Getting Robbed!

As much as you might think, “That won’t happen to me”, It can definitely still happen to you.

Prior to going on your study abroad you go through an orientation. This orientation is meant to teach and prepare us for our time abroad. One of the things that is highly stressed is personal safety and keeping your belongings safe as well. Having had a sister who has traveled abroad previously for a semester, she warned me about the high volume of pick-pocketers in Europe. So taking hold of this advice, I prepared myself by buying a travel purse with a built in lock/clip to keep it closed. I was wearing an “anti-theft” black cross-body bag that I had gotten off amazon when the incident occurred. For the most part it had served me very well and I hadn’t had any issues with it. Honestly I would still recommend the purse even after being robbed. It was really me who was at fault for letting my guard down.

[Click Here to see the online report]

It was like every Wednesday evening, I had gone to lessons during the day and in the evening I prepared myself to go to 100 Montaditos located in the center of Modena. Wednesday nights are great because the food is at a discount and so many of my Erasmus friends take the time to go, meet up, and chat about how everything is going. It was almost like a mid-week reunion for some of us.

On this particular night 100 Montaditos was packed. I was sitting at the end of a few tables all packed together for my friends and I. Suddenly saw one of the Italian ESN Modena (Erasmus Student Network) members. [They are the Italian students who plan events for all the students on Erasmus in a specific location.]  Not long before, I had just payed for my order of food and drink. But in the excitement of seeing my friend, I got up and walked over to go hug her and say hi. As I was chatting with her for a minute, I began to feel my purse moving around a bit. It took me a few seconds before a realized a stranger was right next to me. I quickly turned around removing my purse from his hands! The creepy and sloppily dressed guy suddenly started asking me for “change” in order to distract me from what had happened and I told him ABSOLUTELY NOT!

As the strange guy began to walk away, it occurred to me to check my belongings to see if anything was missing. I must have forgotten to close it after paying! Within seconds I realized my cellphone was gone but the rest of my belongings were still there. As I looked back up, I saw the creepy guy just steps from exiting the door! I quickly yelled after him and tried to catch up to him before he exited the restaurant. It was too difficult seeing as I mentioned before the restaurant was packed. I ran out of the restaurant to see if i could see which way he went but it was too dark and too late. One of the servers in the restaurant realized what had just happened and was kind enough to call the police for me. But this is Europe, the likelihood that he would get caught was very slim to none. While the police were on their way I asked my friend to borrow her phone so I could try and use Find my iPhone. It helped somewhat but it was entirely accurate about it’s location.

What I didn’t know that had happened was, when I ran out of the restaurant to look for the guy, another girl saw me and and had seen the direction the guy went in. She was already looking for him from another restaurant he had been in earlier that night. So she apparently went after the guy and confronted him about stealing and demanded he give her what he had taken. The thief quickly surrendered and gave her 3 cellphones he had stolen that night, one being mine.

Meanwhile I was told to wait in the restaurant for the police to arrive. The server who had called the police had received news that the thief had been caught. When the police arrived they asked me if the guy they caught was the same one and I quickly was able to assure them that it was. The girl who had confronted him also came over to the police to deliver the stolen phones she was able to retrieve. She asked me if one was mine and I was absolutely relieved to say yes! This whole ordeal occurred all in about 20 minutes or so. It was so intense that I was unable to relax the rest of the evening. I was extremely lucky that I got my cellphone back.

This is actually the third incident of cellphone theft that I had heard of. A few months earlier, one of my friends was calling someone at Novi Park and right in the middle of her call someone yanked her phone out of her hand and ran away. She never got her phone back unfortunately. Another friend was also confronted by a thief and almost got his phone stolen but he held on to it tight enough that he couldn’t take it and the thief ended up pepper spraying him. some locals called the police and the ambulance for him. Both of these incidents occurred in the same park at different times. Be wary of Novi Park in general.

The next day I found out that my incident had made it on the newspaper. Although it did not mention any names, I felt a little famous (unfortunately not for anything to be proud of though).

Click Here to see the online report




Day-Trip to Verona: (October 7, 2018)

Estimated travel time from Modena by train:
(Verona Porta Nuova) about 2hours and 15min
Estimated ticket price: Starting from €9.05 – €30.00

Being a member of the ESN Modena – Erasmus Student Network (Modena), I am able to attend many of the organized events that they plan throughout the year. One of these events was a day trip to Verona with a guided tour from ESN Verona and a typical meal from the area.

Arriving in Verona, at first there really is not much of anything to see. We all gathered in front of the train station and the event organizers lead the way to the main part of the city. In total it was about a 20 minute walk to arrive to the Verona Arena. Once we got closer to our destination, I could really see the beauty and charm of the city coming to life once we got into Piazza Brà.

Our first stop was the Arena di Verona. It is a very large amphitheater still currently used for events held in the city such as concerts and theatrical performances. Because it was the first Sunday of the month, the entrance fee into the amphitheater was only €1. It was really cool to be able to look inside the Arena. It was very big and it is easy to see all the age and history that it holds. It’s tremendous presence alone is felt as soon as you see it.

We spent a good amount of time roaming around the inside of the Arena di Verona. Afterwards, we went to a small restaurant for a traditional meal. It was a risotto made with cinnamon and bits of mushroom along with a glass of wine. I personally never had risotto before and so trying this meal was a first for me. It tasted much better than it sounded and quite different from what I am used to eating. Sitting around a large table with new Erasmus friends and ESN coordinators was very enjoyable. As we ate the traditional meal in Verona, we chatted about what the typical meals from our own countries were and what foods we were good at preparing. The photo bellow is from that lunch we had all together.

After lunch we returned to the Arena to meet up with ESN Verona and begin our city tour! They took us around to see many sites including the statue of Juliet and the balcony. It was super crowded and and I had to make my way through a small archway with walls filled with writing of love, names, and hearts, just to get into the tiny courtyard. You are allowed to go up on the balcony but you have to pay to go inside. Large groups of people surrounded Juliet’s statue to get a chance to rub her right breast for a change of luck in their love life. It is a bit over rated but I do believe it is worth seeing at least once in your life if you find it to your interest.

The rest of the city itself has a lot of character and charm. I did not know what to expect upon my visit to Verona but with its unique history, food, and views, I found the city of love capturing my heart. There was so much more that I wasn’t able to photograph. I personally want to return here very soon to take a slower walk around the city and really take in and enjoy everything it has to offer.



Day-Trip to Parma: (October 6, 2018)

Estimated travel time from Modena by train: about 30min
Estimated ticket price: starting from €5.40 – €10.00

Traveling to Parma was one of my first day trips that I took in Italy. It was a relatively close distance from Modena and one of my new Erasmus friends had invited me to go with her.

I was a bit nervous seeing as I didn’t quite understand the train system yet. Figuring out how to get to the train station from my apartment in Modena was also a bit confusing as I was still figuring out the city layout. It took me about 20-25 minutes to find my way to the train station the first couple times.

Upon arrival in Parma, the first thing you see out from the station is a large statue of Italian explorer Vittorio Bottego on a dirt mountain and in the center with a native american person on each side of him, on their own smaller mountains.

Walking deeper into the city, we saw was the outside of Galleria nazionale di Parma. right next to that is the Palazzo della Pilotta but it seemed the area was under construction or renovation so I was not able to go and see it. So instead we decided to find il Cattedrale di Parma. On our way there, we came across the Monumento ai caduti, a bell tower dedicated to the soldiers who have died in war. It is a beautiful tower and definitely worth a look at.

I have to say, the Cattedrale di Parma, was and still is one of my favorite churches that I have ever visited. The inside was very beautiful and ornate and I appreciate the layout and beautiful artwork all throughout. Right next door to the Cattedrale is the Baptistery of Parma and behind the Cattedrale di Parma is the San Giovanni Evangelista. Although I did not go inside either of those two, they both have a gorgeous facade that is enough to WOW you without having to pay an entrance fee.

The rest of the afternoon I spent roaming around the city looking for anything else we might find. In search for food we stumbled upon the Basilica Santa Maria della Steccata which was not open for us to see inside unfortunately and next to it is the Monumento al Parmigianino. On our way back to the train station we also managed to find the Giuseppe Garibaldi Monument which, if it hadn’t been for the rain, we would have tried to spend a little more time looking at. All in all, it was a really lovely day trip and I feel that It was definitely worth going to see.

Pre-Departure Timeline



Color Key:
Purple = Financial Aid
Orange = Italian Student Visa
Blue = UNIMORE Registration
Yellow = Housing
Black = Other

Dream On by Aerosmith

Spring Semester 2018 @ University of Massachusetts – Lowell



  • Monday, January 22, 2018 – 1st Day of Spring Classes


  • Wednesday, February 7, 2018 – Logged in to the UMASS Study Abroad Network , Selected my desired program at UNIMORE and clicked “Apply Now“. Began working on submitting the documents necessary for the first portion of the application.
  • Friday, February 23, 2018 – My Exchange Nomination was sent to the Ufficio Relazioni Internazionali of UNIMORE by Emily Zeitsev from UMass Lowell’s Office of International Experiences & Study Abroad
    This contains some personal information including your Last name, First name, Sex, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Nationality, Field of Study, Semester of Study Abroad, and lastly your student E-mail. (It’s mostly just a notice of intent to study abroad.)


  • Thursday, March 15, 2018 – Sent and received e-mails (through Giulia Po DeLisle) from UNIMORE about information of courses I may potentially need to take and about some courses in Reggio Emilia, as opposed to in Modena.
  • Friday, March 30, 2018 Received notification that I needed to meet with the Study Abroad Financial Aid Assistant Director, Tonya Brito


  • Monday, April 2, 2018 – Fall UML Advising Begins ( Meet with Giulia Po DeLisle in this month to look over and get an idea of potential courses you can take abroad and to assess your individual academic needs.)
  • Monday, April 23, 2018 – Received information from the Italian Consulate in Boston saying that If I am applying for a FULL YEAR study visa, then I do not need proof of a return flight.
  • Tuesday, April 24, 2018 – Received UNIMORE Invitation Visa letter from Giulia Po DeLisle.
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018 – UMass Lowell Study Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018 Sent Tonya Brito a copy of the UNIMORE Invitation Visa letter.



  • Tuesday, June 5, 2018 – Bought a one-way flight to Bologna, Italy
  • Wednesday, June 6, 2018 – Joined UNIMORE International Welcome Desk Facebook group (link provided to you in an e-mail around this date)
  • Friday, June 8, 2018 – Sent Emily Zeitsev a Preliminary list of courses I want to take for the Fall 2018 semester and the course descriptions so that they could get approval from the right departments.
  • Friday, June 15, 2018 – Deadline to register and complete the UNIMORE application and submit required documents to the ISU Services website. ( If you have difficulty uploading any documents, you can e-mail the document to ) 
    1. Unimore Application Instruction
    2. Short Registration Guide
    3. Full Registration Guide
  • Monday, June 25, 2018 – Received UML Visa Letter
  • Thursday, June 28, 2018 – Submitted UNIMORE Learning Agreement form


  • July 2 – July 26, 2018 – Sent copies of all my paperwork and documents for review by Emily Zeitsev, Fern MacKinnon, and Giulia Po DeLisle in preparation for my Visa Appointment.
  • Monday, July 2, 2018 – Began searching for a room in a shared apartment near the university campus that I will be frequenting [Off-Campus Housing]. Housing is NOT provided by UNIMORE for Erasmus or Overseas students. Housing must be financed by the student (Financial Aid may or may not help cover expenses as it depends on your financial aid eligibility).
    Some websites I used to search were:

    1. (Modena)
    2. (Modena)
    3. (Modena)
    4. IWD UNIMORE Private Accommodation Service (Begins Mid-July)
    5. Facebook Groups

NOTE: Please be cautious of SCAMMERS on all of these recommendations and any other locations that you may look for housing. If you are unsure about anything, reach out to Giulia or Emily for guidance.


  • Thursday, July 5, 2018 – Sent Tonya Brito an e-mail requesting the status of my Financial Aid Package due to the need of that information for my Study Abroad Visa appointment.
  • Monday, July 16, 2018 – Received Study Abroad Program Packet 

NOTE: For the UNIMORE Program you ONLY need to submit the POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR STUDENTS STUDYING ABROAD(Pg. 3) [notarized at any bank or AAA]. You can drop off the form in person at the Solution center to be delivered to Tonya Brito.
You should complete the cost sheet yourself just to get an idea of your overall budget. (Click Here for a short list of Living Expenses). All Tuition and Fees for this program are paid directly to UMASS LOWELL as any regular school year.

  • Thursday, July 19, 2018  Received Financial Aid Award on SIS   
  • Monday, July 23, 2018 – Received the contract for a room in a shared apartment.
  • Thursday July 26, 2018 – Requested an Enrollment Verification letter from the Solution Center.
  • Friday, July 27, 2018 – Study Abroad Visa appointment at the Italian Consulate in Boston
  • Tuesday, July 30, 2018 – Transferred 1st payment to reserve the room until my arrival.


  • Wednesday, August 1, 2018 – E-mailed Tonya Brito my flight itinerary.
  • Wednesday, August 8, 2018 – E-mailed Emily Zeitsev the address of the apartment I will be residing in during my time abroad.
  • Friday, August 10, 2018 – Picked up Passport from the Italian Consulate with Student Visa Inside!
  • Monday, August 13, 2018 – Joined the Erasmus Student Network (ESN Modena) on Facebook


  • Friday, September 7, 2018 – Met with Giulia to make arrival plans.
  • Saturday, September 8, 2018 – E-mailed Landlady about arrival plans
  • Monday, September 17, 2018 – Depart for Italy! Arrivederci!

Making the Decision

“It is said that the average person makes about 35,000 relatively conscious decisions in a single day.”

From hitting the snooze button to sleep in 10 more min before your 8am class to choosing what major you actually want to study, we all have to make both big and small decisions in our lives.
One of the biggest decisions I’ve made this year is to study abroad in Modena, Italy for the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 [Academic Year]!


A little background music to go along with this post. Enjoy! 
[Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield]



First, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Rosa and I am 24 (almost 25) years old. I am going to be (technically) a Senior this coming Fall 2018 semester. I think for most people, being a senior is generally nice because everyone knows that means that you are almost done. But in my case, being a “Senior” is so much more.

At this point, I am not what you may necessarily consider a traditional student. ” 

Between 2011 and 2017, for various reasons, I was in and out of quite a few universities and colleges (3 to be exact). I have lived on campus for 2 of them and I was a commuter from home for 1. By the time I got to the 3rd, I was able to complete my Associates degree in World Languages and move on to another university. In Fall 2017 I was accepted to transfer to UMass Lowell to work on completing my Bachelors degree and major in World Languages: Spanish & Italian, as well as a minor in Graphic Design. UMass Lowell is now the 4th university I have attended, and I am very happy to say I have been very successful as a commuter student in my time here.

“Needless to say, It has been a very long journey for me to get to where I am right now and to be able to make the amazing decision to study abroad.” 



In my Fall ’17 semester at UMass Lowell, I wasn’t sure if I would even do a study abroad at all. The problem with being a transfer student is that you have to complete a certain amount of credits at the educational institution you are attending in order to graduate from there. So as I’ve mentioned before, being a senior and graduating is really important to me. Especially with how long its taken me to get to this point, and so not being able to do that is a big deal and i didn’t want to risk that for a study abroad.

Nearing the end of Fall semester, I got in contact with my advisor to select the courses I wanted to take for the Spring semester. In meeting Professor Giulia Po’ DeLisle, we were able to talk about the direction of my course of study and what my short and long term goals were.

“She encouraged me to take a look at some of the study abroad opportunities in Italy that were being promoted by UMass Lowell.”

I told her about my concerns of not graduating in time and/or not being able to graduate due to credits not completed at my home educational institution. Giulia was super helpful and worked closely with me to to find out all the answers to many of my concerns and what my options were. Once I felt more comfortable about the idea of studying abroad, I began looking into the different options.

CLICK HERE for the full list of programs UMass Lowell students can apply to!

Like doe-eyed, innocent, incoming freshmen students checking out the study abroad table at the orientation fair, I started getting excited at the thought that maybe studying abroad was still a good idea. It would be a brand new experience, a new continent, and I’d go on this big crazy foreign adventure!



Then it hit me…….. I had no clue where I would even get the funds to support myself on a journey like this. Up until this point, I had been (and still am) working part time while being a full-time student. I’ve been paying my bills and a decent portion of my student loans, and meanwhile, I’m STILL living with my parents. (That last bit about still living with my parents is both a blessing and a curse.) I thought that by 22 I’d be graduated from college, independent, and out living my best life. Yet here I am, on the grind, and still trying to get one REALLY expensive piece of paper.

As I dove further into my research I began looking into the financial set up of each program I was interested in. Some of the programs had a lot of options and would package up the cost of Airfare, housing, meal stipend, and any extra trips that you opted for and the arrangements for all of it into one set price. Others did not have as many options but, that allows you freedom over what and how much you pay for things.

After comparing and contrasting the different price ranges and speaking with my parents to see what is realistic and doable for our family’s financial situation (and planning to work my butt of during the summer, which I have been), I decided to choose to apply to an exchange program. I felt that doing an exchange program, as opposed to a partner-led program, would be the right move for me because there would be a lot more control over how much and where my money would be spent.

SIDE NOTE: [ In part, that decision was also influenced by my sister’s own study abroad semester experience with a partner-led program (not in Italy). From her personal account of the experience, there were both positives and negatives with her program. In my own research, I felt that some of the negatives she mentioned were definite deal breakers for me and with an exchange program in a smaller city I would have a lot less of those issues.
For example, some partner-led programs are in really big cities. In many cases, big cities are very international and so the chances that some people would just speak english to you are much higher. For me this is a deal breaker because I don’t want to have the option to “cheat” my way out of having to speak Italian and end up preventing myself from truly learning the language. ]



After looking through each Italian Exchange Program that interested me:

I made the final decision to apply to study in Modena, Italy at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia!

Making the decision to study abroad and which exact program was not an easy one. There were a lot of factors to consider throughout the entire process. My professor and advisor Giulia Po’ DeLisle was very in favor of my decision! Shortly after applying to the program, Emily Zeitsev from the Office of International Experiences & Study Abroad contacted me to help and guide me through the pre-departure process.

At the end of the day though, I am really lucky to have the parents that I have. They have been very supportive of my decision and although they will always be worried for my safety, they also know this is a once in a lifetime experience that I have to take.

What a perfectly crazy way to end my college undergrad career! Abroad, and at yet another university! (If you’re still counting that makes 5!)


Follow this Fall 2018’s Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences Global Correspondent, Rosa Payes, on her studies in Modena, Italy!

Rosa is a UMass Lowell World Languages & Culture major with a Graphic Design minor studying this Fall on a UMass Lowell Exchange program with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE).

Rosa leaning on a rick. Follow this Fall 2018’s Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences Global Correspondent, Rosa Peyes, on her studies in Modena, Italy! Rosa is a UMass Lowell World Languages & Culture major with a Graphic Design minor studying this Fall on a UMass Lowell Exchange program with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE)

You can also read blogs from other trips to Italy and across the globe!