Summer 2015

Italy is both blessed and cursed when it comes to the country’s bounty of history and responsibility of preserving it all.  It is “estimated that Italy is home to two-thirds of the world’s cultural treasures” (Safer).  Not only is Italy lucky to have such a rich and (fairly) well-preserved history, but it is also fortunate to benefit economically from the tourists who travel from around the world to visit Italy’ treasures.  But, on the other hand, Italy’s treasures have proven to be a curse due to the amount of financial resources needed to restore the historical sites and keep them running.

Unfortunately, not being able to restore and maintain the country’s historic treasures is a problem Italy knows all too well.  It is apparent that “the country is too broke to keep its historic ruins, churches, and monuments from crumbling to dust.  Italy is up to its neck in debt” (Safer).  Italy’s financial hardship is the result of many aspects, one of them being taxes going unpaid.   Rossella Ream, the director of the Colosseum shared that the Colosseum is receiving only five percent of what it needs to run, restore, and maintain the historical site, from the government (Safer).

Luckily for Italy, its government,  the people, the country’s economic status, and its history, people of the world and other investors have stepped up to take on the responsibility of restoring and maintaining various historic treasures around  Italy.  It has now become very fashionable, high fashion at that, to oversee the restoration of Italy’s history.  Major fashion houses have either taken it upon themselves or are donating substantial amounts of money to go towards the refurbishment of various parts of Italy’s history.  To name a few of the benefactors and fashion houses who are tending to the restoration of historic Italy are: Diego Della Valle, the Fendi and Buldari fashion houses and another fashion house in Japan that has strong ties to the country.


It is really interesting with as many tourists as Italy attracts (countrywide) that the government doesn’t allocate and invest more money into the preservation of these areas.  One would assume that the government would place great significance on Italy’s history and the tourist industry because of the economic benefits associated with them.  The country as a whole benefits from the tourist industry, the federal and local governments benefit in various forms of taxes, and the local businesses gain substantial business and stability.  Italy’s annual revenue from tourism in 2013 was about $46 billion in US dollars, making tourism a very profitable part of Italy’s economic standing (International Tourism).  When looking at Italy’s economy as a whole, “two-thirds of Italy’s Gross Domestic Product (approximately 69%) is represented by the services sector, whose strong point is tourism” (The Italian Economy).

Looking next at the United States, approximately $1.5 trillion US dollars was generated in the travel and tourism industry in 2012 (The Travel).  This accounts for about 8.6% of the United States GDP (Travel & Tourism).  To ensure the continued growth and development of this sector, the United States government and United States travel and tourism industry have created an alliance that will foster the progression of travel and tourism in the United States.  The U.S. government knows that to promote the development of travel and tourism it needs to allocate money for the restoration and maintenance of the industry.  Therefore, “under the Travel Promotion Act, the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP) can access up to $100 million in federal matching funds to execute its mission based on a 1 to 1 ratio of public to private funds” (The Travel).

When comparing the amount of money invested into and generated by the travel and tourism industries of both Italy and the United States, there seems to be quite a big difference.  More than half of Italy’s revenue comes from the travel and tourism sector, but government invests very little into development and maintenance of the industry.  Whereas, a very small portion of the United States’ GDP is generated by the travel and tourism sector, but still the government invests a healthy amount of money into preservation and growth of the sector.  Where does the difference lie?

After comparing how much money is generated and invested in the travel and tourism sectors of both Italy and the United States, a lot of questions arise.  Where is Italy spending their money if not in the tourism and travel sector?  Why does Italy not invest more money into the restoration and maintenance of their tourist attractions?  Why has the United States decided to invest a certain amount of money in the travel and tourism sector?  Why does Italy, a country that strongly depends on its travel and tourism sector to generate revenues, place seemingly low significance on the sector compared to the United States, when it relies so heavily on that revenue source, but doesn’t invest a fair amount?

I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I can try to draw some conclusions.  First, the Italian government is blind to the value that its travel and tourism sector holds in terms of the country’s economic stability.  Second, the Italian government, for some reason, believes that the cost associated with restoring and maintaining the country’s history and tourist attractions is greater than the potential benefits.  Third, the country is corrupt and is allocating resources elsewhere.  Any number of these reasons, or a combination of them, as well as others I did not identify, could play a part in the travel and tourism sector in Italy not receiving funding.

However, Italy is lucky that other investors have decided that the restoration and maintenance of Italy’s history is worth their attention and money.  Members of the high-end fashion industry have taken a particular interest in the preservation of some of Italy’s most famous and beloved historical sites.  Why are the fashion houses doing this?  The fashion houses claim it is because they love the country and its history and have a special connection to Italy.  But, I would not take that at face value.

If Italian businesses operate similarly to those in the United States, and I wager they do, it is not a smart business move to invest money unless you have an understanding of the gained benefit.  When it comes to philanthropic activities, such as restoring a country’s history, a business is likely using the opportunity more as a marketing and promotional tactic, where they will one day be able to display their name and reap the benefits of their philanthropy.

Ultimately, the goal of a business is to create a profit. There are many ways to achieve this goal, but all involve some sort of marketing and promotion.  One way that companies market and promote their brand is through philanthropic activities.  Companies believe that if they help their surrounding community, then in return they, the company, will experience and increase in customer awareness, trust and sales.  These types of marketing tactics often result in an ‘everyone wins’ scenario; the surrounding community and the company both gain something.

This practice is regularly used in the United States.  Examples of this include, but are not limited to Wells Fargo, Walmart, and Chevron Corporation, and even down to smaller businesses.  While I was a swim coach and raising money for my team, companies were always willing to donate money or host fundraising events for the swim team contingent on the amount of publishing and recognition it would generate.  This is exactly what the fashion houses are doing by overseeing the restoration of Italy’s historic landmarks.

It will be interesting to see if the benefits of these philanthropic activities will be greater than or less than the cost of the restorations.  My gut tells me that the benefit the companies will gain from taking on the various projects will exceed the cost.  These companies will likely gain the opportunity to display their name on the various advertisements of the historic sites and also gain exclusive access to the premises. The companies can then use the exclusive access to the sites as a way to further promote and set apart their companies.  Perhaps the fashion houses will host fashion shows or events at these locations that will create a further perception of their elite status.

Ultimately, I imagine that this scenario will further create a “win-win” situation for all of the parties involved.  The fashion houses will gain the edge and publicity of having access and using the unique and historical sites, as well as reaching new markets.  Likewise, the historic attractions will gain exposure and likely more popularity and visitors.   Finally, the federal and local governments will also benefit from the increased awareness and traffic to the historic sites; in addition to the country’s history being restored and preserved, which will work to secure the future of Italy’s travel and tourism sector.

After the restorations are complete, I will be interested to compare the success of the tactics to companies in the United States of similar size who have completed equivalent philanthropic activities.  I will be looking specifically at cost and benefit ratios and the difference in customer awareness.  It will be fascinating to see if philanthropic marketing is more effective in one country or if it is about the same.


Mary Hollis- Summer 2015

Studying abroad is a decision that has to be made well in advance of the actual trip. There are many thoughts and decisions that have to be made and as well as those decisions sacrifices have to be made. Giving up part or all of summer vacation, leaving family and friends behind, and unfortunately it is fairly expensive, but with all these sacrifices comes a new memory, an adventure, a friendship, and there is no value that could replace my study abroad experience.

My adventures of this study abroad experience range anywhere from unhappy because I’m up at two in the morning doing homework to an un-describable happy because I just had the best day of my life. Starting in Sansepolcro, a beautiful small city full of life and adventure, a place where we spent most of our time. When I look back and think of Sansepolcro I picture the perfect Italian town, small cobble stone streets, people sitting outside enjoying their meals, beautiful building and terra-cotta roofing. This was our home, we became a family and we have a bond that can never be broken. We learned our way around the city together, figured out how we were possibly going to get all of work done together, planned our travel breaks together, ate together, slept 30 feet away from each other; we were truly united in our home. I always wanted to go to Italy, and coming to college I wanted to study abroad. Deciding to come to Italy on the study abroad program wasn’t a hard decision for me but I know for others it was. Just being in Sansepolcro made spending part of my summer away from my family and friends worth it. The other girls on the trip are now my sisters and my best friends, and I will never have a bond with anyone else quite like I have with these girls. Leaving my friends and family was hard but with the sisters and family I gained it helped to take away the sad thoughts and feelings. We helped each other cope and we definitely stayed busy enough to keep our minds off of things and I wouldn’t change a thing because I would never want to miss out of the bond and connection with the people I gained from this trip.

Giving up my summer was not easy at first, I didn’t want to miss out on all of the events and activities that were happening with my friends and family. I went into this trip excepting to see all of Italy, and we didn’t come too far from that. As a group we adventured to small and large cities all around us. We toured churches, museums, adventured through the streets, walked miles and miles on cobble stone, got rained on, went shopping, and did basically anything else imaginable. Someone who never studies aboard won’t be able to say they did all of this in one day as well as had group discussions and class all at the same time. I may have missed some activities in America but what I experienced in Italy and Switzerland were so much more than just and activity. Having personal travel breaks also added on to the number of experiences I had. In one short month I was able to conquer the five villages of Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Amalfi, Rome, Venice, and Interlaken in Switzerland. It was not easy and time was sacrificed but having the opportunity to see and adventure around the world was well worth it and they are all experiences I will never forget. Looking back, deciding to give up my summer should have been the easiest decision I have ever made, nothing can compare to what I have saw with the people I experienced it with. Giving up my summer was just a small price to pay to experience the world and make memories that will never be forgotten.

One large sacrifice and a part of study abroad is the cost and the money aspect of it. Wanting to study abroad and take the time could be the easy part, but being able to sacrifice that much money is not always easy. I went into the trip having a budget, making wise decisions about my money and everything went smoothly. My group choose to do some more extravagant things, such as move around more and bounce from one city to another, and it was not always easy or the cheapest thing to do, but by doing it I was able to gain experiences and memories that I could not have done otherwise. One trip we traveled for 11 hours straight just to get to Amalfi and the next day we spent half the day there and left and went to Rome but if I could go back and change it I would keep it there. You never know when you might come across your favorite city or place to eat and with my group we made it a point to say you will never find out if you like something unless you try it. Amalfi turns out to be one of my favorite cities from the whole trip, even though I was only there for a short amount of time, but I would have never known that if we hadn’t decided to put a little more time and money into our travel break. Another experience that was expensive but left me on cloud nine was deciding to go paragliding through the Swiss Alps. It was like floating on a cloud surrounded by indescribable beauty. I had so many wonderful experiences throughout my trip, some free some we had to pay but if I had not decided to go on the trip in the first place I would have never experienced any of it.

I am beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to study abroad, and along with it has come many sacrifices. Looking back today I would do it all over again without a doubt and it has made me want to keep experiencing and traveling the world that is full of beauty both near home and far away. I have gained memories and most importantly friendships that will last a lifetime. Sacrifices are a part of life and sometimes we just have to choose which way we want to sacrifice. I choose to study abroad and looking at it now it was more of a reward than a sacrifice will ever be.

Katie Green- Summer 2015

On June 24th, I traveled with a few other girls from Meredith on an impromptu trip to Anghiari for shopping and dinner. Anghiari is only about 10 minutes away from Sansepolcro, so it was very easy to run to the bus stop and grab a few tickets. However, our trip started off rather rocky because the bus did not stop at the stop we were expecting. When we got off the bus we had to figure out where we were and how to get to the main road, to our destination, the restaurants and shops. We had a particular restaurant in mind for dinner. We ended up shopping in the big Busatti store along with several other random shops around the town.

We decided that this meal would be the final really nice meal for our time in Italy. We tried some different wine and actually had big meat! It was probably the best meal I have had since I have been in Italy. We knew we had made a good choice when the only other people eating at the restaurant were locals. We ended our time in Anghiari by rushing to get our bill and running to the bus stop where we barely made it in time to catch the bus. It was a great afternoon full of great cultural experiences. Days like those are the ones I am going to miss the most when I am back in America.


The quaint town of Anghiari really reminded me of the feeling of Sansepolcro. They are both such small and beautiful towns where everyone knows each other, and predominantly only Italian is spoken. I was definitely not surprised when I had to use a lot of hand motions at one particular store because the lady did not understand what t-shirt size that I needed. My dad wears a XXL and I had not seen that size anywhere in Italy. However, when I put my hands up and arms around me to kind of make me look fat, the lady at the store knew exactly what I wanted. I had a similar experience in Sansepolcro when I was trying to buy a t-shirt. It would have been much easier to know sizes in Italian. I would assume that not very many tourists know about Sansepolcro and Anghiari. This would explain the lack of English spoken in many stores and restaurants in these towns. I feel very lucky that we were among the very few tourists to experience such a town full of beautiful countryside and real Italian culture.  I had much better experiences in small towns than I did in large ones like Rome and Florence.

After the group went shopping for a little while we attempted to get dinner at a highly recommended restaurant. We went at about 6:30 and the doors were locked. We assumed that maybe it would open at 7:00 because of the sign on the door. However, when we returned at 7:00, the door was unlocked but the lights were off and we could not find anyone inside. We were pretty bummed, but we started in search for another nice restaurant.

Anghiari is the most beautiful place I have been in Italy. I think it is even more beautiful than Cinque Terre (however, they are very different). It is just breathtaking to see the outer wall of the town before you arrive. It reminded me of something you might see in a Harry Potter movie or something. Just the fact that they built the amazing stone wall and then all of the stone buildings inside of that wall is gorgeous. I have never seen a building so secure yet aesthetically beautiful at the same time in America.  I did a little research on Anghiari and found that it was founded in the 13th century. It is mind boggling to know that there was such a beautiful town in Italy, while in America, it was basically still all forest. Also, on the day we visited for dinner and shopping, there were flags up around the huge wall and also on peoples’ windows in the town. After researching, I found that it was in honor of the Battle of Anghiari. This battle was fought on June 29, 1440. The Florentines took the victory of this battle, which secured the Florentine rule over central Italy. This battle only lasted one day and involved several thousand troops. It is said that there was only one death during this battle and that was when one soldier fell off of his horse. However, it is not known if that fact is correct.

This battle definitely shows the separation of regions in Italy. It seems similar to the Civil War between the North and South in America. I would like to think since slavery was abolished, the United States has worked to achieve a more unified nation. It is not a big deal if you move from state to state. However, in Italy, if someone grows up in one region, they will most likely stay true to that region and will not want to be associated with any other region. For example, if an Italian is from the North, they will not want to be associated with Southern Italy. It would be like calling that person lazy. This is because the Northerners call the southerners lazy and blame them for the bad economy. However, I have read several articles on this issue and there are many people that say Italians do not care about different regions while others say it is extremely important. Similarly, in America ignorance and lack of education leads to more conflict.

Anyways, we finally found a restaurant to eat dinner. In my opinion it was even better than the first place because it had such an amazing view. This restaurant sat right at the top of the huge hill in Anghiari, where we had a panoramic view of the flat Greenland and the mountains. It was absolutely stunning. There is nowhere in North Carolina that you can have a view as spectacular, even though the Blue Ridge Mountains are gorgeous. At dinner, I went out of my comfort zone to order. I ordered grilled mixed meat and mixed vegetables. I still have no idea what kind of meat I was eating, but it was very tasty. I have hardly eaten pieces of meat since being in Italy because mostly we have eaten is pasta and pizza. I wonder what Italians eat in their home because I am extremely tired of all the pasta and pizza. I am sure that they eat more meat and vegetables than I have been eating.

Finally, it was getting very close to the time for our bus to depart and we still were waiting for our check. We ended up having to go inside and asking him to pay right there because we didn’t have time to get the check at that point. We probably paid him a little bit too much, but we did not want to have to wait another hour and a half for the last bus. We were very proud of ourselves, though we ran like crazy, made it to the bus stop in time. It was a very good day trip and traveling by ourselves always makes it more adventurous and memorable. We are so fortunate that Sansepolcro is near to so many great towns and tourist destinations. I am sad that our time here is coming to a close, but I am sure I will be back some day.

Ellen Cleary- Summer 2015

Market in Florence vs. Market in Sansepolcro vs. Cattle Sale back home

On Tuesday, June 9, the whole group travelled by bus from Sansepolcro to Arezzo, and then by train from Arezzo to Florence. When we arrived, we took a walking tour of the city led by Dr. Vitarbo, where we walked past the larger-than-life duomo of Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. The construction of this massive cathedral began under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio at the close of the 13th century; however, the actual dome for which the cathedral is famous, based on the architectural designs of Filippo Brunelleschi, was not added until the 15th century. The design of the outside, dominated by bright shades of marble, contrasts the design of the interior, which consists of a plainer and more earth-toned color scheme.  The main draw of the interior are the frescoes of Giorgio Vasari, entitled Last Judgement, which can be seen looking straight up under the dome.

After walking past the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, we then walked to the Porcellino fountain. The Porcellino fountain is a shiny statue of a wild boar, who is said to bring you luck if you touch its snout. We enjoyed taking pictures of this Florentine tradition.

As a group we also walked (or climbed rather) up to a park overlooking the entire city of Florence.  We were then set off on our own to explore the city and be back in Sansepolcro by that night. My group and I (Courtney, Mary, Samantha-Kate, and myself) went back to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and climbed to the top of the duomo, and then we went to see what the famous Florentine market had to offer.

Works Cited

“The ‘Porcellino’ Fountain, Florence.” Tuscany for Sustainable Tourism. Web. 16 June 2015.

“The Duomo in Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy.” Visit Florence. Web. 16 June 2015.


Prior to our departure, we had been briefed on what we should expect to see and experience on the streets of Florence. The famous “drop the baby!” imagery was in my head on the bus and train rides over, and even though no one actually threw a baby at me, what I saw in Florence was different from anything else I had previously experienced. The market was a whirlwind of vendors, most of whom would stare you down as you walk by, or try to say something to draw you in to look at their merchandise.  I heard everything from “You have beautiful eyes” to “Ciao bella” to “Best price for you!” It was a lot to take in at one time. I am a huge shopper, and I am not shy in the least, so I figured I would be great at the whole haggling business. While I did come around after a while and get some great deals, at first I was completely overwhelmed.

On Tuesday June 16, we walked around the market in Sansepolcro as a part of our Italian class, with the assignment to figure out the cost of several different items. This market was nowhere near the scale of the one in Florence, but they had a few similarities. Both the market in Sansepolcro and the market in Florence displayed all of their items right out on the street, but the Sansepolcro one had more signs giving prices of items, whereas you needed to ask the shopkeeper for the prices at the one in Florence. Also, I did not have anyone come out from his or her booth and approach me here in Sansepolcro. Of course each market had their pros and cons; the market in Florence had a much larger variety of merchandise than the one in Sansepolcro, and in my opinion, a superior quality as well. I did not attempt to haggle as much at the market in Sansepolcro either.

When walking through the markets in both Florence and Sansepolcro, I kept thinking of a similar occurrence we have back in my hometown of Wilkes County, North Carolina: the cattle sale.  The cattle sale of Wilkes County takes place every Monday morning, running from about 6:30 or 7:00 AM to just after lunch. The environment is similar to a flea market, with shops selling everything from clothing to produce to guns, and everything in between. Ironically, the actual cattle are sold on Wednesdays, but all other animals, such as chickens, ducks, bunnies, goats, roosters, etc., are sold on Mondays. At the cattle sale, you will not find anyone standing out in front begging you to come in, and a little amount of “bargaining” may occur, but I have never witnessed it first-hand.  My grandfather, Minter Cleary, who is 93 years old actually has a booth at the cattle sale every Monday, where he sells random items from my dad’s warehouse.

The major difference I see in the markets of Italy and the “market” I know back home is the attitude behind the sales.  More often than not, I saw younger people selling at the markets in Sansepolcro and Florence, but this is not usually the case back home. The cattle sale is more of a social thing, where people come to sell a hodge-podge of yard sale items but also come to socialize, and it usually consists of an older crowd of people. The feeling I got from the Italian markets, especially the one in Florence, was not in the least laid back like in America, and everyone there was concerned only with making the sale and moving on to the next customer.  This observation surprised me somewhat because outside of the markets, I have felt like Italians are much more laid back than Americans and are more inclined to spend time socializing rather than working.

Another speculation is that the shopkeepers at the market in Florence are generally not selling to locals, but rather to the influx of tourists. They most likely treat tourists vastly differently than they treat locals, and besides, I doubt many locals would shop at the market in Florence anyway. On the other hand, since there are not a ton of tourists in Sansepolcro, the shopkeepers at the market there are not as aggressive.

Emily Chilton- First Travel Break-Cinque Terre

Thursday after class, we quickly packed up and got out the door, ready for our first adventure on our own in Italy. After the bus to Arezzo, the train took us to Florence and then Pisa, where we got off long enough to go take tourist-y pictures by the Leaning Tower and get back on the train. At this point we split into our two groups that had booked separately, so from here on out it was Teressa, Llew, Katie, Bri, Elizabeth, and I. From Pisa we traveled to La Spezia and then Riomaggiore. Twice we accidentally got off on the wrong stop; in Florence we basically played Chinese Fire Drill and got out of the rail car and back on. In La Spezia, however, we realized too late that we were at the wrong La Spezia stop and had to wait for another 40 minutes to get to a stop that we knew was five minutes away at most. Once in Riomaggiore, we trekked up THE hill (there’s really only one main street that’s a 45 degree or more hill) to the office of our hostel. We got checked in, hiked up some more to our room, and got settled in. The rest of Thursday was taken up with eating, finding a good place to go hang out (on the string of giant rocks by the marina) and taking up the Wi-Fi (our room didn’t have any) at the Zorza, which was a local bar and the only place playing any kind of good music.

Friday was planned as a beach day, but of course the one day that we decide to go to the beach is the only truly cloudy/rainy day I’ve seen since we got to Italy. Later we went for a nice dinner and hogged some more Wi-Fi. Saturday our plans included kayaking, horseback riding, and maybe some time on the beach. Our actual day included some time on the beach. Later that night we had supper, went shopping, went out on the rocks again, and mainly hung around town (or around the street, since it made up the whole town). Sunday we were up early, left the hostel at 8:30, and made it back to the palazzo earlier than I had dared to hope. We did have to run to make one connection in Pisa and stood for a good half of that ride, but hey! All part of the experience.

One of the first things I noticed upon our arrival in Riomaggiore was the amount of non-Italians walking around the town. The longer we stayed, the more I realized that the proportion of tourists, especially Americans, was extremely high, even compared to supposed tourist traps like Florence. The majority of other people in restaurants, on the rocks, or at the beach were not Italian, and a large number of those were English speaking: American, British, or Australian. The likelihood of being able to say “hey” and have an English conversation with a passerby was shockingly high. This being said, it was also somewhat evident in the shops and restaurants themselves that this was an expected phenomenon. For one thing, many restaurants actively advertised the fact that they had takeaway, which is distinctly non-Italian. Multiple establishments—one in Rio and one in Manarola, at least—sold fast food in a paper cone to make it easier to carry around and eat. Even nicer, traditional Italian restaurants had signs letting customers know that they had a takeaway option. The other interesting piece of this was the actual food offered. French fries–patate fritte, as they’re called in Italian—were everywhere, even as sides in nicer restaurants. The places that sold food in cones had fish and chips—a definite nod to the Brits—and chicken nuggets, classic American food. Compared to a small, relatively untouched town like Sansepolcro, Riomaggiore smacked of tourism and American tastes. For such a tiny town, Rio’s shops were extremely kitschy, also a hint to the catering being done to tourists and out-of-towners.

Slowly, a phrase came to mind that seemed to describe the situation, and the longer we stayed the more appropriate it seemed: “vicious cycle.” To begin with, I’m sure Cinque Terre attracted tourists simply because of the beautiful views, great hiking and swimming, and the attractiveness of the small, hilly towns. As more tourists came, the restaurants and shops started to bring in a few things that everyone seemed to be asking for; French fries and takeaway, for instance. Then the tourists heard the news: Cinque Terre has beautiful views, great hiking and swimming, attractive towns, and FRENCH FRIES. More tourists come. The businesses change a little more. And on the circle goes until half the population is tourists and half the businesses sell specifically to those tourists. This is somewhat similar to the article we read about the problems with students in Florence and the takeover of the tourists in Venice. Increasingly, the beautiful sights of Italy are being overrun by those from other countries with enough money to come see them. Unfortunately, Italy needs the money from tourism, and there is no good way to stop this spread and the subsequent tamping down of traditional culture. However, it is a definite tamping down and not a stamping out. Italy is one of the most tradition-rooted places in the world, and tourists will never be able to rid the country of its customs, food, and appeal. Riomaggiore will stay small and beautiful, but also touristy and a bit of a sell-out.

I also had a giant breakthrough while on this trip that I’m going to struggle to do justice to in print. After talking to a particularly annoyed train ticket clerk, I walked away thinking “no one really wants to deal with our Italian. It’s like at work (Chick-fil-A) when I fill in what the guest is trying to say because they’re taking so long and don’t really know what they’re talking about. They have no patience for anyone trying to speak Italian badly so they speak English at us.” And then suddenly the thought hit me: they have the same impatience for people who don’t know their language that we do for non-English speakers in America. Ethnocentrism had never struck me quite as fully as in that moment. We as English speakers get annoyed when someone can’t speak English well enough to communicate what they need or want. We think to ourselves, “Why can’t they learn English?” But in other countries, I’m the annoying one. They are thinking “Why can’t they learn Italian? If they’re going to be here they need to speak it well enough to get by.” To them, Italian is the language worth learning and English is what they sometimes have to speak to communicate to tourists. Here I was, walking along in a train station, having one of the most intense reversals of perspective I’ve ever had. It wasn’t that I had some unrealistic expectation that every person in every country should learn English so that they can communicate clearly with me as an American; however, I was still considering others knowing English a better option than me knowing Italian, or Spanish, or anything. While I can’t particularly relate this to Italian culture, it was practically a life-changing experience. It showed me that study abroad really is opening up my mind and allowing me to see the world in new ways, and hopefully it will continue to do so.

Italian Conversation Class

Students spent the evening engaging in some activity with the Italian students that requires the group to converse in Italian and they have to converse with us in English, so both groups get lots of practice. These activities have included karaoke, “speed dating”, and acting out movies.

Antonio, the teacher, is the one with the beard. The pictures are from a couple of weeks ago when each group had to share a variety of recipes with each other.

pic #1pic #2