My interest in travelling has always been due to my interest in creating empathy and connections with people who I’ve never clearly seen their perspectives. Something that surprised me about my experience was that a language barrier can be something that is hard to break. I often take for granted that I came to the United States at a young age and that made it easier to learn a second language. Due to this, it was difficult to create those connections and have long, elaborate conversations.

Italy had many surprises for me, but something that was the most surprising was the similarity of the importance of food in their culture as well as in mine. Growing up with fast food restaurants, I’ve learned to appreciate the home-cooked meals my mom prepares for us. The grocery stores in Italy, the bakeries, and the restaurants all had fresh ingredients and many restaurant owners would get offended if you didn’t your food which is something that I’ve grown up with my whole life. This is especially common with my grandmothers because they will often turn their heads over their shoulders to make sure you’ve eaten all your food and that you’ve eaten enough food to the extent to which your stomach can contain. Also, I fell in love with Siena which was my favorite due to the environment of it which made me feel welcomed and reminded of the small town I live in. I felt like I would be able to have conversations with anyone and that they would be happy to make me feel welcome and wouldn’t make it difficult to make friends. Overall, I became deeply interested in Siena’s own history and traditions.

Studying abroad and world relations have always been my interests which have sparked my passion for wanting to pursue a career in political science. Going to Italy and having an idea that I wanted to attain new perspectives helped create a more realistic path to pursuing my passion. It surprised me how I was constantly comparing US customs and regulations to those of Italy and that caused me to gain interest in studying abroad in Italy.

Only 3 out of 6 of my mom’s children have citizenship in the United States and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. I’ve always had the fear of having my family taken away from me because I had already been separated from them due to the fact that I arrived to the United States on an airplane and they all had to go through a more rigorous, risky journey. This increased significantly during the 2016 election when I turned the television to watch the presidential debates, I’d been doing since the beginning of my passion for politics, and I watched as a man spoke about my family calling them criminals when I’ve watched my parents struggle to provide opportunities they never had.

I’d speak to my mom about it and explain what he’s trying to do and how and she’d tell me to not worry because it would never happen because she has an idyllic representation in her mind of the United States. This image had been created in her mind due to the fact that she was never on social media, she was oblivious to when people were trying to belittle her, she’d only take in mind those Americans who “invested time and energy in building human connection” (“Why Build Bridges, Not Walls”). After I had proven to her that there were people in this country that believed she was a criminal and that she had stolen a minimum wage job from an American (which she has due to the fact that she doesn’t speak English), she simply told me that she was raised around the idea to build a longer table if you are more fortunate than others, not a taller fence.

My experience in Italy is something that I will take with me my entire life because it taught me, not only different ideas of how we can help women around the world gain representation, but also the overwhelming amount of history many countries have within them. Having learned that Italy is rich in culture, history, and customs has made me yearn to visit many different countries to get the same feeling I received during my visit to Italy. My attitude has become more open-minded toward cultures and understanding why they have the customs they have. I’ve definitely not been able to stop talking about my experience in meeting new students from around the United States, attaining their perspectives, and having fallen in love with Siena. read more →

plane travel high school scholarship international wandering scholar

Plane travel. Image credit: google.

Note: For this assignment we asked our Scholars to share how they’re feeling in the days before takeoff. Their trip to Italy begins on June 23!

The day I received the email stating that I had been chosen to be able to travel to Italy to do research on something that I was passionate about, I had a rush of happiness and couldn’t stop talking about it.

As the days went by, it was always on my mind, the assignments we were doing made me more excited because the more you know about something, the more questions you have and the more interesting it becomes. Learning about the language and how similar it was to Spanish, discovering the history in their food and how much passion is put toward it, and even the type of clothing they wear. The videos, the podcasts, the blogs of others, and the YouTube videos that have watched have somehow made me yearn for more information and want to be standing in Italy myself and have conversations with the people walking around.

Now that we are approaching the date, I am nervous but excited as I’ve never been. The essence of being able to travel to Italy and acquire knowledge on their policies and the controversial situations at the moment is something I never thought I’d be able to do. It is an honor to be able to represent our country, meet new people, and learn in the manner of being in that situation and feeling what it’s like. Although part of me may be nervous due to the logistics, my feeling of being excited surmounts any of those. I went to dinner with my friends to say goodbye and have been spending my last few days with my family and my closest friend. It seems as if they are more nervous about me going than I am, but I understand because it has been a long time since I have been away for two weeks and not near them. Due to having summer practices for cheerleading, I’ve had to make sure I make some time for saying goodbye and it has been arduous, but it’s been feasible. Besides leaving my family, I am most worried about people receiving my questions as an offense or that I have caught them at the wrong time. Speaking to people is something that I can do easily but I’ve never tried it in a foreign country, so I’m nervous about the outlook of it. On the other hand, I am most excited about meeting new people and having conversations with people who may have a completely different point of view of mine and cause me to amend more-which is a good thing. I enjoy learning new ideas and having to reevaluate my old ideas because it means that I have advanced in my learning.

The adventure at home has been delightful, so I can’t wait until I’m in Italy myself, finally meeting the amazing girls that are coming with me, and together attaining information on subjects we are passionate about!

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Ribollita Italy Food Travel High School Scholarship thewanderingscholar smithsonianstudentadventures

Ribollita. Image credit:

Many say the epitome of Milan is the cuisine because every aspect of their food has a story mixed with rich sauces and everyone has come to love it. Beginning with breakfast,  it contains coffee, many pastries, fruits, salads, and for the most part, many healthy ingredients. Through the sources I’ve read, it is noticeable that they focus on healthy, fresh food which makes a statement on how they prioritize health and avoid food that does not benefit them. They have many markets and there has been researches done that have concluded that many in Italy tend to resort to home-cooked meals. Many know Italy as fancy, high-end meals, but there are many simple recipes and suppers that many prepare. An example of this is Ribollita which is a soup that has history tied to peasants and is now very popular. Ribollita includes: onions, olive oil, carrots, pancetta, garlic, salt, black pepper, and tomatoes. It reveals that not every person in Italy eats the foods they are known for. Also, the Margherita pizza has been tied to the poor side of Naples, but is now loved by many. Americans may recognize pizza as a meal with many toppings of your preference, but in Italy, it is a simple pie. The Margherita pizza contains: mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil. It was originally made for the 1889 Italian queen, Margherita de Savoy, and it became her favorite food. Another famous meal that no one who has visited Italy or an Italian restaurant can ever go by without and that is pasta. “The first written record of pasta and tomato sauce is said to be found in L’Apicio Moderno, a cookbook written in 1790 by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi”. Pasta began as a food eaten with hands but people began to use cutlery because of the innovation that was Marinara sauce. As food has evolved due to immigration and food being dispersed, it is important to remember that food has been assimilated throughout the years to compromise with the diverse preferences all over the world.

The Milanese people celebrate many festivities and although it may not be the first place many think about when speaking of Italian food. Their food is significantly diverse due to the ruling the of many powers like the Spanish, the Austrians, and the French. One of the most famous Milanese food that is used all around Milan during Christmas is panettone. Panettone is a complex bread that contains warm water, dried active baking flour, warm milk,caster sugar , vanilla extract, glace fruits, lemon zest, orange zest, butter, egg yolk, and cream. It is a simple but delicious dessert to make during a cold holiday where everyone can enjoy a sweet meal.

Since the population of Milan is mostly wealthy people, the only “street food scene” there is is of aesthetic windows of food organized to attract busy workers walking the streets looking for a meal that doesn’t take too long to prepare but measures to their fancy taste. Milanese food isn’t labor-intensive but it does take a long time the better quality it is. Especially since the food in Milan is high-end, it has many ingredients but does not take too much to make the meals. Their ritual begins with breakfast , lunch is around 11 a.m. and it tends to be a quick meal, many eat around 4 p.m. because children are out of school and many are angry, and they end with dinner at 7 p.m.. It is common for everyone to drink wine because they do not view alcohol as something to consume to intoxicate but rather, as a health benefit that many know about wine. read more →


Note: To help our scholars familiarize themselves with their host country, we asked each to watch a different 25-30 minute youtube video about a particular region of Italy. Each video stars Rick Steves, a foremost expert on European travel. After they watched their assigned videos, Scholars were asked to provide a summary of its contents and highlight a topic it covers that especially interests them – this could be anything from a moment in history to a place or a person. In addition to explaining their personal interest in the topic. 

Rick Steves stated, “no trip to Italy is complete without Milan and Lake Como.” Many people often overlook Milan, but it has high fashion, some of the fanciest delis, grandest cemeteries, and the greatest opera house. Milan is Italy’s “industrial, banking, publishing, and convention capital”. It overcame four centuries of domination by Spain, Austria, and France, but ended with Italian independence and unity.

Architecture was influenced by the mood and story of what was going at the time. An example is the train station which has a fascist sense to it left by Mussolini. The train station is enormous and was meant to make people feel small, too small to believe they were great enough to betray or question Mussolini. The Pirelli Tower expresses and displays the rise of Italy after the fascist period. The abundance of churches, their size, and the gothic style of architecture represents the era of religious movement. Every detail of the churches from the marble floors up to the golden Virgin Mary conveys the importance of the churches and how critical it was to perfect them.

As people gather at Milan’s Great Square, they admire the great statue of Victor Emmanuel ll who is looking at The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll that was a gift for him from the people of Milan because he was their first King. Now, it is the pride of Milan and has prestigious shopping centers where millions of people visit. Along with these centers is Milan’s “world-class shopping zone” called The Quadrilateral. As for prestigious food, there is a deli in Milan titled “Peck” which is where most entrepreneurs and others with prominence go to eat. It has food from sandwiches, cheese, a wine section, and even the displays show the time they take into making the food desirable enough to pay for them.

The Sforza Castle was built with brick and made large for military use but has now turned into a public space for people to visit and tour. The Cimitero Monumentale is a monumental cemetery in Milan whose detailed structure of every statue and painting is precise and accurately conveys the devastating message from death. Having researched Renaissance artists like Leonardo Da Vinci, it was interesting to find out that he was the essential influence to the aesthetics by being a sculptor, musician, dentist, scientist, engineer, and architect. He designed the largest equestrian monument in the world, but one of his greatest masterpieces is the decoration in the Monk’s Dining Hall. The Last Supper has a history of surviving when nothing else did and representing the rush of emotions in the painting perfectly. Da Vinci identified himself with Milan more than any other city which explains the significance and reasoning for his statue. Another great tourist attraction is La Scala which has been devoted to performing the grandest opera’s and having a museum with the greatest actors for those who cannot acquire a seat for the opera.

Lake Como gives off the vibes of relaxation and deja vu. It has not been renovated in many years which is honorable that people get to see what artists viewed. Bellagio is elegant which delivers what “5-star visitors what they are accustomed to”. With the large pools, the elegant food, and care for their poodles. Along with these is Varenna which is a small town with romance and may be considered the ideal harbor. It is like walking in history where artists would paint, fishers would fish, and others would go to enjoy the peace.

To admire the work of great architects like Leonardo Da Vinci and analyze the history through the stories that are expressed in the art, Milan is the optimal city to visit. It also has prestigious delis and shopping centers for those who enjoy the shopping and spending of money. For a time to relax and take a visit in history, Lake Como, Varenna, and Bellagio would be the ideal places to visit. There are many places to relax and admire the calm skies above them and water below them. People often visit the elegant hotels to experience the absolute beauty of them. read more →