Week 1–5: I’m Having the Time of My Life🎶

Well, it’s 11:15 on February 24 and I just realized that at like 8am, I have been here in Italy for exactly a month. And what a month it’s been!!

So, my original plan was to do not-daily-but-almost-every-day journal-type posts on here, but knowing me (and by the fact this is only my second post), that obviously didn’t happen. But, I digress. Let’s get on to what you all came here to read about: my experience so far on my study abroad trip to Florence, Italy.

Buckle up, this is going to be a long post.

Week 1

So, after getting settled in and all, the rest of the week (Jan. 26–28) was orientation. The first day was the“actual” orientation. We were told what classes would be where, and some other things about FUA and Florence. We then had a walking tour and they showed us the class buildings and the two food places we could go to to use our credits (2 & 3 on the map). 
I’m only taking photography classes, so luckily for me, they’re all in one building, and only a 7ish minute walk from the apartment. That afternoon we had a seminar that went into more detail about living in Florence and what it’s like here.

The next afternoon was dedicated to filling out our Permit of Stay (because we’re staying for more than 90 days); which is basically a bunch of paperwork stating why you’re here and allows you to travel. After filling it out, we went to the post office to get it approved and get a “court date” or something….I’m not really sure, but it’s irrelevant anyways because everyone’s is in May after we leave.
That night, there was a little Welcome reception dinner, which had some good food, but the portions were kind of small. I made it work though.

The final day was a walking tour. We just walked around the city and went to Piazzale Michelangelo. This is a place where you can overlook the city and it’s amazing. Pictures don’t do it justice, but here’s two anyways.

Sometime during this first week, we also did some exploring ourselves. We found the grocery store, Conad City, close to our apartment; only a couple minute walk. It’s very similar to a Fareway or Hy-vee. A little smaller though.
And one of the nights, we stopped at the kebab place near our apartment and had a kebab for dinner. They’re really good! All it is is a pork (?) taco, and you can get lettuce or cabbage on it, as well as cheese, peppers, tomatos, and some other vegetables.

Week 2 (Jan 29-Feb 5)

The first week of classes! I was both nervous and excited because I wasn’t sure what to expect from them, but they’re all photography, so I knew they’d be fun either way. While over here, I’m only taking 12 credits, which is 4 classes: 
Architecture and Landscape Photography
Intro to Digital Photography
Intro to Photography: Darkroom to Digital
Intro to Photojournalism

Because of how the schedules played out, I was lucky enough to have classes only Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This is great because I now basically have two extra days for travel purposes. That’s exciting!
The only bad thing that came out of these first days were the course fees. We’ll eventually be printing some of the pictures we take, so we had to pay for paper and to use the printer…..€100 for each class 😵😵 That I wasn’t too happy about. Another confusing thing was the assignments I got for my classes. The assignments themselves weren’t confusing, but the fact that all four classes gave the assignment of “take pictures of Florence” was. After my Thursday class, I had a total of almost 400 pictures of Florence I had to take. But other than that, the classes seemed fun and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Before that could happen though, I had my first trip! Melodie and Emma also came along, and we went to Hungary and Austria! To be technical, Budapest, Vienna and Salzburg.

What a fun trip that was! I might write about it (probably not), so for the time being, you can check out my photos on facebook, as well as Melodie’s posts about it: 
Budapest https://italyodyssey.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/weekend-trip-pt-1-budapest
Vienna https://italyodyssey.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/part-2-vienna
Salzburg https://italyodyssey.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/part-3-salzburg

Budapest: On top of St. Stephen’s Basilica
Vienna: Melodie, Emma, and me ice skating in front of the city hall of Vienna (Rathaus).
Rathaus in the daylight
Salzburg: We went on a Sound of Music tour and this is the famous 16 going on 17 gazebo!

Also, before the trip, we had a birthday! On that Wednesday (1st), it was Emma’s birthday, so we celebrated by going out to eat! We ate at the great place called La Grotta di Leo, and it was soooo good! We decided to do a traditional Italian dinner, which is a first course, a main course, and a desert. I had Spaghetti au Ragu (meat sauce) and a ham and cheese omlette. 
We ended up getting too full to get a desert, but the food was amazing. We also, of course, had some white wine to go with our meal, which was pretty good as well.

Week 3 (Feb 6-11)

The first “official” week of classes. 
So, after this amazing trip, I took probably 500 or so pictures, of which I couldn’t use any for my classes because they weren’t of Florence, I took that Sunday and Monday to walk around Florence and take pictures I could use. During this week, I also learned how to use Lightroom, which is a really cool app that I didn’t know existed until that moment.

Up until this time, I had some (very little) Photoshop experience, but I usually just didn’t edit my pictures at all. (With the exception of Instagram.)

Also, Tuesday was Becca’s birthday, so I called her during her lunch break (7pm for me) and then Skyped with her after school (around 11:30).

Week 4 (Feb 12–18)

This week started out with a trip! On Sunday the 12th, me, Melodie, Emma, and Rachel (the 4 UNI girls) headed to Venice for Carnival! It was a really fun trip! It started out with a parade of people dressed up on decorated gondolas. Of course, there were a lot of people just around the city that were dressed up as well. All four of us got masks which was cool. But how could you not? Did you even go to Carnival if you didn’t buy a mask?

Carnival parade
Melodie, Emma, me, and Rachel
The people here really go all out

I think that was probably the most exciting thing that happened this week. Classes were fine, but nothing to report really. I learned a little but more about my camera and how to use it, and we did more Lightroom stuff.

Week 5 (Feb 13–18)

Again, nothing really to report. Just a regular week of class, and I didn’t travel over the weekend. It would have been fun, but it was also nice to just be home and not do anything.

On Friday, me, Rachel, Melodie, and Emma went to Gonzo (one of the places to use our food credits) and had a nice 5 course meal: welcome, appetizer, first course, main course, dessert. Each paired with a wine. So not only did we get 5 courses, we also got to try 5 different wines. It was neat.
I don’t remember the names or types of the wines, but I can tell you about the food.

Thanks Melodie for the pics

The welcome was a potato foam topped with popcorn and leaks. The appetizer, which was my second favorite, was salmon four ways: Sweet, sour, spicy, and one other I can’t remember. It was my first time having salmon, and I’m not complaining.
The first course was a spaghetti..which was good, but I thought the noodles didn’t taste fully cooked. Still good nonetheless.
The main course was my least favorite. It was some Sole fish two ways: stuffed and incrusted. I felt bad for not eating it, but I couldn’t get past the texture. It was just really weird, and it was an awkward temperature which didn’t help. The only thing on the plate I did eat was the squid ink toast (little black things). They just tasted like potato chips, so they were good.
And finally, the dessert. This was my favorite course. Not because it was dessert, but because it was just so good and the wine paired with it was equally as good. The dessert was simply called fruit soup. In it there was pears, pineapple, kiwi, and one other fruit, I think apples or something. This was also my first time eating kiwi and it was really good! There was also a chocolate medallion, so that’s a plus.

Woo! Finally, I’m caught up.
Since it’s Friday, I’ll wait and write about this week in a new post. That being said, I’m going to make a routine of these posts. Start looking for my posts on facebook every Sunday or Monday with weekly updates about my life here in Florence.

See you then!

Leah Vierkandt

Here’s a picture of the wine that was paired with the fruit soup. If someone could let me know if it’s available in the US, that would be great.
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