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Colossal Connections!

Time really flies when you’re having fun, I am already a little more than a month in and it felt like yesterday that I landed! I finally had my first week of classes, and I feel an outline of a routine forming in my day-to-day functions, which is very comforting. The main points of note though came from my Spring Break planning with my sister, the Coronavirus, and the Colusseum. To preface my experience: I heard multiple times since arriving to Italy, even in class, that much of society functions through the connections one has rather than by procedure or “by the book” so-to-speak. Feeling inspired, when my half-sister (featured with me on the left), who has been trying to develop a good relationship with me and vice-versa (because our family is complicated), offered to help plan and pay for it, I thought to myself, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

I can already feel the impending anxiety that will occur in trying to use my Eurail pass, but I’m ready to face it and learn! In finalizing my Spring Break itinerary, I felt a huge relief that I had my sister as a resource to ease the stress of planning it all on my own;. I’m very lucky and privileged that my sister is a connection I can utilize. But, then the thought hit me of, “What if I didn’t have my sister to help me plan my Spring Break?” Before my sister offered to help plan my Spring Break, I was completely on my own—I had no one going with me, a finite amount of money, and limited solo-travel experience. It was so much anxiety and fear of missing out that bubbled within me, and I’m sure in anyone within the same circumstances. To those who do find themselves in that situation, I recommend that you plan everything in ADVANCE. I believe that I would have been okay in the end if I didn’t have my sister, I would have just been a little more stressed out (and may or may not have settled for a set plan through a travel company if I felt way too overwhelmed).

But, try as I may to travel as much as possible, the issue of the Coronavirus has been of real concern. Our school had to cancel our class trip to Florence, which makes me a little sad, and the amount of hysteria over it has been very overwhelming at times. There might even be travel restrictions to countries on my itinerary, for both Spring Break and general travel. Of course I will take every precaution I can so I don’t get infected, but I must say that it is slightly discouraging with the possibility of not being able to travel⁠—and even more with possibly being sent back to the U.S. BUT, nevertheless, I will peregrinate during my time here in Europe! Now that I have my sister by my side, who is very determined to make sure I have the chance to travel while abroad, despite the Coronavirus, I feel very encouraged to stay positive. I was even more encouraged when I lived another dream of seeing the Colosseum. It felt unreal, with so many childhood memories of television adaptations of it and school lessons revolving around it flooding back to me. I got to see another ancient site in RomThe more I discover about Rome, the more I fall in love with it! Even when there is fear, the history and ancient sites are still here!

Me at the Colosseum!


Bringing My Culture Wherever I Go.

On Friday, Valentine’s Day, I did something very bold; I wore a sari and had a little photoshoot in front of the Trevi Fountain. Now, what prompted this bold action? Well, back in the States, my college had an event that is a college tradition: Junior Ring Ceremony. It’s when the entire junior class comes together and is presented with their class rings; the last time the entire class will be together until graduation. I knew that studying abroad meant I would be missing the ceremony, so I packed my class ring and black sari (since the dress code for the ceremony is black) into my suitcase, and there I was in front of the Trevi Fountain taking pictures with my roommate.

I am very proud of my South Asian ethnicity, and I always love to incorporate my culture into my American life as much as possible—one of the ways being to wear traditional clothing to events. In America, I have no problem proudly displaying my culture in any type of environment—whether I’m the minority or not—but when I arrived to the Trevi Fountain, my usual confidence was replaced by nervousness. I had known before my trip that I would stand out in Italy, and after 2 weeks of being in Rome, I was even more aware of how much I would (and did) stand out. Picture this (no pun intended): Me—a visibly South Asian person wearing my traditional cultural wear, bold makeup, and jewelry—in a dominant white, Catholic country’s capital city, taking pictures in front of a huge tourist attraction. My “uniqueness” as my mother put it, was very visible for many to see, and it was slightly intimidating as I kept thinking about it. However, my roommate who accompanied me reminded me of something I always preach to my friends and live by: who cares what other people think?

In that moment, it was like I was shown a mirror—my roommate was right, since when did I care what other people thought of me? I never do! That’s what makes me the extroverted person that I am; and I love who I am! I looked and felt beautiful in my sari, and when my roommate started taking pictures, I felt all my confidence return to me. I was radiating with my South Asian pride and collegiate pride; and I honestly didn’t care about all the stares I was receiving. I felt even more encouraged when two random Italian women approached me and asked to take some pictures with me and complimented my outfit. I felt so good by the end of my little photoshoot that I kept my sari on for the rest of the evening, even out to dinner in a public restaurant! It was truly mind-boggling to me; I know that my main goal is to change for the better during my time studying abroad, but I didn’t think I’d forget my character and mindset. I guess the awe of Rome temporarily blinded me to myself.

I definitely received a huge reality check that day: Italy is just a country just like the US, and doesn’t change my identity; I’m no one else but myself wherever I am in the world, and I cannot forget that or else I become vulnerable to having negative experiences (*cough* BAD TAXI *cough*). My experience at the Trevi Fountain has really made me feel more confident in my identities in my European environment and snapped me back into the person I know myself to be: a strong, bold woman who is proud to be herself, regardless of what others may think/say, and is proud of her culture.

My culture is a part of me, it always has been, and always will be. I am a born and raised South Asian-American— watching Bollywood movies, eating South Asian cuisine, and experiencing a colorful, over-the-top culture alongside my American upbringing. However, my pride for my South Asian culture is something that only developed in recent years; it was hard to be both an American and of South Asian descent as I had to deal with racism since my childhood, back-and-forth confusion with my identity, and not really having a community that I fit into. It all made me feel ashamed of who I was, and for a long time I pressured it all. But in these past couple years, I did a complete turnaround, re-learning my love for my culture and enthusiastically wearing my South Asian-American identity on my sleeve. Especially after Valentine’s Day, I am proud to be the multi-cultural person that I am, wherever I am in the world—whether it’s America, Italy, or anywhere else—I will proudly bring my culture wherever I go!

And I’m feeling good!

-Leslie Bricusse

3 A’s: Amazement, Anxiety, & Autonomy

When it comes to my mental health, the last thing I ever expected was anxiety being any kind of major concern for me. I have always been a confident type of person, always looking for adventures to experience and taking risks; and I am proud of how that confidence has made me very conscious about safety and security. The moment I touched down in Italy, however, all my survival skills flew out of my brain and all I had in my head was amazement and ANXIETY. I realized afterward that the anxiety I had (especially with the simultaneous amazement of being in Italy) made me susceptible to all the tourist traps and mistakes, which I did indeed engage in: exchanging money at the airport, revealing I’m American to those who asked, and paying WAYYY too much for a cab. Usually, that kind of experience would make me want to shut myself away in my room and cry for a week, but I did not have that luxury. I sill had and have so much to experience. I was also lucky as my peers and a staff member comforted me and didn’t make me feel bad when I talked about my experience, which was very comforting.

After some orientation sessions and my culture shock crisis, I finally became more comfortable and started doing some self-reflection. I never thought I was capable of having as much anxiety as I do. I was a deer in headlights! Thankfully, I feel myself slowly becoming more confident in myself. Just a few days ago, in trying to get over my anxiety, I went to the corner store by myself to buy some groceries. A simple action, and I was okay. When I got back to my apartment, I felt so proud of myself.

It is also comforting knowing that my housemates are somewhat anxious like I am. As I type this, my housemates are all booking flights and discussing travel plans. They are stressed with the process, and I’m feeling the anxiety slowly simmering within me. But, I am confident that I will be okay. In retrospect, I haven’t really made decisions on my own (ie. like booking flights and hostel reservations) before. Looking back, I wasn’t taught to make decisions since many things were decided for me, I guess that’s why I get anxiety in making decisions alone (like taking an EXTREMELY overpriced cab).

But now I need to learn how to make choices as an adult and not be indecisive. I feel myself growing up into a proper adult now more than ever. I guess experiencing the real world this way is pushing me to be more independent in a way that isn’t reliant on anyone else’s wants or needs, and I am fully ready to embrace that.

Coming to Italy, my main goal was to grow and become a better version of myself to love wholeheartedly. Now, after almost a week, I see myself growing more day by day. The hard truth is that the moment I arrived, I had no one to hold my hand and show me the way, I now have to figure things out myself. It was definitely a disappointment that I had to learn that the hard way on day one, but I celebrate my progress and lessons learned. Baby steps and a few big leaps have definitely lessened my anxiety. I am more encouraged than ever in my goals to become more autonomous, make decisions myself, and fully enjoy all the amazing aspects waiting for me to discover while abroad!

And this old world is a new world

And a bold world

For me!

-Leslie Bricusse


Off to Rome!

My Pre-departure video!

Freedom is mine!

Leslie Bricusse.

Hello! In less than 4 days I shall be on a plane to Rome, Italy, studying abroad for the semester! I am beyond excited to go abroad and cannot wait for what awaits! I shall be blogging and vlogging my adventures, and I hope you will join me! Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. 🙂

New blog, who dis?


Namaste lovely! I’m Sulakshmi Vaid – a broke college student who is about to embark on an adventure to Rome, Italy! This blog will be me sharing my adventures and reflections while studying abroad for the semester. I hope that you will join me for the adventure! 🙂

A little bit about me…

So, who exactly am I? To start, I am a junior college student at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, P.A.. I am double majoring in Political Science and History with minors in Pre-Law and Honors.

On a more personal level, I am a queer, South-Asian, cis-woman born and raised in Woodbridge, N.J. I am the first in my family to attend college in the U.S., and will now be the first in my family to study abroad!

Let’s go on an adventure!

Choosing to go abroad was not an easy decision for me because of my financial circumstances, and it seemed like an impossible dream. But, I am truly lucky in how things worked out in my favor. Now, my dream is going to be a reality, and I am going to live my life to the fullest like there’s no tomorrow!

My hope is to see and experience as much as I can with the time I have. I am already an adventurous, loud, free-spirit; so, I am bound to have some interesting experiences ;). I also hope to use this time to heal and grow as a person. In the past year, I’ve realized how healing traveling is for me, as I’m able to focus more on myself. So, this is a chance for lots of fun and healing memories, and I hope you’ll join me on my journey!

Follow me on social media!