My apologies for another delay in blogging, but, once again, I have had to deal with the red tape and bureaucracy of the Italian ways.
First off, registration for classes is almost done. Originally, I was planning on taking two sociology courses while I was here through the university, and in the process of applying for these courses, our program director, Pete, made it a point of explaining some of the problems Marti and I may and did encounter for registration. But before I explain those, I would like to take now to inform you all—to give you an idea of how behind Italy is technologically—that everything we’ve had to do for registration or immigration purposes has all been done on paper. And it is because of this that we may face the first of the two issues: that no one can tell us any details about the courses, even in the buildings dedicated to that particular area of study. Upon handing in the forms, Pete inquired for us about the starting dates of our sociology courses. Despite these people having worked in and with this department for years, they could not even tell us that. Additionally, the website for the sociology department—which was supposed to be updated, up, and running by mid-January—was still not functioning, when we asked about two weeks ago. Since we could get no answers to the most basic question, we were referred to another building. I forget the name (it was some sort of general registration department), but supposedly the paperwork explaining class details could have been there. In addition to basic class details, we wanted to double check with somebody that Marti could take classes in two separate university departments (which apparently is not something one can normally do, although, I believe she has since been granted permission to do so, and will be taking a class in Pesaro, the nearest city to Urbino where the train station is (it is from here where we travel to the cities we’ve visited)). So off we went, and still we got no answers. Instead, we got referred back to the building we had just been to, where we finally did get confirmation. I don’t remember what info was dropped the third go around, but we finally we get answers about when classes were starting: two days prior to our inquiry.
For me, this meant that I already missed the first day of lessons for my “Sociologia della cultura” class, and would have my first official lesson in about two hours after these meetings. I also learned that my classes would overlap, but that I would still be allowed to partake in both. Personally, I’m not a fan of the practice, but it’s commonly done here—actually, it appears to be even more common not to go to class, in some cases, causing the classes to seem more like supplements to the reading instead of the other way around.
As I understand it, the Italian government implemented this mandatory teaching program a few years ago, but decided about four years later that the program was not something they were longer willing to accept. So, what this means is that there are thousands of students who completed the program, who are technically trained for it, but are not qualified to teach, according to new government regulations. Because of this, many have to go back to school (in addition to those who were in the middle of completing the same program), causing influx of students and a shortage of qualified professors, who must then establish odd times for their lessons. In Marti’s case, she is signed up for a class that won’t start until April, completed in May; I am in a class that started at the usual time, but will be done at the end of March, if I remember correctly (we are both taking 5-week classes).
But anyway, to get back to the issue of overlapping classes, I wanted to let my professors know about my situation, so I emailed both about missing some classes to alternate which one I would attend the days of overlap, about why I missed the first lesson (I had found out just that day they started), to ask for a syllabus, and to confirm I could take the exams in English. (The University of Urbino holds English-supported classes, which means I am allowed to read the material and take the tests in English). Since I attended my sociology of culture class, I tried talking to that professor during the halfway break with little translational success, so she told me to email her, and, to me at least, implied that she would get back soon.
In fact, it took her an entire week to respond to my emails. And even then, her information wasn’t particularly useful, to be completely honest. I got the syllabus, but the syllabuses in Italy are nowhere near as detailed as American ones. All they provide really are summaries of what each class day would go over. There’s no mention of textbooks, readings, or even class times.—Everything else is online, and it’s all extremely confusing to find, since: a) the university website is in Italian (duh), which makes navigating an already confusingly constructed website more challenging; b) each department has its own way of setting up and organizing their information, so no two departments are the same; and c) the university site still wasn’t updated completely for that semester, so, even if you could manage to navigate the site, the information wasn’t necessarily up there.—The only “useful” piece of information on the syllabus was the professor’s email address. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that there are class summaries is useful, but, for most of the blurbs, there’s no mention of what you’re supposed to be reading to prepare for the lecture. . .
But, despite all this, at least I have no real complaints about my second class: a psychology course about behavior in group dynamics. The professor’s Pajardi, whom Pete speaks highly of and has been trying to get students eligible for her classes for years (normally she doesn’t offer classes during the fall, when the VU program has taken place for the last couple of years), and—thankfully—she speaks some English. She actually does offer this class in English, which I tried to take, but couldn’t, due to time constraints. However, I spoke with her, explained I’m an ERASMUS (foreign/international) student, and asked if I could do the work in English, to which she readily agreed. So far, I like both my classes; however, I am biased toward preferring my psych class over my sociology one.
Would you believe there’s still more to the red tape issues though?
Since we Villanova students are here for more than 3 months, we have to fill out a “permesso di suggiorno” form, which basically states we have the government’s permission to be here and that we’re enrolled for school (in other words, we’re here for a point, and not to be extra burdens on the government). Well, this process, too, has taken near a month to complete. What can I say? Italians really like paperwork. Anyway, to apply for this form, we had to provide some of the same forms we applied to get a visa: passport, photos (which you get done here for various other documents), a letter proving we have health insurance, and a letter from the university confirming we were accepted into their program and will be living on campus for the time we are in Urbino, in addition to two other forms that more or less say the same thing as the previous one.
Those who know me know I have little luck when it comes to getting this type of thing done. There’s always an underlying issue. Always. This time around, it was the health insurance letter. They wouldn’t take it! And all because it was in English. Who would have thought documents from an American would be in English?! It’s shocking. Truly. On another note, I wish the interrobang would catch on as an acceptable piece of punctuation. . . (? + ! = ‽)
Anyway. So. Since the police station (that’s where all this gets done) wouldn’t take my forms after already taking other forms, seeing my passport and my visa, taking my fingerprints, and documenting my Italian phone number (and recording it by hand in a big, old registration book of sorts), they halted the process at my health insurance letter. To rectify this, Pete assisted me this morning in translating my letter and giving the police a copy of my health insurance card. He also said, that, lucky me, I am the first student he has had this problem with (although, he is expecting to see similar problems with Marti)! I’m getting a little tired of being the first for these little problems along the way. First it’s my visa, now this. What ended up being the problem was that the letter from the university stating I was accepted and dorming there states I have to buy insurance through a certain program, despite this not being a legal requirement. Pete assures me my coverage is enough, so I guess we shall see, once we hear back from Pesaro about the status of my paperwork.
Oh, what a beautiful day, indeed.