The Awe of Rome at Night

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at

I have just completed my first full week of attending John Cabot University, and residing in Viale Trastevere in ROME, ITALY. Weekdays are usually spent walking back and forth to three different JCU campuses, lounging by the Tiber River, and weaving in and out through cobble stoned alley ways littered with quaint Italian pizzerias, cafes, and ristorantes. Each weekday is an adventure in itself, even though I am still working on establishing a set daily routine. Back at home in Colorado, a set routine was feasible and easy to establish…for that is where my comfort zone lies, as well as familiarity and stability. However when in Roma…one could easily immerse themselves in an adventure whether it may be dodging aggressive cars and buses left and right just to walk two blocks to the nearest grocery store, or if that adventure is found at 3 a.m., lost and confused in the heart of Rome.

Which leads to last Friday night…and this night was just a tad bit different than Katy Perry’s version. In this case, last Friday night, we went trekking in the dark, in search of a bench mark, then abbiamo trovato il colosseo.

At around 3 a.m., the night owls of Rome were starting to find their way back to their homes. The restaurants and bars began to shut off their lights and stack up their chairs one by one. Everyone and everything seemed to start to settle under the moonlight…all except four. My friends and I wandered the empty cobble stoned streets, questioning the way back to Viale Trastevere. We finally asked a local Italian who led us in the opposite direction…and straight to the famous grand Colosseum, which was vibrant and lit up, illuminating all that surrounded it with its yellow lighting. Despite the pain in our feet and the heaviness in our eyelids, the four of us stopped in awe of the monument. To me, the Colosseum appeared to be even more breathtaking at night, without all the crowds of tourists and vendors surrounding it. What a sight.

Colosseum at night

Colosseum at night

Even if the local Italian man led us in the wrong direction, I was glad he did. Maybe he knew these four soon to be locals needed one last adventure before the sun came out…or maybe he just did not understand our broken Italian.

Cheers to the confused Italian local and to the beautiful lit up Colosseum. Cheers to getting lost. Cheers to the spontaneous adventures that makes everything worth it. I can’t wait for what the next 4 months will bring.


Backpacking Europe

{Originally posted by Megan Rakoczy. She is a Journalism and Media Communication major spending the spring of 2015 in Swansea, Wales. You can find Megan’s blog directly here.}

“In a sense, it’s the coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we’ve come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become, which, after all, is why we left.”

This quote is a perfect representation of my experiences these past few week. Growing up, I was always blessed with the opportunity to travel. My parents were able to show me the world at a very young age, and I have always thought that each of those experiences helped me become who I am. My childhood was one giant adventure accompanied with each new deployment thrown our way. Things settled down in high school. It was nice to stay put somewhere for a little while. Junior year, in my mythology class, our big project was to make a scrapbook of our lives, needless to say, I had a lot of pages to fill out. At the end of the project we all had to present, and my teacher left me with the comment, “Your childhood will be a hard act to follow, have fun trying.” Boy was she right, I had already lived such a great life. I read her feedback and thought, and still think to myself, how am I going to top that?

This semester I chose to study abroad, not only to continue the adventure, but also to rediscover the pieces of my childhood. Revisit the places I have built up in my head that I so strongly believe shaped me. These past three weeks I have attempted to do just that.

The hardest question you can ever ask a military child is, “Where are you from?” Such a simple question for most, but every time it is thrown my way, I freeze. I never know quite how to answer. My default response usually ends up being, everywhere. Then, I have to carry out a long explanation. I can list out loud all the places I have lived, and before these past few weeks, I thought I remembered a lot about each location. What I discovered instead is that the going back, the return, really isn’t seeing things as they were 10 years ago.

Let’s start in Italy. My memory begins in Gaeta at the Lions Hotel where we lived for a few months during one HOT summer. I remember meeting the Strong’s (good family friends). I remember walking to the beach from the hotel. I remember when we finally moved into a house. I remember ripping my shirts climbing over the red fence to my friend Katelynn’s house. I remember going to church and absolutely loving when Mrs. Gwen would sing. I remember climbs to split mountain, Gelato from IL Molo’s, and Nutella pizza in the shape of a heart. It all kind of plays in my head like a fairy tale.

I did not end up going back to Gaeta this trip. I decided it would have been a lot on my own. So I started off in Rome. Walking down the streets, the smells, the sights, the language, though I couldn’t understand it, were all so familiar. They were all huge triggers, and though they didn’t bring up specific memories, it just felt like home and I couldn’t help but smile. When I was a kid, I remember always being grumpy when we had to go to Rome. It was always a lot of walking and the same old museums each time. This time around, I walked the streets with a more open mind, just trying to embrace what I was seeing, and also trying to remember the past visits. I remembered things like the Colosseum and a few other sights like Trevi Fountain, but honestly, other than that, not much. What I wish I could remember was the moments, but I think I was just too young to remember it all.

I then continued on to Florence. Once again revisiting a city I had been to before yet really don’t have much of a memory of. I do remember going to the museum and the Statue of David. I remember getting a flip book of the Duomo, which I still have somewhere. So though I could not remember much, I spent the week making new memories instead. My amazing roommate, Belle, graciously took me in for the week and showed me around town. This world has some absolutely beautiful places, great food, and intriguing cultures. I have seen some pretty amazing things, but at the end of the day, it is truly the people that make the place. Italy itself was good, but getting to share the new experience with a good friend, made it all the more special to me. I had a wonderful time getting to see Belle. I missed her a lot, and it was hard to leave. It is fun for me that she ended up in Italy. It will be nice when I go back home to relate my childhood memories of Italy to the ones she is making there now.

My memories of Italy have definitely faded over the years and things have changed with time. It was not the same with out my family and the other families that became part of me when I was there. However, both the old memories and the new are good even though things aren’t as they were. Italy will always hold a big piece of my heart.

London and Munich were also two cities I went to as a kid and retraced this trip. I had a really good time in both places, but once again found that most of my memories fell up short. In London I did a photo recreation at the Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Park, which I do remember. The city itself, still absolutely beautiful but somehow different than it was. Perhaps it is just because I am a different person than I was 12 years ago, and I just have a different/more developed view of the world now than I did before. Never-the-less London will always be one of my favorite cities, even if I’m not a city girl.

Munich was fun. It was a good place to end. The city was so open that it just felt easier to breathe with a little less people. My most dominate memory there from childhood is the clock tower with the moving figures. That is still there and they still move! We also took a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. I know I have been here before too. I did remember the castle, at least the outside of it. I think we went here when my grandparents were visiting, but I could be wrong. I also have a vague memory of eating spaghetti after seeing the castle. I only remember this because I was forced by “someone” to use a spoon to twist the noodles on my fork and that made me mad. It’s also quite possible that, that memory wasn’t at this spot, but even if it wasn’t let’s pretend it was.

So in the end it was a long but good backpacking trip around a few spots in Europe. I learned that you can’t always go back to your childhood home. Well you can but it isn’t going to be the same. Places change and people move on. We also change, I know I have changed a lot since I was last in Europe. Therefore, when I sit and look at the sights I saw as a kid. Though in reality, they may be the same on the surface. They are foreign to me now because I am looking at them with different eyes.

For a closer look at each of my stops, follow the Links below:

DSC_0008Ireland, Take Two

IMG_2657London, England



Under The Tuscan Rain

[Originally posted by Kevin Heil, a Hospitality Management major here at CSU. He is studying abroad in Seville, Spain for the Spring of 2015. You can find his blog directly here]

Look up pictures of Tuscany and you’ll see sun drenched hills filled with vineyards at sunset. I wish I could tell you that’s what I saw but instead I got rain the entire time. Don’t get me wrong though it was an amazing trip and after all, I was in Italy so that right there is an unforgettable experience! Plus I got to see where Hailey will be spending her semester and the new place she calls home.

My first experience of Italy consisted of a disgruntled, old taxi driver who knew zero English or Spanish so I pointed to the general area I needed to be and we were off. He took me straight to my destination in once piece but then I’m pretty sure he charged me double. I wanted to say something but then again I’ve heard stories from people who mess with foreign cab drivers and it does not end well, plus it was pretty late at night. I paid the man and decided I was not going to take another cab in Florence, ever.
The next day came and just as the forecast said; it was 100% chance of rain. Despite the rain I wanted to see Florence. We did a ton of sightseeing this day and it was very cool! We started just by wandering, and found the replica statue of David. The real David is in the Galleria dell’Accademia, but that cost about 10 euro so the replica was just fine with me.


Next, we saw the Arno River and the famous Ponte Vecchio. Also tried some of that Italian Gelato they all talk about and it might just be because I was in Italy, but it is A+!


Then it was time for the Duomo. For only 10 euro we were able to climb the bell tower, go inside the cathedral, visit the underground tombs, and climb the actual dome. The views are amazing and by the time we got to the dome, the sun decided to come out for sunset!

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When we got down we went out to dinner at a small, local place next-door to Hailey’s flat. I had pasta with bacon, sausage, mushrooms and tomato sauce and it was very yummy. Oh and wine of course! (I added the Parmesan but I was told that wasn’t very Italian of me). Friday, Hailey wasn’t feeling well so her roommate took me out to experience some of the nightlife.

Saturday we were all a bit sleepy so it was a late start to the day, but it was raining again and very cold so being outside in the morning did not seem too appealing. The rain cleared in the afternoon and we decided to walk to Piazzale Michelangelo to see views of the city. Also we needed to celebrate Hailey’s roommate’s birthday so we got some Prosecco and OJ to have when the sun went down. The views are amazing and the city is pretty amazing going into the night. That night, we made dinner we had bought from the local market pasta lady. It was handmade ravioli with spinach and ricotta and they were BOMB! Completely stuffed, Hailey and I went out and met some really cool Aussies who we spent the rest of the night with. After a few hours at the bar we wanted to visit the “secret bakery”. Hailey went the first week and here’s what you do:
1. Drink at the bar until about 1:30am
2. Navigate the alleyways until you find the door to the ‘secret bakery’
3. Knock on the secret door and wait
4. Suddenly a baker appears at the back door with Nutella croissants
5. Pay one euro and enjoy!
The only problem now is that the ‘secret bakery’ was no longer a secret. Herds of drunken Americans (and angry local Italians) filled the street surrounding the bakery begging for croissants. We were told the cops were on their way but the stubborn (mostly girl) study abroad students would not budge. After no further progress we left to go home, said bye to our Aussie friends and went to bed…croissantless.

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Sunday was another full day of adventuring and it was my first train trip because we went to Pisa! We were all so tired and besides the leaning tower of Pisa, there is not much to do there at all, especially on a Sunday. We had an excellent lunch though and it was finally a nice sunny day so walks by the river were nice and relaxing. The tower is cool to see in person and it was fun acting touristy to get the typical Pisa pictures!

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Now exhausted from the weekend I’m sitting in Florence airport trying to kill 4 hours as the Barcelona flight is the last flight of the day from this small airport. I’m excited to get back to Barcelona and I have another week of school then it’s off to Seville with my program! I can’t wait to explore more of Spain!


Dakota Green is a sophomore at CSU majoring in Fashion Merchandising and minoring in Business Marketing. She is spending Spring 2014 studying abroad at Richmond University in Florence, Italy. You can find her blog directly at

[Originally posted February 3, 2014]

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Sunday morning we woke up and headed to the bus station bright and early. We took about a 25-minute bus ride to the little town of Fiesole. We stepped off the bus and were overlooking a Roman Theater that has been around since 3 thousand B.C. it was absolutely breath taking. We entered a small museum to learn about the Atruscan’s, the people of Fiesole. Little is known about their culture because their language hasn’t been fully translated. Everything we do know about them comes from their tombstones and burial sites. So our first stop in the museum was a tombstone that was over 5,000 years old. Like I said before, the museum was very small, so most of the artifacts were little bronze cast items (the Atruscan’s were know for bronze casting!). The last thing we saw was a burial ground. The women were buried with their jewels, and the men with their tools, so grave robbery was very prevalent. The man’s tomb that we looked at included his tools (but they were a little rusty!). Our tour guide said the skeleton saying is “What you are, I once was. What I am, you will be”. The skeleton was thousands of years old, so it was all very eerie!

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After the museum we walked outside to talk about the Roman theater. The theater holds up to 3,000 people even though it seems small. The top rows would have been for the women and lower class citizens. A girl from our group went into the middle of the amphitheater and spoke in a normal speaking voice to prove how the theater was built based on acoustics. The theater was one of the only forms of entertainment for people in their time, and plays from Sophocles and Euripides were performed here. I think what I will miss most about Europe is the fact that everywhere I go here is full of such rich history.

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We toured the gardens surrounding the theater, and got to see some ancient roman baths before we started our hike. We hiked to a legendary view of Florence, and then headed to a small monastery on the top of the city. By this point it was very rainy and we were all getting pretty hungry… so we were ready for brunch. The brunch that was provided was FIVE COURSES LONG! I swear… all I do is eat here! But hey, I’m not complaining!

After brunch we headed home and went straight to bed! About 25 of us made reservations at a bar for the Super Bowl, and kick off wasn’t until 1 a.m. so a nap was necessary. At about 3:30 us Broncos fans couldn’t handle the slaughter any longer and came home. We were excited to sleep in this morning because they pushed school back to 2:30 p.m. today, but our maid came at 9 and kicked us out of the house for 5 hours (like I’ve said before, sleep isn’t really a thing for study abroad students).

I have lots of exciting things planned for this week/weekend, but I’m not sure when I’ll have time to sit down and write all about it. I’ll do my best to do it soon!

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And finally, I’m here!!!

Dakota Green is a sophomore at CSU majoring in Fashion Merchandising and minoring in Business Marketing. She is spending Spring 2014 studying abroad at Richmond University in Florence, Italy. You can find her blog directly at

[Originally posted January 21, 2014]

These first few days in Florence have been beyond busy. About 16 kids in the program lost their luggage between London and Florence (luckily I wasn’t one of them!), which delayed the process of getting in quite a bit. But once we got to our hotel we only had time to drop off our stuff before dinner. We took the long way to our restaurant in the middle of town so we could see some of the major sights at night. We then had dinner in an incredible building (some sort of castle or historic landmark) with huge gold chandeliers and teal blue walls with the most amazing art. Our meal was four courses long: pumpkin risotto, spicy penne pasta, stuffed turkey and veggies, and tiramisu. Our school also provides wine with dinner, which we thought was interesting, but we had a briefing on the Italian way of drinking. It’s actually illegal to be drunk in Italy (which is probably why American students are looked down upon so much), and they usually only have one drink, or they go to aprevito where they have a couple drinks and appetizers after work and all drinking stops at nine. Our cultures are so different, and I love it. After dinner a group of us girls picked up a bottle of wine on our way home (after our lecture about how to drink responsibly) and went back to the hotel. One of the rooms had a window that led to the roof so we went out and looked over the city then chatted for a little before bed.

We have a complementary breakfast at the hotel… And Italian breakfast is veryyyy different than what I’m used to. It consists mostly of meats and cheeses with herb tomatoes and espresso. Our second day we had a meeting to register with the police then we had a walking tour of the city after a quick lunch (real Italian pizza and gelato mmmm!). The walking tour took over 3 hours! We must have walked miles! Their intentions were good, they wanted to point out the major landmarks and bus stops and such, but honestly we were all too tired and turned around to comprehend any of it. The best part of the tour was the fact that we found our apartment! It’s is on the cutest corner right by the ponte vecchio, above a super market, and across the street from a wine bar. I absolutely can’t wait to move in! All of the apartments are spread throughout the city. Although it’ll be sad to be away from everyone in the program, it will be nice to not look like such tourists walking down the streets in a group of 100! After the tour we came back and had dinner at the hotel. We had salad, roasted chicken (I got caprese salad), gnocchi, and cake. Even though our feet were killing us and we were exhausted, Lexie and I wanted to see the broncos game so we decided to go out. We went to a bar called The Red Garter. It was kind of an American bar and it had football on in one room and karaoke in another. We only stayed till the 4th quarter because we desperately needed sleep but we’ll be cheering them on in the Super Bowl from 50,000 miles away!

On Monday we started Italian boot camp… We’re packing 45 hours and 3 credits into two weeks. It’s really intensive, but even after the first day we can communicate with the locals better… Thank goodness! Our school is about a 35 minute walk from the hotel, but luckily it will only be about a 2 minute walk from our apartment. The school is on a small street tucked away from the city. It has an adorable courtyard and the actual classrooms are all on the second story. The classrooms are small and the teachers are amazing. After school we grabbed a light lunch of bruschetta, then headed back to the hotel for more meetings (which almost all of us slept through). We had a nice dinner in town which consisted of more bruschetta, lasagne, chicken (I got caprese again), and chocolate cake. Once again even though we were EXHAUSTED we decided to go out (I forget what a full night of sleep feels like). We went to a bar called Lions Fountain. This is known as the study abroad bar and there were almost no locals there. There are signed college Tshirts hung up on the ceiling from past American students and there are different shots dedicated to popular colleges (we took the Richmond shot in honor of our first day of school at Richmond University Florence). They played American music the whole night and it was so fun to hang out with the people in our program.

Today we had boot camp again in the morning. We had a coffee break where we all did a shot of espresso and got a cappuccino to get us through the rest of the school day. We had more pizza and gelato for lunch then we headed back to the school to sign up for our excursions for the next month (wine tastings, soccer games, day trips, cooking classes, etc.) Now we’re back at the hotel resting before dinner. Dinner is in town again tonight and prosciutto, ravioli, Chianti beef, and Lemon Bavarian is on the menu. We are coming straight back to the hotel after we eat to pack up-we have to be out of our hotel rooms before we head to boot camp tomorrow because after school WE GET TO MOVE INTO OUR APARTMENTS! We have to order wifi for our apartment and set it up we our landlord so I probably won’t have internet for another week, but once I do I’ll make sure to upload all of my pictures!

Until then,


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