Category Archives: Preparations

On the Road (Airway?) Again: Countdown to Firenze

It’s strange to be leaving again.

My huge purple suitcase is once again stuffed with a semester’s worth of stuff. I’ve got my system down at this point. In fact, I hardly unpacked at all during the two weeks that I’ve been home. It only took several hours this afternoon to throw everything back in, replacing the shorts and dresses that were my staples in Alanya with clothing more suited for the rain and cold of a Firenze spring.

With my bags all packed, I’m now utilizing every outlet in my room as I charge up all the electronics for the travel marathon that commences tomorrow at 3:30 a.m., which is when I need to leave my house in order to make my early morning flight out of San Francisco. From there, I’ll stop in Chicago and Frankfurt before finally touching down in Florence on Thursday morning. (That is, if everything goes to plan!)

Over these past couple weeks, I’ve been so busy savoring my time with family and friends that I haven’t really had much time to reflect on all the wonderful experiences I had in Turkey last semester. And so, as I’m preparing to leave for Italy, it’s not California that I’m starting to feel homesick about, but Alanya.

I unpacked my duffel bag this afternoon to find the picture frame that my Turkish host family gave to me at our last dinner in December. Next to it, I found the beautiful blue, loopy scarf that my host mother had knitted for me. I am incredibly thankful for the charming people and culture that welcomed me to Turkey––encouraging my attempts to make conversation with my broken Turkish, cooking endless amounts of food and sweets, and inviting me into their homes and businesses. I hope that my experience this semester amounts to even just half of that.

I’ll be actually living with a host family this semester––something that both excites and terrifies me at the same time. While last semester I went to my host family’s flat for dinners and hung out with my host sister in town, now I will be living, sleeping, and eating with my new Italian host family. I’m excited to explore and have time away from the Villa in this sense, since that physical separation between home and school was absent in Turkey, where we did everything in the same building. I cannot wait to have my own Italian family, but I’m nervous about the logistics of living in a stranger’s home.

That being said, I cannot wait to explore the city of Florence itself and to touch and feel its centuries of influence as one of the great cultural capitals of the world. I cannot wait to rome its streets, capture its words on paper and its beauty in photographs. I splurged on a couple of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides for Florence and Italy, and I’ve been pouring over the photographs and drawings. Though they take up several precious pounds in my suitcase, I hope to try out some of the self-guided walking tours for myself. And then, there’s some places that I’ve already bookmarked. I can’t wait to picture the Medicis at home in Fiesole, explore the bizarre taxidermied collection of the Museo Zoologico La Specola, or marvel at Renaissance art.

I’m truly thankful for the incredible opportunity that I have to continue my adventures abroad in Italy. I hope to build off my one semester of Italian to become somewhat conversational in this beautiful language. I hope to learn not only about what Italy meant in the past, but what it means today in global politics. But above all, I hope to have time to wander and savor the country and its people.

Where I’m Going

Since many of my friends and family aren’t quite sure where I’m going in the world, I thought I would provide some background on Alanya, the city that will serve as my second home for the fall.

Alanya is a city on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey that today serves as a major tourist destination for the region, as it is known for its well-preserved castle and idyllic beaches. However, it also has a rich history, with some archaeological evidence that suggests occupation way back in the Paleolithic era, as far back as 20,000 BCE. Here’s an excerpt of the information that I was provided:

Alanya and its surroundings bear the traces of many eastern Mediterranean civilizations – Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Crusader, Ottoman, and more. From the time of Alexander the Great, the port of Alanya was a crucial link in Mediterranean commerce with Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, and the Holy Land. Today this long and diverse history intersects with the contemporary landscape of international tourism and with Turkey’s increasing role in the global economy. Alanya’s beaches, ruins, and summer nightlife draw visitors from Western Europe, Britain, Israel, and the former Soviet Union. Its present-day landscape reveals mosques alongside internet cafes, medieval pleasure gardens and Roman ruins amidst orchards cultivated for global markets, and modern shopping malls near the castles and caravanserais of the ancient Silk Road.

However, I won’t actually arrive in Alanya until September 14th! Our program begins with a 2-week orientation tour, where we’ll spend a little over a week in Istanbul and then drive through Turkey, stopping along the way in Iznik, Bursa, Eskisehir, Izmir, Ephesus, and Pamukkale before we arrive at our home base in Alanya.

map

I’ll try to post more from the road, depending on internet availability. However, right now my bags packed and it’s off to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt then Istanbul!

luggage

Ready, set, go

I published a new blog post at The Georgetown Study Abroad Blog. Go take a look!

There’s an old dirt racetrack down in Watsonville, Calif., only accessible by the long straight roads that divide berry fields. Every Friday night, crowds flock to the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds, clutching their cowboy hats and hot dogs, to cheer on their favorite drivers. The air quickly becomes thick with the nauseating smell of gasoline and the roar of the engines drowns any attempt at conversation. The track itself is terrifying—a quarter-mile loop covered with slippery mud that flies up to the stands. These aren’t your high-performance, well-oiled NASCAR machines, either. These cars are beat up garage ornaments being put through the most rigorous test—decrepit, declawed beasts with clunky exteriors and engines hand-built to give the most oomph for the least amount of cash…

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Hey, is this thing on?

My daily walk to Pleasure Point

I’ve got about a week to go until my departure date, and I think it’s just finally hitting me what I’ve going to be getting myself into for this next school year.

Holy cow.

Last spring, when I first put this whole plan into action, the idea of spending an entire year in foreign countries remained abstract and tenuous. As an undergraduate at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, I always knew that I would spend some portion of my undergraduate time abroad. In the words of my dean, study abroad is “strongly suggested” and there are few better ways to enrich your study of international affairs than to actually go visit those foreign countries.

And so, after some soul-searching last spring, here’s the plan: For the fall semester, I will study in Alanya, Turkey, at the McGhee Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies. Then, in the spring, I’ll spend my semester at Villa le Balze in Fiesole, Italy.

As the days count down, I am ridiculously excited to begin this crazy year of travel. In all honesty, I feel slightly jittery and unprepared. I mean, I’ve got my passport and travel plans and background reading squared away, but the Type-A in me gets anxious with the idea that you can’t completely prepare for everything that living abroad might throw at you. In the meantime, I’m trying to quell that by reading all I can about life in Turkey before I actually arrive in little over a week.

I’ll write in greater detail about my plans for Turkey later on, but I thought this would be a good time to give a run-down about what I’ve been up to this summer, in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

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The view from Healey Lawn, with Copley Hall in the background.

In May, I said goodbye to my beautiful city of Washington, D.C., for the whole next year. Oh Healey Lawn, I already miss you.

This summer, one of the important things for me was to spend time with my family and friends at home in Northern California. Since I go to school on the opposite coast––and would be going to school on the opposite side of the world––I truly cherished spending my time at home. Like getting to see  this goofy guy:

Spotted: One reticent almost-middle schooler hiding in the clothing racks at Target.

Spotted: One reticent almost-middle schooler hiding in the clothing racks at Target.

He just started middle school, and while he’s often embarrassed by me, he’s the coolest kid I know. Case in point: At karaoke, he once told the employee that his name was “C-Dawg” and he was from South Africa before he belted out “God Bless America” to a crowd of Baby Boomer cruisegoers.

In June, my family  took a trip to Alaska, where we stalked Sarah Palin’s house, landed in a ski plane on Mt. McKinley, took an 8-hour bus ride on a dirt road into Denali National Park, got devoured by mosquitoes, and met a handful of the gloriously colorful people who reside in our 49th state.

Back in California, I lived for a good portion of the summer in Santa Cruz, Calif., where I taught SAT and college prep classes in Watsonville and Aptos for high school students through a really cool company called CollegeSpring. (Check them out!)

The rest of my summer included waterskiing in Arkansas, visiting the location of the very first Walmart, interning for a legal-related start-up called MyLawsuit.com, and spending lots of time with my wonderful boyfriend Shawn.

Hi Shawn!

Hi Shawn!

Right now, it’s just a matter of taking care of the last details––you know, procrastinating on packing until the last minute, googling what actually is in a Turkish Delight, and daydreaming about where else I want to travel to during my fall break.