A Travellerspoint blog

Carnevale:1 Me:0

Our overly ambitious trip to Venice

sunny 50 °F

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I can’t believe I am already on week 4 of my program, the time is flying!

This week we had to face the harsh reality that we are studying abroad… not just abroad. Because my program gives 25 days of travel, we really only have 9ish weeks of class in the semester. The structure is more like a summer school. Each class lasts about an hour and forty minutes and there are tons of quizzes and tests. My first day of class was last Monday and I’ve already had 1 quiz, 1 exam, 1 long paper, 3 oral presentations…. 2 exams this Friday…They don’t joke around here. I am really enjoying my Italian class and my visual communications class!

Carnevale started last weekend in Venice. This is a 10-day celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday and is the original Mardi Gras celebration. While it isn’t known for its beads, it has the tradition of wearing beautiful, handmade masks. They are for sale up and down the streets, thousands and thousands of them.

We tried to book a hotel for the night in Venice, but they were all booked. We were just dying to go see the celebration and were feeling pretty ambitious when we decided to go up Saturday afternoon, see the opening ceremony and enjoy the celebration all night, and go back Sunday morning at 5am… no hotel. I don’t know what we were thinking.

Venice was so beautiful at night. The streets were lined with mask vendors, people were walking around in traditional costumes and capes… it was a classy version of Mardi Gras if you can picture that. We had a wonderful time searching for the perfect masks and headed to San Marco for the opening ceremony. It was packed! There were people from all over the world around us; we could hear at least 10 different languages.

After the opening ceremony we met some people from Israel and London and decided to go exploring. This is around 10:30pm. We walked over the Rialto bridge and found this square filled with people! There were drummers dressed up like the village people, everyone was decked out in some very interesting costumes, and people were just mingling and getting to know each other. Between our group of 6 we met people from Dublin, Barcelona, Sweden, Holland, Israel, London, and Italy. We met actors, skiers, people dressed up like cavemen, and people dressed up like lady gaga…. It was such a fun experience! The square was lined with bars and live music; I really got to use my Italian too. We ended up staying in the square until about 3am, when we were so exhausted we couldn’t function.

We made our way back to the train station, only to find about 50 people sleeping in there waiting for the morning trains… I guess we weren’t the only people who thought we could stay up all night. We ended up sleeping on the cement train station floor for 2 hours before our train came. Needless to say, we learned a few lessons on this trip. But we were safe and had a wonderful time. We arrived back at Paderno around 8am and crashed for the day. No more all nighters in Venice for me.

This week is really exciting! We have a formal Italian dinner on Wednesday, which is supposed to be 5 courses and molto bene! Before we can go to the dinner, we have a European Dining Etiquette class tomorrow. Then Thursday night my friends are throwing me a 21st birthday party. They have been scheming all week, so I cannot wait! Then on Saturday… we are off to Dublin.

I miss everyone at home so much and have loved all of the updates and emails I have gotten, they mean a lot!
Thank you thank you thank you! Xoxoxoxoxo

Posted by stephgrebe 15:42 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Slovenia

Our adventures in Ljubljana

snow 35 °F

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This weekend, we decided to go on a trip arranged by CIMBA to Slovenia. Knowing nothing about it, I thought it would be a unique experience to go somewhere I really had never heard of before and may never have an opportunity to go to again. We took a big coach bus out of Paderno on Saturday morning, about 50 CIMBA students signed up for the trip. The bus ride was about 3 and a half hours long, and we were dropped off at the train station in Ljubljana (the capital). The rest of the CIMBA group booked at the same hostel, but it filled up and we decided to try a place on the other side of the city.

I traveled with Colleen and Jessica, then 3 other people from CIMBA booked at our hostel. We were shocked with the amount of snow when we got to Slovenia! It was coming down like crazy, and the snowflakes were like the size of the palm of your hand. The city was completely white and it was just breath taking. We wondered around Ljubljana trying to find our hostel. We got very lost and unfortunately were not prepared for the snow! BUT it was so beautiful we didn’t care.

When we finally got to our hostel, I couldn’t believe how nice it was! It was in this beautiful old house in a cute little neighborhood. The receptionist spoke perfect English and showed us the place. There was a common room with computers, TV, and books about Slovenia, then upstairs we stayed in the green room. It was so clean and cozy. All 6 of us stayed in a room together and there was one other guy, Heroshi, from Japan.

We decided to explore the city after dropping our stuff. Our first stop was to buy new boots and socks because ours were destroyed from trying to find the hostel! We shopped around and walked the streets of downtown. It was so peaceful and safe. People were stopping and asking us if we needed help finding anything, offering us tours of the city, and giving recommendations on where to go. I couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was.

We went to a traditional Slovenian restaurant for dinner and tried a variety of Slovenia classics. I guess they are famous for horse dishes… I gladly declined those. The wine in was very unique there, the waitress said they rarely deport it because the locals love it so much. We did too! At dinner, we were spotted by a local man who claimed he had never seen 3 more beautiful women. In his words “Damn, your face, your cheeks, your hair… on a scale of 1-10 you are a 27 and a half… damn. Thank you for coming to our city.” He persisted for the duration of our entire meal. So as I mentioned earlier, Slovenians are very kind.

Nightlife in Slovenia doesn’t start until midnight at the earliest. So we took our time getting ready at the hostel and drank some wine with Heroshi. We decided to go to Baucus, a bar, restaurant, and dance club. The night life is not what I was use to. It was just crazy! The drinks were unreal, my favorite being a snakebite with cinnamon and an orange instead of lime and salt, and the baileys shots that they lit on fire.

We had no trouble making friends with the Slovenian locals at the bar. We hung out with 3 guys who went to school there, and then made friends with the bar tenders downstairs. They actually let me bar tend, let us in the VIP room, and offered me a free birthday party if I came back in 2 weeks for my 21st. Slovenia boys aren’t hard on the eyes either ☺

Sunday morning we got up early and decided to go Ice Skating! It was so beautiful with the big snowflakes and the mountains. I literally felt I was in a dream. The thing I thought was the coolest was that we were totally outside of the touristy area and with Slovenian families, seeing how they live. I was so surprised by the amount of dads out teaching their kids to ice skate. The kids were all falling and slipping, but none of them cried or threw a tantrum. Everyone was so pleasant and upbeat, just glad to be with their families… It just is such a change from being in an American suburb. I really loved ice skating, got lapped by tons of 4 year olds, and managed to not fall!

After ice skating we went to find this castle on the top of the mountain. We ended up taking a HUGE glass lift to the top of the mountain. The view going up was UNBELIEVABLE. You could see all of Ljubljana and the mountains. Just look at the pictures because I can’t even describe it. The castle was so amazing, exploring all of the different rooms and lookout tours.
After the castle we were still looking for something to do, so we decided to go to the city museum. They had a really interesting Picasso exhibit and we got to learn about the history of the city.

I was really proud of us on this trip. We didn’t know anything about Slovenia and managed to really get a sense of the city and see some amazing landmarks while we were there. We separated from the big group and got to explore the back corners, which was really refreshing. We had such a wonderful time traveling together and cannot WAIT for 2 weeks from now for our trip to Dublin and London!

Posted by stephgrebe 11:41 Archived in Slovenia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Paderno del Grappa

semi-overcast 40 °F

I feel like I can't update this blog fast enough with all that's going on here in Paderno del Grappa!

Last Sunday we had out first real day off since we've been here. We got to go to the Market in the town over, Cripsano, which was about a 15 minutes walk. Once we got there, we were shocked with how huge it was, considering Paderno is so small! There were hundreds of stands with fresh fruit, veggies, clothes, rugs, jewelry, fish ect... you name it, someone there had it, and for CHEAP! They had coats for 5E, jeans for 8E, and they were practically giving away the fruit. It was so nice to get to a small town that wasn't bombarded with American college students, so I really got to practice my Italian. I was able to successfully buy a scarf, earrings, and fresh fruit all for under 10E total! I had a good conversation with a man who ran a stand at the market with his parakeet, Babo. I held the bird and made conversation with the man, which I was pretty proud of.

At the market, I was expecting the food to be kind of like fried, almost carnival food. Nope. The thing that was popular were these huge, whole roasted chickens they would put in a paper bag and people were walking around with. They had tons of calamari (which yes Ashley I tried and didn't mind) and mystery meats on a stick. Sometimes I think I'm happier not knowing what it is I'm eating here, as long as it's good, I don't need to ask ha.

Sunday evening me, Colleen, and Jessica decided to really buckle down and put together some travel plans for the upcoming travel week. We got tons of books from the Library about Europe and made lists of all the places we would ideally like to visit. The list was LONG. So we had to look at which places were most feasible in the time we had allotted and with our tight college budgets. After much frustration and contemplating, we finally came up with a rough itinerary! We are going to start by flying from Venice to Dublin on Feb. 13, where we will stay for 5 days! In Dublin we have a day long walking tour we want to do, tour the guinness factory, hit up the pubs, and then do a 3 day long Paddy Wagon tour which will take us all around northern and southern Ireland. Then we will fly from Dublin to London and spend the rest of our time there. We want to go see a theater show in London, see the changing of the guards, abbey road, the bridges, Stonehenge... the list is really endless. Then we will come back to Paderno. We are so relieved to at least have the airline tickets arranged and are working on details, but if anyone has suggestions on great places to see in Dublin or London, please let me know!

Also, so more big news... I am going to Slovenia this weekend! I know, Slovenia? It is about 3 hours from Paderno by bus, and there is an organized trip through the university. Originally I wasn't really interested because I knew nothing about Slovenia, but as I researched it, I couldn't believe how beautiful it looked. I cannot wait to go see it myself. We are leaving this Sat morning and we'll get back late Sunday night. There are a ton of people from CIMBA going, so it will be a great chance to get to know people better and explore somewhere we know very little about!

This week has been jam packed with activities and workshops. I am ready for class to start and to get a routine going! It was also a challenging week because my insulin pump broke (figures right), so that really put into perspective that I was a world away from home and had to come up with a solution. My first instinct was to hop on a plane home, but Mom worked with the American pump company, I worked with the Italian company (i should say my translator worked with the Italian pump company) and I finally got it up and running yesterday.

So there are a bunch of things that are hard to adjust to here, little differences that you wouldn't ever think of. For example, most of the doors don't shut automatically behind you, so you have to remember to close them behind you. The flushers on the toilets are ALL in different places, there is no common location, so literally you have to stare at them to figure it out. Many of the light switches are outside of the room you want to walk into. The urinals are basically holes in the ground (thank god i'm a girl!), Burger King value meals come with a beer, businesses are closed for 2 hours in the afternoon... it is so interesting adjusting to a new way of life and breaking a lot of my habits from home.

Well that is about all the time I have. My friend Jake turned 21 today so we are about to go to the Pizzaria and celebrate his birthday. Thank you everyone for all of your comments and emails! I miss you all and really appreciate them!
xoxoxoxo
Ciao!

Posted by stephgrebe 08:46 Archived in Italy Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Buona Sera!

overcast 40 °F

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Life has been quite hectic in Paderno del Grappa these past few days, and I actually mean the program LIFE. As I mentioned in the last entry, I signed up to do this very vague leadership training called LIFE, a 48 hour retreat that was highly recommended. I'm a huge sucker for those trainings and thought I would sign up and try it... I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The program is really hard to describe, but it was basically an intensive leadership boot camp, one day we went from 7am-12:30am with small 10 minute breaks... had 5 hours to sleep... it was insane! I cannot describe the activities of the program, they asked us to keep it under wraps, but basically we spent 48 hours straight recognizing our strengths, completely escaping our comfort zones, exposing our weaknesses and learning to overcome them, and focusing on how to give yourself support and others support. I know it sounds extremely lame, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I have never learned so much about myself and gotten so close with a group of people in such a small amount of time. There were so many opportunities to plan goals and figure out how to achieve them and push yourself along the way.

The only details that I will give away is that I was able to punch through a 1" board with my bare hand! Pretty impressive. I would highly recommend the program if you ever get an opportunity to do it. It was such a great chance to focus on myself for once and reflect. It was so hard and at times I hated it, but in the end it was worth it and I would do it again 100 times.

After the LIFE program, I have never been so exhausted. I think it was a combination of jet lag, being in a new place, and this program that just drained all of our energy. And the vino may have contributed too I guess. Today we woke up and had a "Survival Italian" class that basically gave us all of the Italian we will need to travel to the nearby towns next week. I am taking Traveler's Italian so it was really just a condensed version of that. In it, she recommended tons of flavors of coffee, gelato, cheese, and sweets for us to try. I'm anxious to do my research. We also had a travel seminar that gave us wonderful tips for our upcoming travel breaks. We are starting to research places to go for next weekend, Milan is looking like a possibility. I learned from Venice that I really need to invest time into planning these trips so I can get the most out of them, so we will spend the week figuring out where to go, but suggestions are always welcome if someone has them.

I have been a little homesick lately, wondering what everyone is up to. I got to skype with my mom for like 2 hours today which was so nice! I also got to skype with Melissa (my best friend) and catch up with her. It was very comforting to see people from home and not feel so far away and removed. I think I will feel much better as I get to know people here and find a place. But I suppose that is part of the experience, right?

Tomorrow morning we will be walking to a market in Crespano, a small town about 15 minutes away. My Italian professor recommended it and said we'd find a lot of fresh food, clothes, and unique gifts. Guess I get to practice my bargaining skills!

I really appreciate how many people are taking the time to read this blog! It means so much to me. Your comments have been so sweet and I love seeing how many people have read and subscribed. There are lots of pictures on Facebook! Thank you all so much. I love you and miss you!!!
XOXOXO
Ciao!

Posted by stephgrebe 15:29 Archived in Italy Tagged living_abroad Comments (5)

Life at CIMBA

sunny 46 °F

Well I am finally at CIMBA and it has been an amazing few days! We got to CIMBA and immediately started meeting other students from all over the US. It seems like University of Kansas is the most popular university here, but there are people from all over. My roommate's name is Sarah and we got the biggest room available on campus. We are the only people with a balcony, 2 bathrooms, and enough room for a small family ha. We get along really well and I think we'll be just fine living together, which is such a relief. We spent the day getting our books for class, unpacking, and learning the town.

It turns out Paderno del Grappa is even smaller than I imagined. The campus is 4 buildings, 2 of which are dorms as well, a gym, a pizza place, a sports bar, a regular bar, and a pastry shop. So it didn't take much time to become familiar with campus, i still managed to get lost but that's just me and my sense of direction. We went to the cafe/bar for lunch and introduced our selves to the staff, they seemed really sweet and thrilled to have 150+ college students moving in. We had sandwiches and wine for 3E! It is much more affordable here than Venice was.

We then unpacked more and got settled. We went to dinner at the cafeteria which is pasta pasta pasta bread and more pasta... good thing i'm on a low carb diet. But it will due. We only really have bottled water to drink too, which is going to end my diet coke addiction. Next we had a quick orientation where we just got the basic ground rules for campus. The leaders of the program seem so thrilled to be here, it is going to make the experience so much better. After orientation we went out to the bar all night and everyone got to know one another. We had more spritz which is our new favorite, and had a wonderful time with the Paderno del Grappa night life.

The next morning we had 7:30 breakfast and then an orientation from 8-12. In this orientation we learned about the academic policies, campus rules, travel breaks, campus life, and all of the certificates available for us to get while we are here. I am doing the LIFE program over the next 3 days which is an intensive retreat focused on personal and professional development. They are keeping the details of the program pretty secret but i guess it is a $3000 training generally, and they are doing it for free for us. I am excited but pretty nervous about how intense they say it is. After orientation we went to abbreviated versions of our classes. I am taking:

Italian for Travelers
Business Culture and Society in Management
International Communication
Business and Professional Communication
Visual Communications

My professors are all so excited to be teaching in Italy! They are so motivated and really passionate about their topics, which is something I really appreciate. They are all so funny and laid back, which will be a nice change. One of my professors is from Slovenia and literally sounds like Dracula. Another is British and says "Crickey" all the time. They are so unique and interesting compared to my experience with Indiana Purdue professors (no offense Purdue). The atmosphere of the classes is also very different, very conversation based, not so much busy work. I think my classes will definitely be challenging and I can't wait.

We had a mall trip yesterday, which was a 45 minute bus ride away! When we got there we had an hour and a half to get all of the things we left behind. There was a madrush of girls towards the hair dryers and straighteners, which was pretty funny because no one could understand the signs in the store. We were all frantically running around the store Amazing Race style trying to beat eachother to the appliances. We finally asked a store worker in broken italian and mimicing, and found them! It was such a culture shock trying to buy shampoo, face wash, lotion ect when everything was in Italian. I was surprised with how frustrated I got and how out of my comfort zone i was. But eventually with a lot of help from the dictionary, we found everything we needed.

We also had some Gelato at the mall for the first time! I got strawberry and chocolate... holy cow it was the best thing I've ever had. I think I will be 300lbs when I come back to America, but I'm okay with that. We are now off to the LIFE retreat! I love you all and will update soon! If you are on facebook, I have put up a whole album of pictures so far!
xoxox
Steph

Posted by stephgrebe 05:49 Archived in Italy Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

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