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.
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 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!!
Well today it has almost been a week since I left last Wednesday and it was my first full day in Florence Italy. Yesterday we got here around 4:30pm after two not bad flights. The first flight from Dublin to Munich wasn’t too bad but we started to notice English was no longer the first language. There was a group of middle aged German speaking, what seemed like they all traveled together to Ireland and were going home They seemed absolutely fascinated by us three English speaking girls… who knows. Then arriving a little late into Munich and slightly panicked that we were going to miss our flight to Florence we got off the plane as fast as we could only to find a very kind gentleman holding a sign that said florenz (we at first though it was a last name but realized nope he was here for us) he was from there our little babysitter through our tour of the Munich flight runway as we got into a large van and were driven across the runway (meeting some wonderful Irish women going to Florence) to be directed through customs then back out to the van to be driven to the runway to get on the plane early like a celebrity it was pretty cool.
We then made it to Florence and got off the plane to find it wasn’t just hot it was HOT!!! And it wasn’t planning on getting any cooler for as long as the forecast would show.
We got inside to find Olivia’s luggage got lost and then to find FUA (Florence University of the Arts) booth right there we filled out some info got a backup emergency phone and filled some paperwork out then they drove us straight to our apartment and carried our luggage up which we found out was all the way up 6 flights of stairs!!! Not just any stairs like super steep cement stairs that never end (I no longer have to worry about gaining weight here). Our apartment key is an old 1800’s looking key with a tiny body and a big intricate head that opened our 4 pronged dead bolted door (which was very comforting) to find an awesome apartment! It is huge two large bedrooms 5 beds and living room a kitchen and a large bathroom. You could literally raise comfortably a family of 5 and it is beautiful!!
We all passed out after getting settled and walking around the city. Which we got our first Italian dinner and glass of wine our waiter was very nice and really was helpful in learning the hot to appropriately handle dining in Italy. After we walked around had my breath taken away by the Duomo (not to mention I can see the top of it from our Apartment bedroom window)
and starting to figure out our baring in a very confusing city (road wise). Then on our way back to our apartment we found a gelato shop right close to our apartment the Marco Ottaviano il Gelato Gourmet all I can say is WOW ice cream has not a standing chance against gourmet gelato it was unbelievable. All four our us (Olivia Jenna and Angie our new roommate from CMU) had a little moment as we walked out of the show each with two flavors of gelato for let me mention only 1,50 euros! (so, like $2) and all starting trying each other’s and geeking out about how good they were.
We then made it back to our apartment and found out we only have scalding hot water in our shower which was a little adventure trying to cool down and clean up. We then settled in and got ready for today lol.
So now that I am caught up I’ll tell you about today we woke up early to try and find our way to our FUA Orientation which took a little while and we got kind of lost but we made it there and we were still on time! Orientation was very informative and made me realize how tired I was. The orientation continued as the “coach” for the fitness course showed us around the city to all the FUA facilities. They don’t have a campus like CMU their colleges (fashion, journalism, cooking, culture, and food wine and culture/pastry school which is us called apicious) and of course our class building is the farthest FUA building but hey a good morning walk is good we decided burn off the expresso and pastry breakfast. But this coach guy walked crazy fast and expected a huge group of college students trying to remember where they were going and look at this city we just got to, to keep up. It didn’t goes to well. All the facilities looked awesome and the culinary school and restaurant look ligit and top of the line. After we took the tour we were set free.
We walked around and peeked in some shops and looking for lunch food, we stumbled across an awesome shop sat outside and ate a delicious pizza right across from the central market. After our first Italian gourmet oven baked pizza our waiter was a very nice Italian gentleman who was very helpful in our attempts to learn Italian. The owner liked to keep saying monto bella, and chaio bella. We then came across a very nice leather jacket store. The guy standing there was so not just nice like please buy something but truly kind and wanted us to just try things on “for fun for fun” understood it had to be the right jacket and the right fit he even said at any time he’d give us a 70% student discount!! He picked out and perfectly fit us on his first try it was quite impressive. We then quick walked through the market (a different one was recommended to us so we didn’t shop)
is was crazy the amount of fresh food and meats was mind blowing I’m not even sure if I would know where to start to figure out how to figure the place out to make a dinner it was slightly intimidating. We walked back to our apartment all the way up the crazy stairs to our apartment cooled off (it is crazy hot here and it was supposed to be the coolest day all week) and laid down we all passed out in our little siesta (some stores close between 1 and 3 they don’t really call it a siesta and not all shops close) we decided that siestas are awesome and necessary in the heat. Once we all woke up and got our heads together we walked to the student life building to figure some logistics out with the Olivia loosing luggage thing, got that all taken care of and set off to see the river that separates Florence the north side and the south side. We live on the north side and we were quick to find out that the south side has more money. We crossed the bridge and walked through the same close buildings of a town it was just soo quiet the whole part of the south side we explored it was so quiet.
We kept walking and the incline started. We came across the famous steps that we haven’t learned the name of and started to climb part of this mountain now as we are profusely
sweating and tired from these stairs we made it to the top and the most beautiful view of Florence appeared and it made all of us speechless we stood there and stared at if for a very long time before deciding we were hungry again. We found a very authentic Italian restraint which let us use our English to Italian dictionary!! I order an amazing pasta dish and had the best red wine I may have ever tasted it was a Merlot and was heaven (I thought of my dad the whole glass and how much I knew he’d love it but dad don’t worry I got the name and I’m making a list of my favorites to bring home to you. I enjoyed it for the both of us) the day was starting to where on all of us so gelato was in order at our new favorite little shop that we are now owners of our for gelato punch card!!! Since we are living here now (super crazy to say!) We walked back all the ay up to our beautiful bird nest apartment and took our way to hot showers and are ready to take on tomorrow our first day of class!!!! Were all way to excited!!
So today technically is my 4th day abroad and damn has it been crazy I am currently on a plane on my way to Munich with an hour layover then on a plane to Florence Italy! This journal is kind of my recap of Ireland, but I may work backwards and as I comes to my brains so I’m going to apologize before I get going (we all know my brain goes fast and in many directions sometimes. hehe oops )
I’m going to start off with yesterday. We went to the Cliffs of Moher (5/25/16) and it was truly breath taking you couldn’t take a photo that captured how beautiful it actually was…
The bus ride from Dublin left early in the morning and took 4 hours! The one positive thing about the four hour drive was that I got to see a ton of the country side. Once we got out of the city it was green like bright beautiful green (like when you put polarized sunglasses on an every color gets richer, but this time you didn’t need the sunglasses it just was). Farms with walls made of tons of stones that were stacked and magically fitting together. They would be around homes and gating in cows and horses and sheep and a lama (I only saw one though). The hills were rolling and beautiful you would look around and see tons of squares all up and down the hills everywhere of different color rich green marking off different farm properties. Then all of a sudden you would see a random castle ruin standing in the middle of a field with cows around it like it was no big deal (id geek out and take a picture J ). Another thing you really notice not just on this bus ride but all through Ireland they roads are super narrow with no shoulder at all it was either the edge of a cliff our bushes or trees. The busses and cars sometimes have to take turns going through some spaces because they would hit if they went side by side. These huge charter bus drivers and city bus driver were all masters at the Ireland bus driving craft it blew my mind. Turning and backing up and all around, maneuvering massive buses in small crowded fast pace cities, country roads, and little ocean towns where I literally could touch the little stores if I would of stuck my hand out the window. It was NUTS!!!
I had to close my eyes a few times. I watched the country side for a long time to the cliffs before I completely crashed. The night before Day 2 Friday (24th) Night (Thursday being the first day) we went on a pub crawl after a long rainy day of a hop on hop off tour. The hop on hop off tour was essentially a perfect gig. We bought a ticket that would allow us to go to any stops on a loop that covered both the old and the new parts of the city. From trinity college, Guinness factory, an operating whiskey distillery, non-active Jameson whiskey distillery, all the churches, and parks, statues, the zoo, museums, the famous jail (Gaul they call it, which tripped me up), and so much more.
The tickets were good for a 48 hour period. It rained really hard and since we walked such a huge chunk of the city the first day (we were there getting lost and turned around a lot but we learned where we were going) so we rode the bus for a while were all the drivers had an active talking role to tell us all about the history of the homes buildings, parks and everything in between while we were dry and sitting, it was super cool! Some fun facts that stuck with me were like the famous man who said the best one liner “women just need to be loved not understood” was born there. Trinity College is known for its famous writers. They have had 2 people win the noble peace prizes and one other person in something sciency I can’t remember. All I can say is that it is very impressive. Beside their famous writers Trinity holds the book of kells (one of the oldest religious books, written on presses dried pig skin). Unfortunately when we wanted to go see it the library and the book of kells exhibit were closed 😦 so I didn’t get to learn as much as I wanted to about the books of kells and the library (which they add a half mile of shelving every year!) That was one things that I really wanted to see that I wasn’t able to. Funny enough though was the reason it was closed was because Joe Biden our vice president was in Dublin speaking they were have some reception for him in there… the city was crazy (Joe Biden and they were prepping for a gay pride parade). But that and the Wickilow Mountains will bring me back there for sure! That night we met up with our new friend Daniel who has been essentially traveling the world by himself and is doing his first pub crawl!! Dublin (Temple Bar Area) is like Nashville full of music and a great time!
Now that I’ve already decided to just write how my brain is absorbing all that happened the past few days. Now I’ll give you the scoop on the Cliffs of Moher. So after crashing for two hours I woke up to be welcomed by a gas station in Moneygall called the Barack Obama! Like What?! Jenna Olivia and I were so confused. Goes to show though that Obamas ancestors lived there in Moneygall with the name O’bama and he himself went there to visit a couple years back so obviously that means they get to have a Obama themed gas station hahaha so weird.
We had two hours left of the drive with more beautiful scenery. The houses were very interesting to me some were brick some were painted concrete but most had little round sun rooms off the the sides, and a front stoop the projected form the home and some of the wealthier homes had decorative white trick forming the front of the house and these wall/arch type things like a façade that would connect the house to a garage separate from the house. The newer styles had lots and lots of windows which I though was also very neat and beautiful. We finally arrive in a town called Claire next to Doolin where the Cliffs were at. It was a very busy place people from all across the world! We started our climb and when you first see the cliff it takes your breath away, it looks like a photo/postcard or painting. We stood there and stared over the stone wall for a few minutes to take it in then started our adventure! We trekked up a paved walk way to a point with a castle then we came to the point where there would no longer be a wall protecting us from the edge of the cliff. We looked at the warning sign and trekked on!
We said a little prayer that none of us would slip to our death in this majestic place (Jenna and Olivia did slip but caught themselves). We took in everything it was unbelievable. Then we moved back to the bus and went to the small beach town of Doolin where we boarded a Ferry Cruiser that took us on an hour long cruise to see the cliffs!!!!
Waking up early the next day we headed to the airport for our next adventure Florence Italy!! Ireland I Love You more than I thought I would! I will see you again soon, but Italy here I come!!!
PS I am in Florence now as i send this post sitting in my apartment on the the fifth floor looking at the peak of the Duomo!!!! Ill post tomorrow about how cool this place is!!! Look at my first meal in Florence!!
"Inspire others to always keep looking forward with a SMILE"