Getting lost and finding yourself.

That’s the cliche motto for a study abroad experience. But here’s some food for thought:

Yes, get lost. (It’s not like you have much of a choice, you will get lost). But keep in mind, it’s not a requirement to “find yourself”. That’s a heavy task at 20. Rather, my experiences and travels thus far have helped me understand myself better and have helped me shape and create myself into who I want to be. Find who you are meant to be, and create yourself.
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Kiss me, I’m not Irish.

Ireland & Scotland. My final two stops outside of Italy for this crazy whirlwind of a semester. And what a crazy trip it was.

I got to spend an amazing Thanksgiving in Maynooth (about a 40 minute train ride outside of Dublin) with Maggie, where she prepared a traditional feast that I greatly devoured. It was really amazing to share a holiday with a special piece of home. Being 6,000 miles away from family and loved ones on Thanksgiving is not easy, but it was a little easier to bear with one of my best friends. Then we went out and I got to party with some Irish lads (that’s what they say right?).

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Not too shabby for home cooked Thanksgiving in Ireland.

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My one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, we strolled around Dublin. A city decked out for Christmas already, surprisingly modern, and dawning pubs in every corner, Dublin is truly a gem. Stores like Urban Outfitters are hidden in old buildings in tiny alleyways, and older Irish gentlemen stand on corners having what seem to be regular conversations over a pint of Guinness. Speaking of the devil, what is a touristy trip to Dublin without going to the Guinness Factory? We had an awesome time causing a scene in the “tasting” room, and taking pictures of couples who were admiring the view, while we were admiring them. Dublin was insanely pretty, and I would love to return someday with some more time, and explore other counties. Ireland, you (and your people) are beautiful.

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On Saturday, I was on an early flight to go see my good friend Savannah studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. While she worked, I explored some cool spots in Old Town Edinburgh, took the typical Harry Potter fan picture of the Elephant House cafe (the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book), and walked around until I met up with some other friends for dinner. The next day, Savannah and I grabbed a good ole Scottish lunch (with a pint of beer, of course), explored some more, enjoyed some Bailey’s Hot Chocolate at the Christmas Market, and stood mesmerized at the incredible architecture and jaw dropping views of the Edinburgh Castle at every angle. Edinburgh was an old school fairytale come to life, I was just waiting for my Prince to come swoop me on his horse- dressed in a kilt of course.

 

My weekend was exhausting. Sunday night, I flew back to Dublin, and was set to fly back to Rome Monday morning. But with my Sunday night fight delayed, resulting in an arrival into Dublin past 11, and a 6 am flight back to Rome, the airport became my bed for the night. Yes, I did it.  I spent a full night in an airport. That’s “part of the experience”, right?

Shockingly enough, it wasn’t as completely awful as I thought. No, it was not comfortable, and no, I didn’t get a lot of sleep. But I found a somewhat cozy couch, I dozed in and out for a few hours, and the 24 hour convenience shop in the airport with snacks was enough to give me the energy I needed at 4:30 am. I’ve been saying recently that I’ve become a “pro traveller”, and though I’m usually joking, I feel like being able to camp out at an airport all night and not completely hate life means I’m way too comfortable in an airport. But things could be worse. And who knew? A lot of people were actually in the same situation as me. Scattered on different couches and chairs at one of the airport bars, people were napping throughout the night to catch early flights as well. I guess I’m not the only one on some crazy adventures. Plus, waking up to Irish rugby players drinking beers at 4 am at the airport wasn’t terrible to look at.

Granted, I’ve had about 3 hours of sleep in the last 40 hours. But if that’s my biggest complaint, then I’m damn lucky.

And here I am. It’s the last Monday of classes here in Rome. A week of final essays, presentations, and reviews. Finals starts Saturday. And then the Saturday after that? I’m off. Gonna make these last two weeks count. It’s bittersweet, but I’m ready to get back where I belong. I’ll cheers to that!

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xoxo, Kass

When fear interrupts reality.

The last few weeks has left most of Europe with an eerie feeling. Rome has been on high alert, and thousands of soldiers have been deployed to monitor the city. This has left many people in Rome feeling afraid of their surroundings. A large number of American study abroad students have left Rome early, cutting their semester abroad short, due to the threats.

It’s understandable. It’s scary to be living somewhere that seems to be the threat of a major terrorist attack. But can we really live afraid? If we are so fearful that we cannot even calmly live our lives and our experiences, aren’t we giving them what they want? They want us to be afraid. They want us to be weak. And we are not.

I urge everyone who is afraid to realize that this is unfortunately our world. A friend of mine told me that her professor spoke on this topic in their class. He said, “Go out to dinner, go to a concert, go to a theater, go to the Vatican. Just go. I told me kids to.” We can’t stop being humans and active citizens in our community because of something that might happen. We can’t put our social lives on hold and turn down dinner plans and going out because we’re afraid of being around a crowd. We can’t be fearful.

If there’s one thing studying abroad has brought out of me, it is my fearlessness. I’ll get in a plane to somewhere unknown in a heartbeat. If I don’t know the language, oh well. If they food scares me, I’ll eat it anyway. I doubt I’ll ever have another opportunity to say I live in Rome. I refuse to let them win. I am not afraid. Put your fears aside. Live life happily. We can’t write out the future and what will for sure happen or not, but we can continue to live our lives in a positive way and encourage others to do the same. There is no reason not to. 

 

This Thanksgiving…

I know Thanksgiving isn’t for a few days, but living this incredible experience for the last few months, I have so much to be grateful for.

I don’t think I can put into words how grateful I am for my family. My parents have sacrificed the world for me to be living my dream, and I will never be able to thank them enough. And to the rest of my family who have been my greatest supporters, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins, I thank you to the moon and back. Even though I’m still the “baby”of the family, you all played a part in making me the woman I am and you have all instilled the motivation in me to live my dream, or at least attempt to. I love you all, and I cannot wait to hug and kiss each and every one of you.

….But I’m thankful for a lot more too!

Check out my post on SDSU Be International here to find out all the things I’m thankful for this year!

Spread joy. 

  
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to explore the traditional Christmas Markets in Vienna, Austria. I rarely get a chance to truly get into the Christmas spirit. Whether it’s California weather, or the emphasis we have on recieving and not giving, I usually lack the Christmas joy that should be associated with such a beautiful holiday. I set aside my “no Christmas celebrating until after thanksgiving” rule, and joined in on the amazing festivities in Vienna. Thousands of ornaments, nutcrackers, original decor, and traditional Christmas foods and sweets surrounded me all weekend. It was such a unique experience and I loved seeing so many people come together and celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season. It reminded me how important it is to spread joy and happiness in a time when a lot of the world can’t find the motivation to do so. 

I’ll post more pictures from my beautiful weekend in Vienna soon. But for now, Frohe Weihnachten! 

To the world.

It’s okay to pray for Paris.

It’s okay to pray for Baghdad.

It’s okay to pray for Beirut.

In the last 48 hours, I feel like I’ve seen more arguing, passive aggressiveness, and overall poor attitudes during a time of sadness and mourning than I would have ever expected. It saddens me that the tragedies of this weekend have become an excuse for Facebook statuses to turn into arguments about political agendas and an overall lack of support. The events in the last 48 hours scare most of us. Whether you show it or not. Whether you think there should be retaliation or not. We are the world, and the world is under attack. Whatever religion you are, wherever you are from, what ever you may identify yourself as, I hope you can put aside political opinions and aggressiveness towards the media, and put that energy towards sending hope, love, and positive thoughts to our friends and allies under attack around the world.

I am studying abroad in Europe. Just like Nohemi Gonzalez, the CSU Long Beach student studying abroad in Paris, who was killed over the weekend. No mother should have to worry about their daughter studying abroad being caught in the middle of a terrorist attack. I shouldn’t have to receive a phone call from my mother crying because I’m studying abroad in Rome, a city that has been threatened in the past.

I pray that world leaders can decide on the best possible option to respond to these tragic events. I pray for the families of the victims in Paris, Baghdad, and Beirut. I pray for the safety of all people, in all countries who are threatened.

My thoughts are with Paris. 

Sitting in a hotel room in Vienna, we hear the news of mass shootings around Paris.

A week ago, at this exact moment, me and my friends were exploring the streets of Paris. We were so excited to be in a magical city, and the last thought on our mind would be that something horrible like this could happen. It’s not usually a thought that crosses our minds. In any city we visit, or even living in Rome, no one could ever imagine such an atrocity could occur.

As more information becomes known, it is important for everyone to keep Paris in your thoughts and prayers. I can say that my friends and I are eternally grateful and blessed that we are sleeping safe in our beds tonight, one week after sleeping safely in our beds in Paris. Rest in peace to those that lost their lives or are in fear of their safety in Paris. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Je t’aime Paris

All I’ve ever heard for ages is how terrible France is. Whether its the people, the soccer team (that’s still true), that it’s dirty or the people smell, it’s never been positive. If that all holds truth, then I clearly missed something on my trip to Paris, because I happen to be a fan of it all. Paris is the first city I’ve been to in Europe that reminded me of big cities at home; the fashion and glitz of New York, as posh as Los Angeles, and a few streets reminded me of San Francisco as well. Eating escargot and drinking IMG_4896champagne on Champs-Élysées didn’t hurt the experience either.

And a trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without getting macaroons at Laduree, also known as Blaire Waldorf’s favorite macaroons in the world (if you watch Gossip Girl, you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Our Airbnb apartment was right above a French bakery, so the smell of freshly baked bread woke us up in the morning. Our block alone had a chocolate shop, a Fromagerie (cheese!), a butcher, and a wine shop. So in true Parisian style, our second night in Paris consisted of baguettes, brie cheese, and some Sauvignon blanc.

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And of course, we had to take a bottle of wine with us to the Tour Eiffel to see it at night. It’s beautiful during the day, and the view from the top is spectacular, but nothing beats the beauty, romance, and fairytale atmosphere that Paris exudes quite like watching the Eiffel Tower light up. It’s magical.

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I was truly impressed with French culture, the fashion, the food, and the language. Paris is quite possibly on the list of places I wouldn’t mind running away to.. Au revoir for now.

Here are some more pictures from my trip to Paris!