October 13, 2008

OconnorspostCiao tutti! I can’t believe how fast time seems to pass here. Even though Firenze is a “piccolo citta” (a small city), time seems to travel a whole lot faster here for a small town girl like myself. I just finished my second week of university classes, and I wish I could say that I’ve adjusted perfectly, but instead, my study abroad experience seems to be following the exact pattern that the study abroad booklet foretasted. Having lessons in a different language has definitely presented me with the most interesting challenge since I’ve arrived here. When classes began, it was one of those moments where I could feel myself saying in my head, “Well, here I go!” From that point on, it’s just been complete immersion into the Italian culture. As scary and overwhelming as it sounds, I have never felt so determined to learn something as I do now because it’s not just my studies, it’s my way of life here. Since we’re attending classes with other Italian students, we might as well be considered like any of the other Italian students. That realization of possibly mixing in with the rest of the Italians here is something that I am taking a particular liking to because who wouldn’t want to be European for a year? As for understanding the actual lectures of the professors, I am excited that I’m grasping the overall theme and ideas presented, although I can’t take all the credit for this success. I’ve learned that I usually just have to roll with the punches and attempt to make friends/ask questions to the nearby students sitting next to me during the lecture. But, I can’t say it’s been a bad thing because they usually smile and respond to my question, and then they start asking me if I’m a part of an “Erasmus” program, the European equivalent to studying abroad. I’ve tried to explain the concept of “studiare all’estero” (studying abroad), but it usually doesn’t translate too well so for now, I call myself an Erasmus student. When all else fails, my philosophy is to adapt to whatever works out best.

The Universita di Firenze setup is a lot different than Holy Cross’ because the university is more like a city school as opposed to a campus, but for me, going to a class in a old “palazzo” only minutes away from the Duomo is like a dream come true for university surroundings. And with our new schedules of both Italian language classes and university classes combined, our days are a lot more hectic, but with everything in such close proximity, it makes for some nice sauntering around and city strolling — one of my new favorite hobbies that I’ve taken up since I’ve been here. At first, my city strolling began as I would get lost trying to find my way to the Duomo to the Piazza della Repubblica, where our language school is located. Then, once I got my bearings with that area, whenever I would have more time, I would try and find different routes from Piazza della Repubblica to the University area, and, of course, if I so happened to find a great gelateria or cute negozio (shop) along the way, there’s never any harm in poking around the newest fashion or having a little cone of pistachio gelato, for that matter! And now, with my newest Italian purchase — a used "bicicletta" (bike) — I’m set to go to ride along the Arno River whenever my heart desires and for riding into “centro” (the center or downtown part of the city) like all the other Italians young and old alike. Now if I can just figure out how the working women work those pedals with their heels! It amazes me how weeks ago I could never picture myself finding my way from Point A to Point B here, and now I’m getting to know the city like it’s my own.

Tonight (Sunday, October 13), I knocked one more church off my list to visit—Santo Spirito — which is the “zona” (neighborhood) a little bit further down from the Ponte Vecchio. There, in the piazza right outside the church, was a huge “mercato” with all different kinds of goodies being sold — jewelry, hats, ceramics, crosses, clothing, art pieces, etc. As Irene (Signora Cappelli, my “nonna,” or house-grandmother for the year) always says, “Ci sono sempre le feste e se non, gli Italiani li inventano!” In other words, there are always festivals in Italy, and if there aren’t any on a given day, the Italians will invent one. Believe me, it is definitely true! I’ve decided that one of my goals for the year here a Firenze will be to visit every church  for a mass either on Saturday or Sunday, which might be a tad difficult since there are so many churches in the most unlikely places that sometimes you don’t even realize you’re standing next to one. But, I will certainly try! I haven’t hit up that many so far so I have a lot of work to do, but I figured I can at least get to the more well-known ones. So far, I’ve done Santo Spirito, Santa Croce, and unfortunately, that’s about it because I don’t think you can call the little church by my house one of the most noteworthy churches in all of Firenze. I’ll keep updating in the future to let you know of my success.

Anyway, I want to end with one more tidbit: Tonight, I decided to walk home from Santo Spirito, because believe it or not, the weather in Firenze is perfect right now. It feels like early Autumn here and I hardly even need a jacket when I go out for the day. And on my way home, as I was walking along the river with the lights reflecting in the water and the sidewalk musicians playing their usual tunes in the background, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself how lucky I am to have this experience and how after already two months in a different country, I still cannot get over its beauty and its culture. I don’t think I will ever get tired of being awestruck by this country’s magnificence. I guess I’ll just have to see if another country measures up when I make my first trip to Ireland in two weeks.



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