25 Feb | Margaret Decker | No Comments

The Adventures of Packing

Hey there, world!

So, I’m finally making my first blog post. I leave for Greece in one week and I could not be more excited! Well, maybe I’ll be more excited when I step off the ferry and finally see Paros… 😉 But honestly, I really just can’t wait!

Anyway, this post is mostly going to be about the pros and cons of beginning to pack for a semester abroad. I’ve never been far away from home for this long, or at least not far enough that packing is a huge deal. It’s crazy trying to choose what I’ll be wearing for the next several months. Now I know how people who come to Emerson (my home school) from Los Angeles must feel.

I’m doing my best to keep my things to one large suitcase and one weekend sized backpack, just because nobody likes having so much stuff that they need to ask for help just to carry it around. Based on the rather small checklist we received in the Paros pre-departure guide, I think I should have an easy enough time doing so–provided I can heed their advice and not bring too much clothing, of course. 😉

Here’s an extensive list of what I’m bringing along with me, in case you’re filled with packing anxiety and need somewhere to turn:


  • 4 bathing suits
  • 2 pairs pajamas — one short, one long (but still pretty light)
  • 1 pair jean shorts
  • 3 pairs leggings (various lengths)
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 sarong
  • 2 pairs skinny jeans – one blue, one black
  • 4 rompers
  • 4 maxi-dresses
  • 2 light cardigans
  • 4 camisoles/1 bandeau (for layering)
  • 4 short dresses
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • 5 tank tops
  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 workout outfits
  • bras/underwear/socks
  • 2 pairs flats
  • 2 pairs sandals
  • 1 pair wedges
  • Inexpensive jewelry


  • deodorant
  • sunscreen SPF 15
  • 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner
  • leave-in conditioner
  • body/face wash
  • body/face moisturizer
  • shaving cream/razors
  • vasoline
  • tampons
  • contacts/contact solution
  • toothpaste/toothbrush
  • small makeup bag
  • turbie twist
  • loofah gloves
  • Woolite


  • battery powered alarm clock/batteries
  • Kindle
  • Journal
  • Laptop/charger
  • Digital camera/charger/plugs
  • iPhone/charger/headphones
  • Paints/brushes
  • Greek-English Dictionary/phrasebook
  • Watch
  • Converter/adapter
  • Sunglasses
  • Lint roller
  • Small purse (with my wallet and passport inside, of course)
  • My knitting project and supplies
  • My teddy bear (he’s my “personal item”, according to American Airlines)

And here’s a picture of how it all fits in the bag and backpack:

Final weight: 47.6 lbs
American Airlines maximum weight: 50 lbs

Well, having successfully managed that, I think I deserve a vacation. Paradise? Definitely. I’m off to visit my Yaya (that’s Greek for grandmother). I’m hoping she’ll teach me some Greek before I head out.

TTFN, ta-ta for now!



23 Feb | Julianne Bishop | No Comments

End of Stay in Tuscania!

Sorry for such a delay in posts and the lack of pictures! School got VERY busy with school and my photo application is not working on my computer so I cannot currently upload any photos. Last week for classes I had a midterm in History, so I spent a lot of time the weekend before …


19 Feb | Marykate Wihnyk | No Comments

A good week!

Hey everyone! This past week has been a pretty great one. I traveled, classes become more fun, and there was a LOT of chocolate eating.


Last Friday Florence began its annual week long Chocolate Festival. My roommates and I went and it was SO great. There were booths and booths with tables covered in piles of all kinds of chocolate. They had hot chocolate (which is basically just melted chocolate here), chocolate covered fruits and waffles, and even IPhones and shoes carved out of chocolate! It was so overwhelming that I only bought a little bit of chocolate and made plans to develop a strategy for purchasing more later in the week. It was snowing lightly as we were walking around and it was so pretty.

In the piazza that the festival is held in there is also a carousel. I was feeling very in touch with my inner child with all that sugar around and so I decided that riding the carousel was a must. Not only were the no children on the carousel but I was literally the only person riding it. My friends just stood in watched in what I can only imagine to have been a mix of amusement and embarrassment. Not only did I insist on riding it but I also insisted on waving like I was a queen in parade or something. Like I said … I had consumed a LOT of chocolate. It really was such a fun day. Definitely one of my favorites so far.  I am actually eating Chocolate Festival chocolate right now so if things get crazy just blame the sugar.


At first when I heard that the festival was 7 days long I was little surprised. 7 days seemed like a long time for a festival solely dedicated to chocolate. Boy was I wrong! 7 days isn’t even close to enough time. I won’t lie; I visited that Chocolate Festival probably 6 out of those 7 days.  Yesterday was the last day and sadness overtook me as I purchased my last bag of Chocolate Festival goodness.


Chocolate Festival,

We really did have some good times together. I will never forget the free samples, the laughs, and of course the chocolaty goodness. I am so sorry I ever doubted you.  You really deserve better than that.  I hope you have forgiven me for that and will only look back on our time together fondly and with joy. You will be greatly missed. Until we meet again…

Your adoring friend,



So the Saturday after we went to the Chocolate Festival, two of my roommates and I decided to make a day trip to Lucca. Molly, Mina, and I had a great time! Lucca is sort of like Florence but smaller and prettier in some ways. The buildings are much more colorful and there is a lot more greenery. They have some really beautiful piazzas and a huge wall surrounding the city that people can walk, jog, and ride bikes on.

While we were there we climbed this huge tower that had trees growing out of the top! I almost had a panic attack going up the narrow stairs but the views of Lucca were well worth it. While in Lucca we also visited Giacomo Puccini’s house! That composer really knew how to live it up. His house was pretty nice! The best part was that the museum had some of his real sheet music, letters, and costumes from his operas! After hanging out with Puccini we headed back to Florence to have a great dinner at one of our neighborhood restaurants.


During the week my classes went pretty well! Some of them I am still a little bored with but my Archaeology class and my Food and Wine Pairing class are awesome! In Food and Wine we have been making all kinds of great food. This past week we focused on pairing wine with cheese dishes. All the dishes were amazing! In archaeology we spent 2 hours cleaning off pieces of pottery that were excavated in a site nearby. It was so fun! I was really worried I was scraping off pieces of pottery instead of dirt and ruining the artifacts but my professor is so nice and encouraging and she assured me that I was ok.  So far I’m really enjoying the class. I hope we keep getting to do hands on things like we did this week!



This weekend my original plans were to spend a couple of days in Venice. Because I think the sick part of my cough is finally starting to catch up with me I decided it might be better to stay around Florence and go to Venice when I can really enjoy it.

Friday I spent the day running errands around the city. I got antibiotics from the doctor, had lunch, shopped for boots, bought a book and even went to a movie! Apparently Italian people don’t have big feet like me because all the boots I loved only went up to like 2 sizes under what I wear! It was a bummer. Even though no one has my shoes size, I had a great day exploring Florence. I’m really starting to feel at home here and I LOVE it!!!

So since I didn’t go to Venice I felt like I still needed to go somewhere this weekend. I started researching towns that were close to Florence and that I could just visit for the day. At first the idea of traveling alone didn’t seem very fun to me. I was afraid it would be lonely! But then I came upon a city called Montecatini Terme that is well known for its Spas. What could be better than spending time at the spa?!

I figured it would also be the perfect place to go by myself and relax. In the town they also have this little medieval town up on the hillside that you take an old train to and can spend time walking around and checking out the views. I thought this would be perfect to add to my day. Some time at the Spa, a trip to an old town, and some food! It sounded perfect. BUT I have been part of enough crazy road trips to know that things don’t usually go as planned. This trip really didn’t go as planned at all!

First, I missed the stop I was supposed to get off at because I could figure out how to open the train doors. Embarrassing. I got off at the next stop with plans to just buy a ticket and go back one stop. When I got off I realized that I was in a little town that didn’t even have a ticket office by the track. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily there was a lady sitting on a bench on the platform. I went up to her and asked her where I could buy a ticket. It was immediately apparent that she spoke about as much English as I do Italian. Somehow we managed to communicate enough so that she understood that I needed to buy a new ticket going the other way.

She motioned for me to follow her and she started walking of the platform into the town. For about a second I thought “she could be leading me into an alley way to kill me or to sell me…” but then I figured she was my only option so I went for it. She lead me to a little tabacchi shop and explained my situation, the woman sold me a ticket, my new friend had an espresso shot, and we were back on our way! While walking back to the shop we picked up another friend. A really hot guy who I’m guessing was her boyfriend.

He started to talk to me but the woman quickly explained to him that I don’t speak Italian and that I’m in the wrong place. We made it back to the track and sat to wait for the train. An older woman came up and I stood to give her my seat on the bench. She started talking to me in Italian and my two new friends quickly began to explain to her my situation. It seemed like everyone in this town knew each other and every time someone came over the group would explain my situation all over again. I would just grin and nod. It was pretty funny.

When I finally got to Montecatini it was cold and rainy. I set out to find the Spa. When I got there the woman told me I couldn’t get the treatment at the place I wanted to because you had to have some sort of doctors note. Then she told me that they had a similar treatment in their beauty spa but it was more expensive. What a shocker. I made an appointment for a little bit later and went and had some lunch while I waited.

The treatment I signed up for was called “Mud Therapy”. This sounded a little weird but it was also the cheapest one when I looked on the website. In my mind I imagined a group of people hanging out in a pit of mud that had been dug earlier that day and filled with water.  They would be drinking wine and chit chatting while mud hardened around them. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.

Then I remembered one time, years ago, when my friend and I gave ourselves our own mud treatments. We had karate class later that afternoon and didn’t want to go. For some reason we thought our best way out was to get really really dirty. We started digging holes in her back yard and spraying water everywhere with her hose. Then we proceeded to sit in the holes and cover ourselves with mud. Other than the getting in trouble part, it was actually really fun!

I figured if this mud treatment was even the slightest step above that, it would be awesome. Then I noticed a picture that went along with the not very descriptive description on the site. It had this fancy looking lady with good skin, sitting in a pretty chair, wrapped in a towel, and getting the cleanest looking mud I had ever seen rubbed on her arms. It looked so luxurious!

I got back to the spa and got ready for my treatment. It was probably the most bizarre experience I have ever been through. Just to show you how naïve I was about how this worked, I brought a bathing suit with me! I was sure I would be at least able to wear a bathing suit. I was so wrong. They gave me robe, told me to take off all my clothes, and then gave me this weird disposable underwear that didn’t really do anything. I did as I was told and then followed some lady back to the room.

She didn’t really speak any English but she knew some key phrases like “take of your robe” and “lay face up.”  At this point I was feeling so awkward. Then she started to put really hot mud on me. It was so strange. Just when I thought things couldn’t get weirder she starts lifting up the ends of the plastic hanging off the table and wrapping it over me!!

You know in movies when killers wrap up their dead victims in plastic shower curtains? That’s what this was like! I definitely did not look like that fancy lady in the picture. Then she put things over my eyes and goes “I will be back in 50 minutes”.

50 minutes?!!!! 50 MINUTES!

What was I supposed to do, wrapped up like a mummy, for 50 minutes?? All kinds of crazy things started running through my mind. What if fell off the table and smashed my face because my arms are plastered to my side by mud and plastic and I wouldn’t be able to catch myself? What if someone stole the keys to my locker and took all my stuff? And then my mind went to the worst possible place … what if I got an itch?! Of course as soon as I thought this my face started to itch like crazy.  “Calm yourself! This is supposed to be relaxing!” I told myself. I guess this worked because next thing I know someone was unwrapping me. Anyways, long story not so short, my skin does sort of feel softer!

After my very interesting spa experience I went in search of the train that was supposed to take me up to the town on the hill. I literally walked in circle for an hour looking for this place. I finally find where I need to be only to realize that the train is closed for repair! What a bummer. So I decided to spend some time at beautiful nearby park, I ate some gelato, and I headed back to Florence.

Even though things didn’t quite go as planned, I think the trip was a good experience! It got me out for the day and gave me some stories to tell. I definitely recommend visiting Montecatini Terme for the day and experiencing their Spas! Hopefully the train will be working when you go!

This post has been epically long but hopefully somewhat enjoyable. More stories next week!







                     stuffed tomatos we made in class       Tiramisu                                         Lucca           

   My cleaning kit                    Cleaning off some pottery. Looks like a handle for something.

 The Spa



The park


19 Feb | Michelle Farhang | No Comments

Regina della Cucina

All of my life, I have been a disaster in the kitchen. From lighting things on fire to melting meals, the kitchen and I have never gotten along. I even have trouble with frozen foods. No matter what I do they seem to end up exploding in the microwave.

Photography, on the other hand, I love. Developing my pictures in the dark room is actually relaxing. So when it came time to choosing my classes for Italy, a photography class was my first choice. I chose Advertisement and Commercial Photography because it seemed like there would be a lot of opportunities to be creative. Unfortunately, when I got to class, it turned out that there had been an error with the prerequisites. It had said that an introductory photography class was required, and I had already taken three photography classes at Chapman. What hadn’t been clear was that an introductory course in digital was necessary. The professor told me that not knowing Photoshop would put me really far behind in the class and that it would be best to change courses.

This is how I ended up in my advisor’s chair, looking at a packet of open courses that were available to switch into. I came across a nutrition class called Italian Style Cooking that was in the exact time block I needed. I figured that I would need to overcome my conflict with the kitchen at some point, so I might as well do it in Italy.

On my first day of class, we were divided into four groups for four different courses of the meal. To the luck of my classmates, I was on Team Fruit Salad. Besides accidently putting three times the amount of vanilla in the cream, nothing went too disastrous. I didn’t even say anything, silently panicking the entire time, hoping that the class wouldn’t taste my mistake. Everyone loved it; the fruit and the vanilla cream were absolutely amazing. That’s the great part about Italian cooking–no one seems to care so much about exact measurements.

The other group at our table made bruschetta. I had listened to their instructions and watched them make it and thought I might be able to give it a try. On my way home from class I picked up the ingredients to make myself bruschetta for dinner.

Nothing caught fire. There was a brief scare when I thought I had burnt them all, but they were SO good. I was so excited that I had my roommates try some too, and they loved it as well! 

The next day when I was at dinner, I ordered my obsession as an appetizer once again — cheese and pears covered in honey. I looked at the plate and realized that making this at home would be even easier — there’s no way to burn a salad. I asked the waiter what kind of cheese was used with pears and he told me pecorino cheese. I have now made it four times in the last week, and am still obsessed. I have even found the confidence to attempt to make dinner for two. I still get nervous that I will completely ruin something or that they won’t end up very good, but I love feeling like I can actually do something in the kitchen. My goal is to be able to cook a big Italian meal for my parents and grandparents to show them what I have learned when I get home.



Italian bread!










Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil!








Hot in the oven!










Treating myself after my first tackle of the kitchen. 🙂












My masterpiece!:)











Pears and Pecorino cheese with honey! I think I’d eat anything if it had honey on it.











 Dinner for two! (Making three things at once is a challenge, I don’t know how my grandma does it.)


I am now leaving for the store because I am bringing my two specialties to a potluck tonight! Wish me luck, and arrivederci for now! 🙂 


18 Feb | Hannah Zoppi | No Comments

Starting to become real.

Twelve days out and I am beginning to feel the reality and excitement of this next chapter. Since this is the first entry it only seems fair for me to share some information about myself: I’m 21 years old, a second semester junior at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida and studying Theatre Arts with a minor in Creative Writing.  I love Flagler with every piece of me, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a change such as this. After all, everyone needs excitement!

Thus, along came Greece.

What led me to where I am now can be summed up as 5 months of running around my college in an attempt to obtain signatures and the “go-ahead” from just about every office on campus (some more helpful than others). But in the end, whatever led me to pick up Athena Study Abroad’s handbook and figure it out for myself could not of been a better decision.

Out of all the programs and countries, I was immediately drawn to Greece and everything the country and school offered. I thrive best within intimate environments and the school, Hellenic International Studies of the Arts, offered just that. The thought of it alone inspires me and I hope to ultimately concentrate on my minor and grow as a writer during my time on the island.

As I mentioned earlier, Athena has been beyond helpful with making these huge (sometimes nerve-wracking) decisions and I feel like no other study abroad program could of been as involved and personable as they were to me. I will continually recommend Athena to my friends and anyone else interested in studying abroad, you will not be disappointed.

My preparation has consisted of making dozens of little lists that I have scattered around my room… Probably not the most effective way of organizing, but I think I might be onto something because things do however seem to be getting done: What to pack, what to buy, financial plans, copies of Passport and flight itineraries, and making sure to tie up all loose ends before I leave America are all slowly being checked off. Since I am already a generally independent person, I am less worried about how I will cope and more so about the people that I am leaving behind. I think that all amazing opportunities come with sacrifice and this might just be mine.

So about the school! Hellenic International Studies of the Arts is located on Paros Island, which is an island in the middle of the Cyclades (about 5 hour ferry ride from Athens). I have some amazing classes picked out and I really can’t wait to just get to the island and begin my semester.

In only 12 days I will be flying out of Tampa and flying through Atlanta, Paris, and then finally arriving in Athens. It’s going to be a long travel day(s) but I am sure the excitement will transcend all else. All I can hope for now is safe travels and that my next blog will be written from another country. 🙂

μέχρι την επόμενη φορά!
 – Hannah 


15 Feb | Gabrielle Reiter | No Comments

Wicklow, Ireland


Last Saturday the group and I took a day tour of Wicklow, Ireland. It was someplace that I was very excited to see, both films P.S. I Love You and Braveheart were filmed there! Unfortunately the weather was very gloomy and the sky was filled with thick fog, and light showers through out the day. The sight of the mountains was very distant and almost completely hidden behind the haze. Though the views still beautiful, we had a lovely day of sightseeing and to top it all off, our tour guide Tommy was a blast! I do plan on returning in the near future around spring time, when the weather starts to take a turn for the better. 



Here’s an example of how thick the fog was, behind the haze there are mountains.



The Wishing Cross
It’s said that if you wrap your arms around the cross, and you make a sincere wish, it will come true.



The Bridge from P.S. I Love You



The Field where Braveheart was filmed




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