-making process. We then sampled three red wines, a dessert wine and grappa (which was pretty gross, but worth a try if you’re ever in Tuscany).

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The beauty of Italy comes from its traditions – its tight-knit families passing down recipes, land and homes. Food and drink is crucial to Italian culture. In the large, ten-room estate in Panzano I felt that I was being welcomed into a legacy – the byproduct of generations of hard work.

The days in Florence where the tourists barricade the walkways and the selfie-stick-pedaling vendors accost you on the way to school make it difficult to love this place. It often feels suffocating. It feels as if the city has no life left.

To get away for a moment – to catch a breath and see the countryside where Florence found its roots – is to gain perspective. Again, I was reminded of all of the things to love about this beautiful city – about this beautiful home of mine.

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Bonus pictures of the cat that lived in the estate (also featuring our tour guide, Niccolo).

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Taming Firenze: Easter Sunday

Easter in Florence is a colorful, flowery and magical time filled with springy storefronts, fancy desserts and carts exploding in front of the Santa Maria del Fiore.

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Easter festivities begin in the city of Florence, Italy. On Monday, April 10, the day after Palm Sunday, residents begin to get in the Easter spirit with decorations and accessories.

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A nun walks through the streets of Florence, Italy, on the warm, Spring Monday after Palm Sunday. Religious figures flock to Florence for the Easter season, hoping to feel its rich, spiritual energy and vibrant history.

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Behind the decorated spring-time window display of the Europeans store Flying Tiger, an employee wearing and Easter headband and other seasonal accessories helps a customer. This store, along with many others in Florence, embraces the commercial side of the religious holiday.

The week leading up to Easter brought flocks of priests, nuns and other religious figures. Stores advertised Easter food and Easter treats. The city came alive with a brilliant energy of Spring.

The city’s most well-known tradition is the Scoppio del Carro, or “The Explosion of the Cart.” For nearly 350 years, the brindellone, the two-story cart topped with fireworks, is paraded from Porta al Prato to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo). After arriving at 10 a.m. a ceremony, complete with song and dance, occurs around the magnificent cart. At 11 a.m., following a choir performance of “Gloria,” the Archbishop launches a dove-shaped rocket, called the colombina, into the cart, setting off a loud and smokey firework display.

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In front of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, set up for the Scoppio del Carro begins early on Easter morning. The event requires careful and intense preparation to ensure safety for the thousands who come to watch.

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Residents of the apartment complex overlooking Piazza del Duomo avoid the crowds of locals and tourists by watching Scoppio del Carro from their windows.

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A parade of musicians, flag throwers, women dressed in authentic Renaissance clothing and many more marchers leads the cart to its final destination.

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The Scoppio del Carro stems from historic and legendary events. Pazzino Pazzi, a young member of Florence’s renowned Pazzi family, took part in the First Crusade in Jerusalem. He was supposedly the first to scale the walls of Jerusalem, displaying great courage.

His commander rewarded his bravery with the gift of three flints from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The flints were carried back to Florence and stored at Chiesa degli Santi Apostoli.

The ceremony today still resembles the way it has been celebrated throughout history. The three flints from Jerusalem are used to light the Easter candle. The candle is then used to light coals, which are placed in the cart.

If the whole ceremony progresses successfully, it is considered good luck and signifies good fortune for the year ahead.

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As tradition dictates, a pair of oxen carry the cart through the streets of Florence.

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The nine-meter-high brindellone arrives in front of the Duomo at 10 a.m.

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At 10 a.m., once The Scoppio del Carro arrives in front of the Duomo, preparation for the explosion ensues. Onlookers watch as two men set up the explosives on the top of the cart.

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Volunteers handed out various flowers to the audience before the cart exploded.

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The Archbishop of Florence blesses the crowd. He is also responsible for lighting the fuse in the colombina, which then launches into the cart, setting off the fireworks.

Unfortunately, sometimes heavy heat and crowds of people result in medical emergencies.

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Paramedics fight with the gate and the crowd to reach a woman who had fainted from heat exhaustion.

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Several people fainted or fell sick from heat exhaustion. But the ceremony went on as if nothing were wrong. I’m not sure what all of this means for “good luck and good fortune for the year ahead.”

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The fireworks begin!

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And it ends as it began.

When the ceremony reaches its finale, the same parade that led the cart to its empty stage leads it back to its dressing room on Porta al Prato, where it waits for another year to return to its spotlight.

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Easter in Florence was truly a unique and unforgettable experience. From exploding carts, to Colomba di Pasqua (an Italian Easter dessert), to the many festivities that filled the city streets in the days leading up to the holiday, Florence took Easter to a different level than I would have ever imagined.

However, it was not quite enough to ease the aches of spending a holiday away from home.

Sitting on the sandy bank of the Arno river after Scorpio del Carro, I finished a strange book about a seagull that my brother insisted I read. In it, I was reminded of his spirit and his optimism.

“If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”

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Even when it seems that a whole bunch of forevers separate you from the ones you love and care about, you learn to realize that they’re closer to you than you think.

Taming Firenze: A Chocolate Tour Without Singing Cows?

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Perugia was a refreshing breath of spring-time air, filled with rich history and even richer chocolate.

We started the day with a tour of the Perugina Chocolate factory. We learned about the history of the factory, the typical products they make and the process of chocolate making. We also got to taste several of their most popular products (the highlight of the tour).

After the tasting session, we toured the factory itself. Unfortunately, due to the top secret nature of Perugina chocolate making, we were not allowed to take pictures. But I can tell you – and this will come as a surprise to anyone else who has visited Hershey Park – that there was a disappointing lack of singing cows.

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The most popular product of the Perugina factory is a chocolate known ad Bacio. This is a delicious candy made up of a nutty, chocolatey paste that is then topped with a whole hazelnut and dipped in a layer of chocolate.

They are then packaged with a small note about love or friendship – reminiscent of the American fortune cookie.

Interestingly enough, this candy wasn’t always called “bacio.” Initially, it was known by the Italian word for “fist” or “punch.” The company decided this was too harsh a word for a sweet little treat, so they changed the name to Bacio – the Italian word for kiss.

Somewhere in Hershey, Pennsylvania, a trio of signing cows are mooing suspiciously.

After our chocolate factory excursion, we took the Mini Metro (or tuna boxes, as our professors called them) into the city of Perugia.

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The initial moment of fear and excitement when we were accidentally separated from our professors on the “tuna boxes.” 

Our first stop in the city was lunch. We feasted on amazing food (pasta, a plate of some sort of meat and tiramisu so good I nearly started crying) with an equally amazing view.

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Perugia is a beautiful city in the small region of Umbria. It is a very old city, dating back to the Etruscan period. It still has many standing structures from B.C.E.

With a history stretching so far into the past, it was easy to fall in love here. We strolled the quiet streets taking in the relaxing atmosphere. We took in the golden sun and the calming breeze. We saw stunning churches and stunning views.

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This little town tucked between the mountains is hardly a tourist destination – but that’s what makes it so special.

Florence has been robbed of its identity by flocks of tourists that overtake the narrow streets. As the weather gets warmer, the city gets uglier. It loses itself behind selfie sticks and Hawaiian shirts.

An afternoon in an off-the-map city reminded me that Italy is a country rich in history. Though it is getting harder and harder to love Florence, I need to spend my last month here digging under the grime of tourists and trying to see the city for what it really is: a beautiful Renaissance treasure.

Taming Firenze: Gelato Tour

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It’s been a full three months and I haven’t made a post about gelato. Lucky for you, this is about to change.

You might be asking: “What’s the big deal? Gelato’s no different than ice cream.”

That’s where you’re wrong. Very, very wrong.

Though the word “gelato” means ice cream in Italian, the two delicious summer treats are made differently.

Gelato has a higher proportion of milk than ice cream. It also has a lower proportion of cream and of eggs – sometimes it doesn’t have eggs at all. Gelato is churned at a much slower rate than ice cream, resulting in a much denser consistency.

Due to the lower percentage of fat, gelato typically carries a stronger flavor. It is also served at a warmer temperature, leaving it silky and soft.

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My roommates and I chomping down on gelato (and tiramisu, in Gina’s case) at one of our favorite gelato stops, Gelateria dei Neri.

 

Last Wednesday, our fearless leader and beloved receptionist, Andy, led a group of about 45 hungry and tired college students through the streets of Florence to three of his favorite Gelateria’s in Florence: Vivaldi, Santa Trinita and La Carraia.

Stop One: Vivaldi

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Our first stop brought us to Vivaldi, a Gelateria in the San Niccolo area of Florence.

Vivaldi has unique gelato flavors that are typically hard to find around Florence. My favorites are the lemon basil flavor and the Oreo flavor (yes – this is a rarity).

Here, I tried lemon and fondente, or very dark chocolate.

Vivaldi’s gelato is incredibly silky and smooth. The dark chocolate is my favorite in Florence – it tastes like chilled brownie batter.

This is a great place to stop after hiking up to watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo.

Stop Two: Santa Trinita 

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Located directly at the end of the Santa Trinita bridge, this pretty, pink Gelateria is not only a great place for delicious gelato, but also a great place for your Instagram pictures.

Their flavor selection includes the standards – mint, lemon, strawberry, stracciatella and coffee – and also some signatures – santa trinita, passion fruit and black sesame.

The first time I came here, I tried the Santa Trinita. I’m not sure what exactly was in it, but it tasted like a sweet blend of cream (or vanilla), chocolate and caramel.

This time, I was a bit more adventurous. I tried the black sesame and pistachio. Together, it tasted just like peanut butter.

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Stop Three: La Carraia

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This store actually has two locations: the original, in Piazza Nazario Sauro on the other side of the river, and another directly across the street from my apartment.

On this tour, we visited the original location, which is bigger and has a larger selection of flavors.

The best thing about La Carraia is its low prices – you really can’t beat one euro gelato.

Beyond that, it has a great flavor selection and a mix of gelato and mousse. Though I typically avoid the mousse, it is a lighter and fluffier alternative to the denser gelato.

I took advantage of the large flavor selection and tried a flavor that I never saw at the location across the street: cream with chocolate and orange. Made with real orange (you could actually see the large shreds of orange zest mixed in) it tasted like a creamsicle. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for the best gelato in the city.

The Results: 

It’s not an easy task to pick a favorite gelato flavor or a favorite Gelateria, but the place that stole my heart – and stomach – on this particular tour had to be La Carraia. With unbeatable prices, fun flavors and fresh ingredients, it has to be my favorite place to get gelato in Florence.

Taming Firenze: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

There were two things that I wanted to do in Berlin: eat German food and visit the Berlin Wall. I managed to do both, plus so much more.

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First, the food – and that includes beer. Coming from a Pennsylvania Dutch family, German food has always been the ultimate comfort food. From sauerkraut to sausage to pretzels. In Berlin, the food did not disappoint.

In Berlin we tried everything from currywurst, a type of German fast food, to pretzels, to sausage, to German meatloaf. And so, so, so much beer.

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Beyond the food, we also visited a photography museum. The museum featured two full floors of work from Helmut Newton and his wife, June Browne (otherwise known by her artist name, Alice Springs). To see such an in-depth collection from one of Germany’s most renowned photographers was an incredible experience.

Newton’s eye for fashion, portraiture and the human body in general was unique and striking. He had a creative and innovative eye, establishing compelling and intriguing stories with a series of only a few portraits.

He worked not only with controlled portraiture and studio work, but he also did journalistic work.

Since spending several weeks taking contrasting photography classes at school, I enjoyed seeing a real world example of an artist who works under several umbrellas of photography.

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After wandering through the Helmut Newton rooms, we made our way upstairs to the featured exhibit “Watching You Watching Me: A Photographic Response to Surveillance.” This exhibit explored the constant surveillance occurring in modern society, from google maps, to drones, to surveillance in times of war, the exhibit used different forms of photography to comment on the large and looming “Big Brother” presence in the modern age.

Each and every project in the exhibit was striking and a little bit erie. Tomas van Houtryve’s “Blue Sky Days,” for example, was a response to the grandson of a civilian casualty in a drone strike in Pakistan. The 13-year-old said “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

Houtryve flew a drone through the blue skies of America, capturing the scenes of everyday life that play and replay day in and day out. In capturing these peaceful, innocent moments, Houtryve reveals the vulnerability we take for granted: had his drone carried a weapon rather than a camera, the moment would not have been captured, it would have been destroyed.

If I could, I would devote an entire blog post to each photographer and each project on display in the museum. Each artist critically responded to the serious dangers of hyper-surveillance.

We live in a spiderweb of a world, in which everything and everyone is intertwined. This connectedness opens doors for communication and globalization, but it also opens doors for invasiveness and heavy monitoring.

Most of us go through life unaware or apathetic towards the disembodied eyes constantly following us, but the photographers in this exhibit remind us that this complacency is both foolish and dangerous.

I loved the reminder that photography can transmit a message and can activate change. Each piece was though-provoking and shocking. The images stay with me even today, weeks after I visited the museum.

Throughout this semester I have been struggling to find my voice in photography. This exhibit reminded me of the power behind the image. I am more than just a camera, I am an artist and a reporter. And I am capable of affecting change.

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We covered food and an unexpected trip to a photography museum, but that still leaves one thing: The Berlin Wall.

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In Dublin, my roommate met a woman who lived in Berlin. She told us not to go to the wall, that it was boring.

For me, studying abroad is not about beaches and clubs. It is not about shopping and partying. My study abroad experience is about understanding the world we live in. And sometimes that means visiting boring museums or historic sites. Sometimes that means experiencing tragedy, experiencing hardships, experiencing sadness.

Without all of these things – without a certain level of discomfort- history is bound to repeat itself.

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The Berlin Wall stood from 1961 to 1989. For 28 years, families and friends were separated. People were trapped by an oppressive regime. An entire community once united was torn apart by concrete and barbed wire.

At the wall, I read stories of families missing weddings, birthdays, anniversaries. I read about successful escapes and failed escapes. I read about the more than 170 deaths that occurred from people trying to cross the wall. I witnessed the physical remnants of a world divided.

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The history echoed off the remaining pieces of the wall at Bernauer Strabe. The tension hung in the air. Here, people were trapped. People were blockaded. People were locked in concrete prisons. People were isolated.

In the end, there was no reason for the Berlin Wall. It did not stop East Berliners from escaping to West Berlin. In fact, more than 5,000 people managed to cross the wall. The wall was nothing more than an ugly symbol of hate, oppression and control.

As I said before, without a certain level of discomfort, history is bound to repeat itself. I cannot say I had fun reading the names of those who died trying to cross the wall or reading the stories of separated friends and families, but as I walked the path of the wall, I knew I had to be there. I knew I had to see the scar of history still healing over the bloodied land.

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Right now we are at a crossroad. The world is revolving and change is creeping closer and closer. But our fate has not been sealed.

We still have a choice to make: we can choose separation; we can choose to build a wall, or we can choose unity; we can choose to learn from the past and to learn from each other.

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Spray painted on the wall were the words “we never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.” We are all from the same land, from the same earth. We do not need walls to “keep” our people anywhere. We need to take a few pages out of our history books and think critically about the steps we are about to take before we make a critical mistake. Before we close ourselves off to progress. Before we close ourselves off to communication. Before we close ourselves off to each other.

Taming Firenze: If Ever You Go To Dublin Town

“I want to reveal in a simple way the usual – and unusual – life of the city; the corporation workman, the busmen, policemen, the civil servants, the theatres, Moore Street and also, what occupies so large a place in Dublin’s life, the literary and artistic.”

Patrick Kavanagh

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It would be easy to sum up Dublin as the town of good beer and good people. It would be easy to write about the Guinness storehouse, the Brazen Head Pub and the taxi driver who directed us to our bus stop. But none of that would do this city an ounce of justice.

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In between hanging out in pubs, eating fish and chips and pouring the perfect pint of Guinness, I explored the cultural roots of Dublin.

It is so hard to discuss what I did in Dublin. What stands out most in my memory instead is how I felt. How I felt walking through the green, grassy parks, how I felt listening to the profound words of Dublin’s great literary geniuses in the Writers Museum, how I felt watching Dublin’s identity unfold on the winding, colorful alley-wall tucked in a corner of the city.

Dublin spoke to the writer in me – how could it not? A city built on poets and playwrights alike, it is a place of wit, of language, of conversation.

With bookstores on every corner and the literary history flowing madly through the River Liffey itself, this city reminded me of what it means to be a writer.

The first sign I saw that lassoed me in love with this city sat on the sidewalk across the street from our hostel. It read “drink good coffee, read good books” and had a loopy arrow pointing toward a bright blue storefront labeled “Books Upstairs.”

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I spent a good hour navigating the cluttered bookshelves, scanning titles and preparing to empty my wallet.

I have spent a lot of time in bookstores in different countries. I dropped a lot of time and money at a two-story book store in China. I’ve visited bookstores in Italy. I scanned the pop-up bookstores along the Seine River in Paris. In Berlin I went to a comic book store and a magazine shop. The unique thing about this particular bookstore in Dublin was its dedication to its own culture.

Books Upstairs had an overwhelming selection of books from Irish writers – not just the famous names of the past, but also contemporary writers as well.  From poetry to children’s books, to novels, to nonfiction, to zines, to literary journals this shop proved to me that Dublin’s writing culture lives on as vibrantly as it did in the times of Joyce, of Yeats, of Wilde.

After spending more money than I care to admit, we visited the cafe upstairs. A sign on the wall immediately caught my attention: “WiFi-Free Zone. This is a place for reading, talking and drinking coffee.” Maybe I’m being overdramatic, but when I saw this cafe and read this sign, I envisioned myself cozied up on the couch next to the window writing my first novel (cue eye rolls from all of my readers).

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The energy of this tiny town bursts from its tiny, colorful doors and quaint, cozy neighborhoods. Its spirit cannot be contained. Its history and identity tingles on your tongue, in your nose, in your lungs. No other city has resonated with me quite the way that Dublin did.

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The most defining interaction of my study abroad experience so far occurred before entering the Guinness Storehouse. When I presented my student visa to the woman at the ticket counter, she asked me what I was studying in Italy. I answered photography. Her eyes grew wide and sparkly. With awe in her voice, she asked:

“You can do that in America? Study photography?”

To so many people, America is still a dream-like land of opportunity. It is a place where you can follow your passions. Where even the impossible can be possible.

Whether this is the truth or not is not for me to decide. But my brief conversation with this woman made one thing very apparent: traveling changes perspective more than anything else. For two days, I allowed myself to fall head over heals for tiny city so far removed from the rest of the world. As I would do anything to return to this place, so many people would do even more to leave.

We all have it in our minds that there is always somewhere waiting for us. Some mythical, magical place where we will have the freedoms to be who we’ve always wanted to be. Not all of us are lucky enough to reach those coveted places. So maybe it’s time to stop searching for ourselves in cafes across the ocean and start looking for ourselves in our own skin and bones.

I do not need to return to Dublin to live out my dreams of becoming a writer. The woman at the Guinness storehouse does not need to move to America to become a photographer. Our identities reside within ourselves, not the places we grew up.

” ‘I am Defeated all the time, yet to Victory I am born.’

“Being Irish has a lot to do with having the courage and determination to know this and to drive towards excellence. Being human is to know that greed is not a virtue, that we are all part of a greater design; we call nature. That Ireland is one piece in this giant jigsaw puzzle and that we are responsible both physically and metaphysically for this piece.”

A piece about Irish culture, as seen on a street in Dublin

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Taming Firenze: Some Americans in Paris

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The first time I went to Paris, I arrived, starry-eyed and jet-legged, to what I thought was a city of magic and wonder.

I remember a blur of a taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. I remember the wildly colorful graffiti flashing outside the window. I remember the steak and french fries they served us before exhaustion lassoed us to our first sleep in Europe.

I remember loving every miserable minute. I remember leaving with only one thing: a burning desire to go back.

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Returning to Paris is like opening a favorite storybook from your childhood. The pages smell like home. The characters are like old friends. The story is a distant, cozy memory.

In two days I wandered my way around the familiar streets, reacquainting myself with the storybook setting I had fallen in love with five years before. From the grand collection of art at the Louvre to the intricate Gothic architecture of the Notre-Dame cathedral, I remembered why I fell in love with Paris.

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We started our fairytale in a sunny, flowery park near our hostel. Complete with a duck pond, a carousel, paths for running, benches for reading and even horseback riding, we were mesmerized by the bustling nook tucked into the corner of the city. A breath of fresh air – a change in landscape from the rickety, cobble stone alleyways found in Florence.

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Just as we happened upon Paris’ bright patch of life, later that day we happened upon its darker counterpart: the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Housing the graves of French philosophers, Holocaust victims and monuments honoring police officers and firefighters, this cemetery blossoms with stories.

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As a writer, I have always been attracted to the things people leave behind. To me, a cemetery is the perfect place to watch a person’s legacy unfold.

The Montparnasse Cemetery is unusual, however, because it is a mere 10 minute walk away from the second tallest building in Paris.

The view of the looming Montparnasse Tower behind the aging gravestones split me between two realities: one of a fragile past – of dust delicately accumulating on an old shelf, and another of a reckless future – of bulldozers barreling toward the blinking signs of “progress.”

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Is it comforting to see the burial sight of an Auschwitz prisoner and the not-even-fifty-year-old tower in the same glance? Is it reassuring to know that history can live on where modernity thrives? Or is it disturbing to know that something bigger, better newer will always overshadow the few faint whispers of the past that still linger in our loud, fast-paced future?

Even more erie was the view from the top of the tower. Looking down on the Montparnasse Cemetery, we were struck immediately by the shameful feeling of ignorance. In other words, the cemetery, which we thought was a just a quaint community of maybe 100 gravestones, was a massive square of land taking up 10 times more land than we thought.

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The distracting beacon of modernity actually gave us a new perspective on the incredible piece of tangible history below. From our 210 meter vantage point, Paris’ history unfolded. The stunning 360 degree panorama viewing platform served Paris to us on a silver platter. We walked around and around, picking out the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and, or course, the Eiffel Tower.

I cannot claim to better understand Paris after seeing it from the top of the world, but I can claim to love it more. Its history spread vast and vibrant in the streets and buildings spanning for miles below.

Later that evening, when I finally saw the Eiffel Tower twinkle, I found the happy ever after to my favorite story.

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This semester abroad has not only graced me with opportunities to see the new corners of the world that I have not yet discovered, but it has also allowed me to return to familiar places with a new mindset. I am not who I was when I first saw the Eiffel Tower and walked the Champs Elysees.

Traveling is not just about seeing new things, it is also about learning new things. To me, there is no better way to learn then to return to the places that once taught us. To return to the places that once inspired us.

Leaving Paris for a second time I had only one thing on my mind: a burning desire to go back. And I now know that, no matter how far you go or how long it takes, there is always a way to go back.

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