Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ciao, Italia!

Ok, so I am quite far behind in my blog posts and, being the OCD anal person I am, it frustrates me to no end that I'm writing out of order. I suppose that's just something I have to get over. Hopefully, the laid back Italian culture will surely help me do so, eh? 

Let me start by saying I cannot believe the American portion of school is finished. We had our final practical last Tuesday (which just about killed me), followed by a champagne toast with Chef Guido and boom, we're done. The entire day was very surreal and I must say, I felt a bit sad at the end. We've worked so hard these past two months and it seems totally crazy that we're on to the next step. On top of all this, I also had to get cracking on starting to pack up my apartment and move which brought on an entire set of emotions that I actually wasn't really prepared for. Thankfully, as I neared the end of school, I had Bryan's visit and my farewell party to look forward to which was absolutely wonderful and such a welcomed reprieve in the midst of chaos. I'll actually get into that in another post, definitely. For now, let's get to the exciting stuff…I made it to Italy, safe and sound! 

I flew out of JFK at 6:15pm this past Sunday night and arrived in Milan at 8:30am. The flight itself was smooth but I had the worst seat, ever. I didn't sleep and, coming off of three other nights in a row without sleep, I was really exhausted. As a quick aside, I probably don't need to explain that my final weekend in New York was an emotional rollercoaster. I was so up and down that it was making me actually feel a little crazy. I think I had my first legitimate panic attack as well which was really scary to me. I'm so grateful that Allison has lived right down the street and I was able to go over there immediately. I had some amazing quality time with dear friends over the weekend and I think that really helped take my mind off things. Come Sunday, I had one last margarita session with Allison at Cilantro and then it was off to the airport for what would turn into me basically running to the gate to catch my flight. Stress. Ful. All that matters is that I got on the plane and into Milan in one piece!

I met my classmate, David, at the airport and the two of us beelined for a cafe to get a delicious cappuccino. Oh, how I've waited to get back to Italy for REAL coffee. We had quite a lot of time to kill before meeting our other classmate, Dalila, and eventually finding where the school shuttle bus was picking us all up. After several hours (yes, hours!), we found Mo, Gavin and Ali and it was finally off to school! The drive took a little over two hours so, naturally, I passed out as soon as we started moving. I really needed that nap though, desperately. You can tell how much more sleep I still need by when I woke up:
When we arrived at our apartments, all of us were so excited to get rid of all our bags and relax. Unfortunately, that didn't really get to happen as we had to go over all kinds of housing rules and regulations. After that, we were told that we had a big gala dinner at 8pm for all the international students and that was quite a big surprise to each of us. We were all so tired and the thought of doing a dinner, schmoozing and mingling was just about the last thing on earth any of us wanted to do. 

Before dinner, we all went to a cute little bar right near the school for a beer to toast to our first night together in Italy! Meet my family for the next few months: 
Gavin and John
Mo, Ali and David
Dalila, me and Trisha

We're all genuinely so happy. :)

The dinner was actually wonderful. We walked in and there were flags hanging to represent each country at the school which was such a nice touch. It's amazing to be sharing a school with so many different people and cultures. I think we're all going to benefit greatly from this experience in so many different ways! The food itself was lovely and I so enjoyed celebrating the start of our new Italian journey together. I love how they printed the menu as a cute little "passport":
I really enjoyed the dinner overall. I mean, honestly, there are no bad meals in Italy. Even the worst meal you could have would be better than gourmet stuff in the states. My favorite part was the seafood salad that we started with:
It was totally delicious. I've realized in a short time that this kind of "salad" is super common in this area. Places seem to have a version of it everywhere! I tell you what, I could eat stuff like that everyday, no kidding. 

The other unique thing served was the fruit soup dessert. It was so different, kind of like a fancy fruit cocktail in a way, but far classier than an ol' can of Dole. It was much too sweet for my liking but totally fresh and summery:
After dinner, we all took a walk and bought some wine and beer to bring back to one of the guy's rooms. He'd traveled separately because he had been visiting Italy with his family in his dad's hometown. He brought a bunch of cheese, meat, crackers, cookies…a whole bunch of stuff…back from his dad's town and totally shared it all with us which was delicious. We had such a spread (yes, after we'd already eaten dinner) and it was awesome. I think it was the first time I've felt like we're all a real family, even with our major personality differences, and it was nice.

I have to reiterate that I absolutely can't believe I'm in Italy. Not for just a week or two, but for quite some time. I think so many nerves I've battled have had a lot to do with just making the trip here and, now that I'm getting settled in, I feel a gigantic weight being lifted and it feels good. Many of you reading this right now will totally appreciate me saying that, I know that for sure. ;)

One last thing. I must say that I've got the most incredible, gracious, supportive, steadfast, patient friends and family in the world. I am such a strong person because of the advice and encouragement I've gotten from some of these amazing individuals and I couldn't possibly be more grateful. I humbly say that I am so blessed, a million times over, and I can happily share that I am finally excited about moving forward in this journey. Thank you so much to each of the people that have been by my side. Hopefully, I'll do you all proud as I go forward!


J Duncan said...


Ray Ray said...

Val! I'm SO happy to read this post! I've been thinking about you non-stop the last few days, wondering how things are going. It sounds so amazing already! And yes, I'm so relieved that you're feeling good and getting settled in comfortably. I absolutely cannot wait for you to share more!!! I miss you and love you, friend. xoxo!