To Italy, Or Not To Italy

It occurred to me that I have not exactly explained what all happened with the Italian school – or, more formally, the University of Gastronomic Sciences founded by the Slow Food movement (of which I AM A MEMBER. Yay.) in northern Italy. My last post on it was waaay longer ago than I thought it was. But I wasn’t really completely prepared for the fact that it’s November (ftw???) in, er, a week. Whoa.

SO – here’s where I am with the whole “I’m going back to Italy to eat, wheeeee” idea. In short, it didn’t pan out. But the short version is never, ever as fun as the long, is it?

fatt'ia poggio5

Picking up where I left off: I had a bad experience working at a restaurant. I had a “holy crap what am I thinking” moment (actually, it was more like 2 months of that).  I found the UNISG program and started to apply. And it went downhill from there.

Now, I lived in Italy for long enough to know the beast that is Italian bureaucracy. And when I say beast, I mean if you cross-bred the Minotaur with the three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell and then made that baby monster very angry, it would still be no match for the impenetrable cloud of confusion cast by the Italian paperworkasaurus. Throw in a bachelor’s degree from a state outside of your home state’s consulate’s jurisdiction and you are extra screwed. And if you are thoroughly confused by this whole paragraph…then you understand my point exactly.

You see, in order to obtain the dichiarazione di valore (DV), a document necessary for the application that simply [HA] states that my college degree is the same as an Italian university degree and that I am eligible for a Master’s program, the Boston Consulate required me to have my high school transcript. Ah, but not just my high school transcript alone – it needed to be notarized, so that I could bring it to the Secretary of State’s office for an Apostille (like an international notarization), so that I could bring THAT back to the Consulate. You think I’m done.

Because I have a bachelor’s degree from outside the Boston Consulate’s jurisdiction (I went to school in South Carolina, which is under the Miami Consulate’s jurisdiction), I had to get my college transcript AND an official copy of my diploma notarized, send both of those to the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office to get the Apostille, and then send those to the Miami Consulate to obtain the DV for that, then get those back from Miami and bring it ALL to the Boston Consulate. And all this is to apply. Don’t get me started on visas. Just don’t.

Suddenly that personal essay doesn’t look so difficult, huh?

All that is to say, it was not the insane application process that deterred me. That would just be lame. And lame I am most certainly not, thankyouverymuch. No, after going through all the paperwork to study abroad, I know very well that the application hell can be BEYOND worth the experience itself. And there was no doubt in my mind that if this was the perfect program for me, then I would do whatever it took to get there.

So what happened?

A couple different things. First, the program I was applying for completely changed its structure: there are 3 application due dates in 2012, and each application date is for the same degree program but with a different concentration. For example, the application due in March 2012 was still for the Master in Food Culture & Communications, but the concentration was on Ecology & Sustainability. For the May due date, a different concentration, and for the November due date, still another concentration. That changed my timeline dramatically – I had to read up on each of the 3 concentrations and figure out which one was the one closest to what I was looking for. As I studied them closer, all 3 looked less appealing. And not in a “omg that like totally sounds so boring” way – in fact, they all sounded wonderful! But right now, my next step in education needs to be relevant to my career (because I said so.), and none of them seemed to quite fit.

Secondly, I visited the BU Gastronomy program and started learning more about it. I had a meeting with the lovely program director, Dr. Rachel Black, who did some of her postdoctoral work at UNISG (that’s oo-nee-sg, not you-nihs-gee, as Dr. Black pointed out to me Winking smile), and was very happy to talk to me about BOTH BU & the Italian program. That was probably the most helpful thing I could have done, and if you are in a similar pickle, I would recommend it. I won’t go into detail, but I will say this: she in no way discouraged the program, she was simply very honest about the best points and disadvantages of both programs. I still think they are both AWESOME, and if I won the lottery I really would just do both – yes, I’m that much of a food nerd. And it would be so.effin.cool. But I digress.

After that talk and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS more thinking/reading/researching, I decided that it no longer seemed to be the best option. It still makes me so, SO sad to say that. I really hated coming to that conclusion. And you know, at the rate I’m going these days, it might change in a few months and I’ll decide that it is the right decision for me. But where I am right now, it’s not the course I am choosing to take.

I really want to make it super clear that I am not IN ANY WAY discouraging anyone else who is interested in any of the school’s programs – I just realized I started talking about it and never really explained what all happened with it, and I know very, very well how helpful it can be to read about other people’s experiences with things like this. I pretty much stalk blogs about culinary school vs grad programs, in a less creepy way than it sounds, just to get a clearer picture of both.

SO, where am I? Somewhere between despair, confusion, and calm resignation that I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m thinking about my next step for the spring (*coughnextinternshipcoughcough*), planning for a potential adventure next fall, and generally trying to figure out what the hell makes me happy enough to make a career out of. Yeah yeah, secret of life, blah blah blah. But that’s another post for another day.

For now, I will settle for slightly underbaked brownies. They fix everything.

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Everything.

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Coming Clean

If any of you just thought of Hilary Duff, please take a moment to slap yourself. I had to do the same. I’ll wait.

I realize it has been a while since I’ve updated. There is a reason. Several, actually, but it’s time to come back. I’m gonna lay it all down for you.

May

  • Graduate from college.
  • Say goodbye to your best friends in the whole world.
  • Wonder when you will actually see them again in person and not just through a series of new Facebook photos.
  • Move to a new state.
  • Start a new unpaid job that involves shaving chives. Hate every second of it.

June

  • Visit home.
  • Have graduation party where you explain your current life plan to people you haven’t seen in at least a year.
  • Explain that no, you are not currently getting paid to chop vegetables badly.
  • Eat too much cake.
  • Fly back to current state of residence.
  • Continue to shave chives. Badly.
  • QUIT first job for the first time. Have overachiever meltdown.
  • Laptop crashes 13 times in 24 hours. External hard drive refuses to turn on. Internet stops working on my netbook. Start to panic.
  • Find Italian graduate school. Completely overhaul life plan. Panic.

July

  • Stop sleeping for longer than 3 hours a night.
  • Drive 910 miles home, moving to another state. Again.
  • Put down my first dog after 11 years. Learn what grief actually is. Fall into complete depression.
  • Discover that application to Italian school involves paper chase of Olympic proportions.
  • Life plan proceeds to fall into black hole.
  • Die a little.
  • Revive. A little.
And that’s been my summer. I swear, the next time someone looks at me and says “come on, what’s the worst that can happen in 3 months?”, I’ll slap them. I think I’ve lost and gained the same 5 pounds 5 times, and have had about as many emotional breakdowns. Losing my dog kind of put the rotten cherry on top of it all; I’ve really never dealt with death before.
Sure, there have been family members I’ve heard about that I met once or twice a decade or two ago, but I grew up in a completely different part of the country from all of my extended family and while I’ve watched tragedy happen and seen how others have dealt with it, I was never really involved. And I know that some people would scoff at the idea of grieving over a dog, but she was a member of my family, and for someone whose family has only ever been the people living in this house, it was devastating. Like someone had suddenly gouged a huge hole in my life and left me to deal with it alone. That pain was like nothing I’d ever quite felt before, and I’ve been through a lot of bad stuff.
And then the utter farce that is dealing with the Italian Consulate happened. I am going to give that one a little more time because I know in a few months I will be able to laugh hysterically at it but right now, it’s just another bullet point on the $hitlist.
I know I haven’t been doing much food blogging recently. Amongst all the other crises, I’ve had a bit of a blogger identity crisis – I really don’t know where I fit in the food blog world! But I would very much like to fit, so I’ll certainly keep tapping away until I find my niche.
Anyway, I felt like I needed to just do one big post about what all has been going on in my life recently, if nothing else just to be able for me to see it all in black and white and deal with it better. I’ve been getting a lot of pressure from a lot of people to do a lot of different things and being the extreme introvert that I am, I’ve just been letting it all build up inside and writing seems to help me.
I do have a ton of pictures from various recent adventures (First visit to Charleston? Food exhibit in DC? Say WHAT?) that my crashed laptop prevented me from posting, but I think the problem is going to be fixed soon. I’ve started applying to a couple different kinds of jobs/internships and have my feet in about 5 different pools, and I’ve also started to actively search for our second dog. Because I miss my dog, and I always will, but that seems to be separate from how much I miss just having a dog, and I feel that if I can eliminate one of those pains, dealing with the other will be just a little easier.
Now I’m just rambling.
So now that I have written a small novel about the complicated life of a very confused college graduate as of 3 measly months…I will move on to more food-related topics. But if there are any recent college grads out there who are feeling very confused about what just happened–or really, anyone who is just feeling sad and confused and have no idea where to go or what to do next–that perhaps stumble upon this, I hope it makes them feel less alone. And may I recommend yoga. It can really help to just go somewhere where the only thing you have to focus in is taking the next breath.
More on the internship from hell, the magic Italian school and adventures in food to come. And, like, tomorrow. Not two months from now. Really.

Challenges

Y’ALL. This is killing me. Posting barely once a week….pathetic. And frustrating. I MISS writing whatever insanity pops into my head. Instead, I’m chained to either a two-ton anthology or writing about the underlying racism in James Fenimore Cooper (you think I’m making this up…nope.).
I am resigned to the fact that my dear beloved blog may very well turn into a weekend activity, much as it pains me to say. My job with my study abroad program is going to start getting a bit heavier AND I’m going to start blogging once a week for my school. All of which I love and am very excited about…but MAN, does it leave precious little time for, um, life. I’ll admit, it’s all my fault.
But I do have something important to say other ohmygodfourenglishclassesatoncewhatwasIthinking. 
I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t help it: I am constantly amazed at the effect Italy had on me. At this point in the semester, I would be in total freak-out mode. I would stay up til 3 because god forbid I don’t read every single page assigned and put 100% into each and every paper, be it 2 pages or 12. 
But I’m not. I have my priorities, I take it week by week – sometimes day by day – and I breathe, and laugh, and sleep, and the world (or at least, my world) doesn’t implode when I go to class a bit less than ideally prepared.
So…ready for what’s been going on down here in Sparkle City (a.k.a, Spartanburg, South Carolina…if you really want to know, google it.)?
I think you are.
Daphne (my car) is legal to park (in the yellow or green lines only, of course).
Graduation GOWN. *insert mini-spaz moment of anxiety about graduating here*

Before I continue, let me explain. At Converse, if you enter on an odd year (like 2007, when I was a fresh[wo]man), you are a red devil.
Meet Richard the Red Devil mascot:
He’s basically a hottie.
If you enter on an even year, you are a pink panther. You get picked by a junior (who is also a devil or panther) who is your Big Sister. It’s NOT a sorority thing – we are a small women’s college of about 1200. We are basically one big sorority anyway. So, for a week in September your Big Sis delivers you presents – in my case, all revolving around RED. There is SO MUCH red in my life now. And it’s awesome.
During Formal Opening Convocation – big ceremony where our lovely President officially declares this school year open – seniors wear our gowns, our horns and tails (which our Big Sisters made for us), and of course…
Red Converse sneakers. (No, our school name has nothing to do with the shoe company. But come on…how could we not?)
Ok, got all that? …yeah, it took my parents a while too. Don’t worry about it.
The night before Opening Convocation, we paint the campus red (or pink…ick). It’s pretty fabulous.
2011 – Little piece of heaven! (C’mon, say it with me: “aaaawwwwwww!”)
Before we jazz up campus, we go to “Hats On”, basically a party for the seniors where we wear crazy hats and eat cake. I’m sure there’s some symbolism in there about “hats on” and getting ready to graduate….whatever. It’s all about the cake.
Had to represent my homeland, right? [GOSOX.]
And as for eats, there’s been plenty o’ salads…
Most not as delicious as this one, which was from a deli across the street. It’s called “the hippie.” It has hummus and goat cheese. ‘Nuf said.
And some banana oat bran. Of course. 
Some things never change.
And I can’t forget about the best.frozen.yogurt.EVER.
Compliments of Blueberry Frog!
Pomegranate + plain tart with mangos + raspberries. Or, as I prefer to call it, heaven in a cardboard cup.
Good ole SC has been treating us to some gorgeous sunsets:
Find the symbolism yourself. This English major is off the clock.
Until tomorrow, of course. Chaucer, here I come.
~Namaste~

I have a blog? Say WHAT?

Well, I decided to jump on the study abroad blog bandwagon and get one for myself. I have neurosed about getting one for months…why, I do not know.

If you’re curious, the name of thise blog was a random idea I got over my Christmas break – Gillian, for my name (duh), and asana, which is the name of yoga poses. Yoga is an essential part of ME and my life. My practice began with my first semester as a freshman at Converse College, with an amazing professor whose knowledge of yoga as a practice and a philosophy opened me up to a bran dnew way of thinking and seeing the world. The beliefs that yga encompasses just clicked for me, and I have been hooked ever since. I practiced on and off after that semester, but yoga came back full force into my life this past fall, my first semester as a Junior and one of the most difficult, painful, and growth-provoking times I have faced. I came back to my yoga, and at least for a few minutes out of my day, I could just be. It saved me.

Still, I felt it was definitely time for change. So, what to do when you feel stuck in a rut? Head off to Europe! And here I am, studying abroad in the beautiful city of Firenze, Italia! I am insanely blessed with an infinitely strong support source in my family, and I have felt so lucky every day here that I had the ability and resources to come. It’s just….breathtaking.

Ponte Vecchio

Let’s rewind: My journey started in the Logan Airport on Sunday (Domenica), January 24th. I arrived in Florence after passing through Munich on Saturday afternoon, jetlagged and disoriented. I was taken to the Gran Hotel Baglioni, where API Orientation would be held until we moved into our apartments. This hotel was bellisima!
This was the ceiling of my room, which I was completely obsessed with. I just lay on the bed and stared at it, I found it somehow very relaxing 🙂

My first day in Firenze was, well, exhausting. We had a lovely welcome dinner – btw, arugula (rucola) is one of the best thigns about Italy. The flavor is just so intense! MMMM, che sapore!

MMM, rabbit food!

The next day began with a brief walking tour of the Centro Storico – the historical centre of the city. The entire time I kept thinking, “I can’t believe I LIVE here.”

We moved into our apartments – pics to come – and I just adore it. It is just wonderful beyond words to have a kitchen! And to be able to just walk outside onto the street and wander. My roommates are FAB and we are all English majors! Love it.

I just love the Italian language. It is beautiful and I can’t wait to practice MOLTO!

I will warn my readers now – I am a total granola head-health food hippie. Food is my favorite topic (next to language and yoga, of course!). Making it, eating it, talking about it or looking at it, I find it to fascinate me in so many aspects. So, expect lots of talk about it! I LOVE Italian food (one might hope, no?) and am thrilled to be in such a gastronomically-focused country.

Happy First Blog Post! It’s not perfect – need to learn how to upload pictures so that they don’t mess with the text, so please excuse its imperfections! Life wouldn’t be any fun without them, anyway.

~Ciao & Namaste~