A Letter to My Study Abroad Home

Dear Florence,

I can’t believe it has already been 4 months since I first arrived. When I left, I was filled with so many nervous and anxious feelings but I was beyond excited to see what this semester had in store for me. When I first stepped onto the airplane, I couldn’t believe that I was actually flying 4,500 miles away. I had dreamed of doing this for so many years but it never actually felt real. I landed in Florence and I had so many thoughts running through my head. I couldn’t help but think about all of the amazing things that I was about to experience. I had a lot of nerves but I knew that this would be the best 4 months of my life. The first time that I walked past the Duomo, I was blown away by its beauty. At that moment, I could not believe that I was actually going to live in Italy for an entire semester. It felt like a dream come true.

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I spent my first week exploring all what Florence had to offer and taking in the new culture. I got lost many, many times but it helped me experience the city a bit more. The first few days, I got gelato almost everyday (or even twice) and still continued to do so the whole semester. The first Saturday of the semester, I took my first day trip to Cinque Terre. It was weird leaving Florence for the first time but I was also very excited to explore the rest of Europe.

After the first week, classes started and Florence started feeling less like a vacation and more like home. I started to become more comfortable with walking down the cobblestone streets and attempting to learn a little bit of Italian. I had already learned so much about the new culture and language that was surrounding me. I began to take weekend trips to other cities around Europe. I fell in love with every place I went to but none were quite like Florence. I would come back on Sunday nights and it felt like I was just coming back home after a weekend away.

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The few weekends that I spent in Florence were some of my favorite because I really got to explore the city. I would pretend to be a tourist and climb the many stairs up to the top of the Duomo or to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo, taking in the beautiful scenery. One of my favorite memories is adventuring at 2 in the morning trying to find the secret bakery. Finally, we found it and got warm chocolate croissants for only 1 euro.

There is no better feeling than crossing something off of your bucket list. This semester, I crossed so many things off my bucket list, things I would have never imagined doing at 20 years old. I’ve taken away so many things from this semester. I embraced many challenges and learned to view the world in a different perspective. I learned that stepping out of my comfort zone can be extremely rewarding because I learned so much about myself and the world around me. Traveling gives you the chance to find yourself and come back a different person. My experiences this semester have become apart of who I am and I will cherish these memories forever.

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I will miss walking past the Duomo everyday and being amazed by the beauty of the city. I will miss getting pizza and gelato everyday. I will miss watching the sunset behind the Ponte Vecchio. Most importantly, I’ll miss the memories and adventures that I made. I will miss so many things about my favorite city but I am beyond thankful to have had this amazing opportunity. Thank you, Florence for giving me the chance to adventure, make memories that will last a lifetime, and feeling like my home. Florence, you will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to travel to 13 different cities around Italy and 7 different countries around Europe. Studying abroad is definitely the best decision I’ve ever made and I am so grateful to have lived in such a beautiful city for the past 4 months.

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“We travel because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something inside our minds has changed, and that changes everything.”

Grazie mille e arrivederci, Firenze!

-Bethany

 

 

 

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The Hills Are Alive in Austria!

Last trip of the semester – Austria! 

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I seriously can’t believe that I just finished my last weekend trip of the semester! It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling! We left on Thursday night and arrived in Salzburg, Austria really late at 5am! We only got a few hours asleep before we had to wake up for The Sound of Music Tour! The movie was filmed in Salzburg and we got to see a lot of the filming locations! We saw where “16 going on 17” is filmed, the gardens where “do re me” is filmed, the house in the movie, and the church from the wedding scene.
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After the sound of music tour, we went up to this fortress/castle on top of a mountain. We could see the entire city from the top! We then just walked around and looked at the Christmas Markets!IMGP4418.jpgIMGP4388.jpgIMGP4396.jpg

The next day, we took a bus over to the Neuchwanshien Castle in Germany! This was the castle that was inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland! We had to hike up the mountain and got a tour of the castle. It was really pretty and reminded me of something that would be in Disney!
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Afterwards, we took a bus back to Innsbruck, Austria! When we got to our hotel, we went straight to look around at the Christmas Markets! Everything was so festive! The next morning, we had all day to explore the city! The city was so cute! It was surrounded by beautiful mountains, a river, and brightly colored buildings! We took a train up to the top of a mountain to see the amazing view! We then spent the rest of the day shopping at the Christmas markets!IMGP4633.jpgIMGP4589.jpgIMGP4582.jpg

It’s hard to believe that I’m done traveling this semester! I hope that later in life, I get more opportunities like this to explore the world!

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my weekend in Austria! For more pictures and traveling, check out my Instagram @bethanykurtz!

Ciao, Bethany

Weekend Trip in the Swiss Alps

Home Swiss Home!!

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How gorgeous is this amazing view of the Swiss Alps!

This past weekend I took a trip to Interlaken, Switzerland! We left Florence around 7pm and arrived really late at about 3am. We woke up really early so we could book some activities. In the morning, we went outside and felt the brisk, cold air as we walked to the lake. The views were absolutely incredible. The mountains were so breathtaking that they almost looked fake.

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Later in the day, we decided to go Ice Skating! It was so fun gliding around the ice. We met some cute little Swiss girls while skating. They kept trying to talk to us but we couldn’t understand a thing they were saying. Bri was so excited to finally get on the ice again!!

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Later, we went to a chocolate tasting and it was so good! Of course, we had to get some chocolate because Switzerland is famous for their chocolate.

The next morning, we took a day trip to Bern, the capital of Switzerland. We took a tour of the city. We also took a tour of the Einstein house and walked around and looked at all the shops. It was such a cute little city.

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The last day was definitely my favorite day. Going to Switzerland was probably number 1 on my study abroad bucket list because I wanted to do something adventurous. I am always up for some type of crazy adventure. I decided that I wanted to go paragliding. We began by driving up to the top of a mountain. We were attached to a parachute and basically just ran of the mountain. Before I knew it, I was floating above the clouds! It was so so amazing! I was in the air for about 15 minutes taking in the beautiful scenery of the Swiss Alps. It was so cool being able to see the view from that far up in the air. Paragliding in the Swiss Alps was definitely one of the coolest things that I have ever done!

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Switzerland was probably one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been to. The views of the Alps were so breathtaking and gorgeous. I “Swiss” I was back at this amazing place!!!

For more pictures and traveling, check out my instagram @bethanykurtz.

xx Bethany

Next Adventure: Austria

Io amo Italia

Io amo Italia/I love Italy! 

With only a few weeks left of the semester, I can officially say that I’ve visited 13 different cities throughout Italy! Including: Florence, Cinque Terre, Siena, Pisa, Sorrento, Capri, Positano, Pompeii, Milan, Como, Venice, Prato, and Rome! All of the cities are very different in their own ways. A few of my favorite things about Italy is all of the gelato, pizza, and shopping, which is one thing all of these cities have in common! I decided to highlight a few of my favorite ones.

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Of course, my favorite city I visited in Italy was Florence, not just because I live here for 4 months. The first day here, I quickly fell in love with the beautiful city. Florence is a pretty small city compared to other cities in Italy. I think that is why I really like it. Most everywhere you go is no farther than a 20 minute walk. There is a ton of shopping right in the center of Florence near the duomo. Florence is also filled with tons of leather shops. Something I really like to do is walk up to Piazzale Michaelangelo and stare at the beautiful view of the city. One of my favorite parts of Florence is Ponte Vecchio which is the famous bridge that runs across the Arno River. It’s so pretty to watch the sun setting behind the bridge! Florence will always be my home away from home. I am going to miss this city so much when I leave.

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Cinque Terre

Our first trip we went on was to Cinque Terre. Since, it was so hot in August, we decided that we were in need of a trip to the beach! Cinque Terre consists of 5 different towns on the coast of Italy. When we got there, I was blown away by how beautiful it was. The water was so blue that I couldn’t even tell the difference between the water and the sky! There were so many brightly colored buildings near the water. We had such a relaxing day swimming in the ocean and jumping off cliffs. I wish I could have spent more than just a day here. One day, I really want to come back to one of the most beautiful places in the world!

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Milano

I went on a trip to Milan for school and I loved it! It was really cool going to one of the biggest fashion Capitals in the world. I think my favorite part about Milan was there was so much shopping everywhere! Even though, I couldn’t afford anything, it was really cool being able to see all of the designer stores. For school we went to the Armani museum and it was really cool seeing all of the designer clothes! We even saw Michael Kors walking around the museum! Everyone in Milan was dressed so fashionably.

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Venezia

Venice was probably one of my favorite cities in Italy, aside from Florence. It’s such a cool and unique city! There are no roads so if you want to get around, you need to take a boat! We went on a Gondola ride around the city, it was so fun! Most of the day, we spent shopping and looking at the beautiful scenery! Venice is filled with so many brightly colored buildings that look beautiful next to the water. 14568004_10209176077653098_4614497172241466213_n

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Roma

I couldn’t go to Italy without going to the capital, Rome. Rome is such a big city and everything is so spread out that you could spend so long there! It was really cool being able to live out my Lizzie mcquire moment. We did all of the site seeing that we could in 2 days. We first went to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Then we walked all the way to Vatican City, which is a very far walk! We went inside of St. Peters basilica. When we were inside the Pope ended up walking in. The next day, we took a tour of the colosseum and the Roman forums, which was really interesting! Rome was a really cool city to see!

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I can’t believe that I only have a few weeks left to explore Italy. I seriously can’t believe how fast the semester is flying by but I’m very thankful that I was able to live in such a beautiful country for 4 months. I love everything about Italy and I’m going to miss it so much when I leave!

More Pictures around Italy:

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Venice
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Pisa
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Gusta Pizza in Florence
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Siena
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Lake Como
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Positano/Amalfi Coast
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Top of the Duomo in Florence

“One of the greatest joys of traveling through Italy is discovering firsthand that it is, indeed, a dream destination.”

Ciao,

Bethany

The Place Where Dreams Come True

I’m finally getting around to writing a post about my trip to DISNEYLAND PARIS!!!!

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Coming from a huge Disney fan, I couldn’t go to Europe without taking a trip to Disneyland. One of my life goals is to go to all of the Disneyland’s in the world, now I’m only half way there. 🙂 It was really cool seeing the differences between Disneyland Paris and Disney World. Disneyland was much, much smaller. There were two parks, Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios. I think one of the coolest parts about Disneyland Paris was you could actually go inside of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Underneath the castle is a “fire” breathing dragon.

A lot of the rides at Disneyland were very similar to ones at Magic Kingdom. There is space mountain, buzz lightyear laser blast, it’s a small world, Phantom Manor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and many other rides. My favorite ride was Space Mountain because I thought it was much better than the one in Florida. It was cool because it went upside down and it was much faster! All of the lines were so short except for the wait to meet the princesses. We waited in line for about two hours to meet Ariel because she was the only princess in the whole park. 14570355_10209312366740240_3366906556509714042_n

It didn’t take very long to do everything in the park because it was pretty small, so we headed over to Walt Disney Studios. It was very similar to Hollywood Studios in Florida. We headed straight to Tower of Terror because that is my all time favorite ride. It was pretty much the exact same as the one in Florida. We went on that a few times then we went on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. We didn’t stay very long because there weren’t very many rides to go on but it was still really cool! 14691028_10209312377020497_5246819699205728570_n

We decided to go back to Disneyland because we wanted to see the fireworks show. It was very magical even though it was pouring down rain! It was really cool to see Disneyland decorated for Halloween because I’ve never been to Disney on a holiday! There was also a downtown disney but it was very small and only had a few shops and restaurants. One of my biggest dreams was to go to Disneyland Paris and I was so happy that I was able to go!! Disney really is the place where dreams come true! ❤

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“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

-Bethany

London, England

London’s Calling!!

This past week, I went on another school field trip to London! I was so excited to explore England for 5 days! 14656332_10209379004486142_2378807189572980905_n

We left on Tuesday, October 18th and landed in London around 5. The day we got there, we just checked into the hotel. The school got us a hotel and it was really nice!! After that, we just went out to eat and got ready to explore London the next day! Our first full day, we went to the Shakespeare’s globe Theater and Tate’s modern art museum. They were both pretty interesting. Afterwards, we had the rest of the night free. We went shopping for a little bit then Bri and I decided to go on The London Eye. This is what I really wanted to do because it’s such a good view from the top! You could see the entire city of London on the eye which was so cool. Once we got off, we walked past Big Ben and walked to Buckingham Palace. We couldn’t really see anything at Buckingham Palace because it was too dark but we decided that we would go back another day.

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On Thursday, we didn’t have very much free time because it was filled with school trips but they were pretty fun! We went to a design studio then had some free time so I spent it relaxing in Hyde Park. We then had afternoon English tea! After we had tea, we went to the theater and saw “In The Heights.” It was a musical and it was so good!!!

Friday was our last full day in London! With school, I went to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Right after, we had our whole night free. I spent most of the night with my parents walking around Harrods. Harrods is the worlds largest and most expensive department store in the world. It was HUGE! We kept getting lost because it was so big. We ate dinner at a restaurant inside of the department store. Harrods was filled with very expensive designer clothing so unfortunately I couldn’t afford anything even though I saw so many things I wanted. We made our way over to see The Parent Trap house. I really wanted to see it and take a picture in front because I’ve seen that movie way too many times.

Saturday, I had all of the morning and afternoon free until we had to go to the airport and head back to Florence. We headed over to the Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards but there were so many people that we couldn’t really see anything. It was still cool to see the Palace in the day time though! We also walked through Green Park and went to see Big Ben again. We then headed to the airport and went back to Florence!

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Overall, I absolutely loved London!!! The city was so beautiful and was filled with lots of shopping! It’s probably been one of my favorite cities I’ve visited so far. I also enjoyed how I was finally in an english speaking country again. I can’t wait to one day come back to London and explore it even more!

“And then I realized adventures are the best way to learn…”

Next Adventure: Dublin, Ireland

-Bethany

Paris est mon rêve

Bonjour, Paris!!!

This week, we went on a school field trip to Paris, France for 5 days! I was so so excited to finally have the opportunity to go to my dream city. Going to Paris has been my number one dream for almost my whole life. It’s crazy that I was finally able to explore the beautiful city.

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A lot of our time was filled with trips to different museums but we still had some free time to see the city. The first day we were there, we went to the Barbie Museum and the Pierre Cardin museum. The barbie exhibit was one of my favorites we went to because it was so interesting! It was cool hearing about the history of Barbie. Pierre Cardin was a museum filled with a bunch of haute couture fashion. All of the outfits were so beautiful and elaborate! This day, we also went to see the Eiffel Tower!! It was so crazy finally seeing it in person after dreaming of it for so long!!! We went at a good time because it started twinkling and lighting up, it was so beautiful. It honestly didn’t seem real that I was actually living out my dream of seeing the Eiffel tower.

The second day, we had the opportunity to go to Premiere Vision which is a huge textile trade show. People come from all over the world to see all of the collections. We saw tons of booths filled with patterns, prints, and fabrics for Autumn/Winter 2017. It was really cool seeing behind the scenes of the fashion industry.

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The next day, we went to The Notre Dame cathedral, The Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe. This day might have been my favorite day because I really got to explore the city. We walked around where a lot of the shopping is, which is probably my favorite part of Paris that I saw! Later that day, we went to the Louvre. It was really neat being able to see the Mona Lisa and other famous artwork. I didn’t realize how huge this museum is, there is no way you would be able to see everything in one day.

The last day we went back to the Eiffel tower! I’m really glad that I got to see it during the day and at night! We decided to go up to the very top. It was so high that we could barely see anything but the view was still really pretty!

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View from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Overall, Paris was a dream. I still can’t believe I went to the city that I dreamed about for so long and got to do everything I wanted! Au Revoir, Paris!
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“Paris is always a good idea.”

Next Adventure: Munich, Germany

-Au Revoir, Bethany