Mamma mia! Where has the time gone?! I have been in my own little world for the past 2 months. I chose to study abroad in Lecce, Italy for the summer to learn the Italian language. Oh boy has it been an experience so far, and there are so many stories I would like to share! As much as I love to travel, I understand why people hate it so much! Before arriving in Italy, my flight out of Columbus was delayed; this made me miss my connecting flight in New York. I couldn’t get another flight out until the next day, and the air line wouldn’t cover my hotel fee! Let’s just say a night in New York is not cheap! After spending 10 hours in the airport the next day, I finally boarded my 9 hour flight to Italy. Once I landed, I came to realize that my luggage did not arrive with me; it was still in New York! Of course I didn’t think of packing an extra outfit in my carryon bag, so I would soon find out that my Ohio State T-shirt and yoga pants would be put into good use (Good thing I love my buckeyes! Haha). I didn’t have much time to deal with the luggage issue because I had to catch a shuttle to the train station to make my 6 hour train ride down to Lecce. I finally got to my apartment in Lecce (which was extremely nice!), and I crashed for the night. You know the saying, “When it rains, it pours”? Well, this statement is completely true! Not only did I not receive my luggage for a week, but my debit card wasn’t working. It was quite an overload of unfortunate events, but I always kept a smile on my face. I was in Italy for goodness sakes!
Other than the traveling mishaps, Italy has been FANTASTICO! Lecce is a small city in southern Italy. Not too many tourists come to Lecce, so English is not spoken too often. The people in Lecce are so friendly and very patient! They have helped me learn Italian immensely, and in return the other students and I try to teach them English. Il cibo è buonissimo! (The food is very good!) It is one of my favorite parts about Italy. The pizza is very different than what we have in the United States, and oh my goodness the pasta is just delicious! I have to say though, that the gelato is AMAZING! I have never had ice cream that tasted as good as the gelato does in Italy, and there are so many different flavors to choose from!
The only downfall to Lecce is the bugs. I have been bitten by so many mosquitoes, and the cockroaches are the ugliest creatures I have ever seen in my life! One night a cockroach flew into my room and hid on top of my closet. I am not a fan of bugs, so I was freaking out. I had to ask my Italian roommate to help me. Luckily, her boyfriend was over and one of my friends helped too. The guys got a broom and tried to swat the ugly bug down, and then it started flying everywhere! I was going nuts haha. Eventually, my roommate’s boyfriend caught the cockroach on the ground and killed it. After he was done he looked at me and said, “Ok, now it’s your job to clean it up!” haha That was an eventful night, and I am sure it was very entertaining for my roommate and her boyfriendJ.
One of my other favorite things about Lecce is the beaches! They are gorgeous! Just imagine Miami Beach with Caribbean waters, but even better! I have loved spending time there, and soaking up some rays.
Now I am just going on and on, and you all are probably thinking, “Is she really studying abroad or is this just a vacation?” As much as I would like to say it is just a vacation, I do have to go to school. I have class Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. During the 4 hours of class we speak, listen, and write completely in Italian. No English is really allowed. I have learned so much in just 5 weeks of classes, and on top of it I am immersed in the culture with the locals constantly speaking Italian for normal, everyday activities. Speaking of their everyday activities, one adjustment I had to make in coming to Italy was the time schedule of the Italians. Most stores are open in the morning from about 9 am to 1 pm and then they close for about 3 or 4 hours! During this time Italian families eat a big lunch and then take naps! When I first arrived it was hard to adjust to because in the United States I was always used to getting anything I needed whenever I wanted, but in Italy that’s just not the case. Now I actually love this culture adjustment because it brings me back to kindergarten; I get naptime every day! Haha. During the weekends, all of the students have the opportunity to go on excursions that the school has provided. Most of these excursions include a cultural activity, and some are just a trip to a beach. The cultural excursions are very interesting. One excursion we went to 4 different cities that have a different dialect to the Italian language. It is a mixture of Greek and Italian, and it is rarely used today. This area in Italy is known for making olive oil. We met an older man who spoke this special dialect, and he told us about the techniques they use to make the olive oil. They are very old techniques, and it was awesome to be able to see the actual tools they use! At the end of the day, we got to go to a fancy hotel where they make the olive oil, and we were actually able to try the oil with bread. It was very good. I probably ate too much of it! I still have three and half weeks left and there are many more excursions for me to learn something new!
After our first quarter of classes, we were given a 10 day break before our next quarter began. Seven of my friends and I went to Paris, France for 3 days! It was so much fun. It was surreal to actually see the Eiffel Tower. I felt like I was in a dream; I just never thought I would have the opportunity to see this amazing structure. I was even able to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The picture was much smaller than I thought it was going to be! I also saw the Notre Dame. After 3 days in Paris, I hopped on a train to Frankfurt, Germany, and met my parents there. We stayed with my cousin for one night, and then travelled to different cities in Germany, Austria, and Northern Italy. We went to a medieval town in Germany, which was pretty neat! We also went to a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. This was a different experience. It was very sad and depressing to learn about what so many people went through during the holocaust and World War 2, but I am glad that they have set up a memorial site, so we can remember those that suffered. One quote that I remember reading said, “Each of us today is shaping the background history of tomorrow.” I think this quote is something we all need to keep in our minds every day. After Dachau, our next pit stop was Munich. I liked the city life of Munich, and it is a great place to shop! (or window shop, as we did while we were there haha)
My absolute favorite place that we visited was Salzburg, Austria! This place is absolutely breath taking! The scenery and walled in town were awesome to see. I must say, “the hills were alive with the sound of music” because Alps were gorgeous, and my parents and I went on the sound of music tour! It was soooo much fun. I absolutely love the movie, and I was able to see several of the places where the movie was filmed. Just to name a few, we saw the famous gazebo, the church Maria and the captain were married in, all of the Do-Re-MI spots, and several others. My mom and I were literally singing the songs during the entire 4 hour tour!
Our last stop was Venice, Italy before I had to catch a train back to Lecce in Bologna. It was crazy to see a city that is completely surrounded by water, and the main transportation system is by boat! It is also a good shopping spot, and I got to use my bargaining skills a couple of times in Italian haha. Unfortunately we didn’t get to ride in a gondola, but it was interesting to see the famous boats known in Venice. I really wished I could have ridden in one. Maybe someday J. Vacation had to come to an end, and I started my second quarter of classes. I can’t believe the first week is already done!
On my journey, I have made friendships with people that will last a lifetime, and had experiences that will stay with me forever. So for now, I will continue my adventure in Italy, make even more friends, and create other memories to add to the collection. CIAO!