I’m still in shock that I’m finally here. Everything about this place is so beautiful, it’s hard to believe that I really get to live here for the next four months studying, traveling, eating, and soaking up the culture. The photo below is the view from my school, Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue, or SASL for short, so you can see how much studying I’m going to do this semester…
Aside from the 30 plus long hours that I was awake for while traveling and settling in–I was too excited to sleep on the plane–everything has been unbelievably wonderful. Granted, there are a lot of differences that are already sticking out to me. So here’s some first impressions of what’s different:
- The showers are tiny. Like, not even room to turn around or lift your arms tiny.
- There’s an actual key in the bathroom lock to lock the door with, and it’s kind of challenging to figure it out. I’ve done pretty well with getting the door locked, but unlocking is a work in progress. I may have locked myself in the bathroom for several panicky minutes several times already…
- Eating is an event. You can, and will, spend several hours eating every meal. On my first night here, I asked for the check after we had finished our meal because I’m the only one who speaks any Italian. Aside from accidentally asking for a discount, “sconto,” instead of the check, “conto,” the server was confused as to why we were leaving so quickly. Luckily, he was very kind and has become our first real Italian friend here in Sorrento. We stayed and talked with him for quite a while, and he stopped us on the street the next day and greeted us as “his new friends.”
- Everything really does shut down in the middle of the day for a “siesta.” Don’t bother going to the store between 1:30 and 3:30, because everyone’s taking a well-deserved break. Everything resumes in the late afternoon, and it’s pretty calm until people come out for dinner around 8 p.m.
- People drive like maniacs. The streets are all stone, and the side streets are tiny, but that doesn’t stop people in tiny cars and on vespas from whipping around. I’ve almost been hit several times just today, but they always seem to be able to stop. I’m thinking they probably get used to be being crazy drivers and become talented at driving badly well.
- Specific is not a word the Italians are very familiar with. Today I asked one of my professors when I would start my internship, and he told me that I would start later than the other students with internships because mine was a 3-credit one as opposed to a 6-credit one. I asked if he knew when, exactly, I would start work, and he shrugged and repeated “later.” It’s definitely going to be a test of my ability to be flexible to deal with the lack of specificity in my daily life. For example, “around 10” could mean anywhere from 9:50 to 11:30. In America, it would be unacceptable to show up for a 10 a.m. appointment at 11:00, but in Italy, that’s just the way the world functions.
I realize that these are all very preliminary observations, many of which are rooted in deeper cultural systems than I yet understand, but I hope to explore exactly why these differences occur and if by talking to one another, we can have a better understanding of one another as people. Luckily, there are a few things that are exactly the same, namely the positive relationships I’ve already formed with my apartment-mates and the other study abroad students. And who knows; maybe by may I’ll stop gasping in delighted surprise everytime I turn the corner and catch a glimpse of the beauty that is the Bay of Naples. Maybe, but I hope not.
Sono molto felice essere in Italia; é più bella che io posso immagine.
I am very happy to be in Italy; it is more beautiful than I could have imagined.