I do not like eggs. I’m not sure what it is about them, but it is just a no go. I can’t smell them, I can’t clean my roommates’ dirty saucepans with little burnt egg crisps, and I cannot crack them. While I can muster the courage to eat baked goods like brownies, cakes, and cookies, even French toast is too egg-y for my taste buds.
However, in Spain, I have found the perfect egg dish: Tortilla de Patata. It is kind of like a Spanish omelet. All of the locals eat tortilla de patata. It is common for both dinner or as a pinxto (which is like the Basque country version of tapas, made as a single serving). We learned how to make Tortilla de Patata in my Spanish Gastronomy class, so, I decided to include the recipe so everyone can try typical Spanish cuisine! Food is culture, am I right? Note that the ingredients are for 12 people, so change the ingredients depending on how many people you are cooking for.
Tortilla de Patata
Serves 12 People
6 kg potatoes
1.5 L olive oil
To start, peel the potatoes and put them in a bowl of water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan on the stovetop. Then, cut the potatoes (in a uniform size) and put them in the frying pan, once the oil is hot. Add salt on top of the potatoes and fry them. Make sure to stir the potatoes until they are browned and cooked through. When the potatoes are golden brown, use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the pot.
Put two generous spoons of the potatoes into a bowl. Then, crack two eggs into the potatoes and add salt. Mix these things together with a fork. Next, put a little of the leftover olive oil in a new, hot frying pan. Add the egg and potato mixture from the bowl. After about 2 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and flip the tortilla using a plate. Cook the other side a little more (for 30 seconds or so). Remove the tortilla de patata from the pan. Repeat this process until all of the tortillas are made!
Your time abroad is THE time to have adventures, try new things, and immerse yourself in an entirely new world. Where is the best place to dip your toes in the water of a new culture? For me, it was food! Near the center of Beijing there is this lighted, stinky back alley between buildings that on any given night is packed with people. On either side there are food vendors, and there is an entire section just for souvenirs that you can bargain for. This place is called 王府井 (Wángfǔjǐng) and in Beijing, it is the place to get crazy and adventurous food! What was the craziest thing I ate while abroad aside from camel meat? Scorpions! Multiple food vendors in this alley sell either three small scorpions on a stick or one big one. After you order one (alive) they put it in a deep fryer, spice is up, and then you get to chow down! After the initial fear of even putting it in my mouth, I ate it and it was actually pretty good tasting! (好吃!) Minus the legs of course!
The next thing I had to try, of course, was starfish, on a stick! My two friends and I decided to split the starfish, however the vendor never told us how to properly eat it. After taking the first bite into the hard, salty, and crunchy shell the vendor man started laughing at me! He then proceeded to let me know that you are supposed to crack open the outside shell and eat the insides…. Well at least it didn’t taste that bad! I only took two bites and then I had to pass it off to my friend, probably not something I would eat again,
What better to follow up Starfish with than Snake? While I do not have a picture of this creature, it was a small, skinny snake with the head still attached, spiraled around a skewer. After biting into part of the body, I realized that it has almost no taste and was all crunch. Then I had the pleasure of eating the head… no so great!
I finished my adventurous night of eating with mini, tart apples covered in some type of candied coating. Delicious! After the fried ice cream, and hard candies that followed, my friends and I tested our skills at bargaining. In China, if you go to market, there are not set prices for items to purchase. The vendor gives you a price that is usually outrageously high, the buyer suggests a very low price in comparison and you bargain down to a middle ground. Bargaining in Chinese was one of the most valuable language lessons I learned, and I was able pay less! Overall it is a great culture to learn from!
Koreans have a rich food culture. If you ever visit Korea, these street foods are all a must-try. As a foreigner, Koreans are very curious about what food you have tried and liked. “Yes I’ve tried soondae. Yes, it’s delicious!” When I answered yes to both of those questions I’d get extra brownie points from Koreans—you can too!
Tteokbokki-spicy rice cakes. I’m with a classmate walking to the subway after finishing a night class and we are both starving. My classmate spots a street food cart and drags me over with her. Tonight is Tteokbokki night!
Tteokbokki is spicy, a little too spicy for my sensitive American tongue, but still delicious. I like rice cakes, but what I really enjoy are the pieces of odang (fish cake), green onions, cabbage, and egg—I love hard boiled eggs.
Soondae– blood sausage filled with glass noodles. The cold wind is pushing me around this evening after racquetball club practice. Once again, me and my friend are starving, and once again I am dragged over to the street food cart near the intersection in front of Yonsei University. Tonight is the night me to try soondae!
Soondae is sometimes sold at the Tteokbokki carts, but there are also restaurants devoted to this food. It is often accompanied by lung and a salt/spice mixture seen above. In Korea many restaurants specialize in specific foods instead of serving a little bit of everything like an Applebee’s or Perkins would do in the U.S.
Egg Bread– egg baked inside a cornbread batter. It was Friday night, I was hungry, but didn’t want anything spicy or deep fried, and just wanted to get home to my bed without spending an hour at a restaurant eating. Then a magical sight appeared before my eyes at the next intersection.
As someone who loved baking cookies, muffins, and brownies regularly, living in Korea for a year meant cravings for baked goods kept me company. I had been dreaming of corn bread for a while, and then got my fix on these amazing little egg bread ovals.
Hodduk– brown sugar and peanut filled pancake shaped pastries. I have a sweet tooth. It loves Hodduk. Basically you take a ball of dough, stuff a mixture of brown sugar and peanuts in the center, use a tool to flatten it on the griddle, and after a few flips there is a hot delicious pancake ready to be devoured.
Gold Fish Pastries– red bean filled pastries. First of all, red bean is a thing you need to know about in Asia. It’s sweet and is used in desserts and is delicious. Don’t hate on red bean.
These gold fish pastries are made what I could consider a fish shaped waffle maker. They come out hot and are delightful on the fall and winter days they are sold.
There you have it! Emilie’s top must-try Korean street foods. There are many other great street foods too—some are out year-round and others are seasonal; squid, chicken in a cup, waffles, and sweet potatoes are common. If I missed your favorite, please leave us a comment with what you love about your favorite street food.
Most of the students here at DU study abroad during the fall quarter of their junior year. A lot of things happen during that time, including Discoveries Orientation, Homecoming, Sorority Recruitment, Fraternity Rush, and other campus events. Included in those events are the holidays we Americans have come to know and love, including Thanksgiving.
Obviously, the rest of the world does not celebrate the American Thanksgiving, and *shocker* not everyone knows anything about it, when it is, or why we love it so much.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday at home, so when I realized that I would be spending it in France I was a little sad. No Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? No waking up to the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie? None of my family traditions?
Even though I didn’t spend my Thanksgiving at home with my parents and closest friends, this Thanksgiving was one of my favorites in a long time.
1. Find other Americans in your area, and have a meal with them.
The American students in my program all got together and we made a very “France-Giving” at one of my friends houses with her host family. We made 2 chickens, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, apple pie, and a cranberry-upside-down cake. Even though we all had classes on Thanksgiving, it was really fun to get together and make a meal for everyone.
2. Share a meal that is traditional in your host culture.
It can be really hard to find the ingredients to make a more traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Canned pumpkin does not exist in France. When I asked my host mom where I could find canned pumpkin to make a pie, she made a face and asked why I would want to eat pumpkin out of a can. She then proceeded to offer making the pumpkin puree out of an actual pumpkin, which was slightly intimidating. If you are having a hard time finding certain elements of a specific meal, try making something else. We ended up having different cheeses for an appetizer!
3. Make a meal for your friends from other countries and/or your host parents.
While you are studying abroad and learning about a different culture, the people you meet also want to learn about your culture, your life, and what makes you unique. Thanksgiving is a perfect example of a cultural exchange, plus you can make a nice meal for those you have come to consider family.
– Zoe Diaz-McLeese, DUSA Blogger
Université de Caen, Basse-Normandie, France
I cannot believe that the four months in France have absolutely flown by! I’m back in Denver when it seems like not that long ago I was getting on a plane to head out on my next great adventure.
What an adventure it has been.
It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve done everything I have in the four short months I spent in Caen, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything different with my time there. Now that I’m home, I’ve had some time to think about my favorite memories of my time in Caen, and I wanted to share them all with you.
Going to the Beach
As a Colorado native, I obviously do not get the pleasure of going to the beach whenever I want. However, in Caen, I went frequently, and certainly more times in a month than I had in my previous 20 years of life combined.
As a history major, I was constantly in awe of the incredible historical significance of the place I found myself. Over 50% of Caen was destroyed during WWII, but before that was a stronghold of William the Conqueror. Everywhere I went in Normandy, there was something famous historically. Mont Saint Michel, Bayeux, Caen, the various beaches of the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) which happened 70 years ago in 2014 – it was all incredible.
All of my classes were French, so I got a great handle on the language and culture of this amazing country. For a while, it was really awesome to pretend I was French. Every time someone asked me for directions in the street (en français), and I could help them, it was definitely an achievement!
Denver has been my home for 21 years. It was so rewarding to figure out another city – the transportation, layout, people, etc – and on top of that, have that city in another country! Caen really came to feel like home, which was one of the best feelings.
On top of that, I found one of my favorite places in France, Memoranda, a café and bookshop where I would spend hours pouring over books and pots of tea and apple crumbles with my awesome friends.
I had an incredible host family who were so patient, funny, and kind, and who really helped me adjust to life in France. I met some amazing friends in my classes who I know will be my friends for a very, very long time.
I know I will miss France a lot over the coming months, especially readjusting to life in Denver and life at DU. These are some of the best memories I will have, and I know I will cherish them for a long time to come.
– Zoe, DUSA Blogger
Academic Programs International, Université de Caen, Basse-Normandie, France
Having been living in Zanzibar for over a month now, I’m starting to really use the language and learn a lot more about the Muslim culture here. But I still constantly screw up with Kiswahili, hence the title of this post. I guess I’m sort of tri-lingual now with English, Spanish, and Kiswhaili, so it would make sense that I get the three confused sometimes. It’s been difficult learning the language, especially since I haven’t been truly introduced to a new language since I was about seven years old.
Luckily I don’t need the language to see the fish!
Probably the most fun we’ve had with Kiswahili are the mistakes we’ve made. In my Kiswahili oral exam, I spoke a full sentence of Spanish to my mwalimu (teacher) before I realized I wasn’t in either English or Kiswahili. I gasped, covered my mouth, and apologized over and over again. My mwalimu thought it was absolutely hilarious, and I still passed, so that’s a good thing! I’ve made many other not-so-great mistakes though, and so have the rest of the wanafunzi. See below:
Trying to say: I’ve had a good day (responding to a greeting) Actually said: Banana
Trying to say: I’m drinking coffee Actually said: I’m taking a poop
Trying to say: Brush your teeth before you go to bed Actually said: Brush your teeth before sex
Friend trying to say: Hold him back Friend actually said: Grab his butt
Friend understood: My husband is doing laundry What was actually said: My husband is dead
I love the strong emphasis on language learning with my program, it really allows so much more to open up to you versus just relying on someone else to speak English, which is completely possible in Stone Town, but I feel so much like a tourist that I want to use Kiswahili whenever I can. People tend to really open up to you when they see that you’re really trying to learn the language. Combine that with dressing appropriately (long skirt or pants, loose-fitting, shoulders covered), and conversations will carry on until the sun sets. That’s definitely a defining part of Zanzibari culture, always taking the time to greet people. This is what is meant by “pole pole” culture (pronounced pol-ay. In Kiswahili, all letters are pronounced). Learning more about culture leads to religion, which has huge influences on the daily lives of the Zanzibaris. Muslim culture is not as well known in America, so I thought I’d break a bit of it down.
One of the first cultural differences I noticed getting off the plane in Zanzibar was all the headscarves that women wear. The only time I saw someone’s hair in public was if she was white (aka not Zanzibari). Women are generally covered from neckline to ankles in loose-fitting clothing with a headscarf to top it all off. Depending on how religious the woman is, she will either just wear her headscarf when she leaves the house or she will add a baibui to it, which is the face covering with a slit for her eyes (just don’t call it a buibui, that’s a spider, and side note: the spiders in Zanzibar are MASSIVE OH MY GOD).
When women leave the house, many wear a black overcoat, so walking around outside, you wouldn’t think that these women have much style or care too much about what they wear. But once you’re inside a home or office, everything changes. The baibui comes off, the overcoat comes off, and the most beautiful, colorful, fun fabrics are revealed. Women have such an amazing choice of fabric in Zanzibar – I recently had my first experience at the market which if I were to describe it in one word, that word would be “balaa”. Go look that one up. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, I love the fabric choices women can have here – and women are very proud of their clothes (I mean, I would be too). They’re also very loose-fitting and flowy, one part because women aren’t supposed to show the shape of their bodies, and one part because it’s too effing hot in Africa to wear tight clothes. Your body is only for your husband, and he’s the only one who needs to see it. And by covering most of your body, you also protect yourself from the harsh African sun. Some of the wanafunzi (students) have taken to wearing them in public, and we’ve gotten comments on how beautiful we look, another indicator of how much headscarves are respected here. And I kind of like the look on me too…
I consider myself lucky that I’m not studying abroad in Saudi Arabia, where the call to prayer is so loud it wakes you up at 5:30 am every day to make sure you don’t miss your morning prayers. In Stone Town, I usually hear the call to prayer while I’m awake, but it’s not so loud that it would disturb any non-Muslim. My new favorite study spot is this rooftop bar that overlooks the ocean, and the call to prayer is a bit louder there since the tower is about 200 feet away from the bar. But the sunset over the ocean is totally worth it.
Yup. I win for best study spot, sorry Colorado
Last week I was able to see the beginning of a big part of Islam – making the hajj. The hajj is something that every Muslim must do if he or she is financially and physically able, and that is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. The trip is full of religious understanding and Muslims are considered very pure when they return. Our group of wanafunzi visited a director of our program who left for hajj a few days later. She invited us all to her home and we presented her with a new headscarf she can wear on her journey. While excited, she knows that there is a small chance she will never come back from hajj. Every year, with the massive crowds at Mecca, people, especially smaller people, are trampled to death, and it is recommended that before making hajj you get your affairs in order just in case something were to happen. When she told me this, I thought about how morbid it was and why anyone would want to risk a terrible death in the name of Islam. Then I caught myself. This same kind of thing happens at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican when a new pope is elected. This same thing happens every year at Walmart during Black Friday, a “holiday” that celebrates the accumulation of material goods. I later was very upset with myself for mentally criticizing someone’s way of life before thinking about how my culture views similar things.
The only part of Islam I’m not the biggest fan of is the restriction on eating or drinking things that are considered “dirty”. This includes consuming alcohol or drugs as well as consuming pork. And with the population of Zanzibar being more than 99% Muslim, pork is a rarity on the island. So yes, I sincerely miss pulled pork, pork in the crockpot, pork on the grill, and I definitely miss bacon.
Also, y’all seemed to like my dolphin video, so here’s another video of our group of wanafunzi painting the side wall of one of our accommodations in Mangapwani, Zanzibar. Enjoy!
We have just received an update from Torino and we are pleased to say that our DU students are settling in and are excited to spend the rest of the quarter in Italy. Their program, USAC, sent over some pictures so that we could share their excitement.
USAC: University Studies Abroad Consortium provides students with the opportunity to intensively study Italian language and also take classes in English, primarily in business, art, and Italian studies. USAC provides on-site support throughout the academic term, including orientation, excursions, social and cultural activities, and housing.
Kyle Svec arriving at Torino Airport
Michael Podshadley (left) and Alessandro Ballard (right with red backpack) at airport pick up.
On arrival night, students were served Foccaccia, salad and Coke before the pizza dinner. Our DU students are meeting students from other schools and socializing as soon as they arrive.
Hayley Zulkoski (left) and Alyssa Baker (right)
Here are our students having Torino’s specialty coffee/chocolate drink called Bicerin. USAC took all students on a field trip to the Bicerin Café which is the oldest café in Torino, founded in 1763.
(Left to Right) Ciera Shell, Hayley Zulkoski and Christina Criniti
Students are already involved in internships as well. Victoria Stevenson from DU is a teacher’s assistant at a local bilingual school, Saint Denis School.
Victoria Stevenson pictured above.
To learn more about the USAC Torino program click here!
The concept of being vegetarian has not caught on in every country yet. This may be because every person who identifies as vegetarian has their own definition of the word. I am guilty of this myself. I decided to become a vegetarian my right before I moved into my dorm my first year of college. I’m still not sure why I made the decision. Part of it was that I grew up eating organic meat from my uncle’s butcher shop and Sodexo was just not cutting it.
When I arrived in Spain I was extremely relieved to learn that my host mommy had cooked for students who were vegetarian and she could adjust to the fact that I am lactose intolerant as well. People outside of my home however, were not as understanding. I sure it was especially hard for the people of Salamanca, Spain considering that their home is known for delicious cured ham. They could not believe that I hate ham. When I went out with friends they said it was okay for me not to eat meat because there was plenty of chicken. It was hard to explain that I did not eat that either. By the end of my time in Spain I had broken down and started eating chicken about once a week.
It is a bit comical to think about now, but it was difficult for me to find things to eat at times. The important thing I learned is that you have to stay positive and remember that every culture has a different cuisine. I tried to be careful and explain that it was not their food that I didn’t like, I simply did not eat any meat (or chicken), regardless of how it was cooked.
Many of you go abroad to gain independence and escape the safety bubble of your community and university. Friends, family and familiar scenery is replaced with strange smells, food, people and a family that you may or may not be able to communicate with. All of this is exciting, driving you to do and experience more.
All that being said, I’m sure you first time homestayers are a bit apprehensive about the prospects of living under the roof of parental surrogates and how that will influence your extracurricular activities. Rest assured your homestay families are not there to keep you prisoner. They are there for guidance and support and might even welcome the idea of you taking in the night life.
However, in order to ensure that your nocturnal activities do not create an unhealthy relationship between you and your host family, there are four rules I recommend you follow.
1. Enter quietly: A night on the town leaves one tired and sometimes confused. In addition, how is one supposed to navigate the intricate system of locks and gates in the middle of the night? Make sure to hone your skills during daylight hours so as not to become a nuisance to your family should you enter the house before sunrise.
2. Tell your family where you are going: Gone are the days when you gave limited information to your parents in an attempt at damage control from something you did or will do. Your host families will be genuinely interested in what is happening with young people in their country, not to mention your safety. Be honest, let them know where you are going and doing, they might even let you know of some good places to go.
3. Whatever you do, don’t raid the fridge: Many are partial to a late night snack after spending the night dancing, chatting and mingling with all the new and interesting people. If this is the case, make sure to take a snack with you or eat before you come home. Banging around dishes in the kitchen in the middle of the night is sure to wake up even the deepest of sleepers. Besides, who wants to be the one that eats that special cultural dish that your family was saving for a later date?
4.Don’t invite friends over to spend the night without prior approval: Two can cause more trouble than one. Bringing others back to your homestay without prior approval is a sure way to do something that your family might not approve of.
If you follow these four rules, I guarantee there will be no ill will between you and your homestay family. The next lesson will be what to say to your homestay family when you come home at 2 am to find a giant rat drinking out of the dog bowl. True story.
However, being abroad is about being “outside of your comfort zone.”
New experiences tend to be intimidating and people are often hesitant to engage in the unknown, especially when it comes to food. During my time abroad in Spain, I always felt guilty when a friend would turn up their nose and make an unpleasant face when they were presented with a new dish. I kept thinking, if the Spanish are anything like my family, they would be offended to see somebody make faces without even trying the food. The cooks in my family are very proud of the dishes they create but they also understand that not everybody will be as fond of them as they are. Everybody has a very distinct palette and they prefer different tastes. Most of us prefer to eat what we grew up eating. When we are away from home we seek out the flavors we are used to. For me, a handmade tortilla will make me feel as warm as receiving hug from my grandma. A nice cup of Mexican hot chocolate will make me feel right at home. Food is comforting and when you are away from those you love, it provides a tiny moment in which you connect with them all over again.
I consider myself one of the pickiest people when it comes to food. The list of food that I don’t like is probably longer than the list of the things I will eat. However, I must remind myself to always try a dish once. Sometimes, this is harder to do because new dishes appear too different than what I am accustomed to. When I prepared to leave for Spain I already knew that I was going to have a hard time adjusting to the food. I could have traveled to Mexico and still had a difficult time. I simply had to get used to the fact that I was going somewhere new to have new adventures. After returning from Spain I can assure you that I most certainly did not love all the food I ate, but I did fall in love with new dishes.
I am very proud to say that I put on a brave face and tried what was set before me. I left my host family sure that I had no offended my host mom in any way, especially in her cooking and I let her know how much I appreciated that she would cook for us every single day. Being away from home is hard, and having your comfort food once in a while is normal but when abroad, remembers to embrace the new, the different, and even the slightly weird.
Many people worry about the kind of food that they will be expected to eat when they live abroad from stinky cheese to unusual types of seafood. Food was definitely one of my main concerns about living in another country, but not just because of cultural differences in food, but because I am gluten intolerant.
In Colorado, I have been spoiled by all the gluten free options: varieties of gluten free breads, cookies, pastas and more, and not only at health food stores anymore, but literally any grocery store. I knew that being abroad would not be the same and that I would not have nearly the same number of food options as I do in Colorado, but I didn’t let that determine where I was going to study abroad. Instead I figured out where I was going abroad, and then worried about the food as a sort of afterthought. I always assumed that if things got really bad I could just do some weird raw diet or cook all of my meals for myself—I mean I must be able to find rice and maybe some kind of meat in most other countries!
The program that I ended up going to was The Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Despite my initial worries about how I was going to avoid eating gluten abroad, it actually worked out quite well. Here is my advice on how to follow your dietary restrictions during study abroad:
1. If you are going to a non English speaking country, go to http://selectwisely.com/ to get a card that explains your allergy in the language spoken in the country that you are going to. Although I did not end up using mine very often due to not eating out very much and the fact that most Danish people speak a fair amount of English, it made me feel better that I at least had it with me in case I needed to explain my allergy to a food provider.
2. Tell your school about your dietary restrictions. I wrote in my application that I couldn’t eat gluten, and DIS provided a lot of gluten free food for me from asking my Folkehøjskole (the place where I lived there) give me gluten free meals to helping me find gluten free meals in hostels and at restaurants on trips that I went on all over Europe.
3. Explore different grocery stores if you are in a country that has a few different kinds. It took me a while to figure out which grocery stores were the best, but finally I figured out stores that were roughly the Danish equivalent of Whole Foods or similar.
4. Be as open minded as possible with other types of food because it’s hard to be a picky eater when you are unable to eat certain types of food.
Almost a month into my time abroad I discovered a really awesome Europe-based gluten free foods company called Schär, which to my delight, can also be purchased at many stores around Denver. So if you are gluten intolerant and end up living in a European country, keep your eyes peeled for the yellow Schär packaging.
This weekend, I traveled with a group of friends to the International Chocolate Exhibition in Perugia, Italy otherwise known as the Eurochocolate Festival.
That’s right, folks. An entire festival dedicated to chocolate.
And what a magical place it was. Rows upon rows of tents and display cases filled with everything chocolate related you could possibly imagine.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I first heard about the Chocolate Festival from my mentor, whom I was paired with through the Leo Block Alumni Center at DU. She happened to study abroad in Rome as well during her college years and gave me tons of great tips, among them a fervent “GO TO THE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL.” That wasn’t something I had to ponder. It immediately went on my to-do list.
There were many ways for my fellow abroad students and I to get to Perugia (where the festival is held every year in the Fall). We wound up choosing to sign up with a program called Bus2Alps which is frequently used by study abroad students in Europe to travel to various festivals (Oktoberfest, namely) and weekend or extended trips. The tickets cost us €38 each (about $50) and included a tour bus with a bathroom and movie to and from the festival, metro passes, a chocolate card (more on this later), and basically just the comfort of having someone hold our hand through the whole traveling thing. Initially we were also considering just figuring out the journey for ourselves, which would have been inexpensive but potentially difficult to navigate by ourselves. We ultimately decided the help of Bus2Alps was worth the cost. However, the Res Grads program at the American University of Rome (the largest student organization on campus that plans cheap activities for students to participate in) was also offering an organized expedition that basically would have just led us there via train, without charging us anything extra. I think going with the Res Grads probably would have been best, but unfortunately they advertised it after we had already bought our Bus2Alps tickets.
Anyways, we found ourselves in Perugia one way or another on Friday and I was quite impressed with the city itself. This was not our first time in the Umbria region of Italy as we visited the small town of Assisi about a month ago. In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that the trip to Assisi was less than a pleasurable experience for us, but Perugia was very different. It’s a much more developed city, complete with a “MiniMetro” system that made me feel like I was suddenly in an episode of Futurama.
Once we stepped off our “rollercoaster,” we found ourselves in the Centro Storico (or historic center) of Perugia, converted into a giant open-air market of chocolate goodness.
But of course, the best part of the chocolate festival was not just looking, nor even smelling the heavenly aromas of the chocolate, but actually eating it.
As I mentioned before, Bus2Alps took care of the €5 cost for the Chocolate Card. It’s essentially a punch card for free goodies at a select few stands at the festival. It took us a while to figure out that they had maps available that pointed out which stands were participating. By flashing our cards, we got free Lindt chocolate truffles, hot chocolate, chocolate euro coins, coupons, and even a phone case shaped like a chocolate bar. To be honest, most of the gifts were nothing to write home about, but hey, it was FREE CHOCOLATE.
We expected a lot more free samples though, so I do recommend that anyone who attends the festival comes prepared to drop some cash. I assure you that it will be impossible to not indulge in certain items, like my Nutella+arancia (candied orange peel) crepe that I had for lunch (yes, Mom, I do call that a balanced lunch diet).
See that hot chocolate? All of the “cioccolata calda” in Italy is as thick as pudding. It’s essentially like drinking hot brownie batter. I don’t know how many calories it has and I don’t wanna know.
My second word of advice is to bring a water bottle. I hate to admit it, but I did eventually get sick of chocolate and wished I had something to wash it down.
Third piece of advice: this was an excellent place to buy souvenirs for loved ones. Despite a lot of the wares being, obviously, chocolate and therefore prone to melting, there were also lots of chocolate-themed trinkets, t-shirts, and even melt-proof food goods like cocoa pasta and chocolate liqueur.
The chocolate festival was, albeit fattening, an awesome experience. The people were friendly, the city was beautiful, and the “noms” were delicious. If you’re looking for indulgence while traipsing through Europe in Autumn, look no further than the Eurochocolate Festival.
P.S. We topped off a day of eating nothing but chocolate with dinner at McDonald’s. That’s what I call a day of indulgence. Sorry, Mom.
According to the Office of Internationalization and just about any published resource on the topic, the emotions associated with study abroad is most like the Boomerang ride. You know, that U-shaped ride at amusement parks that straps you in, pulls you up to the highest point on the track, hands you and your queasy stomach over the cruel hands of gravity, and eventually cascades you back up to the other incline of the U. They call this the “Cultural Adaptation Curve.” But I like my rollercoaster analogy better.
PLEASE NOTE: I am fully aware that cultural adaptation and homesickness are technically two different things, but they also very intertwined in my mind.
Let’s hope this is wrong, considering a semester abroad is only about 3.5 months long, which would mean we would all be blissfully ignorant for half the time, then come home in the gutter of hostility.
In my humble opinion, homesickness is more like a daily ride on the Six Flags’ Tower of Doom. This ride straps you into a 250 foot tall totem pole-looking tower and, once again, lets gravity toy with your stomach and self-respect for a never-ending amount of time. Disneyland has it’s own version of this, called the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, if you’re more familiar with that. If you can’t tell from my description, this is consequentially my least favorite ride of them all.
I am about to hit the one-month mark of my arrival in Rome and homesickness tends to be a daily experience on the Tower of Doom for me, and it has been this way since the day I arrived. Thankfully, it only comes in small doses and I only feel these low, gut-wrenching emotions when I’m sitting around the apartment, doing nothing in particular, or when I’m at school without my friends.
I tend to struggle when it comes to making friends since I’m somewhat introverted. Thankfully, the housing director for ISA did an impeccable job in my apartment’s housing assignments as all of my roommates have become my best friends here, making my job of finding a niche much easier. However, when I’m left to fend for myself at school, I long for the days at DU where I can always greet someone I know as I walk through campus.
As for homesickness settling in when I’m doing nothing in my apartment, I realize I’m being rather hypocritical. In my last post, Il Dolce Far Niente, I described how I was “homesick for being lazy.” I take that back. I’ve reverted to my old ways where I need to be doing something productive in order to stay happy. Sitting around doing nothing in my apartment does terrible things for my psyche. My roommate, Julie and I discussed this yesterday and we seem to be in agreement that sitting on our laptops, refreshing our Facebook newsfeeds for hours does keep us feeling connected to home, but it also tends to be a waste of our time in a new country.
Therefore, I am left in a bit of a pickle. If I can’t be busy with extracurriculars all the time, in my attempt to learn how to relax, but must also find a way to keep myself from drowning in a sea of homesick blues, what’s a girl to do?
Here are my tips on combatting homesickness. I title them thus:
“An Overachiever’s Guide to Overcoming Homesickness”
1. Accept and embrace. I have a tendency to try to distract myself from my problems rather than facing them like a real woman. But inspiration against this came from “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert (my bible) in one of my favorite literary passages:
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience.”
Distraction tends to lead to bottling, which leads to taking that pressure and frustration out on others who probably don’t deserve it. I would have to say that this one is particularly important if you are attempting a long-distance relationship such as I am. My boyfriend and I are much happier when we are being honest with each other about how much we miss each other and how miserable we are without each other, rather than stifling those emotions with the intention of not throwing more baggage on the other person. As I said, this only leads to bottling and inadvertent confusion.
2. You aren’t alone. Once you’ve managed to admit your homesickness to yourself, try admitting it to someone else. I guarantee you they are feeling the same thing or have felt it at one point in their life. When Julie asked me yesterday if I’m feeling homesick it was like a huge weight off my shoulders to know that she was feeling the exact same thing. We even made a vow to take each other out exploring in the future.
If you’re lonely, start being lonely with someone else. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll come to the realization…that you’re not actually lonely. *gasp*
2. Find a hobby. Mine? Taking pictures and eating. Not to be confused with eating out of boredom, I am on a determined hunt for the best and most affordable food in Italy. At home in Denver, my hobby tends to be filling up my schedule as much as humanly possible. As much as I’ve always loved photography and food, I haven’t had hardly any time to do these things in college. Now seems like the perfect time to dabble and revel in these two old loves of mine.
3. Go outside. Insert some scientific fact about how much sunlight improves your mood. On top of sunshine, exploring and observing also allows you to learn your way around your new city. Trust me, when you learn the lay of the land and how to get to things on your own, it will stop feeling “new” and start feeling like “home.”
4. Enjoy the little things. It’s very easy while living in another country to get bogged down by the seemingly negative differences between your host country and the place from whence you came. The best way to get past these moments is to turn it around and find the silver lining.
For example, I can’t express to you in words how much my roommates and I miss Target–one mega store where you can conveniently buy absolutely anything you could ever possibly need. Italy runs on many small specialty stores: frutterias (fruits and vegetables), formaggerias (dairy and cheeses), farmacias (pharmacy/personal hygiene), electronics stores, clothing stores, underwear stores, sunglasses stores, home decoration stores…I could go on forever. In one mindset, this is horribly inconvenient. But on the flip side, fruterias have the freshest and cheapest produce because they can afford to do so. If you’re into the whole anti-monopolizing corporations, they’re pretty much nonexistent under this business model as all of these little shops are family owned by the most friendly people. There’s ample good qualities if you look for them.
My favorite way of enjoying the little things is, of course, my focus on food during this trip. Every successful meal is a win in my book. I will shamelessly admit that a good meal or snack automatically makes any day better. Case in point: I started writing a blog post earlier this week about the less than successful trip to Assisi we took last weekend. Many things went wrong on that day but you know what didn’t?
This is rocciata (roh-CHA-tah)–essentially, Italian apple strudel. Flaky, gooey, nutty, sugary, awesome-y rocciata. Perhaps instead of remembering the negative things, that day can live on the memory of this little piece confectionary heaven. It’s the little things that count.
After many kitchen victories and mishaps at home in Colorado, having a mental breakdown as I was packing, 12 hours of delayed flights, non-sleeping in upright positions, single serving friends, a pair of overly hormonal seat neighbors on the plane, arriving an hour late and having a mini-scare of my checked luggage being lost, I have FINALLY arrived in the motherland of amazing food.
This whole week that I’ve been here has been filled with endless moments of awe, dream fulfilling meals, and language barriers and breakthroughs, most of which are described on my own personal blog in both word and picture form. If at all interested, check out on my blog, Italy in Food.
Tomorrow I begin my first day of classes at the American University of Rome: a quaint, small, beautiful private university tucked in between the trees and streets at the top of a hill on the edge of Trastevere (tras-TEH-ver-ay; translates to “on the other side of the river”). Students who go there are a mixture of study abroad students, Americans living in Italy, and born ‘n raised Italians.
Today being our last day of summer vacation, the roommates and I have been pondering what we would do on our “final day of freedom” for a while now. Originally, the plan was to escape the heat and wade in the Mediterranean Sea at the beach. This plan was cut short at the sight of the weather forecast for the whole week: rain, rain, with a side of rain. Our second choice was to wander around the Vatican, which is the only remaining touristy area we have yet to explore. The Vatican’s closed on Sundays. I walked into my kitchen after waking up at the early hour of noon to find my roommates on their laptops desperately seeking something for us to do. I threw out the suggestion of taking cover from the rain in a museum. No response. Eventually the roommates gave up their search and trickled away into their respective bedrooms, which meant we weren’t making plans for today. I took advantage of this non-decision to do something that has been far and few between for this last week since I arrived: relax.
After making myself some eggs, I found myself on our balcony with a cup of Earl Grey, watching the rain fall and re-reading “Eat Pray Love” (my bible and part of the reason I am here in Rome right now). I did this and nothing else for two hours. The only reason I came in was because I was dangerously approaching the end of the first third of the book (the portion when Liz is in Italy, a.k.a. my favorite) and because I couldn’t wait to tell all of you about how I did nothing today.
On the days when we are busily buzzing about from piazza to piazza or monument to monument, I often find myself homesick for being lazy. And that sounds terrible. But when my feet are throbbing and I’m sweating out every drop of water I’ve been chugging lately, I often yearn for the not so distant days when I could just sit on the couch with Boyfriend, watching Breaking Bad (our addiction). Or sit at the kitchen table with just my mom, a mug of coffee, and a magazine. During the school year, these moments are far and few between, which brings us to the second reason why I am in Rome this very moment:
I thrive on agenda–or at least so I thought until I started having health issues. I like to keep myself busy but there often comes a point, usually when I am standing chin deep in calendar alerts, full inboxes, mile-long to-do lists, and shrinking deadlines that my body comes to a halting stop and breaks, either in the form of illness or an anxiety attack.
This is why I am in Rome. To educate myself on how to thrive on nothing. To teach myself that I don’t need a full schedule to be happy. That I can meander around the streets of Rome with my new friends until 3 o’clock in the morning, stopping in the occasional bookstore or caffé to talk about our favorite books, movies, and musicals without a care in the world. Doing nothing is a way of life here. It’s a point of pleasure. Enjoyment. Sweetness.
As I sat on my patio in the rain, I came to the sudden realization of just how lucky I am.
Wise advice from the DUSA blog coordinator. I would almost say that it was an understatement. Internet here has been one of the biggest headaches of my experience.
Problem 1: I have a Mac. Apple Macintoshes have become common throughout the states. They haven’t fully made their journey to South Africa yet. My Mac wont pick up the wireless. I took it to I-Tech every day for two weeks before they got it to work.
Problem 2: The wi-fi here likes to not work. It likes to not work a lot. It’s rather lazy actually.
Problem 3: Half of the online sites, such as Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, and Spotify are blocked from the hours of 7am to 7pm. I thought becoming nocturnal was an option until I realized the entire campus of PMB already made that decision. The Internet at night is so slow and so bad that you can’t properly get onto those sites using the wi-fi because everyone is trying to use it at once.
Lesson of the month: The computer lab is your new best friend.
As expected of a different country, there are other things I’m not used to as well. For example, Denver has squirrels – South Africa has cats. There are wild cats everywhere. They are pretty too. They don’t look wild or mean. They look like house cats. Except that there are a lot of them and they live outside.
Also, Denver has hotdog stands – South Africa has outdoor convenience stores. All along campus, about a three minute walk apart, are little stands. They sell candy, chips, cigarettes, and knick-nacks made out of beads.
There are tiny things that I notice too. In the states, when you’re walking in the street and a car is coming at you, you move to the left. Here, that gets in the car’s way. Also, when you’re walking through campus or on a sidewalk in the states and you come across another person walking towards you, you move to the right. Naturally, they move to the left here.
Food. There are things that never change. Like McDonalds. KFC is actually really big here too. But then there are the things missing from America. Like Indian food and Naindoos (a chicken place). And America needs to steal the recipe of Iron Brew and get it in the states. I can’t describe this drink. It’s so unique in taste. One of my good friends asked me to bring back the best candy, and I wish I could bring back this soda instead. Large amounts of it. A lot of people here don’t like it, but all of the Americans on my program are in love.
The trees are out of this world. I don’t know if South African trees are mountain-like jungle trees or a jungle-like mountain trees. But they are both. A part of the tree is a type of tree I would find in Colorado and the other part reminds me of a tree from the lion king. And monkeys roam around in them. I really like the trees here.
My favorite cultural difference is the language. We all speak English, but obviously it’s not the same. The simple way to put it: Americans are lazy. In the states it would be common for a college student to say, “When are the other kids showing up?” if you’re waiting for friends to arrive. As a college student, they clearly aren’t “kids” anymore, but we will often use that term. When I first said that here the response was, “What kids?” Likewise, we all go to “school” in America. It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, you’re in school. I was shocked when I first asked, “Do you go to the school?” And the response was, “No, I go to the Varsity,” their other word for University. Here, a school is a place where children go.
People are very friendly in South Africa. It’s common to hug people when you first meet them. It’s also common for you to get stopped by strangers who just want to say hello and ask how you are. It’s refreshing in comparison to the States were life is too busy to have time to stop someone you don’t know in the street.
You have stumbled upon my blog documenting my progress studying abroad in Rome. Many students create blogs to keep their friends and family up to date on every vague description and mundane list of “what I did today.” But I’m hoping this will be more than that.
My name is Cheyenne. It’s nice to meet you.
I am a rising junior at the University of Denver. Double major in Strategic Communications & Theatre. Minor in Marketing.
I leave for Rome, Italy on August 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM.
I return to Denver on December 14, 2012 at 1:00 PM.
I will be attending the American University of Rome through the International Studies Abroad program.
I have three goals while in Rome:
O N E A T I N G
A fair warning: I can’t cook. Or rather, I am currently somewhat inept at cooking. Hopefully we will change that. What I can do is eat. That will require no practice. I will start my appreciation for Italian food by learning how to do some basic cooking this summer. Being the first time I am living completely on my own with no college cafeteria to ease the pain, this summer I will periodically (attempt to) cook various foodstuffs.
The trials and tribulations will be documented here, a la “Julie and Julia.” Your tips on how to improve and your sense of humor are appreciated. To help me eat in a somewhat methodical manner, I will be reading John F. Mariani’s book, “How Italian Food Conquered the World.”
This was an impulse buy while at the Boulder Bookstore with my friend Lisa this summer. It comes equipped with a history of how Italian food made its way across the world and recipes so simple a Cheyenne can do it, all written by an Esquire food and travel correspondent.
O N P H O T O G R A P H I N G
Since we’re getting into this relationship of blogger and reader, you should know something upfront: I have a thing for photography. I’m by no means amazing or probably even good at it, but I adore it nonetheless. I will document my adventures in cooking and eating through photos. If you would like to see some of my other photography, check out my (somewhat neglected) photo blog.
O N R E L A X I N G
If you know me in the real world, you know that I am a workaholic. A strong-willed, wannabe independent, ball of sarcasm and agendas. Because of this, the thing I am most excited for and simultaneously scared out of my mind about is getting into the “dolce far niente” way of life in Italy. The sweetness of doing nothing. This sounds like trying to fit a bowling ball into a wine glass to me, but the challenge has been accepted. No backing out now.
I am thrilled for this journey and thank you for wanting to come along for the ride.
The first time receiving a hair cut in China, I pulled out an extra five kuai, ready to tip, when my friend leaned over and told me to leave it—no tip necessary. The same thing happened at the restaurant we ate lunch at. Tipping simply is not an obligation in China as it is here in the States.
To help you escape scowling waiters and awkward moments of looking at the tip line of your bill, let’s look at the different styles of tipping in countries.
For our many students going to Europe, if you are going to Western or Eastern Europe, do not worry about tipping—staff are generally paid full wages and do not depend on customer tips. In countries such as Italy or France, a service charge is automatically added. Anywhere, adding a 10% tip is considered generous. If you are ever unsure of how much to tip, round to the higher euro and you will be fine. In bars, you are not expected to tip, but some local will spare change when the drink is especially good.
When in New Zealand or the South Pacific, tip 5-10% if you are impressed with the service. You are not obliged to pay anything on top of the bill. Most restaurants in the French Polynesia will include a 10% service fee charge on the tab. At the bar,all you pay for is drinks. If you must tip, 10% is extremely generous.
In Central and South America, a 10-15% tip is appreciated if there is no service charge included in your bill. If a service charge is already included, you can leave a few coins to thank the restaurant’s excellent service. (Brazil, Peru, and Costa Rica are known for their excellent restaurant service.) If visiting Uruguay, Peru, Chile or Argentina, bring extra cash as the prices will be higher than standard. Best part: if you are just ordering drinks, you’re not required to tip at all.
Tipping in Asia depends on the country. China, Thailand, and Singapore do not require tips. In Hong Kong, a 5% tip is customary except at casual eating places such as noodle shops and dim sum parlors. India bills include a service charge—no tip necessary. Japan does not require a tip. Waiters may even chase you down to return a tip. In bars, 10% is more than enough, except in China and Japan, where tipping the bartender is unheard of.
In Africa and the Middle East, tipping is simple. Tip 10% of your bill and you’re fine. Leave 2-5 rand after a meal and waiters will be thankful for your patronage.
When visiting Mexico or the Caribbean, the tipping norm is 15% of the total tap (unless a service charge is included!). The tipping norms for bars are pretty similar to the U.S., where you should tip your waiter 10-15% if you ordered food. Standards for drinks are $1 for every bottle or mug of beer, and $2 tip for every cocktail.
Keep in mind that these tips are general and may vary from place-to-place during your travels. If in doubt, consult the locals or read up before you go.
Before I went abroad, I had never spent a holiday away from home. Whether it was something as simple as Labor Day, or as important as Christmas, I had always been in the United States and with family and friends. It never occurred to me how much being around people I loved mattered until I went to Switzerland for a year. Halloween was pretty much the same, and my flat mates and I dressed up as typical 20-year-olds in the States would. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving that it hit me.
I had never really stopped to think about the fact that the rest of the world has no idea what Thanksgiving is. Looking back on it, it’s painfully obvious: the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in North America…nowhere else. It just wasn’t something that I had ever had to contemplate. And even when I did realize it, I wasn’t all that concerned. My program was paying for the group to go to a 5-star hotel on Lake Geneva that was serving a Thanksgiving dinner for all the American ex-pats. My friends and I got dressed up and prepared for a great evening.
I don’t know about the rest of you…but food is kind of important to me. When I remember awesome times in my life, there is generally food associated with it. Whether it was the wild boar paté in France, or the lobster paella in Barcelona, I tend to eat my way through whatever country I’m in. This doesn’t change when I’m at home, and typically my Thanksgiving dinners are legendary. My father cooks an enormous turkey, three kinds of stuffing, piles of various potatoes, green beans, peas, cranberry orange relish, rolls, and at least four different kinds of pies. It is a veritable smorgasbord. This had been my Thanksgiving since I could remember, and I assumed the dinner at the Hotel Kempinski would be something similar.
The bread basket wasn’t all that different. The wine was undoubtedly better. I was a little weirded out by the paté and cornichons appetizer, but prepared to accept it. However, when they brought me my plate of dinner, I almost came unglued. Where my pile of turkey should have been, there was one slice of turkey breast. Where my stuffing should’ve been, there were four roasted chestnuts. There was no gravy. There was no cranberry sauce. I had a perfectly formed pile of haricots verts, maybe fifteen in total. This was alarming, but I could work with it. It wasn’t until I realized what the last thing on my plate was that I lost it. Instead of potatoes, they had put a shot glass full of sweet potato foam on my plate. Clearly the chefs at Hotel Kempinski had been fairly liberal in their interpretation of Thanksgiving, and I was suffering the consequences. I went home that night, skyped with my dad, and cried myself to sleep.
In retrospect, I should’ve been prepared for it. I should’ve realized that even though the menu said ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’, odds were good that it would be drastically different. So I’m hoping that in reading this blog, you future travelers will prepare yourselves for this kind of situation and appreciate it for what it is. I could’ve taken it as a wonderful new experience, instead of letting it ruin one of my favorite holidays. Before you go abroad, think about what American holidays you’ll be missing, and how you can try to approach it while overseas, and make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.
Unless they give you sweet potato foam. There’s no way around that one.
Worried about maintaining your healthy lifestyle when you’re abroad? The Western ideas of ‘eating healthy’ and ‘working out’ may not be applicable in the country you’re studying in, so you may need to be flexible. This new rich culture that you are experiencing has lots to offer you in regards to your health, you just have to have the right lens with which through to view it!
First, realize that eating healthy can simply be thought of “everything in moderation.” The food you’re eating is typically less processed and fresher than the food you regularly eat here in the US. When I was in Russia, I noticed that the labels on food packages were the dates of production not of expiration. This especially speaks to the new culture you’ve found yourself in—the system is based on what they have there and now, not how long it will last, because of an excess of products! So, don’t try and keep to the foods you eat here in the US, branch out and try the local eats. There are lots of interesting flavors and nutrients that you typically don’t ingest here! You may even find a new favorite!
Second, your usual work-out regiment may not be possible in this new environment. It could be that gyms don’t exist for you to use or that outdoor running or exercising is culturally frowned upon, thus you have to be more creative! Oh and don’t underestimate the power of walking. Since you probably won’t be driving yourself around in your host country, try commuting on foot! Walking substantial amounts each day will keep you active, but also allows you to explore the city firsthand, finding all the little nooks and crannies that will make you feel like a local!
Staying in shape and eating right are very important and completely doable abroad—you just have to be flexible and get a little creative! So get to it!