Sunday, July 24, 2011

Work.

It's hard for me to separate my first week of work from all my weeks of work now after so much time in what I'd like to now refer to as The Lost Years of my blog (despite only being a few weeks). Therefore, I am going to use this as a general blog entry about my internship in general: the people, the stories, the reality.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely love this freaking place. I love it. I'll admit, I am disappointed that the internship is not directed at marketing like I was assured it would be. It is definitely not what I plan on doing for a living. However, I have always maintained the idea that it is important for me to know and understand as many aspects of the industry as possible in order to do my job as a marketer more effectively. This is why I took a basic apparel design class to know construction techniques, and why I find writing for CollegeFashionista to be important for me, even though I have no intentions on doing journalism anymore.

I started out doing a lot of busywork tasks for everyone there, which was okay with me. I spent many hours pricing clothes, taking cardboard collars out of shirts, turning hangers around, and ordering clothes on the racks. I really did not mind doing these tasks, because I knew that they were things that needed to be done, things that these people would have to do if I wasn't there to do them and I'd rather them work on more important things that I can't do, and let's face it: I'm an intern. An intern. I am the lowest of the low. I am the scum on the bottom of the shoe of the fashion industry. I know this, and the sooner you accept this, the happier you'll be with your assignments.

After being there for only a week and forming relationships with the employees, I was relinquished from a lot of my menial work duties. I have spent a lot of time sitting in with each one of them with their clients (they work as franchisers, and buyers come in to look at the collections and they help them select pieces within their budget for their stores). While it was very difficult for me to follow at first because of my limited knowledge of Italian and this area of the industry, I am amazed at how easy it is for me now. Maybe it's because I have sat in with literally countless clients and know the routine like the back of my hand, but I'd also like to think it is because my Italian has improved so much.

The showroom is absolutely huge. Huge. There are probably over 15 different showrooms within the place, and there are three buildings. Majority of our collections are much sportier brands, like U.S. Polo, Harmont and Blaine, Jeckerson, and Timberland. I work with a woman named Dina often, for the Stefanel collection, which is one of the few women-specific brands we have and definitely one of the more upscale ones. With Dina, I started out just trying to listen to her with clients and really understanding very little of it. There was another intern there, Andrea, for my first few weeks and Dina told him to show me how to organize the collections for the buyers. It was very "you have to feel  where the pieces should go," which is not how I work at all. I'm very logical, I wanted reasonable explanations for why those pants should go there. Every time he tried to provide me with a logical reason, the next example would contradict it. It took me a long time to be able to grasp the concept. Dina told me I needed to know this because we would be getting a huge shipment in July with the new collections and I would be in charge of doing this... and she wasn't kidding. This is what I spent my last week doing.

Dina was away Monday and Tuesday this past week, and I was in charge of organizing and ordering the 500+ pieces for about 5 collections. It may not sound like a big deal or anything important, but it really is. When a buyer comes in, they have no idea about what the collection is going to have to offer and what they are supposed to do with it. You have to know all of that. You have to organize the collection so they can see it in a logical order and be able to understand how it flows. You have to simultaneously set it up in order by equal fabrics, by colors, and by looks (putting a jacket, then a shirt, then bottoms so they can see how the pieces pair together). It's incredibly difficult. Dina, of course, can go through a collection and have it set up in 3 minutes. I took two days. On Tuesday additionally, I went through and priced all of the pieces, but at the end of two days that was all I accomplished. I was terrified that when Dina came back on Wednesday, she would look at me and say, "Really? This is it? This is what you accomplished in two days?" and change everything I did (which she has in the past).

She came back, stopped short, looked at the collections and said, "This is perfect." My jaw hit the floor. "This is perfect, I don't have to change a thing. You really understood this... and believe me, I don't compliment people." Which is true, I imagine... working with Dina feels very The Devil Wears Prada sometimes to me. This is mainly just because Dina knows her job very well and has a specific way of doing things, and I want to impress her and be able to successfully do what she asks of me. I feel very much like a puppy sometimes, sitting there and praying that I will get a pat on the head rather than scolded (though, Dina has never once scolded me. She tells it like it is, but it has never been mean, only constructive).

On Friday, one of the biggest clients came in early for her appointment, equipped with her 100,000 euro budget, and Dina was not ready for her. She told the client, "This is Kate, she is an intern here for the summer. I need to finish something up on the computer here, but if you have any questions ask her, because she knows this collection." Oh boy. Mind you, my Italian has improved tremendously, but I still have the vocabulary of a 6 year old. However, I was still able to answer her questions, and had to even model for her (as our normal model, Raffaella, was not in yet).

Afterward, Dina handed me the presentation on all of the collections which includes the color palette, inspiration, looks, etc. and said, "I'm going to get a coffee and be back in a few minutes. Present this to the client," and walked away. I feel like my jaw hits the floor a lot here. Again, I was successfully able to present the collections, and when she buyer was not confident about the huge theme of color-blocking, I was able to explain the importance to her and how to properly color-block all in Italian. I believe I deserve some bragging points on this one. Kudos to me.

During the time of going through the pieces, I was able to follow their conversation perfectly. I anticipated what Dina wanted, knowing when she was talking about the jacket that she would want to see it with the shorts, and she even complimented me on how impressed she was with how I was following. For a woman who gives probably three compliments a year, I was thrilled that I was receiving all of them.

Of course, being very much like The Devil Wears Prada, Dina has definitely not only complimented me. She told me I need to seriously work on my knowledge of fabrics, which is absolutely true. I can tell cheap fabrics from expensive ones, but in a collection like this where all the fabrics are expensive, I have a hard time telling the silks from the silk blends. So, she is justified in that. She also made sure to tell me during lunch that I could still get another plate of pasta if I was still hungry, but I was going to get fat if I kept eating so much pasta. Well, I guess this is the fashion industry. Though, to give her the benefit of the doubt, I think she just meant it as informing me that pasta can make a person fat, not telling me I should invest in a gym membership. I definitely love working with Dina, because she actually challenges me and I feel like I walk home at the end of the day saying I learned something.

So that is some catch-up on the kind of work I have had to do. Additionally, I have also had to translate for English speaking clients a couple times, and on a rare occasion had to be a bathing suit model (but that was entirely just because it was Sunday and Raffaella doesn't work on Sundays). I had to talk to my boss once about the one building (the building with all of the clothes for children), because they were huge culprits of taking advantage of free labor and making me do horribly menial tasks that I was not learning anything from. While I can put my tail between my legs and accept that I am an intern and they will not give me my own collection and clients to work with after a month, the fact of the matter is that I did pay a lot of money to be here and I did not want to go home saying that I learned how to cut up colored straws to put on hangers to separate collections. This is a learning experience, not a working experience, because if it was then I would have needed a Visa. So, I'm here to learn, not to do your busywork. When there is literally nothing to do, I'd prefer to just sit and talk to somebody in Italian, because then at least I am practicing the language (which, by the way, I have been able to have full two hour conversations in Italian!)

I want to talk about the people at work. This is the main reason why I love this place so much: the people are fantastic. There are over 40 people who work there, and there are probably only 2 or 3 that I don't care for. Everyday I come into work, smile on my face, and give each of them an enthusiastic, "Ciao! Come stai?!" And they return the bright smile and ask me how I am doing also. First, there is Maria, who is an American from Massachusetts and one of my only sources of reverting back to my mother-tongue. She has lived here for 12 years and of course is completely fluent now, but it's nice to be able to actually get closer to somebody there. I never really thought about how difficult it would be to make strong connections with people, because once you get passed the initial, "I'm studying fashion marketing," "I live in New Jersey, but I've lived in London for five months also," and "Yes, I do like pizza, but I prefer gelato" conversations, I don't have the vocabulary to get to know somebody beyond that.

But, I digress. I definitely have my favorites there, and one of them is Enzo. Enzo is fantastic. He speaks a very, very little bit of English, but we do speak in English often because I do like getting to know him further and I can't do that in Italian. He is so sweet, and does not treat me like a lowly intern. I worked with him and two clients (who I had to be the bathing suit model for, because he works on the bathing suit and underwear collections), and he went to go get the coffee. I told him I would do it, and he asked why. "Because I'm the intern, you should sit with your clients." He looked at me weird and said, "Yes, but you are not a slave. I deserve to get the coffee as much as you do."

One day after work, a man on a motorcycle stopped me and asked for directions to the metro. I told him, and he asked me something I did not understand. I apologized and told him I did not speak much Italian, which lead to the usual, "Where are you from? What are you doing here? Do you like Milan?" questions. I answered, and told him I needed to go. Two streets later he pulls up from another direction, stops in front of my crosswalk, and asks if he is going the right way. Yes, sir, it's right down there. He proceeds to ask me if I like Italian men, if I have an Italian man, if I'd like one, and if I would like his Italian penis. I don't know, yes I do, no I don't, and absolutely not. I told him, "Sir, f*** off. I know you don't speak English, but I think you know what that means. F*** off," and walked away.

Well, I told Enzo about this the next day at work. He looks at me and says, "Next time, you call me and tell me. I kill him. I have a nightstick in my car, I break every bone in his body. I can kill, and it is not a problem for me." A little overboard? Possibly... and the threats definitely were not to be taken seriously. There is something comforting in knowing that everyone at work really does care about me though and looks out for me.

Enzo isn't the only one. Armando, who I absolutely love as well, responded in a similar way when I told him about the creepy client who gave me his number and wanted to meet up with me that weekend. He told me next time to find him and he would say something to him. I joked around, "What are you going to do, beat him up?" And he looked at me and goes, "No," and makes a hand gesture of a pistol. "I'll kill him." Again, a little overboard and definitely not to be taken seriously, as it was implied as a joke. But, don't worry Dad, I have plenty of people here taking care of me.

After the motorcycle incident, they don't like me to go to the metro alone anymore. Andrea, one of the male models, has walked me there before, and some people have driven me there like Enzo, Marilina, and Donato.

Let's talk about Donato now. I absolutely love Donato. I just love talking to him, and he's always so sweet to me. I sit in with him and his clients often, and he enjoys my company. Or, at least, I'd like to think he does, because I enjoy his company a lot. He calls me "mia cara Kate" sometimes, and I asked him what it means and he said, "my darling Kate." Aww. He drove me home from work on Friday when there was a metro strike and I couldn't get home, and he said he is going to be very sad when I leave (when prompted, of course). I'm going to be sad too!

There is also Maurizio, who looks like Yogi Bear and always will randomly say to me, "I can't Kate, I'm married," or "I can't, you're just too young for me," without a single prompt. Mohammad, our personal chef in the kitchen who makes us free lunch everyday, apparently hates everybody except for me. I help clean up dishes for him after lunch (so I guess my 4 years training at The Grill Room has come in handy) and I'm the only one he doesn't get mad at when I ask for another helping (even though Dina thinks it will make me fat). Max works in Timberland and is always so excited to see me in the morning, and constantly asks me why I don't go out and party at night. I don't know, I'm tired! I'll admit, I have a little bit of a secret crush on Michele, but I don't know how his wife would feel about that (or his three kids). Alessandro blows me kisses every time I walk by, and Marilina always gives me a "Ciao, bella!" in the morning. I absolutely adore Raffaella, the Brazilian model/receptionist who I eat lunch with almost everyday and help change for clients just so we can gossip about them in the back room. Luiza is so sweet, and I think it's adorable when she asks me to help her with her English, because we just have such a language barrier between us. Andrea, the model (not the first intern, who I do miss terribly) and I have become good friends, and we get very silly by the end of the day, punching each other and running away or pretending he's a ballerina and trying to jump into my arms. There is another Maurizio, and he responds to my greeting with an exaggerated American-accented "Ciao," everyday. He's really a sweetheart though, and asked me for a recipe for how Americans marinade meat for a BBQ because he "needs to know." I've baked them all cookies before, always offer to help them, and they just absolutely love me (I've been told, at least).

I mean, they absolutely love me. Apparently, they have all gone to my bosses and told them individually how much they love me, and how they want me to get a job there. A bunch of us went out for a beer after work last week, and when I mentioned that I want to come back to Italy after I finish school in December, they all turned to Maurizio (Yogi Bear one, who is a partner with my boss) and said GET HER A JOB. Well, my boss Alessandra told me on Friday that if I want to come back in January, she would have a job for me. Oh. My. Goodness. Now, this isn't exactly what I want to be doing, the pay is not very good, and I can't imagine I'd have incredible tasks because I don't speak much Italian. However, it's a starter job, it's guaranteed, and Tina (my landlady) has already informed me that I can come back whenever I want and live with her. So, it's nice to know that in such a terrible job market I was offered a solid job with absolutely no effort. It's an option at least, right? And I just love these people so much that I may be willing to give up working directly in marketing so I could be with them for a bit longer. Only having one week left with them is killing me!

Some pictures of different showrooms at work: 

 Jeckerson.

 Reception area.

 U.S. Polo.
 Hetrego.
Harmont and Blaine.

Catch-up.

I want to apologize. If there is a "Horrible Blogger of the Year" award, I deserve it for the next few years. You know how this kind of thing goes... it's like cleaning your room. You know you fell a little bit behind, but it was so overwhelming to think about catching up so you just kept letting it fall further and further behind until suddenly you were living in a sky-high pile of dirty plates, unwashed clothes, and chaos. Well, that's what happened here. I started work, and I just became so busy from work and then so tired after work, that I did not feel like playing the catch-up. However, today is Sunday, I am here in Milan, I was going to go into work today but I was so exhausted that I decided not to, and so I am finally going to catch up on my blogs (and promise you a blog entry a day for the rest of my trip).

Are you ready? Let's take it back. Way back. Back more than a month ago, to when I mentioned that weekend of fabulous activities. Ringing a bell? Thursday night was the Armani Party, Saturday was the John Varvatos Fashion Week show, and Sunday was the Dolce and Gabbana party.

Well, the Armani party. Let's logically start there. Alana and I walked to meet Stephen, the Armani model we met, at the Duomo to head over to the club. He brought two friends, Fabio and Ian, and we met up with Amanda, Carly, and Fleur. The first club was pretty cool: we got a drink, us girls sat and chatted, and it was a nice atmosphere. The club was cool (G Lounge, I believe), and it was clear that the entire place was booked out for the Armani models. The night was looking like it was going to be decently cool.

Then we went to the second club. Let's look at the world for a second. I am a little 21-year-old, blonde hair, blue eyed, middle/upper-middle class white girl. Should discrimination exist on any level? Absolutely not. However, I have never once been a position where I was discriminated against. All of the models were getting in for free because it was their party. All of the girls they brought got in for free too, oh except... wait, you stop. Me? Yes. Huh? 20 euros for you. WHAT?!

I'm the only one that has to pay? Um, excuse me? What the hell is going on here? Stephen stayed outside with me and tried to sort it out, reason with them, yadda yadda. He got it down to 10 euros and a free drink, but still... Babygurl was pissed. It wasn't until I got into the club and saw Fleur and she said, "I hate that they do that, I think it's so wrong," and I asked what she was talking about that I knew why I was the only one stopped. "They only let girls in for free if they are models or look like they could be models. You're too short." Oh hell no. They did NOT just make me pay to get into the club because I was cursed with a shorter spine. I have never once felt insecure about my height before now.

The night just got sketchier from there. As the models got more drinks in them and I clearly didn't (because my drink money was spent on getting into the club and all I had left was my taxi money), it was just uncomfortable. Stephen's one friend was all up on me, and I kept saying "No" and pushing him away, and he gave me a whole, "I could get any girl here, point out a girl and I could get her," speech. Okay, go do it! I'm not stopping you! When Amanda was trying to pull me away and he literally put his arm around my waist and hoisted me off the ground to tear me away from her was when I decided I had enough, and Alana, Amanda, and I grabbed the next taxi home.

Let's move on to the John Varvatos Fashion Show. This was unbelievably phenomenal. It's cool on it's own to be able to say I had an invitation to see a show in Fashion Week in Milan. I got there and waited outside for Luiza, and then we walked into the beautifully decorated entryway. After giving our names at the door and having our ticket stamped off, we grabbed a free glass of champagne and took some much-needed stereotypical I'm-a-young-girl-who-means-nothing-in-the-fashion-world-yet-but-somehow-I-managed-to-be-here-and-this-is-the-single-coolest-thing-to-happen-to-me pictures.

Then, the show was about to start, so we headed inside. The runway was absolutely beautiful: the back was covered in plants with a huge golden gate that opened up for the models, who walked to "Baba O'Riley" (Dad will be proud that I'm one of the few young people that knows the name of the song is not "Teenage Wasteland"). The show was beautiful, and I used the time afterward to utilize my new business cards and hand them out to people coming out of the show. I got to speak to several people, including magazine editors, but the best part was that I met the head of sales for John Varvatos and he gave me a press packet which includes the contact information for all the heads of his business. Yeah for networking!

Sunday was the coolest day of all. We got all dolled up to go to the Dolce and Gabbana party at their boutique on Via Della Spiga, which was also Invitation Only. There was a band playing there, and they were actually very good. The idea was that the store was launching lines for all new designers, and each band member wore a look from each designers collection. There was free champagne all night, and it was the only time in my life I felt like maybe some people would be fooled into thinking I could actually afford Dolce and Gabbana (after all, you had to be somebody to even get in there, even though I'm clearly not).

None of this matters though. None of it mattered the moment Lilianna exclaimed in the middle of our conversation, "Oh my God that's Dolce and Gabbana."

And she was right. I turned around, and there they were, just standing there talking to somebody worth far more than we are. That didn't stop us though. I don't remember what my thought processes were in that minute, if I had any at all, but I made a beeline for them, starstruck beyond words, and was only able to muster out, "Could I please get a picture? Please?" Gabbana was talking to some business person who was in the process of dragging him away, but Domenico Dolce stuck around for me to get a picture with him that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It will probably be the only picture on all of my Christmas cards forever, even after I have a husband and family. Speaking of husband, it will probably be the picture on the wedding invitations. I want a large print of this picture at my funeral. I don't want any other picture to ever overshadow this picture at the epitome of what my life amounted to. Remember that, people.

 With Alana at the first club for the Armani Party.

 Outside the John Varvatos Fashion Show with Luiza!

THE picture. Me and Domenico Dolce. I could have died after and been okay with it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Opportunity.

This week is a little bit unreal.

It was my friend Amanda's birthday the other night, so we all went out for an aperitivo to celebrate at the same place we went to with Global Experiences, The Jazz Cafe. It was a lot of fun, and it was nice for us all to have a night out together. We all made a toast to Amanda, and as any group of four girls does we determined who our Sex and the City characters would be (I'm Carrie, Amanda is Charlotte, Alana is Miranda, and Carly is Samantha). While we were there, this guy and girl a table away began talking to us because they were excited to meet English speakers (a common trend when your language is the minority somewhere). The guy, Steven, is from Orlando like Carly, and Fleur is from Holland. It turns out that he happens to be an Armani model, and invited us all to come out tonight for an event (well, party, but "event" sounds classier) with all of the male Armani models. Um, yes please. So what if they're all going to be homosexual? And who cares if I'm absolutely exhausted and would probably rather stay in and spend the night with John Steinback or Vladimir Nabokov? When else am I going to get to say I partied with Armani models in Milan? Let's be real. I am going to seize every opportunity I get out here.

Also, our Global Experiences representative here in Milan totally came through. Well, for some of us at least. She was able to score three tickets to Fashion Week shows on Saturday, and gave them out on a first come, first serve basis. So, I am officially going to Fashion Week in Milan with Amanda and Luiza! I feel bad that the others couldn't get tickets, but who knows? Invitations happen so last minute in the fashion world, there's still honestly a good chance for everyone. Lilianna may be getting tickets where she works too, and if they're for a different night then that would be so phenomenal. I ordered business cards, and I am praying they get here on time. Well, I'm not actually praying. Don't be silly. But, I really hope they do.

So, with the Armani party tonight, Fashion Week on Saturday, and the Dolce and Gabbana party on Sunday, all I can think is... why isn't there something fabulous lined up for tomorrow? That just doesn't seem right. 

Of course, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Or, rather, until someone starts work. Yes, while fabulous opportunities are presenting themselves all at once, apparently (I'm told) the fabulous-ness won't last forever (we'll see about that). Yes, Monday is my first day of work at my internship, and I am both incredibly excited and incredibly nervous. What if I get lost on my way there? What if I'm dressed inappropriately? What if they don't have anything for me to do, or too much for me to do? What if I have too much trouble with the language barrier? What if there's a huge fire and it's up to me to choose which collection to save, and I save the Dolce and Gabbana section and I get fired (ha, fired, because of a fire... get it?) because they wanted me to save the Armani garments? What if a model breaks her hip last minute saving the Armani collection from the fire because I failed to save the right one, and they need me to step in as a model, and I trip and fall on the runway and ruin the garment and everyone loses their jobs and vows to not stop until they can find me to burn me at the stake? Okay, maybe that's a little far (but probably not). I just want to do really well at this internship. I'm going to just play the "I'm adorable, please love me" card I typically pull out for these occasions and hope it works.

It's interesting to be at such a different personal state than the rest of the interns here. I see everyone going through the struggles with homesickness, the feelings of wanting to throw in the towel and just go home because it would be easier... essentially everything I felt in the beginning of my trip in London. I'm not incredibly homesick. I miss my family more than I could ever say, but I've come to terms with it all. I know I'll be home really soon. These two months don't feel like a long time to me because I've already done over 5 months. To them, it's a big deal, because they aren't even a third of the way there. I'm more than two-thirds of the way done. I just want to tell them, "Stop getting yourself down about it. You're just complaining about it because it makes it easier on the homesickness if you can point out everything you hate about the place. It's not a bad place at all, you're just seeing it that way because you're getting hit with culture shock hard right now, but it will go away," but I know they won't really believe me... I didn't believe it when people told me that. We have such a fabulous opportunity out here though, and I don't want to see them waste any of their time like I did. I look back and hate myself for how much of my time in London I spent moping about it.

I do really miss my family the past few days though. I think it's mainly just because it's even harder to keep in touch now, because at least in London I had consistent internet access (although terribly slow) and I was able to stay up later to talk to them. I have school and work early every morning now, and can't stay up until 3 A.M. like I was. I know I'm in the last leg of the race now though, and the light at the end of the long European tunnel is starting to become visible, so I really am doing fine. It took me far too long to get to this point, but I'm here and I'm feeling good about my place out here. I'm dreading the reverse cultural shock when I get home, though.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Como.

It's very difficult to be a good blogger when my internet is so sporadic, and so slow when I am actually able to get it. However, fear not: I will assuredly catch you up on everything in the past week. Which shouldn't take too terribly long.

For the most part, last week was primarily spent at the language courses. I really do love these classes. My teachers are great, I love the girls in the classes (the Global Experiences girls and a group of girls from Korea that are just so hilarious), and I feel like I learn really useful language skills everyday. I was a lot more diligent the first week about independent study, which definitely affected me in class last week. I need to crack down on the books again. I am making sets of flashcards for nouns, verbs, and adjectives, so I can keep up studying even after the courses are done. If I get into a routine with it, like maybe go through them every night before bed, then it will keep all the words fresh in my memory and it will take less and less time each night. That's the goal, at least. We'll see how that one pans out.

On Saturday, we went to Lake Como for the day with Global Experiences. It is beautiful there. I want to live there. You may think that's a joke, or like a "Well I'd like to live there too! And Paris, and Greece, and Germany, and..." kind of deal, but I am serious. It is exactly the kind of town I want to live in. It's small, beautiful, super Italian, and only an hour train ride from Milan. If I got to live in Lake Como, I wouldn't mind an hour daily commute. Maybe George Clooney could give me one of his two mansions in Lake Como. Yeah, two. Really? Is that entirely necessary, George? What, you need another one just in case you get bored of the first Lake Como mansion? You didn't know which one to pick so to avoid buyer's remorse you picked both? Some people have it all (and someday I will too).

But, I digress. In our typical fashion, immediately upon arrival to Lake Como we decided it was time for lunch. I got delicious tortellini with prosciutto in a cream sauce. I have yet to have a bad meal here, and I don't see it happening ever. We then went for our boat tour around the lake, but they told us we had to wait so we went and got gelato instead. When in doubt, eat more food. This was literally the best gelato that has ever happened to me in my life though, and I have had some pretty good gelato here. They make it fresh everyday, and I got a super dark chocolate gelato that literally made me drool. If I died in that very moment, I really think I would have been okay with it (provided I would be allowed to lick the bowl of every last drop before dying).

Finally we got to do our boat tour, and as soon as we left the dock it started to downpour. It was a little dreary to sail across the lake in the pouring rain, but I still enjoyed it. It actually made me a bit sleepy though and I started to do that embarrassing head-bob thing you do in class when you're falling asleep and your head starts to slowly dip down and you catch yourself and jolt back up over and over. I'm the queen of that. Unfortunately, my head dips lower and lower each time until finally it's about an inch away from the desk and then I spring so suddenly backwards that I make a huge scene and cause a commotion and then it is no longer subtle.

But, again, I digress. After the boat, we did some shopping in the markets... because, let's be real: we're all studying fashion, and we're in open markets in Italy. Shopping will happen, regardless of bank restrictions. Lake Como is known for their silk products, and I got an absolutely gorgeous 100% silk scarf that was made in Lake Como. I also bought a really neat gigantic safety pin with handcrafted beads on it. I'm not entirely sure how I want to use it yet, but I will figure it out. For now, it is on the buckle on my purse, and it looks nice there. I tried on a pair of Italian suede shoes that I'm pretty sure were made for me, but they were 80 euro and with the exchange rate that day, they would have cost about $150. I had to pass it up. See, Dad? I can be responsible sometimes with money.

So, despite the continuous torrential downpours and the looming possibility of a tropical storm and monsoon that may wash the city of Milan away if these horrid rains continue, Lake Como was a complete success and was completely conquered.

You may recall when I went for my interview that the Global Experiences representative from Florence told me about a program called Tandem, where you meet up with people in your city and do a language exchange. Well, I tried it out last night! I met up with a young woman and man, named Ornella and Ciro, and it was a really great experience. Admittedly, we did speak in English more than Italian, but they promised that next time we will focus on Italian. Still, even if I only get to speak it for a short time, it's still just good practice to keep your mind working in the language. I'll admit, my thoughts are starting to be in Italian. I love it.

In other news, through Global Experiences we have been invited to attend a launch party at Dolce and Gabbana on Via della Spiga, their major boutique location in the fashion district. BOYS IN THE BAND will be performing there, and musicians will be presenting the new designer collections. Sounds like a pretty awesome time to me!

And, in closing, a creepy man sat down next to me on the metro today and purred at me. I don't think I need a translator to figure out what that means. 

 Isn't it so pretty there?

 Il Duomo in Lake Como.

 Lilianna, me, Carly, Alana, and Amanda!

 Me in front of the beautiful backdrop.

 ONE of George Clooney's mansions in Lake Como. Sorry for the terrible quality, I didn't understand the tour announcer until I heard an Italian-accented, "George Clooney" come out.

One of the many shopping streets.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fabulous.

So, let's talk Milan.

When I say "Let's talk Milan," I mean let's talk fashion, let's talk fabulous, let's talk opportunity and language and molto, molto bello and gelato and the best damn cappuccinos I have ever tasted.

I had my interview today with Wivian's Factory, a showroom here in Milan. It is absolutely beautiful (and absolutely gigantic), and they are known for their marketing team and strategies. They're so exclusive that they aren't even open to the general public. Global Experiences representatives Anna and Whitney came with me on the interview, and I didn't even really have to do anything other than sit there and try to look pretty... which is actually quite the challenge when it's so rainy out, making my hair grow three sizes that day (Grinch reference, anyone?). The boss, who was supposed to interview me, was in a meeting with Dolce and Gabbana and did not have time to see me personally... which is completely fine with me. I am more than okay with accepting my lower status compared to Dolce and Gabbana. The lady who did interview me was really just interested in getting my story from Anna. The entire interview was just a formality, as I apparently already had the job. The funny part was that she said she would "parla molto, molto piano," or speak really slowly... and then completely jetted off like a crazed racehorse. My goodness, if that was her speaking slowly, she would probably short-circuit if she spoke fast. She also asked me if I would be okay with them using me as a model sometimes. I don't exactly have a model's height or body, but yeah, sure, if you want to run a short and stumpy collection, then obviously I would never refuse an opportunity to be dressed up in designer clothes I can't personally afford.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself though. Let's go back to last night. We had our Global Experiences aperitivo at the Jazz Cafe in the Piazza Sempione by the castle. I got this drink called a spritz, which is apparently the drink to get in Northern Italy at an aperitivo... and I can see why. It was amazing. It was some combination of wine, hard liquor, and orange soda. To be honest, I don't entirely care what it was. All I know is that I don't know how I have lived my entire life up until now without one. What was even better than the drink was the food though (which was endless, by the way). You can just go up and get plate after plate of all the little appetizers, and you better believe I did. Thank goodness Carly appreciates food just as much as I do, so I didn't feel entirely like the only pig in the group. The aperitivo was a lot of fun though, because all of us girls, besides Lilianna who had a doctors appointment, got to spend time together outside of language school for once. We got gelato afterward, because clearly we hadn't eaten enough. But, really, when is gelato ever a bad decision?

The language classes are going great too (especially the cappuccino breaks). I'm definitely improving a lot, and have been able to have full conversations with my teachers in Italian. Of course, I'm sure my Italian is very broken, but as long as I'm able to be understood I'll be fine. It's so interesting to be on the other side of the table though. Back in London, living in my flat with Chisato, Maiko, Slovakian Adam, and Laura (obviously British Adam doesn't count in this), I got used to communicating with people who spoke English a little broken. I learned to speak slower, explain things more, and answer language questions they had. I never had to be the one struggling with a language barrier before though, and I have so much more respect for them now because I know how hard it can be. It's so strange to think that when I walk down the street, I'm the one people don't understand. I am going to try this thing called a tandem, where you basically find people (obviously girls my age) in Milan with similar interests that speak Italian for you to meet with and do a 50/50 language exchange. It helps them with their English, and helps me with my Italian. Benissimo!

In other news in my life, I made my first post to CollegeFashionista this past Friday! It was just my style guru bio, so nothing too exciting yet, but that will go on the web come this Friday. That means I have to start my actual posting this week. I already have an index card drafted with what I had to say when I approach people, because the biggest struggle with this internship is that I need to be able to explain the website and why I want to take someone's picture to them in Italian. I'm excited to get started though!

Also, I have been invited to attend Jason Triosi's, from Project Runway Season 8, first fashion show in New York this fall. I was a little unsure about the invitation at first, but I did a little research and it seems to be legitimate. That should be exciting for my return! Maybe Tim Gunn will be there and I'll get to meet him again. Yes, I said again. If you've ever talked to me, you would surely have heard my bragging story about how I met Tim Gunn at the opening of Kate Spade's line at Bloomingdale's and he told me I was adorable and hugged me. Best moment of my life? I think so. I'm also going to apply to Teen Vogue's Fashion University for the fall, which would be so incredible if I could get in.  I need to get my business cards printed up, STAT.

So, I'm feeling a bit fabulous right now. Ciao, Milano: sei bella.

 Alana, Amanda, Carly, me, and Luiza at the aperitivo!

Whether crossing through the mud with Carly in our heels was a good idea or not is debatable. Whether or not we look good while we do it is not debatable.
Me, Alana, Amanda (or Domanda, as we now call her), and Luiza in front of the most glamorous tram I have ever seen.

Il Duomo at night!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ciao!

Deepest apologies for not updating in a week, especially such an exciting week! Last Sunday, I packed up my room in London's fabulous Alexander Fleming Residence Halls and moved on to Milan, Italy. It was a bitter goodbye to London, but the blow was softened by the knowledge that I was embarking on another adventure that would be entirely different, but entirely excellent.

Upon arrival in Milan, I was ripped off immediately. I get off the bus from the airport, and a guy asks me if I was looking for a taxi. Sketchy as he was and going against all my mental training for these situations by watching the movie "Taken," I said yes, because I did, in fact, need a taxi. He puts my bags on a cart, wheels them a total of 20 meters to the line to pick up a taxi, and holds his hand out for 5 Euro. Wait, you're not my taxi driver? You were just taking me to the taxi line? Excuse me, but I could have carried my bags there myself. I've been carting them all over London and through the airport, I can handle another 20 meters. But, I was in no position to argue, especially not in a foreign language, so I reluctantly handed him 5 Euro and sighed resentment to myself.

When I finally arrived at my accommodation, I was shocked. Tina, my landlady, came down to meet me at the door. I knew that Tina was in her early 70s, but she had a daughter that speaks English. Well, when this lady met me at the door, I thought she was her daughter Monica. Tina is so fabulous. She does NOT look like she is 74. She's incredibly in shape, dresses beyond fabulously, and is much more of a party animal than I am. I go to bed at 11:30, she goes out at 11:30. She goes for walks in 4-inch suede wedge heels with her taupe crocodile skin handbag. If I am half as fabulous as her in my 70's, I'll be thrilled.

The apartment itself is gorgeous. It's a nice size, well decorated, and my room here is much bigger than my room even at home. I have a corner balcony off my room, which makes up for the clown picture that hangs above my head when I sleep. Seriously? It just had to be clowns? Don't you know I'm terrified of clowns? That should have been one of the questions on the housing questionnaire. The only downside to the accommodation is that I don't have internet access consistently here. Tina doesn't have a computer, so she obviously doesn't need internet. I have been stealing some from a neighbor, but it doesn't always work, so I don't want to rely on it for anything important. This is why I haven't posted a blog this week: in the rare moments I do get internet, I have a lot of other stuff to take care of on the computer, like for my CollegeFashionista internship.

Otherwise, my language school is fantastic. We have class 9-10:30, cappuccino break, 11:00-12:30, lunch break, and then 1:30-3:00. I live about 45 minutes away from the school walking, but my friend Alana lives a street away from me and we walk together. Besides, I've been living in London for 5 months... walking is not foreign to me. I actually really enjoy the walk. The classes are conducted all in Italian, and I am definitely one of the furthest along in the class with the language. It helps, of course, that I've taken Italian before and have my Rosetta Stone, but I've actually been studying almost every night after school.

I have my interview for my internship on Tuesday, which is at Wivian's Factory. The showroom looks absolutely beautiful, and they're known for their marketing team, which I will be working with I assume. The showroom isn't even open to the public, so it's very exclusive, and they have a lot of Italian designer brands as well as some others. Some are well-known internationally, like Dolce and Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger, but others are more specific to Italy. Either way, I'm really excited, and hope that they give me a lot of tasks so I can really get the most of it.

Overall, I absolutely love Milan. I know that Cori, Amanda, and Mike didn't like it when they visited here, and I can understand why. It's not a touristy city, but I knew it wouldn't be. Basically, the only things you can really see here as a tourist are the Duomo, the castle by Parco Sempione, and the fashion district. I saw all three in one day (though I haven't gone inside Il Duomo yet because I was not appropriately dressed for it that day). However, I am living here, attending school and going to work, and as a place to live it is lovely. I would love to live here someday. It reminds me of Paris a lot, but in Italian obviously... and Paris in my later trips when it was more enjoyable, not the first trip.

Also, I don't want to speak too soon, but my friend Lilianna is getting two tickets to fashion week here in Milan and told me she would bring me. She is going to ask for another ticket so that Alana and I can both go, because the three of us have become friends here. How cool would that be? As soon as I land my internship, I'm getting business cards printed immediately, so I can hand them out to everyone and anyone at fashion week.

So, basically, Milan is already well underway to being conquered.

 In front of Il Duomo.

 Milano!

 The Castle.

 Mia camera di letto.

 On Via Della Spiga, one of the major designer shopping streets. Just window shopping, clearly.

Ooooh, gelato.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

London.


What a sad week. I never thought that I would ever type these words into my blog, but…

I love London. 

I love it. Sure, the people are a little gray but they're not all bad. And the weather isn't always the nicest in the winter, but this spring has been beyond beautiful (and, to be honest, a lot nicer than it has been at home in New Jersey). London is a beautiful city. I mean, look at it. It's gorgeous. I love walking around the London Bridge Pier. I love sitting in Trafalgar Square. I love window shopping (and too often actual shopping) on Oxford Street, and trying samples in Borough Market. Hummingbird on Portobello Road has the best red velvet cake cupcakes that have ever been made, and St. Paul's Cathedral is the most incredible cathedral I have ever seen. I love walking through the gardens in Regent's Park, visiting Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and waving to the Queen by Buckingham Palace.

Everyday when I leave my flat, I get a “Hello, sweetheart!” from Hot Dog Man. I go into the tube station, and I can go over and pet the schnauzer by the table where the guy sells something which I honestly have never paid attention to because I’m too interested in the schnauzer. Then wherever I’m going, whatever I’m doing, I have gained a whole new confidence that I will be able to get there. I’ve mastered the tube, and I’ve become more independent than I ever thought possible here. Am I still terrified of being lost? You bet I am… but I no longer let that stop me. Sure, I might need to walk around for a bit longer than most people trying to find my destination. I find it though… and if I don’t, I don’t panic anymore. If me five months ago saw me now, I'd be amazed. I wouldn’t believe it. And I love that.

I have not found out more about myself from this experience. I have always been incredibly self-aware, so this did not open my eyes to something I did not previously know. I have changed though. I have learned new things about myself because I have developed new things about myself. I have always been a strong, confident, independent woman, but that is amplified now. I can do things on my own. I can travel to a foreign country and find my way around. I can get myself to a bus stop to take a bus to the airport to take a plane to a foreign airport to take public transportation to my hostel and then figure out my way around a city I have never been to before. I’ve done it numerous times. Hell, going to Milan is going to be my 18th flight of the year so far. 

I started my conquering from the very first week here, when I immediately became a big deal in London by being on VIP guest lists for celebrity clubs and receiving free bottles of Grey Goose vodka and dancing on stage. I had an unreal amount of publicity at the Royal Wedding, being photographed over 100 times, and appearing in several newspapers and various radio broadcasts. Hell, even today on my last day in London I was asked to be a model and spent an hour being photographed.

But London, you have been a tough one to conquer. I conquered Morocco, France four times, The Netherlands, Ireland, and Spain with ease, but you weren’t so willing. You fought me every step of the way, and I must admit several times I thought you had me beat. So many times I felt like throwing in my white flag, calling it quits, and saying, “Kate the Conqueror has been conquered.” But I didn’t. No, I fought back. I gave it shot after shot, and finally, by this last month, I can say that I love you, London. You put up a tough, gray exterior, but I know that’s not all true. I have found you out. It took much longer than my other conquests, but I think we needed that time. We needed that time to really find each other out, London. And we're better for it. I truly believe that if life takes me back to London, if this is where I need to be for my career, I can handle it now. 

And so, I say with nothing but love in my heart, London, United Kingdom: Conquered.

Now, on to the next adventure. 

 At the Prime Meridian with Cori, Kim, and Kristen.

 Anthony being crazy, hanging out with my flatmates and French friends. =)

 Jordan and Mike's last night!

 And I miss Jordan so much, it's craziness.

 A rainbow over Tower Bridge! That's got to be a good sign.

 Lovely girls! Kristen, Kim and I.

 Kristen, Izabela, Cori, and I. Last shot in front of Tower Bridge. =(

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ending.

What an exhausting week! I don't know how anybody visiting London for a week does it. I've been here for five months and I still have so many things I never got to see.

I came to a conclusion about my list of things to do: it's not as important as spending time with my friends. I've been crossing things off the list, and it's been really great. I went to the Kew Gardens the other day, and it was probably one of my favorite things I've done in London. It's absolutely beautiful. The Kew Gardens are the largest botanical gardens in the world, and I got to see plants and flowers from all over the world. It was a hippie-nature-lovers dream. I went to the Fashion and Textile Museum, which had a cool exhibit on Tommy Nutter but I hadn't realized that the exhibits they hold are the only things in the museum, so it was slightly disappointing. I went to Bushy Park, which was another Royal Park off my list, but it definitely wasn't my favorite park at all. It seemed very vast and boring at first, until I found a gated woodland area which I loved. I have decided to not go to Liverpool because Izabela and I thought it was far too expensive to get there, and too far away so we wouldn't get to spend a lot of time there. Brighton looks absolutely wonderful, but I wouldn't want to go there alone and I can't find someone to go with because everybody went there on the ISA trip (which I skipped because I was sick). I still want to go to the Freud Museum and Richmond Park, but that's it for my list.

The thing is, I've been doing so many of these activities alone... which I truly don't mind. I don't need to be with people to enjoy myself. London is always going to be here though, and I will always have the opportunity to come back and do all the things I never got to do and all the things I want to do again. However, I will never be here again with this group of people. The friends I have made here are some of the best people I have ever met, and it kills me that I have so little time left with them (and it kills me even more that I wasted so much time not with them when I was so stuck on hating London). We have a fancy dinner out together tonight, but that very well may be the last time I see some of them, and I hate that.

I have so much prep-work to do before going to Milan, and I have so little time to do it all, and I have so many things I could fill my last days with before I leave London... but none of that seems as important to me right now as making my remaining memories with the people who have helped me through this entire experience, the friends I've made that if it wasn't for them, I would have gone home a long time ago. I'm so glad I didn't, and I'm so glad I have them.

Well, that's about as sappy and sentimental as I can get. Take it or leave it, guys.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Exhausting.

I want to apologize to all of my loyal fans (mom and dad...) for not updating lately. I've been on a conquering spree since the pressure is on to complete all of my London activities before I leave in less than a week. Isn't that crazy?! It's starting to hit now that I may not be able to squeeze everything in... but I will not be defeated that easily. A conqueror appreciates a challenge sometimes.

In addition to Londontown happenings, I've been super busy with preparing for my two upcoming internships, getting everything set to move to Milan, practicing my Italian, and learning how to use Twitter and Tumblr (which is required for my College Fashionista internship). It sounds silly, but social media is like a full time job. It takes a lot of time and effort to constantly post interesting material on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, my blog, and Pinterest, in addition to how I check my e-mail accounts every five minutes. Hopefully it's just because I'm still mildly stupid when it comes to these new pages. I can totally understand why people want Twitter on their phones now though, because it's so much easier if I could just do this throughout the day on-the-go instead of trying to entertain readers during my hours at home.

But, I digress. Let's go in sequential order, as it is the most logical way to approach my recent events.

Jordan left on Thursday, the 19th. This was probably the hardest goodbye I will have to make, because I feel like Jordan was definitely one of the best, if not the best, friend I had here. We had gone to Trafik for a little get together with Cori, Kim, Kristen, Mike, Sam, Izabela, Paloma, and Nadia, because it was the last time we could see Jordan and Mike. Jordan had a cab scheduled for 6:30 in the morning, and he didn't want to fall asleep because of how early he had to leave, so I agreed to stay up all night with him. However, after he visited with Amanda to say goodbye and I went back to meet up with him again, he fell asleep. Well, I was not going to let him leave without saying goodbye, so I woke up at 6:20 to see him before the cab took him away. Now, I was looking like a complete hot mess (but not really hot at all). I had gone on a blackhead popping spree the night before so my skin looked like I was recovering from chicken pox, I had my glasses on, you could see my underwear lines through my yoga pants, and if America drilled into my scalp they could solve the oil crisis. Jordan was so flustered handling his bags and last minute things, so I offered to take the cab with him to King's Cross (he was just taking a cab there to avoid the transfer through the tube station with his bags) to help him. So, you know how much Jordan means to me if I went out in public like that. I got to get him on his train, see him off, and finally get back in my bed by 7:30.

When I finally got up again, I was supposed to go out with Sam but he ended up having to study instead. I tried to find this secondhand book market underneath Waterloo Bridge, but failed abismally. I did find a discount book store though and was able to pick up The Picture of Dorian Gray, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass, and Heart of Darkness all for 5 pounds though. Definitely a wise purchase. Then I went to TopShop to waste time walking around and depressing myself. I was trying on shoes, and then left to go to the ISA office... and realized halfway that I left my books by the shoes. I ran back, and luckily they were still sitting there. Apparently I get really distracted by cotton candy and shoes (please refer back to my pickpocket panic at the boat race when I left my wallet at a cotton candy stand). That night, Carnaby Street was having a 20% off shopping party in all the stores in the Carnaby area. Amazing. I bought a pair of neon orange heels for work, and some hot pink lipstick and liner. I even got a few glasses of free champagne outside different stores, and a free makeup consultation (which resulted in the purchase of the lipstick and liner).

The next day, Friday the 20th, was our ISA Farewell event. What a sad occasion! There are so many awesome people in that group that I know I won't ever see again realistically. It's hard to see someone and know it will be the last time, even if you aren't close to them. We went to Olympic Park, where they are building the stadium for the Olympics next summer. It looks (and smells) like shit now, but they will definitely make it awesome in the next year. Then we went up to Greenwich briefly before getting a delicious three course Mediterranean dinner. Afterward, we went back to London Bridge via river cruise. On this boat ride, a group of at least 15 guys, Australians and Kiwis, kept calling me Daisy (because of my sunflower hairband). They were asking me all about myself, telling me I was beautiful, and making me (and everyone else on the boat who had to watch) uncomfortable. They were trying to trip me up when I pointed out Tower Bridge to someone, saying "No, that's London Bridge," thinking that because I have an American accent there's no way I'm from around here. I retorted, "No, gentlemen, that is Tower Bridge. London Bridge is the shitty one behind it, and the Millennium Bridge is behind that which links St. Paul's Cathedral to the Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre. I live here, thank you." They were impressed. Then they kissed me on the cheek, I made a really unhappy face, and finally was able to get out of there.  Kristen, Jojo, her friend, and I went out for a drink with (younger) Maria, our ISA adviser after, which was really fun. She's coming to New Jersey in November and promises that we can get a drink together then. At night, Kristen came over and we watched Anchorman together, which she hadn't seen (which is just a sin to me).

Wow, I really didn't think I had this much to share. If you're still reading, you're an angel (a really bored angel, I'm sure).

Yesterday, Saturday the 21st, I went to Borough Market with Sam, Kristen, Kim, Cori, and a new friend named Kay (leave it to me to finally make a British friend a week before leaving). We decided to all get different things at the market and make a huge, fabulous lunch in my kitchen. We had pasta with some delicious pesto sauce, three different breads, hummus, asparagus for the pasta, cheese, salamis, blackberries, grapes, olives (well, we would have if I didn't eat them all), and I made strawberry bruschetta. It was so good, and I got to keep the leftovers for dinner! Afterward, I went into extreme housewife mode and cleaned every dish, including the ones we didn't even use. We've been out of dish soap for a couple days and they all just felt dirty and not up to my standard of clean, so I spent about 45 minutes washing dishes. This exhausted me, so I took a nap before Kristen came over and we watched another movie (this time, Stepbrothers).

Now, as for today, Sunday the 22nd, I had some trouble getting activities done. In fact, the success rate of my activities went: success, failure, failure, success, failure, success. This is ironic, because it fits very well with the wives of Henry VIII (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived... if you consider that the ones who divorced or survived are successes as they got away from him). First was finally seeing Changing of the Guard. What a cool procession! It was so crowded though, it's unbelievable that so many people turn out for it daily. The second event, a failure, was going to the Chelsea Gardens with Kim, Kristen, and Cori. I had dressed for a summer day when it was actually rather cold today, so I wanted to go back and change but I knew Kristen would be calling me. I waited about 20 minutes without a phone call, and since I can't call her because I have no money on my phone, I just went back and decided to cross off other stuff on my list instead. The third event, another failure, was the Fashion and Textile Museum. I got there fine, had a cream tea (my favorite thing to get in a cafe in London... a scone with clotted cream and jam, and a pot of Earl Grey tea), and then saw that the museum is actually closed on Mondays. Well, that figures. The fourth activity, instead of this museum, was the Tate Britain. This was a success, as I was able to get there okay and it wasn't closed! Hooray! I didn't particularly like the museum compared to some others I have been to here, but it wasn't the worst by far. I'm still glad I went. Next was evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral. Remember back in January (of course you don't) when I said I would never get used to military time? I was right. Apparently 15:15 is not 5:15, as you actually don't just take off the 1 in front of the time. So, while I thought I was a half hour early, I was really two hours late. So, I went to St. James Park instead as my sixth event, which is another royal park off my list. It was still early in the evening, so I walked from Buckingham Palace through St. James Park to Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall Road to Big Ben and Parliament, along the Westminster Bridge to the Waterloo Pier, and then finally went back home with sore feet and a 50% success rate for the day.

That was exhausting to just type about. I really need to update more frequently again to avoid long-winded entries.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tourist.

Since coming back from the Canary Islands, it has hit me...

I have less than two weeks left in London.

It's been a crazy ride, that's for sure. But to be honest, I feel like I might actually miss London. It really hasn't been so awful the past couple months, since it's been spring. And, I'll confess, a lot of my problems with London have been my fault. If I feel bored and like there's nothing for me to do, it's because I haven't been forcing myself to do things. Now with only a short time left and a fairly decent list of touristy things I still haven't done, I'm doing things everyday starting today. I spent the day by myself, but it was still a lot better than when I spent it by myself in my room so many days. However, I know that you're a tricky trickster, London. I will not forget how awful you were to me in the winter, despite shaping up in the spring.

It's actually rather embarrassing how many really basic London tourist things I haven't done yet. It's just the whole, "we have five month, we have plenty of time," syndrome, and then you come down to the last few weeks and you wonder what you have done the past four and a half months. I guess I can just read back in this blog to find that out.

So, here is my list of things I needed to do in London:
1. London Aquarium
2. London Eye
3. See a Shakespeare performance at the Globe Theatre
4. Kensington Palace
5. Kew Gardens
6. London Symphony Orchestra
7. Fashion and Textile Museum
8. Changing of the Guard (yeah, embarrassing. I still haven't seen that yet)
9. Attend a service at Westminster Abbey
10. The British Library
11. Hatchard's Bookstore
12. Freud Museum
13. 8 Royal Parks
           Greenwich Park
           Hyde Park
           Kensington Gardens
           St. James Park
           Richmond Park
           Bushy Park
           Regent's Park
           Green Park
14. Attend a service at St. Paul's Cathedral
15. Carnaby Street
16. Tate Britain
17. Brighton
18. Liverpool

So, I'm doing decently well. Today, I crossed off The British Library and attending a service at Westminster Abbey. The British Library was amazing... the amount of books in that place is unreal. They had an exhibit with some really famous and some ancient texts. I saw Jane Austen's notebook, original copies of the Beatles lyrical brainstorming, the Gutenberg Bible, and the Magna Carta. Unfortunately, you need a reading pass to be able to just look through the shelves of books in the reading rooms, but it was an English major's dream.

The service at Westminster Abbey was beautiful. I went to the evensong ceremony, and my gosh, there is a reason that choir is so famous. I was a little surprised at how I was the only one who seemed to be dressed for church, but furthermore how I seemed to be the only one who didn't have to read the Apostle's Creed off the paper. Come on, people. If lightning was to strike anyone in that building, it'd be me. If I have the Apostle's Creed memorized, you should too.

Overall, it was a productive day. Tomorrow is the last day I can see Jordan and Sam though, which is going to be so sad. Saying goodbye is awful!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tenerife.

I have met my match. That's right, Kate the Conqueror has been conquered. By the sun.

I spent this past week in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands in Spain (off the coast of Morocco). It's called the Island of Eternal Spring, because it is consistently the same glorious temperature the entire year. Was this trip a cultural experience? By all means, no. We didn't really plan for it to be, we just wanted to get tan and sleep on a beach. While we were there, it was 85 degrees and sunny the whole five days. We stayed at the Parque Santiago III, a resort hotel that we had an apartment for four in. Jordan and I shared a room, and Sam and Mike shared a room. We had our own kitchen, a living room, and a balcony with a table for eating outside. The hotel had several huge, beautiful pools in addition to the turquoise water of the sea. The sand had to be imported in from the Sahara Desert, and palm trees lined the sidewalk. Picturing paradise?

Yeah, well, paradise unleashed a heavy charge of fury upon my skin. Okay, so maybe it was a little cocky for us pasty white kids who have been living in cloudy London for months and haven't seen real sunlight in ages to assume that SPF 10 applied once in the morning would be enough to last us an entire day in the sun with a UV index of +10. And maybe when I felt my skin getting crispy and my organs slowly baking away inside the Crock-pot that is my body I should have said, "Hey, it might be a good idea for me to get a higher SPF, or reapply sunscreen, or put an umbrella up, or do anything other than lie here and ignore it for the sake of how good I will look in white and how toned my stomach will look without a single bit of physical activity after this."

Still, let's stick to what's important: I do look really good in white now, and my stomach does look instantly slimmer. I have also been moisturizing really well, so I only look like I have a severe, rare skin disease on my back from the peeling. And really, it's a small defeat if the only thing I can't conquer is the sun. THE SUN! That's a large place. I'll wave my white flag to the sun.

You'd think for a trip that was five nights long I'd have a lot to say about it. Truth be told, I don't. Every day was beautifully sunny and hot. We went to the beach, we went to the pool, and swam in each. We fried our skin (though by day three I did cave and get SPF 30 and started reapplying often... so be happy, Dad), walked around a lot, and I made dinner every night. We didn't get to climb Teide, the third largest volcano in the world (which is also active), unfortunately. Sam had a different time scheduled, and it turned out to be really expensive to get there and take the cable car up, which you had to do otherwise it'd take 8 hours just to climb down the volcano. The bus also didn't come until after our scheduled time, so we wouldn't make it on time, and therefore would have to stop 400 meters from the top. So lame. Oh well, more beach time.

I also tried absinthe one night with Jordan, and I was a little concerned with how easily the two of us finished that bottle. It really didn't affect us much at all. We stepped it up the next night though with cannabis absinthe, which did it's job slightly more effectively. If I had to describe the taste of absinthe... it's like having a mouthful of black licorice jellybeans and setting them on fire. But, hey... isn't the point of studying abroad trying things that are illegal in your home country?

So, sun, you beat me. I fully accept it though, because you did still give me a really sweet tan. Take that, Londoners. However, it does not make me any less of a conqueror.

Canary Islands: Conquered. 

And you know what? I'm going to get a little conceited and take it a step further...

Spain: Conquered. 

Because true conquerors don't need to go to anywhere in a country other than it's beautiful island beaches to claim the land in their name. 

 Our resort, Parque Santiago III. Highly recommended.

 Our resort.

 Nice pool, right?

The beach! Ah, I miss that water.

 Jordan and I being models.

Sam and I before leaving for the airport.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Update.

So now it's time for a recap of all the wonderful and exciting events that have happened in the life of Kate the past few days!  /sarcasm.

May 3rd- Since my fashion report was due this day, I figured it'd be a good time to start it. It was actually slightly more enjoyable to write than I thought it would be, but I'm sure my opinion of that will change when I get my grade and see she failed me simply because she's an awful person. We had to pick a trend, macro or micro, and pick a high-street retailer and product line it could apply to and pretty much just convince them they should adopt the trend. I did the polka dot trend for J.Crew's business wear line. Yeah, edgy. I used so many visuals and even made a color scheme, so if I don't at least pass this paper, I am journeying back to London to personally kick her ass.

Jordan and I also has a fiasco of a time trying to track down the room where we had to pick up our grades from our presentations. We asked literally everyone that's supposed to know, like reception, the security guard, the admissions office... and nobody knew. Oh, except our PROFESSOR who was IN the admissions office when we were asking, looked at us, and IGNORED US. Our tutor, who was with her, was the one who told us the location... which you would think is reasonable and nice, except that they failed to mention that they have the room locked and we can't get in. We finally tracked her down and got our grades. I knew my grade already, but I wanted to see how she could justify giving me such a low grade when I honestly had one of the best presentations in the class. I have more reason to hate her. She praises me almost the entire time in the comments, but still gives me half the points off! I swear, this school is bonkers.

May 4th- This was the day of the British Heart Foundation's Tower of London 10k I ran with Jordan! There was a party at ISA beforehand, where they brought out a cake and sang happy birthday to me.  Remaining true to our "Hungry Hungry Hippos" team name, we ate two slices of pizza and a piece of chocolate cake... immediately before our race. It actually didn't affect us at all though, and we ran the entire 6.2 miles on terrible knees (me), an injured foot (Jordan), and bellies full of terrible food. I'd call it a success... such a success that we just had to reward ourselves with Krispy Kreme doughnuts afterward.

May 5th- My rewards for the 10k continued as I allowed myself to go shopping. I wanted to find this hot pink dress with bananas on it at Top Shop, and that was my sole intention... but they don't have them in stock yet. Bollocks. That didn't stop me from going insane in the store though, and continuing my path of shopping fury all the way to Zara. In my defense though, everything I bought is for my internship in Milan. Although I know I'm just an intern, not an executive, Stacy London always says you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I know they won't expect me to wear a suit everyday, but I still should look professional and not show up in jeans and sneakers. I barely had any work appropriate clothes here, minus two skirts and two shirts, which didn't even really match with each other. Now, with the purchase of three tops and two skirts, I have 12 outfits I can wear to work. Now that's smart shopping!

May 6th- When was this, yesterday? Oh, alright. Well, I had planned to have a football game (European football, or soccer for all you uncultured American friend-heathens back home... see College Humor's "How to Go Abroad and Come Back an A-hole" article), but my phone has now decided to not accept incoming calls anymore. Since I have no credit on my phone to call or text anyone, meeting up with people was slightly more than difficult. I eventually found Kentucky, and we eventually met up with Mike, so the three of us just hung around Regent's Park, kicking the ball between us and relaxing. We went back to change, and then we went out shopping (but I didn't buy anything!) so Mike could get a swimsuit. Then we were starving, so we got some cheap Thai food, and called it a night... until Mike messaged me around 11:30 saying he wanted chips (English chips, so French fries for you uncultured American friend-heathens) which in turn made me want chips, so we made a chip run together. Productive day.

So now today, I was going to go to the Fashion and Textile Museum finally, but on the website it says it's temporarily closed until May 19th. Seems silly, but whatever. So I'll do that later this month. No idea what I'm going to do today now though... it's not a super sunny day, so I'm going to scratch a park option. I guess I'll look at my list and figure something out.

Oh, and in case you're not counting down like me (which I can't understand why you wouldn't be), I go to the Canary Islands in three days now!

 After running our 10k, pre-doughnuts.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jumbled.

I've been doing some thinking (which is always dangerous), and I've decided to not go home this month. While I want nothing more than to be home, I want it to be permanent, and making it temporary is only going to upset me more. Every time I had a visitor out here, I became even more unhappy when they left than I was before I saw them. I really hate complaining about this, because I don't want to make anyone feel like I wish they never came to visit me, but it definitely made things a lot harder on me. Saying goodbye is tough enough the first time; it doesn't get easier the second time around. By going home, I'd be doing the same exact thing but in reverse. It's not worth it to spend all the extra money and lose out on the time I paid to be here just to potentially make myself even more miserable. So, I'm sticking it out.

I have a list of things I still wanted to do in London. It really isn't that long, but I could always find other things to add to it to try to fill up this next month. That just means more museums. If I can try to keep busy, hopefully the time will go faster and I can get over to Milan.

So, my Facebook has been packed with announcements about Osama Bin Laden being killed. First of all, let me mourn for the fact that I have no idea what's going on in the world anymore unless it's posted as a Facebook status. Politics are a dirty topic, but it's on my mind. Osama Bin Laden was an evil man. He killed thousands of people, and may potentially be one of the worst people to live since Hitler. I may be ignorant in this subject, because not only am I politically uninvolved in the war but I have also been lucky enough to have never had this war personally affect me, since I did not lose anyone in the 9/11 attacks and am not close with anyone that has gone to fight. However, I feel my heart sink and my soul get heavy when I hear about all these people celebrating. How could somebody celebrate the death of another human being? It evokes a vicious, primitive image of cavemen ripping a person apart and dancing around a fire. We are not savages. We are better than that. We have supposedly evolved from this. Can't we control our animalistic instincts to kill?

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." We are not ending terrorism by killing one man. This is not the end. People are going to retaliate, we're going to fight back, and this vicious cycle of hate and killing will never end so long as people are still driven by the disgusting, human instinct to protect oneself and destroy anything that threatens our norms. 

I'm not saying people should be mourning his death. Again, he was an evil man. But an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind... even if he blinded way more people himself. I'm in a really weird mood today thinking about this. It bothers me a lot... because while I really believe everything I have said, I'm still relieved that he's dead. I think my relief bothers me. There is a difference between closure and celebration though. The people who have been affected by Osama Bin Laden's actions should have a feeling of closure from this, a sigh of relief. They should take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and calmly rejoice that it is over. Celebrating sickens me.

However, I go back again to when I compared him to Hitler. I can't say that if I lived back then I wouldn't rejoice for the death of Hitler. Even just looking back at history, I'm glad that bastard killed himself. He deserved all of it and more. So why do I feel differently about this?

I think I'm just in a weird mood about it because I can't entirely pinpoint my feelings about it. I don't like not knowing. It also doesn't help that Jim left today, so I'm again feeling that "Everyone is gone, I am alone, and I'm unhappy," feeling I get every time a visit ends. It also doesn't help that I have a fashion report due tomorrow, and that I decided last minute today to not book my flight home. Too much is going on in my mind right now, I'm getting all jumbled. I shouldn't allow myself time to think about things, it really is too dangerous.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wedding.

This was the moment. The moment all of us study abroad students, all citizens of London, of England, of the United Kingdom, and of the world have been waiting for.

The Royal Wedding.

The day that Prince William and Kate Middleton take their vows, while every girl simultaneously weeps over the loss of William's availability and observes Harry's, and while every guy simultaneously weeps over the loss of Kate's availability and observes Pippa's. Over a million people turned out in London for the wedding, while over two billion watched on the television. The streets by Buckingham Palace, in front of Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and Hyde Park were packed with wedding enthusiasts. People camped out for days, only to have the royal family briefly drive past them for five seconds of glory. Worth it? I'm sure it was. I wanted to camp out too, until I saw that everyone in the world was camping out already.

Jim, my friends, and I headed out to Hyde Park around 7:00 in the morning to pick our station. They had three jumbo-trons set up, and we were fairly close to the middle one. There were about a dozen food stands and even a Ferris wheel set up for the occasion. This was definitely the better choice than packing the streets in front of the procession because we actually got to see everything... and it was absolutely stunning.

Seriously, what a beautiful ceremony. Kate looked positively gorgeous (and seriously, did anybody not love her fabulous Alexander McQueen dress?!), and William looked so happy. They really just look like they truly love each other. We all had a fantastic time watching the wedding together, dancing in the park for hours afterward, and feeling truly British.

But none of this is important. What is important is that I am now famous.

That's right. I'm famous.

You may think this is a joke. It's not. I made a sign that read, "Hey, William, you picked the wrong Kate Elizabeth," and everyone just loved it. I think it's because not many people made signs like I thought they would... a lot of people dressed up, but not many signs. I am not exaggerating when I say over a hundred people took my picture at the wedding, and that's just all the ones I saw and posed for. Well, it turns out that one of those hundred people works for the Daily Mail, one of the absolute biggest newspapers in the UK... and I have a solo picture of me in the newspaper for the wedding coverage.

If you haven't seen the million Facebook posts about it, check it out.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1381820/Royal-Wedding-route-A-MILLION-turn-celebrate-Kate-Middleton-Prince-William.html
Scroll all the way to the bottom. Fantastic, right?

The only problem is that Jim and I apparently aren't the only people who thought newspapers would make a great souvenir of the wedding. We walked all around central yesterday trying to find a newspaper, ANY newspaper, to no avail. I asked a man where he got all of his, since he was carrying a few, and he was nice enough to give me one... but this was the royal wedding special of the Evening Standard. That's awesome, because I love the Standard, but I want the one with me in it too! I emailed the editor, told him I was the girl in the paper, and asked if he could send me a few copies. I even took a picture of me in my flat with the sign, so he knew I was really me. He hasn't replied yet, but I'll be really upset if I can't get at least one copy of this paper. What's the point of having your 15 minutes of fame if you don't have physical evidence of it?

So, while I was hoping Prince William would see that sign and leave the wedding to come running to me, I guess the least he could do instead is hook me up with Harry instead, right? 

I know the royal wedding isn't a place, but with my new found fame due to the wedding, I think it's appropriate to say... Royal Wedding: Conquered. 

 With some William and Kate lookalikes.

 The picture of me that was published in the Daily Mail.

The crowd shot at Hyde Park. You can see my white sign on the right, and Jim is the black jacket a little bit to the left of that.