Our fall 2017 Undergrad students have finished their first full week of classes! This week’s ADALife Bloggers are Music students; Anna, Alex, Charlie, and Isabella!
Fall 2017 Theatre and Music students at dinner in the mensa!
Anna Hawkins: Music, Furman University
I have 2 goals for the semester. My biggest goal for the semester is to live in the moment and truly experience all that Italy has to offer. This may seem simple, but as a busy student from Furman University, it is surprisingly challenging. For the past 2 years, my life has been all about packing as much into a day as possible. Class, rehearsals, studying, errands, practicing, and more consumed my days at Furman. I adapted to this lifestyle, but I always knew deep down that this lifestyle is not healthy and that I was missing the things in life that truly matter. So my goal for this semester is to not rush from place to place. To not feel pressure to be perfectly efficient. To not be consumed with schoolwork. To not plan every minute out. Instead, I want to take the time to sit in Stefano’s, eat pastries, and listen to the locals chat in Italian. To take the time to watch the sun set and be amazed by the beauty. To lay in the grass at the park, listen to the Duomo bells, and watch children play. To eat lunch for an hour and a half with friends, exchanging stories and laughing. In short, I want to be present wherever I am, seeing, listening, smelling, and feeling all that this incredible country has to offer. The work will get done, and if it sometimes doesn’t happen, then it wasn’t so important after all.
My 2nd goal for the semester is to master the “va bene” attitude. “Va bene” literally means “whatever,” but has so many uses in Italian. About to be late? Va bene. Not sure what you just ordered in Italian? Va bene. Dead tired and about to walk up the steep hill to the Accademia? Va bene. Va bene takes away the worry of people-pleasing and the stress of always being busy. It’s a way of living that takes things as they come and just enjoys being alive. Va bene is about enjoying life without worrying about things that really don’t matter. It’s sitting in a hot, stuffy cafe with slow service for two and a half hours and loving life because I’m with the people I love, pursuing my passion for music, and enjoying a new culture. It is standing all day, walking 12 miles, and still being happy because of all the cool things I’ve seen and done that day. In short, va bene is a way of living that allows one to experience life to the fullest without worrying about insignificant things.
I hope more than anything to leave Italy with a real sense of how to live life. I’m slowly coming to see how my life in America often misses the most important parts of life. Worrying about grades, schedules, and performances only prevents me from appreciating the good things in life. When I return to America, I hope that spending time with friends, taking long walks, and exploring new places will be my new normal. I aspire to be invested in what I love and not sweat the smallthings. Overall, my desire is to be changed from a driven, goal-oriented, obsessive planner into a relaxed person more concerned with experiences than achievements. People who know me may think that this is an impossible task, but I think Italy has already begun to work its magic on me.
Some of our students at the Joust!
Charlie Baldwin: Music, Furman University
Last Sunday was the day of the joust and the final day of Arezzo’s antiques fair, and the old city was bursting at the seams with people. To make way for the joust, the antiques fair had to be relocated to the park from its customary place in the streets of Arezzo.
My fellow music students and I enjoyed the pre-joust parade: men in Renaissance garb prancing on horseback, playing trombe, beating batteria, and performing impressive choreography with large flags. During the parade two friendly women jabbered at us in Italian and convinced me to swear my allegiance to the verde e bianco.
We were late to the joust, and we had to be content with standing on the outskirts of the piazza, though we had a good view of the target. The Italian men with their leather jackets, chains, tattoos and cigarettes who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us were not fans of the verde e bianco, and when I expressed enthusiasm for my team one of them turned to shoot me a death glare. In retrospect booing the other teams was less than tactful. I might have left with a shiner, my first European souvenir.
The pace of the joust was slower than a baseball game, and there was a good deal of standing around waiting for the next horseman to emerge and eventually charge the target. At length my boys in verde e bianco won, having nailed the bullseye twice. The team down in the arena burst into cheers and hugs at their victory over the other three quadrants of Arezzo.
Later as we waited for dinner a passing old man noticed the colors worn by my roommate. The man began yelling at him in Italian because (as we gradually came to realize) he didn’t like the team who wore those colors. At some point Dr. Parsons got up in his face and spoke some words under his breath. That calmed the man down, though he continued to lecture us in a language he surely knew we didn’t understand. (I can’t imagine what Dr. Parsons said to mollify him. His Italian is limited to say the least.) Clearly the people of Arezzo take the joust very seriously.
Isabella Quiros: Muisc, Furman University
Before we officially started classes, we had a fun-filled weekend in Arezzo. Not only did we learn how to navigate the mile long trek into the walled city, but we also learned where the necessities are, such as the wine and gelato shops. Did I mention the food in Italy is great? Anyways, all 42 of us made our way to the Saracen Joust and Antiques Fair, and were just completely in shock. I’m sure everyone’s parents who are reading this will think that we literally saw knights on horses stabbing each other in a ring while drunk onlookers jeered until one died. I am here to inform you that no, this is not completely true. While the Joust does involve a horse, jockey, and spear, they actually only aim for a target on a puppet. The point of the game is to get the highest score by hitting the center of a target without getting hit by the rebound or having your horse scared by the rowdy crowds. The entire town attends the Joust and everyday life essentially stops until a winner is announced. The teams of the Joust correlates to the four quarters that Arezzo is geographically divided into. Of course, the quarter with the winner will have the best parties later that night — something many of us took the liberty of checking out! 🙂
In addition to the cultural experiences we’ve had here in Arezzo, the Accademia provides a plethora of classes to keep our brains engaged and excited. We have Italian, History, and Movement and Body classes. I have to say, my favorite class by far is Italian! Only a week in and I can introduce myself, count to 100, and play a round of bingo. Our teacher, Silvia, is a saving grace, as she enthusiastically tolerates our collective inability to discern Italian from the Spanish and French we were forced to learn in high school. If only we could bring her back to the states in December……
The students are all in good spirits and excited for each day that comes. We’re still learning the ropes on how to live in Italy, but we’ll get the hang of it soon enough. We all have our own specific goals and bucket lists to complete while here and it’s always fun to hear about them. Some look forward to the practice time, some to the traveling, and some of the classes. One thing is for sure: we all look forward to eating as much gelato as possible in our 3 short months here.
Alex Dickenson: Music, Furman University
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Italy. It was stuck in my mind that it was another America, with dazzling lights and bigger than life consumerism. But what I found when I got here was a rustic lifestyle and a va bene attitude.
At first, I rebelled against this lifestyle. It was foreign, alien, something that didn’t quite fit in with my American ‘work now, rest when you’re dead’ philosophy. Every part of me wished to be back in the fast paced world I knew, whereeverything was planned to the last minute. Wake up at 7:30, busy all day with school-work and practice, with maybe 30 minutes for lunch and dinner. Bedtime came around 12, sometimes later, and the vicious cycle would repeat itself ad nauseum. But here, in Italy, the pace is different. It is still grinding, with the day starting at 8 and ending at 12. However, unlike America, the day is filled with much more free time that is used to eat meals for an hour or more with time in the evening to hang out with friends. There is no pressure here to always be working. No, here the pressure is to enjoy the little things.
It took me many days to get into this new rhythm, to not try to burn myself out. The days feel much longer, like those four extra hours I wished the day had in America have somehow managed to squeeze themselves in here. I find myself looking outward, instead of inward, during my times of peace. But, this paints a rosy picture of the first week in a new country.
I would be lying if I said I have not felt the normal emotions of being away from the place you know and love. Homesickness, loneliness, fear, anger, and confusion have all made appearances during my first week of stay. Family is no longer a phone call away with spotty wifi and the time difference. The ‘American’ products don’t even taste same and the food is very much different from the soul food of the South. Not many Italians
The music students out to dinner in the center of Arezzo!
speak English and trying to get groceries or even a meal takes a lot of mental preparation. Everything no longer revolves around you but rather everyone else.
But, all that aside, I have noted a change in me. I am more relaxed, feel healthier, and can say that each day I feel much happier and more content than the last. This lifestyle is what I have been needing all my life. And I know that as I write this little diatribe that I will miss this place. The little nuances, the rustic character, the va bene attitude, will all be the hallmarks of my memories of this experience.