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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The sights in Italy

Anastasia arrived in Milan midday and thought she had lots of time to make it by rail to the small town of Dorf Tirol, Italy. If only she’d known of the railway system there, she’d have thought again! Anastasia made it to Merano, the city below Dorf Tirol, at around 11:00pm, when there were no more buses. (Yes, “below,” since there may be mountains in places away from Richardson!) Luckily, she ran into some friendly teenagers who offered to find her a cab, and not having found one gave her a lift in one’s car. Kaitlin had been worried out of her mind waiting for Anastasia to arrive that day. Bryan's arrival the day before was much less eventful, arriving in Milan early in the morning and managing to find his way to the castle after 10 hours of train rides and buses.

The castle “Schloss Brunnenberg” looks absolutely gorgeous, in all truthfulness: it’s situated in a valley on the side of a lushly planted hill, a vineyard covering the steep hills with vividly green, neat rows of grape bushes. The rooms in the students’ habitation, “The Croft,” are wooden with wooden stairs and wooden beds, ours being the smallest since we arrived late. The rooms are high up against the fold of the roof, with a slanted ceiling and box mattress bed. Gina, the donkey brays loudly in the mornings, and we go down to the kitchen for our breakfast supply of fresh bread, rich yogurt, eggs, and sweet juice. Gina wakes everyone up and can easily be heard echoing across the valley, so this weekend she's getting a companion which will hopefully keep her quiet and allow people to sleep more in the mornings. For those interested in accommodations, there is wireless Internet up across the courtyard, through the squeaky wood and metal door, and up the slippery, stone, spiral staircase in Ezra Pound’s personal library, a catwalk suspended above the museum room downstairs, which is open to the public.

Sizzo (Mary de Rachewiltz's son) and his wife, Brigitte, maintain the farm with their sons running the vineyard, and Brigitte cooks lunch for everyone at the castle each day during the week. These meals are lavish and filling, easily the highlight of each weekday. Everyone always is curious about what delights will be served to us, and what dessert will follow. The students have their own kitchen for cooking breakfast and dinner, though it is rarely used for large meals since everyone is always full from lunch. Laundry is provided as long as you can hang your own clothes on the clothes line.

Last weekend, Anastasia traveled with three other students to Venice, the city of bridges, canals, gondolas, and Carnival masks. For those with a weakness for souvenirs, there will be no end of lavishly artistic masks, beautiful and historically renowned colorful Venetian glass jewelry, and very expensive leather-bound blank books. For those more interested in the historical arts, Anastasia highly recommends the Piazzo di San Marco, which featured the most beautiful thing she saw in all of Venice – a view of the outside of the Basilica. Wading barefoot across a flooded ancient plaza towards a richly gilded church, which was decorated with mosaic and statues like an intricate lace napkin, was striking. For the more modern at heart, there may be the famous Biennale, an international festival of art inside a park reserved especially for that purpose, the Gardini Biennale.

Bryan, having been to Italy before, elected to spend his time studying the local region of Tyrol instead of seeing the same sights again in the famous museums. He has found no shortage of information. He and Anastasia also took a walk up one of the mountain trails, which for someone in shape takes about 4 hours. Being completely out of shape neither of us made it more than half way up, where we stopped to have lunch before heading back down, but there was still a gorgeous view of both Dorf Tirol and Meran along the way.

The class is interesting, though there is a lot of reading. We are in class for two hours each day, and one can spend anywhere from 4 to 6 hours reading for the next, depending on how fast you can read. Each day we have a group discussion over the reading to refresh the content in our memories and ensure that everyone is on the same page before a daily quiz.

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