I haven’t been in Siena for two weeks yet but it feels like I’ve been in Italy for about a month. I think it’s a result of how long our days are. I usually get up a little after 730 to eat breakfast and catch a bus into the city for class at 9. During the three week intensive Italian immersion that begins the program, we have between 3 and 5 hours of Italian class a day and then some activity with the program. So on any given weekday we are occupied from 9-6 after which I take the bus home and eat dinner with my host mom at around 730. Depending on the night, I will either return to Siena to meet up with friends or just go to bed. The long days have taken some getting used to but they serve as a great distraction. There is no time to miss people, or things from back home which has made the adjustment process a lot easier.
Adjusting to a new country, a new culture and even new friends because I didn’t know anyone who was doing this program has been much easier than I was expecting. Certainly the language barrier has made life difficult but my Italian has proven to be much better than I was expecting. My host mother speaks no English, yet I have been able to converse with her without much trouble. The conversations are by no means eloquent but I have been able to communicate everything that I’ve wanted to say to her one way or another. The biggest change that I’ve encountered, other than the language obviously, has been the fact that I am alone with my host mother. Family has been something ever present in my life in the States. There has always been some kind of chaos or people running around, and that has become my standard for family life. That has been completely flipped here in Italy because I live alone with my host mom. It leaves a lot of time to myself especially because I have no wifi in my house, which has been a whole other adjustment, more cultural than lifestyle as I’ve come to understand. The Italian attachment to technology is so much less than that of Americans, it has been very interesting to observe the juxtaposition. In the states, I would probably go on Facebook a least once a day and then be basically in constant contact with friends. Here, I go on Facebook between once and 3 times a week and can only contact friends and family about once a day if that, because of my own schedule and the significant time difference.
I feel like I am rambling but I think that is only fitting because all of my days here have run together. I am certain things will begin to slow down once classes start in October but until then there is no point in fighting the current. I just have to allow myself to be swept up by our busy days and see where I end up in October.
To close, I think it is fitting to voice what things have stood out most so far and what I most look forward to in the coming days and weeks. First, the food. Everything I have eaten so far has been stellar. I have been determined to have an open mind about foods that I don’t like in the states and try them in Italy and that has only worked to my benefit. Not only is the food great, but the portions are monstrous, and my stomach has been in heaven since the day I stepped off that plane in Rome. Second, the history is almost incomprehensible. The streets I walk have been trodden on by people of so many different decades, eras, generations and centuries; every time I leave my house I am adding to a history that is unlike anything in the United States. As a history major this may occur to me more than most, but it is one of my favorite parts of being in Siena.
Patrick is a student at College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies during the Fall 2013 term.