Gabriel is a Global Studies and Italian Major. In May, Gabriel took Intermediate Italian (2202) at Rondine-Citadel of Peace (Tuscany), Nobel Prize for Peace 2015 nominee. Together with Rondine students coming from countries in conflict, Gabriel also participated in activities on mediation and peace building. He was joined by students of ITA 1045 and ITA 3040. Listen to what he had to say about his experience @ https://www.facebook.com/westernuitalian/videos/679489665588546/
Join us for a day of exploration, fun and learning at the Italian Cultural Awareness Day with bilingual poster presentations realized by all Beginning Italian students! Come and enjoy unmasking stereotypes, and the vastness and appeal of Italian Culture!
Thursday, March 23rd, 9:30 am – 3:00 pm, UCC Main Atrium, Western Main Campus.
I went to Siena in May 2016 to study Italian for a month at the Università degli Stranieri di Siena. When I arrived in Siena I was enchanted by the old architecture and the colourful flags hanging from the windows, the pleasant bustle of activity, the arched doorways and the colour-coordinated shutters lining the façades of the street walls. I will forever cherish the memory of eating a gelato while strolling down the main street on my first night in Siena.
I went to school from Monday to Friday. My classes went from 9:30 to 1:30, and consisted of two lessons, one on Italian grammar the other on Italian conversation, and were taught by two different professors. Our conversation professor assigned us articles on various topics, which we then read together and ensued to underline the words or expressions that we didn’t understand. When talking about current issues, he asked each person how the situation was dealt with in their own country. The students in my class were from Japan, South Korea, China, Morocco, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Catalonia, Argentina, Nicaragua, and Brazil. I was happy to be the only one whose mother tongue was English, so that I would be forced to express myself in Italian. I was impressed by how well everyone in my class spoke Italian. In spite of this, things often got lost in translation during our discussions, resulting in hilarious and absurd misunderstandings. One of my favourite memories of the university was the Notte di Poesia, in which students read poetry from their country in their respective language, and then read the Italian translation. Over thirty countries were represented in the auditorium that night.
One of my favourite things to do in Siena was simply to walk around with my map and my camera, looking and feeling like a tourist. I strove to identify all the different contrade, the respective neighbourhoods to which all native Sienese belong and with which they feel a strong identification. As you might have heard, on the first of July, there is a horse race around the Piazza del Campo, in which each contrada is represented by a horse and rider. The winning contrada has license to celebrate extravagantly in the streets in the following weeks. As I was in Siena in May, the contrade were preparing for the race by decking the streets with their colours, parading around the city, twirling their flags and beating their drums. On one of my walks, I happened upon a group of kids in a park who were solemnly performing a drumroll while others waved flags around. The pride of the city is the Piazza del Campo, the huge open area surrounding an imposing castle, the old city hall. Today, the city hall has been turned into a museum and a lookout. The Piazza del Campo is a lure for tourists, although it is so vast that tourists, students and locals can comfortably share the space.
While I was studying in Siena, I spent my weekends traveling to different cities. I visited a few nearby towns, such as Lucca, Pisa, and Montepulciano, but also ventured out to Bologna, Rome and Naples. Each place was different from the last, and offered its own charms, although I found similarities in the architecture of Tuscan towns. Sometimes I traveled alone, and sometimes I went with others. There are still many places that I haven’t seen. For example, I have heard ravings about San Giminiano and Lecce, and I still want to see Verona, Trieste and Sicily. Even in Siena there are many places that I have yet to visit. I have heard that La Vecchia Latteria serves the best gelato in Siena, but I have yet to taste it for myself.
Learning Italian in Siena is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I found a great balance between the stability of going to school, and after class, the adventure of exploring new places. If you are going to study in Siena in the future, you will probably find your experience completely unique, as there are so many different things to do over there. Regardless, I can guarantee that you will not be able to resist the charm of this medieval city, and there will always be interesting people to meet.
This past summer I decided to take my fourth year Italian credits in Siena, Italy. I arrived in Italy on June 28th, and returned to Canada on August 31st. All in all, I spent roughly 2 months in Italy, deciding to backpack around the peninsula after my course finished at the end of July. Upon arriving in Rome, getting to Siena was easier than I expected. There are trains and buses, both of which I took many throughout my trip, and I really couldn’t say which I preferred more – it simply depends on the amount of money you want to spend, and the amount of time you have available. A friend of mine was able to give me the contact information of a landlord in Siena and so finding accommodations was rather painless, and the flat I stayed in was really awesome. I had a roommate from Japan that only knew Japanese and Italian, which forced us to have conversations in Italian (which for me was the whole idea behind going to Italy). I had a balcony off of my bedroom that overlooked a church courtyard, which was as picturesque as it sounds.
The most fun I had in Siena was definitely watching the historical Palio horse race. Held twice a year for over 5 centuries, it is the single most fascinating thing I have ever seen during my trips abroad to Italy. I arrived in Siena 4 days prior to the race and so the town was buzzing with pre-Palio festivities. Each neighbourhood (contrada) provides a horse for the race, and the members of the neighbourhood (contradioli) don various coloured scarves to represent their neighbourhoods. I just happened to be living in the winning neighbourhood, the She-Wolf zone (La Contrada della Lupa), and they had not won a Palio in nearly 30 years. When their horse, Preziosa Penelope, won the race there were street parties, rallies, festivals, concerts, and parades nightly for an entire month straight. That is not an exaggeration – an entire month straight. I didn’t sleep a wink for quite some time, but after a certain point I learned to just go outside, enjoy myself, and bask in their victory like it was my own. If you’re ever planning to go to Siena, be sure to go when the Palio is on.
Another amazing thing about staying in Siena is its proximity to a bunch of other awesome cities and towns. On the weekends my friends and I would take off on buses or trains and go to Rome, Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, etc. and so despite the fact that Siena itself is a beautiful medieval walled-city on a hill, there is also a wealth of beauty that lies just beyond and
is fairly accessible. As I said, I finished my course and then began a month long backpacking trip. If you were so inclined to be a bit more adventurous and spontaneous as I was, you would find quickly that there are fairly-priced hostels and budget accommodations all across the country in places from Milan to Palermo. Depending on the amount of time you have in the country, it is definitely something worth looking into.
Regarding the course at the University for Foreigners in Siena, I enjoyed it thoroughly. The professors were world-class, and were extremely helpful. It was such a privilege to be learning the Italian language, as well as culture, in an Italian classroom setting. The course was quite easy seeing as I already had a great deal of practice with Italian grammar from prior courses I had taken at Western. There is a written and oral entrance exam, by which the professors are able to place you in a class that is suited to your individual level. Otherwise, the classes are very informal and conversational. I cannot say enough good about my experience as a student in Siena. As well, because it is a school for foreigners, I met many different people from all around
the world, including England, Scotland, Turkey, Portugal, Iran, Japan, China, Russia, Poland, Spain, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, etc. many of whom I still regularly speak to. The friendships you make when travelling abroad are some of the best friendships you can possibly make.
Overall, I had the experience of a lifetime during my study abroad in Siena and I miss it every single day that goes by. I don’t know what it is exactly, but Italy has a certain way of doing that to you.
È quasi impossibile pensare ora che solo l’anno scorso, ho passato un mese completo in Italia. Pazzo, vero? Infatti 3 anni fa, non avrei mai immaginato di essere capace di studiare in un paese così interessante. Volevo studiare le lingue e le culture straniere come l’italiano solamente perché pensavo di non avere il talento per fare nient’altro; ma non avevo nei piani di viaggiare in Italia così presto nella mia vita.
Tramite il programma di ‘Studiare all’ estero’ qui a Western, ho avuto l’opportunità di andare a Siena, in Toscana, per un mese durante l’estate del 2016. Alla partenza dal Canada, avevo una gamma di sentimenti compreso la speranza di migliorarmi, nel senso di parlare ed anche personalmente come un adulto indipendente. Comunque, sono andata lì anche con l’aspettativa di piangere dopo di due giorni a causa dei dubbi con la mia capacità di comunicare con i nativi.
Fortunatamente, è successo che ci ho guadagnato molto di più di quello che posso spiegare in un blog. All’arrivo, la prima persona che ho conosciuto, è stata una ragazza scozzese che sarebbe diventata la mia migliore amica per il soggiorno e dopo. Ho scelto di soggiornare nella residenza per gli stranieri, ma per uno “sbaglio felice”, mi hanno messa nella residenza per gli studenti italiani dove ho abitato insieme a due altre ragazze, una siciliana e una di Grosseto, Toscana. Immediatamente, ho avuto paura di non sapare come adattarmi all’ ambiente. Subito, mi sono resa conto di che quello era una situazione ideale per migliorare velocemente.
Il giorno in cui tutto il mondo ha dovuto fare il testdi ingresso, ho trovato un esame più preoccupante, cioè, cosa si fa in un paese nuovo quando ci si perde e non c’e nessuno a cuichiedere le direzioni nella propria lingua materna? Per me la risposta era ‘si impazzisce’, piangere un pochino e poi trovare qualcuno che avrebbe capito l’italiano stentato, basta. Ho superato il primo test. Credevo che il resto del mese non sarebbe stato difficilissimo come quel giorno, e certo avevo ragione.
Per i corsi, mi sono iscritta nel livello di B2, in cui per casualità, ho conosciuto alte due ragazze che studiavano l’italiano a Western: una bella sorpresa quella di sapere che non sarei stata da sola. Le lezioni duravano solo mezza giornata, metà grammatica e metà conversazione. Anche se entrambi i tipi di lezioni erano fantastici, veramente mi piaceva quelle di conversazione insegnata da Prof.ssa Sgaglione. L’ho preferita perché lei aveva l’abilità di rincuorare tutti di parlare, anche se era delle loro proprie culture invece che della cultura italiana.
In termini delle persone con cui ho passato la maggioranza del tempo libero, le più memorabili erano Lucy (la bella bionda con un riso e una personalità ad illuminare ognuno che l’ha conosciuto); Irene (una coinquilina chiamato Bimba a causa del suo modo spensierato); Martina (la mamma e l’altra coinquilina che era davvero stupenda prendendosi cura di me e insegnandomi italiano e della vita). C’era Salvo (l’italiano con un sorriso che rompe i cuori. Lui era davvero entusiasta ad imparare l’inglese perciò sono diventata una professoressa improvvisata per lui e Martina). E finalmente, Fabio il gentile portoghese.
Certo che mentre stavo lì, ho approfittato dell’opportunità di visitare altre città, cioè Firenze, Roma e anche un piccolo villaggio sul mare che si chiama Castiglione della Pescaia. Insieme agli amici, abbiamo passato un weekend diverso in ciascuna di queste zone. Come mi aspettavo, le città erano piene di strutture ed arte realmente bellissime e magnifiche, che non posso raccontare con le parole. Senza dubbio, quelle zone meritano di essere viste dalla prospettiva indipendente di tutto il mondo. Comunque, la città che ho preferito di più era Siena. Per me, una piccola città come Siena ha un fascino che manca quasi a tutti perché è qualcosa che né si può fotografare con la macchina fotografica, né si può vedere sul proprio instagram. Nonostante tutto, tutte le volte che si camminava per la stessa strada, sembrava come se si trovasse sempre qualcosa di nuovo, forse un altro viottolo, o anche una immagine di Mona Lisa fatta di gesso da un artista locale. Infatti, mi piaceva molto Siena perche è veramente simile ad una altra città speciale nel mio cuore con il paessagio immenso e le strade di ciottoli.
Essendo tornata alla vita normale qui in Canada, non posso fare altro che pensare dei momenti passati lì e contare i giorni fino al mio ritorno in Italia.