Posted by: Katie | August 6, 2012

Returns to Italy

Angie shares the struggles of studying for CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exams and balancing that with daily life; however, it paid off in the end when she passed her exams. In addition, she shares her experiences of traveling to Italy.

1. What were your expectations of CPA exams and how were they similar than or different to the actual exams?

I certainly expected the CPA exam to be challenging, as an exam should be for a profession that has the ability to significantly affect the general public.  That said, I definitely underestimated how much of my life the process would actually consume.  I took the opportunity to enroll in a review course that provided textbooks, video lectures, and thousands of review questions and simulations for preparation.  I felt a review course was important for me because I completed my accounting degree on a part-time basis over six years while working full-time; therefore, I wasn’t sure how much detailed information I would be able to retain on my own.  The review course I enrolled in did a good job of simulating what the actual exam looked like, so that I wasn’t completely shocked or surprised when I sat for the real thing.

2. How much studying did you do per night?

LOTS.  Way more than I thought I would have to.  I’ve listened to approximately 110 hours of both live and video review lectures over the last six months.  I did most of my studying on the weekends because of work, and each weekend I would spend about 10-15 hours answering review questions, completing simulations, and taking practice exams.  And to be honest, I’m not convinced it was nearly enough!

3. Did you manage to find a balance between studying and life’s daily activities?

I did, but not before a major emotional meltdown late last year.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so overwhelmed that, literally, the thought of having to learn a new game was the proverbial straw that broke me and left me sobbing uncontrollably for hours on end.  In the grand scheme of things I had nothing to be upset about, but I had bottled up the stress and anxiety for so long that I finally just cracked.  I am incredibly fortunate, though, to have a strong support system of family and friends.  They help me to keep things in perspective, and remind me of all of the good things in life when I’m feeling down and out.

(moving onto happier thoughts – Italy!)

4. Where in Italy did you visit and what sights did you see?

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Italy twice!  The first was in the spring of 2000, when I was a sophomore in college.  My choir spent nine weeks in Europe performing and studying abroad, and three of those weeks were in Italy.  My choir director did a good job of scheduling time in the bigger, busier cities in between days in more remote and serene little towns.  We visited Rome, Florence, Assisi, Venice, San Marino, Pisa, and Cinque Terra.  It was hard to take in everything you wanted to with so many other people who all had different interests and agendas along for the ride.  I do remember dipping my toes in the Mediterranean Sea, and being generally amazed by the age of many landmarks and works of art.  I will say, though, that nothing teaches patience and tolerance quite like nine weeks on a bus!

More recently, my husband and I vacationed in Italy in May 2011.  We spent time in Rome and Venice, and both cities were amazing for their own reasons.  In Rome, we visited such well-known ancient sites as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Pantheon; as well as Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Vatican City, and the Spanish Steps.  In Venice, we went to St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge.

5. Did you have any favorite moments or sights in Italy that you’d like to share?

All of the aforementioned sites are well worth your time to go see.  We appreciated looking down on the remains of the Roman Forum, and imagining what their bustling city center might have looked like.  We marveled at the stories carved into the decorative arches and painted colorfully on the ceilings.  We loved sitting at outdoor cafes and listening to a local quintet play.  We enjoyed shopping for glass trinkets and locally hand painted art.  We savored the tastiest gelato after winding our way through random neighborhoods.  Overall, we found that a balanced mix of seeing the major sights and also experiencing smaller, more intimate moments made our trip perfect!

6. Do you have any tips for traveling around Italy – for those that have never done so?

  • Bring good walking shoes and a map.
  • Get to the major attractions early.
  • Take naps when the locals do. (I know my life would be better if I could take a daily nap! J)
  • Watch out for pickpockets.
  • Keep your passport and mass transit tickets on you at all times.
  • Many people don’t know what a bathroom or a restroom is – you need to ask for the toilet.
  • Waiters don’t expect tips, and are often stunned when they receive one.  They also don’t really pay attention to you unless they’re summoned to do so.  I think they just kind of assume everything is fine unless you say otherwise.
  • If you want to drink just plain old water, you need to ask for either still water or water with no gas.
  • Many Italians speak at least a little English, but are appreciative when you attempt to speak a little Italian.
  • Don’t let crowds dictate the amount of time you spend at any place – step back and take it all in until you’re satisfied.

7. Would you go back and visit or choose somewhere else for your next big trip?

I would go back to Italy in a heartbeat!  However, there are many other places I would also love to explore.  I’d love to revisit a lot of the cities from my college trip, including Paris, Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest.  Within the United States I would like to visit Kauai, Niagara Falls, and Alaska.  And, being the HUGE baseball fan that I am, I want to visit each of the 30 Major League ballparks at least once at some point!



  1. i would love to see italy-good job on her studies;)

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