by Kristi Rolf
Last month I wrote about my preparations for my semester abroad in Perugia, Italy. Now I’m finally at the Umbra Institute and ready to update Brackety-Ack readers on how this Maroon is spending her semester!
Despite my limited travel experience, I managed to navigate through three airports and made it to Perugia on February 4th. On Saturday I moved into my apartment in the centro storico (historic center). Opening the shutters of my apartment windows to reveal the view of the bustling street below was surreal. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been transported into a movie.
On Sunday we participated in a quintessentially Italian orientation activity: a trip to the Umbrian countryside for an agriturismo lunch (a similar concept to farm-to-table dining in the U.S.). After four hours and four courses, I can safely say it was the best and longest meal of my entire life.
The following weeks have been a whirlwind of exploring Perugia, learning the rhythms of Italian life, and adjusting to classes. Amidst all the excitement of living in another country, it’s easy to forget that I’m here to study. Luckily, the Umbra Institute only holds classes four days a week to give students time to travel and make the most of our three months in Italy.
I am in love with the availability of public transportation here, something that’s rare in suburban America where I grew up. So far, my favorite way to travel is a uniquely Perugian system called the Minimetrò. These tiny train cars carry passengers up and down a rail line that extends from the historic center of Perugia to the modern outskirts of the city. The Minimetrò is the best way to get to soccer games, the outdoor market on Saturdays, and the large supermarket at the final stop.
There are many moments where I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. Every single day I see something, a building, a view, or maybe a tiny shop that stops me in my tracks because it’s so beautiful or fascinating. But I’ve had plenty of unglamorous moments, too. Homesickness was in full effect during the first two weeks, making me miss my friends and routines at Roanoke College in particular. On top of that, my clumsy attempts at communicating in a foreign language are always humbling.
I’m still learning what I can and can’t find in the grocery stores, haven’t yet memorized what recycling goes in which bin, and am making slow progress in using the Italian language in public. Nine more weeks in Italy means countless more challenges like these but I’m getting more comfortable with being uncomfortable and am excited for many more memories and gorgeous views.