Erasmus Year Abroad: Being Assaulted and Halloween Happiness


Buongiorno!
Last Saturday was Halloween, which meant that there were of course some funky shenanigans on the cards - but still our usual Thursday night party ensued. Therefore, we battled through the weekend, drink after drink. Thursday's plan was to have a fairly chilled night in our local bar/club ‘Bella Vista’ so we were alive and kicking for our friend Toby’s party on Friday and then Halloween celebrations on Saturday. Of course, the chilled Thursday night wasn’t as chilled as we planned, so Friday was a bit of a struggle! (But not a struggle that free sangria couldn’t fix!)

So, here's a little tale about the events of Friday. There we were at Toby’s party, where free sangria flowing like a river, when I suddenly felt somebody softly touch my bum. I jumped round to find a man, about mid 50s standing there without a care in the world. His grey hair matched his equally grey tracksuit, which struggled to fit around his disgusting soul. I didn’t think too much about it and carried on having a good time, but then my friend told me he had also just touched her. I began to get annoyed with this man who was clearly there just to molest the young women at the party. Later, I happened to witness his creepy sausage fingers grope three more girls’ backsides. This just didn’t sit well with me - I’d had enough. I grabbed his hand off the third Italian girl, who thanked me gratefully and then with a blank expression, the man held his hands up to say “Whoops”. I told him pretty much to stop effing touching everyone up, as it’s not OK, and I turned back around to my friends.

A minute later, my brain told me that there was a nice cold beer being poured over my head running through my carefully straightened locks. As I tried to come to terms with what was happening, the grey man finished by throwing the now empty glass bottle at me, still, expressionless. Rather than instantly flipping out, I was in shock about what he had just done, and also disturbed by the look on his face as he threw the bottle at me. He was taken out of the club, still holding his hands up as though he was innocent.

I went to the ladies to have a second to think about what to do: go home and be really angry that this man had pissed me off and ruined my freshly washed, blow-dried and straightened hair; or to stay out a say YOLO. I decided the latter would be the better option, and I was bought sambucca shots to cheer me up. Incredibly, as the beer in my hair started to dry, it created some wonderful volume and I quite enjoyed the look. Every cloud, hey?

But seriously, it’s not right that this kind of thing happens. In my opinion, this guy should be locked away before someone else tells him to stop harassing them, and he punches them in the face or something. But as my friends and I have discussed, we would probably be laughed at or certainly not taken seriously if we reported him. And this provokes the thought in me about how many other young women, and anyone else in fact, don’t report this kind of thing.


Halloween

When Saturday came we were pretty exhausted, but the party was still on! After some hilarious pre-dinks in my flat with a fair few of us in my living room, we headed out to the Piazza Del Campo for a huge silent disco party. Hardly anybody was dressed up (as expected) because Halloween isn’t really a thing in Italy, but we did the usual “minimum effort facepaint” and got away with not being spoilsports.


Unfortunately, not all of us were able to get the headphones from the company, because there were so many people that wanted them. Thankfully, my aforementioned pal Toby gave me his own headphones that I was able to plug into my phone. The rest of my friends had the proper headphones and I was unlucky not to get them, but it really made no difference that I was listening to my own music rather than their shared playlist. At least I was in control of the tunes and could secretly listen to Shaggy- Boombastic as many times as I liked, heheh. We all agree that we felt like 13 year olds at a school disco, starting conga lines and not having a care in the world! It was so great to look all around and see so many smiles - the biggest of which was coming from Toby who was having the best time out of everyone. I even felt the need to take an extremely blurry selfie of Toby and I to capture his happiness mid conga, of course - here it is!



Again, this post has completely ignored anything about studying or the actual purpose of me being in Siena. However, at least you’re getting a real insight into an Erasmus student’s life, right?!

A presto!
x




Hair Care: My 'No Poo' Experience and Life-Saving AVEDA

Similarly to most other human beings on the planet, I am always on the look out for amazing hair and beauty products that are that little bit special. Being a student, it is sometimes hard to fulfil my desires for such products, so I love it when one happens to come along at a fairly low price, or if one is extra special that I can justify digging deep for.


No Poo

I love to experiment with different products- especially those that may be somewhat strange. This meant that when I heard about the 'no poo' method for washing your hair, I was pretty excited to give it a try. I won't go too much into detail here about what the method entails as this page clears it up nicely. To cut a long story short, it involves washing your hair with products other than with conventional shampoo and conditioner - fun, eh?! This is to avoid the nasty chemicals used in shampoo/conditioner that make your hair feel clean, but actually strip your hair of its goodness (such as sodium laureth sulphate/ SLS). I'm getting into checking the labels of hair products after reading a lot about the nasties you often find in your normal products, so I'm actually starting to feel like I'm on a diet!

Mistake 1 - Solely using baking soda

Last year I decided to give this crazy idea a go! I went for the baking soda option because it was something I already had in the cupboards. This involved me washing my hair with a teaspoonish amount of baking soda diluted into a jug of water each time I washed it (rookie error). It doesn't feel particularly good because it doesn't foam up like a ice shampoo does- it just kinda goes on your head and then you wash it off. After this I would sometimes use some kind of hair mask/conditioner on the ends (such as Ro's Argan Body Conditioner - yes, you can use it in your hair!) from LUSH because their products don't contain those pesky nasties that I was trying to avoid. I often left this conditioning stage out though, because  Ro's Argan can be a bit heavy and I hadn't yet found an alternative.

Mistake 2 - Not using conditioner

When I went away to Italy for 6 weeks I bought a 'New' shampoo bar from LUSH to take away with me, as it is a little easier to transport in a suitcase than baking soda. Because of the whole 'avoiding chemicals' pilgrimage I was on, I became a little despondent to using conditioner whilst I was in Italy, so I ended up just using my trusty shampoo bar.

Bad idea.

My locks were in a bit of a state after 6 weeks, to be honest. "Blimey, your hair's dry!" was literally the first thing my Mum said to me when she hugged me hello. So I knew that I needed to stop being silly and take better care of my hair. But, I wasn't sure how to do it without returning to cheap shampoo that would also further harm my hair.

Repentance


Thats when I discovered AVEDA damage remedy.
After trying to be smart by saving money and not using nasty chemicals on my hair, it turns out that I pretty much caused more harm to it than good! The ends of my hair were very dry and I felt pretty guilty for abandoning my hair. Therefore, to rectify my mistakes I forked out for a hair cut and this dreamy product which I had read great reviews about.

Aveda products incorporate plant and flower essences to create products that are good for your hair, skin, face etc. I was recommended by the assistant in the Bath store to use Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair which would supposedly repair my hair from the inside out. I use this product every time I wash my hair (every 2-4 days). I simply squeeze a 5 pence piece amount into my palms and rub together and then lightly stroke the product through my mids and ends whilst damp after washing. It acts as a heat protectant from irons and blow drying, and also helps as a de-tangler, so brushing time is reduced significantly! (And trust me, I appreciate that!) You can then safely blow dry the product into the hair or just leave it to dry naturally like I do.

To accompany this product, I bought some Faith in Nature shampoo and conditioner which contain natural ingredients so I didn't revert back to naughty, cheap drugstore shampoo. This worked pretty nicely for me- it didn't foam very much (which is a good sign) and my hair didn't get greasy very soon after washes. It was also pretty cheap at around £10 for the pair. Yay!


Verdict

Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair is a very good product. It smooths, detangles, protects from heat and repairs your hair with friendly and organic ingredients. It's not a miracle worker, but I do think that it contributes to the long-lasting, good condition of my hair. Maintaining long hair is hard, and this product reduces my hair-brushing rage A LOT, which in turn means that I rip less hair out. Win win!! It has also lasted me a long time which is surprising, seeing as I have so much hair.

I wouldn't recommend anybody use baking soda on their hair for a long period of time, especially if you aren't using a conditioner to accompany it. I have heard that using apple cider vinegar is a good, natural conditioner that can be used alongside the baking soda, so perhaps give that a try if you are dead set on going 'no poo' using baking soda!

I'd love to hear your stories about how you have gotten on with this method/ or if you will give it a try after reading this! Fingers crossed you learn from my mistakes.

A presto! 
Olivia

Erasmus Year Abroad: San Gimignano, Worlds Best Gelato


CIAO!
So, I am now well into the swing of things on my year abroad in Siena. I have been very naughty by pushing every single important thing I should be doing to the back of my mind, hence why I haven’t written here in a couple of weeks. One of the things to blame is my discovery of Netflix, or more directly, Breaking Bad. How have I missed out on this show for so long? Over the past two weeks or so I have been binge-watching like a mo-fo and I am really starting to worry how I will cope once I complete it. However, I am in Italy after all, and let not pretend that I'm the only relaxed one here.


My pals and I have kind-of worked out that we can’t survive the week if we party before a Thursday night. This means that from Thursday onwards it’s all go! Up until Thursday, we all stumble through the week (probably still hungover from our three-day bender) going to lectures, studying, eating and napping. I think I am finally done with going to random lectures, deciding I can’t understand a thing, and never returning- and actually settled on 4 subjects to do this semester. Year Abroad bureaucracy is busting our balls as expected, and the deadlines for handing in important documents stating our subject choices are currently happening. It is possible that we have actually missed the deadline for the dreaded “learning agreement’ hand-in, but none of us really know what the hell is going on.

As I mentioned before, we usually party Thursday through to Sunday, so our three-day weekend is mostly full of hangovers and regrets. But last weekend, we thought we should do something worthwhile. The nearby town of San Gimignano with the girls was the perfect little day trip! Following a Friday night spent in the pub, we almost missed the bus and had to run for it with doughnuts and espressos in our hands. An hour and a half later we arrived in an extremely cute and picturesque town perched on top of the rolling Tuscan hills. It was quite a relief to be off the bus full of 12 year old boys saying “I have a very long spade” with suggestive Italian smirks. The weatherman said it would be around 24 degrees, and he certainly delivered. We strolled through the winding streets in the autumn sun, stopping occasionally to gawp at the views of the hills around us.


Rather than having lunch in an overpriced restaurant, we found a supermarket and filled our baskets with mozzarella, cured meats, bread, olives and other Italian delights (not forgetting the vino!) We found a lovely little spot in the corner of a sunlit piazza and laid out our feast on the floor. A musician played a steel drum in the background as we chatted and scoffed our faces with cheese; it was absolute perfection.


Ice cream was the next thing on the list. San Gim is renowned for its ice cream, as one of its gelaterias earned the “Gelato World Champion” title twice in recent years. In my eyes it isn’t worthy of its title, (nor the huge queue that we had to battle through to get in the door) - but it was still nice of course, as it was gelato after all!


Almost every one of us fell asleep on the bus home as we were all so wiped out from our exciting day trip! Our plans for that night quickly went out of the window as we were all so tired....PARTY HARD!


A presto!
x

Erasmus Year in Siena | The Party Continues


Week 1 of lectures is done! It wasn’t a completely successful week- but I survived it. As expected, I didn’t understand the three Italian literature lessons I attended, nor the social anthropology one that I left half way through. I even managed to miss the first three lessons of my Sociology module but made the fourth and it was the first lecture that I’ve understood a word of- so it’s not all bad…

In between these dreadful lectures, I have been eating a lot and crying myself to sleep... Not really, I’m joking. But, I did have a few “how the F am I going to survive this year?” moments. I’m sure things will get better though, and I know that I’m not the only Erasmus student to feel like this so I’m not going to pack it in just yet.

The view from my room. I wish.
Aside from crapping my pants in-and-out of lectures, normal practise has resumed. Some of us went on a city tour, and a tour of the big municipal building on Piazza dal Campo- which were both very good and insightful. Even though I have been here for a few weeks now, I still hadn’t learnt much about some of the main parts and foundations of Siena, so I was really happy to finally find out some stuff. The municipal building was really cool, and so beautiful. The ceilings and other paintings throughout the building are the best I’ve ever seen! I mean, just look at this ceiling and see for yourselves. Unfortunately, I only had my phone that doesn’t produce the best of photos!

Pano
Last weekend, my housemate Emma and I went on an Erasmus trip to the Chianti hills where we visited some wineries, tasted different wines and then randomly ended the trip in a thermae spa. I must say, we were rather hungover and tired so the highlight was the really cool spa, which we went to in the dark. The outdoor pools were all lit up, and even though the whole place stank of sulphur, it was a very nice end to the day.

What a view!
On Thursday we had a crazily drunk night out. Well, drunk day actually. The weather was incredible, so we had to enjoy it in the Piazza with some prosecco, of course! I was clearly too eager for the night ahead and possibly peaked a little early under the 4pm sun whilst having a blast in the piazza. We cooked up a load of pasta which sorted us all out before we headed back out for the real party. We later had pre-drinks around Mia’s, which was fun as always: playing embarrassing games and annoying the neighbours with noise. There were more of us than usual, which meant extra fun and the chance to make more friends. The night ended in me being extremely inebriated and sick in front of said new friends, and getting locked out of my apartment because drunk Olivia forgot to pack her ‘night out’ bag properly.

Friday consisted of shame and a terrible hangover. And then, I don’t know how we did it, but we actually all managed to drag our bottoms out for another night out for the Erasmus social- which resembled a school disco in a beautiful courtyard. My new best buddy Dario (literal buddy- there’s a buddy scheme here!) organised it so I had to show my support after he’s been so kind and helpful to me.

Dario's milkshake brings all the buddies to Siena
Saturday night was always going to be a drag because of our previous two heavy nights out. After a lazy day round our friend Giles’ house watching the rugby and hiding from the relentless rain outside, we powered through some slow, sociable pre-drinks round Marc’s. Us girls called it a night rather early but incredibly, the boys continued to go out and have a very messy night themselves, including a lot of shots and some funny stories to tell us the next day. Sunday consisted of meeting friends for coffee, walks around the city and supper round Georgia's. She made us a great spag bol and APPLE CRUMBLE! In Italy! Incredible. Thanks G!

Crumble heaven and G
I know what you might all be thinking- similarly to my mum, who’s words were “I’m worried for your liver”- but we don’t spend all our time drinking the lovely Chianti from our mate Guilio in the wine cellar- we mostly meet for pizza/ ice cream/ coffee/ shopping, or just chill in the piazza. I’d love to tell you that we’re all studying hard and learning loads of Italian, but I’m afraid to say that’s not quite how its been, so far! I’m sure in the next few weeks we will all realise that the sh*t is about to hit the fan and we should learn some stuff for our impending exams, or that we’d simply have our modules chosen and finalised before the deadline comes. But the rubbish WiFi makes that kind of hard, too- well, that and the unhelpful Italian lecturers and bureaucratic system!
 
S Q U A D
I’m looking forward to the day that I understand a lecture here without feeling stupidly foreign. Who knows, that might even happen this coming week! I highly doubt it.


A presto!

Erasmus Year in Siena | My First Week

Hey ladies and gents! 

Here is a little (or perhaps large- lets see) slice of what’s been going on in my life over the past week! This is my first proper post from Siena, Italy, where I am going to be spending the next 10 months or so for my Erasmus year abroad. I’ve only been here for a week yet it is already crazy and living up to my expectations! 

Il Duomo

A bit about how I got here, and how bloody awkward it is to get to Siena. 


Seeing as Siena is way too cool to have an airport, I had to fly into Pisa with three bags, weighing in at about 45kg in total. The journey from Pisa meant that I had to lug aforementioned bags up and down many flights of stairs and onto a few different modes of public transport, including a bus, two trains and a taxi.  Choosing to wear my thickest items of clothing (to save room in the bags) was the worst decision I made that day. Also, there I was, busting a gut and almost haemorrhaging from every orifice underneath a tonne of wooly jumper, as I tried to lift my cases up the train station platform steps- when I realised halfway up that there was a lift. I of course, struggling, sweating and hating life, missed my train. And possibly slipped a disk. (Seriously, I really hurt my back and could hardly stand up straight for days!)

PDC
My dear friend Sion from my university is also in Siena, and very kindly met me at the station. He lives in the same apartment block as me so I fortunately had his assistance with carrying my bags up to my top-floor flat. If it weren’t for him, I think I would still be stood panting at the bottom of the stairs drenched in sweat from carrying the bags 10ft from the taxi. After battling with my keys in the old wooden doors, I met two of my flatmates who seemed lovely from the get-go. Ada is from Poland, and she was cooking pasta when I walked through the door so I knew we’d get on instantly. Olga is from Germany and has a cheeky sense of humour so I also knew we’d get on just fine! My third roomie, Emma arrived a few days later and she’s a complete babe, so I’m having some housemate luck (for the first time ever)! 

Girl band moment (and Sion)
*I don't actually know the name of this building*..... and PDC
I was absolutely knackered after travelling and having a little look around beautiful Siena with Sion, that I just couldn’t face going out that night with other new arrivals. I stayed in my lovely and spacious new room and rested my poor, poor aching body. Sion, however, went out and put in some groundwork with a good bunch of Erasmus students. This meant that the next day, I had some ready-made friends lined up which I really appreciated, especially after arriving a bit later than the others.

My roomies and I, plus Mia and Amy
So, since that next day when I shook the hands of my new friends in front of the fountain in Piazza del Campo, (or PDC as we now call it) we’ve been having a whale of a time together! We have almost daily pizza meetings, lunch outings, gelato sessions, too many nights out, and of course, the ‘squad’ FB chats have been well established. We’ve even had angry neighbours threatening to shut down our pre-drink parties with the police already! It’s a bit like freshers all over again! There is a solid group of ten of us, and that number is rapidly growing every day. *A really helpful tool for us guys out here on Erasmus, is the FB group(s) that are created so we can meet and arrange things. (Definitely look out for these groups if you are going/currently on Erasmus!)*
 
"I'm not drinking tonight"
I think I’ll leave it here for now before I ramble on about the amount of pasta and pizza I’ve eaten, or how truly incredible the view from my kitchen window is….
 
THE VIEW!

Until next time!
Olivia x


Life Update | Thai Travels and Moving to Italy

Sawasdee ka! Hello! Ciao!


Wowzaaaaa. What a crazy couple of weeks! The last time I posted I was preparing to leave my placement in Thailand to go on a two-week holiday around the south. It is now a few weeks on and I am in Italy on my year abroad! I left Thailand on the 13th September and had a short yet sweet time at home before departing again for Italy on the 19th.  So much has happened and I’m really upset I was unable to blog during my travels- but it really was impossible to do so when staying in hostels, keeping up with a huge group of friends and planning (and living) adventures every second of the day. And that’s not even including the amount of time spent downing dodgy Thai cocktail buckets!


So seeing as travel blogging is supposedly my thing, I have clearly been doing a pretty crap job of it recently. During my short 6 days at home between countries, I had a mountain of unpacking, washing and re-packing to do, as well as catching up with family and friends, and celebrating my 22nd birthday on the 16th! And now I find myself in a beautiful Italian apartment in Siena, struggling to decide what amazing experiences to tell you about first. After deliberating over this issue whilst drinking a €1.50 bottle of red (#studentlife), I have decided to fill you in on my Italian year-abroad journey whilst it’s still a hot topic- much like the men all around me. During this time, I will also prepare the tales of the tens of Thai sunsets and cocktails that I endured, all with the hope to inspire you to take the journey to beautiful Koh Tao, advise you to not get pickpocketed at the full moon party in Koh Phangan (like I did), and not to stay in certain dodgy hostels in Bangkok.


I promise to get my backside into gear ASAP because I hate not having documented certain things for my own records, and not only to tell my nearest and dearest readers about my unfortunate encounters and incredible confronts. Until then, you can gawp at some of my favourite sights from my journeys.


**Oh, and to those of you who followed my daily posts during my teaching placement, thank you for reading and giving your support because it was definitely more time consuming and difficult than I initially expected daily blogging would be. However, I did come runner up in the British Council blogging competition which made my efforts worthwhile. Especially the prize of a fake BOSE speaker from the market which speaks in a hilarious voice every time "the bluetooth dewiz is connect-edd successfullayy" and makes my day every time I hear it.


Ciao, a presto!
Olivia x