Hello readers! This is an exciting time.. all the DU students are either heading off or have officially landed in a foreign country for several months to study, and completely immerse themselves in a new (or perhaps not so new) culture. GO US! I could not be more proud of all of the students embarking on this amazing adventure. Even though I am in another country, I am proud and blessed to be a Pio.
Me, Myself, and I
My name is Jordan Mendicino and I am a third year Marketing major, Entrepreneurship minor at DU, currently studying abroad in Milano, Italia at Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. I am a fitness, fashion, and business enthusiast and I am constantly searching for ways to combine all three. In my free time I love to do anything outside, as long as the weather is warm, and I love to be surrounded by the people that are most important to me. Although I am a Colorado native, I don’t ski or snowboard and I would rather spend my days on the beach! I hate the snow and I hate being cold. Red Rocks is my favorite place on earth, and I think I would die if music didn’t exist.
I chose to study abroad in Italy because I have deep roots here, and I knew that I would feel right at home. Also, Cattolica is an amazing school- it is the largest Catholic university in the world and offers an array of diverse classes for international students. I have signed up to take classes in both fashion and entrepreneurship, both fulfilling my desire to learn something new and work on classes for my minor. Although I took Italian for a year at DU, I am taking more language courses here in Italia. I would love to be fluent by the time I depart in December. It’s a beautiful language, and I would love to add it to my language arsenal, next to English and Spanish.
I will be studying and exploring and adventuring for the next 15 weeks, so keep an eye out for more posts about my feelings, thoughts, and reactions during this wild ride we call study abroad.
Hayley catalogs not only her travels, but also lessons in culture shock, Italian food (how can you study in Italy and not blog about the food?), and learning pazienza. She is participating on the USAC Torino program.
We have just received an update from Torino and we are pleased to say that our DU students are settling in and are excited to spend the rest of the quarter in Italy. Their program, USAC, sent over some pictures so that we could share their excitement.
USAC: University Studies Abroad Consortium provides students with the opportunity to intensively study Italian language and also take classes in English, primarily in business, art, and Italian studies. USAC provides on-site support throughout the academic term, including orientation, excursions, social and cultural activities, and housing.
Kyle Svec arriving at Torino Airport
Michael Podshadley (left) and Alessandro Ballard (right with red backpack) at airport pick up.
On arrival night, students were served Foccaccia, salad and Coke before the pizza dinner. Our DU students are meeting students from other schools and socializing as soon as they arrive.
Hayley Zulkoski (left) and Alyssa Baker (right)
Here are our students having Torino’s specialty coffee/chocolate drink called Bicerin. USAC took all students on a field trip to the Bicerin Café which is the oldest café in Torino, founded in 1763.
(Left to Right) Ciera Shell, Hayley Zulkoski and Christina Criniti
Students are already involved in internships as well. Victoria Stevenson from DU is a teacher’s assistant at a local bilingual school, Saint Denis School.
Victoria Stevenson pictured above.
To learn more about the USAC Torino program click here!
Where can I go to get to other places?” paraphrases a question that I once received from a student. The allure of education abroad, through study and travel (not necessarily in that order), surpassed my passé mantra of academic rigor, cultural entry points, and provisions for safety and security. Travel persuasion was not necessary. I could already imagine her standing before a world map, filling it with pushpins.
Other students need more assurance. The academic and personal leap of faith can be a process, not a plunge. Some students may feign having “just a few more questions”—ultimately indicating good old-fashioned hesitation. Study abroad advisers are in a unique position to help students see past needless constraints and encourage them to pursue their dreams. One can easily think of ten common concerns, which unanswered could prevent a student from having a transformative educational experience abroad. My “Top Ten Reasons Not to Consider Not Studying Abroad” reflect comments from real-live students as well as a condensed form of my answers, and resources that study abroad advisers should keep in mind.
1. It will cost too much.
Students may be surprised! In many cases, students find that they pay no more to study abroad than to attend their home college for a semester or a year. Most state and federal financial aid transfers.
2. My grades will go down.
Students’ grades may stay the same. Despite the fear of a dropping GPA, many students return with the same GPA as when they left. If students study hard and keep up, their grades tend to show it (just like in the States). Advisors can help diminish this fear by citing some pre- and post-study abroad GPAs.
3. My courses won’t transfer.
If students plan ahead, courses will transfer. As soon as students arrive on campus the options should be described. At PurdueUniversity a letter was sent to over 7,000 first-year students before they arrived. The study abroad advisor should make sure that his or her advice agrees with the recommendations of the academic advisor. For example, courses should satisfy major, minor, or general studies credit requirements, not those few precious elective credits.
4. No university abroad will have the courses that I need taught in English.
Many study centers abroad have selected courses in most of the general academic disciplines. Urge students to look at course offerings both in English and in the language of the host country. Independent studies may be possible too, if arrangements are made in advance.
5. I am an introvert.
Remind students that making a new home abroad for a semester or year is unnerving for everybody, and people who are naturally introverted may find themselves even more daunted after trying to make a conversation in a second language with new acquaintances. But they don’t have to be “the life of the party.” Introverts will learn language and culture just as well as extroverts, and they may grow in ways they never imagined.
6. I am a leader and my school cannot get along without me.
Great! These students can now become leaders overseas. Students’ concern that their school will “miss them” will eventually be far overshadowed by the experiences they will have. Students develop more self-confidence than they ever imagined and come home with even more mature leadership skills. But for that, they’ll truly “have to be there!”
7. I don’t know anybody who is going.
In many cases most students do not know the others in their group. But they all have one thing in common—willingness to risk the adventure of living and learning in a different country. Some have made life-long friends in the process.
8. I have never done anything like this before.
Most people never do this. Emphasize to students that it is a tremendous privilege to be able to study abroad. On-site staff will help students to understand what they need to do to adjust to a completely new environment.
9. I don’t have very good reasons to study abroad.
There is not one single “litmus test” for study abroad. There are as many “good reasons” to study abroad as there are good programs. Students become international citizens. They learn a new cultural system and see their own from a new perspective. And, they build resumes and relationships while growing intellectually and culturally.
10. I do not know how to contact study abroad providers.
Study abroad advisers, providers, and other professional make it easy. Students can talk with on-campus study abroad advisers and other students who have studied abroad; surf the web; and read Transitions Abroad.
Study abroad advisers are uniquely positioned to view the transformation that comes from an overseas experience. Perhaps one of the chief constraints is the imagination of the student. Advisers are to be lauded for their challenging role as administrators, advocates, consultants, and, perhaps, detectives. Sometimes only after myths are debunked can students let their imagination wander overseas, followed by their body.
As the end of my time here in Rome comes at full speed (23 days to be exact), my friends in my study abroad program and I have begun to discuss the ominous threat of reverse culture shock. We’ve had so many adaptations, so many lessons learned about how to “survive” in another country. Some of which I know I had to learn on my own, but some things which may have been useful to know going in.
Over the summer, the International Studies Abroad (ISA) program (through which I am here in Rome) sent us all a digital handbook containing information on everything from budgeting to that cultural adaptation graph I mentioned in a previous post. But there was also a section pinned onto the end about some specifics of living in Rome. Unfortunately, this merely scratched the surface of the subject. Granted, I’ve learned enough to fill a book with during my time here, and thus it would be impossible to contain it all in an already thick handbook.
Which is why I have compiled a short list for your own reading enjoyment containing some helpful hints to living in Rome that never appeared in the study abroad instruction manual.
1)“Non capisco l’italiano.”
Possibly the coolest and simultaneously most frightening aspect of most Italians is their carefree attitude. This means there’s no baristas being overly polite to suit your “customer satisfaction” needs (probably also helps that tipping your waiter doesn’t exist). Sure, they throw obscene gestures and shout curses at each other when they cut each other off on the road (see #3), but you know they don’t really care. I actually wish Americans could take a tip from the Italians when it comes to this. They freely their express anger, but they don’t let it bother them for the rest of the day. They have their bout of passion and move on.
Unfortunately, I eventually began to read this as Italians being unfriendly. But I realized how inaccurate this was after noticing how frequently random strangers try to talk to me. Even if it’s just asking me a question about where the bus is (see #2), it made me feel like I was finally blending in and at least looked like I knew what I was doing when they started talking to me.
Sadly, my single semester of “Intro to Italian Language” has not served me to the point of having the ability to carry on a full-fledged conversation with the fast-tongued natives. It can be rather intimidating when they confidently begin rattling off their fluid and musical words at a mile-a-minute. Which is why I was thankful that the only phrase I learned before arriving in Rome was “Io non capisco l’italiano” (“I don’t understand Italian”). Most times I can get by with just a smile, nod, and repeating “sí, sí” over and over again. But I’m still grateful that they’re trying to communicate with me.
Lesson learned: Italians are friendly, they just don’t care what you think of them at the end of the day. And that’s kind of cool.
2) “Scendo alla prossima.”
Public transportation in Rome is a nightmare, to describe it lightly. This is also a result of the nonchalant attitude but simultaneous passionate nature of the Italian culture. Apparently I was lucky this semester, since last year there was a bus strike at least once a week and during the entirety of finals week at my school (knock on wood). We’ve had a total of one day where the buses and trams shut down completely this semester, but even so, the buses are still notorious for disregarding the existence of a bus schedule. Case in point: it’s only a ten minute bus ride from my apartment to my school, but I still leave my apartment an hour before my classes start so I can make sure I catch a bus.
Once you actually get ona bus, there’s a certain etiquette to follow. First and foremost, there’s an almost surprising respect for the elderly in Italy. It’s customary that if an older person gets on the bus, a younger person will immediately offer them their seat. I’ve even seen raucous Italian preteens yelling, shoving, and generally wreaking havoc with one another, but promptly stop to get off the bus and help an elderly citizen hoist their baggage and/or groceries onto the bus.
Since the buses are frequently late, that means they can get crowded. I mean like sardines-in-a-can-crowded. I mean like disregard-any-notions-of-personal-space-crowded. I mean like I-hope-you-wore-deodorant-today-crowded.
Be prepared to shove your way to the door, but rather than wordlessly plowing through the mosh pit, it can be helpful to know the simple phrase, “Scendo alla prossima” (SHEN-doh AH-la PRO-si-mah)which means “I’m getting off at the next stop.” Even when it’s not insanely crowded, people will frequently ask you, “Scende alla prossima?” if you are blocking their way to the door. Remain calm (see #1) and answer “sí” or “no,” and move out of their way.
3) Pedestrians don’t have the right of way.
Back at home, in my quaint little suburban town of Louisville, CO, and even the (comparatively) bustling city of Denver there seems to be a high regard for the rule of pedestrians having the right of way in all situations. This is not the case in Italy.
The roads are filled with smart cars and vespas taking advantage of their tiny size by zipping past each other at lightning speed. For not caring about being on time, Italians sure like speeding. I’m not sure I’ve seen a single speed limit sign while I’ve been here. Which is why the idea of slowing, let alone stopping at pedestrian walkways is utterly nonsensical.
Thankfully, those tiny vehicles and their drivers do have a fast reaction time, so if you do walk out in front of an oncoming one, they will stop, they’ll just be sure to stop as close to your feet as possible to give you a good scare. Still, most locals don’t seem to risk crossing the street at an intersection until the pedestrian walk signal gives them the OK.
Oh, and I’ve never heard so much honking in my life.
4) Fare la spesa (To go shopping)
I didn’t expect something as simple as grocery shopping to be such a different experience, but of course, studying abroad doesn’t miss out on changing your perception of anything.
I’m used to pushing a large cart around mega-Safeways and ultra-Targets, collecting as many items as will fit in the back of my car. But here, most folks walk to and from the grocery store, using little wheeled bags to transport their newly acquired goods home. Rather than using large push-carts, the grocery stores have little baskets that you wheel behind you, like a travel suitcase. I quickly learned that if the basket is getting too heavy to pull, that means I’m probably not going to be able to carry it back home.
As I’ve mentioned before, the grocery stores are nothing like the ones back home. They are much smaller and carry totally different items. For example, there are entire separate aisles devoted to pasta and wine, but I can’t, for the life of me, find baking soda.
Also be prepared to bag your own groceries. And try to do so quickly.
5) You’re going to become a coffee addict.
Although I was a frequent indulger of coffee before coming to Rome, three of my best friends here had never tasted coffee or simply didn’t like it before their arrival. Now, they need one every day. A fair warning to all my friends and family: I’m probably going to be a coffee snob when I come back.
Nothing can quite compare to the perfect temperature of the coffee and steamed milk and the fluffy foam that sinks to the bottom, allowing you to scoop it up with your spoon when all the liquidy goodness is gone. But above all, the gentle *plop* of the sugar when the foam gives way for it to sink into your warm cappuccino just can’t be compared. I plan on video recording that exact moment, so I may relive it while I choke down my skinny vanilla latte when I’m Stateside again.
Thankfully, coffee is a major part of the culture here. But the primary difference is that cafés with ample seating and a welcoming atmosphere for you to take a load off and work on your laptop or read a book for hours at a time are not frequently included. Going out for a meal is a social gathering, whereas stopping by a coffee bar seems to solely fulfill the purpose of topping off your caffeine meter. These two seem to be switched in American culture.
In fact, sitting at a café will often result in paying extra money. If you want to save the cents, remain standing at the bar. When you do pay, it’s often after you’ve had your fill and are about to leave. There’s a lot of trust that you won’t lie to the cashier about what you had.
But why would you want to lie to the people who just fed you the drink of the gods, anyway?
There are many differences between your old home and your new home and there are plenty of pros and cons that come with those changes. The whole point of this study abroad thing is to make your own “lessons learned list” and grow as a person while you’re making it. So maybe there’s not a manual for living in X country. There’s not a manual for life either.
This weekend, I traveled with a group of friends to the International Chocolate Exhibition in Perugia, Italy otherwise known as the Eurochocolate Festival.
That’s right, folks. An entire festival dedicated to chocolate.
And what a magical place it was. Rows upon rows of tents and display cases filled with everything chocolate related you could possibly imagine.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I first heard about the Chocolate Festival from my mentor, whom I was paired with through the Leo Block Alumni Center at DU. She happened to study abroad in Rome as well during her college years and gave me tons of great tips, among them a fervent “GO TO THE CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL.” That wasn’t something I had to ponder. It immediately went on my to-do list.
There were many ways for my fellow abroad students and I to get to Perugia (where the festival is held every year in the Fall). We wound up choosing to sign up with a program called Bus2Alps which is frequently used by study abroad students in Europe to travel to various festivals (Oktoberfest, namely) and weekend or extended trips. The tickets cost us €38 each (about $50) and included a tour bus with a bathroom and movie to and from the festival, metro passes, a chocolate card (more on this later), and basically just the comfort of having someone hold our hand through the whole traveling thing. Initially we were also considering just figuring out the journey for ourselves, which would have been inexpensive but potentially difficult to navigate by ourselves. We ultimately decided the help of Bus2Alps was worth the cost. However, the Res Grads program at the American University of Rome (the largest student organization on campus that plans cheap activities for students to participate in) was also offering an organized expedition that basically would have just led us there via train, without charging us anything extra. I think going with the Res Grads probably would have been best, but unfortunately they advertised it after we had already bought our Bus2Alps tickets.
Anyways, we found ourselves in Perugia one way or another on Friday and I was quite impressed with the city itself. This was not our first time in the Umbria region of Italy as we visited the small town of Assisi about a month ago. In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that the trip to Assisi was less than a pleasurable experience for us, but Perugia was very different. It’s a much more developed city, complete with a “MiniMetro” system that made me feel like I was suddenly in an episode of Futurama.
Once we stepped off our “rollercoaster,” we found ourselves in the Centro Storico (or historic center) of Perugia, converted into a giant open-air market of chocolate goodness.
But of course, the best part of the chocolate festival was not just looking, nor even smelling the heavenly aromas of the chocolate, but actually eating it.
As I mentioned before, Bus2Alps took care of the €5 cost for the Chocolate Card. It’s essentially a punch card for free goodies at a select few stands at the festival. It took us a while to figure out that they had maps available that pointed out which stands were participating. By flashing our cards, we got free Lindt chocolate truffles, hot chocolate, chocolate euro coins, coupons, and even a phone case shaped like a chocolate bar. To be honest, most of the gifts were nothing to write home about, but hey, it was FREE CHOCOLATE.
We expected a lot more free samples though, so I do recommend that anyone who attends the festival comes prepared to drop some cash. I assure you that it will be impossible to not indulge in certain items, like my Nutella+arancia (candied orange peel) crepe that I had for lunch (yes, Mom, I do call that a balanced lunch diet).
See that hot chocolate? All of the “cioccolata calda” in Italy is as thick as pudding. It’s essentially like drinking hot brownie batter. I don’t know how many calories it has and I don’t wanna know.
My second word of advice is to bring a water bottle. I hate to admit it, but I did eventually get sick of chocolate and wished I had something to wash it down.
Third piece of advice: this was an excellent place to buy souvenirs for loved ones. Despite a lot of the wares being, obviously, chocolate and therefore prone to melting, there were also lots of chocolate-themed trinkets, t-shirts, and even melt-proof food goods like cocoa pasta and chocolate liqueur.
The chocolate festival was, albeit fattening, an awesome experience. The people were friendly, the city was beautiful, and the “noms” were delicious. If you’re looking for indulgence while traipsing through Europe in Autumn, look no further than the Eurochocolate Festival.
P.S. We topped off a day of eating nothing but chocolate with dinner at McDonald’s. That’s what I call a day of indulgence. Sorry, Mom.