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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!


Like any other person, I’m a little nervous to leave home. This experience has been an incredible eye opener; I’ve come to “see” more of our world in its true light. I see its beauty and its beasts, and although I knew them before, I got to look at them from different angles/take on a different perspective. All the research and investigating helped me get a clearer picture of our world, and has prepared me for this adventure.

I have invested time and time again in this program. I have organized the needed documents for my documentation on Italy’s Immigration Population. I’ve translated words, phrases, and looked up Italian etiquette to assimilate myself, and make the process easier for my Italian brethren. I’ve always believed in what Nelson Mandela said about language, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” All I want to do is understand, so through all this research, I hope I get to.

I think, when I get nervous, I immerse myself in research. So, with everything “entirely/mostly done”, I started packing. Packing has been difficult, because like most people, my mother doesn’t have enough to pay for luggage. She’s helping me by packing; we had to pick up containers to store my essentials, because the airport had policies. I’ve enjoyed the process, even though parental advice is sometimes frightening. We talked about the movie Taken and what I would have to do if that ever occurred. After taking about all the worst case scenarios, the fright turned into happiness and joy. Talking with them made me happy and filled me with laughter. They are the reason I live my life the way I do, I love them whole heartedly; most of the nerves are from leaving them. They give me so much support in everything I do, I’m lucky to have them.

With everything said and “done”, I can’t wait to experience these new and exciting events in my life. They have lead me to my mentor Kat Yalung, and the young girls of the Wandering Scholar. All the women/girls, I’ve come to know on this journey have shown great passion, and have inspired me immensely. The things that await me in Italy are so profound and I can’t narrow down what I’m most excited about. One thing I can say,  is that meeting the young girls/women will be one of the highlights of the trip.

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travel scholarship high school wandering scholar

Venice. Image credit: Tripsavvy

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 days until Italy are drawing closer and closer and my anticipation is growing more and more.  It will be life-changing to experience another culture and engage in the world.

I am very excited but also nervous although I think the excitement outweighs any nerves. I am most excited to get on the plane and see a whole new country. When you stay in one place so long, you sometimes forget there is a whole beautiful world around you. I cannot wait to try the foods that I have read about and visit the places that I’ve only seen on my computer. I am sure it will feel very different than looking at it from a phone screen! The main reason why I am nervous is that I am afraid that I will forget something or something will go wrong last minute. I feel that is trip and the preparation done for it is a major and significant deal and I do not want it to be ruined. Fortunately, I have amazing and helpful girls that I can talk to. My fellow Wandering Scholars have given me great tips that help to calm my anxiety. For example, Jeraly told me that she double checks her packing list every night before she goes to bed. It is so much easier and I am thankful I have like-minded and very brilliant girls to experience this journey with. I am happy that I will get to know them more once we meet in person.

I still have a bit of packing to do. I received more great tips from an orientation call from Smithsonian Student adventures a couple weeks ago. Our guide said to use a backpack or duffel that would be easy to carry around from place to place. There is also a packing list on the Smithsonian Student Adventures website that very clearly tells you what you should bring. Documenting my trip is much easier after our Wandering Scholar Slack Chat. I received very helpful information to make sure I get the most out of the trip. There are so many useful resources if you know where to look!

The last few weeks have required that I put time aside to dive into researching and planning to go to another country. I have some challenges but I have a supportive team to help me along the way. I am spending the last days before take-off hanging out with my siblings. We love playing Just Dance. It is extremely hot in Greensboro right now. The temperature has been in the high 90s the past few days. The weather in Milan is only a couple degrees lower and I will take happily take it over this oven! I am going to miss my family but I will make sure to call and send them the thousands the pictures I take. I am thrilled to be going on this trip and I can’t wait for the future! read more →

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 →

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Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo. Image credit: Silvia Ferrante

When I received my acceptance email for The Wandering Scholar and saw the words “Cuisine and Culture of Italy,” a giant smile spread across my face. Coming from a family that rarely eats anything but Pakistani food, I was thrilled to be part of a trip that emphasized my exposure to traditional Italian cuisine. As excited as I was, I am going to admit that I was a bit worried too. Aside from the delectable pasta and pizza, Italy has a lot of food that includes meat. I can’t expect halal meat to be available everywhere I go, so I will be adopting a pescatarian diet for the trip. Not only do I love my roasted chicken, but not being able to eat the meat of farm animals significantly reduces my meal options…or so I thought.

Breakfast options in Italy tend to be great for the vegetarian diet. Italians, like much of the world’s population, prefer lighter breakfasts. Coffee, some cookies, and fruit are common breakfast foods throughout Italy. Another terrific breakfast option is a cornetto, or croissant. Though it is not unique to Italy, bread with a buttery taste is popular throughout the peninsula.

For lunch and dinner, dishes that include meat, like the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak), are very popular. However, there are also a variety of delicious vegetarian options. A dish that I am particularly interested in tasting is “Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo”, which is pasta tossed in mushroom sauce and pieces of vegetable. Another traditional dish, Ribollita, is a soup comprised of stale bread, tomatoes, beans, and other in-season vegetables.

Speaking of bread, restaurants in Florence usually serve bread that may taste bland, with a hard, dense crust. This taste occurs because the bread lacks salt. Back in the days of the Medici family, a feud broke out between the parts of Florence that the Medici family ruled, and Pisa, a port in Tuscany. Pisa cut the salt supply to Florence, and as a result, bakers had to start making bread without salt. Even today, the bread in Florence is baked without salt. Italians do love their traditions!

Now if you truly want to get an authentic taste of the traditional foods of Florence, you must try some street food. Two popular options are lampredotto and trippa. Both are sandwiches made from the edible parts of the stomachs of farm animals. Lampredotto is made from the final stomach of a cow. Don’t get too squeamish-judging by how popular it is among native Florentines, I’m sure both dishes taste great.

Last, but in no way least, is the gelato in Florence. Gelato is a lot like ice-cream, but gelato contains more milk and less cream than ice-cream. Know the numbness in your mouth that you get when you’re eating ice-cream? You won’t have to worry about that as gelato is served at a higher temperature than ice-cream. Here are some quick tips for buying gelato in Italy: avoid buying gelato from street vendors, because their gelato is often made with artificial ingredients. If you want to try the pistachio gelato, which I certainly will do, make sure the color is no brighter than a dull green; a brighter green is usually indicative of a lower quality gelato.

Is your stomach growling? Mine sure is. It’s a comfort to know that there will be more than enough vegetarian options for me to choose from and that my sugar cravings will be met. Just imagine: walking over the Ponte Vecchio at sunset, with some soft Stracciatella gelato melting in your mouth. What could be more perfect? read more →

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Baccalà mantecato alla veneziana. Image credit: Giallo Zafferano


In this world, there are so many things that seperate us. They take on all different shapes and sizes, like the human race itself. But I know there are ways we can surpass these obstacles. For me, they seem to take the shape of “weapons;” they are not the usual definition of a weapon, but they do transcend/ go beyond the constructs of men. These ‘weapons’ are the art that we create, the music that we envision, and the food that we share. As people grow older, they begin to add to their arsenal. These additions are things like love, hope, culture, and tradition. Although many people nowadays seem to fear culture, tradition, and even religion, we shouldn’t let that stop us, because they bring in so much joy, sadness, and development. They allow us to enjoy being alive; they give us a sentiment that can’t be explained through words. These ‘weapons’ are things living dormant in everyone, and through my travels I hope to the basics: music, art, love, and the culinarily treats.

A motto I like to live by is: “For everything we do has a purpose.” So, with that being said, today’s post will focus on the Culinary Traditions that Venice, Italy holds dear to its heart. Follow me, as this will be a treat.

Unlike the United States, the average Italian eats a light breakfast. When looking for an average Italian native living in Venice, I discovered that they eat around 8am; depending on work and other variables, they eat when convenient. The breakfast usually consists of an espresso made at home (w/ or w/o milk) and a dunking biscuits or bread, with fresh fruit or juice on the side. Another option would be a “neighborhood café that gives a cappuccino and a croissant, or a simple espresso, fresh squeezed orange juice (in winter, when the oranges are good only) and perhaps a savory sandwich.” For lunch, they usually eat around 1pm; lunch is a two-course meal, usually “pasta plus a protein entrée, or pasta and a salad.”  Dinner ranges from 7:30 to 8pm in Venice. It usually includes soup of some sort, “lots of vegetable side dishes and a light protein entrée, like vegetable frittata or salumi; or ricotta, stracchino, mozzarella or other light cheeses.” They say it’s a lighter meal, that involves wine and reminiscing about the day. One of the events that I can’t wait to experience is the after dinner part, when most people walk around or lounge in their seat staring up at the night sky.

Italy has many special occasions. As a whole they have more than 20 celebrations; Venice has a total of 8 itself, including the celebrations of Italy. These celebrations have a variety of different foods that are specific to the region in Venice. They include: Baccala’ Mantecata, Sarde in Saor (Marinated Sardines), Polenta, Risi i Bisi (Rice and Fresh Peas),  Risotto, etc.. One memorable celebration is April 25th, when the people of Venice come together to celebrate St. Mark’s Day and the Festa del Boscolo. The dish of the day is the risi e bisi known as ‘rice and peas’ in Venice. “It’s  also said that a true dish of risi e bisi  must contain more pieces than rice, because that was the sustenance made the Italian people”. When you read about their celebrations, you discover the history; the risa e bisi, represents unity and what it truly means to be apart of a “family”.

Italy is home to strong people, so when we look deeper into regions like Venice, we are able to see how far they go for their ‘family’. When examining the recipes specific to Venice, I was able to notice similarities between my families recipes and their own. They required you to stay focused, but also multitask. They included fresh ingredients and most required time; they were labor intensive, because they represented what means to be Italian, a mother, a father, and a family.

In the end, everyone can agree that food is transcending. It is apart of our life, and without it we would all die. It allows us to communicate with the everyone despite religion, race, color, gender, disability, and nationality. Food is something we all adore and love. I can’t wait to experience all the things food holds: history, struggles, pain, sweat, joy, and above all else, love.

PS: Venice has amazing street food! More to come… read more →