Through my Business Fraternity i had the opportunity to work with university professional on a whole different level. Myself and a co-chair worked tirelessly in partnership with the Central Michigan University Career Services office to bring roughly 140 business to our campus to recruit CMU students for internships and jobs across the country.
Career Services and Alpha Kappa Psi has a strong relationship as their role is to help student find jobs, and my fraternity’s goal is to uphold our 100% full time job placement after college. The relationship and the experience collaboration with Career Services,which is a group of 8 full time professional was like none else.
Career Services treated my co-chair and I as if we were one of the team. They expected my co-chair and I plan the agenda, set up times and full on run the bi weekly meetings. Those responsibility were not only extremely intimidating but such an amazing opportunity to put my business and leadership knowledge to the test.
I had to make big decisions and delegate responsibility while motivating everyone to a common goal. Their “real life” feedback on how I handled those responsibility helped me grow tremendously as a leader and business professional. The tedious planning and organization of the event takes months, but at the end it is truly something. This special relationship between Alpha Kappa Psi and Career services gets to both reach their goals and bring jobs and opportunities to our students.
Cass Community Social Services (Cass) is a nonprofit, 501 (c) (3) community based organization that is located in Detroit Michigan. Their organization serves Southern Michigan, Wayne County. Their mission statement is: CCSS is dedicated to making a profound difference in the lives of the divers populations it serves by providing for basic needs, including affordable housing, promoting self-reliance and encouraging community involvement and community improvement.
To learn more about Cass and their history and all they do follow this LINK
My experience I had with CCSS was brought to me when with my LAS LEAD team on the trip we went on called LAS in the D. A weekend where we take the LAS freshman class to Detroit to practice servant leadership, broaden their awareness, promote a growing city while looking around at leaders in the community. On the second day of our trip our group partner with CCSS to volunteer and support their amazing organization that helps and supports so many in the community. They provide many services to the community such as food, housing, and support. They also have other areas where Cass works to generate money and items to give back. Items such as making mats out of recycled tires, shredding paper, cleaning and organizing closets of donations. The areas we all served were working in the kitchen, helping make mats, shredding paper, and organizing the closets. The areas our group served were working in the kitchen, helping make mats, shredding paper, and organizing the closets.
The area I volunteered was the kitchen. I can say I wholeheartedly underestimated this area of service. I was very excited to be able to more directly support the community and possibly see the people that we were helping. Yet, kitchen work for so many people is hard work. The amount of pre-planning that goes into making breakfast lunch and dinner and even prepping for meals the next day is astounding. The volunteers that work there on a more regular basis have such a multi dimensional task list having to create menus that will feed so many with the food that is donated to them. They don’t go out grocery shopping for what they need. The food that is put together and prepared into meals is all from donations. That fact alone blew my mind.
Coming into the kitchen the chef made it clear there was no time to waste, every second was precious. There were simple rules for washing your hands and for having hair nets, but after that roles were assigned and we got to work. I started working on opening boxes of french fries and once we were finished we open and placed bacon on trays for the next morning, we then cracked dozens upon dozens of eggs and whisked them for the next morning’s breakfast. Then we moved to scooping mixture into pans for chicken pot pie for later that day’s dinner, then moved to mashing and making mashed potatoes. Those roles were for two of the 10 volunteers we brought. Every smaller team within was just as busy with multiple back to back task to fulfill.
The experience as a whole was unbelievably rewarding. Being able to stay so busy i felt as if I was to able to give so much help to people who deserve all the support they can get. My eyes were open to the amazing heart of those in their community who dedicate their lives to other. The people receiving the support are unwaveringly grateful. I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing experience and look forward to going back.
LAS in the D is my favorite time of the year! It is when the Freshman Leader Advancement scholar get the opportunity to attend a service learning trip to Detroit and take part in volunteer work practicing servant leadership, and education/awareness regarding Detroit as growing and rebuilding city and where they see leadership . This trip is also special as it also serves as a bonding experience for the cohort and a place where many passions are ignited. I got the AMAZING opportunity to be apart of the LAS in the D lead team and lead my own group of student s through this impactfl weekend.
The first stop of the Journey was at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA) where we got to interact with Jalen Rose students and their lead team member facilitated leadership activities with the JRLA students. OUr ultimate goal this year was to help the JRLA students learn and develop their facilitation skills, as well as learn how to facilitate a debrief. After we visited JRLA we went to Quicken Loans where we got a tour of their facilities and listen to employees speak about the company and what they are doing for Detroit. We also encouraged the students to be aware and look for people who exhibited different leadership styles.
From there we went to the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) where we allow the students to roam around the facility and take it all the amazing exhibits they have to offer. The night was wrapped up at the Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) it’s located right on the river walk and about a mile from the Renaissance Center. Not only did we all get to explore, play all throughout the facility and was our location to stay for the whole night, but we got to hear from Mrs. Walter and got an indepth look on the beautiful history of the building. We got to hear about the dream behind this exhibit that was able to come into fruition, and the importance and impact it has had on the city.
My favorite part of the day was when we had the chance to have a Meaningful debrief with our group and listen to the impact this trip has made on the students and parts the inspired and motivated them to want to make a change. That was the largest highlight i had on the day.
Day two came quick and and was the day we set aside for direct service. The day was spent at Cass Community Social Services. Cass is a local nonprofit that provides many services to the community such as food, housing, and support. They also have other areas where Cass works to generate money and items to give back such as making mats out of recycled tires, shredding paper, cleaning and organizing closets of donations. The areas we all served were working in the kitchen, helping make mats, shredding paper, and organizing the closets.
The second day was very special, because I believe the students got a true taste of the impact and support the Detroit community still needs. They were encouraged to journal throughout the experience via self-guided questions to process what they have been experiencing and that process helped reach an amazing outcome of aware and excited students.
The trip as a whole could not have gone any smoother. I was surrounded by not only amazing students but amazing LEAD team leaders. The freshman LASers will never know what a large impact their perspectives and passion made on me that day. It was a refreshing re-energization that I need going into the last parts of the semester.
My student organization that I have been honored to be able to be a part of is Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity. They have brought many amazing opportunities friends and experience my way in the past two years. The organization has challenged me and inspired me to strive for excellence. It has provided myself with two large experience that have been some of my proudest accomplishments of my time here at central.
My first, and not as “physically large“ of an opportunity was to develop a leadership development lesson for our incoming members. Our organization prides itself on developing principled business leaders, and leadership is something that I am passionate about. Leaders grow in many ways and I saw that statement as somewhere I could impact our membership while doing something I love.
The specifics of the lesson change every semester as I try to gear it to the need of the group as a whole. The core topics that I work to make a point at covering is answering the questions of “what kind of leader am I”, “how can my leadership style impact others.” and “in the areas that my leadership style is challenged is there others who can support me”. I supplement these questions with activities where the group has the chance to work together with the awareness of who they are as leaders as well as who their peers are as leaders.
The second, and larger opportunity that the fraternity has brought me was the opportunity to plan the Central Michigan University College of Business Administration Career Fair.
Where myself and a co-chair work tirelessly in partnership with the Central Michigan University Career Services office to bring roughly 140 business to our campus to recruit CMU students. Career Services and Alpha Kappa Psi has a strong relationship as their role is to help student find jobs, and my fraternity’s goal is to uphold our 100% full time job placement after college. My co-chair and I plan the agenda and set up times with Career Services to coordinate responsibilities, expectations, and materials. The tedious planning of the event takes months, but at the end it is truly something.This special relationship between Alpha Kappa Psi and Career services gets to both reach their goals and bring jobs and opportunities to our students.
Being able to plan this event for two semesters in a row and to watch our impact as a team grow and number of students and companies in attendance increasing i have been encouraging and getting information together to relocate the event. Which may not seem like such a hard task, but there are many many moving parts to consider. This coming semester we were able to make it happen!
Alpha Kappa Psi has impacted my life personally and professional like none other could.
2016/2017 Started with force… especially in the world of CMU Cheer. As a program, we all had high aspirations to do big things for ourselves and our program. At the start, we weren’t quite sure how that was going to happen, but knew we wanted it. In CMU Cheer we aren’t given the title of “captain”, it isn’t voted on and labeled, but it is a responsibility that is put onto in a natural occurrence of overlapping poise, experience, drive and genuine care. You all-of-a sudden know that everyone is looking and coming to you and everyone falls in suit.
At the end of the 2015/2016 season I was awarded female MVP of the program and was utterly surprised and didn’t believe I deserved it… I didn’t lead games as game captain, I didn’t go out of my way to be the one up front, I just came into practice being me working my butt off and following through with my responsibilities. After self-reflection, I realized that is what our program is about. Our title of “captain” or a valued teammate, leader whatever you call it is given to someone that is now know I need to be confident in, and that is myself. I came in ready to work not for me but for my team, I care about the well-being of my cheer family. That internal commitment was oozing out of me and with that I earned the respect to lead and inspire my teammates to do the same.
2016/2017 season came around with force, because I learned from my obliviousness/passive leadership. I reflected on the impact I could have when I put my love for the program, experience, drive, and natural leadership qualities into more active and aware leadership style. That impact was quickly grasped by the program/ rest of my teammates and came with a lot of recalculating. I had to recalculated as I was put on a different team, small coed team.
Small Co-ed is still in the CMU Cheer program just means the team is compiled of two all-girl groups (flyer, two bases, and a back-spot), and four co-ed couples (male base, female flyer). This small co-ed team was made up of individuals who have the most skills on the team, we each individually brought a lot to the table. Yet, the hardest thing we faced was being a team. I have been apart of many teams in my day all with different struggles, but this team was by far the most challenging. Challenging, to me doesn’t seem like the right word, because we were very good just lacked the energy when times get tough. That last bit of energy that is needed when you are pushing your body to its limits. That would separate us from being really good to being unbelievable! Also, the challenge in dealing with different mindsets… Majority of the male team members tended to gravitate and respond to harsher more pass or fail type of coaching/leadership. Where majority of the female team members (myself included) gravitated and responded more to discussion based coaching/leadership and positive reinforcement.
So, for myself as a leader on the team I had to deeply identify my audience, which I have never had to do before to that degree. I had to know how each person was motivated and be able to bounce back in forth helping, guiding and motivating my team members on 10-14 hours practice days. Once I understood my team members and was open about how I am best motivated, as well as how I’ve notice they were motivated it opened a channel of understanding throughout our whole team.
I was able to bring strong individuals together by looking deeper into their actions and tendencies and asking them how they prefer to be motivated. We went from being a good team to an amazing team taking 5th in the Nation, and making CMU history. We brought our individual strengths to the table and the cohesive energy needed to break into the top 10.
2016/2017 CMU Small Co-Ed season will be one I never will forget as it challenged me as a cheerleader and a leader.
As I have not yet tied the bow up on my studying abroad experience, it was an adventure of a life time. Taking in every little moment, walking till you can no longer feel your feet, waking up early and going to bed at dawn. The girls I shared my experience with hold a part of my heart forever. We shared some of the first moments that took our breathe away, laughs until we cried, and stories of our dreams and passions. For that, I will forever be indebted to them for their friendships.
Once getting home you have hundreds of thousands things swimming in your brain. All the people you want to see, the things you may have missed. You even start planning your next adventure over seas before you even get home! You reflect on how the adventure made you feel and how you, as an individual want to change. You learn so much about yourself, and at least for me, vowed to make positive personal change/improvements. I wanted to start to enjoy every moment, not wish the days away, do things because I want to not because I have to and so much more. One large thing that I took away was my career/future job/work, whatever, it doesn’t have to be my whole life. I want to love what I do and feel fulfilled with my work, but my work doesn’t have to be my soul piece of fulfillment and happiness. Yes, my family and friends with be a large source of my happiness, but I will have my career to support my love of adventures and making memories that you will never forget.
This past semester I struggled implementing my goals that I vowed myself too when I arrived home. I found myself saying yes to things I really didn’t want to say yes to, and wishing my days away. Yet, it was a semester filled with exciting beginnings: putting on the CMU 2016 Career Fair and walking away with multiple offers and accepting an internship with Domino’s headquarters. I inducted a little into my business fraternity, and embarking on a Nationals Cheer journey on Small coed, where we walked away with a 5th place finish and making CMU history. Yet, when there are highs there can also be lows and we can’t let those lows over shine you highs. Lows like stress, family sicknesses, overworking, no sleep, not taking time for yourself etc.
This spring semester I am going to work to improve upon my goals and work to better myself. I have the amazing opportunity to be a teacher assist in a leadership theory class. Where I will be working with the 2016 Leader Advancement Scholar Cohort to help them expand their leadership knowledge. An opportunity that rolls together my passion of leadership and mentoring/teaching.
On Wednesday we finally made it Venice. It’s a trip we’ve planned on our own. Our first trip without our class. We hoped on the train (a long train ride at that), burned skin from Via Reggio and all, we made it to Venice. The moment you walk out of the train station it was like you walked into a different world. It was beautiful! So many peopled warned us that it was going to smell and it wasn’t as cool as they thought it would be, the streets would be dirty. With that information we were kind of nervous! Yet, in the moment we walked out of the station we knew that all the things that were said were so so wrong. It was gorgeous!
We had a simple plan for the day: walk around and see as much as we can, eat seafood, take a gondola ride, and find out if the city is really sinking. And that is what we did! We walked around and saw some beautiful churches, many stores filled with Vancian glass (one of the products they are known for) I got myself a Vancian glass ring J. The other product that they are known for is there homemade masks that all of Italy uses for a holiday/festival similar to Halloween. After walking around for a very long time in the crazy heat we found a restaurant that had tables overlooking a canal. We had walked past it a couple times just from getting turned around and the plates coming out looked AWESOME. We were very very excited and didn’t hesitate to make this our “big” meal of the day. Olivia Jenna and I ordered the pasta with seafood. The menu didn’t elaborate much farther than it saying pasta with all kinds of seafood, which we assumed was whatever fresh they had in the kitchen and Angie ordered a salmon pasta. The food came out fast and the plates were beautiful! Not only did the sea food pasta have a big swirl of pasta decorated with tons of clams and mussels and a little octopus on top with shrimp and squid. It had a bright red already glazed (in something delicious not butter they don’t really do butter in Italy) sitting there for us to crack open.
Given we found out that out of the three of us really didn’t know how to crack open a lobster, myself have only two experiences. 1) At my mom’s birthday when I was in like 5th grade we cooked lobster for her party and I cracked one lobster and felt so bad, because I picked him out only earlier that day. Then the second time my family and I were in Maine of vacation where I got to again, pick out the dang lobster, listen to it hiss in a pot and then had to crack it open and try to forget that I had chosen its doom. Ok, yes I may be being a little dramatic, but all my memories with lobster, yes, delicious the cracking part was my least favorite. Yet, today I had no other choice to ask my dad to crack it for me (sorry about the lobster rant). Getting over the full lobster, and getting over that we were going to have to use our hands to be able to get the dish “all cracked open” before the cows came home (utensils made it to hard haha we were kind of a mess). After the prep phase of our dish we dug in and it was the most amazing dish I had yet eaten in Italy.
After dinner we only had two more things to do on our list: gondola, and find out if the city was sinking. We figured that the gondola was next. Right by the restaurant was a dock for the gondolas later finding gout that each boat is essentially its own family tradition gondola boat driver’s boats have family tradition. It all happening very fast we were on the boat and on our way!! The gondola driver guy was very nice and spoke English, which was very nice, because he pretty much gave us a tour telling us about all the different building and which historically famous person lived there and the ages of all the bridges and even confirming to us that not only is the ocean rising but the islands are actually sinking. They are sinking because the islands are made out of sand and they are putting/building up so much it is compressing the sand rock which is causing the island to shrink and go under water! The gondola ride was amazing and felt like a dream!
Afterward we walked around the more touristy places and realized we were even more burned than we were when we got there and we decided it would be in our best interest to now head back to Florence.
The next day Thursday July 9th we went to class where we had lecture and were taken to a Sicilian bakery where we learned about arenchini, cannoli, and granita. Arenchini, which is a cone like shape made with rice and stuff with anything from rague sauce, eggplant and mozzarella, squid, or cheese. Cannoli, a fried pastry dough filled with a ricotta filling! Granita is pretty much a shaved icy with flavors in it like lemon, strawberry, watermelon, and coffee. I got lemon it was very very good.
After class we headed home to take a nap the heat and sun we had gotten the past couple of days was hitting us hard and we hadn’t been drinking enough water. For some reason when we got into the apartment o couldn’t sleep, so I cleaned up the apartment and came to find that my burnt chest had little blisters ALL OVER IT!!! As I cleaned and sweat (freaking hot and no AC) the blisters grew. Let’s just say I don’t like it and I had to call my mother to double check. She confirmed to me that I would be all good and needed to just leave them alone, which was really hard!
That evening we had reservations at Ganzo our schools all students lead restaurant, to partake in a themed dinner. Themed dinners are a 6 course meal under a certain theme, tonight was traditional Tuscan dishes. Long story short the dinner was awesome and here are pictures from each course… we were spoiled.
Friday July 8 was another chill day after dinner at ganzo we explored the town till late. We woke up and found an American Diner for breakfast! I got an omlette that was amazing and an actual cafe americano!!
After breakfast we came back with plans to get our papers squared away and travel plans together for Switzerland. Instead we came back to a whole different adventure when I decided to change the outlet I was using…. long story short no more electricity nor wifi and that led to multiple flights being climbed (we live 6 flights of stairs up and box is down stairs) it wasn’t fun…we finally called and had someone come help us because nothing we were doing was working. The gentleman comes in looks at the box on the first floor looks at this random box at the very very top left corner unlabeled and flips it and the electricity came on…. of course right. I was just happy the lights were on. Only for time to pass a little longer and i tried a different socket and POP!!! I blew it again… had to walk the stairs AGAIN and climb to try and reach to box flipped it climbed upstairs and they weren’t on… went down and flipped it AGAIN!!!! and thank the lord they turned on… I threw away my adapter here’s the culprit….
The concept Fourth of July in Italy stumped us for a moment. I believe this is when the four of us really had our first bout of homesickness. As we got plenty of pictures of friends and family together at lakes and cottages, barbequing and enjoy each other’s company…all while we were here, in Florence, in our apartment with no air-conditioning, in the 100 degree weather, with no water but a river that is not at all a swimming river. SO with that we took it as a challenge. We’re going to the beach!
We asked around in our class and found out that Via Reggio was the best place for us to go. Train ticket was cheap, you get mountains in the background of the ocean, warm water, cute town, good gelato. Honestly all we needed to know was that there was a sand beach. We were very ready for the 4th knowing we would be on the beach but celebrating the birth of the United States of America on a beautiful beach in Italy. With that Olivia brought her American flag towel and we were off. The beach was beautiful a picture couldn’t capture it. And it was HOT! But with a perfect temperature ocean with some decent waves we needed nothing else. We walk up to the beach and it is just covered with tons and tons of umbrellas only making space for a little walk-way from the “club” to the water. The beach was divided into many clubs as you walk the shore each different color umbrella was a different beach club. So we went to the first one we saw and bought 4 chairs and an umbrella each item 5 euro. Then having to walk down to the life guard hand him the receipt and he showed us to our spot and made sure we “got what we ordered”. To all of us it was very weird… myself knowing New Jersey beaches, Jenna knowing California beaches and the other two knowing the lake routine this was very different. Finally getting settled we lay down to realize one we are melting and two we are starving. We jump into the water swam, which was like bath water the under tow was very strong but the water wasn’t deep at all maybe to my hips so we kneeled and jumped waves. We laughed the whole time. We left he water and went on our next hunt, time for food. We walked up to the club shack thing and all they had was a mini bar and some ice cream (no what we were looking for). Not knowing still to today if it was appropriate for us to do so we club hopped looking for some drinks and a sandwich. We found one after some walking and I had a delicious tuna sandwich (first time I’ve seen mayo since we’ve been here, I was pumped) with a mojito (it was like drinking the forest there was so much greenery in it). All in all it was pretty good. Heading back to the beach we were happy to find that nothing was stolen from our spot so we laid down now for a nap and for me my book :).
For the rest of the day we moved one more time to get in the water and cool down, and then for a walk where we saw a plethora of topless women and banana hammocks. We were having the Italian beach experience. Until the very end of the day we went to find some gelato to not only find gelato but to find that all of our skin was as red as red can be… All we could really do was laugh at this point. Jenna looked the worse later that night once we got home her red face and chest matched our red couch in the living room (it was hilarious). Until my slightly pink chest and stomach decided it wanted to blister (this was a day after I thought it was in the clear).
Also, the night we got home we were going to the back of the apartment to hanging our damp towels up on the line wen Angie screams and tells pretty much the whole neighborhood that there is a lizard on the screen (taking a solid three minutes to decide whether the weird flat looking lizard was inside or outside, it was on the inside). Olivia coming in for the lizard rescuer pulls out the Australian ascent and goes in with a bowl, nothing else. We’re all laughing and want the lizard out. Obviously the bowl didn’t work, then she tried to grab it with her fingers. This is when it went to extreme. She finally made contact with the fast lizard’s tail only for it to fall off! The lizard used it defense mechanism to allow Olivia to pull his tail off. She was devastated and we all squatted near the tail with no lizard attached squirm on the ground (for a solid 30 minutes it squirmed). The lizard after that was out of sight honestly we’re just hoping it went out the way it came in.
By then we were exhausted, sun drained, burned, and ready for bed. We woke up the morning of Tuesday July 5th to the burn of yesterday and the first cooking day in class!!! We got to whip out our aprons and print off our recipes and we made Pollo Con le Prugne (chicken with prunes), and Schiacciata Bianca Cappello (renaissance schiacciata with custard). Lorenzo our attractive Italian chef helping us cook this meal was extremely knowledgeable!!! Jenna and I were in charge of the custard for the Schiacciata Bianca Cappello. “This takes patience” Lorenzo said and is did he taught us the way to do it perfect and perfect it turned out!! It is a game with the heat Lorenzo states and that concept lead to him telling us all about how the temperature and timing of how we heat food makes all the difference. The chicken we cooked today was being cooked at a lower temperature to steadily bond the colognes making a moist but still fully cooked chicken breast. You don’t want to cook you meats on to high of a temperature ever or the colognes (proteins) will bond to fast and you will have dry chicken or over cooked meat. He taught us a trick to know when your meat is perfect, and gave us a tip and deep explanation on how never to preheat an oven when cooking cakes, and how to cook the perfect scrambled egg. I felt so filled with knowledge! The meal turned out unbelievable but not as filling as we had hoped.
We went home and all took a siesta, which ended up being way longer than planned, woke up starving and on the search for some lunch. We had a hard time finding a restaurant that was open, because they eat lunch and then close at like 3 and don’t open till like 7:30pm for dinner. We could only find a place in a piazza (tourist are always in the piazza=open on tourist times). We got our first spaghetti and sauce (meatballs aren’t really a thing here). The lunch was delicious. We walked around and shopped now in a way better mood after finally getting food!!
We met very nice restaurant owners one evening as we were walking around and decided tonight would be a great night to go and actually tryout their food. They are known for their La Bisteaka Florintine. Which is basically this huge cut of steak that gets taken our raw raw and weighed in front of us then to only be cook for 12 minutes coming out still pretty raw. We had no idea how to go about eating this thing us four looked at each other and decided it would be best to ask. They covered the meat with olive oil and told us to squeeze our lemon on it. Weirded out a little by the whole thing I was the first one to put the very raw chunk for meat bathed in olive oil and lemon in my mouth and it was AMAZING!!! Nothing else needs to be said about that dinner the steak was the highlight and I’m not sure if I can eat steak any other way.
The next big adventure came right the next day bright and early. This time it was specifically with the class we are taking. As a class we are headed to Pienza and Montepulciano. The focus of the trip was wine and cheese, awesome right?! Our first stop was Pienza. It is an adorable little town somewhat on top of a hill there were a few steep climbs but nothing extravagant. The architecture was mainly a gothic style with “a lot of symmetry” according to Giovanni our professor. One thing I thought was particularly interesting regarding the architecture was that everything was measured from an individual’s body. Whether it was their wing span or the length of their foot, it wasn’t “set in stone” like it is now a day. So the arches and pillars had no exact measurements! The church was beautiful, but this tiny quaint little town was the start of another day of amazing views!! My group was responsible for doing a presentation of the landscaping of Pienza and Montepulciano. We had to observe and focus our trip on the landscaping, which was not a hard task what so ever. The buildings and towns are wonderful, but what truly takes my breath away are views, the hills with olive groves, vineyards, and golden wheat everywhere. This area of Pienza and Montepulciano is known for its views, it is known to have been an inspiration to artists from the renaissance and still today in modern photography. With the temperatures and soil conditions perfect for growing olive trees and grapes for vino it makes for their label of having some of the best in Italy.
The main reason we were in Pienza was for pecorino cheese (sheep cheese). After walking around the very small town and looking in a bunch of cute little shops, looking the view, and getting the architectural and historical low down from Gioni. We had to meet him in the cheese store where we tried three types of pecorino cheese (more like different flavors and ageing locations). One that was aged in straw, one aged in a cave, and one aged in sun dried tomatoes. They were all surprisingly different. The location of the aging played into how dry it was how, salty, and how fast the cheese matured. My favorite was the cave cheese. It was soft of the outside rim and a dryer on the inside with some “pockets” they called it. Very yummy. We then headed to Montepulciano were we got to see the beautiful views the city on a “hill” (actually a mountain…), which felt like a mountain with a capital “M” MOUNTAIN to walk allllllllll the way to the very top in the crazy heat with plans to get to lunch at a wine cellar. Where after a wait we got to have a wine tasting!(my first wine tasting!).
We then headed to Montepulciano were we get to see the beautiful views the city on a “hill” , which felt like a mountain and walk allllllllll the way to the very top in the crazy heat to get to lunch at a wine cellar where we got to have a wine tasting!(my first wine tasting!).
On the hike, other than the views and the fact that my thighs were burning from the climb, and my shoulders from the sun the views were stunning! On the way up the mountain we found out that this city was were Eclipse from the Twilight saga was filmed!Even though the hike, literally, had just began. We continued to walked up and up and up and up and up some more. Then up again it was NUTS!!!! We visited a beautiful church and at the top (which we FINALLY made it to ) a castle with an adorable park on the outside.
After what felt like forever waiting in the park it was time to go to the wine cellar where we walk into this tiny little win shop. I’m thinking there is no way this wine tasting is going to work in here with 30 students! We walking in further and there is this tin spiral stair case that goes down and down and down. And as we go down further and further it gets chillier and chillier. Then all of a sudden BAM! It’s a wide open HUGE wine cellar with GIANT! barrels of Chianti wine (the DOCG wine they are famous for). The pictures truly explain how the lunch and wine tasting went. The room was amazing, the lunch was amazing (we got awesome lasagna), the barrels were amazing, there was also a tomb (random I know, but the owners of the tomb hid refugees and apparently a mother and a father from a high ranking family were buried there.)The whole experience in Pienza and Montepulciano was truly an unforgettable one.
After what felt like forever waiting in the park it was time to go to the wine cellar where we walk into this tiny little win shop. I’m thinking there is no way this wine tasting is going to work in here with 30 students. We walking in further and there is this tin spiral stair case that goes down and down and down in the earth and it get chillier and chillier. Then all of a sudden BAM! It’s a wide open HUGE wine cellar with GIANT barrels of Chianti wine (the DOCG wine they are famous for). The pictures truly explain how the lunch and wine tasting went. The room was amazing, the lunch was amazing (we got awesome lasagna), the barrels were amazing, there was also a tomb (random I know but the owners of the tomb hide refugees and apparently a mother and a father from a high ranking family were buried there.
I feel like that is where I hit my wine knowledge mile stone, where I actually know how to “properly” taste wine and finally having red wine that is good! To top it off when we returned to Florence we adventured to a new part of town finding a restaurant with enormous margaritas and great quesadillas ( i know weird fod choice when in Italy but it was a nice change). Then to end the night sitting at the Duomo at night still awe struck by its beauty. (PS, Florence at night is like Florence at 8 am, people are all out walking around with friends and strollers, at like 12:30pm kids are still out walking with their parents no big deal because they could be walking home from dinner it’s super bizarre.) All the streets and squares are completely lit, it’s very safe which is AMAZING so going to the Duomo at 12:30pm from dinner is completely safe and wonderful, because it’s not packed with tourists and blazing hot. (Yes, I’m cool enough to be annoyed by the tourist, because I now know my way aroundish and totally live there haha)
Well friends and fam I know I haven’t posted in WAYY too long and I apologize. Every time I say I will write on the bus from place to place with class, or on the train to our next destination, but this thing called sleep totally knocks me out… So the next few post is going to be a TON of pictures and I will be covering the past 2 insanely crazy busy weeks I have endured and the visiting of 9 different cities, so hang with me!!!
Saturday July 2
The first big trip to Parma and Modena!! Here we are taking a trip to Modena
We went to a Parmesan factory called Parmigano Reggio were we learned about the process of making Parmesano Reggio (parmesan). They start their process my milking the cows twice a day (morning and night) the milking at night goes into these huge tables where they separate all night. In the morning they use the morning milking of the cow (all of it no skimming) and the data from the night milking and put it into these vats. We’re they mix in two more ingredients of redix and an enzyme found in baby cows stomach they mix it then I turns to curds then the mix the curds together with a giant whisk. It’s then a thick liquid they then put in a cheese cloth (linen) and put in a plastic shaper with a granite block on top working to press the moisture out. They sit over night then in am they get this belt with important info encrypted on the belt then to be pressed into the cheese. After that they sit with a steal belt in a really cold room on a shelf for two days to harden them. They eventually make their way to a salt bath. Which is a long tub with multiple 90 ib wheels of cheese floating in it with a container with holes in it holding all the sea salt sitting in the tub. After their bath they start the aging process where they sit on special wood shelves. The range for cheese to age is 1-3 years. They do age for longer, but they sell it between 1-3 years. At one the year mark the cheese master checks the cheese with a special tool. First hammering it like you would knock on a wall looking for a stud. They knock the cheese to hear for holes (they don’t want holes) he also gave us fun facts about the cheese: through the aging process the natural sugars in the milk (lactose) is ages away ( people like sometimes myself won’t have an issue with the digestion of this cheese, because the way they age the cheese there is no lactose) the sugars turn into amino acids that are also in our stomach that make it easier for us to digest it also contains more protein in comparison to meats of the same amount and takes less time for us to digest. (45 mins for cheese hour 4-5 hours for meat). We then got to try the cheese aged for 1-3 years my favorite was the ages for 2 years. 3 years was very salty and grainy it would be awesome grated on a meal 1 year is softer and not as salty. As you can tell I thought the cheese was pretty cool!!! (sorry there aren’t many pictures of cheese i forgot my phone on the bus…)
After Modena we went to Parma (I know it sounds backwards but the location of the actual farms flip flopped but normally Parma is known for Parmesan and Balsamic Vinegar and Modena for its Prosciutto) the prosciutto factory was also very neat. We first had to put white cloth coat things and a hair next to protect he meat. We then walk essentially into a freezer. It had extremely controlled temperature and it was the exact opposite of what it is outside!! Italy is very hot in the summer. We walked in and the owner (with our guide translating) talked about the process they shit in 600 pig legs a week all form special DOCG (geographically controlled) farms (meaning the origin the pigs come form are controlled). They refrigerate the meats and hang them in these tall hanger like things. They then salt the top of the leg area with a mixture of salt and lard. Which hold the moisture in and adds to the flavor. They also go through a branding and tracing code process. Since the prosciutto is DOCG that mean it has to be perfect and regulated to be able to receive the prosciutto crown branding at the end. They leg age for a long time and the smell gets this weird salty+salami+fat smell it wasn’t particularly my favorite. One of the last steps was the step of the expert (owner) he had 5 others who helped him the other parts of the process but this takes a very trained nose. They use the tibial bone of a horse that has been shaped into a needle sort of looking thing. He then starts poking the leg in 4 specific places saying that by smelling the needle after poking it you can smell if it has aged properly or not.
We then got to eat lunch at the factory in their little house/restaurant overlooking the valley it was beautiful and the ravioli and lemon cake were amazing. I also got to try a very popular summer dish of melon and prosciutto. I didn’t particularly care for it (I’m not a melon fan) but what an interesting combo!
To top off the day we went back to Modena were we visited a balsamic vinegar farm. Not a factory a family owned adorable farm that has been making DOCG balsamic vinegar four 100 years. This tour was a family affair and as the most wonderful Italian women in a bright red dress with matching bright red lipstick and her jet black hair told us all about their vinegar it was around 97 degrees and very sunny and I dint even care. First off I wasn’t aware that balsamic vinegar was made from grapes (I had never really thought to far into it I guess) they had their own vineyard right there on their property and the vinegar process f boiling and pressing room right in their back yard. They age their vinegars for either 10 years, 17 years, 25 years, or 35 years. Each having a very different flavor (nothing like the U.S) the older the vinegar gets the more carmely it gets. For all 4 vinegars it is the consistency of molasses, and you are supposedly able to tell the age of the vinegar by how much it gets caught in your through and how much you feel it in your nose. Balsamic vinegar (similar to olive oils and wines) is a senses tasting process. We got ot taste all the vinegars and go on the grand tour. After we looked in the processing room we went into the vinegar house. The perfect condition for vinegar is in the attic because it gets every extreme of every season. Hot and humid, hot and dry, chilly and so on. It being super-hot the house was HOT and as we went higher in the attic is turned into a sauna. The first floor up held their most recent batch of balsamic, all sitting in cute little barrels (most small some medium sized) and they had special cotton clothes cover the hole to let the balsamic still breathe which is a important part of the process. We then went back outside for lunch. The family made a homemade spread of all different kinds of foods and desserts (we were told it was a “small lunch” no, we were totally spoiled) then the father of the farm started chatting with about 15 of us and asked if we wanted to see the really old balsamic they had in their attic he goes “it very hot but worth it” and we were all in. We went up to the “sauna” and went into the first room it had lines of barrels like the other room and the wall were lines with all kinds of cooking pans and utensils. Then we went into the next room and it had photos of their family all over and then one wall of pictures of their son. In their room there was only three lines of balsamic. Going to find out that it was their lines of balsamic vinegars they started when their son was born the next line was the balsamic started when his mother was born and the third line was the balsamic the husband and wife started when they got married. The last room also had pictures on the wall other than being blasted hot it was the vinegar that has aged the longest. The father goes into the corner and pulls of this super tiny little barrel and starts dipping spoons into it and obviously I was like “oh yay” he hands it to me and goes “100 year”. I tasted the first batch of balsamic vinegar the farm made!!! MY MIDN WAS BLOWN SO I KEPT THE SPOON. (again sorry for the lack of pictures i was really in the moment here)
Needless to say that day I learned a ton! Even though on the way we got trapped in a tunnel after a truck driver hit the inside of the tunnel ahead of us leaving us on the bus an hour longer, being hot, and exhausted from walking so much of Florence it was the day I was soooooo ready to learn all about this wonderful place called Italy!!
"Inspire others to always keep looking forward with a SMILE"