Entry 3: Final Reflection Journal
I remember the day I got my acceptance letter in my Meredith College mailbox that told me I was going to Italy and Switzerland! I had never been so excited. There was so much to do before the trip and only two short months to get it all finished. The day quickly approached that I was in RDU telling my parents, sister, grandma, friends, and boyfriend goodbye. It is hard to believe that since that day I have spent the most amazing six weeks learning so much about myself, these wonderful countries, and this program.
I learned so much about myself being on this trip. I feel like I have always been a mature person and figured things out early in life, but nothing could have prepared me for the experiences I had while in Italy and Switzerland. Traveling is a full time job. The skills I have learned are mainly due to my travel experiences. I have learned how to navigate through a train station and on the metro. I have also learned how to get a ticket in Italian for almost anything. You must always be on your toes and prepared for any problem that may come along while traveling. In the group of us three I always seemed to be the one to find the hotel and train times. It comes naturally to me to be organized and to plan things, so that was very helpful on this trip.
I have traveled with my family multiple times, but my parents have always had the duty of keeping everything organized and the majority of our trips have been in America, in a tropical setting, so it was a very different experience being abroad. It was very difficult for me to express my emotions and frustrations when difficult times arose. It was always easy with my family, but expressing myself with friends and new people is a different story. It was very important for me to learn how to channel my emotions and just to let things happen how they are supposed to without getting worked up about them. It is important to always take my time doing things so that I do not become overwhelmed. These skills took some time to get used to but by the end of the trip we could all channel our emotions in congruency with each other instead of relying so heavily on our experiences with our families. I believe the skills I have learned will come in handy for the rest of my life. Anytime I travel anywhere, I will remember my experiences in Italy and I should have less trouble figuring it out, whether I am with my family, friends, or strangers.
This trip meant so much to me because I was able to see all of the monumental and historical things I wanted to see. No one knows when the ruins of Italy will fall for good, but I did not want to miss out on any of it before it did. I am so grateful that I got to see all of the wonderful wonders of Italy. Rome, Milan, Venice, Anghiari, Arezzo, Assisi, the Cinque Terre, and Florence will always be a part of me even if the Italian government lets them fall apart. I got to experience places and sights that most people do not get to ever see in their life.
The same goes for Switzerland. Not many people can say that they have hiked an Alp. This experience was one that I will never forget. It was a hard trip up the mountain in the car up the mountain and the hike the rest of the way up, but I got through it and it was completely worth every doubt I had. The sights I saw in the valley and on the mountain will forever be some of my favorite sights I have ever seen. It was truly breathtaking and if I ever get the chance to go back to Europe, the Swiss Alps will be on my to-do list.
The most important lesson I have learned is that there is always a positive to every situation. Although there were multiple times when things went wrong, we could only laugh at them and find the good in them. I believe that this is the only way to get through a long study abroad program. One cannot always be in control of a situation, so when something goes wrong, you must laugh and find the good thing. Our “good thing” that was a constant on this trip was that we are in Italy and Switzerland. We would constantly remind ourselves of that to keep the trip positive.
Since I have been home, I have missed Italy more and more every day. Last week, one of my best friends’ dads got killed in a tragic car accident. As I spent time with the family and loved ones affected by this tragedy, it became more and more clear to me how lucky I am to have seen such an amazing part of the world before I left this world. They spoke about how he had wanted to travel the world, but never got the chance. It is very clear to me, even more now, that although the trip was sometimes stressful and more work than fun, I will be grateful for my experiences that have helped to shape the person I am now. I will cherish the memories I made in Italy for my whole life. I will continue my journeys around the world. With the experiences I have had in Italy I want to expand my knowledge of the world. Now that I have been able to travel for this long without my parents I think I can go anywhere. Being able to figure out everything on my own has been very rewarding and I will use my new knowledge to expand my travels to new countries and hopefully back to Italy and Switzerland at some point.
Entry 2: Family Dinner
On the first Friday of family dinner, Kathleen and I were paired together with a boy named Andrei. He walked into the Palazzo and spoke perfect English. He had a friend named Andrea with him who did not know such good English. He said that we would be walking to his house for dinner. His house was right outside of the city walls in a cute pink apartment complex. Andrei was not Italian; he was Romanian and told us that he had learned English from cartoon network. We thought that was funny because he understood the contexts of the words very well so we did not understand how he learned that from television. We asked Andrei if his parents were home and he told us that they should be at home, but they were leaving for a party soon if they had not already left. Kathleen and I looked at each other both feeling a little bit uneasy about the situation. When we arrived at his apartment complex a woman was out on the balcony on the third floor who waved down to him. He told us that was his mom, so we felt better going into the building with him.
When we got to his apartment he introduced us to his mom, sister in law, and dad. Neither of his parents knew good English, but his sister in law did. We gave them the gift we had brought and his mother seemed to be surprised. She told us she was sorry she had to leave, but dinner was prepared for whenever we were ready and that Andrei’s sister in law would be “mom” for the night. After they left we all sat at the table where a salad, bread, plates, wine, beer, and water was waiting for us. Andrei’s sister in law told us that we would wait for a while to eat because her husband was not home from work yet. She then asked us if we smoked, I said no and Kathleen said yes, so we all went out to the back balcony and the four others smoked while we talked and waited.
Once Andrei’s brother was home we sat down for dinner. We had the salad first, just like in the Palazzo. The antipasto was pizza and it was very good. Just like in the Palazzo, after we had our antipasti she took the bowls away. She then asked us if we needed a smoke break. We said we did not care, so they made the decision to have a smoke break right there at the dinner table, inside. I found this very odd. I do not know if this is because they wanted to talk to us more or if the food was not completely finished. Finally, she brought out the main course which consisted of pork and tomatoes. I do not usually eat pork but it was very tender and very good. The food did not seem that different from the Italian food, when I thought it would be since they were Romanian. They told us that the two cultures foods were very similar, but Romanian was a bit heavier because it is colder in Romania than in Italy. We asked if they would make us Romanian food for the next family dinner and they agreed that was a great idea.
For dessert, we had gelato and coffee.
I found this dinner very similar to the lunches we were provided at the Palazzo (minus the smoking). It went in a very strict order, salad and bread, antipasti, main course, and then dessert. It always happens that way in Italy. I wish that America was more like this. The Italians take forty five minutes to an hour for each meal. In America, dinner is not a time for catching up with friends and family, but a time to get the meal over with so that we can go on to our other tasks for the day.
At the second family dinner, Andrei’s parents were there and we had a Romanian dish. I am not sure what it was but it seemed to be a cabbage roll with pork on the inside. Salad and antipasti were served first as usual and there were not nearly as many smoke breaks at this dinner. Andrei told us that he would be going to the beach with his family for the next weekend so we would not be able to meet with them on the following Friday.
My third family dinner was quite different from the first two dinners at Andrei’s home. Alessandra was our second host family. She picked us up earlier than dinner time, but we did not ask any questions as to why or where we were going. We ended up at her son’s school for his end of year performance. It was so much fun!
As we walked in, we only saw children running everywhere and parents of those children off to the side socializing with one another. The performance took place outside where three rows of child sized chairs sat for the audience. We stood in the back as over time, the yard became more and more full of families and friends there to support the children. Alessandra’s son had a whole entourage there to watch him. His grandparents, parents, brother and us were all there to support him.
The children sang songs about nutrition and even acted some of the songs out. Throughout the performance the children in the performance and in the audience were running around and talking to one another and their parents. After the performance was over, each child received their certificate for graduating from their grade. It was fun to see the similarities in an Italian and American graduation. Pictures were being taken, big smiles on the children’s faces, and proud parents in the audience.
After the graduation ceremony was over, food was served. There were tables and tables of food. It was like a big family reunion or party, where everyone brought their own dish for everyone else to pick from. There were probably 12 different kinds of pizza and even more desserts to choose from. I found it funny that after everyone had gone through the line once they brought out a portable coffee maker that made espresso shots. The Italians love their coffee. Just like at our first family dinners, we had coffee to finish.
Although my family dinners were very different experiences there was still the Italian them always present. Large groups of people, lots of socializing, lots of food, wine and dessert and an objective to spend time together enjoying things. That was the most important thing I learned from family dinners. The people in Italy want to savor every minute they have with their family and friends, as well as, the wonderful food. I hope to carry this tradition and lifestyle with me to America.
Musical Performances in Italy
Since I took the Music Appreciation class in Italy, I felt it would be appropriate to reflect on all of the musical things I learned here. We started in the middle Ages, went through the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and into the classical period. We did not only learn about Beethoven and Mozart, but we started with the monks and led up to the most modern musicians. We covered over one thousand years of musical history in a very short period of time. We also learned what different musical terms were and how they were used in music.
Over the course of the class I learned to appreciate and even like some of the music I thought I would never find myself liking. My favorite musical era was the 1950s. Frank Sinatra is my all time favorite musician because of his variety of talents and the sounds his music made. Around this same time period were musicians like Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. I think that I enjoy these artists so much because as a child my grandparents listened to this kind of music and it has stayed with my into my adult life.
We learned a lot of information not only in class, but also outside of class. We were responsible for the text book material and being able to apply it to tests and papers, but we were also responsible for applying what we had learned to outside performances. We were required to attend three performances while in Italy. All three of the performances I attended were in Sansepolcro and they were all very different.
On Friday June 17, 2011, I attended the Nova Music, school of music performance in the city square. The performance began at 10pm. I found it odd that this performance started so late in the evening. There were babies in strollers and old people at this performance. In America, you would not see babies or old people out after 7pm. I believe this specific performance was a celebration of the end of the year and was to show the progress of each student. There was an assortment of different instruments on display on stage including a full piano, a keyboard, and drums. There was an announcer who came out and introduced whoever was about to play every time. There were performances by pianists, guitarists, vocalists, and even by an accordion player.
My favorite performance of the night was a girl singing Nora Jones’ “Don’t know why”. First off, she could speak English very well. Even though I assume she only knew the words because of the song, and most likely did not know the meaning of them, she annunciated very well. She had a very smooth and pretty voice. It was very similar to how Nora Jones sounds. I also liked this performance because I could actually recognize the song. All of the other performances were either in Italian or something I had never heard of.
It was a very informal concert. People were walking around and talking throughout the whole thing. There were babies and kids running around. I found it interesting that people usually got up and left after their child, grandchild, friend, etc. had finished their performance. In America, it is a usual thing that you stay throughout the entire performance until everyone is finished. The chairs were plastic and they were all just kind of scattered. People were standing up and eating ice cream as well. It was a very different experience than an end of year performance in America. It helped to show me and helped me to appreciate the differences and similarities that our two cultures have.
I attended the performance of the youth children of Sansepolcro on Saturday the 28th. The performance was in the town auditorium, which used to be a church. The program was scheduled to begin at 5pm and did not end up starting until almost fifteen after. There was an announcer who also spoke for five or more minutes before anyone played. The kids’ ages ranged from elementary school all the way up through high school age.
The last group to play had a piano, drums, guitar, and a saxophone. I enjoyed this part of the concert the best because they played songs that I could recognize. “Don’t stop believing’” was my favorite. It was very ironic that this was played in Italy when this song means so much to Meredith students.
It was interesting to see a group of younger aged people play because you could see the anxiety and nervousness in their faces. I found it odd that the kids not playing stood off to the side, down a hall way. Throughout the concert you could hear them talking to one another and getting nervous for their turn to perform. In America, the children waiting to perform most likely would have been out of sight or waiting and watching the other performers in the audience. I also found it interesting that with the younger children they would usually play a recorded background part to help them with the melody and beat. Also, the piano played a big role in these kids’ performances, as it accompanied many of the pieces. I also found it very interesting that these children were playing pieces by Strauss, Verdi, and Mozart. We learned about all of these people in class and it was fun to see these composers performed by the youth. Classical music is very important to the Italian culture and always will be.
The performance lasted a little over an hour. It was very interesting to see how the people responded to the recital. It was somewhat of an American style concert in the sense that the audience mainly consisted of parents and family members coming to support their child. It was very Italian in the sense that it started late, there were kids talking and running around throughout the whole thing, and that there was a lot of talking and storytelling by the announcer. In America, concerts are a way to show the performers talents, but in Italy a concert is somewhat of a social gathering.
Finally, I attended the performance by the Meredith Study Abroad symphonists on Tuesday June 14, 2011. This was the performance for the alumnae in the Santa Maria di Srebi chapel. The performers were Mary Royall, Ashlee, Jessie, Emily, Michelle, and Dr. Waddelow. The orchestra consisted of a keyboard piano, bass, two violins, flute, and a cello.
The last piece the girls plated is one of my favorites, “O Mio Babbino Caro”. I like this piece because it is representative of the opera “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini. It is in the major key and is played at an andante speed. On this day, we had a Sansepolcro opera singer in the audience. You could tell through his reaction after this piece that he really enjoyed it, as did everyone else.
This performance was my favorite of any of the groups’ previous performances. The church and environment made this an especially excellent performance. The sound of the instruments was completely different in this church. The notes carried through the air and seemed to hang in there for a long time after they were finished being played. The lighting and smell also contributed to the overall effect of this performance. The lights seemed to be only on the players and the old rustic smell made me remember that we were in this beautiful town in a very old church listening to our very young talented friends. The environment of this performance was calm and quiet. I loved that the only people watching were alumnae, students, and friends of the college. It gave me the same community and warm feeling that being on Meredith’s campus does. I noticed during the performance that a few of the alums were crying as well. This performance was very beautiful and touching to everyone involved. There were no distractions away from the music and the place. It was by far my favorite performance I have attended in Sansepolcro.
Although all of these performances were very different, I found something that I enjoyed out of all of them. Before the music appreciation class I would not have appreciated any of the performances I saw. It was fun to apply what I learned in class to the performances and it is fun now to apply what I have learned to the music I listen to on a normal basis. I think what made this class so special was that we were in the birthplace of most major kinds of music. Music originated in Italy and surrounded us while were there. Music is especially important to Italians and most of the material we learned about was based in Italy. If I were taking this class in America and Meredith, I would have still grown an appreciation for music but it would not have been the same experience I had in Italy. I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to take this class in Italy.