Indiana University Overseas Study

Archive for the ‘Festival’ Category

We’re Halfway There!

Rachel Larsen - Copenhagen

I have officially been in Europe for 3 weeks. I’ve finished an entire course, took a few weekend trips around the country, and even stayed in Stockholm, Sweden for a few days. I’ve eaten great food, terrible food, and had some interesting experiences while watching Danes drink in the streets at Distortion, one of the largest music festivals in Europe that spills socialization into the streets during the longest summer days. I’ll be honest in saying this post is as much for me as it is for my readers: whether you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences or not, it has been an excellent way for me to keep my thoughts straight through my adventures. So, This is going to be a small weekly review, from arrival to the start of my second session. (more…)

Summer Vacation 2k16

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One of the best things about moving to the Southern hemisphere during a typically cold Midwest winter is touching down in the exact opposite season, though I definitely miss having to bundle up in order to go outside (not being sarcastic). I feel like I spend too much time starfished upon my bed with the fan on full blast as I sweat away in my air conditioner-less apartment. But I digress.

My first three weeks here in Rio were spent taking an intensive Portuguese course, building upon the foundation that I had constructed over 5 semesters of classes in Bloomington. Actually, I’m not sure if building upon is the right term, considering much of what I learned here immediately made much of the material I had committed to memory obsolete. Between different uses for tenses I had considered niche to being constantly told that a native speaker would never actually use that complicated conjugation I had spent weeks struggling with (which was often reflected in my course grade), the process of learning was more like being given the materials for construction and an idea of what the final product should look like and figuring out how all of the phrases should be cobbled together to obtain something near fluency. I’m still learning new words and structures every day, even though I haven’t had a formal class in almost a month.

That’s right, I’m in the middle of my first (of two, considering I am staying after classes end in June to backpack around South America before returning to Rio for the Olympics) summer vacation of 2016. Things got wild right off the bat, as just as classes ended Carnaval was beginning. Carnaval, for the uninitiated, is a giant, all-encompassing festival that lasts for what seems like an undetermined amount of time and completely takes over life in Brazil. You can walk out of your door towards the sound of music to find a group of a million plus costumed party goers had taken over the streets. The coordination of everyone knowing where to show up consistently surprised me, as I’d see the same people at ‘blocos’ across the city from one day to the next.

During Carnaval, the days blend together and I came out on the other side unsure of exactly what transpired. The adage “long days and short weeks” has never struck such a chord. G rated highlights from my own experience include a couple of nights spent in the sambodrome (the stadium for the massive samba school parades that could take up to 90 minutes apiece) until sunrise, swinging my hips and singing along with the reveling marchers, the opportunity I had to actually march alongside a youth school whose floats I had helped decorate, the Beatles themed bloco with classic Beatles hits infused with samba rhythms and intensity, and the  many times I got swept up in a parade and succumbed to the energy all around.

After this period which can rightfully be described as insanity, I decided I needed a vacation from my vacation, so on I went to Buzios, a fishing village turned beach resort town popularized by a 1960s visit from Brigitte Bardot. I am typing this up right before I hop on another bus to continue taking advantage of this closing window before I have to get back in time for the beginning of the semester and my classes at PUC, my Brazilian university and the official reason I came to Rio.

I’ve always thought that studying abroad is as much about learning about yourself as it is learning about another culture and language. You can become proficient in a language without ever stepping outside your home, but it is stepping outside your comfort zone that allows you to become fluent. Cultural experiences outside of the classroom allow you to get to know the true essence of what it means to be a ‘carioca’ (or whatever locals are called wherever you decide to go), and interactions with these locals are what will connect you back to this period of your life long after you get back to the real world. Anyways, that’s the justification I’m giving myself, off on my next adventure to prove to myself that toucans are in fact real animals and not just some prank animators have been pulling on me my whole life.

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Must-Do’s in Berlin

Erica Ewen

As I really get settled in to my temporary life in Berlin, I’ve experienced a few things that are a must if you are ever to make it here yourself. Most are free or only cost a few euro and are well worth the time and money – you won’t regret it!

The Berliner Dom (or cathedral) is a must see and I highly suggest you purchase the audio tour version, which is just a headset you rent that accompanies you for only 3 euro extra. The architecture and history of the Dom are amazing and it is in the heart of Berlin’s Museum Island, so it doesn’t have to be your only stop!

inside the Dom

Other than the main room of worship, there are multiple other floors you can access along with the crypt in the basement and a 360 degree walkway around the top of the Dom which comes with unbelievable views!

looking over Berlin

Another must-see in Berlin on Sundays is the flea market in Mauer Park. It has a little bit of everything for everybody with street music, food, and knickknacks galore. I sipped on some fresh squeezed orange juice while walking around, looking at the many interesting things different people had to offer. One of my favorite booths had boxes and boxes full of the neatest doorknobs. Odd find, but I’m sure they would give flare to any welcoming door.

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The doorknobs and OJ were just a drop in the bucket of what this flea market had to offer. I went back last week just to watch the people and get more juice!

If you’ve done all these things in one day, odds are you are ready for some food! A Turkish-German staple here in Berlin is the Döner. It comes in many variations depending on where you get it, but always has meat, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an array of sauces, if you so choose. It is comparable to a Greek gyro, but is really in its own category.

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I’ve had several since I’ve been here and I haven’t had a bad one yet. I can already tell I’m going to miss them when I’m back home. A few more weeks to go, but I’m loving it here!

Erica Ewen - exploring German History through experience

Celebrations in Seville

Carla Sraders

For the past four months I’ve been in Seville, everyone constantly talked about two things – Semana Santa (holy week) and la Feria de Abril (April Fair). All semester I had been looking forward to these two traditional Sevillan celebrations and I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

Semana Santa, or holy week, is the entire week before Easter Sunday. Because the city is so packed with people and the streets are impossible to navigate, the university cancels school for the whole week. Restaurants and local businesses may close during the week too. While holy week is technically a religious holiday, most residents in Seville take part in it for more of a traditional sense. Sometimes over three generations of families have been in the same hermandad (brotherhood) so whole families spend the day watching.

During the week, pasos (floats) from each respective church or brotherhood in Seville march from their church towards the main Cathedral. Some groups can walk up to twelve hours in the street holding candles, crosses, and the large floats. Residents spend all day in the streets, watching the pasos that go on from noon to sometimes 7 A.M. The spectacular images/floats/decorations during the week truly showed how beautiful a city Seville is.

Samana Santa

Sevillians carry floats weighing over a metric ton.

 

While I traveled during the first part of the week, I was lucky enough to be in Seville for the second half of Semana Santa. In the U.S., there is such a focus on the actual day of Easter, while here in Spain most of their focus is on holy week before Easter. Because my dorm is in the center of the city, getting around during Semana Santa was nearly impossible. Thousands of residents come out during the week to watch their family and friends during their procession and the streets are difficult to walk through. While I enjoyed watching the pasos (floats) of different processions, by the end of the week I was thankful for the streets to clear out a bit and have the city return to normal.

While Semana Santa is a more religious celebration, la Feria de Abril is much more a festival. Always two weeks after Semana Santa, la Feria is a week-long celebration of flamenco, family, manzanilla, and fun. Again, university classes are cancelled for the week and lots of businesses are closed. Starting on Monday at midnight, there is a ceremonial lighting of the entrance known as alumbrao. Thousands and thousands of tents are laid out among the fairgrounds – all containing tables, food, drinks, and space for dancing. While some tents are public, the majority are private tents owned by businesses, organizations, or families. In addition to the tents, there are tons of typical amusement park attractions – swinging ships, ferris wheels, and tons of other attractions. Women wear typical flamenco dresses and flowers while men wear suits.

Feria attire

Traditional attire for la Feria

Again, like the week of Semana Santa, I took advantage of the time off of school to travel a bit. I returned to Seville during the middle of the week and was able to participate in all activities Feria. While on the first day I went towards la Feria during the day, I quickly realized that it is more alive during nighttime. Most times I went to la Feria my friends and I didn’t leave our apartments until around midnight or 1 A.M. and returned home around 5 or 6 A.M. (and surprisingly there were still thousands of people there).

One of the nights I went to la Feria my friends and I spent almost the majority of the time on amusement park rides. Not having been to an amusement park since high school, we had much more fun than anticipated on the rides. Each time we went we walked around, danced, and somehow persuaded our way into private casetas (tents). Tents are filled with all types of people where you can talk, dance, and drink. During the final Saturday of la Feria, my friends and I went to la Feria again and spent the majority of time together in a large group. Overall, each time I went I met new people, did something different, and finally understood why everyone had been talking for four months about the thrill that is la Feria.

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Exhaustion and Refreshment

Sarah Whaley

Last week was the end of the honeymoon phase of my exchange program in Adelaide. Before last week, my days consisted of shopping, exploring and partying in the city. It felt more like a holiday (vacation) than a study experience. Then, classes began at Uni and I have to admit I felt a bit shell-shocked. I hadn’t done anything related to school since December. I’d had no academic readings to complete, no lectures to attend and no online content to continuously check (except for Facebook, of course).  I felt assaulted by the sudden amount of work and embarrassed by the inadequacy of my preparations and organization.

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Braving a smile for the first day of Uni.

 

Then, after making it reasonably successfully through the first two days of classes, I panicked and left class early on Wednesday. I left class early because the bites I’d woken up with on my legs that morning and the day before could no longer be ignored. My worst nightmare about Australia was unfolding before me: mysterious bites from an unknown creature that appeared red, angry and swollen. One bite had a red tail trailing off to one side. I made essentially the worst decision I could have made and Googled the bites during class. Top results were 1) poisonous spiders and 2) infection. I immediately excused myself from the room and went in search of the nearest doctor.

insect bites on leg

Convinced death from bites is imminent.

University of Adelaide is a smaller university than IU, so you’d think they would have walk-in doctors appointments, but that turned out not to be the case. The lady behind the counter wouldn’t even look at my bites, and her advice was to call the next day a 9 a.m. to see if there had been any appointment cancellations. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to see me until Monday. Next I tried the Dean at my residence, St Mark’s College. Her advice was to see one of the sixth year medical students at the college, but he was nowhere to be found. So I asked my friend Daniel to walk with me up the street into North Adelaide to find a chemist (pharmacist).

The chemist was kind, but when she came around from behind the counter to look at my bites, all of her professionalism disappeared. She gasped and put a hand to her mouth, then brought it down to say, “I think you need to see a doctor.” Exhausted from my earlier attempts at finding a doctor, I fought the urge to cry as I asked where walk-in appointments might be available. She gave me the addresses of two places, both outside of walking distance from St Mark’s. When I left the shop, I finally burst into the sobs I’d been holding back. I had no car and felt intimidated by the public transportation. I wanted to give up and, more than anything, to call my parents. I couldn’t do the latter and Daniel wouldn’t let me do the former, so he found someone from the college to drive us to Prospect Medical Centre.

My walk-in consultation was free, but the downside was Daniel and I had to sit waiting for hours. When they called me back after the first hour, I was excited. Finally. But all that happened was a lady who didn’t appear to be a doctor took a look at my bites, confirmed how terrible they looked and told me she’d put me on the waiting list for a walk-in appointment. I sat waiting for another hour and a half before seeing an actual doctor who told me the bites were likely from a mozzie (mosquito) and I was just having an exceptionally bad reaction to them. He prescribed me $45 worth of antibiotics, antihistamines and steroid cream.

Sarah and friend Daniel smiling

Daniel and I excited to be waiting for hours.

The next few days were hazy, both from the medication and a sudden onset of homesickness. I grew impatient with my friends in Adelaide and started intensely missing friends back home who had known me for longer than three weeks. I was easily irritable and moody and left two parties without saying goodbyes. One night I sat outside alone for more than two hours watching a light show on the theater that was part of the Adelaide Festival. When I looked up to see the stars and the moon glowing brightly in the sky, I was suddenly struck by the fact no one in Indiana could share the view with me because it was daytime there. I felt immediately far away and incredibly alone.

patterned light splashing on rooftop

Light show on the Adelaide Festival Centre.

Saturday night after leaving the second party of the weekend, I messaged my friend Ameen to tell him what a terrible time I was having. He suggested I make a trip out into the Adelaide suburbs to see him and his roommate, Ahmed. It was quieter there, he said, and I would enjoy the bus ride on the O-Bahn, a special track for buses leading from Adelaide to Tea Tree Gully. I hesitated once again out of fear of public transportation, but decided I needed to grow up and take a risk. After all, my own attempts at lifting my mood had been rather fruitless.

Sunday evening I hopped on a bus and took the O-Bahn out to see Ameen and Ahmed. It was a wonderful one-night break from the city. We took it easy, watching Australian comedians on YouTube and shows on TV. Then in the morning I woke up to the sound of birds and even the sound of a short rain. The rain cleared and we took a walk through the suburbs to grab some lunch. My spirits rose from the darkest of places to soaring heights. The beauty of the suburbs was consuming, with the hills so close by and the houses and fences a patchwork of reds, yellows and oranges. As Ameen cleaned the kitchen and I waited to catch a bus back into the city, I breathed in the fresh air coming from the open window and felt the most relaxed I’d been since my arrival in Australia. The suburbs of Adelaide felt like home.

The beautiful suburbs outside of Adelaide felt like home.

The beautiful suburbs outside of Adelaide felt like home.

I carried my refreshed mind and heart back into the city and everything felt lighter. The weather was perfect and I wandered slowly through Rundle Mall and across the River Torrens back to St Mark’s. I finished the last of my medication after dinner and saw that the marks from my bites were disappearing. I went and saw my second show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival that night and took a new path home to see all the lights and special art displays of Blinc (part of the Adelaide Festival) along the river.

a Blinc installation on the River Torrens

One of the Blinc installations on the River Torrens.

Though the second week of classes has now begun and I’m already playing catch-up on readings, I’m no longer feeling homesick and I feel more equipped for what’s yet to come this semester. Now I know the next time I feel like giving up I just have to keep going. And even though I’ve only known my friends here for three weeks, I can trust they’ll always be there to lift me up when I’m feeling down.

Sarah with friend Ameen

Ameen and I relaxing on the Barr Smith Lawns at Uni.

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My Aussie Addiction

Sarah Whaley

I am in love with Australia: the people, the weather, the places and everything in between. Though only a week has passed since my arrival, I already see myself returning. And every time someone mentions I only have 5 months left, I cringe. While I love my friends and family back home, I have yet to feel homesick once. It’s a bit overwhelming trying to satisfyingly summarize this past week of sunny days, but I will do my best by breaking it down to the simplest reasons Australia has taken my heart captive (insert “country colonized by convicts” joke here).

Reason #1: The People

I was told before boarding my first plane I was headed to the land of some of the kindest people in the world. While the thought was comforting, it wasn’t reality until my second plane hit the pavement in Melbourne. While waiting for my connecting flight to Adelaide, I met some native Adelaidians who eagerly shared everything I should do and see in the city. Then on the flight I sat next to an older couple who adopted me for a couple of hours and helped me into the airport, where I was greeted by two peers from St Mark’s College, the residential college I am staying at throughout my exchange program. A fro co (frozen Coke) from Macca’s (McDonald’s) and a night of games later, I had made my first friends. No need to have been so worried.

Even those I would not necessarily consider friends, such as the lady who set me up with a Westpac bank account, are unforgivably friendly. (“Unforgivably” because it’s nearly impossible to return their favors.) They say the Midwest is one of the friendliest parts of America, but we have nothing on the Aussies. They don’t just point you to where you need to go when you ask for directions, they walk you there. Now I think about it, I have yet to see an Aussie mad (except in jest). And that’s another thing. They all have a brilliant sense of humor and a resilience you wouldn’t expect in a county supposedly always trying to kill you with wildlife and riptides.

Not only are the locals amazing and full of stories, but being an international student has thrown me into a mix of people from all corners of the world. My tightest group of friends here met during international orientation week by a series of introductions to friends of friends. Now I’m regularly hanging out with friends from Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Chile, France, Lebanon and Egypt. Perhaps our similar situation of being students in a new country drove us together so quickly, but I already wouldn’t trade a single one of them for the world. Plans are already being made for traveling together and making home visits once the semester is over.

my international friends

Some international friends and I.

Reason #2: The Weather

If the people weren’t enough to get me out of bed with a smile every morning, the weather would be my motivation. Though a couple of days have been incredibly hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), I am loath to complain. Especially since my friends and family back home have been sending me shots of snow. I do not miss it and if I had a choice I would never return to it. My body was built for warmth and my mood was designed for sunshine. Here, I have plenty of both. They weren’t kidding when they said Adelaide is the driest Australian city either. The other day it rained for about five seconds. Though I’ve been told Adelaide can get cool in the winter, I am certain I will be the American out and about in short sleeves. I am also certain the Aussies will still be wearing thongs (flip-flops).

Adelaide from the air

Adelaide from the air.

Reason #3: The Places

This section is better told in pictures than in words:

My first impression of my new home was my room at St Mark’s. A queen size bed, two-story tall ceilings and a fireplace were waiting for me. The rest of the residential campus is beautiful too: the lawns are large, the buildings are old and architecturally interesting and the flora are labeled in case you’re interested in knowing their names.

my spacious living quarters

My spacious living quarters.

I didn’t get to see the city until the first day, but as cliché as it sounds the first glimpse took my breath away. Though the city of Adelaide is large and reasonably busy, the streets and parks are also large which helps the whole place breathe. The public transportation is easy, and from my location nearly everything is within walking distance. The walks are not dull either, but colored by the River Torrens, the numerous sculptures that hint at the artistic bent of the city and the birds (only found in zoos at home).

first glimpse of the city

First glimpse of the city.

If the city was breathtaking it was nothing compared to the campus of Uni (University of Adelaide). IU is comparably beautiful, but not quite as full of waterfalls and bridges covered in locks left by hopeful lovers. It is unreal thinking I will be taking classes there and eating lunch on the lawns in a week.

enjoying green space

Enjoying the campus green spaces.

One of the seasonal highlights here is the Adelaide Fringe and the accompanying Garden of Unearthly Delights. The festival celebrates non-traditional arts, and the Garden is full of food and drink vendors and shows. I even braved one of the pop-up fair rides with a little bit of cider courage, then spent the rest of the night laughing with my international friends as we took up three benches under the light-strung trees.

Garden of Unearthly Delights

The Garden of Unearthly Delights.

Before I left for Australia, I swore I wasn’t going to touch the water. Instead I ate my words the third day and dove into the Gulf St Vincent off of Glenelg Beach. The salt stung my eyes only at first and the water was pleasant, but everyone kept looking out for sharks. Adelaide is fairly safe from shark-traffic compared to Sydney or Melbourne, but even a dolphin fin would have had us out of the water in seconds.

Glenelg Beach at sunset

Glenelg Beach at sunset.

During a break in the international orientation schedule, a few friends and I grabbed our cameras and headed to the Botanic Gardens of South Australia. A better decision has never been made. But you’ll have to see for yourself.

Flower at botanical gardens.

A small taste of the beauty.

This is my walk to and from Uni every day. Enough said.

River Torrens

Walk along the River Torrens.

Reason #4: Everything in Between

By now I hope it’s understood why I never want to leave. But just in case someone is in need of a few more reasons: Tim Tams, Chupa Chups lollipops, the barby (barbecue), field trips to Victor Harbor, the sincerity of “no worries, mate” and this photo.

Me with a kangaroo

Kangaroo selfie.

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Fragments

Erik Trautman

Having returned home for the holidays I’ve been bombarded with the same question from family and friends, “How’s Italy?”. “I need a more specific question,” is my typical answer. Trying to synthesize a semester’s worth of experience aboard in a few sentences is like trying to throw a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle together in an afternoon, it takes time to understand the full picture. I’ve told them about some of the bigger events that have been covered in my previous blogs, but that doesn’t fully answer the question. Small clusters of experiences and insights in Italy remain disjointed but still speak volumes about the larger picture, that is my overall experience. In the name of these overlooked fragments I bring to you a mosh-posh of events that have escaped my previous blogs over the past few months.

Failed Attempt at San Luca

The “seven secrets of Bologna” are scattered throughout the city. You may pass them everyday and not know, I passed under one for weeks and didn’t notice it. I’ve discovered five of the seven, rather four and a half. Saint Luca sits on top of a hill on the periphery of the city. A week after arriving in Bologna a couple of BCSP students and I decided to climb the longest portico in the world to reach the pristine sanctuary. Bologna is famous for its covered walkways or porticos. Some date back to medieval ages when noble families tried to extend their properties by building not on public space, but above it. Now they are great because there’s always a place to hide from the rain, which is a frequent requirement here.

We left for Saint Luca a bit after seven o’clock with the intention of arriving just before sunset, which we would enjoy from the top. There are 666 porticos you must pass through to reach Saint Luca. I believe we reached portico 657, not because the hill on outskirts of the city becomes a mountain where you climb it one step at a time, but because we were met by a locked gate. Little to our knowledge, Saint Luca closes at 7:30; we had arrived about 20 minutes too late. That didn’t deter us, however, and we enjoyed the sunset from a nearby parking lot. This mishap gave us the unique perspective of San Luca from across the sanctuary grounds as the walls absorbed the last rays of sun light against a pink blush sky. I promised myself there to make the most out of everyday. I still haven’t entered the sanctuary, hence the four and a half secrets discovered but the sun sets earlier nowadays and I only have two other secrets to check off my list.

San Luca

San Luca from across the sanctuary grounds

sunset

Sunset from the parking lot

down the portico

Looking down the portico from the top

Stephanie’s first bus ride

If you ever visit Bologna you may spend a few hours turned about in the labyrinth of alleys that seemed to wind you around in circles. I suggest studying a map beforehand just to know some of the main areas. The downtown area seemed expansive upon arrival, but really to traverse it from one side to the other may take forty minutes on foot. After some time you should begin to get your bearings – that is, until you explore beyond the “walls” where an entire other city awaits you.

I say “walls” because the ancient wall is for the most part is­­ non-existent and has been replaced by an always-churning beltway of cars and buses, which rotates around the city like a carousel. The historic downtown, however, is still commonly referred to as the area within the walls. The gates of the ancient wall, on the other hand, still stand and are common bus stops.

If you plan on leaving the city center frequently you will most likely spend some time on the bus. Pay attention on the bus; it’s somewhat of a social experiment. You can see the man in an Armani suit standing next to an empty seat, checking his watch incessantly. Two rows behind him, a woman of Middle Eastern descent struggles to control her two wandering toddlers. At the front of the bus, a group of Italian teens gossip loudly while at the back, two raggedy looking men bob around in their seats, asleep. There’s plenty to learn observing the passengers but don’t get distracted because the bus itself can throw you for a turn. The same line has different stops on weekends and holidays and you can find yourself in unfamiliar neighborhoods with no knowledge of how you got there. That’s what happened to Stephanie the first time she took a bus. She eventually ended up at the bus station, far away from the city center. Naturally, she was frightened as she followed the bus driver into the station in the middle of the night, but what started like the plot to a bad horror film ended in the most encouraging way possible; the bus driver personally drove Stephanie home in his own car.

UN Dinners

My near and dear friend from the BCSP program, Katelyn, lives with four boys, bless her heart, and one other girl. Their apartment is somewhat a madhouse of guests due to them being a welcoming bunch and having an expansive kitchen that overlooks the scenic canal. Some of my best memories are of late nights at Katelyn’s surrounded by friends. One night, Katelyn’s roommate, Theo, invited eleven people to a potluck dinner. We collectively represented eight nations, and the food at the dinner was just as diverse. Theo made Indian food, Caroline made stir-fry broccoli, and Conor made a roast loin. I never expected to meet such a diversity of people in Italy.

dinner with friends from around the world

The man with the ladle on the left is Theo (French/English), to his right is Philip (German), Julian (German), Tommaso (Italian), Caroline (Canadian), Me, Gabriel (American) and the three people not shown are Nathan and Oscar (Belgium), Conor (Irish), and Katelyn.

Oktoberfest Bologna

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany lasts from September 19th – October 4th. I was disappointed to hear I had missed it from returning BCSP participants who had made the trip. Luckily, Bologna holds its own version of the celebration and this time I was prepared – well, for the most part. We had a little difficulty reaching the fair grounds outside of town but my roommates Loris and Andrea came to meet Stephanie, Katelyn, and myself at the bus stop. The smell of wurstel and pretzels called from behind the flap of a giant tent. As we approached, I heard the hum of an accordion, chanting, and the stomping of feet. Behind the tent flap was a strange scene of Italians celebrating German culture, but I was glad to share and take part in the slightly altered celebration.

Stage at Bologna's Oktoberfest

View of the stage

my friends and I at the fest

The whole gang

Holidays

My roommates and I decided early on that we would do Halloween costumes as a group. We juggled between zombies and the Scooby Doo gang, but eventually landed on the Addam’s Family. The results are uncanny. Loris went as cousin It and spent most of the night bumping into things due to his partial blindness on account of the hair and sunglasses. Andrea and I watched the Addam’s Family movie to get into character, and Francesca did all our makeup.

our Halloween costumes

left to right, top to bottom: Andrea as uncle Fester, Arianna as Morticia, me as Gomez, Francesca as Wednesday, and Loris as cousin Itt

Months had passed since our last gathering as a whole program. After pre-session ends everyone splits off on their own path. It was strange spending so much time with a group of people, getting to know them through shared hardships and then having many of them disappear. I kept in touch with a few and had some BCSP students in my classes but many of them I felt had dropped off the face of the earth. Perhaps it was that separation that made Thanksgiving feel so nostalgic. We all dressed our best for our last hurrah together at an exquisite restaurant off Strada Maggiore, and who knew italians would have such an outstanding grasp on Thanksgiving cuisine. There were rolls, green beans, turkey, cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin soup is still talked about to this day. It was my first Thanksgiving away from home but I still had so much to be thankful for.

dressed up for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving night

Concrete Jungle

One aspect of the Bloomington campus that I have really come to miss and appreciate is its integration with nature. The smell of trees and the sound of birds in the morning are rare commodities here in Bologna. I noticed this the day after Thanksgiving when I was walking back from Katelyn’s apartment in the morning. I turned the corner and heard birds chirping. You may not give this a second thought but it stopped me in my tracks. I looked around at the pigeons confused for a moment by what had snatched my attention. I looked up to see a birdcage hanging out of a second story window. For the last few months the only birds I was surrounded by were pigeons and I had not noticed the absence of birds chirping until that moment.

Groves of nature have found a way, however, to tuck themselves into the crevices of the medieval city. In a small park behind the an art faculty building off Via San Petronio Vecchio, a tiled ping-pong table sits atop a dirt patch in the shade. The net is a thin metal sheet and makes a derisive ding for every foul. Two curved wooden beams make up benches that border the table. The beam on the outside is raised, stadium style, and they have about enough space for three people but are occupied by various bags. Many epic matches have transpired there, including one Facebook official tournament, which seriously humbled my confidence at ping-pong.

Playing ping pong in the park

ping pong in the park

A kilometer or so outside Porta San Mamolo the hills of Villa Ghigi peer out over the south central city center. We went together as a program and picnicked at the peak and played games; although the Frisbee I brought wasn’t adept to the hilly terrain. It was our first trip as a program that was purely recreational and therefore it was truly appreciated. After the picnic I learned an Italian card game called scopa from a couple other students. It’s played with special cards that I hope will make a good stocking stuffer this holiday.

hills of Villa Ghigi

The hills of Villa Ghigi

Our group

Our group from a tree

As the semester comes to a close many students begin to reminisce on their time here. I’ve heard from quite a few that their favorite memory was the program trip to the Agriturismo. The muddy gravel road that snaked up the hill to the farm had me feeling shaky in the charter bus that honked at every bend to warn the traffic ahead. Once my feet touched the sacred ground, however, I never wanted to leave.

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I write these stories to you from the heavenly Fram Café, which sits at the foot of my block off Via Della Braina and Via Rialto. I’ve become somewhat of a regular here. My favorite barista greets me with a friendly, “Ciao” when I pass her on the street and this morning there was no need to order because she already knew it would be a cafè macchiato. It’s my last day in Italy before I returned to the United States for Christmas and nearly a month break before I return in January, the new year. I hope to keep the promise I made myself on the hill surrounding Saint Luca, to make the best of my time here, and to take the optimism I feel into the next six months in Italy. The Italian word for the day is “ricordi” or memories.

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