Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last you heard from me, I was on the verge of a breakdown.

Well, I'm not anymore. I'm enjoying myself immensely, as a matter of fact. :)

I think we're in the sixth week now, which is hard to believe. This past weekend, I went to Assisi with a few classmates and an old friend of mine who is here in Florence on another program. Assisi was GORGEOUS! We visited the San Francesco basilica and looked at the frescos, and then climbed to the top of the hill to explore the fortress. On the way, we found some excellent gelato. :)

From the fortress, you can see for miles in all directions. The views were breathtaking, even though the weather was a bit dreary. That was easily one of the most beautiful parts of the world I've ever seen.

Our full class schedules started this week, and I'm enjoying my classes so far. I've had a lot of reading to do, but I don't mind reading. After all, I'm majoring in English Lit. :)

That's all... I'll update again soon!

Con amare,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Phase Two followup.

Being negative never gets you anywhere. I've resolved to be open to new experiences and opportunities. I mean come on, I'm in Italy! There's plenty of time to have a headache when I get home. Right now, I'm going to embrace this experience.

Phase Two

According to the ACM handbook, study abroad students generally go through three phases during the semester. During the first phase, they are overwhelmed and excited by the thrill of being in a new place. During the second phase, they get stressed out and critical. And during the third, they fall into a routine and start to feel at home.

Well, right now I'm in phase two. Every moment of every day takes a certain amount of energy, and I end up feeling exhausted with a headache all the time. I feel like Italian is going too quickly and I can't keep up, and I start panicking in class whenever Luigi starts calling on people. To be honest, right now I'd love to be home in the U.S., curled up in bed with my dog. I know this phase will pass soon and that when I'm done with this semester I'll look back on it as one of the greatest experiences of my life, but I can't deny that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is part of the study abroad experience. Hopefully I'll grow from it.

Yesterday turned out well though. I got home, said hi to my host mom, and she asked if I would like to watch TV with her. We watched "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" in Italian, and it turned out I could understand more of it than I would have expected. Then we ate pasta and "Uovo d'inferno," deviled eggs, for dinner.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Italiano...

Oggi, studio per exam domani. Exam e su passato, regolare/irregolare, e perfetto e imperfetto.

Tempo e freddo oggi, ma settimana prima temo avuto calda.

Scuola e bene, e Firenze e bella. Sono lieto, e mi piace Italia. Manco America e mia casa, ma vado a America in Decembre. Adesso, sono in Firenze, e mi piace.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 3: Wardrobe advice and feeling like a Florentine.

Another quick word of advice to future ACM Study Abroad students: BRING ENOUGH CLOTHING. I cannot stress that enough. I realize that packing light is important. However, I made the mistake of packing too light. As of now, I’ve more spent more money than I planned on clothes.T-shirts are a good choice, especially in solid, neutral colors. That way, they are easy to match with a pair of pants or a skirt, can be jazzed up with a necklace or scarf, and can be used with sweaters to layer outfits on colder days. T-shirts are just plain comfortable as well, which is very important. Also, jeans are a basic staple, and though this seems like it would have been obvious to me as I was packing, I’m here with a shortage of them. I have a blue pair, a brown pair, and a black pair, and though this seems like it would give me more choices, in reality it makes matching more difficult. Jeans here are EXPENSI VE, and I’ve resorted to dresses, skirts, and leggings, which seem to be a cheaper choice. Bring enough basic clothing. You and your wallet will both be glad you did.

Also, shoes are incredibly important. I brought two pairs of shoes with me, thinking it would be plenty. However, when both started giving me blisters, I knew I had to drop a few euros on footwear or else there would be blood. Sigh. I hate spending money. I bought a cheap pair of flip-flops from a street vendor in Monterosso, and then invested in a pair of comfy boots (probably Payless equivalent) for when it gets colder. So, my advice to all of you: make sure you consider your footwear carefully before bringing it. Walk in it, make sure it’s comfortable, and make sure you’re comfortable wearing it.

This is the beginning of my third week in Florence, and I’m finally starting to feel like I live here. I ride the buses to and from school, I can (very nearly) get around without a map, I know where to go to get inexpensive lunch (there’s a supermarket right around the corner from Linguaviva, and they sell loaves of bread for under 1 euro), and I know where I can get good gelato. I’ve found a niche in the city, and I think I’m really falling in love with the place. This previous weekend, we took a school trip to Siena, another gorgeous city. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on the topic of medieval art and architecture, but there was one thing I saw while visiting the cathedral in Siena that stuck with me: Professor Solberg mentioned the carvings on the pulpit echoing the style of Roman Sarcophagus carvings, and immediately I perked up. Classics! I know this stuff! Examining the carvings, I was reminded of the sarcophagi in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. Like the various examples of Roman sarcophagi in the museum, this pulpit had deep, precise carvings, and figures that were very 3-dementional and lifelike. The pulpit was carved by Pisano between 1265 and 1268, and the carvings depict the life of Jesus from the time of his birth until his ascension into heaven.

On the way back from Siena, we stopped at a Tuscan town who's name escapes me, where there was a wine festival going on. We spent about an hour there, tasting some good wine and eating more gelato. I have a feeling I’m going to develop a taste for good wine while I’m here, then go back home and become a wine snob. The only real knowledge of wine I have now is that I generally like whites better than reds, and I generally like dry rather than sweet, but that changes depending on what I’m in the mood for. I wonder if my opinions will become more sophisticated as the trip goes on. So far I haven’t been purchasing alcohol very frequently because I’m so budget-conscious, but I can taste a few more wines while I’m here, right?

My Italian is still broken and beginner-ish, but I’ve begun to be able to understand whole phrases from hearing people speak on the street or in my host family. Generally I can understand more than I can speak, but I’m hoping that will change soon. Being immersed in a group of people that speak a certain language is definitely the best way to learn it. I just need to stop pronouncing everything like Latin. Hopefully this week goes well. I’ll update again when I can and let all of you know!



Friday, September 10, 2010

Quick update:

Eight minutes left of "caffe" break.

I'd just like to point out quickly that my host mom is amazing. I've been feeling a bit sick for the past few days and when she caught wind of it, she got all concerned, gave me aspirin, and sent me to bed. She promised vegetable soup for me today. Being so far away from home, it's nice to have someone to take care of me when I need it.

I'm still loving Florence. On Wednesday, a few of us went over to the Duomo and climbed the many stairs to the balcony along the facade that they only open once a year. I have pictures that I will try to attach, if I have time. Steph and I got gelato on the way back. Ah, gelato, what a vice you are already...

More later when I have more time!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bring on the second week!

Alright. Eventful past few days. To start off, I'm going to offer some advice to students who want to study abroad, especially in Florence, in the future.

1. Bring MORE THAN ONE power adapter.
2. Bring shoes you feel comfortable wearing and walking a lot in... blisters are no fun.
3. Keep a positive attitude about things, because in the end they're not that bad.
4. Enjoy the food.
5. Interact with your host family. Ask them to teach you things or do things with you.
6. It's okay to be homesick.

Now that those things are out of the way...

Firenze is treating me well. I've solved my electrical issues, so hopefully I won't have any more computer problems. And I went to Cinque Terra this weekend, which was absolutely amazing. A bunch of Linguaviva students went on a bus to Monterosso, and we took a train to Vernazzo. Swimming in the Mediterranean, white wine, pasta and pesto, coffee flavored gelato... perfect day.

I know I keep mentioning the food here... but food is one of my passions. I asked my host mother if she'd teach me to cook Italian food, and her face lit up. "Si, si! You help me!" Considering it kind of felt tense between us for a few days because my Italian isn't that good and her English is limited, I think that was a major ice breaker. I'm glad I suggested it. I want to get to know my host family.

Today begins the second week of my study abroad experience. The first week was difficult, but already I think I've grown from it. So... bring it on!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moving Day!

Today, we're moving in with host families.

Honestly, I'm nervous.

What if the woman I'm staying with doesn't speak any English? My Italian is, of course, quite limited...

"Buona sera, mi chiamo Kate. Sono studentessa Americana, e sono di Wichita, Kansas. Piacere!"

Okay, I can pretty much introduce myself. I can ask for things, say thank you, you're welcome, and count to 100. That's a lot for only three days of class, but not nearly enough to start conversing with a native speaker. I hope she knows at least a little bit of English, so we can communicate better.

I have 35 minutes before I have to take all of my bags down to the Linguaviva entrance and find Rachel, who will be my roommate for the next three months. Then we take a taxi to where we will be living.

I've been looking forward to this forever, but honestly right now I'm terribly anxious.

I don't know when I'll be able to get online again, so... arrividerci for now!