Monday, January 26, 2009


After cutting an hour of class and rushing to meet everyone else to get on the train to Florence, my roomate called me telling me, and my two other friends, that there's a strike going on and that we wouldn't get to go. I forgot that in Europe they have scheduled strikes (and of course don't put it up on the website).
Oh Mom...I'm having flashbacks to when we were in Paris and this happened :(.

But it's just all part of the adventure of traveling!

We found out that the strike ended at 5pm so we just had to delay a few hours and then took the ~2 hour ride to Florence (it's very nice to be centrally located in Italy!). When we got there it was pouring rain and very windy. I'm sorry to tell you that that kind of set the tone for the rest of the short weekend. (Though, as we were leaving the train station, a guy, in a funny-accent, did tell me "I love you" - what nice people in Florence! :-P) Jess did a wonderful job booking a hostel close to the train station but our shoes were completely soaked from the moment we stepped off the train until we left that Sunday.

Mom, everyone continued to bash the Rick Steve's book [it doesn't help that you sent me Andy's site :-P] but I'll tell you that Jess soon took my Rick Steven's book, as she mockingly calls him, and never gave it back. I helped find a restaurant that night, with his help, which had a fixed menu (a primi, secondi, and contorni) for 12 euros! so I think I convinced them as well.

The rain had finally stopped so we were able to wander the streets a bit. I forgot how centrally located and walkable Florence is. I didn't realize how many up-scale shops there were or how many hotels were right around the historical section of the city. It was just very strange being here in the off-season and being here without my family. The four of us were very conscious of the fact that we could have chosen to study abroad here and that this could have been our Perugia. There are thousands of Americans that study here, as opposed to the 200ish that study here, so there is a completely different feel. The Americans stick out a lot more and it appeared stuck to more American bars where they don't even try to speak Italian and go much more for the alcohol then the social scene that draws the Italians, even though the four of us had trouble finding any nightlife while we were there. My friends liked to make fun of how completely ignorant some of the girls were being, but it is scary that some of them really do try to run off with these Italians when they can't even understand what they're saying...

At least in Perugia we're just seen as a small part of the many foreigners that make up the city.

I didn't care about the shoes or the high-fashion. I was just racing to see the Duomo again. The two Annas we went with (my friend from Brooklyn and my roomate from Australia) were making fun of me because they didn't understand (because they have never seen it before!). I'm also not much of a shopper....

But anyways, we turned the corner and saw it in all of it's glory!
The white marble is unfortunately not as striking as it is during the day (and I'm sorry, it was too rainy for me to take pictures of it during the day) but I hope everyone is fortunate enough to see this building at least once in their lives.

We slept a little too late for being in Florence for such a short amount of time. Jess suggested that we go to the Medici Chapel, because her aunt had taken her before, and I can't believe we didn't go there (Mom, Dad, and Julie!). I wish I could have taken a picture of the inside, because the gold-leaf dome was incredible and looking at it hurts your neck in a way that only the Sistine Chapel can rival. What was so striking about it was the contrast between the gold top and the very dark marble that covered the rest of their tomb. The Medicis were definitely showing their wealth and influence they had in Florence by this monument...
Right behind the chapel were the famous outdoor markets. There were entirely too many "ciao bellas" and superficial attempts at making conversation in the market, but that's all part of it (plus bargaining which I fortunately didn't have to do too much of). There was that familiar scent of leather (jackets, belts, shoes, books, keychains, bookmarks, etc.) and tons of scarves pouring out on the street but I wasn't really looking for anything in particular. (Mom and Dad, I can't help but remember how scared I was when that guy took us back into his store and started putting his lighter up to the leather jackets you were thinking of buying...) We all kind of split up and I bought some nice stationary and then tried to find something to eat.

I hadn't had breakfast and was trying to look for a good meal and found a stand right in the middle of the market. They were serving a "typical florentine" sandwich which I thought would be good to try a local favorite here. I tried to take a bite out of it and literally couldn't get through the "chicken". I felt awful wasting food but I just felt so grossed out that I had to get rid of it, and went into an indoor market, similar to the Reading Terminal Market, and bought some fun pasta to get my mind off of it. Anna later asked the people at the stand what it was, and they said it was cow stomach (maybe you would have liked it Dad)!
We continued walking around and tried to get lunch (I wanted anything at this point) but had a lot of trouble finding a restaurant in the early afternoon that would serve us (I can't emphasize enough how restaurants literally turn away service in the middle of the day because they close). We finally found a pizzeria and then went for gelato. Gelato really is the best in Florence and Jess and I have been dissapointed with what we've found in Perugia so far, but no one really felt like going to the good gelaterias I remembered when there were so many teasing us.
We briefly got to go inside the Florence Cathedral, but I wish we could have climbed up the bell tower and explored the Dome more. Truthfully, the inside of the Cathedral isn't too much to talk about, but the outside is so ornate that I'm sure simplicity makes sense in the context (or maybe I was just still so overtaken by the churches in Assisi). It was so wonderful to see the bronze doors facing the Duomo as well.
I realized that I had never seen the original David, just a marble copy in the Piazza della Signoria, along with the The Rape of the Sabine Women and the town hall (pictured), so we all went to the Galleria dell'Accademia. At first we wandered around and they had an exhibit showing the history of musical instruments - a lot of them looking like the originals that the musicians the Medici's hired used (with what looked like real gut strings to me!). I saw cellos and basses with three and five strings, very old guitars, my first hurdygurdy, spinets, and very strangely-shaped brass instruments. I think I enjoyed this exhibit a bit too much considering I should have stopped fooling around and have spent all afternoon looking at David, especially when my friends had already left me at that point.

I wandered my way back and went into a back room and briefly got distracted by unfinished marble works by Michalengelo and other masters of the time, when I realized that David was at the end of the hall! At that point you can't look at anything else. It was amazing because there was barely anyone there, and we sat there like four silly girls thinking we could see him breathe. I really didn't realize how massive he is.

Later in the evening, we went to the Ponte Vecchio which was so strange to see at night without all of the jewlery shops open. It was a bit awkward because several couples were making out on the bridge, but I forgot that couples come to put locks on fencing around monuments to eternalize their love or something silly like that...

We also briefly saw the Pitti Palace, which I had never gone to before. Jess said that there are beautiful gardens in the back and I really wish I could have seen the museum inside, but next time I guess.

We went out that night to some Irish pub, which kind of turned me off because I saw JMU and Villanova t-shirts hanging from the ceiling, but the Americans were good fun for Anna and Jess to mock. As we left, and were walking back to the apartment, two Italians tried to ask us back to their place to have wine with them. NO THANK YOU.

Just some friendly italian men. I'm glad my friend had some good comebacks in Italian.

I'm upset I didn't go to the Uffizi and may try to make it a daytrip in the future. It's just hard to fit in everything you want and to travel together as a group. At least I rubbed the snout of the bronze boar. I hope that gives me good luck for the rest of my trip.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Time To Cut The Cord

I had a mandatory orientation session today and I know that a lot of the students that are part of Stranieri are really starting to complain. Arcadia was really making an effort to include us with the general Umbra students, though, and wanted us to experience an aspect of Italian life - seeing a working farm.
...we got a free 4-course lunch.

Doing paperwork that I feel like I've done several times before, and getting lectured about things that we'll be emailed about later this week anyways, I do want to share the positive experiences of today.

We went to farm off of Lake Trasimeno and got to take a very quick tour of it. Our guide told us about how their old olive trees have produced award-winning olive oil (3rd place in Zurich! and supposedly a favorite among famed racecar driver Michael Schumacher [unfortunately not a fan of racecar driving]). I actually got to try some of the olive oil for lunch and someone lucky will be getting a bottle as a gift! We then got a nice view of the lake, as little farm dogs jumped up to greet us, and quickly saw some basket weaving.

Most-importantly, I have step-by-step pictures of pasta making!

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. The people (possibly volunteers?) who worked to show us around and cook us lunch were too gracious. It was an incredible effort because all of our food was naturally-grown products from the farm. I've been hearing about this a few times, but this farm is part of the "Slow Foods" movement, which is supposedly gaining popularity across the world. I know that my friend's international roomate is studying at Stranieri so she can go to a slow food culinary school up north in Italy somewhere. It's very promising to hear.
I'm truthfully just anxious, now, to really buckle-down and start planning where/when I want to travel. I don't think I really want to spend any more weekends in Perugia if my wallet can handle it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Day Trip! (That Almost Didn't Happen)

There's no need for me go to into superfluous details about how unorganized and stubborn I was while I was "planning" my trip to Assisi (and besides, this is my blog! I should be putting myself in as positive a light as I can...) but it was pretty bad. Thankfully, I didn't do it alone and last-minute my Australian roomate, Anna, decided to come along. Her roomate, Ela, gave us very helpful advice to take a more direct bus route into the city instead of relying on minimetros, trains, and buses. I still need to get the hang of all of this transportation.

To get to the bus station, and possibly train station?, you go through this really interesting underground network which was adapted from earlier Perugian ruins. Some of my friends said that they are very scared when they go down there, thinking that it looks like a dungeon, but maybe you could say that it adds to the charm of this medieval city.

I go against everything I stand for on this trip by saying this, but I am very thankful that the guy in the bus station spoke english, if only a little, because Anna and I were a bit confused. The bus took twice as long to get to Assisi as a train would, probably 50 minutes, but I had trouble focusing on Anna because it was so nice to get out of the city and look around. It was starting to remind me of the Tuscan countryside...

I came into my trip with very little knowledge of the city (*always* do research before you travel!). During a brief tour of Perugia, that was part of my orientation, my tourguide was from Assisi and admitted a bit of a rivalry between the two cities. That makes sense to me - Perugia is Umbria's capital city while its neighboring city is a much bigger tourist attraction (my guidebook doesn't even have Perugia in it!). Plus, I'm sure more Americans know of Assisi over Perugia because of St. Francis and the obvious connection to San Francisco. Actually, my Finnish roomate, Sinni, said that Assisi is one of Italy's top-five tourist attractions (Rome, Florence, Venice, Pompeii, Assisi? I have no source so don't quote me on that). With all of that, I came expecting a much different city than I found.

I hate using this word but no other one really comes to mind, right now, but "quaint." With small houses adorned with painted shutters, and windowsills with flowers spilling out, it was almost too cliche, but Assisi is a beautiful example of an Umbrian hilltown. Now *THIS* is ITALY, as Dad would say :D. A fog was rolling in, which really upset Anna and me because we were missing out on perfect shots from how high up we were, but it just added to the quiet mystery of the city. Sure, we came inbetween 1-4pm when Italian miraculously are able to close down shop and have their big meal of the day and then take a little riposo before even thinking about going back to work...but this wasn't the image of a touristy city that I would think of. Truthfully, the quiet smalltown life of this Italian hilltown made me forget that I was in a major historical, and holy, city. Personally, I really don't see it as a major tourist attraction (sure, we're probably in the off-season now) but as a "pilgrimage site," as Rick Steves called it (see Mom! I'm embarrasing myself by even quoting Rick Steves for you. I hope you can forgive me for my travel blunders today...I did look at the book). I was amazed by how many churches where in the city. We truthfully didn't give ourselves that much time in the city and literally went church-hopping. It all got a bit overwhelming for me and I also felt very much a foreigner in the city, and that I didn't belong casually looking around in these gorgeous churches while people where in there praying. I felt very much on the outside looking in.

I wish I could have taken pictures on the insides of these churches but I will say (I'm even surprised I'm saying this) that they rival St. Peter's and the Duomo in Florence! There's a link to some of the pictures I took of the city on the right-hand side of the blog, but I will show you two pictures of the Basilica of St. Francis, the show-stopping final church Anna and I saw on our way back to the bus station, which was the perfect finale to our day of being more and more in awe of the art we saw.

~Moving from churches onto chocolate...Anna and I finally tried the famous Perugian Baci chocolate today! I wish I had bought my first Baci in Perugia, instead of Assisi, but my roomate and I plan on going to the chocolate factory right outside of the city later this month. I have a fond memory of sitting in Signor Russo's class as he treated himself to a Baci that his son must have brought back to him from Italy, and how he took his time making us all jealous as he savored every bite of the small candy (now all I need is saltimbocca and I'd really have a "circus in my mouth" Signor ;-)). Every "kiss[es]" has a little "love note" written inside the wrapper and I wanted to share mine with you because I nervously started laughing once I read it.

If you can't read it, it says "By all means marry. If you get a good wife you will become happy, and if you get a bad one you will become a philosopher."

Oh (History and) Philosophy (of Science) majors...No, I actually find that note very funny [though don't like how it was so catered to a male audience].
It felt comforting coming back to Perugia even though I've only been here for a short time. It was such a drastic change to go from this quiet, religious city back to this university town. It's Saturday night and all the Italian punks were on the main street, lined with with upscale clothing shops and there just seemed to be so much more life here.
Maybe I'm just getting defensive about my current home. Perugia was named National Geographic's Sexiest City after all...
[If anything, just look at the picture of they put up of Perugia. I think that's the best reputation of the city - showing Corso Vannucci (the main road of the city) up to a view of the fountain. I see this scene everday.]

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happenings and Observations

It was my roomate, Ela's, 24th birthday two nights ago and she had such a wonderful party. I thought I should put a few pictures up so you could see my four international roomates.

Che belle ragazze!

What kind of creeped me out, I have to be honest, is that I later found out that evening that a popular bar in the area, which always floods students at the university with flyers for "ladies' night" etc., actually got hold of a picture of Ela and publically wished her happy birthday. Small-town life...

Oh Merlins. Italian men aren't stupid. They know that a lot of foreigners come to Perugia to specifically learn Italian at Stranieri. And then there are several very Americanized-bars right in the center of town. Why else would locals come there?

Anyways, it's amazing how much of an American influence you can feel in the choice of music that is played (not only in the American bars but everywhere) and the movies they play in the local cinema. My roomates, who all speak perfect english by the way, dream of going to visit NYC and our very familiar with our popular culture. At the same time, they have a very poor impression of Americans. They look down on our attitude concerning alcohol and perceive us as binge-drinking and going out of control at bars. My roomate just said that she sees Europeans as being more calm and down-to-earth rather then "extravagant" as she called us. I hate saying the obvious but we [Americans] really do need to be aware of how we act in a foreign country. I'm forgetting a lot of what they said but I'm interested in trying to find out more about what other people think of our country (definitely Obama support of course).


I took a walk back from my class yesterday and did a bit of exploring. I just kept climbing up some stairs and came across these gorgeous views. I need to stop posting all of these pictures of the city, especially when they don't come out half as well as it looks, but I can't help it!

Anyways, now that I've finished my first week of classes, I've definitely gotten into the swing of things and now have the traveling bug (so hopefully this will make the blog more interesting for anyone who's reading this). If I get my act together, I plan to try to find my way around Assisi tomorrow and make it a day trip. Then, on Sunday, we have a mandatory orientation meeting (but, on the plus side, it's in the Perugian roomates skipped out on it though, and are at Jess' grandparents' house an hour outside of Naples so I get to hang out with the general studies kids).

***OH! By the way. For anyone who shares my love of the Amelie soundtrack, or remembers when I said I saw a local accordian player on the street last Sunday, well, I have an update for you. I found a little touristy book for free in the "bar" that's in the building in the university and it had a section on "eccentric personalities in Perugia." Supposedly he has a Spanish/Brazilian background, and a mysterious past. Why he plays Amelie music all the time is because he *helped* write the score with Yann Tiersen (he met him in France)! :)

Ciao for now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

First Day Of Class!

Our last day of freedom before classes start. It's been a blur. I don't really understand how much time has passed anymore. I don't feel like I was in the US last week at all. People feel like they've lived here for "months." I guess we're doing a good job with our immersion program...

Usually, everything is closed on Sundays so the whole town came out to walk down the main street and hang out in the piazza. There were roasted chestnuts on the side of the street and someone was playing the music from Amelie on an accordian :). Its wonderful how everyone comes out for a passegiata.

On our last night, four of us got an aperitivo. Supposedly, it's a very common thing to do in Italy.

Then we went to this "seceret" brewery/restaurant that a Stranieri-alum told us about (but didn't want other people in the group knowing about her favorite spot). It played wonderful music. I don't even know what genre it was - balkan/"retro swing"??? (kind of reminded me of Andrew Bird's older bands. Either way, it was wonderful.)

1st day of school [at least I got a week more vacation than Pitt students did]!
I have to say that I've never come into the start of a semester with a feeling of necessity like this. For once, these classes were not requirements for my major but a means of self-expression and almost "survival." I also felt that I *had* to go to class in order to get better and that a lot of this couldn't be done on my own. This is an area of study that is used in my everyday life, here at least, and is completely relevant to my environment. Also, not to sound completely cliche, but there was such a feeling of optimism in which you actually understood how the city is your classroom.

Anyways, blah, blah, blah. I had to be in class and was ready, after having a lot of downtime here so far, because I've been very frustrated and need to get better with my Italian if I'm going to get anywhere here.

We got a tour of how to get down to the school yesterday but it was a bit of a walk and my roomate and I were very afraid we'd get lost. Little did I know that the rumors were true - Italian teachers never come on time (she was 20 minutes late the first day!)! Even though I was joking that I was the only silly immersion girl who is studying in the beginning-level, I have to say that it's wonderful to be the only American student in my class. My class had 8 people in it: students from Spain, China, Japan, Lebannon, and Afghanistan!

It was hard to jump into my first class, let alone one that's four hours long. Granted we do get 10-15 minute breaks at the end of every hour (I hope they're not smoke breaks for those Italians! [Quick, funny side-tangent. Supposedly the gyms in Italy are a joke. The women get dressed up in really short, shorts and get all made-up for the guys while their instructor is smoking a cigarette, telling them to do a few more reps so that they can finish and have a smoke-break => flirt with the guys.]) Anyways, I can't say it that after seeing my professor that it wasn't hard to miss Signor Russo. She just wasn't anywhere near as a dynamic performer for the class. It is still such an interesting concept to me to see a language taught solely in the language you are learning. I made me think back to my first Italian class freshman year of high school where Signor Russo was amazingly able to get the names of objects and simple phrases across to students who didn't have any prior experience with the language. It really takes a good teacher to be able to do that.

What I could tell from this class, which I think is especially unique to the A2 level, though I'm probably very biased of course, is that we come from such a unique range of proficiency. Students in A1 have no prior experience with italian and students in higher-levels took a placement exam and are seen as at least being adequate with the language. I believe we're just the rest of the students who greatly vary from having a lot of background with grammar but not being able to speak to students who were brought-up hearing the language and can speak but have no sense of grammar. It accounts for an already diverse classroom environment to begin with.

To be frank about today's class, I thought it was very easy. She started from page 1 in our Italian 1 textbook and she briefly explained a picture telling the story of two foreign students taking a train into Florence and introducing themselves to an Italian woman. Then we spent the rest of the class taking turns reading the dialogue, answering comprehension questions about the story, breaking apart the sentences and matching articles with the noun, understanding how to greet people and tell things about ourselves, using prepositions, and working on forms of "essere."

I don't really know how to feel about the class yet (I know it was just the first day) but the advisors and the students in the program and I were talking and I think we all agree that when it comes down to it, anyone can do grammar. What's really important is to be in the level that you feel most comfortable speaking in because that is the hardest skill to learn how to do. I just miss my textbook from high school and need to find a way to get it (I don't know how students who didn't have the more "objective" training that I got from my textbook would understand how she introduced concepts in class [and had to explain simple vocabulary words to the class in Italian without making it more difficult for them!] but a lot of that may be a flaw with the American way of teaching a language. It's something to think about. I am most likely at fault for clinging to my book and my grammar charts and vocab lists so much and, most of all, need to stop translating everything in my head into english and really try to focus on thinking about the usage of the word in the context of other Italian words. It was just so easy for me to almost mindlessly do the exercises in high school where I was basically following a pattern for verb endings, etc....).

That's enough for today. Here are pictures of the university!

And more pictures from the walk back!

Buona notte! I have 9 hours of class tomorrow and it all starts at 8am!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

(Orientation) Pictures Speak More Than Words At The Moment

The first two pictures are views of the piazza which is right at the end of the major street running down Perugia (we are very lucky that our apartment is only a 5/10 minute walk from the fountain). The building to the right is of the town hall. Our orientation for our program, with the general Umbra students who just came in last night, was inside this building (look at how gorgeous it was inside!). Truthfully, though, all I learned from the orientation is that the national sport of Italy is chasing women (so watch out friendly American girls! the Italian women just have no tolerance for it).

These are views that we literally just stumbled upon as we were walking down little side-alleys trying to find a pizzeria. I hate saying these don't do it justice but if only I could really show you. It's easy to forget how high up we are when we are tucked away in the center, and older part, of Perugia.

Nooooooooooooooo! Ma voglio stratchiatella! :(

On a more serious note, we saw a protest against the Massacre in Gaza.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Settled A Bit...

I was very, very nervous last night but I have to say that I feel a lot better now that I'm in my apartment and have time to get organized. But let me backtrack.

There are seventeen students studying at the Università per Stranieri through Aracadia. Three of them are continuing on from last semester and I think one of them was studying in Florence previously and is living on his own with his Italian girlfriend? We're still waiting for two girls, and I think one poor girl was in Dublin for a bit but go sick and missed her plane. Generally, though, most of them are from the east coast, except someone from Minnesota and a guy from Seattle. The majority are girls (there are only two guys) and mostly juniors, minus a few seniors. They range from being extremely excited to jump right in and speak Italian to people complaining that they're not ready or that they don't want to go to class. The great majority of them have been to Italy before, a lot on exchange programs in high school, and are minoring/majoring in Italian or have a strict language requirement for their school. There is another Cohen on the trip (Amanda Cohen - Mike Olah, she was your lab partner in high school! told me how everyone loved you and funny things about George Liu :)) and someone with the last name "Stranieri" which I think is kind of funny. Basically, though, I'm just around a bunch of junior girls who are Italian like me who are psych majors :-P (that's not completely true, but it's a bit funny that my roomate is from Upper Darby, is interested in Neuropsych, and is the product of a Jewish - Dad Roman Catholic - Mom marriage [maybe that's how a lot Italians are entering the world now since the birth rate is going down here]).

When I said that when I was meeting the other students in the program and we all had no idea what we were doing, I meant it. I waited at the airport for a few hours until everyone who was flying in that day arrived and then we went on a three-hour bus ride to Perugia. I really didn't feel that tired and was determined to stay awake and talk to people but by the end, everyone had passed out, including me.

Then there we were, in Perugia! We spent our first night in a hotel (Hotel Fortuna <= look Tuna!) which my family will be staying in when they come to visit me (It's really nice, right in the center of town and we even had a little balcony [view from it to the left] - you'll love it). We stupidly started rolling our 50lb bags down the street as we hiked up to the hotel but the city looked beautiful with little Christmas lights hanging between apartments over our heads.

We finally got a little bit of an itinerary so we finally had some idea of what we were doing. There was a rumor that we'd be having class on Friday which made us very anxious. Thankfully we found out that we wouldn't have our schedules yet so don't have to go but even better, we'd be having an Italian placement exam 8:30am the next morning! Ugh.

We had dinner at Ristorante Victoria, right next to our hotel, and we filled up the entire one-room restaurant. Of course my first meal in Italy was amazing! We had a wonderful antipasto dish that I thought we'd be sharing between a few people but we each got our own. It was filled with prosciutto, salami, cheese, a little piece of bread with olive oil, the freshest bruschetta I've ever had, and a little buckwheat to top it off. We were treated to some local vino biancho and rosso and then had some simple, but absolutely perfect pasta. For dessert we had either tiramisu or panna cotta (like flan Joel!). Mmmmm.

Some of our future Italian teachers joined us for dinner and immediately jumped into only speaking Italian. Conversation was light, though, and the joke at dinner was that the bread in Perugia, or in this region in general, is not known for being that good. They generally don't add salt to it so it's pretty flavorless. Other than that, this girl who participated in the program last semester joined us for dinner and we basically grilled her the whole time on what living here is like. She basically echoed the feelings that a lot of the people in my program have of looking down on/wanting to avoid the general Umbra students. I don't think that's necessarily fair but we will be having a very different experience. She says that a lot of Americans come over and just hang out amongst themselves and go to the more "American" bars and are only really experiencing the culture from a removed standpoint.

It was just seeing teachers and hearing only Italian, plus realizing that a lot of my peers understood a lot more than me/were speaking really well, plus my placement exam being literally first thing the next morning that really made me nervous. I think it's a bit silly of me, though, to think that people wouldn't be doing an intensive language program without some strong Italian language experience. Ha....those silly prepared people...
Breakfast at 7:15 and then straight to the Università per Stranieri (one of the buildings is shown below to the right). Our Umbra staff representative, Rachel, tried to tell us that the placement exam is really not a big deal but that didn't really relax me. The Italians, she says, use the term "grading" loosely and a prior student said that class always starts 15 minutes late and then you leave early...I need to adopt this more relaxed tone when it comes to school! Supposedly, things at the University are very unorganized and we won't find out when we have a day or two off inbetween our session or for holidays or something until the last minute. On the other hand, as I was talking to Rachel about how Italian students are, Italians are very serious about their studies and are known to study for long hours. They're not as involved in campus clubs or extracurriculars as we are (actually, there's no student union or campus feel like that and most students live at home) but they're much more politically involved than we are.

Anyways, as we got up to be tested, she asked students who thought they were intermediate speakers to go with her while beginners were to wait by this classroom. So, as everyone followed her, I was the only one left behind! (I'm sorry Signor Russo!) All that stress for nothing, though. As I got in the classroom, I was the only one in there. As I waited for a bit, four or five adults came into the room and were talking on their cell phones, kissing each other on the cheeks, greeting, talking to each other. It was time for the exam and I was still the only person in the room. A teacher came over to me and asked me to fill out a general form saying where I'm from, my level of education, how long I'll be studying at the university, etc. Then she looked at me, asked if I knew how to decline the verb "to be," basically decided I had a little Italian experience, and put me in the Advanced Beginner class, A2. They spent more time saying hi than testing me (those Italians...)! [Classroom below]

I am actually very satisfied with my placement because I feel a like this is where I will be most comfortable. I don't necessarily think I need to start from square one and got a lot of good practice with grammar in high school and now just need to see that information again, work on tenses, and just really force myself to speak. Hopefully, at the end of my three-month period, I'll be able to test into B1 (beginning intermediate). That's all I could really ask for. I have to say, though, that Rachel couldn't believe how advanced our class was generally and it's usually half-and-half with beginning and intermediate. When the other students finished their test (a five-page multiple choice/fill-in the blank/matching test, which progressively got harder and which was supposedly a pretty-difficult mix of reaching exerts or following a conversation), probably half of them got into the C1 (beginning advanced) level [one got into C2!]! The rest were split between B2s and B1s. My roomate's B1 so that will give me a good idea of what I have to look forward to. Basically, it observed that people who took a year/year and a half were intermediate and people who took two years or more were advanced intermediates but a lot opted for the advanced level so they could work on conversational skills. We'll get our schedules for tomorrow, and get to miss class because of it!

After that, we were able to move into our apartments. My roomate Jess and I were picked up by a taxi and were taken to our apartment which is less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel/center of town. We're living with international students (from Australia [Anna shown to the left; picture showing my half of the double], Finland, Holland, and Poland). There are no dorms really, but students generally rent out from apartments. In these apartments, though, the landlords usually live in the same building and you're treated more as a guest in their house. The Arcadia packet definitely emphasizes being clean. The landlord/representatives can pop in at any time and will be inspecting our apartments. If we're not clean enough, they'll make us hire a cleaning woman for about $75-150 a month! Jess and I are sharing a room and we have a terrace. We're very lucky that we have internet and a washing machine. There's no den/living room or anything like that, just a hallway with doors off of it with singles/doubles and a kitchen + bathroom. We're very happy (though sadly down at the bottom of the hill. We'll have to visit other people in our program who are living a bit farther away but are high up at the top where they can see gorgeous views - we're pretty high up as it is).

Other than that, we have the day free today and don't have anything to do until a dinner with the general Umbra students tomorrow night. A couple of us went out to lunch for our first pizza (which is only around 6 or 7 euro!) and then went out and celebrated with a bit of Prosecco (only 4.5 euro. I will miss these prices).

It's amazing the difference I feel from last night until now.