The Full Italian Experience and a taste of Switzerland

Keila Garcia
February 13, 2017

Two weeks ago some friends and I decided to take advantage of what IES Abroad likes to call Wanderlust Friday, also known as a free Friday without classes. We took a 6 hour bus ride to Milan. I slept the entire way (including a snowstorm) only waking up for a few seconds to catch a glimpse of the Swiss Alps.

We got to Milan around noon on Friday to where Erica, Linh's Italian friend was waiting for us to take us to Como. Como is a a small city only forty minutes away from Milan located in the Como Province. You better believe that the first thing we did when arriving there was eat. All diets and salads went out the window and I ordered an individual mushroom pizza. We finished our meal off with an expresso because when you are in Italy do as Italians do. We then drove to the center of Como and despite the weather, I understand why there is an obsession of Europe in America. The truth is that there are no places that compare to the cultural experience Europe offers. There are cafes on every corner followed by bakeries. Also wine is cheaper than water. After walking next to the lake we proceeded to go back to the apartment. Erica's grandparents had prepared dinner for us. IT WAS THE BEST HOMECOOKED MEAL SINCE I LEFT THE US! 

The next day I woke up bright an early determined to go to Verona to fulfill a dream induced after watching "Letters to Juliet". I took a forty minute train ride to Milan where I took the regional train to Verona and in the span of an hour a little boy and his father changed my life.

"There are two strangers sitting in front of me. A father and a son. Travelling partners. The father is shaking his leg perhaps in an attempt to prevent himself from taking the first punch.  Its beyond my imagination what alcohol does to a person. It brings forth their true self. For some it brings forth their demons. There are two Italian men standing in the aisle taunting the father sitting in front of me. They dont stop repeating, ''Prieto, Prieto'' (black, black). The man whose name I'll never know , took off his sterling watch wrapped around his wrist. The shaking of his leg has stopped and now all he does is cross his arms. I try to talk to the little boy but he doesn't understand what I am saying. At that moment one of the Italian drunk men leans my way, saying people like the man sitting in front of me shouldn't be let into Europe. Not knowing how I should react and too afraid to say anything all I can do is shake my head. The drunk Italian man proceeds to bang his hand on my window and accidentally slips unto my lap. At this point the man sitting across from me stands up ready to subdue him. Thankfully, the police show up and take the two Italian drunk men off the train."

I am currently enrolled in a course titled Migration, Ethnic Minorities, and Multiculturalism in Europe. We've discussed the effects of the Refugee Crisis on Europe. The father's willingness to risk his life, his future and that of his son's for a total stranger like me inspired me to look into human right violations in Europe. It is because of this moment that I have decided to pursue a career in International Human Rights Law. The obstacles for refugees do not stop once they get to Europe, in fact they just begin. I don't think I will ever see them again but I hope that one day I can make a change in someone's life the way they did in mine. 


"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though Romeo?"  Verona did not dissapoint. In fact, the moment I stepped off the train into the city center I was yet again in awe. I found myself in the middle of a love festival where every two seconds someone offered to give me a rose. I ran across a Romeo and Juliet Marathon and was able to stand under a colloseum. I pretended to be Elizabeth Gilbert as I devoured my second pizza in Italy.  I fell in love at first sight with the city and its ability to remain faithful to its history despite its high influx of tourists. 

An hour and a train ride later, I found myself in the fashion capital of the world standing underneath the Duomo. We sat down in the plaza to admire the cathedral. We listened to streets artists and even did a little shopping. Who would have thought I would be able to check yet another country off my bucket list. At night we indulged in some "aperitivos" and gelato. 

On Sunday we spent the entire day traveling back to Freiburg. To my surprise the 6 hours I spent on the uncomfortable but affordable Flixbus traveling back to Freiburg would be one of the best 6 hours of my entire existence. I am not exaggerating when I say this. Imagine being able to drive alongside the Alps. One minute it's snowing and the next we are driving under one of the longest tunnels in Europe. I think I gasped for three straight hours. 

Three days, two nights will never be enough in Italy. One morning I found myself walking the cobblestone streets of Verona surrounded by an array of hearts where Romeo and Juliet once lived. Then in the afternoon I found myself in the fashion capital of the world standing underneath the Duomo.

Who knew that two days in Italy and 6 hours of driving through Switzerland on a cheap Flixbus without Internet would completely transform me. 

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Keila Garcia

<p>Call me K-E-I-L-A although most people mispronounce my name. I am currently a Government and History major at the University of Texas at Austin. Hook Em! I&rsquo;ve been bitten by the travel bug and am not looking for a cure. As a former small town girl from Brownsville, Texas (I&rsquo;ll forgive you if you&rsquo;ve never heard of it before) I am looking to capture the world through words.</p>

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