We’ve had a pretty lax few days when it comes to the program. Mainly we’ve been focusing on completing forms permitting us students to stay in Italy for our academic programs and determining what level of Italian classes we will be taking before and during the spring semester. I, alongside Marti—the other student in a humanities program—will be taking an intermediate level, whereas the VSB group will be taking an intro level. Most of the VSB group hasn’t taken any sort of Italian language course, but are showing enthusiasm to learn, much to Dr. Cullen’s delight. We’ve also been discussing the additional classes we’ll be taking when the semester finally does kick in: The VSBs have a set schedule with the choice of 1 of 2 electives (an Italian culture or economic history course); Marti and I have 3 set classes (2 language classes and a culture course) and have the choice of any two additional electives to take while we’re here through the University of Urbino itself. Most likely, these electives will be taught in Italian with English assistance (although, some courses here taught entirely in English). I think we’re all starting to look forward to starting up classes. Although the free time is ideal to explore Urbino, observe the culture, get some much needed rest, and get to know some of the students we’ve met and each other, a set routine is somewhat missed.
To get to know the people and the area a little better, some of the group has gone out to local bars and discoteche. I was still recovering from a cold the night the group went clubbing and couldn’t go out, but those that did ended up meeting not only Italians but also some English students here for study abroad, as well as a small group from Texas. I don’t know these people well myself, but I have been using the last couple of days to get to know the girls in my “block” (it’s a bit difficult to describe, but basically my dorm area is set up in a way that I share a kitchenette/living space with seven other girls, one of whom lives about 10 minutes from San Pier Niceto, Sicily, and has said I can visit her when I travel down there this July J ) and a couple of their boyfriends and friends. It’s been an overload of new faces in an out of my block (for a couple of days I don’t think I saw a face twice!), but I finally have everyone’s name down, and have been able to converse and hang out with them in the evenings. Most of the group knows some or is learning English, so we’re quite able to break the language barrier (what a relief!). Mainly we just speak in Italian, and they’ll try to translate what I can’t understand, but at least one, Paolo, has insisted that I speak in Italian to him while he responds to me in English. He and another, Eugenio, take English and had their final today, so Paolo insists I correct his grammar when we talk to improve, and vice versa.
Speaking of their finals, I’ve been finding out that their exam time lasts about a month here. And despite that—despite all the days her finals could’ve been scheduled, one of my flatmates, Michela, a law student, has four exams this giovedì, poor thing. Exams here are mainly oral exams—as mine will be when it comes time to take them (although, if it is an English assisted class, I should have the option to take it in my language)—and will be taking place until the first week or so of February, with the second semester starting mid-February. Another thing about exam time that I found interesting: many students choose to go home to study and come back the days they have exams. Personally, I think I would find that rather counterproductive, but I guess it works for them.
But anyway, some of my friends from VSB and I have also been introducing ourselves to this culture by, of course, exploring the city itself. On the first sunny day we had since our first full day here, we took advantage of the sunshine and weather to pick a direction in the piazza and see what’s where and where the road leads, and ended up on the far outskirts of Urbino. Along the way, we passed a number of the university’s buildings, including the Sociology and a registration building, and a couple small university librerie. And, oddly enough, at what we perceived as the end/edge of town, we came across Canyon, a Texas-themed restaurant. It’s cool to know I can get American food while I’m here, but at the same time, it’s strange to see how they perceive Americans here in Urbino (assuming, of course, that the owner was not from Texas himself). The image of the stereotypical American culture/cuisine seems to be cemented in Spaghetti Western films. There were images of cowboys, cacti, horseshoes, and Hispanic-influenced objects all over the walls of this tiny restaurant, complete with country music playing in the background. Aside from that, the long walk was definitely well worth the distance for the view. Past the long line of homes, bars (cafes), and pizzerias, and down the extremely steep hills in Urbino, there is a lovely little recreational spot with a breathtaking view of what I believe are the Apennine Mountains. You can see miles of undeveloped land and hills, some secluded homes, and even the university itself. Walking from the piazza, taking the steeper road, it probably takes almost an hour to get there, but only about 20 minutes if you take the leveled road, which passes the duke’s palace and oversees the once Jewish ghetto, and also leads you directly back to the piazza, making a convenient afternoon walk for the next pleasant day.
Which probably won’t happen for a while since snow is on the way! Huzzah!