Italy: STUDY Abroad

It has been a while since I posted and the reason is that I’ve been on vacation. I know, you’re thinking, “Vacation from what? You’re in Italy!” But even though it has been a while since I mentioned it, I am in fact studying abroad.

For starters, I have an Appreciation of Music class taught by WCC’s own Ben Kohn (a huge part of the reason I decided to go to Italy was because Ben is such an awesome professor). So far, we have been gone to a performance of Gregorian chants at Santa Croce, an organ concert at the Duomo, and seen the trumpeter Alison Balsom. We’ve learned about Palestrina, watched a movie about the life of Hildegard von Bingen, discussed troubadours and court music, watched a movie about Gesualdo, and watched a performance of Nigel Kennedy.

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In our film class (another taught by Ben) we’ve been focusing on Italian neorealism, and we’ve watched Roma, Open City and La Terra Trema. We saw the surrealist Un Chien Andalou and to discuss mise-en-scene, perception and expectations we saw Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.
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Our Italian language class has been our most difficult. We only meet once a week for two hours, and because most Florentines have a pretty good grasp of English so that we’re rarely forced to use Italian, we have learned some but not nearly enough. To remedy this, I’ve signed up for a language exchange partner, and starting this Thursday we will be meeting to trade languages and talk about our cultures. I feel woefully unprepared, and I’m certain she’ll know more English than I do Italian, but I’m hoping that she’ll be able to help me improve since I’ll now have someone to practice the language with.
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Our Italian culture class is fascinating. For instance, despite all of the history here, did you know that Italy only became a single unified nation in 1861? Or that while there is a “standard Italian” language (modified Florentine, in fact, thanks in part to Dante and other artists), most Italians don’t speak it as a first language? Milanese grow up speaking Milanese, Sicilians grow up speaking Sicilian, Romans grow up speaking Roman… And sometimes only in school do they begin learning Italian, and once learned it is usually reserved for a professional setting and at home they revert back to their native dialect. There are still deep cultural divides between regions and especially between northern and southern Italy; their government is shaky (they have had 62 different governments since unification); the Ferraro family (of Nutella fortune) is the richest family in the country; and while 85% of the population was born/identifies as Catholic, only around 20% actually attends mass regularly.

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Outside of our classes we have our “cultural calendar” of activities, featuring trips like Pisa and classes like Pizza Making. All in all, a pretty busy schedule, but I’m having a great time so it feels more like fun than work. We just had midterms and today marks the beginning of our final month, so we’re a bit in shock at how quickly the time has gone. We still have quite a few more trips planned before we have to head home though and plenty more to cross off on our list of must do, not to mention how far behind I am posting on here (Elba & more).
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