An Internship Abroad | LivItaly Tours

Studying abroad opens up a lot of experiences that wouldn’t usually be available in the average semester at college. One aspect of the program with IES is the chance to apply for a part-time internship. While doing an internship in itself can be done any semester at home, interning abroad provides the opportunity to experience the work culture of another country.

This semester I got the opportunity to have an internship with LivItaly Tours, a family-owned tour company that sets itself apart with its small group (6 people max) and private tours throughout Rome, Venice, Florence, and other Italian cities. I get to be a part of creating and editing content for their travel blog.

woman taking photo of Roman forum
That’s my supervisor, Louise, taking a picture in the forum while we were on LivItaly’s VR tour

Along with the internship, there was a once-a-week seminar with other interns where we discussed all kinds of aspects of an internship and cultural differences. My favorite part of that class was getting to hear about everyone else’s internship.  Some worked in a big office, or a cooking class, or one-on-one with just their supervisor. Some faced language barriers, others worked with Americans now living in Italy. While we all worked in Rome, we each had experiences unique to our placements.

My internship was in an apartment building around a big table with 3 or 4 other people at the beginning of the semester. Now, with a few new interns joining the team, we have around 8 of us in the office at one time. Plus, my favorite coworker, Dorris. Her job is to be cute, greet everyone that comes in, and carry her bone from person to person trying to tempt us to stop work and play instead.

Any day is a good day when Dorris says hello

An internship is always a great way to build a resume, learn some new skills, interact with new people, etc. What I ended up appreciating the most though, was having something productive be a regular part of my routine as I figured out life in Rome. Adjusting to a new culture, living in a big city for the first time, and not knowing anyone wasn’t an easy or quick process. Throughout that transition of finding my way to feeling good about myself and living in Rome, I valued having my internship as one of “my places.”

Just like I have my apartment, my walking route to school, my favorite gelato place, grocery store, park, historic site – all these little places that become familiar and make a place become a kind of home. My internship was the my place to go, interact with people I knew, and be productive. It has been something I really appreciated as a part of my study abroad experience.

While you might consider doing an internship for the typical, professional growth kind of reasons, you might come to find that, like me, it becomes a lot more.

Happy Birthday, Rome!

On Friday, Rome celebrated it’s 2,770th birthday! The official founding date of Rome is April 21st, 753 B.C. All weekend there were historical re-enactments culminating in a huge parade reminding me that the Roman people truly cherish and take pride in the rich history of the city they call home.

The Most Brief History of Rome You’ll Ever Read

Legend has it that twins, Romulus and Remus, were raised by a she-wolf. Eventually Romulus killed his brother and became the founder which is why we call the city Rome, not Reme.

Romulus became the first of the seven kings of Rome. However, the people weren’t happy with the monarchy (a preference that would come back to haunt Juilus Caesar later) and decided make a change. Fun way to remember a nice Jeopardy worthy trivia fact – the the last king Tarquinius Superbus, who was driven out of Rome.

Then came the Roman Republic [510-23 B.C.] where the ruling class, the Patricians, were the elite, wealthy, men of Rome. Every year the senate elected two consuls to lead them. Rome then began to wage war and expand its territory. One of the most notable, the Punic Wars, included three wars between Rome and Carthage, involved elephants, and ultimately resulted in Rome destroying Carthage and expanding into North Africa.

Mean Girls Roman history referemce

Occasionally the senate would appoint an emergency dictator who held imperium, complete power, until the issue, usually a war, was resolved. Best example of someone weilding imperiumCincinnatus. Worst example: Julius Caesar, who declared himself dictator for life which was too close to a king for the people’s liking. A group of senators plotted together and just totally stabbed Caesar 33 times during a senate meeting, and effectively sped up the transition from the Republic into the one man rule of the Empire that the senate was trying to avoid in the first place.

Augustus, Caesar’s adopted heir, avenged his predecessor’s murder and eased his way into becoming the first emperor of Rome. From then on, until around the 5th century B.C, the Roman Empire stood under the rule of emperors.

And there you have an incredibly brief, basic overview of Ancient Rome.

Natale di Roma

So, yesterday I got to go to a parade! It started at the Circus Maximus, the race track of ancient Rome. At one end of the track dozens of legions of Roman soldiers, groups of gladiators, preiestesses, and Vestal Virgins were lined up. Two commentators were speaking which probably really added to the experience, but my limited Italian vocabulary meant I understood numbers, happy birthday, and random words here and there.

Vestal Virgin torch lighting ceremony

Before the parade, the standard bearer of every legion lit a torch in a ceremony with the Vestal Virgins. The Vestal Virgins were a group of female priestesses who were in charge of tending the eternal flame of Rome. If the flame went out, bad things would happen. So, the flame was an important symbol and superstition in ancient Rome.

After the opening ceremony, the parade began. There were dancing priestesses, soldiers showing off their testudo battle formation, and emperors with their wives.

Overall, it was a fun weekend in Rome with so much to see and remind you of how important the long history of this city is to its people.

Thanks for reading,

Spring Is Here and So Were My Parents!

I was lucky enough to spend my spring break traveling in Italy with my parents! We started in Rome and toured the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. It’s hard to describe visiting a place that holds such renowned artwork and museums showcasing items that span a longer period of time than Christianity itself.

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The next morning we boarded a train to Venice where we spent a few days exploring the Floating City. There’s nothing quite like this city of stone bridges standing over countless canals that carve narrow watery alleys between the bordering buildings.

Today, tourism is a primary contributor toward keeping this city afloat. While we toured Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica, both incredible and definitely worth seeing, I had the most fun getting lost winding through narrow alleys and finding the locals’ Venice. Once you step beyond St. Mark’s Square or the main Rialto bridge area, you can find a different side to Venice’s enchanting charm.

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From Venice we traveled to Florence, a city known for its Renaissance art and architecture. We went to the Uffizi Gallery, home to Raphael’s Self-Portrait, Caravaggio’s Bacchus, Botticelli’s Venus, work by Michelangelo, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.

We spent some time in the Duomo, climbing the bell tower, and seeing the baptistry, I even climbed to the top of the dome! And, of course we also saw Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia.

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The rest of my parents’ time in Italy was spent in Rome. I was able to show them where I live in Prati, what I see on my walk to school, and play tour guide at some of my favorite places. From Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman forum, we saw a lot of Rome together.

It was really nice to be able to spend time with my parents here in Italy. We saw so many beautiful sights, ate a ton of pasta, and tried a lot of different gelato flavors. It made spring break that much more special to be able to share it with people I love. And hopefully they had just as much fun exploring Italy with me and getting to see what my life here in Rome this semester is like.

Thanks for reading,

Rome Versus Home

Wherever you travel, whether it be a new town, a new state, or a new country, there are going to be everyday things that are quite different from where you’re from. Here are a few of the many differences between my home and Rome.

  • Crossing the Street. While there are traffic signals at major intersections, they’re not everywhere. When they aren’t present in Rome, you don’t just stand on the corner waiting for a break in traffic. Instead, you stare down the oncoming cars while walking into the street and they stop for you. While intimidating at first, it helps that most vehicles are scooters or little Smart cars.
  • Parking Rules (or the lack-thereof?). With a population of over two million, Rome is a busy city with a lot of cars. Finding a parking spot isn’t easy, and the Romans like to get creative. Some of my favorite parking jobs are made my Smart cars taking advantage of their small size.
  • Clothing. While the temperatures are reaching into the 60s here in Rome, the Italians are still wearing their winter coats and scarves. I find it funny how that’s the case here while at Hope the Pine Grove would be filled with students, hammocks, and Spike Ball games. They also don’t wear a lot of color here, mostly just black, grey, and darker tones.
  • Visiting Churches. While there are certainly exceptions, most churches in the U.S have visitors on the weekends or Wednesdays for services. In Rome, they seem to embrace the fact that their churches really are museums within themselves. For the most part, when there isn’t a service, you can walk in anytime during the week to marvel at the church or sit and pray.
  • History. Any place in the U.S is new compared to Europe, and especially compared to some of the ancient ruins in and around Rome. From the Colosseum and the Roman forum, to Ostia Antica and Villa Adriana, the list of historical sites is impressive.

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Thanks for reading,

Weekend in Switzerland

Sharon Creech is one of my favorite authors. Of all of her books I read in the library growing up, one of my favorites is BloomabilityThe novel follows Dinnie as she navigates living with her aunt and uncle in a new country and attending an American boarding school in Lugano, Switzerland. She tackles homesickness, goes on adventures, and makes friends who come from all over the world. One friend, Keisuke, creates some of his own words while learning English, including “bloomability,” his twist to the word “possibility.”

Back then, this book inspired me to add Switzerland to my list of places to visit. Now, the concept of “bloomability,” the opportunity to grow, is one of the many ways to describe studying abroad. My friend Emma, who studied in Chile this fall, gave me a scrapbook for Christmas labeled, “Erin’s Bloomability Book.” She explained how studying abroad really is a time where you will “bloom,” grow in ways you wouldn’t in your comfort zone at home.

While I have weeks of bloomability ahead of me, this weekend I had the chance to travel to Switzerland. Though I did not visit Lugano, I found the same peaceful beauty in Interlaken.

Me standing in front of Lake Brienz with the Swiss Alps snow covered in the background
Lake Brienz. Yes, it really is that blue!

I went with three girls from my apartment and a few other students from my program. We traveled through a company called Bus2Alps that designs trips specifically for students studying abroad. So we got on a bus around 8:00 p.m. on Thursday night and arrived in Interlaken around 7:00 a.m. Friday morning.

I went on a snowshoe tour guided by Peter who’s a fan of Pittsburgh because Jaromir Jagr played for the Pens. He’s from the Czech Republic and lives in Bali teaching surfing most of the year except for a few months in the winter spent in Interlaken teaching snowboarding, skiing, and leading tours. We took a cable car from Isenfluh to Sulwald where we hiked up the mountain listening to stories about the farmers that live there and the towns that can be seen down in the valley below. The second part of the hike, running and falling into the fresh powder on the way down the slope back to Sulwald, was the most fun I’ve had in awhile.

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Saturday we went on a day trip to Zurich. This is definitely the most calm city I have ever visited. And I have never seen a river running through a city be so clear that you can see the rocks and lost phones beneath the water. We climbed to the top of one of the towers of the Grossmünster church for an incredible view of the city.

Back in Interlaken we went out for cheese fondue and bought chocolate. Interlaken is probably not alone in their pride of Swiss dairy products that is highlighted by the presence of cows for decoration throughout the town.

In the morning I walked to Lake Brienze with a friend, bought some chocolate to take home, and had hot chocolate before getting on the bus back to Rome.

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Overall, Switzerland’s beauty was unreal. The peace and calm of of Interlaken was a welcome break from the hustle of life in Rome. I am looking forward to the bloomability of traveling there again someday.

Thanks for reading,

Rome: First Impressions

It’s hard to sum up one week of a somewhat overwhelming amount of new things, but I’ll use pictures to make up for a lack of words.

After three hours of sitting on the plane waiting for Delta’s computer system to come back online, the flight from Atlanta to Rome went smoothly. Even from the air, Italy was a stunning sight to take in and it still hasn’t stopped impressing me. A little less than 9 hours later and I was walking through Rome’s Fiumicino airport with two other students in my IES program. We waited for a shuttle that took us to our respective apartments in the Prati neighborhood of Rome.

Just while walking to the IES Center from my apartment I pass Castel Sant’Angelo, get a view of the Vatican, and cross the Tiber River. It’s not just the sights that are impressive but, of course, the food is as well.

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Tomorrow we will go on a walking tour of Rome for a few hours and Monday classes will begin. Tuesday I have a meeting with the company I will be interning for and my apartment spontaneously booked a trip to Switzerland next weekend! There’s a lot of exciting new adventure ahead this week alone and I can’t wait to see what this semester holds.


When (Not Yet) In Rome

While I wait for my semester abroad to begin, I thought I might as well share some of what I love about Hope with you all. When I chose to study abroad there were some things I knew I would miss: my friends, downtown Holland, Hope’s campus, etc. In addition to those things that were obvious to me, here are a few other things at Hope that I’ll be missing this semester.

1. Chapel

stained glass window
The rose window in Dimnent Chapel

It’s going to be strange moving from a campus with services 4 times a week to a city that’s filled with churches worshiping God in a language I barely know. A friend told me that, for her, studying abroad became a time for growth in which she gained a new perspective of God and a fresh reminder of his divinity and our inability to truly understand him. Her story was encouraging, as well as the fact that I can always listen to Chapel and the Gathering online.

2. Career Development Center

This Hope resource has all kinds of services available to students. From résumé help to mock interviews, this is the place to go for help with moving towards your future after Hope. While I have been working on summer internship applications I have missed being able to drop in for advice on my application materials. Thankfully, plenty of résumé and cover letter advice, tips, and samples, are available online.

3. Spring Traditions

Students sitting in the grass on campus
Spring Fling is an event that always draws tons of students, freshmen to seniors alike.

Two of the many events that stick out to me when I think of spring semester are Dance Marathon and Spring Fling. First is Dance Marathon, a fundraising event for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. It’s a 24-hour event that a team of students spend the entire year planning, making decorations, and fundraising, all for the kids. Then Spring Fling is one of the final events of the year. On the last day of class the Pine Grove is filled up with inflatables, food, music, and students celebrating the end of another school year. You can line up early to get a free t-shirt, play laser tag, and line the sidewalk to watch The Push, a team shopping cart race.

While there are things I will miss at Hope, I cannot wait to study abroad this semester. However, thinking about how much I’ll miss is yet another reminder of how I really picked the right school for me. And I’m glad I have one more year to spend living at Hope.

Thanks for reading!

Ready to Grow

Hope’s campus is back to life with students, classes, and activities as usual, but I am still at home waiting for my semester to begin. This spring I will be studying abroad in Rome, Italy, with IES. Orientation week begins on January 30.

It’s weird talking with my friends at Hope, knowing exactly what I’m missing there, while I’m in this period of waiting and anticipation for this semester filled with unknowns.

At Hope I know I’d be settling into my new, but familiar routine. Most of my classes would be in Martha Miller, the home to the Communication and Modern and Classical Language Departments. I’d go to Chapel three times a week, grab a to-go box from Phelps for lunch between classes, and go for runs in the Dow to hide from the Michigan winter outside. I’d be living in a house with my friends, cooking dinner, and having movie nights on the weekend.

Instead my room is somewhat controlled chaos as I try to figure out what to pack. I’m slowly learning a little more Italian (Duolingo is my friend) and gathering tips from friends and family who have been to Rome or studied abroad.

And as exciting as it is to think about the classes I will take, the internship I will do, and the incredible history I will be surrounded by, my emotions no longer reflect the, “Wow that’s so cool!” reactions I get from those I tell about what I am doing this semester.

What the most daunting aspect of studying abroad right now is also what will, at the end of the semester, be the most rewarding. Currently, it scares me to be leaving my comfort zone and support system at Hope. Ultimately, however, I know that taking classes, doing an internship, and learning to live and interact within a foreign country is going to lead me to grow in ways that I could not otherwise. To sum those thoughts up eloquently, here is a quotation by psychologist James Hillman:=

Anytime you’re gonna grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you’re hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.

—James Hillman

This studying abroad experience is kind of daunting right now and will surely become somewhat overwhelming as I learn to adjust to life in Rome. However, choosing to force myself out of my comfort zone like this will no doubt open up many opportunities for new growth and learning. So while I move through this period of waiting my goal is to keep Hillman’s quotation in my mind to remember that the very things that scare me now are the same things that I will be thankful for in a few months’ time.

Thanks for reading,

10-Day Forecast: Studying With a Chance of Snow

Christmas is just over 2 weeks away, snow is in the forecast for the next week, and final exams begin in a few days.

I’m sitting with my housemates as we divide our attention between Hairspray Live and the homework that needs to be done. I have two exams and a research presentation on Monday, my last exam Wednesday, and then I’m done.

Over the next week, in addition to finishing off the semester, I need to pack up all my things, say, “see you later” to all my friends, and leave campus until next Fall.

While I’m excited for the adventures that await me in Rome, for now I’m not looking forward to goodbyes and getting nervous about the transition to an entirely different culture.

This semester I had the opportunity to work as an RA with Hope’s Residential Life, something I’ve had hopes of doing since freshman year that I’ve enjoyed very much. It introduced me to a team of new people on Hope’s campus and helped me really focus in on how I can better serve those around me.

I have been able to live with some of my closest friends. The laughter, homework help, tears, holiday decorating, stories, movie nights, and so much more have filled this semester with so many good times.

I am looking forward to the ways my experiences abroad will help me grow. And I am thankful that I have another year here at Hope to continue to process what I learn next semester and keep working toward finding a place for my next steps after graduation. All alongside the people I met two and a half years ago that became friends who are more like family that made Hope more like home

Thanks for reading,

’Tis the Season for More Hope Traditions

The annual Christmas Tree Lighting is one of my favorite Hope traditions.

Everyone circles around a giant pine tree decorated with ornaments covered in our names. We count down from ten and, like magic, Christmas spirit skyrockets as the tree lights up the clearing.

We sing Christmas carols and light candles, quietly laughing as we try to protect the flames from the winter wind.

With friends, food, Christmas, and community, President Knapp’s tree lighting is always a fun occasion.

This coming weekend are Hope’s Christmas Vespers services.

Every year Dimnent Chapel gets decked out in Christmas trees, lights, and poinsettias. Hope students perform in this Christmas concert that they put so much time and hard work into preparing.  Choirs and the full orchestra come together to celebrate the Christmas season with the Hope and Holland communities.

It’s one of the many Hope College events that you need to see at least once. If you can’t make it to this weekend’s show and are in need of some Christmas magic, you can view last year’s performance below.

Thanks for reading,