Hey everyone! Just a little update on my time here studying in Rome: I love it. I am so grateful every day for the opportunities that I get to experience every day here in Italy. With my study abroad program in Rome, we get every Friday off. This is amazing for many reasons, but for one in particular: traveling! I have been to three places so far on weekend trips and wanted to share with you my experience with them. I first went to Budapest, then Florence, and last weekend I was in London. As long as you fill out your trip tracker for the weekend before you leave, you are free to go pretty much anywhere! Let me tell you a little bit about each trip.
For my first trip outside of Rome, I wanted to experience somewhere I had never been to before. Budapest had always been a place that interested me to visit, so as soon as I heard my friends conjuring up to go I knew I was in for the journey. The flights from one European country to another are surprisingly very cheap in comparison to traveling in the United States. Round-trip flights to Budapest were about $70 for each person and it was one that was pretty last minute. The earlier you are in your planning, the cheaper your flight will be.
Budapest itself was a beautiful city. There were two sides of the river split by big bridges that made it hard to have time to see everything but what we saw was amazing! There are beautiful castles and churches everywhere you go. My friends and I even embarked on a river cruise for only $15 that went about the Danube river so that you could be up close to some amazing monuments like the parliament building.
At night we went to one of the coolest bars I have ever been to, and I highly recommend it; a ruin bar called Szimpla Kert. There was a line to get in because of its popularity but it was not bad at all. Inside the bar is three stories with a bunch of different places/rooms to order drinks and so many crazy-themed decorations.
The food in Budapest was very warm and homey, usually accompanied by a potato of sorts. The most important rule I found out about while visiting Budapest was to finish your food!!! Don’t get a full meal unless you are ready to finish the plate! One very sweet lady at the first restaurant we went to got very upset with us for not clearing our plates. We had to plead to her that we did enjoy her food, just that we were too full (I guess that's what smaller portions in Italy do to you!). My friends and I started to share plates that were more cost-efficient and always left a clean plate.
On our last night in Budapest, we went to a rave-type event at the baths that only happens twice a season. It was super cool and I got to meet so many people from all over the world there!
Florence was amazing! In all honesty, it was my first time going and I was expecting my experience there to be mediocre. But let me tell you, I loved Florence! The vibes, the people, the scenery! Everything was so fun and welcoming. Two of my friends from home were visiting during their spring break and they were able to come and make the experience even better. We took a bus to Florence that was only $35 and it was about 3 hours. We got an amazing Air BnB right next to the Duomo with a breath-taking view from its terrace. If the weather wasn’t as cold and windy, we would have spent every moment on the terrace of that place!
On Saturday when we were in Florence, we booked a wine tour in the country part of Tuscany. We took an hour bus from Florence to the countryside and went to two different vineyards that were only about 20 minutes apart. Both vineyards presented us with a bunch of different wines to taste-test among a plate of cheese, meats, and bread. Both people who worked at the vineyards were so nice and so happy to share their favorite wines. At the first vineyard, we even got to try a couple of different olive oils and aged balsamic's that were absolutely amazing.
Every place we went to eat in Florence had great food, very similar to Roman cuisine. As always, we ate tons of bread and drank plenty of wine. The nightlife was fun as well. My friend studying in Florence told me some cool places to check out! Everyone was super nice and the whole experience was one I will never forget. I was sad to leave Florence and wish I could have stayed there longer. My parents are meeting up with me in Rome when my program ends and are planning to take me back there with them, so I cannot wait to be back soon!
Believe it or not, this was my third time in London, and it still did not disappoint. I absolutely love people from the UK (and their accents) and always enjoy my time there.
My friends and I all sat down for a plate of fish and chips, with a pint of course, for our first meal. I’m not a huge fan of just eating fish, but fish and chips never disappoint. With the squeezed lemon and vinegar…I’m hungry just thinking about it. We went to a place known for their beer near the place where we got fish and chips called “Hole in the Wall”. We wanted a proper, cold pint. I ended up getting an apple pear cider that was very delicious and practically tasted like juice. We then went to a place called Soho in London that's also home to London’s Chinatown. It was so cute in this area and the first time I had been there. There were so many different food places and tons of places for shopping.
The next day we had a bottomless mimosa lunch that had some of the best food I have eaten abroad; the whole experience was to die for. From there we did some sight-seeing and went to Tower Bridge (which I had to explain to my friends was not London Bridge, a common misconception) as well as the London Eye and Big Ben. All were amazing views, highly recommend getting to them all!
That night we met up with some people who were studying abroad in London and they got to show us their way of life, which was a cool experience. They even got us to take the Tube to get around, which lowkey felt like a Disney ride. Overall London was an amazing experience and a place I will always want to travel back to!
Where to Next?
Every place I have traveled to has been such a fun experience and I think that everyone who has the opportunity to travel should do so. It is such a life-changing experience and opens your eyes to so many different cultures and ways of life. I plan to go to Greece for spring break (which is about 7 days long) as well as Madrid before my time ends in Europe. I wish I could go even more places, but money is definitely something that comes as a struggle when you are abroad. I encourage anyone who is going to study abroad and planning to travel to save up as much as you can and get your flights booked early. One great thing about Europe is everything tends to be cheaper (unless you are in the big cities like London or Paris, then they tend to get a little more pricey).
I hope to talk to you all soon! Let me know if there is anything more you’d like to know. I will definitely be updating you on my time in Greece for spring break. We are currently in midterm season here at IES Abroad, so I plan to write up a bit about my experience with classes so far too!
Thanks for reading! Ciao!
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<p>My name is Amber Leitham and I am from Pennsylvania State University, currently living out my dream of studying abroad in Rome, Italy. My whole family has gone to Penn State including my father, mother, uncle, and both of my older brothers; so to say I bleed blue is an understatement. I absolutely love my everyday life as a student. I am currently studying Security Risk Analysis under the College of Information Science and Technology. I decided to take most of my general study classes, like art and history, abroad to fully immerse myself in the cultural experience. looking for. I hope to use the skills I learn from studying in a foreign country to further my development in the real world.<br><br>Growing up I was involved in a lot of different activities including eight different clubs in high school, lacrosse, cheerleading, and theater. From being a part of these organizations I have developed the social skills needed to pursue life out of high school. Now being a part of organizations in college like the Gamma Tau Phi Honors Society and the Association of Women in Computer, I hope to educate myself to the fullest academically and socially. This abroad experience will be essential to shaping myself into the successful, young woman I aspire to become.<br><br>Being a college student during the pandemic has been a challenge. I have had to overwork many obstacles to maintain my grades and my health. This Spring semester I have got the chance to study abroad in Rome and am beyond excited to do so. I love to travel and am extremely grateful for the opportunity to continue my education in a different cultural setting!</p>