Sixth Week in Tours

The last week is always bittersweet. Some of my friends had left before me and the goodbyes are always accompanied by this weird feeling/reminder that your own time is coming to an end soon. Classes proceeded as usual, except with a few exams thrown in. I maintained the same grades as I had in my previous course, so I was fairly pleased.

The previous weekend I had visited Paris and got to meet up with my best friend from high school, which was very nice. We wandered around Le Marais and Bastille areas, which were less crowded with tourists, but had a lot to offer for interesting things to do. We also visited the Notre Dame area, stopped by Shakespeare and Company, and sampled lots of desserts. To get back to Tours, I took a covoiturage, which was essentially a carpool with other people who are going the same places as you are. I was hoping to get some rest, but the whole 2.5 hour ride was an engaged discussion of French and American politics! It gave me a very good chance to practice conversational French, since that isn’t something I got to do much in the classroom. I was happy to note that I could understand what the others were saying by piecing together context clues. And I tried my best to give sufficient responses to their questions about the American political system and the current election. Our discussion also included some social justice topics, such as racism in France. The other passengers told me that there is a lot of racism towards immigrants, regardless of their skin color. This was interesting to hear, because historically, racism in the United States followed the same theme. Even nowadays, it seems, though, that racism in both the United States and France follow very similar themes. The Orlando massacre also shocked many of the French people that I spoke with it about, but many said that the same types of violence exist in France too.

As I mentioned in previous posts, there are current large demonstrations and strikes across France because of some new laws. Even walking home from the Institut, I would pass marches down Avenue de Grammont (one of two large roads going through Tours). Luckily, in Paris, I did not run into any issues with demonstrations, but I was definitely conscious about them the entire time.

Right now, I am back in the States, but I think back to my time in Tours a lot. I still am in touch with some friends from the Institut, and still get notifications from the Facebook groupchat by those who are still coordinating events and hangouts in Tours. My last night was very sweet, because my host mother decided to have a lengthy dinner, during which she shared some life stories with us. It was very endearing of her to share with us these magnificent stories of her travels in France and abroad. I hope to keep in touch with her as well.

My time in Tours was wonderful, and France is a country very rich in culture. I hope to carry these memories with me, as well as the friendships I made. I feel like I am more at ease with French-speaking situations now, especially if I focus intently on the conversation. It can get exhausting at times, but I can sense improvement. Thank you SLA!

Sorrento: Pompeii, Brutal Classmates, and more (Week Four)

Ciao a tutti!
Sorrento has been home for a whole month now. As the summer ramps up, the streets in town have become more and more packed with tourists, so I’ve been spending more time further off the beaten path when meeting up with local friends. Class this week went somewhat well, I’ll say. This week I had two classmates who were both over sixty, and they were very sweet people just just awful in class, I must say. One spoke fluidly but butchered just about every word, and the other spoke well but always would forget one word in a sentence and stop the whole world while she thought of it. Worst of all, they constantly interrupted the teacher and themselves, even when the teacher would try to explain something…ridiculous. By Wednesday, I knew what I had to do: join the yelling match. The rest of the week I guess I practiced my quick Italian. when I spoke, it had to be quick and fluid or else I would be interrupted by the other two, so I was able to practice jumping in to conversations. When life gives you two lemons in class…

After classes, I tried to catch up on some frequent vocabulary and brush up on what I did in the first week, which I realized I need to do a bit more of. A couple friends in town had a lot of free time this week, so I was able to hang out while speaking and hearing heaps of Italian. I can see a dramatic improvement in listening comprehension, especially when I have context and hand gestures as aids. Speaking is definitely lagging in comparison to comprehension, but I think that’s normal; it just makes me want to continue expanding my vocabulary so I can quickly call to mind what I’d like to say.

I was also able to talk with a few locals this week about their thoughts on the U.S. Of course, it was impossible to steer clear of talking about Trump, but we covered a good range of topics. Everyone I talked to alluded to Trump being a spectacle and the ultimate unknown. They were most concerned with foreign relations if Trump wins, as again it’s a complete toss-up. I tried to drive the conversations away from politics in general. I tried to focus on perspective of the U.S. as an idea, and here’s some paraphrasing of the responses:
Young man (20 years old): America is open and fertile. You can do anything there. Success is so available, not easy but there for the taking. Imagine if I had been born in Texas: Hi, I’m Mario and I come from Texas–go Cowboys. (He’s a character without a doubt).
Middle-aged woman: People tell me that Italians and Americans are different, but when I talk to Americans I don’t see all the differences. When it comes down to it, I think we face essentially the same challenges and reach for the same goals.
Older gentleman: I could be American. I could have left as a youngster and made myself in America. I could have a beautiful estate in New York right now. The truth is, though, I could have just as easily failed, been the poorest guy around, unable to provide for a wife and kids. (He said this while surrounded by his lovely big family at his farm…I think me made the right choice).

Initially I thought that talking with the older gentleman was more of a story than a perspective, but after sitting with it for a while, I realized that his account in fact was his view of the States. The U.S. to this gentleman, more than anything, represents a chance he had back in the fifties and a hypothetical unravelling of his own life from there–it was incredible to see him dream ever so slightly while speaking of what might have been…and even better to see him finish the story by kissing his wife.

Hearing these thoughts gave me a good sense of the local sentiment, and the variety of responses was refreshing.

It’s hard to believe, but visiting the great Pompeii was a side note to this weeks happenings. Another astounding sight on the Bay of Naples, especially for a student of classics.

Pompeii's amphitheater written about by Tacitus

Pompeii’s amphitheater written about by Tacitus

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Fifth Week in Tours

This post is long overdue! I had written it earlier and was not able to upload it, because my last week in Tours, I was both sick and running around everywhere trying to make the most of my last week.

My fifth week in Tours progressed as normal class-wise. My classes had picked up the pace a little bit, and my instructors really pushed us along a little more. I liked this better because it is always easier to catch on to what you don’t understand than to be stuck in the grammatical details. Hearing the grammar used in example sentences or conversation greatly helps me. However, even though my class was a little more challenging, I wish that we did more speaking exercises. Since a few weeks earlier we had an oral comprehension focused week, I know that most of my improvement comes from speaking a lot.

This week, I also immersed myself more deeply in the gastronomic things that Tours had to offer. I went to different restaurants and markets for lunch, trying new things, but also sometimes packing my own lunches of baguette, cheese (camembert), arugula, and salami. There are many popular and inexpensive sandwich shops that students frequent. One interesting place that I visited for lunch was called Mamie Bigoude, which had very dolled-up and kitschy decorations. A lot of people recommended it to me, and the crepe selection did not disappoint. There are a lot of good restaurants in Place Plumereau (which is a giant restaurant/bar area near the Institut) that serve a variety of crepes, burgers, and salads. There are also fast food places that are the equivalents of our Chipotle and Blaze Pizza.

I asked my host mother and some other adults what traditional Tours food was like. The majority of responses included goat cheese (chevre), which the region is known for, and Touraine wine. Often times, meals at home begin with a salad and perhaps other finger-food appetizers, proceed into the entree, and end with a cheese plate and dessert.

Friday of my fifth week, I also visited Chateau de Villandry with a few of my friends from the Institut! It is fairly close to Tours, and my friend’s host mother offered to drive us, which was very kind of her. Villandry is on the smaller end of the chateaus in the Loire Valley, but it has very large, beautiful gardens. We spent perhaps 45 minutes looking around the house, but nearly 2 hours strolling around the grounds.

Digging deeper into the Argentine culture

Me in class working on a project/flyer

Me in class working on a project/flyer

Last week was a whirl. Although the picture suggests otherwise, five hours of classes a day, plus homework, can be really time-consuming (and hard), but I believe that challenging yourself can only make you better. That week in class, we talked about immigration and discrimination, which made me think about the issue in Argentina. I live really close to Barrio Chino (the Chinatown of Buenos Aires), and for this reason, there are a lot of Asian people around. Other than that, I have not really seen many people of colour. Here, they refer to people with dark skin as morrachos. I know that because, as I was getting my hair cut, the hairdresser extensively explained to me that he would call me a morracha because of my “piel más oscuro” (darker skin). However, I don’t think he meant to be discriminatory since he went on to say that he had a 23-year old son and that we would make a good pair due to the difference in skin colour. Later, I talked to my friend Guillermo (pronounced Gui’sh’ermo because, you know, Argentina)  about it. He told me that since most Argentines are descendants of Italians and Spaniards, there is not much discrimination in the country. They are also predisposed to immigration from bordering countries, as well as Asia and Europe. As such, Argentines are tolerant and accepting of others. However, there can be certain prejudices and stereotypes relating to Bolivians, Paraguayans, and Asians. He added that some of his friends from other countries have felt that people looked at them differently because of their skin colour.

My experience in Argentina has been great so far, and it’s hard to believe that it is soon coming to an end. My only complaint is that everyone in my class/program is from the US, which made it harder to meet locals. However, I found some ways around this. First, I joined that conversation exchange program at the university. I also try to talk to as many people as possible when travelling around or going out. Additionally, I created a Bumble* here, through which I met a few people (Disclaimer: if you are planning to use it, be careful, i.e. follow the rules** of talking to random people online).

Last Thursday, we went to a Tango show preceded by a Tango lesson. We learnt the basic steps and were certified. I am far from being a pro, but I intend to learn more (I added it to my bucket list).

Best couple of the night (according to us)

Best couple of the night (according to us)

I know I promised stories of adventures in my previous post, so stay tuned to read about the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

 

*Bumble is kind of like Tinder (so basically an online dating app) except the girl has to talk first and has 24 hours to do so.

** The rules are:

  1. Do NOT ever give out sensible information about yourself, e.g your address
  2. Never agree to meet alone. Meet with other friends or in a crowded place, and always let someone know where and with whom you’re going
  3. Beware of cultural differences
  4. Do not believe everything you’re told
  5. Be SMART

Tours, Week 2

It’s hard to believe that it has been two weeks since I have arrived here. At times, it seems as if I have just gotten off the train yesterday, and yet at times it seems to have been months. The start of this week rolled out smoothly, with only tiny hiccups such as the malfunction of the trams which my roommate and I take each morning to go to the Institute. At first, we all thought it was a strike, which so typical in France that no one bats an eye if the train workers are calling for a strike; in fact, Air France has just announced a strike for next week and all the planes originating from CDG airport may be canceled or delayed—a real inconvenience for the people who are coming for the Euro cup. However, the trams next to my house has stopped due to an accident further south and would go back to work after three days.

At school, I am getting used to the weekly schedules, the amount of homework and the different methods each french professor adopts. It has became a habit for me to read the textbook and list general questions for the professor beforehand, and surprisingly, the classes became a lot more easier. After a while, I learned the each professor’s distinct way of teaching, which makes participating in class much easier. Once I knew the sequence of activities and what the teacher expects from me in terms of participation, the class became more enjoyable and fruitful.

Back at home, Madame Remion is very helpful in assisting our adaption to the French lifestyle. Every day at dinner she would explain the origin and tradition of each dish, and also practical things such as how to buy the various ingredients at the markets. Soon as I cooked up the courage to venture outside my room and initiate conversations with my Madame before and after dinner, I found out a lot more about her life, the history of the old house we live in, and the stories of other international students learning french who have stayed in her house before. I still find it hard to carry out a conversation without stopping now and then to search for a specific word or phrase. But I think I’m more open to speak in French with native speakers and I can understand a lot better compared to when I first arrived.

Week 1: Ciao from Siena!

I landed in Florence last Sunday, and it was quite an interesting trip getting from Florence to Siena. From the airport, I had to take a bus to the train station at the city centre, and then take a local bus that takes me to the bus station in Siena. The train station in Florence was a huge hub of transportation, with very limited signs and staff. It turned out to be my first opportunity to speak Italian, as I tried to find my way to the bus to Siena. I was rather rusty, after not speaking in Italian for about a month, but I managed to find my way to the bus. On the bus, I sat with a very nice lady who lives in Florence. She doesn’t speak English, but we managed to converse with my limited Italian. She told me that she was visiting her son who is studying in Siena. She also gave me a lot of recommendations for places to go in Florence–museums and churches to visit, food I should try, and many other things. We talked for almost the entire trip, and I was so happy when she told me that “tu parli italiano bene!” (you speak Italian well!).

After about one and a half hour of travel, I finally arrived in Siena! I’m living in an apartment with five other students who come from different backgrounds and different parts of the world to learn Italian. Even though I don’t get to speak as much Italian as some of my friends who live with a host family, I love listening to my house-mates’ stories on why they chose to learn Italian, and how they fell in love with the language and the culture. It helps to remind me of my own motivations: my love of Italian art and history, and (of course) Italian food.

Anyway, today is my second day here at Società Dante Alighieri. I’m in a class which consists of 9 students, and my teacher is a proud and lively Senese who is really approachable and patient, and the past two days of classes have been very fun. The first day was a little bit draining, as it started early with an oral placement test, and I felt like I learnt a week’s worth of Italian language in just 4 hours. However, the lesson was really engaging, and I learnt a little bit of Grammar, listening, and speaking at the same time. The class is fully and completely in Italian, which means that every difficult or new words that we did not know is explained in Italian, by either giving a synonym, a phrase, an example, or a drawing on the whiteboard. This is something that I didn’t do in my Italian class at Notre Dame, and it definitely helps to improve my vocabulary. We also did fun activities which required a lot of speaking and working together as a group. I felt like I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone, and encouraged to learn as much as possible.

After class yesterday, we went on a quick tour around the city. We were also given a schedule of activities organized by the school for us: a visit to the Duomo, Museo dell’Opera, Pinacoteca art museum, and some other places around the city. What I’m really looking forward to, however, is the events leading to the Palio! The Palio is a horse race that takes place twice a year in Siena, and has been around since the 14th century. The first Palio of the year is happening on July 2, which is just a week away. The whole city is buzzing, and I’m really excited that I would be able to watch the race and the days of preparation up to the race! There will be dinners, selection of horses, blessing of the horses (in the church!) and some other events.
I will talk more about the Palio on my next post.

A dopo!

Piazza del Campo: where the Palio takes place!

Piazza del Campo: where the Palio takes place, and also my favorite spot (so far) in the city for people watching!

A Thing Called Life in Japan- 2

With more time in Japan, confidence has grown. While it has taken time, I feel as though my ability to express ideas is not as limited as when I began. While this sounds like a natural consequence of prolonged language immersion in a foreign country, it is nevertheless something for me to personally reflect on. In my first entry, I discussed the need for creativity in conversation; expedient ways of conveying meaning are important at a lower level of language proficiency. As I have spent more time with native speakers, I find this creativity is very much tested. I have engaged (or been engaged by) teachers, host families, neighbors, local students, and so on. In each encounter, the desire to approach complex topics has proven to be attainable but occasionally slow and awkward.

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For example, discussing the U.S. and its politics is a challenging activity no matter how “creative” I am with noun modifiers or liberal interpretation of verbs usage. At some point, complicated vocabulary becomes essential (grammer is more or less a non-issue). In Japanese, senkyou is now a fixed entry in my mental dictionary. Senkyou translates as “election.” Talking politics in Japan right now necessitates this word; of course, the U.S. presidential election is in November, but Japanese national elections are in July.
When talking with my hostfamily about the upcoming U.S. election, I mentioned that I would be able to vote in November. Then when prompted on who I supported, I said that I lean toward Sanders. Of course, by this time it’s known that Trump and Clinton are the respective nominees. It’s a difficult election, I tell him.
Both my hostparents were more or less unspoken on who they supported for the U.S. But, there was one topic of which they were certainly vocal, and that is Trump’s statements regarding foreign policy. Part of Trump’s policy involves a withdrawal of U.S. military presence from Japan, a move that might be viewed as more supportable if Japan’s self-defense was not restricted–by the constitution established with U.S. oversight after WWII. As my hostparents relate, the policy presented by Trump is a difficult one for Japan, should it ever be realized. However, currently the Japanese government is considering changes to the constitution, so that such a decision from the U.S. would be less of an impact on state security.

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The nature of the U.S. electoral system also came up for discussion. Since I support Sanders, my hosfather assumed I had voted for him in the primaries. When I said I had not, he was initially (understandably) perplexed. It was problematic to explain 1) that I’m Independent and 2) that being Independent means (in most states) no vote until November. The idea that an individual cannot take part in decisive elections because of party lines was apparently very foreign. Thus, I was educated in Japanese senkyou. In Japan, anyone of voting age (18, as in the States) can take part in all elections; there are no party divisions, and no systems like those in the U.S. (such as caucuses, primaries, delegates, superdelegates). Of note is that Japan has a number of political parties, similar to systems as in the U.K.

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What discussions like that described above have revealed to me is that vocabulary is becoming more and more important in the immersion process. While initially, a limited vocabulary can suffice for introductions, directions, and general living, real important interactions necessitate an ever expanding vocabulary. And thus, when creativity meets the end of its sphere. Vocabulary acquisition is definitely a challenge, especially given all the words that are a part of everyday life but not in a textbook. Add in slang and regional dialects, and speaking the language becomes quite easy compared to listening to native speakers. As the weeks continue, in order to get the most out this immersive opportunity, I will need to focus on out-of-class encounters.

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“Challenge” is a word my hostfather says often (in English), and I find myself echoing the sentiment. My weaknesses are known; now I must target them. If, in the future, I want to talk about Japanese security, or climate change, or food imports, then I must continue to push my boundaries. This weekend I will be discussing the Shinto religion with the head priest of a jinja (Shinto shrine), an opportunity that I am very excited for but also anxious. It will be a test of my listening, without a doubt. However, the chance to delve further into something that has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries is invaluable. I cannot wait to report the conversation.

Alright, until next time.
Joshua Kuiper
カイパー

Sorrento: Individual Lessons and Slang (Week Three)

Written at the end of the third week:

I’ve reached the halfway point of my time in Sorrento–it feels like I’ll never have to leave, but just writing this reminds me to take advantage of every day here.
The individual class was extremely clarifying. I was able to stop at any point and ask a question, direct where the lessons went, and hone in on my weaknesses. On top of that, the instructor this week was a latinist like myself (well, student of Latin) so he was able to relate some of the trickiest parts of the grammar to Latin rather than English, which turned out to be immensely helpful. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to almost never ask for repetition even when discussing some complex words and topics.
Outside the classroom, I was able to get to know my host family much better this week because I was not always running around with my actual family. The three of them are incredibly sweet; the mom and daughter are actually both Russians who are, of course, fluent in Italian, while the father is full-blown Napoletano. Because of this, it is incredibly difficult to understand him at times, but I can still manage. I immediately recognized a ranking of ease of understanding with the daughter being the clearest, followed by the mother, and then the father. So, when the father speaks and I can’t understand, I’ll usually look to the mother then to the daughter for rescue. It can be frustrating at times when I can’t fully express myself or easily jump into a conversation when we’re all gathered, but the exposure alone to the language (and the vocabulary of the home) has been a huge help.
Speaking of Napoletano and some misunderstandings, I’ll fill you all in in some colloquialisms and some slang. First, there is a phrase said often by the youth, which is Napoletano (from the language of the Naples area). I don’t know how to write it, and neither do they as Napoletano is usually only spoken, not written, by locals anymore, nor have I found a sufficient way to translate it into English. It’s along the lines of “who is dead to you,” which does no justice to the phrase, but it carries the weight of: “____ you and your ancestors!” Intense! Although, it is used frequently among the youth (much like curse words in English)…I haven’t dared to use it in a real context, but I know it when I hear it! I asked my host parents about it (in a gentle manner) and they both said that it’s a heavy insult if meant with full force, but they recognize that it is most commonly used among friends. Some of the younger people in town have told me that they’ll use it when a scooter cuts them off while driving or jokingly when with friends–I think I’ll stay away from cursing people’s ancestors for now.
A few other colloquialisms that I’ve adopted, for better or worse are uè, mo, ragà, and the use of “voi”. Uè is a Napoletano greeting word, essentially a substitute for ciao. Mo means “now”, and takes the place of ora or adesso. Ragà is an abbreviation for ragazzi or ragazze, so it translates to “guys” (masculine or feminine) in English. Here in southern Italy, the use of “voi”, the informal plural you in standard Italian, encompasses the formal singular you, informal plural you, and formal plural you. While this is an error in “Standard Italian,” I have become fond of it because 1) it is a living trace of history in southern Italy and 2) it’s much easier than separating everything into Lei, voi and Loro…but mainly because of it’s historical significance.

Thursday of this week was a holiday here in Italy, so there was no class, and I decided to trek the Sentiero degli Dei, the Path of the Gods, along the Amalfi coast with some friends from the school. The scenery and panoramas were incredible. Here’s a peek:

Amalfi Coastline, Gulf of Salerno

Amalfi Coastline, Gulf of Salerno


A presto!

Sorrento: Surrounding Areas (Week Two)

A late week two post–I was waiting on receiving some photos. Written at the end of the second week:

I don’t want to believe it but week two has come and gone, and it included a brief visit from my parents. As far as the classroom goes, there were four of us students this week, and once again the other three outclassed me when it came to fluency. I definitely feel a small improvement in comprehension–I understand the sense of nearly everything said to me, whereas two weeks ago I would have to ask for repetition even in simple sentences or questions. I still struggle to get the words out when I speak, though. I find that starting a sentence is the most difficult part. Once I get going with a thought or story, I do quite well speaking, although I admit that it is hard to remember what I have said because I am always searching for the next word or the next phrase; because of this, I’ve definitely rambled while recounting something as well as omitted a significant detail–precision will come.

Outside the classroom, I divided my time between my parents and the couple of friends I have made in town. Fortunately, it worked out well because my friends usually work during the days and are free at night when my parents were exhausted from a day of tourism. The can’t-miss place for us was Salerno (my last name!), which is a fairly large city about an hour away from Sorrento. While my family does not hail from Salerno (Sicily, actually), it was still neat to see the city whose name I bear. Salerno is much more “Italian” than Sorrento. Sorrento is a grand touristy town that can feel a bit sleepy at times, while Salerno is a larger functioning Italian city. I didn’t see a single tourist there, and the locals spoke really only Italian so I was the translator for my parents when ordering food, shopping, reading political banners, asking for directions, reading inscriptions, etc. One funny occurrence: my mother bought a belt there for my older brother and the proprietor was taken aback when he saw the name on the card–that roused a laugh out of all of us and spurred him on to give us a mini history of the town. He finished by exhorting us to be proud of our last name, all in Italian. The man was so animated and captivating that I thought for a second I was listening to Coach Herb Brooks before the US beat the Russians. That man needs a coaching job ASAP.

The Salernos feel at home

The Salernos feel at home

As a classics major, the visit I took to Herculaneum, one of the ancient towns covered by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D., was one of the most enriching days I could have asked for. Having just taken the Archaeology of Ancient Rome course, it was encouraging that I could look at a fresco, wall, window, or room of a house and remember the purpose of the style or engineering.

Classics major paradise

Classics major paradise

While being a tourist with my parents was fun, the best parts of my week were when I had the chance to further develop friendships with a couple local buddies in the evenings. Those interactions have greatly augmented my learning because I am constantly engaging with them and am called to respond to Italian in Italian about a much wider variety of topics–it’s without a doubt a different vocabulary with friends shooting the breeze from that of the classroom. I look forward to continuing to interact with these friends in the coming weeks.
I am very excited for next week in class because I will be one on one with the instructor–more demanding and more tailored to my weaknesses. A presto!

One piece of the gorgeous Sorrentine Peninsola...I guess I'm embracing the non smiling ways of the older generation here

One piece of the gorgeous Sorrentine Peninsola…I guess I’m embracing the non smiling ways of the older generation here

Sorrento – Week 3

I write this post from a café in the hub of Sorrento on my third espresso of the morning. This has by far been the busiest week thus far in my time here, and also the most enriching. Since Monday, I have taken my midterm examinations, traveled to Rome for two days, and then made my way to the island of Capri and the surrounding grottos and landmarks. I’m so lucky to be able to seize these opportunities, for every single day in Sorrento feels like a lifetime’s worth of experiences and memories.

My midterms went very well this week and I feel that my scores on the tests reflect the knowledge that I’ve acquired in both courses already. Not only my daily classes in Italian, but also my daily interactions with native speakers have prepared me for the wide breadth of material covered in such a short time. Studying is hardly a concern because I am able to take what I learn in class each day directly to my friends and host family and practice until it becomes natural to me. I’ve found that I can get a good grip on each new tense and irregular verb after one dinner with Mamma than I can with studying from the book. It’s such a unique and pleasant experience to be able to immediately put my lessons into practice as soon as I step foot outside of the classroom. For the most part, the locals have been so helpful in waiting for me to put together my responses and correcting me when I am wrong. They have never looked down upon me for using incorrect Italian, because they see that I am trying and have so much pride in their heritage that any appreciation for it is well received.

The light bursting through the dome of the Pantheon.

The light bursting through the dome of the Pantheon.

Rome was incredible. I was able to meet a friend who I hadn’t seen in over a year, and it was so nice to catch up over authentic pizze and pasta. He had become fluent in Swedish in the time that i had been learning Italian, so it was so fun to see the progress that both of us had made in a year’s time. It was so interesting to be in a new environment and a bigger city because the native speakers in Rome were so much more appreciative if that was even possible. I could tell that with all of the inflow of tourists from all over the world, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to speak their native language, and I was getting some practice out of it along the way. From the Trevi Fountain to the Roman Forum and the Pantheon, in 24 hours I managed to do it all. I can’t express how incredible it is in Rome that behind every corner is thousands of years of history, ruins, and pride. Before I left for Italy, I remember my dad saying that Italy is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and sad cities in the world because in every inch of land there is evidence of centuries of accomplishment and achievement, but the current state of Italy lacks industry and ingenuity. I really felt that walking around Rome with my friend.

Capri was another incredible experience among many. Some of my friends from the school rented two boats with our Italian friends who grew up in the city and we toured Capri and the surrounding areas. It was a full day trip, so we had plenty of time to talk about the strange differences between Italian and American culture, and I had one of my friends teach me the dialect from Napoli. That was really exciting because I had been wondering why it was a little difficult to understand some of the locals, and I realized that in this region of Italy, it’s normal to shorten words to just one syllable or even call it something completely different. For example, some native speakers will call the television “the man in the box” instead of the regularly accepted word. While my sunburn is a less exciting souvenir of the days festivities, it was one of the best days in my weeks here.

Another week of studying and learning through experience has come to an end in Sorrento, and it’s bittersweet. I really love every minute here, but it is going to be nice to see my family and share with them each of these experiences and hopefully encourage them to go out and learn more about the world we live in and where we come from.