L’Ultimo Giorno

It is with bittersweet emotions that I say goodbye to the Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento. Today was my final day of class (well technically yesterday was, but Nick and I were supposed to give a presentation to teachers from the United States today and they bailed on us last minute to visit Capri so we just talked to our literature teacher, Domenico, for an hour) and I am both relieved and sad to be finished. The classes here were truly an amazing experience, and I learned so much from both of my teachers. Nick and I both established a strong connection with Domenico during this past month, and I definitely hope to stay in contact with him throughout my Italian journey.

 

Domenico really inspired a new love of literature in me, helping me see the reasons for reading the works of past authors in a new light. His class, although brief, was probably one of my favorite Italian classes ever. He gave us his recommendation for a list of five books (Italian of course) to continue our studies, so I am certainly going to keep him updated with my progress. It might take me a while to get through all of them, but I think it will all be worth it in the end.

Now that classes are over, Nick and I have three days of freedom in Sorrento before we return home to the USA. Honestly, I’m not sure what we’re going to do. While both of us have definitely enjoyed our time in Sorrento, I think we’re both ready to head home. As much as I love coming to Italia, the numerous inefficiencies, technological lag, and subtle backwardness of this country eventually take their toll. We have done just about everything Sorrento has to offer, including boat trips to Positano and Capri this past weekend (Positano is the picture on the left, Capri is on the right).

                            

While both towns were aesthetically gorgeous, we found that they were a little too touristy for our liking. It was great to stay for a day, but any more than that and we probably would’ve gone crazy. Renting the boat was a lot of fun though–despite the sunburns we all received. I’ve found that the views of these Italian coastal towns are always better from the water, take the following picture of Positano for example:

See… gorgeous.

Well, it seems like the next three days are just going to be tanning, swimming, and eating with Nonna (I could definitely think of a few things worse than that). I’ve had such an amazing time here in Sorrento, and I’m definitely going to miss all the awesome people that I’ve met. With about half of them living in New Jersey, I’m sure I’ll be staying in contact with a lot of them. The people I’m going to miss most, however, are Nonna and her daughter (Momma). They’ve treated Nick and I with the utmost hospitality, and have done everything in their power to make us feel at home and part of the family. I can honestly say that they have succeeded on all fronts. When Momma drops us off at the airport in a few days, it’s going to be a tough goodbye.

Well, it’s now almost time to say goodbye to Sorrento, and my next (and final) post won’t be until I’m back on American soil. So, until next time Italia, arrivederci!

I Governi Diversi

As our last true week of classes comes to a close and we begin studying for finals, I thought I would take a bit of a different approach for this post. Rather than talk about how my classes were each day, I’m going to share some insights about the Italian view of the United States. I’ll try my best to avoid making it totally political, but everywhere we go people love bringing up President Trump.

Our first week here, Nick and I had a political discussion with our host mother where she made it clear that she is not a fan of President Trump. What we soon realized is that most Italians are in the same boat as Nonna. Whenever we meet locals and tell them that we are Americans, the first thing they typically ask us about is our opinion of the governmental situation back at home. What I have come to realize in these discussions is that most Italians aren’t huge fans of President Trump because they are reminded of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. They seem to find the two very similar, and they fear that President Trump will become embroiled in corruption or promote his business interests before the wellbeing of the country as a whole. Examining this a little further, these fears are very similar to the fears of Americans who don’t like President Trump.

Not everyone is so anti-Trump, however, as we have found certain locals who think he will be good for America. One local businessman, Enzo, thinks President Trump will be good for the American economy. Enzo is hoping to open a shop in Fort Lauderdale or New York City, so he likes President Trump’s desire to bring businesses back to America rather than outsourcing jobs. While I was initially somewhat surprised to find someone in Italy that likes President Trump after encountering so much negative sentiment, I think it makes sense for an entrepreneur such as Enzo, who hopes to expand to America, to admire the economic policies of our president.

Besides just political views, we had the opportunity to speak with Nonna’s granddaughter, Annabella, about learning English as an Italian student. Annabella is now in her late 20s and she speaks beautiful english (definitely some of the best I’ve ever heard from a native Italian speaker). She studied multiple languages at the University of Naples so she speaks fluent English and French in addition to her mother-tongue. She usually lives in Naples, but last night she came to Sorrento to visit her mother and grandmother and she ate dinner with us. At dinner we asked her about her experience learning English, and it was actually very interesting. For her, the hardest part of the English language is “Phrasal verbs” (honestly, I had never heard that term used before last night). A “phrasal verb” would be something like “looking forward to,” where adding the word “forward” changes the meaning of “look” to something closer to “anticipate.” I had never thought about that before, but for a non-native speaker, English’s lack of structure and rules can be extremely difficult to grasp, even for some of the best linguists. We also discussed different idioms in each language such as “In boca lupo” (literally “In the mouth of the wolf”) as a way of saying “good luck” in Italian, or “Feeling blue” as a way to express being sad or depressed. I learned so much in just a thirty minute conversation with Annabella, and I hope that we have another opportunity to talk to her before we leave.

La Penultima Settimana

We’re back! As I mentioned in my last post, a group of Sant’Anna students and I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful island of Sicilia this weekend. We packed a lot of activity into a short amount of time but it was well worth the experience. We began our trip with a 45 minute flight from Naples to Catania on Friday morning and arrived in Sicily around 11:00 am. From Catania we took an hour-long bus ride to our hostel in Giardini Naxos, the beach town neighboring the popular tourist destination of Taormina. We spent Friday on the beach in Giardini Naxos trying some authentic Sicilian cuisine before we took the short bus ride to Taormina for dinner. At dinner we had some very entertaining and enthusiastic waiters who provided us with a great first night in Sicilia. After a big group dinner they gave us a free taste of the most popular Sicilian desserts: cannoli, cassate, pistachio gelato, granita… it was all delicious. And to top it all off, the restaurant had a gorgeous view of the Sicilian coastline at night. The next day we took a snorkeling boat tour along the coast and met some American Marines stationed in Sicily who were completing their scuba certifications on the same boat. They were all a little shocked to finally be talking to Americans again after five months in Sicily but they were happy to have some compatriots for once. Two of the Marines convinced the boys on the trip to do some cliff jumping as well, and it was definitely worth the experience. Like they said, how many opportunities would I have to cliff jump in Sicily again? The photo below is a shot of all the boys in our group before the sun got the best of us on the open water (From left to right: Rob, Nick, me, Tyler).

 

After our boat experience we decided to go back to Taormina again, except this time we wanted to spend a few hours in the center of town. Doing so was a great choice. Taormina is as beautiful as all the photos on the internet make it out to be. The town is built into the side of a mountain so the views from just about anywhere are breathtaking. The first thing we did when we arrived was visit the Ancient Greek theater located at the highest point in the city, and from there I captured some magnificent photos.

      

After walking around for a while, we made it to the main piazza where we took a rare full group photo against the beautiful skyline. Finally, we ate another fantastic dinner in Taormina and then returned back to Giardini Naxos for the night to have some dessert and relax at a restaurant right on the beach (From left to right, beginning with the back row: Rob, Nicole, Vera, me — Sophia, Tyler, Megi, Nick).

Sunday consisted of planes, trains, and automobiles. First we took a bus from Giardini Naxos back to Catania airport. From there we flew into Naples. And finally we took the train from Naples back to Sorrento, arriving at 9 pm after leaving the hostel around noon. Today we were all exhausted in class, but it was definitely worth it. I truly cannot wait for my next visit to Sicilia.

La Tarantella e Un Viaggio a Sicilia

Buongiorno! It’s now Thursday and I just finished up classes for the week with a midterm in my Italian grammar class. While the test was not exactly fun, I think we were all just relieved to get through it. Plus, we don’t have any classes tomorrow so a group of fellow Sant’Anna students and I all planned a trip to Sicily for the weekend! We leave from Naples airport tomorrow morning and land in Catania around noon. From there we’re taking a bus to Taormina, a Sicilian beach town, where we will all be staying until Sunday. Visiting Sicily is going to be incredible, and Taormina is supposed to be one of the most beautiful towns on the island. I’m definitely looking forward to relaxing on the beach for a few days, eating well, and forgetting all about that midterm I just took. Yeah, judging from the pictures of Taormina (see below), I think I should be able to enjoy it.Last night, my friends and I went to a live Tarantella performance at one of the restaurants in town. While not exactly a holiday, you’d have thought the dancers were celebrating something. The traditional costumes, songs, and dances made for an incredible show. The performers also got members of the crowd involved (including myself) by allowing them to play some of the instruments or dancing with them. In the picture below you can see the Tarantella costumes as well as the children at the table playing some of the traditional Neapolitan instruments.

Before we went to the show, we got a little history lesson on the dance from our host mother. Apparently, the Tarantella is widely regarded as Southern Italy’s most famous form of traditional music. The dance originated as a way to cure those who suffered from “tarantula” (actually wolf spider) bites, as it was supposed to help rid the victim of the spider’s venom. Another use for the dance in traditional times was as a means of courtship. The Tarantella began in the Puglia region (where Nick and I were last weekend), and then spread throughout southern Italy, taking on different variations in each area. I apologize for the quality of the pictures, but there was a lot of movement going on so it was difficult to capture any perfect shots. Seeing the show was probably one of the most interesting things we’ve done here in Sorrento. It was really cool to witness and take part in a little piece of Neapolitan tradition. The restaurant hosts the performance every Wednesday night, so hopefully we’ll be able to go again. And more than just being an interesting experience, it was also a lot of fun!

Well, there are now only two more weeks left in Sorrento, so I’ll definitely be doing my best to make the most of them. My next post will be coming once we return from Sicilia! Ciao!

La Seconda Settimana

Ciao! My second week in Sorrento has now come to an end, and I just finished my first class of the day to start this third week. I’m now about halfway done with the program, and the thought of returning home in three short weeks is crazy to me. Classes are going great here, and I already feel like I have learned so much. Each class is about 3 hours long, so on the days when my literature and grammar classes follow each other back-to-back, my brain barely remembers English after 6 straight hours of using only Italian. But that’s exactly what I need in order to improve!

This past weekend, my friend Nick and I took a trip to the Puglia region of Italy (think the heel of the boot) on the Adriatic Coast to visit the costal cities of Bari and Lecce. A few of Nick’s distant cousins live in Bari so we were planning on meeting them for dinner, but unfortunately a misspelled email address prevented that from happening. Although we didn’t get to meet up with them, we had a great time in both cities interacting with the local people.

Bari and Lecce are both beautiful cities with a lot of culture and history. The church pictures below is The Church of Saint Nicholas in Bari, where most of Saint Nicholas’ relics are held. When we visited the church we were able to attend mass and then view Saint Nicholas’ relics. Afterward, we ate dinner in the main piazza in Bari while a live concert took place about one hundred yards away.

On Saturday Nick and I visited the beautiful city of Lecce. It’s about a two hour train ride from Bari so we left around 9 in the morning and planned on spending the entire day in Lecce before leaving at 10 pm. The photo below is the Duomo of Lecce, one of the many beautiful churches found in the city.

As you can see the Baroque architecture is gorgeous, but after spending about 3 hours visiting every church in Lecce we soon realized that making it all the way to 10 pm might be an issue. While architecturally stunning, Lecce was extremely quiet with little to do besides walk around the historic center of town. After a delicious lunch of local cuisine, we had had enough and decided to return to Bari for the night. Once back we decided that we were going to find some seafood, a specialty in the port city of Bari. While we were hoping to find some sea urchin, a mistranslation led to us asking if the restaurant had “street urchin” (an awkward conversation with the waiter to say the least). We then settled on a plate of mixed seafood prepared in the way that the people of Bari prefer, crudo (raw).

The dish consists of raw squid, clams, oysters, and shrimp. While not initially prepared for this level of crudo (the squid still had its beak and ink sac), we finished the entire plate. Located right on the Adriatic Sea, seafood such as this is a staple of Barese cuisine. Although we couldn’t find sea urchin that day, we are still on the hunt. In fact, we found a place in Sorrento known for their sea urchin pasta so we are planning on trying it out this week. Stay tuned for results. Arrivederci!

Ciao da Sorrento!

Ciao everyone, it’s now Thursday of my first week in Sorrento and the time is already flying by. We landed in Naples on Sunday and were quickly immersed in the Italian culture when our shuttle drivers had a tough time (to say the least) rounding up all of the students that were supposed to be arriving around the same time. Eventually we made it to Sorrento where I met my host family for the first time. I live with my friend Nick Anselmi in an apartment owned by the Santostasi family, located about a five minute walk from Piazza Tasso, the main piazza in Sorrento. We live with Signora Annabella, a stereotypical Italian grandmother, or nonna, whose sole priority is to feed us until we can’t move. Nonna (as we affectionately call her) doesn’t speak any English, so meals with her provide us with a great opportunity to work on our conversational Italian.

Classes at the Sant’Anna Institute began a few days ago, and so far they have been awesome. I’m taking a Contemporary Italian Literature class that is basically a tutorial considering Nick and I are the only two students. The information is really interesting, and our teacher, Domenico, keeps the class fun and engaging by emphasizing participation and conversation. I’m also enrolled in an Italian grammar class, but our first session isn’t until later today so stay tuned for updates in my next post.

Yesterday Nick and I took a day trip to Naples, and we spent the entire day walking around the beautiful city. We started off with some authentic Neapolitan pizza from L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, widely regarded as the best pizzeria in all of Naples (see photo below). 

Afterward, we walked around the city for about six hours and saw some of the sites, including two of Caravaggio’s three paintings found in the city, and the Castel Nuovo (where the following picture was taken).By the time we returned to Piazza Garibaldi to catch our train back to Sorrento, we were both exhausted and ready for some dinner.

Each day I’ve learned a couple of of new words and phrases that are used more colloquially than some of the things taught in school. For example, I recently picked up using “Mi puo’ dare” to order food, and “Non mi reggono le mie gambe” to express having tired legs after a long day. Mi puo’ dare is a far more common expression than the formulations we learn in school, which are often viewed as very formal. Waiters always seem a little surprised when we talk to them in Italian, and they are usually more likely to respond in the language when we use these more common expressions. Non mi reggono le mie gambe is an expression I learned from Nonna’s daughter Luci when we got back from Naples and were complaining about how tired we were. Literally, the phrase means “My legs don’t support me,” which I think makes a lot of sense. I’m definitely looking forward to learning a lot more phrases like these over the next few weeks. This post has run a bit longer than intended though, so ciao for now!

 

 

Pre-Departure

I am a fourth-year student in the School of Architecture double-majoring in Italian. Born in Tema, Ghana, I moved with my family to the U.S. shortly before my fourth birthday. As an architecture student, I spent a year abroad studying and falling in love not only with Italian architecture, but also with Italian language and culture. However, as the program was not meant to be immersive, I sought to have a more comprehensive and deliberate Italian education.

The Summer Language Abroad is important to me because it will be another opportunity to learn more about the Italian way of life and to integrate myself into their society. It will be another important way to prepare myself for moving there following graduation.

I hope this opportunity will allow me to improve my reading and grammatical language skills. I also hope it can help me to open myself up to being more outgoing in a setting where I may not know anyone. I hope it will give me the confidence in my abilities so that I feel able to strike up conversation with strangers.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer are to deepen my advanced reading comprehension, broaden my vocabulary, increase my spoken fluency, strengthen my grammatical skills, and have an overall greater sense of cultural awareness. My Italian fluency depends largely on my exposure to the language, and an immersive experience will greatly increase my fluency. In addition to on-campus courses, I want to utilize summer months through the SLA Grant to continue exposing myself to Italian both formally and informally.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience is to fully engage in the coursework that ItaliaIdea has to offer as well as extracurricular opportunities. Additionally, I’d like to make some friend who only speak Italian, that way I am forced to speak it with them!