Strolling to School, Trying to Learn Italian

School: the ‘study’ part of ‘study abroad.’

I walk to school every day. The walk is enjoyable and takes about 15-20 minutes, depending on whether or not the crosswalks are in my favor. To get to the IES center where I take all of my classes, I walk down a busy shopping street for about three blocks and then I pass Italy’s supreme court building, make a right to pass Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican as I cross a bridge over the Tiber River. I see tourists every day soaking in the beauty of Rome as they take pictures in front of the monuments. I think about how this may be the only day or week they get to be in Rome, and I give thanks for the fact that I get to live here for three months. I do not enjoy when people try to sell me things on the bridge, but sometimes if I walk confidently and don’t make eye contact, I won’t be approached. I feel weird walking on the streets as they become more familiar, only to realize that in less than two months I will be back in the US.

My class schedule is pretty similar to one I would have in the US. No classes on Friday, although I do finish around 5:30 PM from Monday-Thursday. I think finishing classes later is worth it, though, if it means three day weekends. The three day weekends have allowed me to travel to Vienna, Assisi, and Nice, so I really cannot complain!

One thing that really struck me was the language barrier here. I had studied Italian for one semester before coming here and felt pretty confident of my language capabilities. As soon as I got here and tried to speak Italian, though, I think I understood 10% of what was being said to me. When I first came here and tried to order food or speak with a store employee in Italian, I was often either responded to in English or if it was Italian, I would have to switch back to English because I couldn’t follow. Most people here speak English (especially store and restaurant employees), so you never really have to worry about communicating anything. For the most part, trying to speak in Italian is just a bonus, not a requirement.

Italian is a beautiful and fun language to learn! My Italian professor is very positive and hopeful for us, even when we express our frustration with the learning curve. I’ve come to the realization that though I will not be fluent in Italian by the end of this semester, I will definitely learn a lot. I’m probably learning to most Italian by just being surrounded in it. Walking through the streets, shopping, and eating out are all great immersion experiences.

I am enjoying these new experiences and new perspective. Whatever I gain here, I am happy to bring with me wherever I go in life.