March 13 2009
Before I came to Perugia, Italy, I had found the blog of an American student who wrote about getting ready to come here. He stopped writing after he left. I tried to keep a blog as well, but have last updated it a few days after arriving.
I now understand what happened to him. He was sucked in by the city. Everyday after classes, Perugia offers the chance to meet and hang out with hundreds of students from all around the world. I study at the University for Foreigners, known for its Italian language courses, but here there’s also the Università Degli Studi, where Italian and foreign students study together, as well as the Umbria Institute, an American University. These three, along with a few private language schools, make the experience truly unique. I know this is true: I have talked to students who have spent a month here and gone to Florence and Rome, but many miss this small city and say elsewhere it’s not the same.
The views here are breathtaking. From my window I can see the rest of Perugia’s hillside, dotted by colorful buildings, churches, and green plazas. Walking around the city (which is quite steep for the average Dallasite) I can see Etruscan arches, built thousands of years ago around the city’s walls, leading me into the city’s historic center. Now that the weather has gotten much warmer, many students spend their afternoons chatting on the steps of the duomo, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, watching as the people walk on the main street, Corso Vannucci.
But, enough of showing off this beautiful city. I’d like to tell you a bit about what I’ve been doing. I spend about 20 hours a week in Italian language classes – all of them conducted entirely in Italian. With my Spanish and the little Italian I studied before arriving, I somehow managed to get into an intermediate-level class. At first I had to study in order to catch up with what I was supposed to have learned in the basic course, but after about a month I was up to par with everybody. My grammar classes are 4 hours long, including a 15 minute break between each period, where we usually go to the bar (the school’s café) and have some coffee and pastries. Delicious. Coffee here comes much smaller than your average-size Starbuck’s cup, but is cheaper and much better too. I also have some verbal practice classes where we practice talking and a listening and writing class.
After classes, I often hang out with my friends. As you can imagine, I haven’t had much trouble meeting students here. In fact, you often meet too many people and have a hard time keeping track of names, especially when students come and leave often, sometimes on a monthly basis. It also helps that I live in an apartment with none less than 9 other people. I have many Dutch and English friends, but I know people here from just about every country in the globe.
We like to organize big dinners in my apartment and then go out together. The nightlife is superb, and most students live within the center, so it takes at most 10 minutes to walk anywhere. Just about everything you need is around the corner.
Of course the food is amazing. (It’s Italy, what can you expect?) Yet one thing most students complain about is the bread, since the one produced here is usually saltless and white. Apparently many Italians stopped putting salt in their bread when one of the popes decided to tax it, and they haven’t put it back since. Dark rye bread is hard, if not impossible to come by. However, the olive oil or the balsamic vinegar makes up for it all.
The rest is amazing. I’ve made it a point of trying new cheeses and meats, and one can make a meal just out of these and some bread. The supermarkets and small shops in the center don’t tend to carry a great variety of products as they do back in the states, but what they do have is local and of great quality.
One weekend I went snowboarding in Terminillo, a mountain between Perugia and Rome, and had a great time. I also went to some hot baths about an hour away from here, and visited Rome and Florence on two separate weekends. In Rome I loved the Colloseum; in Florence the Piazzale Michelangelo, which has a great view to the rest of the city, and the magnificent Boboli gardens. Soon I am going to visit many more Italian cities, as the weather is getting warmer and warmer by the day.
I would love to write more but Italy is calling me. So, ciao for now!