2 – Esame? Come?

TeverEstate, a summer festival on the banks of the Tiber River and the language exchange location

Week 2 was full of fun.

One of my classmates, Tegan, was traveling around Europe with her friend, and it happened that they passed by Rome for a few days. Tuesday afternoon following class, a few of my classmates and I met her and her friend, Audrey, for lunch at a mom and pop restaurant near Piazza Navona. We ate a typical Roman pasta, carbonara, and then went to Tazza D’Oro, a famous caffe’, after lunch. There we each ordered granita caffe’. Granite are very famous all over Italy (specifically in Sicily), and are essentially fresh slushies. They can be ordered in flavors like limone, mandorle, and caffe’. Ours were made with a layer of fresh whipped cream, or panna, the coffee flavored ice chips, and then another topping of whipped cream.

Tegan and I with our granite!

Wednesday I had my first midterm exam. It was over parts of grammar that I hadn’t studied before, so I was quite nervous when I was going in. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. Following the exam, I had lunch with one of the other ItaliaIdea students at restaurant near Sant’Andrea della Valle, very close to the hotel we used to stay in when I studied with the School of Architecture.

Post-exam lunch with Carolina

Thursday I got to eat at a pizzeria I had heard many good things about but had never gotten around to trying out. Pizzeria Baffetto, near Piazza Navona, had always had a line outside of it whenever I passed by. When we were seated, we ordered a half litre of white wine and our pizze. It didn’t live up to all the hype I’d heard about it, but it was certainly a nice lunch treat. Following lunch, we hit Via del Corso to check out i saldi, or sales. In Italy, there are approximately two times a year when major sales happen. There’s one that occurs through July/August, and one that occurs in February/March. Ironically, we all just bought underwear.

Pizzeria Baffetto, salame

Friday, one of my classmates took us to her shawarma place. Huda, born in Syria but living in Qatar, had not eaten meat since she arrived to respect her faith. However, she found a little shop that served halal meat, and so she took us to the restaurant to get shawarma for lunch. I’d never had it before, but it was a flavorful treat for us all. Since the restaurant owner noticed that she kept coming back and bringing more friends with her, he gave us complimentary dessert: Syrian baklava! After lunch, I decided to treat myself with a pedicure. At this spa, Wellness Aquarium, there a tanks filled with garra rufa fish, who feast on the dead skin cells of feet. When I put my feet in, they flocked to my legs and began munching. It tickled, and I struggled not to laugh out loud. However, when I pulled my feet out at the end of the half hour, they were baby smooth!

Lamb shawarma, compliments of Huda
Syrian baklava with Huda and Mary Claire
Garra rufa
Very ticklish!


First Week in Amman!

As of this week, I’ve officially been in Amman for a little over a week! Boy, has it felt like I’ve been here WAY longer than that! Trust me, it’s been great and exciting getting to explore such a complex place like this, but there have been quite a few bumps in the road along the way.

Let me tell you about my first few days in Amman! I was so lucky and am very grateful that I could stay with one of the kindest and most welcoming alums, Theresa Rinaldo along her fiancé, Jerome. I’m not gonna lie, they had quite the amazing set up compared to what I was expecting in Jordan because not only was there hot water, but there was also a faucet for clean drinking water. I was so amazed by that! I was also able to go to one of the most popular restaurants in Amman, Hashem! WOWZA! That falafel and hummus was pretty amazing. While we were just… “Roman” around downtown, we spotted a concert that we ended up going to at the Amman Citadel. The Citadel is historically significant because has many buildings and ruins from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods so in case you didn’t get the pun, now you know!






It’s always so crowded, but it’s so yummy! Also sorry for the quality… Lighting isn’t always the best in the city!


I also need to add this… I WENT SWIMMING AT THE US EMBASSY! Why this is so amazing to me, I will never know. I felt so important walking in, handing in my ID, receiving a badge, and going through security just to swim in your typical swimming pool. I think the most impressive thing about it was the fact that the bar served Dr. Pepper. NEVER HAVE I EVER SEEN DR. PEPPER OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES!


After a super wonderful and comfortable stay with some nice folks, it was time for me to leave and do what I had been anticipating all summer… Meet up with my roommate, Olga, and move into our apartment. On the way to an infamous McDonald’s that kept being referenced, I had my first full out interaction with a taxi driver who could barely speak English. HOLY COW! WOW! I never knew I could even speak with someone for 30 minutes in Arabic! Little did I know that would not be the craziest thing I experienced here.

Guys, I didn’t even have a mop to clean this up!

The next day is when culture shock began to sink in and living on my own (well, with a roommate) wasn’t so cool anymore. We had decided to go get some groceries like every adult is supposed to do so we could come back and fix dinner. After getting back, we realized that our refrigerator didn’t work! We tried plugging it in and waiting, in hopes that it would get cold, and after 4 hours—nothing. The milk and the “meat” we had bought were going bad so we had to use it. We cooked some pasta with this mystery meat and ate cereal so of course, we needed to be responsible and wash dishes. Unfortunately, as the water was draining, it leaked from the pipe and flooded our entire kitchen area. Can I just say at this point, I’ve had enough of this “adulting” idea, but it didn’t stop there. Olga and I heard a loud knock on our door and finally, it was our housekeeper to the rescue! Except he didn’t speak a lick of English so we were forced to explain our entire situation in Arabic. YIKES. My two years of Arabic did not prepare me for all of this so with our limited vocabulary, we were finally able to get the housekeeper to understand our problem and he fixed our problems! Or so we thought. The craziness continued. As we were waiting for our replacement refrigerator (that was supposed to be delivered to us in 30 minutes), we hear a knock on the door. In hopes of finally settling everything, we open it up and lo and behold, there is a man standing there with a suitcase full of perfumes. He also didn’t speak English very well so here we are, sitting in our small living room having a ton of perfumes sprayed all over us, in the hallways, in our bags, and even on his arms. We ended up having this sales pitch go on and on for over an hour and finally, we just bought this “designer” perfume. It was so strange because this man kept expecting me to translate what he was saying to Olga as if she couldn’t speak Arabic, but little did he know that she knew just as much as I did! It ended up being such a strange experience that all we could do was laugh at how random it was.

Only here will you find “The Top Quality” perfume!

The next day was our placement exams…. TALK ABOUT YIKES! I had absolutely no clue what to expect. I was so nervous because I haven’t practiced in so long, but somehow I managed to receive one of the highest scores! Because of that, I was placed into the highest level, which is level 6. If we’re being honest, before coming to this program, I had thought I would be at a level 2 or 3, but when I saw that I made it to 6, I truly couldn’t believe it. It was something I did not expect, especially since Arabic is something I’m not confident in. Not yet anyways.

And here’s why I was so amazed that there was a faucet for drinking water!

My first day of class was extremely intimidating. First, let me explain how my morning started out. I woke up and began to take a shower when suddenly, the water pressure only becomes drips of water. For a girl with longer and thicker hair, this is not okay. At one point, the water completely stopped. This was probably the first time in all my years of traveling that I ever experienced frustration because of a lack of a necessity. Usually, I’m okay with not having everything I need, but I this time was different for some reason. After about 30 minutes, I was able to finish my shower and head to class. It turns out,  I was with 4 other students who have all studied Arabic abroad for at least a year! And a couple of them for 3 years! This was such a shock to me since they all seem to be so much more advanced than me, yet I somehow was place in the same class. There were two guys from Russia who seemed SO intense. I kid you not, they were even correcting the professor. That definitely did NOT help my anxiety. The second day when one guy walked in, he shook everyone else’s hand but mine! I was so shocked! It finally settled in that he is from Russia and culturally, things might be different.

Overall, despite these series of events, I am still so excited to be here and am amazed with how much I’m growing. My Arabic class here at the University of Jordan is very challenging, but I know I will begin the acquire the language by being a part of this level. It’s very interesting because, as my professor put it, we are “playing with words” every day, meaning that we are always trying to figure out the meaning of a word and its function based on what we know. We’re also learning the exact meaning of the words we know and using them in a way that a native speaker would, not in the way we would if we based it on literal translation. It helps being introduced to the dialect in class because when people speak the colloquial language, I can get a better understanding of what they are saying and can build my vocabulary first in the class then in everyday interactions. I will admit, I’m still learning how to handle being one of the only people here from the United States because I’m WAY out of my comfort zone. I can’t even speak English like I normally would since most people here aren’t fluent, which can be frustrating at times when all the culture shock begins to pile up on me. It seems like everything I’ve known about living a life in another country has gone out the window and quite frankly, there are times where all I want to do is go home so I don’t have to keep trying to figure everything out. Every situation I come across tends to be one where I’m completely lost and need figure out an entirely new way to handle it whether it be with my apartment, interactions with people, or even sitting in class. I am now re-learning everything and although it is incredibly frustrating, I know that with time and prayer, I can and will overcome these small obstacles. Yalla! (or “let’s go”)

P.S.- Sorry for such a long post! I don’t always have internet so when I post, it will more than likely be a bit longer 🙂

Beijing’s Peking Duck

After our first full week of study here in Beijing, we were treated by our teachers with Beijing’s most well known cuisine. To reward us for making it through our first test, we were taken out for lunch to a wonderful restaurant to finally try Beijing’s famous Peking Duck.

Peking Duck originated in Beijing and has been around since the Yuan Dynasty, but became much more popular in the Ming Dynasty when it was often served as a main dish for imperial courts. The dish wasn’t introduced to rest of the world until a restaurant called “Quanjude” developed a way to more conveniently hang roast ducks. Since then, Peking Duck has been a popular favorite among Beijing locals as well as for others around the world.

White feathered Pekin ducks are bred and raised for the popular dish and are roasted in closed ovens or hung ovens. They are glazed with maltose syrup and roasted until they turn a shiny copper brown shade. I learned that it is very important that the duck is to be roasted in an oven because it allows for the meat to be slowly cooked and gives the duck its distinct flavor.

Peking Duck is often times served with Chinese pancakes and fillings so it can be rolled and eaten. With our serving of pecking duck came Chinese pancakes as well as bean sauce, a form of honey mustard, radish, cucumber, sugar, and spring onion. All the toppings can be put together in the Chinese pancake to make a delicious meal.

Stemming from its important history, Peking Duck remains to be a staple in Chinese cuisine. It is great for ceremonial celebrations but also an option for any meal at any time. Withstanding the test of time thus far, it is clear that Peking Duck will continue to be a popular dish for many times to come.


I am a fourth-year student in the School of Architecture double-majoring in Italian. Born in Tema, Ghana, I moved with my family to the U.S. shortly before my fourth birthday. As an architecture student, I spent a year abroad studying and falling in love not only with Italian architecture, but also with Italian language and culture. However, as the program was not meant to be immersive, I sought to have a more comprehensive and deliberate Italian education.

The Summer Language Abroad is important to me because it will be another opportunity to learn more about the Italian way of life and to integrate myself into their society. It will be another important way to prepare myself for moving there following graduation.

I hope this opportunity will allow me to improve my reading and grammatical language skills. I also hope it can help me to open myself up to being more outgoing in a setting where I may not know anyone. I hope it will give me the confidence in my abilities so that I feel able to strike up conversation with strangers.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer are to deepen my advanced reading comprehension, broaden my vocabulary, increase my spoken fluency, strengthen my grammatical skills, and have an overall greater sense of cultural awareness. My Italian fluency depends largely on my exposure to the language, and an immersive experience will greatly increase my fluency. In addition to on-campus courses, I want to utilize summer months through the SLA Grant to continue exposing myself to Italian both formally and informally.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience is to fully engage in the coursework that ItaliaIdea has to offer as well as extracurricular opportunities. Additionally, I’d like to make some friend who only speak Italian, that way I am forced to speak it with them!