FIRST DAY IN MY HOST COUNTRY.


I'm almost twenty and left for exchange almost three years ago, but I want to tell you all about my departure day anyways, because it is always good to remember it.

Try to imagine a sixteen-year old who hardly travelled by airplane ever before and who had to fly for almost twenty hours and have a layover in one of the biggest airports, Heathrow, by himself. It isn't hard to imagine, right? But I wasn't worried at all, actually.

I think I put many alarms on my phone just to make sure that I'd wake up on time, even though I knew that there was no way I'd miss even the first one. I hardly slept, I was too excited. I arrived at the airport so early that I had breakfast again with my parents to kill time and have a last chat with them. I specifically asked for window seats at the counter, but from Milan to London I had an aisle seat, which anyways is better than the middle one. I didn't mind as the flight was short. The flight was delayed for approximately 30 minutes, but I was still not worried.

Flashbacks of 16 year-old me wearing a blazer and wandering in Heathrow still come and go nowadays. I was so excited to be out of the country, to see things I used to see only on a small screen. I was even excited to have a coffee from Starbucks (we currently don't have it in Italy), just because it was so famous.. I even took a selfie with its sign, what an idiot some of you might think, haha neext.

Heads up for future exchange students: 
Having a frozen yogurt right after a coffee and before a 9-hour flight is not a smart idea. I had to use the toilet onboard a couple of times because of that, but anyways I will keep details for myself.

I was finally floating between clouds, over the ocean and Canada. I was listening to music, even though British Airways' playlist was very poor in choices (there was basically the full discography of one direction and not much more). My point is: I never slept. I just couldn't, so I took thousands pictures of.. clouds. "Cabin Crew please take your seats, we will be landing shortly." This is it. I played "Hopeless Wanderer" so many times that day that it was just about time to land and start wandering hopelessly.


Touchdown. 

"Welcome to Denver, Colorado. The Mile-High City." I don't even wait for the airplane to park that I'm already texting my American family. "I landed" I said, and shortly after I directly called them. I'm sure customs where not so long, but they sure felt like that. Gosh, I was exhausted yet so energetic. I couldn't wait to cross the gate and meet my US family, I already imagined it in my head, just like in the movies. I'd arrive and they would be there waiting and ready to hug me. Well, they were not. "Where are you Cris?" "I don't know, I don't know this Airport. I'm assuming I'm at the arrivals." And I was, but my American dad & brother were waiting for me at the national arrivals, I arrived with an international flight, so we missed each other.

I desperately needed to use a restroom but they did not have dinner prior to my arrival, so we stopped at Wendys. I did not want any food so I just stole a few fries and had a frosty. The sky turned dark-blue and I was just staring out the window while my host brother was staring at me as I was some kind of alien. "Wow" I was thinking "This is insane!" Milan is a city, so everywhere you walk you have buildings limiting your vision. In Colorado all I could see where endless fields and a 180° sky.

My house was at the end of a blind alley and once arrived and parked in the garage they showed me everywhere, up and down the stairs. It was almost 1 am when I went to bed because I couldn't sleep so I started unpacking. 6am is around the corner and I'm already up. "They must be sleeping still, it is Sunday. There is no way I can go upstairs now, I will decorate my room." 

Two hours later I couldn't keep myself in my room, I wanted to go upstairs and talk to them. They were up and surprised because I was awake. "You know Cris, we hosted 16 exchange students before you and you are the first one who woke up so early" - "Well, what would you say if I told you that I'm actually up since 6am?" The weather was beautiful so we had breakfast outside the patio, I had banana bread with the amazing coffee my American dad makes. I felt like I was living in a movie. "Cris, I have to wash my car, would you like to come with me?" Of course I went, his car is amazing! He got it a few hours before I landed, I would say he did it just for me but that would bea lie haha.


It was so cool to be able to drive through my host city with daylight. My dad showed me my school, places where they normally go to grab a coffee, eat or buy groceries and all I could think of was "It looks just like GTA, huge roads and enormous cars."

We had reservations at Texas Roadhouse for 5pm, which is a bit early for me to have dinner but it turned out great because by 6pm I was literally falling asleep on the table. Thankfully after that jet lag didn't hit me anymore. I had dinner with a student from Greeley who was headed to Belgium two days after. We basically switched continents. 

It was for sure one of the most intense moments of my exchange year, followed by American holidays, trips and meetings with unbelievable people. I feel still fortunate nowadays for the experience I had, for the amazing family who I am still in contact with and all the other people who still text me now and then to see how I'm doing. By writing this post I realised how many things I still remember, even though it has been three long years, full of changes and stuff that enriched my life.

For all my Italian readers, and for whoever trusts Google Translate, I wrote a journal while I was in the USA where I went deeply into what I did other there, if you are interested check it out: 

- Cris

A BREAK FROM REALITY: Viajé a Madrid.


"Sometimes it all gets a little too much" sings Shawn Mendes, but I perfectly agree. From time to time we need to take a deep breath, stop stressing about things that won't matter in the long run and take a break. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Yes, going on a trip, even for just a few days, will work! So jump on the internet, book your flights and pack. See you at the airport!

I moved to Denmark last August and throughout the year I had the chance to see my best friend "only" four times, which is why we decided to go somewhere together, just the two of us, and catch up. Our choice was Spain, Madrid to be precise.

Royal Palace of Madrid.

Needless to say that we loved it. I loved the culture, the food, the Spanish vibes and hearing the language. I'm honestly missing sippin' Sangria or chilling at Parque de el Retiro. Italian & Spanish cultures are so close yet so different. I've tried to speak Spanish with people, even though sometimes I was actually forced to do so as when I asked a person "Do you speak English?" he replied with a firm "Español!" ... Si señor, my apologies, Spanish it is.

Parque de el Retiro.

Even though the tube costs 2 euros per ride (from and to the Airport it costs around 5€), we decided to walk everywhere and ended up with an average of 30km per day, we almost arrived to Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and Google Offices by simply walking! Think about it, if we took the tube for 4 days, back and fourth, we would have spent at least 16 euros just for that, when all the fun of travelling is finding hidden alleys and capturing perfect shots. Also, we decided to spend those 16 euros on Paella, Sangria, Empanadas and a bottle of white wine (or maybe two..) to celebrate.

Plaza Mayor.

Tips for discovering Madrid on foot:

Bring water with you, and sunscreen. Luckily enough I directly tanned without getting sunburnt, but having protection would be nice. We visited Madrid in June and even though from time to time it was hot, there was a little breeze which fooled us. I went back to Milan with a white line around my neck. I couldn't stop taking pictures, so I didn't tan where the strip was. Oh well, it is not that visible by now anyways haha.

Bring comfortable shoes. We decided we wanted to go to a cheap and warm place so we decided Madrid, but we didn't know it would be on hills. And this is why along with water you need good shoes. Well, we made it and I would do it again. I was so tired that I slept without any problems those three nights haha.


Talk to locals for advice. As my friend and I were walking we found a restaurant with a very competitive menu price, so I wanted to ask for more information. I thought that the person standing in front of the main door was the owner and so I approached him with a "disculpe!". I then figured he was not working there so I tried to apologise and leave, but he wouldn't let me. He kept saying if I had a pregunta for him. No, no questions, thank you though. Nada, he was nice enough to keep asking me if I needed help, and so I told him in Spanish that I thought he was working there and I wanted to ask information. Little did I know that from this first approach we would spend half an hour talking to this middle-aged tipsy español. He gave us advice and warned us. He was a nice guy, even though he started our conversation by saying that Spanish people engañan (cheat you) just like Italians. As we told him we were Italians he started a whole new and different conversation "Io amo l'Italia, Italiano lingua più bella del mondo, io canto, io amo la cultura" (I love Italy and Italian, I'm a singer and love the culture). Well we eventually ate there and it was good!

Paella Valenciana.

Visit as many rooftops as you can, Madrid has many. You can go up to the 8th floor of the El Corte Inglés for free and look over Grand Via. On the first Wednesday of the month you can go up to the terrace of the Palacio de Cibeles for free (any other day you have to pay a few euros) and enjoy the view over the fountain of the main Plaza and the rest of Madrid. For a few euros you can also visit Tartan Roof, on the last floor of Círculo de Bellas Artes.

Círculo de Bellas Artes Rooftop.

PS All the pictures are taken by me.
Check out also what I did in HAWAII.

- Cris

LIVING THE DREAM OF STUDYING IN NEW YORK CITY.


Today I decided to dedicate this blogpost to my friend, Emily, who's currently a full time student in New York City. I stole some of her precious time to ask her some questions about her new (not so new anymore) life in the big apple. Let's start by introducing her.

Were you an exchange student? If yes, where? 
Yes, I was an exchange student during the school year 2014/2015 in Lockport NY, near Buffalo and the Niagara Falls. I was part of my school's senior class.

What are you studying? 
I’m currently attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea, Manhattan. I’m majoring in Fashion Business Management, going into International Trade and Marketing for my Bachelor’s.

Why did you choose to study in New York City? 
NYC has always been my dream. It gives me unlimited opportunities of growth in the fashion industry. During my first day of college I was able to sign up to volunteer for New York Fashion Week. This led to a series of other great opportunities, which confirmed that I am exactly where I want to be, doing what I love. And NYC is THE city, who wouldn’t want to study/live there?!

  
Do you have roommates? If yes, how many? 
Yes, I do. I dorm with 3 girls who also attend FIT. Two of them are majoring in Fashion Business as well, and the other one is majoring in Advertising and Marketing Communications. I love them, we are really close and I couldn’t go through college without them.

What do you see from your dorm room? 
Last year I lived on the 13th floor, and I had a pretty cool view – I could see the Empire State Building from my bed! This year I live on the 5th floor, the view is not as great as last year, but I can see the New Yorker hotel.


What do you like the best of living there? 
I love the fact that there is always something going on. You are never bored, you just can’t be bored in NYC! I come from a very small town in Northern Italy, and I can say that NYC was quite of an adjustment, but I love it.

Is there something that you don't like instead? 
Sometimes I feel alone, it’s hard to make friends in the city. My school is very competitive as well, everyone is so focused on their success and everyone is busy all the time.

What do you do there during your spare time? 
I don’t have a lot of free time. Last semester I had a job, a part time internship, and 6 classes. My free time is very limited, but when I have some I enjoy walking around Chelsea, going shopping in Soho, and exploring new places, new restaurants and cafés in the city.

Do you walk through Central Park with a cup of Starbucks in your hand like an average white girl? 
Haha I get asked that a lot. Actually, I have never walked in Central Park holding a cup of Starbucks coffee. I walk through Central Park though, it’s one of my favorite things to do when I want to get away from the restlessness of the city.


Do you feel safe in NYC? 
There is a lot going on all the time, but I have learned to feel safe, and to be aware of my surroundings. It’s something that you learn over time.

If you could go back would you change location? Why? 
I would like to travel to the West Coast, because I have never been there, but as of right now I would not change location. I know that things could change in my future, but for now NYC is the perfect match for me.

Do you miss Italy? If yes what, in particular? 
Of course. I miss home, my family and friends, and REAL Italian food (especially my grandma’s food). I have tried some “Italian” food in NYC but it’s not the same, and it’s overpriced. Ugh.

Do you consider yourself a New Yorker after living there for more than a year? 
It has been a year and a half now, and for some aspects do I consider myself a New Yorker, but my heart will always be Italian, not matter where I will be settling even in the future.

How many celebrities did you see or even meet? Who? 
Shawn Mendes, Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Klein, Ansel Elgort, Brooklyn Beckham, Chris Martin, Jack Gilinsky, Madison Beer, Leandra Medine, Rihanna, Kylie Jenner, Ashley Graham, Metallica, Demi Lovato, Priyanka Chopra, Adam Levine, Cat Stevens, Florida, Nicole Miller, Alicia Keys, Eddie Vedder, Olivia Palermo. That’s pretty much it.

I'd like to thank my friend for sharing with me what her life in NY is all about because it is also my dream to settle there, if not permanently, for a few months. To discover what the city is truly about and to feel a resident rather than a tourist. I hope that through her words you could dream as well.

READ ALSO: FROM EXCHANGE STUDENT TO FLIGHT ATTENDANT.

- Cris   

HOW I CAN AFFORD TO TRAVEL.


I’ve been receiving different questions from people on Instagram, each one of them with the same purpose of knowing how in the world I can travel “so much”. First of all, I don't normally post pictures the moment they are taken, most of them are throwbacks. This means that if one day I post a pic of Milan and the day after one of Denver I am simply posting old images, and so I am not in a different city everyday. Second, I am currently studying abroad so this gives me the opportunity to travel around my host country and most of the planes I’ve been taking flew me back home to visit my family and friends.

That said, I am not denying that I’ve also been traveling for fun, in fact last week I was in Madrid, but it is all about budgeting correctly everything you do. You won’t see me in the club every Friday and Saturday night, I don’t get wasted every weekend and I don’t spend hundreds of euros on clothes every month. I simply work, pay my rent and save the rest for travels.


I work in a warehouse, where I take night / morning / afternoon & evening shifts. Night shifts mean that after university I go home, eat dinner, pack a snacking and go to work from 11pm to 7am. Morning shift in the winter meant waking up at 4.40am, freezing at the bus stop at 5.20am and starting working at 6am. I don’t like afternoon shifts because even though they are the shortest I still lose the whole day. And lastly, evening shift means leaving directly from university and go to work from 3pm to 11pm, taking the bus back home, showering, and sleeping at around midnight. Sometimes after an evening shift I even have work the morning after, which means that I can sleep just like 5 or 6 hours at the most (depending on the job/terminal I have to go to) and go back to my workplace.

This was just an insight for you to understand that the things you see on my Instagram are just the fun stuff that come after me working at a dusty warehouse. If you come after me on Instagram claiming that you envy me, at least you should know that if you wanna switch lives you also have to wake up at 6am tomorrow because there are boxes for you that are waiting to be lifted.

"Everyone sees the tip of the iceberg, but very few see how much it took to rise above the waters."

Anyways, it doesn’t matter where you work, as long as you work and you spend money on necessary things and not on stuff that you don’t need, you will be able to save money and enjoy roaming around as well. Sounds cliché and everyone tells you to save money, but this is what it is. There is no magic trick, but if you want to make things easier for you: write things down. Set goals and spend money only on them. Keep notes of what you spend and when you spend it.

READ ALSO: IS TRAVELLING EXPENSIVE?



- Cris

Few hours before I return home and I feel..


Hello fellows, today I decided to write Gloria's story. She's an Italian exchange student who owns an awesome vlog (you should check it out here) and I wrote this post based on what she said on her latest videodiary: "Last day in the US". She wasn't done packing, it was late at night and her host family was probably sleeping but she wanted to videotape herself to keep that as a memory.
Before I start, I'd like you to follow my Google Plus, so you won't miss my future updates! You can do so by clicking here and then on follow.
_
When I was in Italy my countdown was called "My new life" because this experience was, for me, a chance to start from zero. But now it's my last night in the US and 310 days passed by. All I can say is that I truly built the life I was dreaming until that countdown reached "0 days left for my new life".

When I was about to leave Italy my friends gave me a book and inside of it they quoted a song, "I Lived" by OneRepublic. This was their way of wishing me best of luck. The song kinda describes my whole life. It says "hope when you take that jump, you don't fear the fall, hope when the crowd screams out, they're screaming your name". I swear I lived. For one year I felt like Hannah Montana, like having two lives just like her. Nothing remains.. except me. I do have memories, photos and experiences but they are all part of who I am now. When someone asks me "Hey, how're you? What have you learnt abroad" the only thing I can reply is "look at me".


I've just a few hours left here and there are no words that can fully describe what I am feeling right now. It is almost what I felt before going on exchange, when I couldn't tell whether I was happy, anxious or what. I'm really satisfied of what my year turned out to be, because everything, even the smallest things, made me the way I am now. 
Sometimes the people who tried to tear you down return and say "By the way, I actually admire you.. I'm really proud of the person you've become" and this is when you realize you did something good, but also when someone who you've always admired a lot tells you "Congratualtions, I think you are a wonderful person, people should get to know you".

It was worth it. Life isn't always good, there are ups and downs. My year wasn't the most perfect, but it was the best one so far. It gave me a lot. I bought a flag and my american friends wrote me lovely stuff on it. It is really incredible how you can make a difference in someone's life.
Exchange is a chapter of my life that will end as soon as I will get home and that's sad, but I'm happy overall because I've people who love me waiting for me in Italy.
I'm glad I had a vlog during my experience because now I can watch my oldest videos and see how different things were and how much I grew during this short period of time. Thank you for hearing me out, this might be my last videodiary, or maybe not. Goodbye.

PS Glow arrived in Italy June 3rd, check this out to see how she surprised her friends.


- Cris, on Glow's behalf.