A large portion of the learning students do during a semester abroad happens outside the classroom. The whole point of spending three months in a new environment is to get outside of what’s familiar. For this reason, we love hearing where our students are spending their weekends and what they take away from these travels in and around Arezzo, Italy, and even in other countries. Check out what September, Anna, and Eliza have to say about their European experience!
September McCarthy: Dance, Muhlenberg College PA
When I reflect upon my European traveling experiences, what I remember most are never the museums, monuments, or architectural wonders. I always seem to vividly remember one thing: the FOOD. I’m the kind of person that fantasizes about lunch while I’m taking my first bite of breakfast, so perhaps this is a deeply personal quirk, but, to me, food is what best defines a culture. Dining is such a powerful social phenomenon. It’s when families come together after a long day at work, it’s a time set aside to rest, relax, share ideas. Dining is nearly always a central part of important festivals and holidays. The order in which the food is prepared and served, the time of year during which certain foods are in season, the time of day that people eat – these seemingly ordinary practices are anything BUT ordinary! Centuries of experience have shaped these rituals. The deepest most sacred parts of a culture, I truly believe, can be found in the way food is consumed. So, I would rather spend the extra ten dollars on a special meal in Prague than on an entrance ticket to that museum that I secretly don’t really care about…(sorry)…
So, being the anti-museum gourmand that I claim to be, I should probably share some of my favorite meals or something, right?
1. Cinque Terre— if you like seafood, you MUST get one of those paper cones overflowing with fried calamari. I ate three for dinner once. Got sick. Worth it.
2. Florence—once in this beautiful little restaurant, I drank some incredible dessert wine called Fragolino. It’s bubbly and tastes like strawberries and goes straight to your head and then the owner might make you get up and dance around the room with him and sing Que Sera Sera but it all makes sense in the end because Fragolino.
3. Prague—Glühwein. It’s the same as mulled wine, but sounds much cooler if you say it in German. It’s been historically lauded for its healing properties, so you can drink a lot of it all day, and if your mom starts getting concerned, you just defensively remind her that you’re LITERALLY DRINKING TO YOUR HEALTH, OKAY?
4. Prague #2— Trdelnik. Okay, so we’re talkin’ a freshly made hot cinnamon-sugar-DONUT-cone filled with the thickest vanilla custard you ever did see. Not sure what else I need to say about this one.
5. Amsterdam— cheese. You definitely never thought about taking a bike ride to a cheese farm that also makes wooden clogs when you planned your ~siCk~ trip to Amsterdam. But eating the freshly made cheese while making prolonged eye contact with the very cows that provided it was, well, euphoric. So get yourself some genuine Dutch cheese!
My Italian Love Life
This past Thanksgiving, my Great Aunt Peggy told me that I would probably meet a lot of Italian men while studying in Arezzo. The middle-to-elderly aged women in my family all giggled, and my mom told me to “be careful.” While I rolled my eyes, I secretly wondered if maybe I would meet the person of my dreams.
While I didn’t come to this program with the intention of finding a european boyfriend, I can’t deny that romance is probably always on my mind. I use the word “romance” loosely here–I just tend to be in my own world a lot (maybe too much). I like to pretend I’m in a movie, you know? As I waited at the gate for my flight from Philadelphia to Florence to take off, I listened to dramatic music and envisioned myself wearing very cool European clothes, coffee in hand, with a string of various European admirers behind me.
I would say that my experience with Europeans so far hasn’t been particularly romantic. The phrases that I have memorized are: “Where is the bathroom?” and “I’m sorry.” Everyone is so beautiful and almost every other woman I see wears an impressive fur coat. I have had two encounters with European men so far: 1. An elderly man at a bar stared at me unabashedly for about 6 minutes and then muttered a string of Italian words and phrases to his cronies and 2. A foul smelling man who was working at a boutique asked me if I “liked to have a good time in New York City.” I told him I did.
What I appreciate about Italy so far is the freedom I have found in staring. People stare at you all the time and you are actually allowed to recognize when someone is staring at you and stare back. Today I literally sat on a storefront stoop eating gelato and staring at the passers by. I’ve never felt that I’ve been given that license or permission in the United States. On the subway you can’t ever stare too long or else you are creepy. I am constantly stealing glances and quickly looking away, but in Arezzo you can stare as long as you want (I think).
Eliza Malecki: Dance, Goucher College MD
So far this semester, my weekends have ranged from staying in bed in the villa until mid afternoon, stalking out the best sandwiches in Florence, and reenacting the entirety of the movie Hercules while in Athens. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
· Restaurants love to give you free shots.
· Don’t touch the kid selling you roses on the street, even if he is being aggressive. You will get kicked.
· Power naps save lives.
· You may get really attached to your Air BnB if it’s crazy beautiful, it may be hard to leave because it feels like home after two days.
· You can have dessert after breakfast, dessert after lunch, dessert after dinner, and dessert after dessert.
· The world is f*cking incredible and filled with things that will make you cry because they’re so beautiful.