Today marks three weeks since touching down in Italy, but I sure have managed to cram in many, many things into this short period of time! I want to take a little time to recount how I’ve spent my first few weeks (mostly for my parents), which have been absolutely nuts!
After touching down in Milan after a safe but oh so long, boring flight, I made got to spend the weekend relaxing and catching up with a dear friend near Turin. When Monday rolled around, I successfully managed to maneuver all my luggage (one carry on suitcase, one 50 pound monstrous bag, and a backpack stuffed to near explosion) onto the train, through the train station and through the heart of Bologna to my hotel, where I stayed for about a week and a half. However, with no time to rest at the hotel, I quickly set off to buy an Italian sim card, complete other annoying and expensive things so that i could continue to stay in Italy (gotta love Italian bureaucracy!) before meeting all thirty other students in my program from universities across the us and the two full time staff in charge of planning outings for the program (like the Italian National Soccer Game, a pasta lesson at an agriturism, and tours of the city) and supporting us in whatever we might need!
On top of the mundane orientation presentations during the first week about safety, classes, life in bologna and how to be successful in general in Italy, I had to begin trying to find where I was going to live for the next 10 months. Before coming, I didn’t think finding an apartment would be difficult and felt pretty confident since I had talked to a person who had done the same program exactly a couple years earlier. I quickly discovered that finding an apartment that is centrally located, clean, with nice roommates, safe, and not overly priced in less than two weeks is in fact very difficult.
However, after scouring the internet, sending dozens of messages, constantly scrolling through every Facebook housing page that exists in Bologna, meeting with housing agencies, touring a handful of apartments and generally feeling very stressed and certain that I would end up living on the streets, I found an apartment that fit all my requirements and even has a balcony! Although I can’t actually use the previously stated balcony because of construction currently occurring on my apartment building that starts very early and very loudly every day and I haven’t actually met all of my roommates, I really like it here in my apartment! As I finalize arranging my things, hanging my photos (please send me more to help fill the enormously blank white walls!!), and figuring out how the kitchen and keys work, I am starting to feel like this truly will become my home for the next 9ish months.
I currently have only started an intensive grammar course that is through my program, and am still in the process of choosing my courses for the semester. The Italian university system (like many other things here) is incredibly different, confusing, and will take some more time to fully understand. Nevertheless, I am excited by the many possible courses that I can take, even though they will prove to be very challenging since every course will be in Italian and most will be at the University of Bologna (UNIBO). This is a study abroad program, so I will in fact have to emphasize studying very soon. However, in the past weeks, I’ve gotten to spend time leisurely getting lost in this beautiful city and exploring more of Italy thanks to the convenience of TreinItalia.
During the second week, I spent the afternoon in Ferrara, a beautiful moderate sized town just 30 minutes from Bologna by train.
The first week of the grammar course began this week, and although part of me wanted to stay at the beach forever, I was actually really excited to start delving into the Italian language more formally. After being constantly surrounded by Italian and having to use it constantly, my vocabulary expanded, and I began to incorporate more phrases that I picked up as the days continued. Yet, even one week of classes has really helped me formalize my skills and expand my understanding capabilities, so I am beyond excited to see where I will be at the end of June. Although I’m having so much fun learning the language and experiencing the culture so intimately, these three weeks have also been challenging in ways I wasn’t expecting. For example, while I didn’t necessarily love grocery shopping in the United States since I hat making decisions, grocery shopping here is the most stressful experience because I struggle to understand the foods and navigating through the tiny store tucked into the center of a bustling city filled with frantic people simply trying to satisfy their hunger all while being surrounded by a foreign language. I hope that by the end of this year I actually will know what types of foods to buy (and how to cook with them!), and I will be filled with significantly less dread every time I realize that my fridge is empty and that I need to go to the grocery store. Maybe I’ll even grow to like grocery shopping??
I have many more weeks ahead of me, but if they are anything like the three that I’ve had so far, I’m incredibly ready to experience all that the future holds.