Human Nature, Mother Nature

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Italy’s Umbria region on Wednesday, killing almost 300 people. Tremors awoke people as far as Rome and aftershocks were felt for hours following the quake. The quake may have cost the country billions in damage, as it devastated several towns and shattered thousands of lives.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised to rebuild so lives can begin again. However, many people are angered by this after he made the same promise following an earthquake that completely destroyed the town of L’Aquila seven years ago.

My classmates and I were fortunate enough to have a peak behind the scenes of L’Aquila thanks to the wonderful organization, Shoot4Change. Shoot4Change has been there to bring justice to the less fortunate and less publicized issues in Italy, with one huge project being L’Aquila. Now, the organization will have the opportunity to be the watchdog for those affected by Italy’s most recent quake.

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The ruins of L’Aquila

After experiencing L’Aquila, my classmates and I were determined to spread the word of the corruption in Italy and the struggle to rebuild L’Aquila, as well at S4C’s amazing work. With the most recent quake, our opportunity expanded. The film students in my class created an incredible video to highlight only a small portion of the magnificent work S4C does and the issues surrounding L’Aquila.

Now is the perfect time to fight for what is right and to not let history repeat itself. Thanks to S4C, towns like L’Aquila will not be forgotten or overlooked.

My 24 Hour Visit to Massachusetts Part II

As I said in my last post, my visit to MA was not over with the concert. I was lucky enough that Mitch, one of my friends from Rome, was off of work Thursday and was willing to see me. So, he drove 40 minutes to Blue Hills Reservation in Quincy, MA to hike around with me a bit.

The trail at Blue Hills we followed was gorgeous, with big rocks lining the path and sunlight scattered on the ground through the canopy above us. On the way to the peak of the hill, we stopped at a stone tower, which was a lookout point that gave us a nice view of Boston and its surrounding greenery. We reached the peak of the hill for some relaxation and conversation before turning to head back down.

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Blue Hills Reservation, MA

After Blue Hills, Mitch took me to Quincy Quarries Reservation, which is an old quarry that is now covered in graffiti. It is definitely one of the coolest things I have seen. It hasjk a great view of Boston, and it was an overall fun and unique place.

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I parted ways with Mitch and left right from the reservation to go home. As I was leaving, I could not believe how fortunate I am to have so many great friends. From Danielle making be breakfast the day prior, to Sarah and her extremely welcoming family and Mitch meeting me to show me some MA nature, I had an amazing trip all because of the people I was with. I am still so thankful I decided to drive up to MA alone because I definitely made unexpected lifelong memories.

(Stay tuned for a video of my adventure with Mitch!)

My 24 Hour Visit to Massachusetts

I’m not one to make spontaneous plans. This is mostly because I prefer to have things planned out and my schedule is forever jam-packed. However, this is not a normal summer for me. So, when a spontaneous opportunity arose two weeks ago, I took it.

My sorority sister, Sarah, had an extra concert ticket for the When It’s Dark Out Tour at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. When I realized I was able to make my first and longest solo road trip to see her, I was ecstatic.

I left my house on Wednesday, the day of the show, at 5:30 in the morning. I did not sleep much that night, but I knew my excitement would keep me alert on the road. The first impression I had once I left the NJ/NY area was that there were so many trees lining the highway. Not that there aren’t any trees in NJ, but a recent widening on the Garden State took some trees away, and I still have not accepted it. The ride was pleasant and I was jamming out to the radio the whole three and a half hours it took me to reach my first stop: my best friend from school, Danielle.

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Durham, Connecticut

I promised Danielle that I would make it to her house for about a year and a half, and I am glad I was able to keep my promise. She lives in a beautiful house in a former farming village in Connecticut. When I walked in, I was greeted by her, her loving dog and blueberry pancakes on the griddle. It was such a pleasant and unexpected visit with a great friend, and I am so thankful I was able to see her.

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Thanks for the pancakes!

Another three hours in the car filled with top-40 music and charming sights, and I made it to Sarah’s gorgeous home in Massachusetts. She was actually not home when I arrived, but her mother was extremely welcoming and even gave me left over swordfish from the night before. Like Danielle, Sarah also had an affectionate dog.

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What a sweetheart

Sarah arrived a bit later and although she was stressed from being at the Apple store with her brother, we ended up talking about a range of topics and catching up for well over an hour. We then began getting ready for the concert and I met her brother and his friends. Apparently, this was concert was his birthday present.

We arrived at the concert with a large amount of time to spare and found our way to our seats, which were actually really close to the stage. The first performer was Logic, an American rapper from Maryland. I am not usually one to listen to rap, but Logic was actually a very talented and sincere person. He explained how much our support meant to him, encouraged us to never give up on our dreams and even created some music with his computer right there on stage. He was so down to earth and I definitely became a fan.

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Sarah (left) and I

The headliner, G-Eazy, took the stage shortly after, and unsurprisingly, he was a great performer. It was a blast dancing along with Sarah, who happens to be head-over-heels for G-Eazy.  It was an exciting night with incredible people and I am so thankful I was able to join Sarah. The concert alone made the drive up worth it, although my plans did not end there (to be continued).

Ciao Rome: Thoughts on an Airplane

(Written on July 28, 2016)

I am currently on the Aer Lingus plane (an extremely large one if I may add) on my way back to New York. Back to New Jersey. Back to my family and friends. Back to reality.

How does one re-enter real life after the trip I just experienced? All I can do right now is blog and look at my photos, with a lot of crying mixed in. At our last supper, Espo said something that really stuck with me. He said that when he gets back, he will be bombarded with questions about the trip, as we all will. However, he said there is no way to put the trip we just had into words. I whole-heartedly agree.

What I just experienced was something I never thought I would have the luck to live through. I just spent six weeks exploring Europe, learning about new places, cultures and foods and making memories with incredible people; an experience about which many people can only dream. This was not just a study abroad trip. It was something bigger and better. It was a dream. For that and so much more, I am forever thankful.

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The Hofstra Romans’ first group photo together while exploring Rome

This trip would not have been possible without the incredible person who planned it: Professor Randy Hillebrand. Randy is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. He is intelligent, daring, adventurous, dedicated and so caring. I have never, ever seen a professor so committed to his mission and the experience of his students. I don’t think we were just his students on this trip, however. He made me feel like family. Randy spent months and months tirelessly planning and preparing for this trip, and he did not stop working out the details until they were perfect. Another amazing thing is that he has done this trip before, multiple times. Did that stop him from wanting to take us to every single thing possible, despite how repetitive it may be for him? Not at all. Randy worked so hard so that this trip could be what it was, and I just wish there was some way I could thank him for his hard work. Randy, you are someone I will always idolize. Thank you for everything.

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The Hofstra Romans (Randy pictured left) with a representative from the U.S. Embassy

Randy was not the only fearless leader on the trip, however. Professor Morosoff was there making sure our communications with Shoot4Change went smoothly and that we were getting a worthwhile educational experience during our stay. We were able to work with real-life Italians to learn about real-life communications as university students, and nothing will ever be as valuable as some of the things we did in regards to that. We would not have had such a unique classroom experience without Professor Morosoff, and for that, I am so grateful. I also enjoyed Professor Morosoff’s presence because in a way, he was just like one of the students, trying new things and exploring new areas. It was so fun watching him brave out new territories to gain valuable life experiences, and I loved being able to relate to him on that level.

As I have mentioned multiple times, I made a family on this trip and we will always share this bond that cannot be broken. I am not sure how I am going to move on from the SCO in Rome trip. Not waking up to these beautiful faces every day is something I easily got used to, and something that will be difficult to let go.

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Our final group photo together overlooking Rome

As Espo said, there is no way to put this last month into words. I mean, technically, that is what I did with this blog. However, my blogs are just a scratch on the surface of the incredible trip on which I just endeavored. When I go home and tell people about this trip, I hope I cry. I think that is the only way to begin to explain the incredible journey I now have in my memory. To everyone I crossed paths with on this trip: the other tourists, tour guides, waiters, merchants, and most of all, my Hofstra Romans family, thank you for all you have shared with me. I will always look back on this with a ginormous smile and a glassy eyes. Grazie e ciao.

 

 

Rome Day 17 Continued: Our Last Supper

The last supper arrived and it only took me a short wait at the bus stop to start crying. That’s beside the point, though.

We arrived at Etabli, a beautiful Italian restaurant up the street from Piazza Navona. Everyone got dressed up and looked super handsome, and I could tell we were all super invested in the night. Additional to the wait staff, the food was excellent. We started off with the traditional antipasti of meats and cheeses, as well as wonderful bread. Our main course was a serving of pasta, which was elegantly spiraled into a tasty mass in the deep bowl. Our food was paired with red and white wine, and I think it may have been my favorite white wine of the trip.

When we slowed down with dinner, the mushy gushy part of the night started, also known as my favorite part. Mitch and Jordan volunteered to create superlatives for everyone, which I had mentioned to do at the beginning of the trip. My superlative was “Most likely to be a squeaky toy at the pet store.” This fit me completely well because I squeal and squeak with (mostly) excitement multiple times a day, and everyone knows I love animals. I was honored to accepted my recognition. We then listened to everyone reminisce briefly about their experiences from the trip, which was such a sweet way to conclude our time together. I gave everyone a hand-written note, and I think they all really appreciated it. We finished our time at Etabli with a delicious tiramisu and coffee. I ordered a cappuccino for the first time in my life, and once I put a little over a packet of sugar in it, I was able to enjoy the taste of the drink.

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The girls at Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

The Hofstra Romans left the restaurant so Professor Hillebrand could pay the bill and so we could get gelato from Gelateria de Teatro. This was my third time ordering from there Wednesday, and I did not regret a second of it. This may have very well been the most delicious gelato I had ever tasted in my life. I would love to compare flavors side by side with the gelateria in Florence.

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Fontana di Trevi (Photo: Nick Boffardi)

 

As a way to spend time together, Professor Hillebrand planned to roam the streets of Rome one last time. The group of us headed to Piazza Navona for a quick photohoot, and then met with the professors at the Pantheon. We hung out there for a bit before heading to the Trevi Fountain. We ended the trip where we started, but with more memories, education and friendships than we could have ever imagined.

To make the most of our last night, Sarah, Lauren, Mitch, the twins and I went out to enjoy the nightlife and views of Rome one last time. It may have been one of the wildest and best nights of my life.

 

Rome Day 17 Continued: Our Last Afternoon

Our final class commenced and it was time to explore the streets of Rome one final time as a group. We rescheduled our Pantheon visit to Wednesday afternoon, so that was the first thing on our list.

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The dome of the Pantheon (Photo: Nick Boffardi)

Professor Hillebrand wanted to capture us seeing the inside of this Pagan church in all its glory for the first time, so he had us look down at the floor as we entered. Once he led us to the center of the ancient building, he instructed us to look up. What I saw absolutely blew me away. The sheer architecture of this building is absolutely astounding, and the marble that covers its walls is mesmerizing. The dome, which is the largest unsupported dome of its kind, is massive and impressive. Apparently, the inside of the dome roof used to be clad in bronze, but as the Romans are historically in favor of recycling buildings and décor, the bronze from the Pantheon was used for the massive alter in St. Peter’s. I am so glad we got to visit the Pantheon and see its beauty. I cannot believe how well-maintained it is after two thousand years. It is a magnificent glimpse of what ancient Rome once looked like.

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Inside the Pantheon (Photo: Nick Boffardi)

After our visit to the Pantheon, we strolled over to Castel Sant’Angelo. We were supposed to embark on a night tour of the castle Tuesday night, but it was closed. Luckily, we were able to fit it in Wednesday afternoon. The castle was the original tomb for Roman Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117-138. Hadrian was well-liked and is known for building Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England and rebuilding the Pantheon. I explored Hadrian’s villa with Pop Pop during our extra day together. It’s funny how these points of interest overlap in history. Looking at the castle from the outside, I did not expect it to be vast, but it really seems like a huge maze once inside.

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Castel Sant’Angelo (Photo: Nick Boffardi)

When we were finished with Castel Sant’Angelo, we went our separate ways for a few hours. I shopped around with Chrissy and Nick and scored an inexpensive bottle of Limoncello, which according to the label is made with organic, non-GMO lemons from the Amalfi Coast. I really wanted to take home a bottle of limoncello because it was the first drink I tasted and enjoyed in Rome.

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Shopping around Rome (Photo: Nick Boffardi)

I got back to St. John’s from a fun time shopping to relax and work on something for our “last supper” together later in the evening.

Rome Day 17: The Final Presentation

Wednesday was the day I had been dreading for a while: the last day of our SCO in Rome trip. I was overwhelmed with sadness when I woke up, but I knew our adventures were not yet finished.

The last day of class consisted of the Hofstra Romans presenting our work to our clients, Shoot4Change. Earlier in the week, we worked on finishing up our projects to the best of our ability and writing a report to show S4C the tasks we completed. I could not believe it was time for us to give our final report to S4C. The presentation went well, especially since we had not prepared for it as much as we could have. We were not able to check everything we intended to off our list due to issues with obtaining information we needed, but Andrea was completey pleased with our work. In fact, he said, “That’s something we would expect from a media agency,” when referring to our work. That compliment made everything worth it. We discussed our time together and the possibility of and hope to continue this relationship in the future. In fact, some students might take up working with S4C as an independent study during the school year and taking further steps to provide awareness about the organization on America soil.

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From our day in L’Aquila (Photo: Nick Boffardi)

I am so pleased that our relations with Shoot4Change went so well. Our study abroad program was not only special because we had jam-packed days of adventure and travel, but because we were able to do more than just study abroad. We could have easily taken film and public relations classes by working out of a textbook like a traditional learning experience, but we were fortunate enough to work beyond the classroom. Doing business with a real Italian organization was the best experience I could possibly imagine having on a study abroad trip. We not only learned so much from a real-life public relations standpoint, but we learned about Italian culture by interacting with S4C. From visiting to L’Aquila to our unplanned night at the refugee center, the Hofstra Romans are taking so much more home with us than a better understanding about our field of study.

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After our first day of class together

Professor Hillebrand and Professor Morosoff dedicated so much time and effort to our educational and cultural experiences, and I could not be more thankful. This was a learning experience that will stick with me as long as I live.