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!

Food, Food, Food!

     As I was looking though my previous blog posts, I noticed that I completely forgot to dedicate a whole post to food! Italy is obviously known for food, so I want to share some of my favorite discoveries all throughout the amazing country.

Favorite Pastas:
     One of my first meals out in Rome was with Nik and a couple new friends on the trip at a traditional Roman style restaurant called Osteria Da Fortunata. Eating in Italy is usually a two to three hour ordeal, which can be a lot of fun when you're with friends, as we were for this meal. Even though Osteria Da Fortunata's most famous dish was the oxtail pasta, I opted for the zucchini flower pasta because it sounded creamy and delicious, on top of the fact that I had never tried zucchini flowers! This dish ended up being one of my favorite meals in Rome, and you can probably see why!

    Another favorite pasta of mine was this Cacio e Pepe at a restaurant in Rome called Santa Lucia. This restaurant also happened to be in the movie Eat Pray Love! I tried a few Cacio e Pepe dishes while in Rome, but nothing compared to this!

Favorite Pizzas:
     My favorite pizza in Rome was at Pinsere, a tiny walk-up restaurant in an out-of-the-way part of the city. When we came here, we got the traditional Roman pizza experience because all of the slices were laid out on a table behind glass, and we each got to pick the slices we wanted. It got a little crazy at lunchtime because it seemed to be a popular spot. Everyone was going crazy picking out their slices, and you could barely tell what the different types were! You had to choose based on their looks, and I think we chose very well!

     Another must-have pizza is this delicious option from Naples. Naples style pizza is incredible- you just have to try it for yourself! This restaurant, La'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, also happened to be in the movie Eat Pray Love. Looks like Julia Roberts really did have the eating trip of a lifetime!

Favorite Desserts:
     The best dessert I had on my trip was at an amazing restaurant in Capri called Da Tonino. We stumbled upon it when trying to look up a reasonably priced restaurant in Capri. That's a joke, though, because everything there is crazy expensive. Lucky for us, we were able to find a restaurant only slightly above our budget. After climbing up a mountain for a half hour, we arrived at a quiet restaurant that people didn't seem to know about. The atmosphere was very luxurious, and they put us at what they called "the romantic table" because it was overlooking the town and water. It was beautiful! This restaurant was known for having a slight Asian flair, which was rare for Italy. We soon learned that our waiter and the chef were from Madagascar. While I could talk about the stuffed zucchini flowers, fried rabbit egg-roll things and ravioli that we shared there, my favorite part of our meal was, of course, dessert! I insisted on ordering dessert because so far, this meal had been the beast we had eaten in Italy. We ended up going with cheesecake, and we were soon presented with a mozzarella cheesecake with a lemon crust, strawberries and basil was probably the best dessert I've ever had!

     Another beyond incredible dessert option is this chocolate pie from Florence steak restaurant, Perseus. This restaurant is known for having the best steak in Florence, which is a big deal since Florence is known for their beef. However, I was extra impressed with their array of homemade pies. My chocolate pie went so fast I could barely get a picture!

Favorite Sandwich:
     Panini's are a staple in Rome, but little did I know, I had the best sandwich on our trip in a small town outside of Naples! We stumbled upon a cute cheese and bread place called La Nuova Masseria across from the train station in Portici, a small town near Naples that we stayed in (Naples was a little to scary to stay in the actual city). We quickly realized that this place made their own buffalo mozzarella cheese. When we looked behind the counter, we could see the huge tanks used to make the cheese. We immediately knew we had to order a sandwich. Sandwiches weren't on the menu, but after living in Italy for three weeks, we learned that sometime you just need to ask. They were excited when we asked for a sandwich, so we ordered a mozzarella, prosciutto, and artichoke sandwich. It was amazing and so fresh!

     I am missing the food in Italy very much, but I was lucky enough to visit Nik in Dallas this past weekend. This meant that I had plenty of barbecue, tacos and In-N-Out Burger to keep me satisfied :)



Classes Abroad

     During my time in Italy, I had to keep reminding myself that I was on a Study Abroad trip, which meant classes and work. Instead of being bummed out, though, I had been looking forward to the exciting classes I was able to register for. I was lucky enough to be able to take Art Appreciation and Contemporary Music and Italy. The Rome study abroad trip is open to any major, and I wanted to try something different when it came to classes and try to learn about fashion in Italy on my own. I ended up loving the route I decided to go because I learned so much through my classes that I never would have thought to explore if I had been taking different classes.
     Art Appreciation was basically an art history class outside. We only spent two class sessions inside because we were always walking around Rome learning about the architecture and art of the beautiful city. We also explored a ton of museums, which I especially loved! The class was thoroughly fun, and I enjoyed every second of it! I like that we were able to mix fun with history. For example, I just received an email from my professor with a photograph he took of us attempting to reenact Botticelli's infamous Primavera. We took part of a class session to study the painting, divide up roles and style ourselves as the iconic figures in the painting. I was assigned to be a muse and Nik was picked to be picked to be Zephyrus, the first wind of Spring, because he owned a lot of blue clothing. Zephyrus is responsible for capturing Chloris and turing her into the goddess of Spring. Our professer knew that Nik and I were the only fashion majors on the trip, so he employed us to help style the poses and clothes to make sure it looked somewhat realistic. My favorite part was watching the two cupids pose on chairs to pretend to fly. I think it turned out pretty well!

Our class's rendition of Primavera by Botticelli.

     My Contemporary Music class was a little more challenging than my Art Appreciation class because the last time I studied music was when I played the clarinet in my high school band! I had never studied the history of music before, so there were a lot of new terms and concepts to learn. My favorite part of this class was when we were able to take two field trips to the opera. during our first trip to the opera, I learned that I hate opera. The experience was a lot of fun, but I can't listen to the music and sit still for more than one act. The second time we attended the opera, though, I loved the whole experience because the venue was the Baths of Caracalla, a beautiful outdoor opera venue that's situated right in the middle of real Roman ruins. The whole show was incredible! Even though I liked the story of the first opera better than Madame Butterfly, I loved Madame Butterfly's costumes, so there was never a dull moment. I had never been to the opera before this trip, so it's really great to be able to say my first opera experience was in Italy. I really felt like I was immersed in the Italian culture because we seemed to be some of the only Americans there. I wouldn't have thought to look up tickets to see the opera in Italy on my own, so I'm really thankful for this class!

First opera with my friend Haleigh!

Madame Butterfly at the Baths of Caracalla with Nik!

     Overall, I loved the experience of taking classes abroad. It wasn't easy to manage a lot of work while trying to explore a new city on your own, but through our classes, we were able to take advantage of so many fun experiences related to Italian art! I wish I could go back!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Two Favorite F Words

Fashion and food... what else (and of course, in that order)

I am spending my last 3 days in Europe in Rome with my dad, which after 10 weeks without my family was such a relief. It seems almost obvious that while in Rome, I must talk about the food however I was lucky enough to visit the Galleria Borghese while the Azzedine Alaia special exhibit was still happening so all you fashionista’s know what that means… dresses on dresses on dresses.

The Alaia exhibit may not compare to some of the others I have seen, like China Through the Looking Glass or the McQueen exhibit in London however I may just be biased to certain designers and locations. But, the Alaia exhibit was incredible as you had Alaia’s modernist designs with the classic museum pieces side by side. The perfect juxtaposition as you can see below! It was really the best of both worlds seeing these couture dresses right next to famous works such as, the David, by Bernini. 

Luckily for me, my dad hates eating at the touristy locations so we asked the concierge for an authentic Italian restaurant to eat at. We ended up at a place called Antica Osteria Brunetti a couple of blocks from our hotel. After some trouble communicating with the waiter, we were able to order and had one of the best meals. I’m actually shocked I was able to eat my lasagna after the bread and bruschetta but I did and was completely stuffed. 

I know my next and last two days in Europe will be filled with more fashion, food and walking and I cannot wait to see that Vatican tomorrow. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to end my amazing 10 weeks abroad in Italy. These last two months have left me speechless and I am glad to have shared my experiences with all of you! Til next time...