Thursday, October 4, 2007

my adopted family

In my study abroad program, all students are given the option to meet with an Italian family on a weekly basis to talk and share dinner. Before I even arrived in Bologna I knew that I wanted to take advantage of this great opportunity! Well... last night I met with my Italian family! I arrived at their apartment around 5:30. The first person I met was Francesca, the 14 year-old daughter, soon followed by her mother Gianna. When I first arrived we introduced ourselves and sat down in the loving room/dining room to ask the basic questions: Where are you from? How old are you? What do you like to do? What are you studying? etc. After gaining some confidence in my shaky communication skills, Gianna left to run some errands while Francesca and I talked. When Gianna returned, we decided to meet every Thursday. Each week when I arrive I will first speak with Francesca one-on-one to help her with English and later in the evening we will all speak only in Italian while sharing dinner. It's a nice, fair exchange of languages. (Who would have ever considered language to be such a great commodity!)

My "family" lives in an apartment located near the Teatro Comunale di Bologna....

Through the course of the evening I learned that Francesca sings at the Teatro and recently participated in the production of La Boheme! Interestingly enough, I recently visited the home of composer Giacomo Puccini (who wrote the likes of La Boheme and Madama Butterfly) in the small town of Lucca in Tuscany. Ever since I was a little girl I've loved opera! Needless to say, I was extremely excited to visit his home...

After talking with Francesca for an hour or so, it was finally time for dinner! Ordinarily Gianna will prepare a home-cooked meal for all of us but last night she was very busy and did not have time to cook. Instead Francesca, Anna (Gianna's sister) and I walked to a nearby Greek restaurant and picked up some food. Last night was certainly a multicultural affair! Eventually after dinner and several hours of conversation, I left to go home around 9:30 with a full stomach and bright smile! I had a wonderful evening and I love my newly adopted Italian family!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

words, food and music

While I'm abroad, one of my goals is to become as enmeshed in Italian culture as possible. I will be the first to admit that I do not pick up foreign languages very quickly... but... given time, patience, and good-humor I'm trying my hardest speak Italian as much as possible. I'm happy to say that I'm interacting with Italians on a fairly regular basis! I've muddled my way through the language barrier with broken Italian and lots of hand gestures. During my first week I purposely explored the city by myself. I figured that I would have a better chance of interacting with people from different cultures if I wasn't traveling in a large, intimidating group. During the first week, I met three Italian students studying at the University of Bologna and they invited me to their apartment for a home-cooked dinner! We talked about pop culture, American and Italian politics and joked around about different stereotypes people have about Italians.

For many students who study abroad with other English-speaking students in non-English speaking countries, it's very tempting to stay within a certain comfort zone and not venture away from people who speak the same language. However, you can't really immerse yourself in another culture if you don't make an attempt to speak that language. There is an untranslatable feeling, culture, history and beauty that lives within the words people use and I don't want to overlook such an important element!

Not too long ago I joined a local Italian chorus with two other girls from Dickinson College. I always need to be involved with music in some way so I decided to sing since I couldn't exactly bring my instruments with me to Italy. There are two different singing groups to choose from: the University of Bologna chorus or Coro Stelutis. The University chorus is much more rigorous and musically serious but I wanted something more light-hearted so I chose Coro Stelutis. I love the group because we sing traditional peasant-Italian folk songs. The director, Giorgio Vacchi, traveled around to different Italian villages collecting melodies and lyrics that were simply passed down orally from generation to generation. He then arranged the songs for Coro Stelutis. The group consists of about 40 members who range in age from 20 to 80 years-old. I go to practice twice a week and have a wonderful time learning the songs and talking with the other choral members. At the end of each practice they provide traditional Bolognese desserts and wine. What better way to learn more about a specific culture than through words, music and food! If you want to check out the website for Coro Stelutis, click here.

I've now successfully put off doing homework for long enough, time to crack open the books! If you want to know more about the chorus let me know! Also, if you look through the website you can listen to some of their recordings. Enjoy!

Monday, October 1, 2007

after a long time

After nearly three months of inactivity, it's time that I start blogging. Much has happened since I last posted: summer ended, school has begun, and I'm living in Bologna, Italy! I am studying abroad for one year at the University of Bologna. For those history buffs out there, the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world! The school began in 1088 and can claim Dante, Petrarca, Copernicus, and the like to its long list of acclaimed alumni. Academically speaking, my main focus is related to European politics (since I am a Political Science major); generally speaking, my main focus is about experiencing Italian life and culture as much as possible.

I left the States on Sunday, August 26 after saying my "goodbyes" to family and loved ones and I might also add that this would be my first time out of the U.S.! After seven straight hours in the air, my flight landed at de Gaulle Airport in Paris for a four hour layover. As we were preparing to land, I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower peering over the city's early morning fog. At the risk of sounding cliche, chills ran through me as I sang "Bonjour, Paris" (from the movie, Funny Face) in my head.

Fortunately, I traveled with several other students who are studying abroad with me, so time passed quickly in the airport...

Finally, at about 4 p.m. on Monday, August 27, I arrived in Bologna, Italy! With one look my love affair with Italy began! Just for some background, Bologna is the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy and one of the most developed cities in Italy. Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister of Italy was born and resides in Bologna. I've actually seen him riding his bike early in the morning! Perhaps I'm biased but I recommend taking a quick look at this Wikipedia article on Bologna to learn a little bit about this incredible city! Here are a few pictures I've taken of Bologna's Piazza Maggiore and the city's famous porticoes...

I've now lived in Italy for over a month and survived a month-long intensive language period. Today was the official start of my Junior year of college classes. Tomorrow I'll post a little information about the courses!

If you wish to see pictures of my first few weeks here and the places I've visited so far, click here! For now I'll simply say "ciao" with the promise of blogging much more regularly! Ciao!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

getting started

Since honesty is the best policy I admit that I am new to blogging. Granted, I'm a little behind the times but I suppose it's better late than never. The purpose or "mission statement" of this blog is simple: I want others to be able to know what's going on in my life or sifting through my mind. On a more selfish level, I hope that other people will keep me up to speed on what's happening with them. I'm a firm believer that life is about relationships and the way we choose to nurture those relationships. Just as each rock is uniquely formed by every raindrop and forgotten gust of wind, we are all shaped and influenced by the people around us. We are all worth something...

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” -- Audrey Hepburn
My hope is that others will feel free to comment! Since I'm new at this, posting comments will encourage me to blog more regularly.

There's always a beginning and it starts right now!