Homework in Altavilla

May 19, 2016
Altavilla, Italy

catie kimball headshot

Catie Kimball; Junior Marketing Major Hometown: Towson, MD

Today it really hit me, I am actually in Italy! It has been a hectic yet incredible five days so far here in Altavilla. The town we are staying in is a small and quiet, yet filled with the most accommodating and friendliest people I have ever encountered.  I am trying my best to blend in as much as possible but it is a little hard when you are walking down the streets of a small town with twenty other Americans all with the same confused and lost look on their faces.  Something that we as Americans are not used to is that everyday from one to four, most of the shops and restaurants close.  I have been here for five days and I am still not used it. Sometimes we will walk around Altavilla for an hour, trying to find one place that is open.  I don’t think anyone minds though because the town is beautiful and I don’t think I could ever grow tired of looking at it.



Catie Kimball street

View of the Mountainous terrain

I never thought that I would ever say this but I am actually very glad that it is raining today.  I have so much schoolwork to catch up on, and the Wi-Fi is finally working.  We have had so many issues with the Wi-Fi, it has made completing the homework assignments very difficult.  Today I had my first test in English 3380 and the Wi-Fi kept cutting in and out, causing us to have to retake the test four times. This whole experience has really made me realize how dependent we as Americans are on technology.   I’m not sure if these types of Wi-Fi problems are normal in Italy in general or just the hotel but the Italians do not seem to mind very much.


catie kimball room

Kimball’s Dorm Room

As I sit here on this rainy Thursday, I reflect on the last couple of days.  I think about all the beautiful sights I have seen, the everlasting memories I have made, and the awesome people I have encountered.  I am so overwhelmed by all of the incredible things this country has to offer.  It is unbelievable to me to think that for Italians, these sights that we travel so far to see are something that they normally see everyday. I personally was never a big traveler, but I can honestly say that after five days of being here, I want to become one.  I am so grateful that I have been given this amazing opportunity and I will make sure that I will take advantage of every experience that comes my way within these next five weeks.













Walking along the Cobblestones

May 22, 2016
San Giorgio, Italy

Christopher Banks

Christopher Banks; MBA Student Hometown: Washington NC

I did not realize how sunburned I was from the day before until my alarm sounded Sunday morning, and it was time to get up and start another wonderful day in Italy.

Once all the students were checked out of Hotel Mastino, we boarded the minibus to visit San Giorgio di Valpolicella, a Romanesque parish church built in the 8th century. The church was beautiful inside and out, once on site, the massive bell tower caught my eye. I kept wondering what it would be like to see the construction process of this marvelous church. After looking at San Giorgio di Valpolicella, I turned around and walked towards the overlook for a view of the surrounding vineyards and Lake Garda in the distance. Once again, the pictures I took do not do the view justice.

christopher church

San Giorgio Church

Exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of San Giorgio caused me to work up quite an appetite. After a short bus ride, the group arrived at the beautiful Villa Mosconi Bertani located in Negrar, where we sampled three of their wines while enjoying a delicious lunch. Soave Lepia was the first wine served. It paired nicely with the cured beef, arugula, cherry tomato, and cream sauce. Valpolicella Ripasso, a red wine bottled on the vineyard was served with the next course which was a creamy pumpkin risotto infused with their wine bottled on site. Of the three wines I tried, this was my least favorite because of the strong taste. The final red wine sampled, Amarone Classico, was served with a savory and sweet chocolate dessert topped with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. This wine had the highest alcohol content and most complex flavors.

Christopher banks villa

Villa Moscani Bertani

Following the rather filling lunch it was time to walk off those calories. Once again, we boarded the minibus and headed to Molina Waterfall Park, which is a short mountainous drive located in the quaint town of Molina (Verona). I opted to hike the medium, less-strenuous route which was 2.3 kilometers long and took approximately one hour to complete. Throughout the hike, there were many opportunities to view the scenic waterfalls and traverse the slippery rocks and trails. Afterwards, I purchased a container of freshly picked cherries for four euros and enjoyed them during the short walk back to the minibus. I then relaxed and reflected on my wonderful day, during the bus ride back home to Altavilla Vicentina.


Weekend in Verona

May 21, 2016
Verona, Italy

kathleen lyonnais headshot

Katie Lyonnais; Senior Accounting major; Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC

We started our day with a traditional English breakfast at Hotel Mastoni in Verona, Italy.  Our meal consisted of scrambled eggs, very small hot dogs, and of course, one of my favorite Italian comfort foods: a variety of crescents. After the most important meal of the day, we all gathered in the hotel lobby to depart for Sirmione, Italy. It was very fun to explore the town with Grace, one of my new friends, and all my other classmates. Almost immediately when we arrived to this new city, we toured the castle that overlooked Lake Garda and all of Sirimone. I couldn’t help but smile and take lots of pictures because the water was so beautiful. I have a funny story of water you will hear about soon enough. We passed so many gelato shops that we couldn’t resist, even at 10 in the morning.

Kathleen lyonnais beach view

After satisfying all of our cravings, we continued to walk through the city of Sirimone, and as soon as we smelled the sulfur, we knew we had found the hot springs that the area was known for. Shortly after, we boarded the ferry that took us across the beautiful lake to the town of Garda. There was café close by when we arrived into town. I decided to eat lunch with my “crew” in order to take a break from the sun. My gut was telling me to order a pizza and after agreeing to split one with Grace, it satisfied my craving. After lunch, all of us found a spot on the shore of Lake Garda. Although the water was frigid, most of our group still decided to get in and swim to a nearby floating dock. One of my classmates had the “great idea” of tossing his iPhone in a life proof case to a near by classmate. Long story short, the said classmate now has a broken cellphone for the next four weeks. Moving on to a more positive note, the lake wasn’t like anything you would find in the states. Believe me when I tell you, the “sand” was made up of rocks and sea glass that was EXTREMELY rough on our feet. I was debating wearing cowboy boots so I wouldn’t get my feet hurt.

Ckathleen shorelineontinuing on our journey, we went to Bardolino. The city itself had so much to offer. Grace and I gazed at unique street art, antique items and found a spot to enjoy a refreshing drink. I’m always a sucker for a nice drink. As time flew by, we made our way to Lazise. Upon our arrival, the “crew” walked into the town, found a small wine shop and grabbed a cheaper bottle of wine. Let me be the first to tell you, you get what you pay for with wine in Italy and your girl is balling on a budget right now. Immediately, we realized that we had no way to open our bottles, so we returned to the store and the gentleman was more than happy to assist us with this. I am beginning to think Italian men are much nicer to us single American ladies. Speaking of Italian men, all of us stumbled upon a group of men on a bachelor weekend. What are the odds right? His friends made him dress up as a fisherman and they told us he had to complete many tasks. This seemed to be the trend as there was a woman in Bardolino doing the same thing. After chatting with the men for a while, all of us sat on the side of the lake. Grace and I shared our bottle of wine while we continued to enjoy the quaint town. A cute Italian couple were taking wedding pictures and enjoying some laughs while a family returned from a boat ride across the lake.

On the bus ride home, we were playing throwback music, all singing along to what seemed like a very short ride back to town but was actually an hour. After returning, we got a local favorite street food which consisted of fries in a cone with a dressing, we chose picante sauce. It was a fast, but great weekend in Verona.

kathleen group selfie

Getting Lost in the Floating City

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Altavilla Vicentina, Italy

Emma Brothers Headshot

Emma Brothers; Senior Marketing and Supply Chain Management Major Hometown: Fuquay- Varina NC

In just a few days, I have fallen in love. Italy is indescribably beautiful and the food inexplicably delicious. Pizza, pasta, and gelato–everything that comes to mind when you hear “Italian food” and it’s all better than you could ever imagine. The buildings are amazing, the architecture breathtaking and that’s only the few Italian places I’ve seen in four days, there is so much more to experience.
We are staying in Altavilla Vicentina, which is a quiet, small town that somewhat reminds me of my hometown. The closest big city to us is Vicenza, about a fifteen-minute train ride away. We have been to a few restaurants here, chatting in terrible Italian with locals who speak wonderful English. In fact, some of our waiters are Facebook friends now (shout out to Pietro and Andrea) because they were so nice and helpful to us clueless Americans.

Yesterday we took an afternoon trip to Venice, which was a very interesting experience. When we first got off the train, you could immediately tell you were in a big Italian city. Tourists were running by with suitcases, merchants lined the streets with roses and knockoff purses, people pushed through and there were signs everywhere booming warnings of pickpockets. It was overwhelming, but once our group stood on the bridge overlooking the Grand Canal, I felt at ease. We were in a beautiful, ancient Italian city. We were surrounded by other people in awe over a place that has awe-struck millions of people for thousands of years.

Emma Brothers Venice Street

Water street in Venice

Emma Brothers Gelato

Italian Gelato









We found a ristorante that sold us on going in by offering “spritz on the house for the Americans!” And I indulged in gnocchi and lots of formaggio. After our bellies were full, we decided to walk all the carbs off. Venice is the place to go if you want to reach your Fitbit steps in less than an hour. Our group watched the other tourists, walked into some churches, drank prosecco, and I bought a gorgeous hand painted Venetian landscape from a local artist.

Emma Brothers group pic

Somehow we ended up at a dead end, realizing that the inevitable had happened: we were lost in Venice. The buildings ran together and the streets all looked the same. I practiced my Italian with shop owners and between their directions and the help of Google Maps, we finally found our way back to the train station. But I would have to say getting lost in a maze of cobblestone and bridges will be one of my most memorable times in Italy. Almost one week down, four more to go. And I’m going to enjoy every second here, la dolce vita. As long as I don’t get lost again!

The Streets of Italy!

May 16, 2016

Altavilla Vicentina, Italy

Patrick Umberger; Senior Finance major Hometown: Garner, North Carolina

Our first day of class in Italy started early around 7:30 am for a complimentary continental breakfast provided by Hotel College Valmarana Morosini, where we are staying at for the next five weeks of our study abroad program.
After eating our complimentary breakfast, we started our first class day with an orientation session about the CUOA Business School. CUOA, which was found in 1957, was one of the first Business Schools in Italy. The main building where CUOA is located, was originally built in the late seventeenth century based on the architectural designs of Palladio. After finishing the orientation, we proceeded into a lecture hall we began to work on our school work for our classes that we taking from 10am until 12:30 pm. Once we were done with our school work for the day, many of us headed onto the public bus network to visit the city of Vicenza, Italy for the rest of the afternoon.

Vicenza, Italy is a very vibrant Italian city. It has a lot of Renaissance Era architecture, including the Piazza dei Signori and the Renaissance Basilica Palladiana. Along with its brilliant architecture, Vicenza also is an economic hub in Italy where it is home to a thriving steel and jewelry industry. While in Vicenza, we had lunch at the local restaurants in the city and looked at the different architecture designs as well as stopping into a few of the local shops.

Patrick Umberger Piazza dei Signori

The Piazza dei Signori

After eating and touring the town of Vicenza, we returned for our welcome dinner provided by CUOA at the hotel in which we are staying at. A traditional Italian cuisine was served that was very delicious! The first course consisted of hors d’oeuvres which included some different small breads and cheeses. Next, the first main course of the meal consisted of a traditional penne pasta dish with small chunks of mozzarella and a tomato sauce on top. After that, the second course consisted of roasted pork with mixed vegetables and potatoes. To close our meal, we were served dessert consisting of a scoop of vanilla sorbet that was topped with sliced strawberries.

The Corso Andrea Palladio street in Vicenza



I am very excited for the next five weeks here in Altavilla,Vicentina, Italy to not only learn and appreciate their culture, but to also make some new friends and great memories!








Company Trip to Zamperla

May 18, 2016

Altavilla Vicentina

Brooke Bush Headshot

Brooke Bush; Junior Management Major Hometown: Ringwood, NJ

Ciao! I think I’m starting to get the hang of things here in Altavilla. I’ve already become close with so many of my fellow classmates that I’ve never had the chance to meet at ECU. We’re all super excited to dive into this new culture and being here with everyone, I think it has finally hit me that I’ve made it to Italy! I may not be fully unpacked (yet) but the hotel is awesome and the CUOA where we attend class is even more so. The people who work here are not only friendly but have made adjusting so comfortable knowing there’s an obvious language barrier between us. At our ‘unbelievably tasty’ welcome dinner I sat next to one of the coordinators at CUOA. I was able to talk with her and even with our different dialects I enjoyed learning about the certain differences and similarities we have with Europe. Did you know spaghetti with meatballs is pretty much forbidden in Italy? But, all is forgotten because it’s acceptable to have both a glass of red and white wine at dinner.

Brooke Bush building

Colorful Apartment buildings in Altavilla

Waking up so early for class is probably a good thing because then the days are longer and we get to do so much more. We already took an afternoon trip into the city of Vicenza and this morning we had a guest speaker, Ms. Daniela Bassetto, come in and talk to us about Intercultural Management. We learned how important it is establish how certain countries communicate and make business decisions differently based on their culture and “status quo.” She was not only insightful and intelligent but she also made us work together in teams, figuring out the power of distance and authority for countries all around the world. A quick lunch and shot of espresso later, we were off on our first CUOA company visit. On our bus ride over I was so nervous we weren’t going to be able to fit in the streets. Tiny cars zoomed through the streets and colorful small apartments sat right on top of each other. When we started getting close to Zamperla, a designing and manufacturing company that assembles world famous roller coasters and thrill rides for amusement parks all over the world, the landscape changed into a more agricultural setting and vineyards stretched across fields.

Brooke Bush study abroad group

COB Study Abroad students


Once we arrived, we were quickly greeted by one of Zamperla’s employees who gave us a tour and talked us through the company’s background and how they operated successfully for over 50 years. I never even thought about the process it takes to make a roller coaster and even more so who was behind it. There’s a whole team, not only consisting of engineers assembling the actual parts but also designers, artists, and managers who make sure they can set themselves apart from their competitors and build lasting relationships with their customers. I now have a deeper appreciation for these huge structures and this company puts everything they have into creating safe and innovative rides to ship out all around the world. I can’t believe it has been three days and I’m already learning and experiencing so much from both a personal and educational standpoint. This journey abroad has really only just begun and I’m so excited to see all the other little treasures Italy has to offer.

Arrived in Italy!

May 15, 2016
Altavilla Vicentina, Italy

Yuexian Hong, MBA student Hometown: Xiamen, China

Twenty-four hours ago, I boarded a plane to Italy with absolutely no clue as to what I would experience in the next five weeks. As a Chinese student who is studying abroad in the United States, I know how challenging it can be when one goes to a new country on the other side of the world, and I am both nervous and anxious. However, studying abroad is not a new experience to me and now I am more prepared to overcome the language barrier (except for the fact that I learned enough English before studying in the States but studied no Italian for this trip!) and adapt to new cultural norms. To me, another huge challenge is being the only international student in the group. The sense of being an “outsider” makes it harder to fit into the group as quickly as I would like. However, challenges are what make life interesting and I am excited to embrace this new adventure. This will be my first time traveling to Europe, and by the completion of this trip, my footprint will have spanned over three continents.

Yuexian Hong vineyard

Vineyard in Altavilla Vicentina

The trip to get to Italy was long and tiring, but it was worth it when I saw the beautiful landscape of mountains, rivers, and vineyards on the way to the hotel. I then started to picture what was waiting for me to explore! It’s a little unfortunate that we arrived in Italy in a “bad time”—in the early morning, which meant we needed to fight very hard against sleepiness to get rid of jet lag.

Yuexian Hong classroom building

Classroom Building

Although the exhaustion from the long trip began to weigh on us, our level of excitement managed to take control over our bodies. We went out and explored the beautiful town in the rain, enjoying our little Italian walk! Another Italian way of life we had the chance to experience on our first day is the well-known “work life balance” —the local restaurants won’t open until 7 p.m. after their lunch break!!  Although it may have seemed like a “disaster” to us at first, as we were so hungry and excited to taste the local delicacies, it was also a good starting point, at least for me, who is always living on the run, to slow down and enjoy life.


Learning Not to Stereotype: Haysi, Virginia Alternative Spring Break Experience

Written By: Kadedra Davis


Kadedra Davis

I participated in the ABE to Haysi, Virginia and I can honestly say I was not disappointed. Before the trip I took the liberty to look up Haysi, Virginia just to see where I was going, and the views that popped up were amazing. When I found out it was near the mountains I expected that was the main reason Haysi was one of my top choices. I began to read more and was shocked by how small the town was. I thought my hometown, Grifton, NC, was small, but Haysi was even smaller and unfortunately that’s when I began to stereotype in my mind. I began to think things like “What’s the culture going to be like? Will anyone be offended by my industrial ear piercing? How often do they have visitors?” One of my bigger thoughts was “How many African Americans are in this area, or how often do they have African American visitors?” I was afraid of the things I didn’t know.

12803022_10207971834910338_135968919882223061_nI always told myself that I was not going to be one of those people who put labels on others or one who stereotyped, but there I was before I had even gotten there. I decided to make sure I went in with an open mindset and to be open to what the experience had to offer and I’m glad I did. I learned a lot of things from the trip and I’m hoping to keep them with me for the length of eternity. I learned that just because you may not have financial resources doesn’t mean you’re not rich in others areas. The people of Haysi were a very close community and because of that they were like a family. When someone needed help they were all there to show their support.

I had the opportunity to talk and to listen in on a conversation that was held between an ECU student and one of the locals. The question was asked “What do you like most about living in Haysi, VA?” She responded that she liked that it’s a small community and that she didn’t have to worry about her daughters when they’re out around town. She said she like how safe it was. I never realized how many perks and great things there were about living in a small town until I saw this community for myself. They were proud, rich in love and a held sense of community which I’m glad I got to experience this for myself.

10415672_1167294953310711_1060545438817788352_nI hope to be able to do this again and to make sure I continue to pass on the things that I’ve learned with others. Even though it’s cheesy and everyone knows it, you really shouldn’t stereotype anyone because you always learn more than you plan.

Baltimore Alternative Break Experience : Homelessness & Poverty

Written By: Walter Wright; International Business Major, Spanish

IMG_5439Over spring break I participated in the Baltimore ABE : Homelessness & Poverty trip. We stayed in a Catholic Parish in the Edmondson Township. During the trip we went to a few different places owned and operated by the Catholic Charities. These places included: Christopher Place; previously Incarcerated Men Employment Academy; Our Daily Bread; a Food Bank, where we served Lunch and ate Dinner, and talked to some of the residents in the programs there; St. Vincent’s Villas; Mental Health Facility for Children; Sarah’s House; Homeless Shelter for Families; HeadStart Preschool Program; and  A Homeless Health Center for a Homeless Awareness Walk through Baltimore.


While on this trip, I learned so much more about what it’s like to be homeless. One of the biggest reasons people find themselves homeless is due to mental health. Seeing people suffer and so needy is heartbreaking. I never see much of homelessness in Charlotte, where I am from, the majority of what I see is poverty, if anything. After this experience I will definitely be moving forward with trying to help out with this issue more.


Haysi, Virginia – Alternative Spring Break Experience

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Rachel Potter

Written By: Rachel Potter

Over spring break I participated in an Alternative Spring Break Experience in Haysi, Virginia. Haysi was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, but the greatest thing about Haysi are the people that live there.

The people of Haysi were so kind and welcoming, and they really wanted to make sure we felt comfortable. Talking with some of the people in town made me understand what life in Haysi was like. Fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by, and because of that the town applied to be classified as a food desert. The shutting down of local coal mines put a lot of people out of their jobs, and even though those people had skills that could be transferable, there was no way for them to get any kind of training. In addition, another problem Haysi is facing is the lack of youth involvement in the community. From what I heard, many people leave Haysi after they graduate high school and never look back. These three issues combined is what poverty looks like for the people of Haysi.

While in Haysi our group completed a community service project. Our project was to build a retaining wall that people could sit on when there were festivals and gatherings downtown. The original plan was for the wall to be a retaining wall only, but we built it far enough into the ground so people could sit on it. In addition, we built a place for a flower bed on the end of the wall. The wall turned out beautiful and the people of Haysi really seemed to like it. Working extremely hard on this wall made me so proud of the outcome and the joy it brought to the people of Haysi.

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Another way we got immersed in the community was attending a square dancing class put on by the “Virginia Squares” at the Kiwanis Club. We attended the class on Monday night after a long day of building. I met many people there that had lived in Haysi their whole lives, and had worked in the coal mines before they were shut down. While these people had many reasons to give up, they never did and continued dancing and having a good time living their lives.

The people of Haysi have taught me that no matter what kind of biases you have about a certain group of people, you never know that person until you listen to their story. Poverty for Haysi is lack of access, specifically access to jobs, fresh foods, and youth engagement. I will never forget this trip, and hope that I will be able to go back to Haysi this summer to do more community service, because the people there deserve more opportunities. This trip has changed the way I look at poverty, and I hope I can live the rest of my life reflecting what I learned about poverty and overcoming biases.

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Participants in the Haysi, Virginia Alternative Spring Break Trip