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Amo l’Italia! My Summer in Italy…

August 7, 2011

Mamma mia! Where has the time gone?! I have been in my own little world for the past 2 months. I chose to study abroad in Lecce, Italy for the summer to learn the Italian language. Oh boy has it been an experience so far, and there are so many stories I would like to share! As much as I love to travel, I understand why people hate it so much! Before arriving in Italy, my flight out of Columbus was delayed; this made me miss my connecting flight in New York. I couldn’t get another flight out until the next day, and the air line wouldn’t cover my hotel fee! Let’s just say a night in New York is not cheap! After spending 10 hours in the airport the next day, I finally boarded my 9 hour flight to Italy. Once I landed, I came to realize that my luggage did not arrive with me; it was still in New York! Of course I didn’t think of packing an extra outfit in my carryon bag, so I would soon find out that my Ohio State T-shirt and yoga pants would be put into good use (Good thing I love my buckeyes! Haha). I didn’t have much time to deal with the luggage issue because I had to catch a shuttle to the train station to make my 6 hour train ride down to Lecce. I finally got to my apartment in Lecce (which was extremely nice!), and I crashed for the night. You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours”? Well, this statement is completely true! Not only did I not receive my luggage for a week, but my debit card wasn’t working. It was quite an overload of unfortunate events, but I always kept a smile on my face. I was in Italy for goodness sakes!

 

Other than the traveling mishaps, Italy has been FANTASTICO! Lecce is a small city in southern Italy. Not too many tourists come to Lecce, so English is not spoken too often. The people in Lecce are so friendly and very patient! They have helped me learn Italian immensely, and in return the other students and I try to teach them English. Il cibo è buonissimo! (The food is very good!) It is one of my favorite parts about Italy. The pizza is very different than what we have in the United States, and oh my goodness the pasta is just delicious! I have to say though, that the gelato is AMAZING! I have never had ice cream that tasted as good as the gelato does in Italy, and there are so many different flavors to choose from!

The only downfall to Lecce is the bugs. I have been bitten by so many mosquitoes, and the cockroaches are the ugliest creatures I have ever seen in my life! One night a cockroach flew into my room and hid on top of my closet. I am not a fan of bugs, so I was freaking out. I had to ask my Italian roommate to help me. Luckily, her boyfriend was over and one of my friends helped too. The guys got a broom and tried to swat the ugly bug down, and then it started flying everywhere! I was going nuts haha. Eventually, my roommate’s boyfriend caught the cockroach on the ground and killed it. After he was done he looked at me and said, “Ok, now it’s your job to clean it up!” haha That was an eventful night, and I am sure it was very entertaining for my roommate and her boyfriendJ.

 

One of my other favorite things about Lecce is the beaches! They are gorgeous! Just imagine Miami Beach with Caribbean waters, but even better! I have loved spending time there, and soaking up some rays.

 

Now I am just going on and on, and you all are probably thinking, “Is she really studying abroad or is this just a vacation?” As much as I would like to say it is just a vacation, I do have to go to school. I have class Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. During the 4 hours of class we speak, listen, and write completely in Italian. No English is really allowed. I have learned so much in just 5 weeks of classes, and on top of it I am immersed in the culture with the locals constantly speaking Italian for normal, everyday activities. Speaking of their everyday activities, one adjustment I had to make in coming to Italy was the time schedule of the Italians. Most stores are open in the morning from about 9 am to 1 pm and then they close for about 3 or 4 hours! During this time Italian families eat a big lunch and then take naps! When I first arrived it was hard to adjust to because in the United States I was always used to getting anything I needed whenever I wanted, but in Italy that’s just not the case. Now I actually love this culture adjustment because it brings me back to kindergarten; I get naptime every day! Haha.  During the weekends, all of the students have the opportunity to go on excursions that the school has provided. Most of these excursions include a cultural activity, and some are just a trip to a beach. The cultural excursions are very interesting. One excursion we went to 4 different cities that have a different dialect to the Italian language. It is a mixture of Greek and Italian, and it is rarely used today. This area in Italy is known for making olive oil. We met an older man who spoke this special dialect, and he told us about the techniques they use to make the olive oil. They are very old techniques, and it was awesome to be able to see the actual tools they use! At the end of the day, we got to go to a fancy hotel where they make the olive oil, and we were actually able to try the oil with bread. It was very good. I probably ate too much of it! I still have three and half weeks left and there are many more excursions for me to learn something new!

 

After our first quarter of classes, we were given a 10 day break before our next quarter began. Seven of my friends and I went to Paris, France for 3 days! It was so much fun. It was surreal to actually see the Eiffel Tower. I felt like I was in a dream; I just never thought I would have the opportunity to see this amazing structure. I was even able to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The picture was much smaller than I thought it was going to be! I also saw the Notre Dame. After 3 days in Paris, I hopped on a train to Frankfurt, Germany, and met my parents there. We stayed with my cousin for one night, and then travelled to different cities in Germany, Austria, and Northern Italy. We went to a medieval town in Germany, which was pretty neat! We also went to a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. This was a different experience. It was very sad and depressing to learn about what so many people went through during the holocaust and World War 2, but I am glad that they have set up a memorial site, so we can remember those that suffered. One quote that I remember reading said, “Each of us today is shaping the background history of tomorrow.” I think this quote is something we all need to keep in our minds every day. After Dachau, our next pit stop was Munich. I liked the city life of Munich, and it is a great place to shop! (or window shop, as we did while we were there haha)

My absolute favorite place that we visited was Salzburg, Austria! This place is absolutely breath taking! The scenery and walled in town were awesome to see. I must say, “the hills were alive with the sound of music” because Alps were gorgeous, and my parents and I went on the sound of music tour! It was soooo much fun. I absolutely love the movie, and I was able to see several of the places where the movie was filmed. Just to name a few, we saw the famous gazebo, the church Maria and the captain were married in, all of the Do-Re-MI spots, and several others. My mom and I were literally singing the songs during the entire 4 hour tour!

 

Our last stop was Venice, Italy before I had to catch a train back to Lecce in Bologna. It was crazy to see a city that is completely surrounded by water, and the main transportation system is by boat! It is also a good shopping spot, and I got to use my bargaining skills a couple of times in Italian haha. Unfortunately we didn’t get to ride in a gondola, but it was interesting to see the famous boats known in Venice. I really wished I could have ridden in one. Maybe someday J. Vacation had to come to an end, and I started my second quarter of classes. I can’t believe the first week is already done!

On my journey, I have made friendships with people that will last a lifetime, and had experiences that will stay with me forever. So for now, I will continue my adventure in Italy, make even more friends, and create other memories to add to the collection. CIAO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mona Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Forum and Countdown to MISS OHIO…

June 1, 2011

Miss Ohio does not only give women scholarship money to further their degree, provide opportunities to help their surrounding communities, and grow immensely as a person, but it also helps form bonds and friendships that last a lifetime. Over the past two months, I have been able to get to know some wonderful ladies who all share the same dream that I have to become the next Miss Ohio. Our friendships began to form at Spring Forum in the beginning of April. We all arrived at our lodging area excited to reunite with old friends while making new ones as we wait in anticipation for the weekend to begin. Throughout the forum, we were given information about what to expect at Miss Ohio in June, followed with fun bonding activities and a mini prep course by Miss Ohio, Becky Minger.  We all left that weekend bringing several memories home and filled with excitement for our next community service day in May!

May 14 was our community service day which was such a fun event! I had the opportunity to go to The Waterford retirement home and meet so many lovely residents. We talked about sports, music, the weather, and so many other stories that they had to share. I was honored to be able to perform my talent for them by singing a few of my favorite songs. They were so grateful to have us there, and I really didn’t want to leave! I can’t wait to see them again during my week at Miss Ohio.

To top the fun day I had, all of the contestants, along with friends and family, went to the bowling alley and had a great afternoon of friendly competition. Now all I have left to do is finish strong with my finals at school, and continue to prepare to become the next Miss Ohio 2011!

I am contestant number 24 in the carnation flight! I will have my private interview on Wednesday morning June 15 and later that evening, walk the runway in swimsuit. On Thursday evening June 16, I can’t wait to showcase my gown in the evening wear portion and answer an on-stage question. Friday June 17, I will be performing my favorite part of the competition, talent, singing Gira Con Me. Hopefully I will be able to perform in the top 10 on Saturday’s final night!

Psalm 71:14 – As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.

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Commercial for Miss West Central Ohio Pageant 2011

May 8, 2011

2009 Miss America Katie Stam will host the 2011 Miss West Central Pageant – August 5 at the Lima Civic Center.  For contestant information visit http://www.misswco.com or call (419)852-0950

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Recently Featured in OSU’s The Lantern

March 31, 2011

I was recently featured in The Lantern, an Ohio State campus newspaper regarding my participation in the Miss Ohio program.  Sarah Pfledderer, a reporter with The Lantern contacted me requesting information regarding all aspects of the pageant.  It is always a plus to plug the Miss America Organization and the Miss Ohio program in the media! I am thankful for the opportunity.   I have provided a link to the article below.   The clock is ticking down and Miss Ohio week will be here soon.  I am looking forward to reuniting with friends from last year and meeting the many new contestants this year at Spring Forum.  Let’s all think warm thoughts!

http://www.thelantern.com/campus/ohio-state-student-pageant-queen-more-than-a-pretty-face-1.2127718

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Earthquake and Tsunami Devastates Hundreds of Thousands

March 20, 2011

Recently on March 11, 2011, Japan suffered from a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami. Hundreds of cars, buildings, and homes were swept out into the sea. The death toll is over 6,000 with 10,259 people still missing. The American Red Cross is doing its best to help out in any way possible. The ARC sent a disaster management expert from Washington DC for a week long mission to help the Japanese Red Cross. The organization continues to send donations to Japan, and SAF staff is stationed at military installations in the far east to help prepare for noncombatant evacuation operations. The Red Cross is supporting military operations through registration of evacuees; escort duty; and assisting in military sheltering operations. If you wish to donate to the American Red Cross and the efforts in Japan then you can either visit http://www.redcross.org and donate to the Japan earthquake and Pacific Tsunami, or you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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Dancing and Singing and all that JAZZ…

March 20, 2011

Wow, this past quarter of classes has been super busy, and now I am FINALLY on spring break! Sorry it has taken me so long to write. I have quite a few updates…On February  26, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a fundraising event at OSU called Buckeyethon. This 17 hour dance marathon raised money for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, affiliated with Children’s Miracle Network, in downtown Columbus.  The 17 hour dance marathon required participants to physically stand in an effort to end childhood cancer, and we were encouraged to dance throughout the night. In order to participate as a dancer, my goal was to raise at least $100 for this great cause. I was then assigned to the red team, and we represented 2 children who were in remission. Their names were Lilly and Malachi. Dancing with the 2 kids we represented and several children was an awesome experience. All of the children were so young, but they were much stronger than many people I know, including myself! It was amazing to see how much they enjoy life, and definitely are an inspiration to me. Close to 800 dancers raised an astounding $222,518 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It just shows that we all can really make a difference if we try whether it be through finances and/or time.

Speaking of time…In March, I had the great opportunity of singing at Primrose Retirement Center. It was quite the honor to perform for the people at Primrose. They all touched my heart as I experienced their kindness and their willingness to welcome me into their home. I talked with several of the tenants after my performance, and I loved having the chance to get to know them on a personal level. We talked about their families, war experiences and stories, and my favorite topic, the Buckeyes! I had so much fun, and I cannot wait to go back to see them all again.

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Warning: Winter Storms lead to dwindling blood supply

February 5, 2011

Oh my, the past month has flown by, and I can’t believe it is already February! To wrap up the month of January, I had the opportunity to help at a community bowling fundraiser for the American Red Cross Mercer County Chapter. People were able to head to Plaza Lanes in Coldwater, Ohio to raise money for a great cause, socialize, and hopefully bowl a few strikes. Throughout the evening we raffled off a variety of prizes from a small platter of snack foods to a 42 inch flat screen TV. The ARC Mercer County Chapter raised a record amount of money compared to the past 2 years, which is awesome. Luckily, the winter storms held off for the night and we had a great turnout.

Unfortunately for most of this winter, the weather has wreaked havoc across the country.  The American Red Cross is in critical need of blood donations due to the massive snow storms. In USA Today, William Welchan raises awareness of the blood supply crisis in his article “Winter weather draining blood supply.”  Welchan reports, “the American Red Cross says its national blood supply is at the lowest level for January in 10 years because winter storms and resulting travel disruptions caused cancellation of 14,000 donations.” Many lives depend on the donation of blood, so I encourage all of you to try to donate this winter season.  You can also help the Red Cross by spreading the word of the urgency during this crucial time to help make up the deficit.

During this brutal winter the Red Cross is not only encouraging blood donation it is also doing an amazing job of providing shelters and food for local communities across the nation who have experienced power outages.  On the national website there is an article today that states, “Overnight there were 41 shelters open helping more than 550 people in six states: Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas.”  It is a nice feeling to know that these people are being taken care of.  I am so proud and blessed to be a part of this outstanding organization and I thank the many volunteers who dedicate countless hours providing support for our communities.  THANK YOU AMERICAN RED CROSS!