My trip started off differently than my peers’, because I have family that lives in Italy. I decided to visit them before meeting the SIS students on June 11th. I arrived in Rome, Italy on June 5th expecting everything to go well. I have always heard about the crazy amount of strikes that happen in Italy, but having come here numerous times before without experiencing one, I thought I would never have to in the future. Well, I was wrong. The baggage claim people were on strike since the night before I arrived. The meeting was supposed to have ended by the time I landed, but of course, in Italy, when is anything on time? I had to wait in the baggage claim for 3 hours before I finally got my bag. There were so many people from the night before at the airport trying to figure out their baggage situation. The police had us fill out a lost baggage form just in case, but I wanted to wait. They kept on announcing my flight will have its baggage at one claim and then another. Finally, when I got my bag, I took the Leonardo Express train from the airport to Pisa Centrale, where my cousin picked me up and we went to her house in Viareggio. I felt bad because I wasn’t sure which train I was going to take or what time I would be arriving. The trains were simple enough to figure out. Basically, know the station you are going to, which number your train is and what platform it is at in the station.
After spending about a week with my family, I took a bus from Viareggio to Lucca, then had to switch buses from Lucca to Firenze. From Firenze, I was supposed to take another bus, but I could not find the right bus company, so I decided to take the train, which was pretty fast. Once I arrived in Siena, I took a taxi to the SIS office and waited there with Juan Carlos for my peers to arrive. We met them at a place called Acqua Calda, which is like a big outdoor sports place. It had a gym, a pool, a track, etc. From Acqua Calda, we met our host families and had a big dinner. Pasta, chicken, and some kind of vegetable torta with zucchini. Absolutely incredible. The colors of the food, the taste, the smell, everything was just so mouth watering, I don’t know how I didn’t eat the entire table! Because I was already used to the time change, I wasn’t that tired, but my roommate had a long day and wasn’t used to the time change yet, so we went to bed early that night.
The next day we had our orientation. I liked how we dealt with the not so interesting things first, then quickly went into the more interesting things like the ice breaker game, the introduction to our classes, etc. I thought that the classes were actually going to be about half and half with English and Italian, but actually, it’s all in Italian. I think this is good for everybody no matter the level, because you need to get used to hearing the language not just reading it from a book. Sometimes it’s easier to learn a new language when that’s all the person speaks. The same goes for my host family, they only speak to us in Italian, unless we don’t know a word, then we ask Come si dice…. And they tell us in Italian. We learned about the general locations in Siena that are important like the Tebacchi and the Farmacia. What I enjoyed the most was the tour of the city and learning the small things that we probably wouldn’t have known if we took the usual tour.
Some things that I noticed about my new host family’s house was how laid back they were. The only things that they really stressed was the front door be locked and the door in our room stay closed, because the dog would run outside and eat everything in the garden. They also eat at around 8:30pm, which is very late for me. I start getting really hungry at 6, so I try eating a small snack before dinner.
Theresa is a student at Norther Illinois University studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Summer 2014 term.