Thursday, December 10, 2015

Backpacking without a Backpack

I disappeared for a while due to travel and interviews but I'm back to share the last juicy details of my stay in Australia! Hopefully after this post and these wonderful photos I'll share with you, you'll forgive me....

Anyway, during one of my weekends in Australia, I decided to do some solo travel adventures. I'm planning to do an East Coast trip before I head home to the American lands. But first, I wanted to see how well I can travel by myself (yes I traveled from the US to Australia by myself but that's different--kind of).

Where did I go?

None other than the beautiful(but small) Adelaide. Adelaide is a city located in South Australia, about an hour flight from Melbourne.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Reflection of My Time Abroad

As the semester comes to an end I’ve been taking the time to reflect on all of the adventures I’ve been on throughout my time abroad and I have been trying to take advantage of the 2 weeks I have left on this trip. Prior to arriving in Florence my idea of Italy was different in a lot of ways. I thought that the language would come extremely easy to me and I would be fluent within a few months. Although my original idea of Italy ended up being very different, I am proud to say that I have grown more than I could have imagined. Here are two of the major expectations I had prior to arriving in Florence and what really happened while I was abroad.

1. I thought I would learn the language easily.

I’ve always heard that languages come easy to you when when you are submerged into a foreign country. After studying Italian I-IV at Drexel and studying Rosetta Stone on the side, I really thought I knew a lot more Italian than I actually knew. When I first got to Florence I was so excited to put my Italian skills to the test. Sadly, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I tried to order a cafĂ© in Italian but when I tried to speak in Italian the bartender can tell I was American and would just speak to me in English. I didn’t realize that most Italians (especially living in my area) know English and can speak it fluently. In addition, I live in a building with all American study abroad students so I don’t even get the chance to practice when I’m back home in the apartment. As the weeks went by I tried my best to practice Italian and to meet other Italian students in my school. Considering my classes were all in English, I only had American students in my classes so again, I’m surrounded by English speakers in a place where I expected to only hear Italian. This was extremely discouraging at first, but it helped me to want to learn Italian faster; I was so sick of feeling so lame not being able to converse with people and have a normal conversation in their language. Now, I realized the language was not as easy to pick up as I expected but, I have learned so much and now I am more confident when I speak to other Italians. In the end, I am not as fluent as I hoped to be, but I have improved my Italian immensely and I am a lot more confident than I was when I first came to Italy.

2. I thought I would make best friends here and would be able to go on adventures with my friends around Europe.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from studying abroad is that you don’t need to be best friends with the people you are studying abroad with. I had absolutely no problems with my roommates and friends studying abroad. Although they were always clean, respectful, kind, and considerate I realized that the only thing we really had in common was that we wanted to study abroad in the same program and we love fashion. Although, I made plenty of friends including Italian friends from school I felt very lonely at times. I was always so ready to go out and explore and meet new people, but no one really had that same adventurous characteristic that I had. I would consider exploring on my own at times which was nice during the day but, it’s not something I wanted to do alone for a full semester. Also, it would get dark around 5pm so, exploring on my own did not sound like a safe idea either. By the end of the trip I realized that I wasted a lot of my time being upset and feeling held back. However I believe I’ve grown the most because of this. I had a lot of time by myself to reflect on my life back home and realize what and who I truly missed while abroad. It also gave me a chance to see who really missed me and who would reach out to me. Although I didn’t explore as much as I was hoping I would, I am so happy that I had time to reflect and focus on myself for once because I am so busy when I am back home so, I feel as though I never get the chance to think about myself.

With just two weeks left I’ve decided to turn things around and really get more out of my experience here; after all, it’s not going to be a 100 euro round trip to Germany once I leave here! This week I traveled to Hamburg, Germany to see my grandma and cousins who live there! I am so excited I got the chance to see them and Germany is so much fun this time of the year with their Christmas markets and beautiful lights around the city. I think it's safe to say I have caught the travel bug and I am not ready to come back!


Christmas Markets in Hamburg

Sunday, November 22, 2015


This past week was one of my favorite ones. I was able to travel to Rome with other international students from my program! This was the first time I have traveled here so, I was extremely excited to experience another new part of Italy. My first impression when I traveled to Rome was that it was a lot bigger than Florence. There are still so many small cobblestone streets but for the most part it reminded me of New York with an ancient twist. Unlike Florence, the sidewalks are a lot bigger and the city is bigger in general so, it was easy to walk about 10 miles a day at least. Not only is it much larger than Florence, there are also so many hills! They’re not as steep as San Fransisco hills, but it seems like it once you are walking for so long! Overall, I loved Rome and it was a good thing we walked a lot because I was able to work off all of that pizza and gelato I’ve been eating here!

My classmates and I took a bus there which took about 3 hours and upon arrival, we went straight to the Sistine Chapel to sight see! This was one of my favorite places in Italy. each section of the Sistine Chapel had it’s own unique beauty. The ceilings of the Sistine Chapel really stood out to me. They were extremely detailed with the most amazing works of art. Its crazy to think about how long it must have taken to complete. After the Sistine Chapel we went over to the Trevi Fountain and got to see it close up! It was so much bigger than I had imagined. It was extremely crowded and chaotic there but once we were able to push our way up to the front I snapped a picture and threw a coin over my shoulder to make a wish!

The next day we were able to see the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. I’ve always seen pictures of the Colosseum from the outside but I never realized how big it really is. After about a few hours of walking around and learning about the ruins, my friends and I decided to go try out their gelato. It was amazing! The gelato in Florence is great but, there are some shops that are not as great as others. The one we went to in Rome was recommended by a friend who is from there and she said we had to check out the place. It was a little bit out of the way, but it was definitely worth it. They had so many different flavors to choose from and they even add a warm chocolate hazelnut syrup in your cone before they add your gelato! It was the best gelato I’ve ever had I wish I could go back already!

Rome was a short, but exciting experience. It was great to see a different city in Italy and it was a nice change from Florence. Rome was really interesting to me because it seemed so modern but at the same time you will see ancient ruins throughout the city where you would least expect it. Rome was so beautiful I wish I could have stayed there longer to explore.

In addition to exploring Rome, I had some free time during the week to explore Florence some more and I visited new markets on the way. about two miles away from my apartment, I discovered a brand new market that sold so many different things like shoes, handbags, and even fresh produce at a great price! I was able to find a lot of nice Christmas presents to bring back home to my family like bracelets, rings, a cute coin purse, and unique bow ties and belts for my dad and brother. There are so many cool places around the Florence that I feel like I still haven’t discovered yet. Hopefully I’ll have time to do more exploring this week! Next weekend I will be going on another trip with my school. We are going to Pisa! It’s about an hour train ride from Florence so it’ll just be a day trip, but I am so excited to go and see the famous leaning tower of Pisa. I only have one more month left before I go home so I have to try to travel and explore as much as I can!


 The beautiful Colosseum

The Trevi Fountain

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Italian Food

With all the great food I’ve been eating for the past few months I’ve been so surprised I am not 20 pounds heavier than I was when I first arrived. As you may know already, food is a big part of the Italian culture. Italians love to take their time when it comes to eating and it’s important to them to sit down and enjoy each others company while enjoying a lot of food. There are also so many different places around Florence you can go to where you could discover your new favorite place every week! This week, my post is dedicated  to the delicious food around Florence.

1) Pizza

Of course I had to begin with my favorite food of all time: pizza. The pizza in Florence is so good and it is also extremely easy to find. Nearly every restaurant or bar you will come across in Florence will have pizza. If it doesn’t, that would be extremely rare. I love the pizza here in particular because not only it is thin crust, but it is also made from fresh ingredients which makes all the difference! I am also enjoying the fact that I don’t need to blot the oil out of my pizza before I eat it, like I would in the states. 

2) Pasta

The pasta here is another type of food that deserves attention as well. With the countless ways of creating a dish, there is no way you would not be able to fall in love with a pasta dish here. Pasta is another dish you will find in ever restaurant. My favorite kind is pasta with mushrooms and truffle. Although you may find this dish in the states, it can’t compare to the freshness of the pasta in Italy.

4) Olives

Another type of food I love here is the olives. This year was a great year for olives because it has been very sunny. The olives are so easy to find here and they also are prepared in various ways; some marinated in oil, vinegar, or with spices. Olives make a perfect midday snack!

5) Panini

As if I haven’t named enough foods with carbs, here is another one. Paninis are very popular in Italy. There are countless sandwich shops all around florence where you can grab a fresh panini on the go. My favorite panini is the mozzarella, tomato, basil, and pesto panini. Again, the fresh ingredients make all the difference when it comes to food here. Paninis are not often eaten in restaurants but, it’s common to grab one at a bar while you’re walking around the city. 

6) Gelato

Gelato is something I had to add to this list. Gelato is very popular in Florence and you will always see people walking around outside with a delicious cone in their hand. There are so many different types of gelato flavors in Italy like tiramisu, chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, and more. One thing that I love about Italy is that people eat gelato all the time. Even when the weather gets chillier people still have gelato in their hands! It makes me feel less guilty for getting gelato once or twice a week…

7) Cheese

Last but certainly not least, cheese is one of my favorite foods in Italy! I have cheese at least once a day. My love for cheese began at home in the US, but after trying cheese for the first time in Italy, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on. There are so many different types of cheeses I can choose from, I barely get the same cheese twice! My favorite is mozzarella cheese with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. It’s a simple and easy snack that tastes so good!

One major thing I have realized about the food in Italy is that there are a lot less preservatives than foods in America. When I get food from the grocery store like meats and vegetables, the food will go bad almost twice as fast as it would take for food in America to go bad. It’s scary to think about how long foods last in America now. I would much rather take several trips to the grocery store than eating foods with so many preservatives. I have a feeling that Italian food will be one of the first things I’ll miss when I come back home! I can’t believe it is almost time to go. I feel like there are still so many more things to do and more food to try. For now, I have a trip to Rome coming up that I am looking forward to. I can’t wait to share my experiences there soon!


5 cheese Pizza and a salad

Gelato: hazelnut and dark chocolate

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Italian Stereotypes: True or False?

Today is the official 2 month mark since I have left the states. In honor of my two months spent in Florence, I would like to dedicate this post to the Italian stereotypes and what is really true or false. Of course, before I arrived in Florence, I had many ideas in my head about what Italy would be like. Although I knew my perception of Italy and Italians could be completely false, I had nothing else to base my expectations off of besides the typical stereotypes I would hear in America. I feel like I have learned so much about the Italian style from living in Florence. Here are a few things I found to be true and not so true…

1. Italians eat pasta and pizza everyday.

So true! Although it may sound like an exaggeration, Italians love their pizza and pasta. I didn’t understand how they could eat so many carbs and not gain weight but, I’ve realized that the portions of the pasta dishes are about half the size you would get in America. In addition, the streets are small and chaotic here so biking or walking to work is very common for Italians to do. Even I have been eating pasta or pizza everyday and haven’t been gaining weight! When it comes to walking to school, going shopping, or going to the grocery store, I average about 9 miles a day! 

2. Italians love coffee in large quantities and drink any kind of coffee at any time of the day.

This one is both true and false! Italians do love coffee, but they are very particular about it. To start, it is completely normal to get a large to-go cup of coffee in America at a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Although Starbucks exists in more modern or larger cities like Rome, Florence is a very traditional city where you can only find your coffee in a small bakery or bar. In most cases, they don’t even offer a “take-away” option because they are meant to enjoy at a table or bar with company. In addition, the size of the coffee is much smaller. The largest cup of coffee you might find is the cappuccino, which is only consumed before midday. You would be able to order a cappuccino anywhere past noon, but the Italians will think its extremely odd because it is just a morning drink to them. Instead, caffè macchiato is an Italian favorite and no, I am not talking about about the Starbucks version of a macchiato. This is served in a small espresso cup with a few drops of steamed milk to top it off. Furthermore, if you were to order a coffee, you shouldn’t be surprised to get a small cup of espresso with no milk or anything in it. Italian coffee and an espresso is the same thing. 

3. Italians are fashionable at all times.

So true! You will never find an Italian in sweatpants or active wear on the streets. If they are riding bikes they are most likely coming to or from work. Even on the way to workout, Italians will always change their clothes to and from the gym. No matter what the weather is or where they are going (even the supermarket or to take out the trash) Italians always have fashionable outfits on and will try to dress with designer clothes and accessories like Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses, Levi jeans, or Gucci handbags. 

4. Italians speak very loud and always need to speak with their hands. 

So true! This one I learned from not only observation, but also from Italians who are from here. Although it sounds like they might be angry or yelling at someone at a restaurant or on the phone, it’s just the way they communicate and speak their language. In addition, hand gestures are a way they communicate as well. There are specific hand gestures they all use which helps them to further emphasize what they are trying to say. 

5. The Mafia exists and is dangerous. 

This is unfortunately true however, it exists but is not a problem in the northern regions. Mafia is more prevalent in the south and in Sicily as well.

6. All Italian men are mamma’s boys.

In Italy they are called mammoni and yes, for the most part this is true! Children in America typically leave home at 18 to attend college and start their own life outside of their parents home right after. In Italy, it is normal for kids to live at home until they are in their 30’s. Although they may not be very proud of it, they mostly do it for financial reasons and when you have your mom to cooking, cleaning, and doing your laundry for you, men don’t see what the big rush is to move out.

To me, the best thing about traveling is learning about new cultures and becoming a more well-rounded person. My parents always made it a point to travel as a family when I was little and it really stuck with me. Because of my travels, I have been able to experience new things, meet new people, and learn about other cultures and lifestyles. I’m excited to continue to learn more in the month and a half I have left here! 


Getting in my daily dose of pizza with a friend.

Caffe Macchiato 

Sunday, November 1, 2015


This past week had been the busiest week by far. The work load at school started off very calm, but midterm week has been extremely busy. Besides studying for midterms and doing homework, I have been spending time with my parents and trying to make time to hang out with some friends.
It has been really nice having my parents here. I love spending time with them and it's been nice enjoying things I wouldn't normally do as a student, like going to nice restaurants that students can't afford. Last Tuesday my parents and I went to a restaurant that is known for their florentine steak. This steak is one of the foods that florence is mostly known for. I was finally able to try it at this restaurant and I couldn't be more excited. I did not know what I was missing out on before because this steak was the best steak I have ever had. If you ever come to florence you have to try it! My parents were only here for a week but the few days I got to spend with them were awesome. In addition to seeing my parents, I was brushing up on my Spanish all week because I got to go to Barcelona over the weekend! Barcelona was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had. I left on Thursday at noon and arrived in Barcelona in the afternoon. It was very cheap and easy being able to come to Barcelona. My friends and I were able to go to Barcelona for about 70 euros round trip. Barcelona has always been a place I've wanted to visit for a while now. I have never been to Spain before so I couldn't wait to experience new cultures and experiences. The first day in Barcelona was open for exploring and shopping. The first thing I noticed was how much more modern Barcelona was compared to florence. Florence is a very old city that never changes whereas Barcelona carries a lot of history but is a lot more built up and modern. One thing I was so excited to see was a starbucks. It's so sad but after 2 months of not seeing any in Florence (yes, you read right, there are no Starbucks in Florence), I couldn't wait to try that pumpkin spice latte again to make me feel more at home. From the first few minutes of exploring, I could already tell that I was going to love Barcelona. Along with the amazing shops and change of scenery, the beach was a 15 min walk away from the beach and it had the most beautiful view of The city and the amazing architecture within the city. When dinner time came, I could not have been more excited to finally have real Spanish tapas. Tapas are small plates with traditional Spanish foods. My favorite food I had here was also the paella which is a traditional rice plate that is also typically found in Barcelona. My favorite was the seafood paella made with assorted seafood. After spending the first day shopping and eating, I dedicated the second day to visiting the monuments and museums. I was able to see the Picasso museum who was one of my favorite artists. I also got to see la Sagreta Famiglia which was a beautiful building with amazing, newly renovated architecture. It was amazing to go explore new and different things. The last day I was able to spend in Barcelona was dedicated to trying new foods and going to different outdoor markets as well. It was a nice little break from reality in Florence where I had to go back to school and I was so happy with the way the entire trip worked out.


Beach view in Barcelona

Beautiful stained glass window in La Sagreta Famiglia

Confessions of a Thriftaholic

Hey guys! I hope you're doing well. I have a confession to make to you all on this fine day. Hopefully this won't change the way you think of me.

I, Jazmine Renee, am addicted to shopping.

BUT! I am not just addicted to any type of shopping. I am addicted to thrifting! I am a nifty thrift-er with frugal tendencies, so my favorite places to shop are local markets, thrift shops (called opportunity shops in Australia), and vintage markets. There is always something going on in Melbourne and it's super easy to find things to do no matter what you like. With that being said, it's been pretty easy for me to get my shop on!

I have attended a few different markets and they were very all different. Each market has a large number of stalls with various businesses selling unique products. I acquired some FABULOUS finds (probably more than I should have but that's okay) that range from soy candles to gorgeous, cozy sweaters that will prepare me for winter in the States.

Keep reading after the jump, if you want to know where I got these yummy goodies.