And the World Keeps Moving…

Jennifer Hesselbach

One of the biggest ideas that you hear when you are looking into studying abroad is that it will be the most eye-opening experience. The idea that you will be pushed out of your comfort zone- you WILL feel uncomfortable and it’s very humbling.

So far even though we’ve been living in Prato for a month now, it still hadn’t felt real. I still felt like this was an extended vacation/field trip kind of situation, and not that I was in a completely different area where I was a guest into these people’s world. The moment finally clicked for me a little over a week ago on one of our trips. Some friends and I traveled to Cinque Terre, a beautiful group of 5 small beach towns located right along cliffs on the edge of the water about 2 hours away- I highly suggest everyone go visit there, just sayin’.

Anyway, though the trip wasn’t too long, we had to catch 3 different train transfers. During our second transfer on the ride back to Prato, our seats got separated and I was in a train car with 5 strangers for about a half hour- that’s where my realization happened.

For me, there’s something about listening to your iPod on a train and staring out the window that is really relaxing and gets me thinking and reflecting on random things in my life- I’m so deep and interesting, I know. Anyway, I had lowered my music a little bit at one point and heard the girl across from me answer her phone, speaking fast Italian and trying to find her ticket in her purse.

Don’t ask me why, but that moment just made me feel like such a visitor. The trains here are almost identical to home (with the exception of signs being in Italian), so I had almost felt like I was just back at home taking the train somewhere. That moment made me realize that these people have their own lives here, meanwhile our lives back in the US still go on. Everyone’s lives across the entire world just go on, no matter what is going on anywhere else. Those people on the train don’t care that I’m American or that I just went to the beach. They don’t know I’m American (okay, maybe they do, but not the point). They just carry on with their lives. Those people on the train have places to go, plans to see people, and my journey through study abroad might be a huge part of my life, but it doesn’t effect there lives out here at all. The fact that I am a smaller than miniscule part of this entire world and life that’s going on here in Italy is extremely humbling and makes me want to take in even more while I’m here to try to extend my standing.

ANYWAY, here’s some pictures of how beautiful Cinque Terre was since I obviously don’t have photos of the woman on the train to tie in relevance to this post. Enjoy!

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Tessuti in Prato

Jennifer Hesselbach

Although many things can fall into the category of “Textiles”, the term is typically defined as varying types cloth or woven material. In today’s world, the thought of textiles brings to mind the image of clothing, blankets, rugs, and other fabrics for decoration and upholstering.

The evolution of textiles has come a long way- from early people using animal skins and nature to cover themselves; fabrics and clothes have become used much more for self-expression rather than simply an essential for warmth and survival.Though they have come a long way, it’s still necessary to trace back the history, especially in a place like Italy that is highly regarded for their “tessuti” or textiles.

In the textile industry, there are a few major front-runners for countries or nations with the largest industry for it and are ranked as the largest exporters of textiles- the top three include The United States, China, and in first place, The European Union. Though the European Union covers approximately twenty-eight member countries, one of the largest contributors to their textile statistics is Italy. With many of it’s cities having a background in the textiles industry as it came up in Europe,Italy become a leader in Europe for textiles, sewing, and tailoring.Italy also earned it’s standing as one of the largest fashion capitals of the world due to it’s large fashion design niche as well as it’s long-standing history with the clothing and textiles industry.

Though I didn’t really know much about it before coming abroad to study here in Prato, this city has a pretty high-standing history in the Italian Textile business. With it’s own Museo del Tessuto (Museum of Textiles), Prato’s greatest business and trade has been in the textile industry since the beginning of the twelfth century. Located right along the outside of the city’s walls, the Museum is housed in a converted textile building. Aside from showcasing old and historical pieces, the museum also includes exhibitions and expos on specific types of textiles and time periods. The Museum’s main objective is to show gratitude to the city’s past as well showcase the evolution of the industry that this city knows very well. All the while, educating visitors on the processes and techniques of the textile industry.

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While earlier generations, centuries ago, almost primarily wore clothing that was either simple, plain colors with no decoration,  or their choices in these subjects had conscious backing. Decorations, patterns, and designs on their possessions and clothing would have been put their for a reason, based on religious meaning, social standing, and for specific occasions. The same can be said about other textiles of the time such as carpets, robes, curtains, tapestries, etc.

Fast forward to today’s society, where virtually the entire textile industry is based from self-expression- personal preference, and very few restrictions on what you can wear, what you can decorate your apartment or house with.

Prato is a prime example to show how the industry has shifted as well as show the progression and evolution over time of the styles, techniques, and types of textiles that are included in the industry.


This has been a blog.

You’re welcome.

Am I the Only One Who’s Starving?

Jennifer Hesselbach

The first thing that comes to mind when people mention Italy, is the food. Don’t get me wrong, almost all the food I’ve had during my two and a half weeks here so far has been amazing- but I have had a few frustrations with food so far-

Anywhere in the US, a typical breakfast is a bagel, pancakes, eggs, bacon, or French toast. I unfortunately can’t say the same for Italy. A typical Italian breakfast is a pastry (such as a croissant) and a coffee or water. Personally, that’s no where near enough to get me started for my day, especially since I have to walk 10 minutes through the city to get to the restaurants in the first place. The pastries are incredibly delicious, don’t EVER say I don’t like pastries; I just wish they had some more hearty things for breakfast or things with some more substance.

I feel like I’m the only person who’s starving all throughout the day since breakfast is small, and most places either have odd hours for lunch or tend to close around that time which can be inconvenient if you’re ever having a late day.

Fortunately, once it gets to dinner time (which isn’t typically before 8pm), all of that changes.

Growing up with a big Italian family, I’m used to having big, multiple course meals, but this is a different story. With so many great appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and extra things to pick on like bread, it’s so hard to leave room for any dessert… which I won’t even get started on because that could be it’s own blog post in itself.

1238112_10151654057302776_417814609_nLuckily, all of the food has been worth the wait and timing frustrations. And I know it’s just their way of every-day life and it’s not too life-shattering, it’s not like I’m not eating at all during the day, it’s just that I’d probably marry someone for a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel right now….