The Countdown

I’ve had my cheese fries (pictured above) and enchiladas. I spent time with family over four Christmas celebrations. Now it’s only two days till Florence, Italy and the reality is finally setting in.

The reality of moving is a little daunting right now, so I’m going to show you what a real Kansas Christmas looks like. After the early morning gifts, it’s time for┬áchores:


Feeding the Sheep


Waking the Piggies!

When chores are finished we make biscuits, gravy, and fried apples.


Cast Iron Forever!

Finally it’s time to sit around in your overalls and share the warmth from the wood-burning stove with your loved ones.

I’m preparing to make a new home for myself a quarter of the world away. Italy is known for fashion, food, history, and art. Kansas is known for tornados, a yellow brick road, and wheat. Maybe there is somewhere in between. The countdown, the search, and the anticipation have begun!


My Last Week in the States

The above picture was taken at my brother’s wedding this past summer. This also represents one of the things I will miss the most while I am abroad; my family. This picture is the most recent photo with everyone present. Both grandmothers, an uncle, parents, all five children (groom included), bride, and a very nervous flower girl all smiled at the same time. A real miracle.

Contemplating my last week at home, I have a included short “bucket list”.

Food: Charlie’s cheese fries and red enchiladas. Charlie’s Restaurant is part of a local truck stop. Open 24/7, it’s a favorite among the Bethel College students for late night, artery clogging, decadent, and greasy cheese fries. Newton,KS is home to a large hispanic population. There are multiple tex-mex restaurants in town and I really need an enchilada right now.

Families: Not only will I miss my true family, I will miss my pseudo family. A former roommate integrated me into his family, who welcomed me with open arms. His nieces, one pictured below, are the cutest children in the world (at least until one of my siblings has children). I am excited to spend part of my Christmas break with both of my families.

Maggie and ME

And that’s it. All I want is food and family.

Besides my bucket list, I’ll miss the places. I’ll miss Bethel College and the students, faculty, and staff who’ve made my time there so memorable. I’ll miss traveling to Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. I’ll miss my grandma’s farm and the mulberries that will ripen while I’m away.

Writing this has been a wonderful way to remember the beauties of America and my home. I’m excited to start this next chapter, but I can’t wait to come back!!

Audra's Photo

Photographer: Bethel graduate Audra Miller

Musck Ox

Alaska: baby musk ox



Arizona: the view from Picketpost Mountain



A Day in Florence

I’ll be in Florence, Italy for one full day before I leave for Perugia. Thinking about my time there this past summer, I’ve decided on a few things I want to repeat. One church, one art museum, and lots of walking.

San Miniato al Monte is one of my favorite cathedrals. From the city center, head southeast out of town, cross the Ponte Vecchio, and walk into the hills of Tuscany. The romanesque cathedral is perched on one of the highest points in all of Florence. The scenery and vantage point are absolutely stunning. Make sure to wear good walking shoes! The interior of the cathedral is cool and dark. Looking up at ornately painted, wooden rafters and sitting in perfect silence is well worth the walk.

I’m also looking forward to visiting the Bargello. The Bargello, a former prison, is an art museum that houses works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Ghiberti, and other great artists of the renaissance. Pros: It’s not as crowded as the Galleria degli Uffizi or the Galleria dell’Accademia. Cons: Michelangelo’s David is in the Accademia.

The way I walk, having to look at everything and stop in every shop, this will probably be a full day. I can barely contain my excitement! A few other things I’m excited to see again are the Ponte Vecchio,

Ponte Vecchio

Orsan Michele

Orsan Michele 23

and the street art.


How to Get a Visa

For those of us who are getting a visa for the first time, the process can be completely baffling. For other American’s who are as confused by this process as I was, here’s the steps that must be taken.

  1. Research Jurisdiction. Find out which consulate holds jurisdiction over your state and if there is a vice consulate nearer your home. For Kansan’s, the Consulate General of Italy in Chicago holds jurisdiction and awards visas. If you are not able to travel to Chicago, there is a vice consulate in Kansas City, MO. They do not award visas, but will approve your documents.
  2. Get a Packet Checklist. The website for the Consulate General of Italy looks like the work of an unpaid intern in 2008. To find your application, or packet, I suggest following this link. Get all these documents together a month or two in advance of your departure date.
  3. Make an Appointment. An appointment with the consulate or vice consulate is absolutely necessary. I would suggest doing this a few months before departure. All you need to do is bring in you packet and some patience. If you have any questions, this is the time to ask them!
  4. Final Steps. Send in your packet and include a paid and addressed envelope for the return of your passport. I paid for overnight shipping both sending and receiving.

All of this work is absolutely worth it! Once you have your visa, you’re ready to travel! Nothing can stop you!