Thursday, April 18, 2013

I'm doing Italian, and I'm still alive!

I'm sorry. I'm such a terrible blogger. I should have warned you dear readers in my first couple of posts that I am NOT good at keeping a blogging schedule. I have tried blogging once or twice before in the past just to try it, and I failed even worse at that. Which is strange considering I've "won" NaNoWriMo twice, but that's another story... No pun intended.

Okay, so I feel I should put it out there better that if anyone has questions about the trips and the program (especially you Villanova students considering doing this program), please, feel free to ask them in comments. Although I am bad at my current blogging schedule lately, I will answer questions quicker. You deserve answers and an honest opinion on the program, so, if you or your parents, &c. have questions, post them if you wish! :D

And now for the excuse as to why I haven't written anything in a month and a half: I fell really far behind in my readings/translations for my classes, and just couldn't justify to myself working more on this blog before feeling like I made a greater dent in my class material. Granted, I am still behind in my work, but it is getting a bit easier to catch up.

What was going on was this: As you know, in addition to my Italian language class, I am taking two classes through the university in Italian: sociology of culture and social psychology. Registration and scheduling was a hassle, but it finally worked itself out, and I dove into my classwork. In the beginning, even with my 5 semesters of Italian at 'Nova, I couldn't follow my lectures very well. Luckily, though, my professors and their TAs use PowerPoint slides during their lectures, so following along with the topic isn't bad. The TAs talk a mile a minute and go through their slides even quicker (don't worry, the professors themselves, when they teach, actually keep them up long enough to copy it down in full, or at least something coherent when they don't), but translating the slide notes later in the day is a great help. My troubles, however, were in reading the books for the classes.

Surprise, surprise, translating Italian textbooks is challenging. Especially with my sociology class, which has 5 books for the course. Thankfully, though, I spoke with my professors early on, and we worked out a system in which for sociology, I can read any English intro to cultural sociology book I want. (FYI: the libraries here have nothing good in English, so I am still on the look out online for something better... But there is a decent English literature selection in the sociology department's library, which, even though I don't have the time to read them--I'm still working my way through Atlas Shrugged [only 300 or so small-fonted, small spaced pages to go!]--is a supreme delight for my inner bookworm. To put it short, there are no good bookstores here, so I'll take what I can get... But I digress.)... Anyway, my professors let me take on a lighter load for their courses: my sociology prof (who doesn't check her email, btw) says I can read any English intro book, one of the books is translated in English (which reminds me, I still need to get that...), and I still have to read 2 of the books in Italian. Which just so happen to be her own and have not been translated into English. But that's fine. I am in Italy, after all, and those two are short. Getting through them takes forever (translating one chapter takes me a couple days, to tell the truth), but I am slowly making my way through the material. With my psychology class, my professor lets me use the textbook she uses for the English version of her course, and I must also read a book on the Stanford Prison Experiment in Italian. (I still haven't bought that either... I swear, I'm studious.) The English textbook was painfully simple. I swear, the book could have been just a list of glossary terms (which it has), and it would have been just as helpful. Now, I'm sure many of your are thinking, Katrina, what's wrong with that? What's wrong is that I have higher literary standards. I'm sorry if that sounds snobby, but I haven't read a textbook this simple, I think, since middle school. It's just really surprising that a college level class would use this type of textbook.

But, then again, considering how unstructured this country is, I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised.--Readers, Italy doesn't even have a government right now. They had elections last month, no one won, they have no president, no one knows when the next election will be, and I have gotten no straight answer in trying to find out who's running things right now. Keep in mind, too, that their elections happened before the Pope Benedict resigned. The Vatican chose the leader of the Catholic world before Italy could pick a president / substitute after their failure to do so.

I may be sounding harsh on the system and on Italy, but this disorganization has been the cause of much of my stress for the last month. I love Italy. I do. The country is beautiful, the people are nice (even if they do think it's polite to stare intensely at strangers... To "counterattack", I have recently gotten into the habit of glaring back at them, and it works most of the time), and the language is a joy, even if the grammar is as unstructured as the policies at times. Who knows, maybe the freedom in the format of coherent thoughts is partially to blame. Language does shape thoughts after all, so I think it partly reinforces the behavior I've seen and experienced while here. Italy's an interesting place, and while I enjoy it, I would lying if I said I wasn't missing the US. I miss it's efficiency, it's need to get things done, and, of course, being able to understand everything people are saying. To be perfectly honest, I don't feel like I've caught on to the language as well as I should have by this point in the program. But that is, in part, to blame for my being on my own a lot, instead of talking more with my roommates or the people I've met in class. I do talk to them, of course, but since doing my homework, a solitary action if I am to get things done (I'm not a fan of group work), takes me so long, and since I need the web most of the time for it, I am out of my room and on my own in study lounges a lot. Which, of course, doesn't really help with learning a language. So readers, future travelers, this may sound like obvious advice, but really make the effort to talk to people while you're here! I felt like I was learning the most in the beginning of the program, before my classes started, and while I was around my block more. I know classes are a lot of work, but make that effort to speak. It's the "easiest" and best way to learn.

It was also in the beginning that we had fewer trips. Now, I'm saying I don't enjoy them, because I do, but all this traveling and train and bus rides are really tiring (or so it was for me, which also, I'm sure, affected how well I was catching up with my work). In the 3 months we've been here, we have gone to: Lecce, Rome, Rimini, Perugia, Assisi, Gubbio (the last 4 were day trips), and Florence, and on my own, I've gone to Genoa and Pisa (I used my downtime in Florence to go, since it's only an hour away by train), and a group of us went to Venice, as you know, for Carnevale. This weekend, through Villanova, we will be going to Venice, and in May, we will end our tour of the country with Milan. I know what you're thinking: where are all the posts from these trips? Those will come next. I swear, once I'm back from the Venice trip this weekend, there will be a few short bulk posts, or one big one with blurbs from the trips, complete with business excursions (since the VSB group has some, and since there are only 2 of us liberal arts students, we get to tag along sometimes), wine tastings, good food, tourist sites, and wayyyy too many churches to count!

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