Studying abroad in Bologna has been an utterly fantastic experience, and I have also thoroughly enjoyed my visits to other cities. The food and architecture puts America’s strip mall and Taco bell culture to shame. The people could not be nicer. Therefore I have had to live here for almost three months and use all the skills Vassar has instilled in me to find things to complain about. Here they are.
My Perceived German Identity
Not a day passes here where I don’t get asked if I am German. When I flew over to Bologna for the first time, since we were connecting in Frankfurt, a man at the airport asked me if I was going home and was shocked at my response. This type of incredulity is pretty typical. When I explain that I am American, I am often met with the response, “But you seem German to me!” One woman who worked at a glass store on the island Murano told me I had a German Italian accent. I’ve never spoken a word of German in my life.
The classes that we take within our program have tried to ease this transition for us, but the truth of the matter is that professor to student relationship is an ocean apart here in Italy. The one class I took at University of Bologna, Philosophy of Heliocentrism, illustrated that Italian school is much more about the diffusion of information from the experts to the students, and not about discourse or informal relationships. While this particular structure spared my pretentious and brilliant professor from hearing my uninformed and barely coherent thoughts, classes virtually void of discussion are not very engaging. I think that a healthy medium between kids who haven’t done the reading contradicting a professor who has done ALL the reading for the past two decades and “children are meant to be seen not heard” is a good idea.
Milanesi, or people from Milan have a universal stereotype in Italy that I can affirm is dead on, not only because I went to Milan for an entire day, but also because I have watched a Youtube channel that discusses these concepts. The best way to describe the Milanese is the stereotypical Italian swag mixed with New Yorker exceptionalism. A friend on the program sat on a train from Milan with one of these people, decked out in a four figure suit. Every two minutes, he could be heard picking up his phone (that had the “old fashioned ringer” tone) with “Ciao forte!” and swearing profusely. I can only imagine what their Facebook pages are like.
Venice is like no other place in the world with incredible palaces rearing out of the dirtiest yet somehow still beautiful water. However, in addition to the absurdity of taking a boat where you need to go, the prices for food are absolutely eye-popping, and you don’t get the bang for your buck. Perhaps I feel this way because Bologna is known for its food, a couple towers and its food. However, apart from the audacious option to have squid ink pasta and thus ingesting a meal the color of charcoal, I would advise visitors to skip Venetian food if possible. Instead, you should buy ingredients from a supermarket and have a picnic in a square, but prepare yourself for as many pigeons as there are VSA campaign Facebook event invites.
Walking through the porticoes
Bologna is a city filled with porticoes, which are structures that cover the sidewalks and consist of beautiful arches and columns in the center of the city and hideous grey pillars in the periphery. Though they provide shade and shelter to pedestrians from nonexistent precipitation, they do present a bit of a problem for my lifestyle. I am approximately 70 percent leg and leave way too late for class, thus I tend to need to “cook it” to make it on time.
However, Bolognesi have a very different idea about how fast one should walk. They tend to walk at a very, let’s say “Italian” pace, stopping to look into windows, greet friends and actually window shop. Walking is a much less destination based affair, and though this is a much better way to live life, it drives me insane when I need to rush quickly to class and my own inevitable death.