13:42. train to Pisa: €12,40

18:25. plane to Seville: €22,00

21:00. bus to Seville city center: €2,40

two nights at a hostel down the street from the cathedral: €22,00

08:00. bus to Seville airport: €2,40

09:20. flight to Milan: €29,99

12:30. metro to the Duomo and back: €3,00

15:30. train to Arezzo: €39,00

Total transportation and housing cost for a trip to Seville (1550 km away from Pisa) with a mini side-trip to Milan on the way back:

€133,19 after being had for €30 by Trenitalia

One-way flight from Oklahoma City to Cleveland, OH (1535 km away): $216 or



One of the most singularly compelling reasons to live in Europe for an extended period of time is the price of travel. Seriously, mass transit here is excellent and cheap, thanks to the population density of Italy been equivalent to Oklahoma’s, if everyone in Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas moved to Oklahoma. This semester, I have come to realize how much I love taking trains. Ryanair is scary cheap, but more than 90% of their planes land. Ahead of schedule, that is.

Anyway, this past weekend I and a couple of other students headed out to Seville, Spain to take a break from mangando la pizza to try comiendo las tapas. We successfully navigated trains, planes, and buses to get to our destination with only our wits and a couple of years of high school Spanish class to guide us. High school was almost four years ago for me, and if you know my wits, you’ll understand that we spent those few days flying by the seat of our pantalones.

Two of my favorite things: talented dancers and iPad photographers

I loved Seville. I love walking around old cities and seeing the layers of time on every brick of every building, every cobblestone of every street, and every flying buttress on every catedral/duomo. But maybe the most memorable part of the trip was the feeling of adventure that comes from being 1500 km away from the nearest people you know. Maybe it was getting kicked out of the Cathedral of St. Mary, the largest cathedral in the world, (for what we still don’t know; they just got really sassy) or maybe it was getting kicked out of the health food shop’s outside table area for bringing Burger King over from next door. Maybe it was the time we got off the train right before it left because we thought we needed to validate our tickets (hint: we didn’t need to, and some nice loiterers let us know in time to get back to our seats).

“We were wide-eyed with everything, everything around us”

There’s something marvelous about walking around an old place like Florence with someone as knowledgeable as Dr. Duclaux to help us on and off trains and buses (and Dr. Fagan to generously volunteer to pay our fare sometimes). But it is a truly liberating feeling to successfully travel around three unfamiliar cities (four if you count Bergamo) armed with nothing but “¿donde estamos?” and some offline iPhone maps.

And I still remember when I was afraid to walk anywhere in Arezzo by myself.

Buongiorno, friends!

Starting a blog post is hard, so I’m going to skip to the middle of it. But before I do that, I should come back towards the beginning about a quarter of the way and provide you with some context for this blog, since you probably don’t already know me half as well as you should.


(And in honor of Bilbo Baggins’s birthday today, I should let you know that I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. J.K. but seriously.)

I’m Chris, and I’m a super-junior Computer Engineering major studying in Arezzo this fall. I say super-junior because this is my fourth year, but I have already committed to an extra year to throw in a Master’s degree in Computer Science, and I’m finishing my bachelor’s degree halfway through that extra year thanks to Algorithm Analysis. Anyway, super-junior. It’s a thing.

I should also let you know that I am a gigantic nerd. As if the Hobbit reference, Computer Engineering/Science, and my enthusiasm for grad school didn’t already give that away, I’ll just tell you know that I love school, learning, and working in my field(s). I’ve averaged 17 credit hours per semester for my college career, and I’m enrolled in 18 this semester. While driving my mind to the limit (and sometimes beyond) on campus, I’ve also been busy interning and researching since the end of Freshman year, on top of all those classes. I stay pretty busy. I love it.

So, oddly enough, one of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make here in Italy has been to work out what “studying abroad” really looks like for me in Arezzo. In a city in which almost every business owner closes up for a few hours in the afternoon and picks an additional day not to even open besides Sundays, my let’s-go-get-it-done American industrious/pragmatic self has had to learn how to slow down a bit. A lot. We’re a little more than a month into the semester and I’ve only had one test/quiz, and it was in my Pass/No Pass Intro to Italian class. I should also let you know that test day is my favorite day.

I’m doing an internship with La Fabbrica del Sole this semester, and my initial plan was to draw upon that for my Honors research this semester. The only problem is, they’re busy being the Italian Dharma Initiative and doing their cool experiments and building the world’s first urban hydrogen pipeline, not hanging out, waiting for their American interns to arrive. As such, my very first meeting with my boss is not until next week. Not a problem, unless you’re trying to bang out an Honors thesis in a semester, right?

So it’s been a little bit crazy for me this semester because of how busy I haven’t been so far. I’m so used to running around that I don’t know how to stand still. It’s been nice – sometimes I walk around and take pictures of the city for hours, or stay up past 4 A.M. designing T-shirts, or blog  (oh hey!). I’ve gotten to know some great new friends over espresso, gelato, and Sherlock late into the night. Though I’m still doing my best to pursue the furthering of my knowledge in engineering and build on my experience for my imminent job search, and I’m working very hard in my classes, I’m learning that perhaps the most valuable area of study for me this semester is the one that’s not going on my transcript: life in a brand-new context.

They do seem to stay pretty busy at Pagani, though.

Coming into this semester, I thought I would have to choose between being a student and being a traveler. That in order to accomplish my academic goals for the school year, I would have to pass up some of the more “vacation-like” experiences of studying abroad. I also had a little bit of a sassy attitude about people who only go abroad for a good time, and feel like they don’t even have to try to be good students while they’re there. I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m still a student, only now more portable. Next month, I’m going to Spain and Sweden, and we’re hitting up Vienna and London in November.

While studying abroad, I’ve found that ‘abroad’ itself is a very nice thing to study, if that makes any sense.

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