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Andrews ’15 Exploring Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Tyler Andrews ’15 – Time flies when you are having fun. And it flies even faster when you are in some of the most beautiful coasts in the world. For my 4th of July weekend, I joined the rest of the students in my program on a trip to the Amalfi Coast. For those not aware, the Amalfi coast is quite literally paradise. Sandy beaches, from black, to white, to pink sand, Amalfi offers beauty unparalleled by other wonders of the world.

Andrews, upper left, and classmates exploring the coast.

Andrews, upper left, and classmates exploring the coast.

Thursday night, we set off at 7 PM (or 1900 hours if you refer to typical European time). After a long and winding bus trip, we arrived at our hostel at 3:45 in the morning on Friday, and passed out for 3 hours before waking up to travel to the island of Capri. Capri is home to some of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Indeed, as we cruised along on a boat tour, we passed multi-million dollar yachts including Georgio Armani’s super-slicked silver behemoth of a boat. Indeed, Denzel Washington owns a house on the island, just a few short miles from the Gerber baby house. Leonardo DiCaprio also happens the area on occasion. We did a full boat ride around the island before enjoying a relaxing dip in the Mediterranean Sea. The rest of the night was spent enjoying the local cuisine and local discotecas before returning to our hostel which had an incredible view from the roof terrace of the ocean and surrounding area. My independence day was one of a kind, unforgettable, and full of Red, White, and Blue.

Saturday began with a little bit more sleep, and then a trip to Positano, Italy, a location with immaculate black beaches, and some of the best cliff-diving and sea caves in the world. Several friends and I decided to rent out a private boat for the afternoon and got a private showing of some phenomenal spots. There is nothing in the world quite like cliff diving into the Mediterranean from 30 feet+ in the air. Life, in that part of the world, is seen from a whole different angle. Not to mention, you are swimming next to some of the most valuable coral reefs in the world. The day ended with a return to our hostel for dinner and an active nightlife. Over 173 students decided to go to Amalfi with Bus2Alps (www.Bus2Alps.com), so we were all in different accommodations. Word had quickly spread that our hostel was the prettiest and had the best night life, so everyone came to our location that night. A DJ played music while visiting hip hop dance groups break danced in the stairwells (there is a competition going on in the area called House Dance Europe, and many groups were staying at our hostel). Needless to say, it was an unforgettable night and evening.

Sunday, we packed ourselves back into buses, sad to leave this tropical paradise, but excited to see the mysteries of Pompeii. We stopped off at the ancient city on our way back to Florence and received a phenomenal guided tour. The city has been kept in such good condition considering how old it is. The images of the place are surpassed only by the sheer intrigue of the stories about this old civilization. Of the 15,000 people who lived in Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted, 3,000 died, and everything that had been built in this strong city disappeared for centuries.

Sunday night, we all passed out early, exhausted from our incredible adventures of the weekend. Italy has much more than history. When you get past tourist traps and pickpockets, and focus more on what Italy has to offer, you find things like the blue grotto (a sea cave that is one of the 7 wonders of Europe), beautiful cliffs and coral reefs, a cuisine of real Italian food that is mouth-watering to think about, and people who are passionate about the beauty that they live in. You stay classy, Amalfi Coast.

Montgomery ’15 Learning Spanish Culture

“Jack, la vida es corta! ¿Sabes lo que quiero decir? “Si, lo sé.” “Jack, yo se tu sabes, pero, ¿Tu entiendes? “ Sí… Creo.”

Jack Montgomery ’15 – What sticks out most to me about this specific conversation with my host mothers dear friend, was for one thing the message. Rather beyond that, the fact that the instance symbolized the moment in itself. Siesta is a concept that is entirely foreign to us in the United States where we are hinged to the fast paced consumer society. Naps and afternoon beers with friends are not productive or acceptable. To see an entire city shut down in the afternoon to rest from the long nights or take in the company of others is a somewhat farfetched idea of what life should be like in the world I grew up in. Yet it is strongly intertwined into the Sevillean culture. If New York City is the city that never sleeps, than Seville, Spain is the city that never sleeps… but naps. Despite severe economic turmoil and massive unemployment the city remains vibrant and the people just as so. As Carmen told me, “La vida es corta,” life is short and the Sevilleans support such notions with gusto. To them, the economic crisis is a devastating reality, however as long as they have their families and friends they will get by.

Montgomery350Prior to our conversion, my fellow homestay member Brad and I were walking back from our Spanish placement interviews. The interviews lasted five minutes covering the basics of our trip and our first 48 hours in Seville. Afterwards we walked back to our homestay taking a different route to try and find a replacement glass for the one I had dropped the day prior while trying to be heroic, carrying too many dishes into the kitchen from the dinner table.  Upon entering Triana the neighborhood we are living in, we were called over to one of the many tapas bar where our host mother and her friends were enjoying some afternoon Cruzcampos (Local beer) and gamabas (shrimp-like crustaceans).  Though we had just had our formal interview with our study abroad directors, the real interview was about to begin; as for the next hour and a half we would be grilled by the women on our Spanish. As the women treated us to a few Cruzcampos and plates of Gambas, we discussed life and Spanish-American cultural similarities and differences. It was in this moment that I felt as though I was truly being immersed into the Spanish culture.

Throughout the week, continued to see much of the beautiful city that is Seville.  We viewed grand monuments, attended a Flamenco show and experienced the energetic nightlife attending bars and a botellon. Botellons are a new fad for the Sevillean youth that currently faces an unemployment rate of over 50% for residents between the ages of 20-30. Where 20 and 30 year olds gather in parks and open areas to casually sip wine, beer, or rum to enjoy the company of others and socialize. Throughout my orientation activities and our nightly adventures it has been fascinating to see how many things in common my classmates and I have found with each other, as well as the locals we have met.

The week concluded with a trip to Lagos, Portugal for some fun in the sun and a trip to the Cabo de Sao Vincente for a magnificent sunset. The locals refer to the cape as the End of the World as it is the most southwestern point of Europe and is where the world was thought to have ended in the days the earth was believed to be flat. Slightly blocked by the clouds, the sunset was nonetheless breathtaking and offered a great moment of reflection for me. Looking out over the ocean towards the sun it was crazy to think despite so much travel and cultural stimuli over the last week I was still witnessing the same sun.  It stood as a great reminder of how lucky I am to have this experience and see the things I have been able to see over the last week. All I can say is that if that is just first week, it’s gonna be one hell of trip.