Ciao a tutti!
Wow! What a week – hands down the most hectic week of my life! After an uneventful flight in Rome (thank god, since this was my first time ever flying) and a somewhat short bus ride (I slept the whole time, so it felt pretty fast), we arrived at Hotel Giò in Perugia for our first night. That evening was a bit of a blur, considering I had gone almost 24 hours without proper sleep. The next day we moved into our apartments and I met my four roommates – Rachel, Katie (from Alaska), Katie (from Michigan), and Melissa.
I could continue to drone on and on about what I did every single day of the week, but instead I am going to give you a list of the top 10 things I have learned in this first week (for those thinking about traveling abroad in Perugia, take note):
1. Packing lightly is the best option. I did this and am so thankful for it. Some girls got stuck lugging two 50 pound checked suitcases and 2 carry-on bags up 3 flights of stairs (due to no elevator).
2. Getting lost becomes a part of life in a new country. My roommates and I couldn’t even find the school the first day – turned out it was tucked away in a small square behind the Cathedral in Piazza IV Novembre (the main square). I’ve learned to role with the punches and not panic about it.
3. Everybody goes out on the weekend, particularly Saturday night. I MEAN EVERYBODY. Young and old – Italians only eat dinner at around 9:30 pm, and then after that everybody walks around and chats with one another. I’ve gotten used to seeing kids asleep in strollers at 1 am while the parents are out and about.
4. There is no such thing as bad food here. Particularly pizza. Even if you don’t know what the menu says, just order it and eat it.
5. It’s extremely difficult to acquire bad wine here. Even the cheap bottom shelf stuff (around 3 euros) is delicious.
6. Don’t get in the habit of thinking of euros as the same as US dollars. It is extremely easy to do.
7. Getting homesick is normal. The important thing is that you admit that you are homesick and feel free to talk about it with one of the new people you meet. This is actually quite difficult to do because you are so used to confiding in your friends and back home. Unfortunately, they are not with you and may not understand how you truly feel. Don’t be afraid to talk to others in the program. I was surprised to find that, after confiding with another girl in the program, I was not alone in how I felt.
8. Learn to love walking everywhere. ESPECIALLY in Perugia. Some of the steep roads (particularly Via dei Priori), make third floor Humanities look like a walk in the park. Despite steep roads or steps to go down or climb up, there is something about walking everywhere that is so calming. I try to go for a walk (separate from the walking that I have to do) at least once a day with my roommates or new friends and we purposely get lost. We are constantly finding new things.
9. Okay, this next tidbit is something I’m still getting used to – the men here are much more aggressive about their catcalling than at home. As Americans, we stick out like sore thumbs – there is really no hiding it. Young Italian women are very unfriendly, so men turn to American women, who tend to be much nicer. And as the Chief Police Inspector of Florence said in our orientation, “Everybody thinks that soccer is the national sport of Italy. For men, women are their national sport.” Being a brunette, I luckily have not run into as many problems as some of the blondes I know. The best thing you can do to avoid confrontation is to just totally ignore them. Don’t look at them. Don’t smile. Don’t acknowledge their presence. They will not persist if you do this. It is extremely important NOT to react. This just antagonizes them.
10. And last, but certainly far from least – DO NOT expect people to know English. Period. In touristy areas like Florence or Rome, you may find more people that do. But everywhere else, there are actually few that speak our language. They know you are American, they know you speak English, but that does not matter. We are in their country and they expect us to learn their language (much like people in America expect foreigners to speak English). The important thing is to try to speak Italian. They are quite patient with you as long as you try. It’s amazing how far you can get with some broken Italian and hand gestures.
There is so much more I would love to talk about, particularly with differences in Italian culture compared to American culture – maybe I’ll save that for next time. But for now, I must head to class.
P.S. Pictures to come next post!