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Archive: March 2012

Andrew? Andrew? …Beuller?

I’m coming to the end of my semester here in Italy. Well, quasi-end. I’m actually about to take final exams, but I will still have one more month of classes, which I will take at the next level (B2 instead of B1 which I have been in for the next semester).

And I must say that I am quite ready for the change. I made the decision before I came to study solely language here in Italy, and it has gone fantastically. However, there were a few things I didn’t account for:

It's certainly not the most brightly decorated room either.

-1 subject, as compared to the 5 or 6 I normally have at Butler University
-4 teachers, with 80% of my time spent with two of them
-Also, 80% of my time spent in the same classroom
-When I arrived, I was way behind. After three months of speaking Italian on a regular basis and devoting all of my studies to the language, I’m way ahead.

So I have my two final exams this week (Wednesday and Thursday) and how did I decide to spend the weekend studying? Well naturally I took a trip to Lake Trasimeno a half hour away from Perugia with my two American friends and two Korean friends. What proceeded was a lovely day of cultural exchange, a good amount spoken in Italian, all while appreciating the quaint town resting on its banks. (Turns out the Koreans have a game almost identical to Rock, Paper, Scizzors, but when you lose you get flicked in the head. On a related note, my forehead is sore.)

But all of this drives me to a slightly longer post today than the usual. For a period of the semester I was frustrated with the pace of my learning. With my friends, we would always imagine ways in which our learning might be quickened. Part of this comes from a massive stress that I am certain falls on every  student who decides to go abroad. The problem is simple. There is a infinite number of opportunities to pursue, yet all of them are limited by two thing: time and money.

The greatest stress for me is that all of Europe’s experiences are only a decision away, yet I know that I shouldn’t because if I, say, decide to take a train to Switzerland this weekend, I won’t have the time to go to Palermo at the end of April as I am also planning. At the same time, I couldn’t stand the thought of spending a weekend relaxing in my room, appreciating the city that I’m staying in. Why is that? Because I have only been given four months to live here, and I would feel as if I were wasting the little time I have. As it is, I have accepted that I will only spend my trips inside of Italy, to save on costs but also to enter as completely as possible into this culture that I have invested a semester of my collegiate career into.

NOSTALGIA!!!

Two weeks ago I became so dispirited (as my bank account plummeted viciously) that I longed for the weekends at Butler where I could just lounge on the mall for hours without worry. Yet, simultaneously with this thought is the realization that when I return to the mall, I will miss the hill country of Umbria.

In somma, I have had to deal with a number of disappointments, either with too-slow classes or too-limited travel plans. In the end, I need to accept all of this. Why? If I fail in this, I will end up tainting my entire experience with negativity. Attitude makes or breaks an experience. And always I can appreciate that I have so many opportunities available to me that I can’t take in all of them. Any economics class will teach you about cost-benefit analysis. As I enter into the final stretch of lessons, final stretch of time here, I’ve promised to myself to keep a positive attitude. Without this, I met as well as remain in my room for the remainder of my time here.

It's like this Bacione. If I tried to eat it all, I'd have a stomach ache! As they say, don't bite off more than your digestive system can handle.

 

 

Regionalism in Italy

One of the first lessons we had in this country was on the vast diversity contained within the various regions of Italy. Even within Umbria, the heart of the country, you can travel a city or two over, and you’ll find a new dialect, history, and culture than the one you came from.

Monastery yo.

Although it’s been a pleasure visiting the famous cities of Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice, etc.) a deeper connection is formed between me and the country when I visit the out-of-the-way cities that contain the normal people of Italy, the salt of the earth, if you will.

It’s always a pleasure coming to a “paese,” or town, and learning what differentiates them, what they are famous for, and also in what ways the other cities poke fun at rivals. Gubbio is one city that has gotten this roughest: called “The City of Crazies,” they are famous for being full of crazy people. Story has it that if you walk three times around a particular fountain three times, you become a “Gubbian,” and therefore crazy.

One of the fantastic views of Norcia

I Hate Mondays…

To make your Monday a bit better, I have a joke for you:

It’s said that in heaven the lovers will be French, the cooks will be Italian, the mechanics will be Germans, the police will be the British, and all of this will be organized by the Swiss.

The normal reaction to my jokes: "Really?"

It’s also said that in hell the lovers will be Germans, the cooks will be English, the mechanics will be French, the police will be Swiss, and all of this will be organized by the Italians.

I’m a fan, but there’s more to the joke than just a few prods at various European countries. As I’ve mentioned before, I very much enjoy experiencing people from various countries, because in some ways they’ll surprise you, in other ways they’ll fit the stereotypes so perfectly it’s a…well, a joke, I suppose.

It’s just another reminder that inevitably you will carry with you preconceived notions about certain ethnicities or countries, but that when it comes down to the individuals you meet, you have to meet them as they are, not as you would expect them to be.

So, I’ll leave you with another joke, this one thought up by my friends:

After we graduate we want to come to Italy to work.

[…<--Click Here!!]

…BAHHH!!! The joke here being that Italians don’t really work. Or if they do, they hide it well from the public eye. The normal work day starts between 9 and 11, has a pause between 1 and 4, restart between 4 and 5, and ends at 8. As a consumer of Italian goods, these vacillating times can become quite a hassle.

The world is full of jokes. You just have to know where to look

 

 

Perche…

I can always go to the cliche: “You don’t know what you got till its gone.” But that exemplifies exactly what I’m talking about. I can’t imagine what my time at Butler would have been like if I hadn’t taken the time to remove myself from the routine earlier. This distance gives me a clear view of how I’ve spent my time well, how I’ve misused it, and how exactly I can use it better in the future.

Another thing: international travel builds character. When you step onto that plane for another country on your own, you are forced to open yourself in new ways. There is no place for insecurity. No longer can you sit in the backseat while other people handle issues. It’s do, or do later. So you might as well do it.

I feel like we’ve reached the point in the monologue to introduce the butterfly/cocoon metaphor, but I think that is absolutely too cliche. Instead I’ll opt for the much more savory bacon metaphor. After this semester, I know that I will no longer be that limp slab of uncooked meat, but a crispy, delicious, smoked delicacy that has much of the world saving room for on their plates full of pancakes and eggs.

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Bacon may be on my mind also because I took part in the great American tradition of Brinner yesterday. Yummm.

Perche? PERCHE?!?!

It’s a fantastic experience here, but sometimes one must ask: Why? Why am I doing all of this? What is the purpose of spending all of that money to spend a semester of my college years and go to another country to learn another language? These, some of the best and most developmental years of my life, should be allocated to worthwhile activities.

So I ask myself: is all of this worth it?

YES! Say it a million times. Say it a million more times, and what’s the word you’ve said two million times? YES!!!! (Paraphrased quote from “Yes Man.” Which reminds me, what would the world be like without Jim Carrey?) For one thing, learning another language helps you cognitively. But there’s more to learning than just that. [Next Post]

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This video has been inserted for the entertainment of all. I hope you can understand, but even the silliness of grandmothers transcends language barriers.

This Goes Out to All the Cereal Lovers

Comfort foods. That’s a huge obstacle to overcome when studying in another country. I’m fortunate, seeing as how my parents raised me on pasta, but I still miss certain aspects of the American cuisine. It’s very easy to drop into a cycle of thinking about food you miss, then complaining about it, which re-reminds you how much you miss it. I’ve seen it happen, it’s not pretty.

The key of course is to enter into the culture around you and appreciate that for what it is. You must throw out what you know and start anew.

My greatest difficult lies in cereal. It’s not possible to find Lucky Charm’s, Honey Bunches of Oats, or even Reese’s Puffs (OH THE HUMANITY!!!…alright Andrew, keep your cool, you can get through this. Just deep breaths). Thankfully I have been able to shed my past obsessions for the trends raging across southern Europe. Choco-Krave. It’s new. It’s gimmicky. It’s chocolaty. It feels like home.

It's Actually Quite Fantastic

The Prob-lution

I’ll admit, that based on all of this, class became quite dull. It was not the fault of the professors, I’m the one who asked for the full-immersion semester. And I would be lying through my teeth if I said that my Italian wasn’t light-years ahead of where I started.

However, when I arrived, I was challenged heartily by my classes. Since improving myself inside and outside of class, the pace of our learning has slowed as new students have entered the class from lower levels. So here I am, two weeks before an exam that will allow me to enter the next level, and I find myself incredibly under challenged.

What I have resorted to practicing and learning Italian outside of class. What this means: I am reading Harry Potter in Italian, which is a great way to see more advanced grammar. I’m also watching films in Italian, which is great practice for understanding. But above all, my skills are put to the real test when hanging out with Italians.

 

Class: A Snapshot

It’s been an interesting ride this semester. When I got here in the spring, I could speak just about…well, nothing in Italian. Honestly, I don’t think I can even judge how far I’ve come since then, because all of the days and weeks just meld together.

One of the most interesting aspects of this semester is the difference in routine. At Butler, I’m normally throwing myself into five or six different classes with a wide range of subjects or even departments, all while keeping up with a number of activities outside of class.

Here, it’s one subject: Italian. I have four professors, but eighty percent of my time is spent with two of them. That eighty percent of the time is spent in the same classroom. In terms of outside activities, I must organize them on my own, can’t rely on a generous university to walk me through my day.

But what does this all MEAN?!?!

Elevators and Shenanigans

I’ve been quite disturbed by one factor of Italian life: the public transportation. I have absolutely no problem with the system itself; it’s great for the environment, fantastic for a budget minded traveler, and is normally very efficient. I only have a problem with the people.

There could be ten people on our mini-metro for five minutes, and not a word would be spoken. It’s like all of the outgoing, happiness in their souls dies moments after stepping through the doors. I do my best to combat this with a number of jokes, but if I’m not getting cold stares from strangers, then I’m being politely asked by my friends to “shut my butt.”

So today, my dream came true when an Italian girl used one of my favorites in the public elevator. We entered and before pressing the only button for up (there are two levels), she asked, “Wait, where are we going?” I immediately responded, “UP!” and applauded her while expressing my relief at finding a fellow appreciator of public humor.

Thus, in honor of elevator jokes, I bring to you the masters of public comedy.

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The Beach

Spring arrives, and I did everything I could to live it up. As I already mentioned, when I visited Rome, I spent a day with my friends at Ostia, a beach city an hour outside of Rome.

Bellissima!! In typical American fashion, we threw around a frisbee on the beach, which is always my favorite because it doesn’t take a second thought to dive for a sick catch. Sand doesn’t hurt (it just gets everywhere).

Then we settled into some more clichéd activities, such as collecting shells, soaking up the sun, and taking photos of the local graffiti. Okay, so maybe they weren’t all cliché. But I think I can speak for all of Italy when I say that I am breathing a sigh of relief at the departure of winter and the coming of cool breezes, blossoming flowers, and inevitably short-wearing weather.