This week was the Vacances de Toussaint in France, and apparently reading week all across Europe. With these nine days I chose to make a trip to Italy, being inspired by a friend who chose to do the same, though I planned independently. Thus it was so that within to days, three days before departure, I booked two flights, two trains, and three hostels in Italy. My three cities in my itinerary were the three usual ones: Rome, Florence, and Venice; Roma, Firenze, Venezia. Not knowing any better, I allotted each three days.
In hindsight, Rome was the city in which I’d sooner have spent seven and a half of my vacation. The Vatican museum, while not quite rivaling the Louvre in size, is certainly its counterpart in Italy, with a vast span of subjects and famous works. In fact, I practically rushed every single attraction in Rome and still ran out of time to visit everything. Such is allure of the city.
I arrived midday on Friday, as I have no classes Friday. I took the greater part of the day figuring out how to get to the hostel, as this was my first trip alone, but eventually I waddled my way in by three. I dropped off all my extraneous clothes (dead weight, but need to keep all expensive stuff with me to be safe) and headed back into the city.
Since I had only a half day, I took the scenic route and tried to visit a few public places, places with no admission required. This would include the iconic Piazza di Spagna, the Trezi fountain, the Pantheon, and whatever else I ran into, such as pizza and gelato! Ultimately, the Trezi fountain was closed for renovations, but everything else proceeded fairly smoothly, and I got a nice view of the Roman tribute to their Gods.
The inside I cannot overstate, and in fact cannot state at all. Let this panorama be the the least I can do.
I also made it atop this monument, but the view was not the best. While Rome is a significant city beyond all others, it really isn’t too pretty compared to others:
After then some shenanigans at the Capitolini museum and the Vittorio Emanuel II memorial (the most celebrated king of Italy), I headed over to a food tour I had booked. This was recommended as the single best way to see Rome, with one’s stomach, by TripAdvisor, and indeed I had a great time! Though perhaps a not quite my money’;s worth, but I promised myself I would worry about saving and earning money only once I was back home.
The next day I found out I’d missed the most celebrated part of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel (Michelangelo and his ceiling), but since Sunday entrance to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine is free I knew I’d have to get there early. I shot for 740, an hour and a half before the museum opened. By sheer accident, I missed Daylight Savings Time, and got there at 640 instead. I was approximately twentieth in line,and if I had arrived at my planned time I’d have had an hour’s wait. Woohoo! No pictures were allowed in the Sistine unfortunately, but I personally found it underwhelming after the St. Peter’;s Basilica.
After wandering to a bit more places I made my way to the famous Colosseum, by which time the day, and my stay, was nearing its end. The titanic scope of the monument again cannot be captured, and one can really quite imagine two millennia ago tens of thousands of Romans yelling throughout.
That was all for my Rome stay. Many a museum went neglected, an entire half of the Capitolini. If I could do it again with more time, I think that audioguides are a must. They allow you to explore the museum at your own pace while simultaneously providing the information that you need to understand the significance of what is before you. Either that or go with a friendly expert, a luxury I did not have this trip, but one I will seek upon returning to the States; art has massively gained in appeal for me upon coming to Europe! The other option, an audioguide, I would try at my next destination, Florence, a city whose size allows for a much more leisurely exploration. Stay tuned!
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!