University of Wisconsin–Madison

Blog di Bologna: Pre Departure Shenanigans

The semester has wound down. Christmas is over and the new year is upon us. In one week, I’ll be flying to Italy to live for six months and starting my orientation for the Bologna Consortial Studies Program at the University of Bologna. This last semester has been insane, to put it mildly. I decided to add an Italian major a semester or so ago (as a senior) and, in order to stay on track for graduation and complete the coming semester abroad, I set myself up for an academic gauntlet for this past fall.

I was taking 16 credits, five courses, four of which were Italian courses—all upper level—and one was a German course. Only one of my classes was taught in my native English. At the very least, I feel I benefitted from the rigor of the courses. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have taken them all at once, but it certainly didn’t hurt. If anything, I feel a bit more confident, knowing that I can survive a lecture—or a series of several lectures back-to-back entirely in Italian and write cogent essays and research papers in the language. My Italian improved a bit over the semester and I know it will over the next six months. It has to. It doesn’t have a choice.

That said, between the haze of late nights studying and the days in lecture where I was simultaneously confident, yet filled with unshakeable doubt that I had any idea as to what was going on, alongside the list of forms to submit and documents to obtain and manuals to read that every study abroad student has to complete, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to process what is going to happen to me in a week. Over the next six months. Frankly, I’m a little terrified. Though, since classes are over, my grades are in, and the necessary forms have been filed, I finally have a chance to be excited. I get to go to Italy and study at the oldest university in Europe.

All that excitement and nervousness that I put on a shelf during the semester is starting to settle in. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, way before I decided on the major, way before I started studying the language, and finally that dream is coming true. This is real. I am a student of Italian, philosophy, and German, so getting to study a language in the country in which it is spoken is indescribably thrilling to me. I am stoked out of my mind about this program, but also really, really nervous. It’s my first time overseas, so we’ll see how this goes.

My interest in Italian culture began with my family. My great-parents were Italian immigrants who came to the States in the early 1900s. I’m looking forward to connecting with the culture and, if possible, revisiting my roots or at least seeing the cities in which my great-grandmother and great-grandfather lived. If I have the time and the means, I have a not-so-short list of adventures and excursions I’d like to take. I consider myself a person who can find adventure in the everyday, but I do love me some novelty and enjoy visiting new places.

I also love to cook and am really excited to learn the secrets of authentic Italian cuisine.

In addition to day-trips and voyagerial and culinary shenanigans, I am obsessed with language. I look forward to improving my skills in Italian through immersion and sharing new and interesting idiomatic expressions (I love idioms) and tidbits about accents and dialectical nuance with my adoring public.

I have never been to Italy, so I have no background in that area, but I was first exposed to the Italian language when I would hear my grandmother and my great-grandmother, my nonna, speaking with each other. Occasionally, my grandmother would answer the phone, pause, then begin speaking Italian and leave the room. I remember being very impressed with people who could speak another language, feeling as though the language itself were a sort of gateway to some other world just out of my reach. Like a secret club. With this trip and these new experiences, I hope to gain access and initiation to this new worldview. I hope you can all join me on this journey. Maybe that will make it less scary for me, and I hope being there first will make it less scary for anyone who may be considering study abroad but is too afraid to give it a shot.

One thing I should mention before getting too far into this blog is that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In short, it means I worry. A lot. About everything. I say this because I understand that most people would be feeling a healthy degree of anxiety right now that will probably go away once they settle into the program. Mine will probably improve, but if my blogs are littered with words like “anxiety,” “worry,” “nervous,” “scared,” or, “freak out,” do not despair, prospective travelers. That’s just me. I try to keep a lid on it, but sometimes the jitters just slip out. If anything, I hope to show other anxious people that you can do stuff like this. You can travel, you can be in control of your life and your anxiety.

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Anyway, I’ve been in the process of getting ready. Packing and getting myself in order.

For Christmas, my sister-in-law sent me an awesome 3-piece luggage set. I’m excited to use it. It’s green and the wheels roll however they want. I envy their freedom. Alex the Cat is suspicious of all the commotion, but at the same time, I think he wants to help me pack.

My boyfriend lives in Colorado. We’re not super-stoked about the time we’re going to be spending apart, but he’s really happy for me and we’re both confident we can make this work. I got an international plan on my phone and even though calling is not feasible, we can still text and Skype. We’ve been talking about him visiting about midway through the trip. I hope he can. I really hope he can. We remind each other it won’t be that different than it is now, seeing that we already live about a thousand miles and a time zone apart (though we’ll be eight time zones apart when I’m in Italy and keeping in touch will take some creative planning). It’ll be hard, but I have faith in us. He does, too.

For Christmas, he gave me a euro note, requiring that I spend it on something fun and frivolous. Not groceries. I already have plans for it, but I’m waiting to tell him (or you, dear audience) until I know it’ll work. I’m really excited to use it.

 

PRO TIP for Future Study Abroad Students: shortly before you go abroad, friends and family will suddenly come out of the woodwork, wanting to spend time with you. Don’t be like me—a clueless, antisocial Hobbitoid—and not anticipate this. Otherwise it will feel like a deluge of hands reaching out to take you out to dinner and bum around your old stomping grounds. Ever seen Labyrinth? That film starring David Bowie’s…hair—and a cameo appearance of David Bowie? You know the scene with the Helping Hands? It’s a lot like that. Not to say it’s bad or unpleasant or at all unwelcome. I just wish I had planned for it and made time and didn’t cram all my pre-departure preparations into this short span. Lesson (hopefully) learned.