Sunday, November 25, 2012


Hi all!!
Just writing a quick post to let you know I'm still alive and will be getting a real blog post together really soon! I really did not have much time during Thanksgiving break (ironic, huh?) to actually sit down and get things done, and this week is going to be VERY busy since I have my presentation of my history thesis and my journalism senior seminar proposal both due by the end of the week.  Alas, the life of a college senior. I will do my best to write again as soon as possible! Thank you all for understanding!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving Excitement!


A week from tomorrow, I will be heading home for Thanksgiving break.  This will be my first time home from school since the year has started, and I CAN'T WAIT!  This will be a very needed break since my classes are becoming much busier with the final fall semester push.  Within the next few weeks, I have my MJD senior seminar proposal due, my History senior thesis due, a thesis presentation, and a final archival research paper due.  Hopefully, I can come back from break all charged and ready to take on the last few weeks!

I got to spend Thanksgiving last year with my friend Rui from Japan!! We made hand turkeys!! 

In an attempt to keep my spirits high while I trudge through my massive pile of work, here are some things I'm looking forward to during Thanksgiving break:

1. Home-cooked food – Though learning how to cook in my townhouse this year is fun, I've gotten rather lazy during the past week or two and have visited Alliot more than I would have liked.  Alliot food is good for the most part, but nothing beats a home-cooked meal. I can already taste the turkey and stuffing!

2. And did I mention, apple pie? Yes, folks, that's right. I am REALLY looking forward to apple pie.  Every year, my family and I make several apple pies from scratch.  We have it down to a science now, with an assembly line-fashion preparation: I peel the apples; my sister Katie cuts the apples up; my brother John makes the special mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg etc. that goes with the apples; and my Mom makes the crust.  It is absolutely delicious, and the house smells like pie for days.  I. Can't. Wait.

Yum! Homemade apple pie! 

3. Family and Friends – Since I haven't seen most of my family members or friends from home since I was dropped off in August, it will be really nice to see them all again.  I even have one friend with a countdown on his phone to mark when I will be coming home! I am so excited at the prospect of sleepovers, bowling matches and movie nights.

4. A break from studies – And, boy do I need it... Senior year is great, but there is so much to do in so little time!

5. Turkey Tap! My tap teacher from high school has invited several of her "former" students (well... we're still kind of her students) to gather during break to tap all together! I love any opportunity to tap with my teacher and fellow tap friends. I always end up learning so many new things!

When I come back from break, my roommates and I will be ready to start celebrating Christmas! We have already had Christmas music playing in our house even though it's still more than a month away.  We're obsessed with Christmas, but we're ok with it! :)

If you have any questions about my experience as a student at St. Michael's College, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (@LizMurraySMC) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock: Looking Back Six Months

Two days ago (Nov. 4) marked six months since I officially came back the United States from Italy.  I used to refer to this jokingly as the worst day of my life, but I have found ways to use my study abroad experiences in my life now and enjoy any opportunity to help enrich the campus community with my experiences.  Working for the study abroad office has given me quite the outlet, as well as participating in PALS.  I'll pretty much jump at any opportunity to talk about Italy, and my friends find this quite amusing to say the least.  So yes... I've held off for a while, but here's a post about Italy (or rather my experiences after Italy).

Anyone who knows me knows that I had a bit of trouble adjusting back to the United States when I came back (aka reverse culture shock).  I compared everything to the Italian equivalent, yelled at the Olive Garden "Taste of Tuscany" commercial, still wanted to say, "Ciao, grazie," when I left public establishments, and talked about Italy non-stop. I was – and in some respects still am – an Italian snob. Yes, I'll admit it, I was a bit out of control.  But, can you blame me?  I had just returned from the four most wonderful and adventure/experience-filled months of my life and had an intense passion for the Italian culture as a whole.

I first went through sadness of leaving Italy.  Then there was the excitement of being home and being able to tell all my stories to more than willing ears.  Then when those willing ears diminished in number, there was denial that I was actually back in the US for more than a week.  After a few weeks of being home, I moved to Boston to do my internship.  That was a bit of a distraction from my obsession, but I still felt rather sad and alone when I thought of Italy and how much I wanted that experience back.  I started journaling about everything Italy and writing down memories.  I even read "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Eat Pray Love" among other books to curb my obsession.  I'm still quite obsessed six months later, but the aching for Italy has become happiness that I had the opportunity to experience studying abroad in the first place and still missing Italy a little bit when reminded of my experience.

Right after leaving Italy, my group of friends and I made a private Facebook group for just us so we could all keep in touch, exchange phone numbers and US contact info, and obsess over Italy in private. I probably would have gone nuts if not for the messages from the girls and numerous Skype sessions filled with, "Oh my gosh, nobody understands," and, "Today I spoke to an old woman in the supermarket about my experience because my parents are sick of Italy stories."  My study abroad friends became my support system, and I still love hearing from all of them about junior/senior year in college.  When Hurricane Sandy hit a week ago, there were messages of "Stay safe," and "Love and miss you." Now and then, there is still the occasional post about certain fashion shows happening in Italy or encounters with Italian students/speakers on our various campuses.

During the summer, I made a list of all the things I experienced during my reverse culture shock. Here are some of the top things I can remember right now (the list was pretty long).  Everyone goes through reverse culture shock in some way, but everyone experiences it differently and for varying amounts of time:

  1. I thought I broke the toilet on the day after I came back from Italy.  I forgot that American toilets had standing water in the bowl, so when I looked into the toilet, I had this awful sinking feeling in my stomach that something was wrong. In reality, there was nothing wrong, and I quickly remembered I wasn't in Italy any longer. 
  2. Hearing English and only English again was really weird.  On the other side of that, not having to prep myself in another language before speaking to a native was also really odd.  At first, it was nice to be able to understand everyone, but after a while I really missed hearing the musicality of different languages being spoken all around me. It also took me a lot of effort not to respond in Italian in certain situations.
  3. Food was a HUGE adjustment.  I was definitely spoiled because of my meal tickets while I was abroad.  These tickets allowed me to eat out at Italian restaurants for most of the week.  My program, AIFS, really understood that food was a huge part of the culture and one part we should not miss out on.  Americans just cannot do Italian food well because they end up complicating what should be simple and delicious. 
  4. Going from a beautiful half-medieval city with cobble-stone streets and buildings so close together you could practically reach across the street from your window and touch your neighbor to rural Adams, Massachusetts, was really weird. I went from having everything to do to nothing to do and from walking everywhere to driving everywhere.  
  5. As I mentioned, I talked about Italy non-stop when I came home.  Everyone was really interested at first, but this interest quickly went away.  It was also really difficult to tell stories to people who had not lived in Italy for four months and did not understand Italian culture the way I knew it.  Explaining the layout of the city was really difficult too until I figured out I could show everyone a satellite view on Google maps.  Unfortunately, interest had gone away by the time I discovered that. 
This might sound like a depressing return to the US, and it was for a little while.  However, now I'm just really thankful that I was able to experience everything in the first place and that I'm able to share my experiences with my peers and family members (in a less overwhelming way now, of course).  Right now, it would be culture shock for me to go back to Italy since I've adjusted back to the American culture so much (though I resisted for a while).  Someday, I will return and will probably still remember my way around and be bombarded with all the memories I made during my four months there.  I look forward to that return trip, but I know I have important things to complete in the US first.  Until then, I hope I can a way to use my study abroad experience during the rest of my college life and afterward.

My friends (excluding my friend Ryan) on one of our last evenings in Florence on top of Piazzale Michelangelo.  Photo courtesy of Molly Byrne.

If you have any questions about my study abroad experience or my life as a student at St. Michael's college, please feel free to email me (, Tweet me (@LizMurraySMC) or ask me a question on formspring (lizmurray3).


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Exploring WWII Edmundite Archives

This semester, I had the privilege to take a World War II in Europe history seminar class.  It is taught twice per week by the history department's British historian Professor Purcell, and it has easily turned out to be my favorite class this semester.  I had never taken a class with Professor Purcell before this semester, so I did not really know what to expect, especially since this is an honors section of the course. She has turned out to be an awesome professor – high-energy, thought-provoking, witty and creative.

For the first half of the semester, we read (lots of reading) about WWII from its very origins to the end, even breaking it down by country.  The class was broken into three groups: USSR, Germany and France.  Professor Purcell is currently teaching the British part of the course since that is her area of expertise.  Each group had to lead discussion for two consecutive classes on the WWII experience within its particular country.  I was excited to get Germany, even though all of the countries are interesting in their own way.  It was fascinating to look even further into each country and discover things I never knew about the war! I was a bit disappointed that Italy was not one of the countries examined (since I'm a little obsessed...), but I quickly got over it when I found out that Italy was a player in the war, but not a gigantic player.

Now, we're getting into what I think is the best part of the semester so far: exploring archives! Professor Purcell had not planned to do this when she originally wrote the syllabus, but when she discovered that there were archives from WWII era from and about the Edmundites in Britain, France and Vermont, she changed her mind. Instead of spending more time discussing and reading about the war, our class gets to explore these archives and try to create some kind of storyline about the Edmundites during WWII.  These archives range from photos and correspondence to ledgers and personnel files.  It is SO exciting to be some of the first people to work with these archives and make sense of them.

My part in the project is to write a biography from the correspondence and personnel file of Fr. Olivia Langlois, who was an Edmundite priest connected with St. Michael's, but who was at the church in Whitton, England, throughout the war.  So far, I have mostly been reading Langlois's correspondence to Fr. Nicolle (for whom Nicolle Hall is named), who was residing in Vermont at the time, and Langlois has turned out to be a very interesting person! His personality shows right through his writing, and I have found him to be very witty and rather blunt at times.  He definitely sends lots of tidbits of gossip from Whitton back to Fr. Nicolle throughout the war.  It is also fun to see other "characters", like Fr. Cheray (for whom Cheray Science Hall is named) pop up through my reading!

This is definitely one of the most fun projects I have done in any of my classes at Saint Mike's.  Hands-on learning activities like these are one of the many reasons why I love Saint Mike's so much.  It really is enriching academically, and it adds to the research training I have already gained through both my majors.  So far, there have not been many challenges for me other than trying to make out Langlois's handwriting, but I'm expecting some to pop up through the process of writing his biography.  I am really excited for what else is to come from exploring the WWII archives!

If you have any questions about classes at Saint Michael's or my life as a student, please feel free to email me (, Tweet me (@LizMurraySMC - I recently changed this, so be careful not to type @LittleLizzie33 anymore!) or ask me a question on formspring (lizmurray3).