Since I was born I've heard the words, mangia mangia! countless times in the fabulous dialect my Nonna speaks (A mix of ciociario and napoletano). Entering high school I was promised a big party if I learned Italian. But high school did not offer Italian language, neither did the prestigious college I went to. After years of traveling to my grandparents home in Italy, I'd gone through stages of hating being taken away from my friends to travel, bored of hundreds of churches, sick of gelato (yup, I said it), bribed with the opportunity to bring a friend in order to come to italy, and just plain tired of family vacations. Luckily, my point of view on Italy quickly changed, as pre teen years morphed into being an educated adult I started falling in love with the countless inefficiencies and unbelievably beautiful scenes that Italy continuously brought me.
In college I discovered my passion. I also discovered that I could not study my passion at the prestigious college I picked. But that "wrong" choice in college brought other opportunities. I grew incredibly close to my mother's side of the family that I also complained about going to visit so far away for the holidays. My interest in our family history, learning the language and spending time with my incredibly cute and entertaining Nonni grew stronger.
As an ambitious Sophomore, looking for a way to pursue my passion of Italian at a college that did not offer language classes after Basic I, I applied for the term abroad in Florence and fell even deeper in love with Italian language and culture. I couldn't stop myself! I had the best time! I learned so much about myself over that term abroad, I finally could actually semi express myself in Italian, and I made the most amazing relationship with my host family that loved me like an actual daughter and sister. I couldn't have asked for a better experience (minus some minor difficulties and setbacks, but those are impossible to eliminate completely!). See my Florence blog for more! Upon my reentry in to the United States, I experienced that reverse culture shock which so many speak of and I knew I had to return.
Again, my "wrong" choice in college brought me opportunity and started to prove it might not have actually been a "wrong" choice. That year I used the alumni database to help pursue my dream, to live in Italy. I was given an opportunity that was nearly unreal. At this point in time, over educated Italians could not even find work in Italy, but a fabulous alumni extended his help to me, and me, an American undergraduate student was provided with the most wonderful summer internship experience imaginable in Roma, la città eterna. The people I worked with are people I will never forget, and they helped me grow so much, and the proximity to my grandparents summer home allowed me to grow even closer with them. However, two and a half months was too little for me. I wanted more!
One year left of school I set out to really get to know my Nonna's experience as an Italian immigrant woman. I wrote my senior thesis on the experiences my Nonna and other women like her endured during their early life in Italy and their emigration to Schenectady, NY. Their stories were so powerful, and finally I got to use my language skills to get to know various women who participated in my oral history research for my thesis. During all those interviews my head was always finding it ironic how they had some terrible experiences that pushed them away from Italy, but there were also undertones of longing for a return home to that bella vita (for some, not all), and there I was imagining my return to their country of birth because I just could not imagine my life not spending more time there.
From there, the ideas in my head could not be held back. My goals: learn Italian FLUENTLY and what better way to do that then move to Italy... Jobs? University? Didn't matter what, I just had to go back if I wanted to accomplish that goal. Countless hours of research and speaking with others about what track to follow finally brought me to where I am today. The city of Bologna. I had already spent time in Florence and Rome and wanted I new experience. I knew various people who had studied or lived in Bologna and loved it, it has what is said to be the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088, and was nicknamed la grassa - the fat, so why would I NOT want to live/study there?
So that's my love affair with Italy in a nutshell. This blog details mainly trips that I have taken, largely as a way to keep my family informed of my day to day life while I am thousands of miles away. However, it is impossible to ignore the simple beauties, the frustrating bureaucratic situations, the fabulous food, the coffee culture, the countless cultural discrepancies and more, so this blog also elaborates on all kinds of experiences I have had here, and is a way for me to express my opinions and share them with whoever may care!