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.

Monday, October 26, 2015

3 Ways to be the Ultimate Foodie

If you are looking for tips on how to be the best foodie out there, you've come to the right stomping(or shall I say chomping) grounds! It's only right that I follow up a coffee post with food because these guys are partners in crime.

Before we get to the photos, I'll share my Top Three Tips on How to be the Ultimate Foodie:

1. Get food
2. Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat/Twitter photo of food
3. Eat it like there's no tomorrow

Annnnndddd there ya go! With these three tips, a bit of practice, and a camera of some sort(phones work as well) you'll be a foodie in no time!

Melbourne is known to be great foodie city. With a large variety of cuisines to choose from, you will never get bored (or be bothered buying McDonald's or Hungry Jacks-- Burger King if you're in the States). Melbourne also has tons of markets that feature good eats and local food trucks and businesses so you'll be supporting good people too!

Now to show the important stuff: FOOD

Gourmet Pizza with coriander, tomato, peppers, and avocado (Australian)

Cold Ramen with salad and miso soup (Japanese)

Belgian Waffle with strawberries, chocolate drizzle, and powder sugar (Australian/Belgian)

Rice Noodle Soup with spring rolls (Vietnamese)

Savory Pancakes (Japanese)
Original Japanese Savory Pancake with Mayo, coriander, and a special sauce (Japanese)

Pan-fried veggie dumplings (Taiwanese)

Salted caramel, popcorn, and marshmallow filled doughnut (Korean)

Yogurt braised Lamb neck with fennel puree and coriander

And now for the Honorary Street Art Post:



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Perugia Chocolate Festival

As the days go by quickly, my adventures have been continuing throughout my journey here in Florence. I’ve been all around Italy these past two weeks I feel like I’ve barely gotten any time to sit and relax. My schedule has been jammed packed, but everything I’ve been able to do has been so worth it. This past week I planned a trip to the chocolate festival in Perugia. Yes, you read that right, it was a chocolate festival! Chocolate is one of my favorite things in the world so once I heard about this opportunity to go to Perugia for the chocolate festival, I had to take the opportunity. The trip ended up being everything I could have ever dreamt of. Perugia was only about 2 hours away from Florence so, it was really cheap and easy to take a  bus there and back. When I first got to the festival, it was a little overwhelming because there were herds of chocoholics around the area so it was tough to squeeze around people, but it cleared up pretty fast and it didn’t end up being too crowded for the whole time we were there. This chocolate festival ended up being amazing! I was able to try so many different chocolates even this special “ cioccolato clado” they make which is a hot chocolate that is so creamy it tastes like you are eating melted chocolate. I ended up getting a lot of different chocolate bars to bring home like chocolate with cookies, chocolate and peperoncino (hot pepper flakes), and chocolate with dried strawberries in it. By the end of the day I couldn’t possibly eat anymore chocolate, but I was glad I made a lot of chocolate purchases because I knew it would make a great christmas gift for friends and family when I come back.  

In addition to the Perugia chocolate festival, I have also been able to enjoy my time around Florence. My parents came to visit me in Florence. They decided to come visit me for two weeks. I was really excited because I haven’t been able to see them in  a while. Luckily, my dad rented a car and knows Italy well so, he came with an itinerary with a lot of fun and new things to do. The first day they arrived, we went out to a nice dinner to a new place I’ve never been to. It was nice being able to indulge on some good food and gelato while my parents are here because I’m on a student budget while I’m here alone. The next day was even better! We went to a wine tasting at a winery in Sienna. At this winery we were able to learn a lot about specific wines in Tuscany and how they were made. We also learned about the age of the wine and what the differences are between the older wines compared to the younger wines. This was a really exciting experience because not only did I get to see a beautiful winery and try great wines, I had the greatest view of the Tuscan Countryside which is always a nice change of scenery from the busy streets of Florence. The wine tasting also allowed me to meet and talk to new people who were tasting wines as well. This gave me the chance to practice my Italian and talk to people other than the younger study abroad students who I have been constantly surrounded by.

The wine tasting with my parents was a great experience and although I am not an expert on wine, I already feel like I am a lot more knowledgable and can appreciate nicer wines a lot more now. Now that the weekend is over, I unfortunately have to go back to studying and classes because it is midterm week for us. I can’t believe I’m halfway through the semester already! I’m definitely not ready to go back in two months because I still have so much to look forward to. I am leaving for Barcelona this coming weekend with a few friends from here. We were able to find cheap flights and decided we had to take advantage of the opportunity while we are abroad. I cannot wait to go because Barcelona has always been a place I’ve been wanting to visit. I can’t wait to share my experiences from this coming weekend! The week can’t go by fast enough!


 Keys made out of chocolate at the 
Perugia Chocolate Festival

Scenery at the Tuscan Winery

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Coffee Culture

Hey guys! It's been a busy week here in Melbourne with final exams and classes quickly approaching. However, that has not stopped me from my exploration of Melbourne. This week I have a bunch of yummy coffee adventures to share with you.

WARNING: The photos featured in this post will make you desire coffee right this moment and you will most likely stand abruptly and run to your nearest cafe in search of coffee with beautiful taste notes and latte art. If you are not prepared for these side affects, do not continue! (I'm kidding please do continue for my sake)

Anyway, coffee is a massive part of Melbourne culture and this is evident by the countless number of cafes throughout the city and surrounding suburbs.

Something no one told me about coffee culture in Melbourne was that it is more than just the beverage that you receive when you go buy your daily latte(and the resulting caffeine rush). You receive the experience that the cafe and the people within it have to offer. You support local businesses that put their love and care into roasting beautiful coffee beans that are full of taste and flavor notes. You support the local farmers that provide milk from healthy cows. You bond with friends and fellow Uni students over coffee. You meet new people and you learn new things about the world through coffee.

*End poetic speech*

Now that I am done my coffee speech I will show you these life changing coffees and which Melbourne cafes are my favorite thus far.

The first cafe I experienced is located right at my uni and it is FANBAULOUS (it's so good that I have to use more than one word to describe it). Oscar Mike is a small cafe located right outside of Glenferrie train station and it caters to people who are rushing but need their coffee before they get to where they're going. Oscar Mike serves locally roasted coffee and a variety of fresh lunch and snack items(that taste like the meaning of life).

Regular flat white with one sugar.
 Cafe Blac is a beautifully designed cafe located in Hawthorn (Glenferrie Road). With plenty of space for groups to sit and chat, work on projects, or read. The reading room is IMMACULATE and the coffee compliments it well. I actually ran into a friend who works at this cafe(see coffee=bonding with friends).
Large Cappuccino with one sugar.
 This was actually a restaurant that slipped into on Degraves Street (look it up-- this place is like a food/shopping/coffee mecca). I forgot the name of this restaurant which makes me a slightly horrible person, but I will get it very soon!
Raspberry Hot Chocolate
 Cupcake Central has two of the world's greatest things: coffee and cupcakes! I was sold on strictly the title. But upon walking in I was welcomed with warmth(and did I mention cupcakes?). This cafe is also located in Hawthorn (two doors down from Oscar Mike), and it is quite a treat. It's ridiculously easy to slip in here and have a coffee and a baby cupcake during a break between your classes(time will fly--seriously). And with the wide range of cupcake flavors, it is nearly impossible to not purchase one.
Flat White with one sugar
 By far my most visited cafe, Mario's Coffeehouse. They offer student discounts, yummy treats, and flavored coffee beans that are roasted locally. This beautiful old style cafe has comfortable seating and amazing staff that love what they do. The cafe also offers coffee bean, personal cups and store branded merchandise.
Large Mocha
 This small, quaint cafe off of Collin's street is the perfect place to go for a sweet snack, coffee, and a break from the bustling life of the CBD. I also do not have the name for this cafe either (please don't hate me). After an afternoon of walking around in the CBD, I was desperate for an afternoon snack and a breaking from all the walking I had done. I popped into this little cafe and had an amazing time(the young woman even helped me find something that catered to my allergies).
Regular mocha ft. an apricot danish

So if you're ever in Melbourne, don't EVER pass up a coffee. Like ever. Seriously. 

And now for a new thing that I am starting. Because I love the street art(see my post about it here), I will be posting my weekly favorite street art piece. I think I'll call it the Honorary Street Art Post.

Annnnnnnddddd here she/he/it is:



Friday, October 16, 2015

The Beautiful Tuscan Countryside

One of my favorite parts about studying abroad in Italy is that I am able to hop on a train and travel to places I’ve always dreamt of going to. Fortunately, the manageable amount of classwork I have and the convenient location of Florence makes it easy to plan affordable weekend trips with some friends. Within these past 4 weeks, I have already visited many places within Italy like Cinque Terre, Siena, San Gimignano, Sorrento, Pompeii, and even the beautiful countryside of Tuscany. 

Each place had their own unique character and charm, but what stood out to me the most was the beautiful scenery of the Tuscan countryside. My friend Ashlynn and I decided to leave the busy streets of Florence for a few hours to go check it out. Although we ran into some bad luck at first, I’m happy to say that luck turned around and it ended up being one of my favorite trips so far. 

After much anticipation, the day of the bike ride finally rolled around and I was so ready to go; however, the wether was not. Of course, the entire week was nice and sunny, but it rains when I actually plan an outdoor activity. Ashlynn and I didn’t want this to ruin our day so we decided to throw our rain jackets and rain boots on and left to meet our cycle group. As we were walking in the pouring rain to find the bike shop, we came across unfamiliar territory. Since we didn't have a map and we both don’t have data on our cellphones for GPS, we relied on asking vendors inside stores. (Who probably got us more lost because I found out that they will give you the most specific directions even when they aren’t sure where something is). Regardless, we finally found the store and since we were so late we knew we missed the tour already and were hoping to just reschedule. Luckily, the owner was very nice and helpful and we were able to reschedule our bike ride for the following week.

The long walk in the rain ended up being a blessing in disguise. Besides developing an amazing sense of direction, the new day we rescheduled was a beautiful day and I know we would have had a miserable experience if we ended up going the first time in the rain. In addition to the beautiful weather, Ashlynn and I experienced some more luck. We traveled 20 minutes out in a van to the countryside with four other people. The 4 others however, didn’t even end up being on the same tour as us because they chose to ride vespas around instead of riding a bike. Ashlynn and I ended up enjoying our own private tour where we could stop whenever we wanted to take pictures or to take a break from riding our bikes. Our tour guide was extremely friendly too and we enjoyed cruising around the countryside for about 2 hours. After the ride was over, we reconnected with the 4 other people and enjoyed a delicious lunch and wine tasting before we headed back to Florence in the van. The entire activity was only 70 euros with the van ride, bike ride, lunch, and wine tasting included. It was so much fun and completely worth it!

In addition to traveling within Italy, I am also planning on traveling to other places in Europe. I am lucky that I do not have any friday classes so traveling outside of Italy is easy when you have a long weekend! On the last weekend of October I booked my flight to go to Barcelona, Spain! I have never been to Spain before, but a few of my friends from home have and told me I have to go! I figured I might as well take advantage of the opportunity while I am here. In addition to the Barcelona trip, I am also planning on going to Mainz, Germany in December! My friend from my school abroad has a cousin who lives in Mainz that we can stay with so, luckily we only had to worry about our flight there and back! When I was little, my family and I went to Germany during Christmas time and I remember it being beautiful with all the Holiday decorations and lights strung around the city. However, my memories are very vauge becuase I was only 5 years old so, I'm excited to go back now and get into the Christmas spirit.

With all of these weekends filled up and constantly being on the go over here, I've been missing my down time at home with my friends and family. My parents are coming to visit me just in time though! They'll be arriving in a week. I can't wait to show them around!

The beautiful view I got to see as I rode my bike around!

My friend Ashlynn and I cycling through Tuscany. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Fear of the "Emotional Rollercoaster"

It is now the fourth week of my study abroad experience and I am happy to say I am just as excited as I was when I first arrived in Florence. Prior to studying abroad, I was nervous about the “emotional rollercoaster” that people told me typically happens during your semester abroad. This “emotional rollercoaster” is the series of emotions you may encounter while you are away. The first week or two is known to be very exciting because everything is new and you are constantly meeting new friends. The next stage you typically hit is the “depression stage”. Throughout this stage, the the new, fresh feeling you had as you first landed has faded and your work load picks up in school. In addition, you begin to miss your friends and family at home and you realize you have to adjust to the different cultures and customs of the country you are in. Luckily, I would consider myself in the second phase of this “emotional rollercoaster” and I have not been sad at all. Although the Italian culture and the language they speak are different, I am able to hold on to a positive attitude and try my best to learn the Italian style. 

Although I do not have Italian in my blood, I am obsessed with the language and the culture, so it makes sense why I would choose to study abroad here. Practicing Italian is a lot harder than I thought it would be (the majority of people here speak fluent english) so in hopes of becoming fluent and learning about the Italian lifestyle, I became friends with an Italian student named Alice who goes to Accademia Italiana as well. My Italian professor introduced us to each other in the hallway when I was on my way to class. We exchanged numbers and she answered back to me that same day! I am so excited this happened because I wanted to meet an Italian student from the start, but I found it difficult because I didn’t have any classes with them and I am not yet confident enough with the Italian language to go up to a random Italian in the hallways and start speaking to them in their language. Luckily, Alice is very nice and welcoming. We just met a few days ago and have already planned on meeting sometime this week or next week. I’m excited to finally practice Italian and to learn more about her! I’m so curious about the places she shops at or where her favorite bars and restaurants are. I’m a little nervous to meet with her because unlike texting, I know I do not have google translator in front of me to help me out! I feel like this will be a great push for me to practice Italian and I will hopefully get the insight I’m looking for so I do not have to feel like an american tourist anymore. 

This past week was a very busy one for me. In addition to meeting a new Italian friend, I finally got myself a phone with an Italian number! I wasn’t going to get an Italian phone at first because my parents got a texting plan for me so I can text back home, but I needed a number for around here just in case I needed to get in touch with someone from Italy and I didn’t have wifi. Fortunately, I found a phone store where you can rent a basic Nokia phone for free and you pay as you go. Texts cost 12 cents per outgoing text and calls cost 15 cents a minute. It was the most perfect option for me and now I will be prepared in case of an emergency! 

Even though I’ve been very busy with everything, I have not been feeling overwhelmed at all and I am still looking forward to the new experiences during this semester. It is already flying by! 

Here’s a picture of my new phone! I never thought I’d use one of these again, 
but it's very convenient so I love using it here!


Friday, October 9, 2015

Speaking the Aussie Language

G'Day Mate! Today I will be sharing some Aussie lingo with you. Living with a host family has really given me experiences that I would have never gotten if I lived on campus-- like when I got swooped by a magpie but that's a different story for a different time(just google swooping magpies and you will understand my pain). ANYWAY, back to Aussie lingo. I'm sure many of you have seen this video (and if you haven't-It's a MUST)!

I've learned quite a few Aussie terms during my stay that have been helpful when speaking to my host family. Here are some of them:

G'day: Hello
Arvo: Afternoon
Bloke: Man
Bogan: a very uncouth individual
Uni: University
Mozzie: Mosquito
Doona: Bed cover; quilt; duvet
Devo: Devastated
Garbo: Garbage Man 
Rubbish: Trash; to criticize
Good onya: Well done
Hoon: a reckless driver
Postie: postman
Barby: barbecue 
Big night: an exhausting evening
Brekky: Breakfast
Dodge: untrustworthy; sketchy
Heaps: a lot
Mate: friend
Roo: Kangaroo
Ute: an open-backed pick up truck
Footy: Football; Aussie Rules (AFL)
Thongs: Flip-flops
Cheers: Thank you; Good-bye
Pram: Stroller
Trolley: Shopping cart
Docket: receipt; bill
Nappies: diaper
Fortnight: biweekly; every two weeks
"How are you going?": "How are you?"; "How are you doing?"
Cheeky: saucy; bold
Boot: The trunk of a car
Bench: counter top
"Up oneself":  To have a high opinion of oneself;cocky, over-confident
Bathers: Swim suit
Runners: Running shoes
Spewin': to vomit; angry
Sunnies: Sunglasses
Milk Bar: mom and pop shop; small convenience store
No Worries: Expression of forgiveness or reassurance
Pokies: Poker machine

Try using some of these terms for a day and see how you go!


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.