My arrival into Siena, Italy, was the stereotypical European traveling disaster, complete with getting lost in multiple airports, being unable to get any sleep throughout eight hours of travel, getting on wrong trains destined for cities other than Siena, attempting to communicate with locals and failing miserably, and other things you might expect a lone American to experience on route to a foreign city. However, these mishaps did not put a damper on my excitement! I was absolutely exhausted upon arrival, but was truly excited to have arrived for my six-week stay in Italy.
I met my apartment-mates, a guy from Vanderbilt University and a guy from Italy, who studies at the University of Siena year round. They are both extremely nice and our apartment is huge! I have a large room (with two beds, two dressers, two desks!), my own bathroom and a gorgeous window which faces out towards a bustling street below, and gives me direct view into 6 or 7 rooms across the street. (so I will indeed be stealthily people watching on occasion). We got settled in and went to eat dinner at the apartment of two other girls in the program. The apartment seemed to be about a mile away, but I later learned that we had been walking for about 2 ½ minutes in total (that’s sleep deprivation for ya I guess!). I met the other girls on the program who seem very sweet, and whose levels of Italian are far greater than mine. I think this is a good thing, and I am excited to get extra help with my Italian studies through them!
That night, I learned my first thing about Italian socializing the hard way — Italians do not just eat and run. Far from it! We sat for about an hour chatting about our homes, the Italian language, Siena, and other things. I am sure I lost consciousness a couple times, but my Italian roommate kept chatting with the girl whose apartment we were in, pouring more wine, and taking more potatoes! Finally, I took it upon myself to clean the table up, taking everyone’s plates and clearing the table, and we finally went home. I slept very deeply that night, even through the raucous outside my window at all hours of the night. (I am fairly sure I heard a toddler screaming Italian at 12:23 am! Why are kids up this late, let alone in the streets?) This I do not know. I have a lot to learn about Italian culture!
The next day began early with a meeting in the glorious Piazza del Campo, of which Siena is centered around. The Piazza del Campo is said to be one of the nicest Piazzas in all of Italy, and is home to the famous Horse Race, Il Palio, which I will get to experience in July! From the Piazza, we took a tour of the city, stopping at the Mensa Bandini, the student cafeteria for University of Siena students, the Monte dei Paschi Bank headquarters, which is one of the most famous banks in Tuscany, and we ended at the Via Camollia, home of the CET school which I will be studying at in my time here. We ordered lunch at a little bar (a mozzarella, tomato sandwich for myself) and I should surely mention our passing of the Kopa Kobana Gelateria, where I later ordered my first Gelato of Italy — banana, café and chocolate flavors!
The rest of our day continued with meetings in the Siena CET headquarters about our classes, housing, and other topics regarding studying abroad such as safety, emergency information, feeling homesick etc. I was happy to learn that Siena is a university city, where crime is very low and it is very easy to get around. We ate dinner at a popular bar restaurant called Barche, and had a buffet of pasta, rice, pizza, mozzarella and tomatoes and other delicious foods. My roommate and I went to buy wine and are hanging out in our rooms until 11pm when we will join the other students in the Piazza del Campo to experience Sienese nightlife!
I am very eager to begin with Italian class (which starts on Monday, because unlike my travels to Spanish speaking countries, I feel completely useless here! I can say basic words for “excuse me” and “thank you” but other than that, I am reliant on the other students to help me speak.) I hope I can learn a lot in six weeks!
All for now! Ciao!
This is the first post from Elena Korn ’13, who is currently studying abroad with CET Academic Programs in Siena, Italy. Elena will be sending a few more posts our way in the coming weeks.