Italy: Georgia Hammer

Introduction (January 2022)

While I called it a small-town, Somerset is so tiny it is considered a village!

Ciao!  My name is Georgia Hammer. I am from Somerset, Wisconsin which is about 25 minutes East of St. Paul, Minnesota and even though it is so close to the Twin Cities it is only made up of 2,500 people. While some of the small-town Wisconsin stereotypes could describe the place I grew up, there are many aspects of my youth that I find myself extremely grateful for. Parents that put my wants above their own, brothers that undoubtedly loved me as much as they loved to give me a hard time ;), and friends that will last a lifetime. 

In high school, I found purpose in participating in as many extracurriculars as possible. I really loved sports and the competitive atmosphere that came with them. I played volleyball, basketball, and softball throughout my four years and grew immensely as a leader and captain on those teams. Sports taught me so many valuable lessons that I have been able to apply to adulthood and are a part of my high school experience that I will never forget. On the school side of things, I was the treasurer of Student Council, a member of the National Honors Society, and a member of the Peer Mentor & Leadership groups. I also enjoyed challenging myself academically with many CIS and AP courses which allowed me to graduate Summa Cum Laude. 

These activities truly helped spark the passion I have for giving back to the community and those around me. Throughout high school, I earned over 400 hours of community service and have worked to continue that effort since. Community service and financially giving back are two of the biggest driving factors for my future and I am eager for when both of those times come!

Since high school, I have immersed myself in everything that it means to be a Badger. These last three years have been arguably the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life. Through COVID-19, the societal climate of the country, and various personal struggles I have faced, I find myself incredibly grateful to have encountered these obstacles and won! On top of that, I have found a home in Madison, friends that I love, and a direction for my future during my time at UW. 

After completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I plan on attending PA school at UW-Madison while continuing my job as a Certified Nursing Assistant and Medical Assistant. Following graduate school, I hope to spend a year or two in Africa working with Doctors Without Borders to provide a helping hand for those in need. After my time abroad, I will be eager to take on this thing called “life” and trust in the plan that God has in store for me!

My Dad and I <3

My father, Michael, was raised by the most extraordinary single mother (who is now one of my best friends) that worked tooth and nail to give her family a good life. Through her, my dad has taught me the true meaning of compassion, hard work, and how to “show-up” no matter the circumstance. I loved playing Varsity volleyball, basketball, and softball in high school especially because I always had my dad encouraging and pushing me to be better. He never ceases to amaze me, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

Mom and awkward, pre-teen me!

Monique Hammer is a one-of-a-kind woman. She has the most infectious personality and can make anyone feel “seen” when talking to her. My mom knows me in many ways that I don’t even know myself and is one of the only people that can make me cry from laughing too hard. A majority of my book and street-smarts come from her, as she has shown me that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. I am proud to have a mother that has made me proud to be a woman like my mom.

I could go on and on about the people who have made me who I am but for the sake of whoever ends up reading this I will move on! 

Growing up in a small, western Wisconsin town is a part of my childhood that I will forever be grateful for, however, it was also a place I was ready to grow out of as my high school years came to an end. Not in the way that I ever felt superior to that environment, rather, I was highly intrigued by the wonders of the world around me and the cultures that I had yet to encounter. 

Ever since middle school, I have had a seemingly unrealistic dream for my college experience: to study abroad in Florence, Italy. Various financial and academic limitations made this dream of studying abroad difficult, but something that I was willing to work hard for. 

When I first came across the Global Gateway Fellowship, I initially believed there wasn’t a chance that I would be chosen. I even thought of not applying at all. Yet, when I was looking into the Global Gateway Fellowship, I was really inspired by the UW Global Gateway Initiative and the scholarship’s background. So, I thought I would give it a chance and thank the Lord I did!

This Fellowship not only allowed for me to go to the program of my choosing, but it also gave me the extra support that I needed to go abroad at all. To explain in words how grateful I am to be a recipient of the Global Gateway Fellowship will never do my true feelings justice.

The generosity of the donors and staff has not only changed my life through the chance to study abroad but it has also changed my life forever. While imagining what the next four months will look like, my heart is filled with gratitude and immeasurable excitement. I hope I was able to share a piece of these emotions with the donors and staff through this post, and again, I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity in which I will never take for granted. 

While the UW in Florence program is not specifically suited for a biology major, I believe it will perfectly coincide with my various academic, professional, and personal aspirations. 

During my first two years at Madison, I chose to reserve my humanities and literature credits specifically for this program. I intentionally did this because I have a passion for history that started in 7th grade when I first learned about the Renaissance period (picture that awkward pre-teen a few years older ha!). I remember being amazed by the transition from complete devastation by the plague to this time of “rebirth” that stunningly marked history in many ways. 

Through these interests, I became an avid fan of the works by Michelangelo, da Vinci, and many other aspects of Florentine culture. I still can’t believe I get the opportunity to study in the birthplace of the Renaissance that will not only fulfill my dreams to see these moments of history beyond books or documentaries but will also open my eyes to a new atmosphere of experiences and cultures. 

Building upon these interests, I cannot wait to take courses that will expand upon my knowledge of Italian history and will help me intellectually grow as a citizen of the world. My academic goals are heavily based on taking a hands-on approach while abroad. I want to explore the city, attend public events and museums, find volunteer opportunities relating to my global health certificate and learn as much as possible from the courses offered. 

A quote by Saint Augustine captures my personal goals for studying abroad: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” I truly believe that seeing the world and learning about different cultures and history is one of the best forms of education and personal growth. I want to explore the differences that make every culture unique and the similarities that relate us to one another. I am going to push myself to do something out of my comfort zone every day and through that meet new people and gain a better understanding of Florence as well as my own identity.

Professionally, I aim to strengthen my communication skills and adaptability. Being in Florence will be an enormous change of pace from the two places I have lived. I am eager to find my place in the city and to experience a new culture and people that will challenge me to put myself out there. 

These new skills along with countless others, will be immensely useful for graduate school, my career in the medical field, and future experience with Doctors Without Borders. Like I’ve said probably too many times, I believe studying in Florence will forever change my life and who I am as a person. I could not dream of any place I would rather study abroad. 

Grazie mille per la lettura, Georgia Hammer

P.S. I also cannot wait to eat lots of pasta and drink endless cappuccinos along the way of course!

P.P.S. This is my first time blogging so go easy on me! Next time I will be writing much more about my Florentine experience thus far!

First Impressions (February 2022) 

Ciao! For my second blog post, I am focusing on Five Senses in my New Surroundings! Every week I have had in Florence has been so wonderful yet so different from the last. So, I chose to structure my experience in terms of each week and have described my senses each week as a combination of pictures and stories! Thank you for reading! 🙂

Week 1-

Touch: The journey to Florence from the US was nothing short of a chaotic mess. From the Minneapolis airport we flew to Amsterdam for a connecting flight which was then supposed to bring us to Florence. But it did not… 15 minutes from landing the flight crew announced that “weather conditions” prohibited us from landing in Florence, so we were actually landing in Pisa! As we were exiting the plane, an Italian man I was walking next to pointed out another flight crew on board and had a few choice words (& conspiracies) about the reasoning for redirecting our flight but who really knows. I was so overwhelmingly ecstatic about my arrival in Italy this minute issue did not bother me whatsoever! However, while this small hiccup in our travel plans was seemingly minor at the time it really led to some major issues down the road.

Following the landing in Pisa, hundreds of passengers were instructed out of the airport to board a bus for Florence that was “waiting” for us. Except there were no buses in sight. While this may not have been a troubling issue back in the states for my friends and I, it is quite troublesome when you haven’t any knowledge of the language, money, and have not slept in 24 hours. So, the next three hours consisted of many angry and confused passengers desperately trying to track down airport employees who seemed to be just as confused as us. 

The 1st week in Florence can be summed up by a few statements; undying excitement over the beautiful landscape surrounding the Arno, obsessing over the amazing cuisine and cappuccinos of course, and a severe infection that forced me to go to the hospital and miss most of orientation and the 1st field trip to Castello di Verrazano .

Despite the obstacles this hectic 1st week presented, I still found myself immensely grateful and blessed because I was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world experiencing the opportunity of a lifetime. 

Sights & Tastes: 

The Duomo in Florence is stunning!
The Arno River at Sunset!
The Best Pizza I’ve Had in Florence So Far!
Cappuccinos Are Only $2!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2 & 3- In my mind, the 2nd and 3rd week abroad kind of blend together as one. My roommates and I were constantly trying to explore the city and plan our future four months. On top of that, classes had begun and life in Florence started to feel more and more like home! I found my favorite coffee shops and study spots, started to become less directionally-challenged around Florence, and was feeling much better!

Smells: However, there were still obvious differences between Florence and the US that both shocked me and reminded me how far I was from home. One apparent difference is how common smoking cigarettes is here! I had completely forgotten what it was like to eat dinner next to a group of people smoking but luckily it is only allowed outdoors. On the other hand, there is nothing comparable to the delicious smells that radiate from Florentine bakeries. Italians (and I!) sure do love their pastries… Thank the heavens for the outrageous amount of walking I do each day because the croissants, cannolis, frittelle, and crepes have proved to be quite dangerous to my waistline! 

My Roommate & Friend from Home Ale!

Sounds: Living in a country where I do not understand the language seemed very daunting during my first few days in Italy, however, I have since become a lot more comfortable with this barrier. It is shocking how much quicker you can pick up on a language when you are in the country itself! I have been very lucky to have met several kind locals who I encounter during my day-to-day that help me with the language, and I also have a “secret weapon”- a roommate who speaks Italian!

 

Sights: Over the 3rd weekend after arrival, we travelled to Venice for a few days. VENICE IS THE MOST UNIQUE AND BEAUTIFUL CITY! We made the most of our time there by visiting the Guggenheim Museum, riding a gondola, visiting St. Mark’s Basilica, and exploring the Carnival shops.

 

 

A Piece by Picasso in Guggenheim Museum!
A Highlight Abroad: Gondola Ride
Breathtaking St. Mark’s Basilica!
Hot Take: Florentine Frittelle > Venetian Frittelle
Venetian Risotto!
“Secret Menu” Ravioli Was the Best Pasta I Have Had so Far!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 4- 

That Was the First and Last Time I will be Eating Lampredotto lol!

Touch & Tastes: This was the week I really felt at home! I figured out my daily and weekly routines, had made so many new friends, and started to love my courses here! My Wine Studies class brought us to a local Enoteca that had us sample wines from all over Tuscany. My favorite class, Food and Culture of Italy, spent a class period in an Italian “Farmer’s” market that has existed for hundreds of years. The professor of this course has challenged us to try 39 Italian foods as an assignment that is due at the end of the semester. One of those foods being Lampredotto. Lampredotto is optimistically described as a cow-stomach sandwich… As we are only required to try 30 of the 39 dishes to get an A, I am not sure if it was the wonder of being abroad or how much I have enjoyed learning from this professor that surprisingly spurred me into trying the Lampredotto. 

Sights: Following an amazing week of classes and friends, my roommates and I travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend. Edinburgh is vastly different than Italy, but it definitely has a beauty of its own. Everything from the architecture of the buildings to the Edinburgh castle was breathtaking! I am so thankful for the opportunity to see the castle and spent hours learning about the history of Scotland. 

Smells & Sounds: At the Edinburgh castle we heard the One o’Clock Gun that was even louder than I imagined! Then, we spent the rest of our time in Scotland visiting various pubs, taking a class at the Chocolatorium where we made our own chocolate bars, and had the best time participating in a Harry Potter escape room and restaurant. It was somewhat of a nice “break” to spend time in an English-speaking country, and I truly loved hearing Scottish accents! While I absolutely loved our visit to Scotland, I am glad that I chose to study outside of the United Kingdom largely due to one reason: the amount it rains! Every day you could sense the rain coming and most hours of the day were filled with heavy winds and a light drizzle. Despite the weather, Scotland has the loveliest people and the memories I made there will last a lifetime! *I will admit that I still do not know how to properly pronounce Edinburgh :/ haha

The Incredible Edinburgh Castle!
Making of the chocolate bars
The Dark Lord cocktail at Magic Potions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 5- A couple of days after returning to Florence, I started to feel quite rundown and sick. I then went to a pharmacy and bought an at-home COVID test. It was positive. This was my first time ever having COVID and with that came a lot of emotions, especially due to being in a foreign country. Next thing I know, I was being moved to a quarantine apartment on the other side of Florence and had at least a week of isolation in my future. I will leave the following week without saying much because I know most of you can imagine what 8 days in quarantine constitutes. I was insanely tired from my symptoms, attended all my classes online, ordered more strawberry and Nutella crepes than I would like to admit, and spent 4 hours ordering groceries that was completely in Italian and did not have pictures!

P.S. I have concluded that Florence and I are in a love-hate relationship. Meaning, I have absolutely fallen in love with this country and city, but it has not been loving me :/ (haha!) Since arrival, I caught COVID for the 1st time, had a fractured nose from the day prior to departure from the US, and have been battling a continuous cold/allergies since my COVID diagnosis. In other words, this experience has sure been memorable, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

My Last Day in the Audrey Hepburn/Paris Themed Quarantine Apartment!

Whew! That now brings us to the week that I am writing this. As I look back on the last handful of weeks, I am filled with immense gratitude at the experiences I have had, and I cannot believe how fast this journey is flying by! I have already learned so much about this mesmerizing country and city, as well as myself! Here’s to making the next month even better than the last (and maybe some better luck with my health!) 

 

Thank you so much for reading!

Georgia

 

 

 

Daily Life in Florence (March 2022) 

Hello again!

Milan’s Stunning Duomo!

My next blog entry revolves around my Daily Life in Florence! Through my study abroad program, I only have classes Monday through Thursday which luckily leaves the weekend open for travel to other amazing cities! Since my last post I have had the blessing of travelling to Milan (During Fashion Week!) Barcelona, Lake Como, Montova (Alejandra’s Grandparents Hometown), Bologna, and Siena! They were all such beautiful and unique towns!

This Picture Does NOT Do Siena Justice!

Anyways, as for my day-to-day in Florence during the week I was able to get into a routine rather easy! As my 1st class begins at 10:45am every day, those who know me can imagine how I snooze my alarm up until the last possible minute. So, I frantically get ready every morning and manage to squeeze in a quick cappuccino stop on the way to class most days at Piazza de’ Frescobaldi 1R.

Side note, I never thought I would be saying this, but I am actually starting to enjoy the dressier clothing environment that Italy is accustomed to! Rarely do you see someone walking around in sweatpants during the day, so I have only gotten away with it once when I was dealing with my knee injury :/

After taking my cappuccino “to-go” (which is a blatant sign of a non-Italian because they never take their espresso out of the café), I speed walk along the beautiful Arno River for about 15 minutes to my 1st class in Via dei Benci, 16. On Mondays and Wednesdays my day begins with Italian 100 while on Tuesdays and Thursdays it begins with Food and Culture of Italy. To compound upon the exhaustion from the speed walk, I walk up 5 stories of stairs to reach my classroom in an out-of-breath and partially sweating manner! What better way to wake myself up in the morning?!? :)))

A ~Ditta Artiginale~ Cappuccino

Once my morning class ends at 12:15pm, I always go to a café or a brunch spot for my 2-hour break in between classes to either work on homework (with a little bit of Netflix, of course) or to hang out with my classmates and friends! My favorite spots include Ditta Artiginale which has amazing pancakes, Wi-Fi, and the best cappuccino for my 2nd of the day!

By Far the Most American Breakfast I have Had at Shake Café

Shake Café is somewhat of a Jamba Juice crossed with a Panera that is an American study abroad student hotspot. Finisterrae is a quiet café in Piazza di Santa Croce that has useless Wi-Fi but really good pastries and focaccia mini sandwiches! Every couple of weeks, I build up the determination to walk a kilometer to BEN Café for their silver dollar pancakes with bananas! (If you cannot tell- I really like food haha)

All of this at Finisterrae for less than 5€!!

 

 

My afternoon classes begin at 2:15pm with Monday and Wednesday’s class being Wine Studies and then a literature course on Boccaccio’s Decameron the other two days.

Following my last class of the day, I either walk home with my roommates and neighbors or I will stop at the grocery store, Conad, to pick up things for dinner and a snack! Peculiarly, Italians are accustomed to eating dinner quite late around 8 or 9pm so my midday snack is a must!

 

Ever since I had COVID, I have been taking a bath or an hour nap when I get home to destress for the day. The best days are those where I get to take a bath AND then I nap for a bit too! I try to spend an hour or two on homework and checking my emails when I wake up before it is dinner time. My roommates and I have begrudgingly agreed to limit ourselves of going to a trattoria or osteria for dinner to once or twice a week because the euros and the pounds (the lbs. kind, not the £ kind) were really starting to add up! 😉

I Have Mostly Been Taking Pictures on My Polaroid L but This is a BeReal from Dinner at Il Margherita during Spring Break!

After dinner and a glass of wine (which is only right considering it is a daily norm in Italy and only 4-6 euros a glass usually), I spend a few more hours on my homework and assigned readings while resisting the urge to watch TikTok or Netflix! This is most definitely the time I am able to get the most work done because my roommates are typically asleep, and I am one of those people who focus the best at night because I am so easily distracted. Lastly, I shower and get ready for bed around 2-2:30am and then head to my tiny, tiny twin bed in the room I share with Alejandra. I wish I could show videos through this blog because that girl is always saying the craziest/funniest things in her sleep, all while sleeping like a rock!

As I have mentioned in my previous two posts, I will forever feel such immense gratitude for this study abroad experience and still feel that it is unreal. I can’t imagine having chosen another place to study other than Florence, Italy and I remind myself of this blessing every time I step outside and see the beautiful city!

P.S. My last blog entry’s “P.S.” has proven true once again as I am dealing with an awful cough and cold as I am writing this :/ I do not know what Italy has against me, but I am in so love with this country despite all this!

Until next time, thank you for reading and I hope you all have a wonderful April! 🙂 Georgia

 

My Program in 50 Words (April 2022) 

Ciao! For my fourth blog post I will attempt to summarize “My Program in 50 Words”. Before I get into this, I wanted to briefly write about the places I have visited since my last post! My roommate Ale and I visited a few friends from Madison in Copenhagen and completely froze while exploring the super cool city. I absolutely loved the time I spent in Paris and had the best Croque Madame of my life! My friend from growing up, Brit, and I took an amazing day trip to Cinque Terre where we hiked to the top of one of the cities and caught such stunning views. Lastly, we spent this past weekend in Munich, Germany for Springfest and had quite the interesting experience… We had the best time at the beer tents and made some really great friends at our campsite (we tried to have the true Springfest/Oktoberfest experience by camping), however, as it got down to 40 degrees at night, we awoke our first morning with the realization that camping is simply not for us!! So, we called Brit’s parents with this SOS and quickly escaped to a hotel for the next night (BEST decision ever)! Okay… back to the focus of this blog post! 🙂

My Friends and I trying to Stay Warm along Nyhavn!
An Exquisite Latte from the Famous Les Deux Magots Café in the Heart of Paris!
Alejandra and I under the Arc de Triomphe
Cinque Terre is One of the Most Beautiful Corners of Earth!
Springfest in Our Dirndls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My college experience has done a complete 180 since embarking on this study abroad experience… from the classes I take to the non-stop travel around Europe! I am in 4 different courses: Wine Studies (I have learned so much about Tuscan wines!), Italian 100, Boccaccio’s Decameron (went to so many different Florentine sites!), and Food & Culture of Italy, my favorite class by far! Not a day has passed where I ever regretted my decision to study in this beautiful city!

The Pinnacle of Tuscan Wines: Chianti Classico!
One of Many Places We Visited During Class in Boccaccio: Il Duomo
La Bistecca alla Fiorentina was a Class Assignment to Eat! (If you can’t tell Ale and I really enjoy food 😉
Firenze Has the Utmost Special Place in My Heart!

So, I believe I wrote a little over 50 words, but it was hard to keep it any shorter! Anyways, this is my second to last post before the end of my program…. :(((( I cannot believe how fast this experience has flown by and I wish I could rewind 4 months. This is my last week of classes before finals and then I plan to do some travel with my brother and dad post-program which I will write about more next time! Thank you so much for reading and I will write again soon! 

Grazie mille, Georgia 🙂

 

Last Thoughts & Reflections (May 2022)

Wow! It is crazy how fast these 4+ months went by… It feels like just yesterday I was getting on the plane to Florence but at the same time it feels like so much has changed since I was last home in the US. Before I go into my ~Last Thoughts & Reflections~, I wanted to mention that finals went well, and they weren’t as stressful as I was expecting! My dad and my brother came to visit me a couple of weeks ago and since then we have visited Rome, Athens, Santorini, and are in Amsterdam now!

My Brother and I Walking the Busy Streets of Florence!

Three days before I had to move-out of my apartment in Florence my brother and dad arrived! I excitedly showed them around the city I had grown to love in between my finals and studying. We ate all the best food I could find to close-out my time in Florence and watched the sunset at San Michelangelo Square to celebrate the last night!

My Last Florence Sunset 🙁

After I packed up my apartment, we headed to Rome on the fast, Italo train. We met up with my dad’s girlfriend, Annie, in Rome where she booked a super cool hotel where my brother and I spent admittedly too much time on the vintage Mrs. Pacman machine! While we were in Rome, we made sure to see the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum (on a super fun Tales & Cocktails Tour), and the Sistine Chapel.

The Trevi Fountain

After our 3 days in Rome we headed to Athens, Greece. Being in Greece was a big change from what I had grown accustomed to in my time in Italy. Many aspects to the modern Greek culture are unique– especially their food! I was quite amazed when touring the Acropolis in Athens and seeing the Parthenon up close! The days flew by while we were in Athens, but I was definitely ready to spend time in a more relaxing city after the last few whirlwind months.

The Colosseum at Night!

Our first day in Santorini was spent relaxing! We watched the beautiful sunset and then went to an insanely nice place for dinner (kind of accidentally :/). The following day my brother and dad rented scooters to explore the island and then I joined them later in the day! We again explored and scootered the last full day in Santorini and even got to see the Red Beach at the opposite, Southern end of the island. After the utmost chaotic experience trying to get my brother home from Santorini, the three of us had to connect overnight in Rome before my dad and I continued to Amsterdam.

It Was Unreal to See the Parthenon
The Alice in Wonderland Street in the Heart of Athens?
The Santorini Views
Sunset with the Fam!

Wow- Amsterdam is AMAZING! Despite almost getting ran over by a bike or two, I had three of the best days in Amsterdam with my dad. It was super cool to explore the city with my dad because he had travelled to Amsterdam before and always raved about his memories from there. These last three days in Amsterdam with my dad were the perfect way to end my European experience and I find it quite bittersweet to return home to the US!

Amsterdam’s Famous Hard Rock with a Bike Lane Right in Middle!As I have mentioned previously—I could not be more grateful for this opportunity to study abroad in Florence! It is a literal dream come true and one in which I never thought would happen. As corny as it sounds, I could not imagine where I would be in life right now if I hadn’t studied abroad because of how drastically this experience has changed me and my outlook on the world. I am still processing how much I learned over these last four months but cannot wait to return home with these new perspectives. Florence has become another home away from home for me and I will forever cherish these four monumental months of my life!

Ale and I Peace-ing Out for the Last Time on One of Our Countless Polaroids haha

 

 

Thank you to whoever has gotten this far in my writing and ciao for the last time!

Georgia 🙂