Sorry to keep all you blog followers waiting. The end of my experience got pretty hectic. I’m writing this last blog from my house. It’s crazy to think that it’s over. I felt like I blinked twice and it was done. With that said make sure you enjoy every moment of your experience!
Some of the events towards the end of CIMBA included the final LEAP group coaching session, date with a professor two, Thanksgiving in the dining hall, the second travel weekend, finals, pasta making, the final formal dinner, and wine tasting.
The final group coaching session was one of my favorite LEAP events. This is because we had the opportunity to share our whole LEAP experiences with everyone in our group, share our thoughts on our progress, and receive team feedback on our progress. It was a good feeling to share these thoughts and then receive feedback to see if others saw the same things. We also had a chance to write feedback to each person. This will be in our LEAP book that we will receive with a recap of each of our LEAP experiences. It really was a great program so if you are on the fence of whether or not you should do it…go for it.
Date with a professor two was probably hands down the best meal I had while abroad. Our group decided to do agriturismo, which is where you go to a local’s farm and they cook you a meal with all of their fresh ingredients. In one of the agriturismos the group had the opportunity to explore the farm while ours we primarily just went inside and got eating. The first dish was my favorite. It was a gnocchi dish and I swear every bite melted in your mouth. In fact, I think I had three servings of that dish and that was only the first course (bad, yet great choice). The next dish was tagliette pasta with fish. This was also tasty. The third course was a gourmet salad and chick peas. Finally, the fourth course was mixed meats. What they didn’t tell us was that mixed meats meant tons and tons of any kind of meat you wanted. It was so tender and juicy. They had a traditional local sausage (the best), steak, chicken, pork, ribs, you name it. All you can drink red wine accompanied the meal. Every group should do an agriturismo for date with a professor. Everyone that did it said the high expense was definitely worth it.
In terms of other great food, our cafeteria put on a great night for us for Thanksgiving. It honestly felt like Thanksgiving at home. It included two sixteen kilo tender turkeys, great stuffing, cream corn, corn bread, potato dumplings, peas, sweet potatoes (kind of), pumpkin pie, and more. This was two consecutive nights of stuffing my face. I definitely needed a little break from eating until I exploded the following night.
The next morning we had our final classes before the travel break. Ten of us took off that same day and were all ready for the real day of Thanksgiving (Thursday) in the Czech Republic. We spent Wednesday night in Bergamo (right outside Milan) as we had an early flight to Prague. Prague was one of my top five favorite cities. There is a lot of rich history there and tons to do as well. Also, if you do go there, stay at the Mosaic House. It is nicer than any hotel. To give you an idea, they have heated floors in the bathroom! They had the best breakfast too and I love breakfast. It runs at similar prices to other hostels. They also have a bar area down stairs and you can watch football and stuff like that.
The first day in Prague I quickly found a full-bodied Starbucks coffee. Boy, there is nothing like filtered coffee (not just espressos). We also did the walking tour, which was a great choice like usual. For dinner, we had an authentic Czech meal to say the least. We walked into this small, local restaurant to get the full experience. It turned out that the one waiter and chef who worked there didn’t speak English. Not only this, but the menu was in Czech as well. The chef decided to take me into the kitchen actually to show me what some of the stuff on the menu looked like before we ordered it. It was pretty funny. The problem was, by the time I got back to the table I had forgotten which was which. So we all basically picked something off the menu blind. It was a really good meal though. We brought back the names of our dishes to the hostel where our front desk translated for us what we just ate. Some were happier than others to say the least. One of the best ones was someone ate fried wine sausage (whatever that is).
The night consisted of a pub crawl. I’m not a big fan of pub crawls to tell you the truth. I would really just do your own thing. This one was better than the others but still not the best. They did have turkey since it was Thanksgiving, which was kind of nice. I also happened to meet someone from 20 minutes from my home town on this crawl…pretty crazy stuff.
The next morning we decided to go to the great big castle. There was a church up there that was astonishing.
There was also tons of other buildings and a great view. We walked around with the intent to get lost and saw many things. I highly recommend walking around with zero intent wherever you go. You always seem to stumble upon great things. On our way walking around we tried mulled wine. This is hot red wine that actually kind of tastes like hot apple cider. It is a very traditional drink when it is cold in Prague and it was pretty good.
We also found another authentic Czech meal, but this one the menu was in English at least. I was surprised they eat rabbit there…not for me. They did have potato pancakes though, duck, pork and dumplings, and more. It made for a great meal. The rest of the day we walked around some more, shopped, and walked down by the Christmas market, which would be the following day. Unfortunately, we were leaving that morning and would miss the Christmas market. It was cool to see them setting up for it though and a couple of stations did open.
At night we went to what was called the Beer Factory. Prague is the land of cheap beer. Basically at this restaurant there is a keg under each table and a big screen linked to your keg. You can see how much your table has drunk in comparison to other tables on this screen. It was a very interesting experience. You can also go to a place called the P.U.B., which is very similar. It is a more relaxed and local environment though, which I think would have been better. Although, make reservations for this place as it was booked when we tried to go. We had to head back in the morning so we hit the hay early and were ready to return back to Paderno.
Getting back to Paderno was very depressing. Just knowing that we had three days of school, and then three days of finals. This meant our experience was fast approaching the end. CIMBA did host some events to keep us happy on the way out though. They had the option of going to make and eat your own pasta and also wine tasting. Also, the final formal dinner took place. Unfortunately, my roommate and I came down with the stomach flu this final week and were not able to attend any of these events. We were the only ones who came down with this sickness so we had our little quarantined room. Everyone said all three events were a lot of fun though!
This last week I also went a couple times to get my last tabacchi sandwiches. I told the lady how much we would miss her (and her sandwiches). The last day I think everyone went to get a sandwich after finals and she gave us all little going away candy. It was cute. We also went down to the sports bar to say one last good-bye there too.
My parents, who traveled around Italy the final week I was at school, came to meet me after I finished my last final. They really liked seeing campus and helped me pack. We were getting ready to head to Venice for one final night before returning home. Before I left, I showed them around campus and said my goodbyes. It was so sad. You really become so close with all these people and will not want to leave! It’s a great little small town. I at first wanted to be in a much bigger town, but looking back I really liked the small town experience. We shortly left Paderno and arrived in Mestre outside Venice. For the night, we took a vapareto to the heart of Venice. It was great and we had one last final great meal. Probably the second best meal of my stay with risotto and the most tender salmon.
One sleep and twelve hours later here I am writing from the U.S. reflecting back on the best semester of my life to date. If you are thinking about studying abroad, do it. I had someone tell me the same thing before I decided to go. I was worried about leaving the great friends I have, the great football season that was upon us (which ended up horrible), and leaving the great school I love. And with that said, I had the best semester of my life. There will always be another football season and semester readily available. But how many times will you be able to say I traveled to Amsterdam, Berlin, Cinqueterre, Dublin, Florence, London, Mestre, Crespano, Montebelluna, Munich, Castelfranco, Prague, Rome, Verona, and Milan? I would venture to say not without a semester abroad. And CIMBA makes that possible with all of the travel time they grant.
One final note about places you must travel while abroad. If I had to compile a top seven list (because it’s so hard to pick) of places I would highly recommend I would say:
1. Dublin, Ireland
2. Berlin, Germany / Oktoberfest if you go in the fall
3. Cinqueterre, Italy (go when it’s warm!)
4. Florence, Italy
5. Prague, Czech Republic
6. Rome, Italy
7. Venice, Italy
I also heard Sicily and Paris were great as I did not have the opportunity to get there. And I heard Riga (to go bobsledding) and Barcelona (which I have already been to) are great too. If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me through the CIMBA office and most importantly go and HAVE FUN!
For one last time…over and out!