My Birthday, Italy, and Midterms.

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Another two weeks have past here in Athens and at CYA, my specific study abroad program. The past two weeks have been very exciting and busy. In fact, just last week was my 20th birthday! One of the best things about my birthday this year was that it actually fell on the first day of my study abroad program’s fall break dates. Therefore, I celebrated by taking a quick trip to Italy with some friends. Italy is relatively close to Greece and flight tickets are surprisingly very cheap! Before I knew it, I was on my way to Bologna, one of the oldest cities in the Northern part of Italy also known as the country’s capital of gastronomy.

As I exited the plane on the day of my birthday and stepped foot onto Bologna for the first time, I was immediately mesmerized by Italy’s beauty. Great green fields and hills surrounded the airport, and I think I could smell the delicious pasta cooking from the distance! I also felt more at home being in Italy. My family is Italian and I can speak the language. Unlike in Greece, where it can be difficult to communicate with locals or understand what even common street signs mean, I had no problem at all in Italy. In fact, I had a full on conversation with a woman who worked at the nearby gelateria about where would be the best place to dine in Bologna. She gave me a list of restaurants to consider and strongly suggested that I try the spaghetti or lasagna with pomodoro while I am here as both pastas are two of city’s specialties. I took her recommendations and decided to have my birthday dinner at a rooftop restaurant in Bologna’s city square. My friends and I decided to start off the dinner with a traditional Italian cheese platter. The dish included different types of locally produced cheeses such as mozzarella, Parmesan, ricotta and more. Another interesting fact about Bologna is that the city is located just outside of Italy’s renowned cheese region. Emiglia-Romagna and Parma, for instance, are two regions/cities only quick train rides away from Bologna. Therefore, the cheese in general is bound to be fresh and very authentic. After we finished our cheesy appetizer, our main courses soon followed. I ended up ordering the spaghetti al pomodoro e basilica, and honestly it was the best spaghetti I had ever tried in my life! “WOW,” I said out loud after taking the first bite. The spaghetti was truly cooked “al dente” and the tomato sauce was perfectly seasoned. I must admit this was one of the best birthdays I have had thus far.

After an amazing two days in Bologna, I set off for Florence, or “Firenze,” as the Italians call it, and then ended my birthday trip with a quick stop in Pisa and Roma! Celebrating such a special occasion in a country with great food, great people and a beautiful culture overall was one of the most memorable experiences I have had while studying abroad this semester.

I am now back in Greece where things are beginning to get quite busy as Midterms are just right around the corner. This weekend I have worked on many essays that count as my midterms and I have been preparing for upcoming exams. I would say my hardest course in the program is Modern Greek. I have been doing my best to prepare for this test and presentations by doing many practice exercises in my workbook and making flashcards to memorize more terms. Wish me good luck!

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