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I have had many memorable experiences from this experience here in Italy.  There were many things I wanted to take away from this trip abroad.  I wanted to make sure I experienced the culture.  I also wanted to learn things about my major that I wouldn’t get the chance to learn back home.  Finally I also wanted to enjoy this experience on a personal level in my free time and take trips to see different parts of this amazing country.  For the most part I feel like I accomplished these things.

I definitely feel like I experienced the culture over here.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to communicate with the local people here. I really only knew the basics of the Italian language.  I could say hello, goodbye, thank you, and you’re welcome in Italian.  That little knowledge of this foreign language seemed to be enough to get by for the most part. Of course most people at the markets and restaurants spoke english, but if they didn’t I really didn’t have trouble communicating with them.  There were not very strong cultural differences, just subtle little things.  For instance we are in the capital country for the catholic religion, so of course we are expected to conduct ourselves in a respectful manner around churches.  At restaurants Instead of using the phrase, “to go,” it is “take away.”  I did also like the fact that walking with an alcohol container around Florence was not a problem.  One could buy a bottle of alcohol and just hang out at a public square and drink with friends and strangers and have as much fun doing this as going to a bar or night club.  This is really not an option back home in the states.  I tried my best to just try to blend in as one of the locals as much as possible.  Now that we are closing out the fifth week of being a resident here in Florence I feel fairly comfortable here.

From an educational standpoint I feel things went fairly well.  We as fitness students were only obligated to have actual class the first three-weeks, this was because the last three weeks of the program were supposed to be dedicated to being involved in an internship at a fitness facility.  The classes the first three weeks were informative and educational.  I was part of a photography class and a Methodology of Sports Training class.  The photography class was enjoyable because we were soaking up the culture, landscape, and historical significance of the region while we were taking our shots for our final portfolio.  The sports training class definitely sparked my interest because this is the field in which I plan to pursue a career after school.  I just wish  I would have had a little prior experience with photography prior to taking that class.  Most everyone else in the class did have this prior experience.  The sports training was very enjoyable with the class lectures but on top of that the field trip to the only soccer museum of its kind in Florence was amazing.  You really don’t have to be a huge soccer fan to enjoy this facility.  Soccer is probably one of my least favorite team sports and this museum gave me chills.

Finally, there is the enjoyment of this trip on a personal level that I would like to reflect on.  Unfortunately, I was only able to take two actual trips outside of Florence.  One of those trips was to Cinque Terra.  This is actually the region of the country that is located along the coast of Italy.  The views of this beautiful beach area are amazing.  The other trip I took was just the other day to Rome.  This is definitely a must see destination.  First we went to the Vatican museum, the security is extensive and it takes some time to actually make it in the building.  However once you become admitted inside it is well worth the wait.  The Sistine Chapel is definitely like nothing I have ever seen before.  After seeing it, it is unthinkable to imagine that one person by himself could have done that whole magnificent work of artistry!  After the Vatican, we went to the Colosseum.  This was also an amazing sight to see.  We were able to see this place from different heights and vantage points.  After the coliseum, we saw the ancient ruins of the old Roman Empire.  This is country is  like a whole different world.

There have been a few ups and downs during the duration of this trip, but the good definitely outweighed the bad.  That is just like anything in life.  Nothing will ever be perfect but one just has to make the best of any situation and concentrate on the positives.  One of the places I would definitely suggest seeing here is the plaza di Michelangelo which is located atop the mountains in the distance of the central city.  The view of the entire city from this place is amazing.  You also have to see the Duomo, which is the most well-known cathedral in the city.  This is a good place to go to at night just to hang out outside on the steps and people watch.  All of the sites of Rome that I mentioned earlier are a must see.  I wish I would have had the means to see more.  Maybe one day I will hopefully be able to return to this country and see the places that I did not get a change to see.

Taking a Second Look

Yesterday my fellow classmates and I began our internship.  In my last post I was not happy about the facility we were assigned to.  After putting things in perspective I said to myself, “have an open mind, be positive, and see what you can learn.”  Even though I have worked as a personal trainer at a health club before this is a different club in a different country, maybe the way they do things is different here and I might be able to learn a different approach to fitness practices.

The group of fitness students assigned to this internship has been split up into three small groups.  My group includes two other students.  These small groups are meant to make things less congested as all the groups are scheduled to put in their hours at different times of the day.  Our first scheduled day was yesterday.  We were scheduled to start at nine am.  The walk to the facility takes close to thirty minutes so we left around 8:15 just to be safe.  We walked in to the facility with about fifteen minutes to spare before our scheduled starting time.

The days we are scheduled to start in the morning we are expected to participate in the group classes.  The class at nine was a combination of yoga stretches, body weight movements focusing on core stability, and light weight movements focusing on joint mobility.  Some of these things were quite difficult.  We finished the class with a ten minute cool-down/meditation period.  By the time the class was over my t-shirt was covered in sweat.  It was one of the best workouts I have ever had and I did learn some new fitness practices in the process.

So maybe I made judgements about this process before I actually gave it a chance.  I still think I was led to believe the internship would be something different but I feel maybe I can learn a few things at this facility.  Just not as much as I would have learned working with competitive athletes like I had hoped I would.

Internship

Today my fellow cohorts and I checked in to our internship site.  I do feel lucky to be here in Italy but I am a little disappointed with the internship.  We are working at a health club here in florence.  We will be participating in fitness/aerobics classes and shadowing some personal trainers as they train their clients.  No offense to anyone at the school here or Robert Morris but I have been a certified personal trainer for the past three years.  The first two years of my personal training career were spent at a health club called Xsport Fitness.  This is a large chain of health clubs in the Chicago Land Area.  For the past year I have been training clients independently at highrise condo buildings and I have a private facility called Hifi Fitness where I take clients to train them.  The owners of this facility charge me around twenty dollars per client session and I pocket the rest of what I charge my fitness clients.  I don’t feel that there is anything that I can really learn from this internship that I haven’t already learned in the past three years of working in a very similar environment.

I was under the impression that the internship here in Italy would consist of working with athletes, soccer players to be more specific.  I wasn’t assuming these would be FIFA World Cup players but perhaps semi pro players or even younger players from the junior league.  Our sports training class was taught by an ex professional soccer player and now sports trainer of semi pro soccer players.  It was implied although not specifically said that he would be in charge of our internship.  Even if it were working with younger, teenage athletes doing some sort of sports training I would be happy with that.

Of course, one of the attractions of this program was the fact of being able to experience all the wonders of Italy, but the main thing that grabbed my attention was the internship.  I plan to pursue a career as a strength and conditioning coach of a sports team after graduation, so obviously I was ecstatic for an internship of this nature, or at least what I thought the internship was going to be.

I know this is the first year of the study abroad program and it might take a little time before all the bugs are worked out of things like this but I feel as if I was led to believe certain things that were never going to happen.  I know I will get credit for this internship to fulfill the graduation requirements for my associate degree but the whole reason for me to pursue this degree was to further my education as a fitness professional.  I really feel like for the most part I haven’t done that in my time here.  This is not meant to be a mean or heartless rant against the program, the school here or Robert Morris back home.  I just feel like I am paying a lot of money for this and haven’t gotten my moneys worth.

Don’t get me wrong the staff here at FUA has been amazing.  Anytime I have needed answers about anything they have done their best to give me those answers.  The Robert Morris Staff has been equally helpful.  I just feel the picture that was painted to me about this trip was a blurry one that when came into focus was something I would not be happy to see!

Forgive me if this sounds at all harsh but like I said I’m paying a lot of money for this.  An extra twenty-six hundred dollars of tuition is nothing to sneeze at.  We already had the trip to Rome taken away because there were only seven of us in the program instead of the mandatory ten.  However the cost of the program didn’t change.  I feel as though the amount of the cost of that trip should have been deducted.  I do feel FUA is an excellent institution as is RMU, and Italy is amazing.  I’m just not happy with how things turned out.  Maybe my expectations were too high.

Miscalculations

With just under three weeks left before the end of my Italian study abroad experience I am starting to get dangerously close to running out of funds.  I knew coming out here that I would have to watch my spending as I could only bring an amount of money that was at least a couple hundred dollars less than what I wanted to have for spending money.  I definitely spent more than I wanted to so far, particularly the first week that I was here.

The reason that the first week was particularly rough on me as far as being able to budget my money can be attributed to not knowing which restaurants were more inexpensive than others, and being able to get to the market rather than wasting money by getting food on the run at a cafe.  These things have a way of adding up rather fast.  These tourist attracting cities are good at tempting you to spend money in this way.  The first thing that attracts you are the smells of the food at these restaurants.  Next you see how delicious the food looks.  Now if there is a familiar food that you have tasted before and is one of your favorite delicacies it is hopeless to resist.  On the other hand it could be something you have never tried before.  In this case you may ask the man or woman behind the counter to explain what a certain dish is.  You are hooked at this point, you find yourself saying, “I have to try that.”  You silly little man.  You have no self-control at all!

Another thing that can cause you to spend more money than your budget allows is the nightlife temptations.  There are more than a few bars and nightclubs here that look very tantalizing.  Every night you see people coming in and out of these establishments.  As I have said before people here in Florence go out for drinks on a daily basis.  This does not help things in relation to me hesitating to spend more money than I have to spend.  Certain bars are good to go to prior to a nightclub because of their inexpensive drinks.  The only problem is I am just now finding out where these establishments are located.

So this is just a warning to any one in the future who may be enrolling in this study abroad program, be very careful how you spend your money here.  It may not seem like much money at the time but six weeks is a longer amount of time than you think.  Go to the market and save eating out for the weekends.  Also if you feel as if you must go out drinking save your money, buy an inexpensive bottle of wine or beer and drink outside on the steps of one of the various churches, or in the middle of one of the many busy squares in town.  These places outside are typically filled with just as many people as the indoor local watering hole!

Don’t be like me, be smart about spending your money!

 

Subtle Differences

For the most part the people and places here in Europe are not that different from back home in the states.  However there are a few subtle little differences here from how things are in America.  For instance, it seems like every night people go out as opposed to on the week ends.  Maybe people do go out every night back home as well, it’s just more noticeable out here because people are allowed outside with their cocktails.  One doesn’t necessarily have to go to a bar or nightclub for this type of activity.  You can see groups of people sitting on steps out in front of churches or in the middle of certain squares in Florence.

The laws about public intoxication are a little more laxed here in Italy.  It isn’t uncommon to witness people with open bottles of alcohol outside in plain sight for public view.  Surprisingly the authorities don’t really have many incidents of things getting out of hand or people making trouble for others in these situations.  I can’t imagine this type of scenario playing out the same way back in Chicago.  People can barely get away with an open bottle of beer on the front steps of their’ place of residence.  In fact two of my room mates went into a resturant with a half-empty bottle of alcohol and not only were they allowed to bring it in they were even offered some soda as a chaser for the drink.  Take it from an irish-man this palace is a small slice of heaven.

Things are much more layed back here, except traffic on the streets seems slightly more caotic.  Cars for the most part go where they please.  Many of the streets are narrow, with only enough room for traffic to travel in one direction.  They also don’t always honk their horns when they are approach you from behind.  To add to the danger of this if you are not familiar with these things there really isn’t much space on the sidewalks.  So if you are walking on the same side of the street as another padestrian traveling in the opposite direction one of you has to step slightly into the street.  If this just happens to take place when a car is approaching behind you this situation can tend to be slightly tretcherous.

After three weeks of being here I am starting to become adapted to these differences in the people and their habbits here in beautiful Florence, Italy.  I finally feel mostly comfortable in getting around to and from school, my apartment, and other places of interest in this foreign land.  I am really starting to enjoy myself a bit more now that I am somewhat adjusted to life here.  With only three weeks left in my stay here and having just completed my classes with only my internship to consume my time I plan to do much more traveling and exploring during the remaining time here.  I haven’t decided if that is good or bad just yet!

Planning Next Trip

The next city I want to see in Italy is Rome.  It just so happens that I have a friend that lives there that I went to highschool with.  The plan is to take an express bullet train out there early friday morning, see half the sites, stay at a hostel friday night then see the rest of the sights saturday and take a train back to Florence saturday night.  We were planning on making all this happen this weekend.  However, I could not find any available rooms for that date.  So it looks like this trip will have to be pushed back to the following weekend.

My friend in Rome is gonna check out the hostel I told her about that looked fairly reasonably priced.  The trick is to find a place that is affordable which is also close to Termini Station.  This is the place that is close to the main area where all the tourist destinations are.  Hopefully everything works out and the trip is a go for that weekend.  From what I hear from everyone I have spoken to, Rome is definitely a must see destination here in Italy.  The Vatican Museum usually has a long wait in line before you actually get in but it is definitely supposed to be worth it.  The Dome of St. Peter is also supposed to be a must see, and is worth the long hike up the steep steps.  From the top of this structure one is supposed to be able to look down on the entire city from every angle.  The last of the major places to see is supposed to be the historic Coliseum.  This is the place where the gladiators used to compete in physical combat.  I will have photos and video footage to document the entirety of this exciting trip.  I want to capture the sights, sounds, feelings and emotions of this epic journey.  I will be updating this entry with that footage after the trip.  Stay tuned…….

First Day Trip

This past weekend my room mates and I took our first trip outside of Florence.  Friday night we celebrated the birthday of one of my cohorts.  We first had some cocktails at our apartment and on the steps of one of the squares here in town.  Next we began to look for a bar or night club in which to celebrate our friends birthday.  The first place we went to was reserved for a private party.  This was a little frustrating at first, but eventually we found a dance club that was better than the first destination.  It’s funny how things workout.  The plan was to only be out for a few hours so we would be able to get atleast a few hours of sleep before our trip to the cost in Montoroso.  We purchased train tickets earlier that day.  Our train depated just after six am.  As it turned out we wound up partying until around 4 am or so.  I wound up only getting around a half an hour of sleep before we had to leave the apartment to catch the train.  Needless to say I was pretty grumpy as I began to get my things together for the trip.  It was a struggle to make it to the train station on time.  I must admit that it was well worth the agrivation and lack of sleep.  I was able to get a few hours of shut eye on the train ride.  The beach off the coast of Italy was amazing.  We got off the train at the first of several small towns that make up these beaches along the coast.  After a bit of walking with some classmates of one of my room mates we had a decision to make.  Our choices were either an 8 mile hike that we had to pay 10 Euros for or an 8 Euro ferry boat that took us along the coast with a tour guide explaining the history and significance of each small town of these seperate beaches.  All of us except for one chose the ferry boat tour.  We docked at the last town of Montoroso which is the nicest of the beaches.  We stepped on to the shore and found a nice resturant with outdoor tables just beyond the sand of the beach.  We had a light lunch then laid out on the sand.  The sights of the ocean and coastal buildings and archetecture were goergous.  These were definitely the most breath taking views of the trip up to this point.  After a few hours of some of the most relaxing leisurely time we decided to pack up and head to the train station to catch our train back to Florence.  This weekend was definitely the most enjoyable to thus far on this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elite Training Facility

For the first field trip in my Methodology of Sports Training Class the instructor took us to the training facility of the Florentine National Soccer Team, which is also a soccer museum.  This is the only museum of its kind according to the professor.  This facility was on the other side of Florence in relation to where our school and apartment are located, so we had to take a bus to reach our destination.  I was given a flip-cam video recorder by our chaperone from school back in the states to document this experience.  Our instructor Fabritsio, who happens to be an ex-soccer player himself had a story to go along with every piece of memorabilia from the museum.  There were Jerseys, shoes, balls and pictures dated all the way back to the 1930’s on display in this museum.  One didn’t have to be a fan of the sport in order to feel some sense of nostalgia during this tour through the sport’s history in Florence.  Players from the national team train at the facility in preparation for the upcoming season every year, so we all felt like we were experiencing a part of history and were at a place where future historic moments may be happening.  The athletes actually live there at the facility while they train.  Somewhat similar to a training camp in football or baseball.  If someone would desire to become a referee for FIFA they have to study for a full year at this school at the facility as well.  Those who desire to coach a semi-pro or professional level team must also live there and study for a years time there.  We were able to walk on the training fields where all this takes place.  That felt like an extreme privilege.  The field trip ended with a visit to the gift shop where authentic jerseys, warmup jackets and other items were sold.  Too bad I didn’t bring much extra money for my trip here or I would have made a purchase.  The items were a bit pricey for my budget, but very nice.  I was really tempted to bite the bullet and buy something but I felt food and nourishment was slightly more important.  Damn-it why must I be so sensible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Landscape of the City

Florence is a very beautiful city.  For our photography class we took a trip to the hills overlooking the city.  This is a part of the city in the hills where some expensive villas are located.  This expedition we took as a class was quite a hike.  We walked steep inclined narrow winding roads and even steeper steps to get to the perfect spot to overlook the entire skyline of the city.  I was able to capture some incredible photographs of the views.  From this point we walked up one more set of steps to an old historic church that is a huge tourist attraction.  We were allowed inside this gothic cathedral to photograph the interior of this breathtaking place of worship.  Inside we found amazing alters, sculptures, a monstrous organ, sculptures,  and even artwork and engravings in sections of the marble floor.  Right outside the church on either side of the steps there were two small sets of graves as well.  The sights of this area were truly incredible.  The sounds of the organ playing were equally impressive.  It gave me goosebumps.  The experience of all this was very moving.  I actually felt guilty for not having been to a sunday church service in many years.  That is something I plan on attending while I am here.  I am sure it is not news to anyone for me to inform you that Italy is a very catholic country.  The vatican is located in Rome, which is a destination I definitely plan to visit as well.  I hope there are no illuminati waiting for me.  If anyone has seen the movie “Angels and Demons”, which is the sequel to “The Davinci Code”, you will understand my concern.  Seriously, there have been a lot of amazing sights I have already seen, and I am just getting started.  I still am intrigued by the fact that I can find myself in what I would call the metropolitan portion of the city with narrow heavily populated streets and buildings on top of each other, and just five minutes later wind up in what looks like the country with lots of space with bright green grass where buildings are actually few and far between.  This place is truly beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

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I am finally in Italy and what a rollercoaster ride the first day was.  First off the flight in was horendous.  Nine hours on a plane is way too long.  I tried to sleep but could not get comfortable enough to do so.  After an extremely long flight the plane touched down in Rome, then to a connecting flight to florence which was only twenty to thirty minutes once we took off.  We landed around eight in the morning on sunday.  At this time the weather was very nice.  My fellow students and I checked in at school and proceeded to our apartment.  The orientation was not until a 7 pm so we had a few hours to burn.  We decided to get settled in to our new temporary home and have dinner at a resturaunt before our function at school.  We found a nice enough resteraunt and sat down to eat.  The food was slightly overpriced but good.  We were ready to leave and just as we were about to exit the resturaunt thunderstorms began.  It was raining extremely hard so we decided to try to wait it out inside the eating establishment.  It didn’t seem as if it was going to let up so we decide to try to run back to the apartment.  We were about half way home when the rain turned into hail.  We made it inside, dried ourselves off and relaxed for a few hours.  

Now it was time to head back to school for our program orientation.  It was still pouring outside at this time.  We were soaked once again.  It was a very nice orientation and breif social with refreshments for us.  Everyone was extremely nice and the information was very informative.  We were now ready to leave and go back home.  Low and behold as we departed it was still pouring outside.  Once again we got rained on and wound up being soaking wet.  It sounds like a very uncomfortable first day but looking back on it, it wasn’t so bad considering the things we saw and experienced.  I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.

 

 

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