Saturday, October 3, 2015

Exploring my New Surroundings

The first week of Florence was slightly overwhelming, but still very exciting at the same time. After the first night in Florence, I woke up around 8:00am because I was so excited to go outside and explore. I left my apartment around 8:30am and to my surprise, the streets were pretty empty. People were just opening up their stores and setting up their tents for the outdoor markets in the piazza by my apartment building. I figured that Italians start their day a little later than I had expected. I continued to walk further down the street in hopes of finding a more open spaces like a piazza. The streets of florence are very small and almost looks like a maze, so I was afraid of getting lost. If I were in the states, I would usually go on my phone and use my GPS, but here in Florence, I do not have data on my phone without WIFI so, I had to get used to relying on street signs rather than my iPhone. This was so difficult for me, but it helped me in the long run because I was able to familiarize myself with my surroundings faster.

After just a few minutes of walking, I was able to find my school! To my relief, it took about 5 minutes to get there from my apartment and it was also surrounded by many cafes and stores. I could not wait to eat and shop! I decided to find a cafe and order myself a coffee and something for breakfast. There was a small cafe by my school called Cafe Bianchi that I decided to try out. After practicing how to order my coffee over and over in my head I finally ordered in Italian to test out my skills. The waitress could tell I was American (probably because of my american accent) and answered me back in english. I was a little thrown off because I wanted to practice Italian, but in a way it was comforting to hear english and I didn’t feel like a fish out of water. 

After enjoying my first cappuccino and pastry, I decided to keep walking towards the river to see more of Florence. The streets suddenly became very busy as all the shops and restaurants began to open. I could tell this was a touristy area because there were a lot of small gift shops and large groups of people following tour guides. Since the streets were filled with people, it was nice to walk along the river where the space was more open and the view was so amazing as well. As I continued to walk along the river, I not only was familiarizing myself with my surroundings, but I was also using the opportunity to people watch. One of the first things I noticed was that no one was out jogging or wearing any workout clothes. This surprised me because athletic wear is a big trend in the United States. It’s acceptable and fashionable in the states to wear athletic wear even if you are not planning on working out. So many questions started running through my mind. Do people work out here? How are they not overweight? And where can I go to workout? I enjoy working out because it releases stress and makes me feel better and in addition, I knew for sure that I will be eating a lot of pizza, pasta, and gelato so I had to figure out where to workout soon.

The next few days throughout the week consisted of meeting new students in my apartment building and getting ready to start school. Luckily, we had 2 days of orientation that week for the international students so, I was able to see what the classrooms looked like and I got to meet the other international students as well. There are about 50 international students and 400 students within the entire school, so it is a small university. It was really cool to meet the students at this school because unlike Drexel, Accademia Italiana is just a design school so everyone I met had similar interests as me. 

Thanks to the two day orientation, I felt better about starting school the following Monday. The students and professors I met were all very nice and welcoming and the classes were not hard to find. The only slight issue I had was that my class schedule was messed up. I was in classes I did not sign up for and it made me nervous because I needed to make sure I was taking certain  to in order to stay on track with my courses at Drexel. Thankfully, the professors at Accademia were very helpful and my advisor was able to meet with me right away to change my schedule around. 

Although everything was going well so far and the people I met were really nice, I was a little upset that I barely had the chance to practice Italian. Everyone who lives in my building is from the United States and when I am trying to order food or drinks in Italian at a restaurant, the waiters answer me back in english. Practicing Italian was going to be harder than I thought. However, I knew I couldn’t be too discouraged yet considering I was only there for a few days and school hasn’t started yet. So far, everything was going well and although I was already missing friends and family, I was excited to start my semester long journey here! 

This is the view from the rooftop terrace at my school

The river I walk along to get to class

Thursday, October 1, 2015

MSFW: Emerging Runway 2

As a tribute to Fashion Month, I would like to share my Melbourne fashion experiences with you. Melbourne Spring Fashion week (MSFW) occurred about a month ago and it was such an experience! This was my very first official runway show and it was a night to remember.

MSFW 2015 was 7 days of complete fashion takeover in Melbourne Town Hall. However, runway shows were not the only events to be seen at. Events such as Shop the City, the Emerging Designer Market, Sketchbook, and various pop-up shops provided the opportunity for fashionistas to display their style and find the new must have pieces for this spring.

I attended the Emerging Runway 2 on Sunday, August 30th. The Emerging Runway is an opportunity for up-and-coming designers from various fashion schools  across Melbourne to display their work. The schools that were feature in this show were:
  1. Box Hill Institute
  2. Kangan Institute
  3. Holmesglen Institute
  4. RMIT School of Fashion & Textiles
  5. FashionMasters
  6. Whitehouse Institute of Design
Each school featured 3-6 students, each with 3 looks. Below are some of the photos I took at the show.

DISCLAIMER: Please excuse the quality of my photos, as I was seated a fair distance from the runway and at a rather awkward angle.

To redeem myself a little (until I can improve my fashion photography skills of course), I have also shared a video of the final walk. Also for highlights from the show, click here to check out a video created by MSFW TV. Enjoy!


Sunday, September 27, 2015

M is for Melbourne, A is for Australia

I'm just a not so typical Philly girl.
I decided on my very first international adventure by picking the program furthest from my home. On July 24, I embarked on a 30+ hour flight to Melbourne, Victoria Australia. With a major in Design and Merchandising and a minor in Photography, a lot of people asked me why. Why not go to London? Or Paris? Or somewhere "fashion-y" ?(someone actually said this-no lie)

My answer to all of you curious people is:
Why should I?

Anyway, I'm Jazmine, and I'll be sharing my journey here in Australia with you!

I am currently half way through my exchange program at Swinburne University, and it's even more than I could have asked for.

Sydney is the popular city of choice for most people traveling to Australia but I must say Melbourne is really where the fun stuff happens. This first post will be dedicated to the art inspiration in this beautiful city.

Street Art has a special place in my heart (and it was my theme for one of my projects in Jan's class-- all you D&M students know which class I'm talking about). Melbourne is like a giant Webster's dictionary in the sense that you can find every type of street art under the sun here. IT'S AMAZING! These are the places that I've visited so far with the best street art. While I have bazillions of photos of Melbourne street art, I'll only post my absolute favorites (which is hard because I have so many *sigh*).

Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane is the most well known street art laneway in the Central Business District. It's location is minutes away from Flinders Street Station and it's street art is vibrant and powerful. This laneway is commissioned by the City of Melbourne and gives official permission to create to street artists. On most days, a trip to Hosier Lane will include new pieces, live installations, and tasty coffee(there's a teeny-tiny coffee shop hidden in there). You will most likely never see the same piece twice(that's a good thing, I promise), as new artists come and paint over existing work.

Union Lane

Union Lane is a small laneway squeezed on to the iconic Bourke Street(known for its out of this world shopping) between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street. It's easy to miss if you aren't paying attention, but if you catch it, you won't be disappointed.

St. Kilda

St Kilda is a neighborhood filled with culture in Melbourne. No pre-planned trips to St. Kilda are needed because it is so easy to stumble upon something to do. Wonderful food, music, a beautiful beach, and detailed street art decorate the streets of St Kilda. 


Ringwood is the eastern suburb of Melbourne where I am living with my host family. It's a hot spot of the eastern suburbs as it is home to the Ringwood train station, Eastland Shopping Center (currently undergoing an urban renewal project), and you guessed it, colorful street art!


I was lucky enough to find some street art displayed around my campus. Glenferrie is home to cafes(the coffee has stolen my heart), Melbourne based designers, and yummy cheap eats! These are the only things uni-students need!

As you can see it's pretty hard not to be inspired by all these beautiful pieces of work! I'll be posting weekly street art as inspiration for all of us. Hope you guys enjoy.


Arriving in Florence!

Ciao! My name is Diandra Marks and I am a Design and Merchandising student at Drexel University. As of September 7th, I have been studying abroad at the Italian University, Accademia Italiana, in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy! About 3 weeks has passed since I first arrived in Florence and it has flown by! I am excited to share all my thoughts and experiences throughout this 14 week journey. 

To begin, I am going to start with the first day I traveled to Florence from the Newark, New Jersey Airport. Although I was slightly apprehensive about this semester long trip to Italy, my excitement overpowered any worries I had about traveling alone and studying abroad for a significant amount of time. Luckily, my travel experience ran fairly smoothly. My layover into Frankfurt was on time and I was able to find my way through the airport and make it on to my flight to Florence with no problems. My anxiety from traveling in a foreign country by myself was finally at ease and within the first few minutes of arriving in Florence, I already felt more mature and accomplished. 

Right when I arrived to the apartment, I met with the landlord and was able to get my room key and settle in. The first impression I had of the landlord was that he was very nice and laid back. I came ready to pay for my first month right away, but he told me I can wait and pay him anytime next week because he still wanted to complete a leasing contract for me to sign. He also spoke english very well which I was extremely happy about. The language barrier was one of my main worries because although I had just completed Italian IV over the summer, I was not used to speaking it and conversing with a native speaker. In addition, my landlord was very helpful with any questions I had. I felt a lot better after speaking with him. He kindly explained to me where the nearest grocery store is and where my university is located as well. Although I could have asked a lot more questions, I figured that knowing the location of the school and grocery store was a good start. After about a ten minute long conversation, the landlord left and I was able to explore my new home.

To my surprise, the apartment ended up being nicer than I expected. The main kitchen area was fairly small and cozy, but I didn’t expect anything bigger considering Florence is a small city. There is a nice red couch, a TV, a dining room table, and a full kitchen with beautiful red cabinets. In addition to the kitchen area, there are two bed rooms, 2 full bathrooms, and spiral stairs leading up to a small terrace on the roof. The bed rooms are about the size of a dorm room, but I didn’t mind because I knew I wouldn’t be cooped up in my room too often. The terrace on the roof was my favorite part about the whole apartment. The spiral stairs leading up to it gave the room character and I knew the terrace would be a nice place to hang out when I am studying or doing my homework. In fact, I am sitting out here right now! Overall, everything was beautiful and I was very pleased with how my room looked. I could definitely see myself feeling at home within a few days. 

The spiral stairs leading up to the terrace  

The kitchen area in my apartment 

After exploring the room and settling in a bit, two of my roommates walked in from running a few errands outside. They moved into the apartment a day or two before me. Luckily, two of my roommates are students at Drexel as well so, I was able to meet them beforehand, but we were still just getting to know each other. Since my roommates arrived a day or two before me, they were able to introduce me to other students who have moved in on our floor. The entire building, which consists of two floors (4 rooms on the top floor and 2 rooms on the bottom floor) are only students who study at Academia Italiana. There were only two other girls who had just moved in so far because the majority of students were moving in the following day. In a way, I was glad that there were only two more people to meet so far because it was a long day of traveling and I knew it would be hard to get used to everyone’s names. That night, the five of us walked to a little restaurant in the piazza right outside of our apartment and I enjoyed my very first Italian dish of the trip. Spaghetti with seafood, my favorite! When I got back to my room that night I could not wait to shower and go to sleep right away. The first day was exhausting with studying and travel, but I was looking forward to exploring Florence and familiarizing myself with my new surrounds! 


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Triple D Stunna

     Unlike some of the other D&M students traveling abroad, my trip ended in late July so I have had a good amount of down time back at my home in Dallas since. The trip as a whole proved to be much more exhausting than I had assumed, both physically and mentally. Due to this, I've lived in some what of a permanent sleep this past month or so. My days are night, and my nights are day, with me regularly peeping my head out of bed when many are getting off work for the day. I've still been able to do a lot with my time, however the nature of my activities is reflective. In other words, eating and nightlife have been the main attraction. In a sense, this is great because I wasn't as appreciative of food, or of the legal age during my years living here. This considered, I've done my best to make up for lost time. Certain foods come to mind when you think of Texas, and I do regularly miss the majority of them at Drexel. Barbeque, country and soul food, steak and Mexican food regularly visit my dreams until I'm home to smother them. I've done my best to appease this, and have visited all my favorite spots multiple times. I've also been able to try a few new places that fit into these genres, and those have proven to be some of my favorite meals this trip.
     As for nightlife, I've been lucky enough to have one of my old friends around to go out with regularly. I think it's interesting to see the different scene each city has to offer, so its been enjoyable to see how my home city compares to others. I will honestly say its not the greatest, however a few good areas have brought much needed life into Dallas lately. A reclaiming of the downtown area has done a lot of good, and I've been able to appreciate firsthand since my parents' recent move down here.
     Another awesome thing I've been able to do with my time is visit some of my closest friends. I was able to visit one of my best friends, Jared, at his house on campus at TCU twice. I was also able to visit other friends at Texas A&M, a school that I had never been to. The best part so far came in the form of a visit though, rather than me visiting somewhere. I was able to fly Emily down spontaneously last weekend, so we got to enjoy a few days together in my hometown. She has only visited Dallas one other time, so a different tour was in order. We drove and ate our way through the city, while finding a cool few sites to see. I enjoyed our visit to the famed Perot Museum of Natural Science, as well as our beach day at one of the local lakes. She had a blast, and it was great to show her some things I love while also finding new experiences together. As time dwindles, I hope to make the best of what remains. I will be visiting my other best friend in Houston, where we'll then fly out to Los Angeles together from. This should be fun, and I'm excited to see what LA has in store for us this time around.

Oslo: The Finale

     For the final stop of my trip I spent one day in Oslo, Norway. Unfortunately I couldn't stay longer, so I did not have as much time to explore as I did in other cities. Rather than being discouraged, I tried to use the short time frame as motivation to accomplish as much as possible. Similar to how it was in all my other locations, the first stop after check in was food. I found lots of great options, but decided to settle on a small fish market and eatery named Fiskeriet. Nordic cuisine is nearly entirely based on their abundance of fish, so I thought it was necessary to see their version of. I chose to order the fish and chips, and the Taste of Norway. The fish and chips was self explanatory, but differed from the British version as it was paired with creamy dill dipping sauce. The Taste of Norway was a fish platter, served with local grain breads, that consisted of three different smoked fishes. Both were great, but I especially enjoyed the meaty fish and delicious batter inside the fish and chips. After my quick meal, it was off to explore the city. 
     Norway is known for few things internationally, but one of the things that is most renowned is its creation and harboring of the Black Metal music scene. Black metal can be considered the "heaviest" of all rock music, due to its persona and lyrics. The music itself is unrecognized by popular culture, however its mark on history is unforgotten. In the early 1990's when the genre came about, many extremists took the anti-religious lyrics to the next level and began burning churches across Scandinavia. This destroyed or damaged many historic churches, causing a huge concern worldwide. Since, many responsible have been been jailed or killed, so much of the tension has dissipated. I'm not a fan of this music myself, however I find the history and conflict fascinating. One band in particular, Mayhem, seem to stick out as the outright leaders. In the early 90's heyday, they were highly revered and drove Black Metal forward. One band member, Euronymous, owned a record store in Oslo named Helvete. After Euronymous' murder, Helvete was closed permanently. However, a few years later a fan and supporter opened Neseblod Records in the same location. I thought there wasn't a better place to observe in the culture, so I made my way to the side of town it was located. Once inside, I began looking at the mountains of records and merchandise available. I didn't know much of the music, so the t-shirts interested me more than the vinyl. I searched tirelessly through the racks, hoping for a standout gem. The whole place seemed to have a stigma, so I didn't bother the disinterested shop employee until I had a question. In the most attractive rack, I found a few very interesting Mayhem shirts. I asked the clerk the price, as none was listed on any. He lightly began joking they were pretty expensive, as they were originals. Of course I managed to fixate on the most expensive area of the store, but regardless I had him call to ask the price. Fortunately, our ideas of expensive for a t-shirt didn't match up, so the beloved black long sleeve was mine. Leaving happily, I next decided it was time to see the other allure of Oslo, the breathtaking nature. 
     I headed out for the mountains, taking a roughly thirty minute train to the top. I didn't really know where I was headed, so I just began wandering along whatever path looked most appealing. Eventually, after a nice dose of nature, I randomly found myself at the Winter Olympic ski slope. Its scale was absolutely massive, so I stopped to marvel for a few. I was high up, but at the bottom I noticed a small structure that looked like a trampoline. I thought it was too random not to jump on, so I made my way down the massive staircase to the bottom. Out of breath, I arrived at the trampoline and hopped on in. I bounced around for a few minutes, and even managed to front flip, something I was scared to do when I was younger. Once I defeated childhood, I noticed an abundance of rain clouds in the sky and thought it was a good time to leave. I made my way out of the forest after some time, and even stumbled upon one of the burned churches in the process. By this time it was a Friday and the sun was setting, so I thought it fit to check out some of the nightlife. I found where the majority of bars and such were, then proceeded to find a restaurant nearby for a pit stop first. I decided on a tapas restaurant, which was an odd choice but had good reviews. I ordered an array of small plates, none of which were necessarily that great. Either way at least I was full, so it was on to the next place. I walked up and down a few streets peeping in bars, all of which weren't lively in the slightest. I wasn't looking for a rave or anything, but some kind of a pulse seemed necessary for my last night. As a personal last resort, I decided on a beer tavern. Beer is never my drink of choice, however with my close proximity to the beer capitals it seemed like a better option than usual. Once I arrived, I was glad I came. The bar itself was underground, and was a small cavern with a brewery attached. They offered house brews, as well as other beers from around Europe. I spoke with the waitress before ordering due to my novice, and she explained an interesting type of beer called Lambic. The Lambic she suggested for me was brewed with cherries, so I was immediately down. I was happy to find at first sip it was delicious, and almost something so different it was not beer at all. I enjoyed two bottles, trying the one brewed with black currant next, while relaxing in the pleasant underground setting. After I was finished, it seemed as if Oslo might not have much more to offer, so I decided to go back to the hotel and get some rest before my early flight. Norway proved to be a peaceful ending to what was one of the most enjoyable and interesting trips of my life. 

Back in the USA

            I have been back in the USA for 4 days but it feels like a lifetime ago that I was leaving London. I think because we took so many weekend trips around Europe (and the fact that I have just been laying by the pool while home) that it feels like I’m just away for a few days and ill be back to our flat in no time. Traveling to a total of six different countries while abroad taught me so much both about their culture and about myself. Here are the highlights of what I learned while away.
French People do NOT like vegetarians. If I had a dollar for every person who asked me if it is difficult to be vegetarian since I became one in the beginning of high school I could pay my Drexel tuition no problem. Until I went to Paris the answer has always been no… now it is “no as long as I am not in France.” French food is heavy on meats of all kind and I’m pretty sure their definition of vegetables is frites and grapes used to make wine. They also don’t understand when you try to ask for something sans meats. Never the less I managed to survive the five days on pastries and cheese (not a challenge for me) and did manage to find the lone French waiter who understood and was nice enough to make me a special plate.
Prague has AMAZING food. If you can’t tell from my posts all summer I am obsessed with food. It is one of my favorite parts of traveling so I was so excited to get to Prague and discover that they had a lot of really good food. I wasn’t expecting much… maybe because I thought it would again be heavy on the meat, so when we sat down for out first meal I could barley contain my excitement. Highlight of our three days there (food wise) include avocado tartar and a strange but really good potato vegetable dish.
Avocado Tartar... Delicious!

Amsterdam is as beautiful in the rain as it is in the sun. Since Europe decided to grace us with all sorts of extreme weather this summer it wouldn’t be complete without the worst storm Amsterdam has seen in 10 years. I may have spent the majority of the weekend looking at my umbrella but when I did get to glimpse the canals they looked very picturesque with abandoned bikes leaning against railings.
Barcelona has the most unique architecture out of the counties we went to. When planning what we were going to do the thought of going to more churches seemed a little overwhelming given we had already been to so many. However we decided to go anyway and I am so glad we did. Although La Sagrada Familia isn’t finished yet it was the most beautiful church we saw and the architecture was so unlike anything else we saw this summer.
Inside La Sagrada Familia

   The Amalfi Coast is the most beautiful place in the whole world. Ok so I actually kind of knew this since I went with my parents once but I was only in middle school so my memory wasn’t very clear. Going again really showed me that it was even more beautiful then I remembered… and that the food is the best! I also was able to make it to more towns then I did with my parents and really saw how each one had such a different flavor. It is almost not fair to clump them together as “The Amalfi Coast” since each differs greatly from the next.

Having London as our home base meant we spent the most time there and as such it taught me more then any of you want to read. That being said I’ll leave it at this… Go to Duck and Waffle at 3am. Located on the 40th floor you get an amazing view of the city and it’s so special to go at night. The atmosphere is so unique as it is a 24 hour restaurant however unlike those in America it isn’t a diner or anything like it that is usually open late night. We went on our last night out in the city and it was the perfect way to see the city for the last time. Since it was a perfect ending to our trip I’ll also let it be the ending to my posts and to my junior year at Drexel.
The view from Duck and Waffle-- the photo does not do justice!