Living la bella vita

By Jessica Schurmann

Lumen Reporter

I cannot believe that over a year and a half ago I was planning my study abroad experience. Back then it was only a dream: something I would love to do if it all worked out. Which it did, though the fact that I moved halfway across the world didn’t seem real until about two or three weeks in.

To avoid homesickness, I blocked out the fact that I was going to be gone for four months. In reality four months is not very long at all, and time has been going by pretty fast already. I know that when I return to the States I will be home for years and years, so I want to live every moment to the fullest during my stay in Italy.

I spent my first few days in Rome with my program International Studies Abroad (ISA). Our group consists of about 130 students from across the United States, and I am pretty sure I am the only one from Wisconsin. We went on a walking tour of Rome which included the Colosseum, the Roman Pantheon, and the ruins of ancient Rome. Dur­ing our free time I went with a cou­ple of students to the Trevi Fountain and one of the famous “love lock bridges.”

Although Rome was full of inter­esting ancient history, I felt a wave of relief wash over me as our bus pulled into the city of Florence. I am a small town girl, so Florence instantly felt like home. The city itself is home to over 300,000 people which is six times the size of La Crosse, but it is built in such a compact way that I can easily walk across town and see all of the main sites in a day.

I live in a home-stay, about a 20 minute walk to the city center where the famous Duomo, Bronze Doors, and original “Rape of the Sabine Women” statue are located. I live with three generations of women: a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter. The daughter is 18 years old and speaks fluent English, the mother speaks some English, and the grandmother speaks only Ital­ian. I live with another girl in my program and we enjoy eating home-cooked meals with the family at night and listening to them chatter away in intense Italian conversa­tions.

And the food? Don’t get me start­ed. Everything they say about Italian food is true. I haven’t eaten a single thing that I haven’t liked since I got here, and all of the produce is fresh, inexpensive and chemical free. I know I will miss that luxury when I go home. On one of my program’s excursions, I went to a medieval hill town called San Gimignano, where I tried some of the “World’s Best Ge­lato.” Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, for those who aren’t familiar with it. I tried the tiramisu flavor, and it is definitely the best ge­lato I’ve had yet.

Contrary to my belief that I would gain weight when living in Italy with all of the pasta and gelato, I’ve discovered the secrets to why Ital­ians are so thin. Aside from the fresh produce, Italians eat very little meat, and walk everywhere. My feet were swollen for the first two weeks but now I’m getting used to it, and it is a wonderful habit.

Oh, wait. I’m in school too. I have four classes this semester on Mon­days, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. They are Italian language, Florence sketchbook, world religions, and fresco painting. So far I really like all of them, but my favorite is fres­co painting. It is very interesting to learn about a process of art that isn’t common in the United States.

Every day I wake up and look out the window, and I am amazed by the beauty of Italy’s architecture and landscape. I’ve had to force myself to stop taking pictures of every win­dow shutter, door, and statue that I see, and instead just soak it all in. I will never take this beautiful place for granted.

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