Okay, I know I keep disappearing from this blog for long periods of time. Mia colpa, veramente. After the initial craziness of the first few weeks here in Italy, life settled into a different kind of blur filled with language exchanges and (not) going to classes that all confused me to no end. In the end, my initial misgivings finally started to subside as I’ve fallen into a nice and stable rhythm here. Nothing really spectacular has happened and I haven’t left Bologna since I got here, but certainly a lot has started to change for the better. I figure it’d be best just to talk about the new developments individually, so here goes nothing.
The view of Le Due Torri from the “main street” of Bologna. Pretty dang picturesque
BOLOGNA TANDEM LANGUAGE EXCHANGE (aka the group that saved my study abroad trip)
When I arrived here in Italy, I was shocked at how little I actually knew about speaking, and I had no idea how to start. Turns out, talking to people actually helps you learn a language better. Who knew, right? There’s a group here at Alma Mater Studioram that hosts various language exchanges at different locales (namely pubs) around the city where students can get together and practice a language of their choice. It has been, without exaggeration in the slightest, THE single-most important thing that’s happened in my life. Nearly all of my friends have come from Tandem or through friends I met there; British, Puetro Rican, German, Scottish, and above all Italian students are just a share of the people I’ve met at the tandems. Italian students absolutely crave native English speakers to talk to, and all you have to do is yell across the room at another friend in your American accent and they come running. In my own experience, I was quite literally surrounded by a group of Italian girls as I walked into the room, which is altogether a pretty pleasant experience. Yes, I wasn’t speaking entirely Italian, but becoming good friends with them has helped us all learn our respective languages better, and it’s really helped my confidence in speaking to actual Italians. Nearly all the aspects of my social life have come from Tandem, and for that I give major thanks. Now I have a much greater confidence in my Italian and I’m far more willing to try complex structures and words, which is a huge boost to my quality of life.
Plus, Italian girls. What’s there to complain about?
THE ACTUAL STUDYING (or lack thereof honestly)
Italian university is a funny thing. You’d think college classes are similar across institutions seeing as American universities are based on European styles, but Italian classes are truly another thing entirely. It is universally accepted that students can become “studente non frequentante“, otherwise known as never going to class and reading an extra book or two before the exams. I fought the allure of this approach, but eventually I was sucked in and now I almost never go to class. Lectures are a very confusing thing if you don’t know the language; teachers speak so fast and with so many esoteric words that trying to keep up is like trying to listen to Texas cattle auctioneers. Eventually, I discovered that I was much happier piecing through the books on my own time, and eventually I replaced my class time with trips to the library to study. Maybe it isn’t EXACTLY what my parents and teachers back home would like to hear, but this way I get to take every opportunity I can and adjust my schedule to whatever I want, which is a huge benefit when you’re trying to soak up as much as you possibly can. Of course, I slipped behind pretty heavily in my studies and now I’m racing to catch up, but I honestly don’t regret a single bit of that choice.
BOLOGNA, THE CHEEKY LITTLE BROTHER OF FLORENCE
Being a studente non frequentante, I’ve had a lot more time to explore the city on my own time and start to get to know its secrets. I have to say, though Bologna is not as flashy as a city like Rome or Florence, its nooks and crannies hide plenty of interesting secrets and fantastically cheap restaurants. Dig deep enough and you’ll find some tantalizing spots, like the Osteria Dell’Orsa, where they serve Bologna’s most famous Tagliatelle al Ragu, already a city-wide tradition, for only 6 euros. Or how about La Tana del Bianconiglio, a cozy little bar tucked away on one of the side streets, with FIFA 2016 running on a PS4 in the corner and range of excellent craft brews at low prices. That’s one thing that’s surprised me about Bologna; the city has a monumental appreciation for solid craft beers, something you wouldn’t expect in a country famous for wine and garlic. All over town, restaurants and breweries serve a wide range of beers for the distinguished beer taste, of which I have absolutely zero (for now). There’s always people out on the streets enjoying the company of friends and strangers, which creates a very friendly atmosphere all over the city you just wouldn’t find in a bigger town. I feel like I sound like an advertisement for the city, but I truly am falling for it, and I can’t wait to dig deeper in the next few months.
Okay, enough gushing. I really could say a lot more about the month I’ve been absent from this blog, but honestly I reeeeally need to get back to studying. This week is going to be pretty hellish with all the books I need to read, but I’ll hopefully make it through in at least 3 pieces. I swear to anyone who actually reads this (I’m looking at pretty much just you, Jaci) that I’ll get back into blogging at the end of this week. This next month should be a lot more exciting anyways; there’s a good bit more traveling to be had, and a few really cool spring festivals popping up around Europe that I intend to go to. Anyways, I will check back in in a week or so, but until then ad un’altra volta lettori miei!