Italy 2015 — Fern Whitelaw

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I spent the month of July travelling round four cities in Italy which were Rome, Siena, Florence and Milan.  My principle reason for this venture was to learn Italian, attending a language school 5 days a week.  In searching for suitable schools I came across what seemed an almost “too good to be true” opportunity.  Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci, a chain of language schools, offered an “Italian Tour” course which allowed me to travel between cities, attending one of their schools in each, beginning at one school where I had left at the last.  I was determined not just to learn “textbook Italian” but to learn idiomatic, colloquial Italian.  I wanted to take full advantage of actually being in Italy, and learning not only about the language, but also the culture.  From Renaissance splendour in Florence, to fashion central in Milan I aimed to experience as many different aspects of Italian culture as possible.  As a student entering my 4th Year of a Classics degree, the chance to spend time in Rome was of course almost a dream come true!

Before leaving I was worried about travelling alone for the first time; the thought of busy train stations and airports seeming somewhat more daunting than when others are with you, a definite ‘small fish in a big pond’ kind of situation!  I was also slightly concerned about my accommodation, considering that for 2 of the weeks away I would be staying with a host family and expected to be speaking in Italian all the time; a big ask for someone who had only been studying Italian for a week! While I was aware that there would be a lot of English spoken in Rome, I was far more aware of the fact that in Siena there were far fewer English speakers, and that I was going to have to be willing to put myself in situations whereby it may take more than one attempt to convey what it was I was trying to say.  Indeed, in the end I did occasionally have to resort to use of some acting skills!

Of course my Italian progressed rapidly over the four weeks.  However, beyond this I learned a lot not only about culture (although I do have far more churches and museums under my belt now!) but also about people and interaction.  Due to the kindness and patience that people showed me, with no hope of anything being given to them in return, I am now aware of just how nice people can really be.  People were willing to sit through my stunted attempts at Italian and were always ready to give help in difficult situations.  Despite being constantly bombarded by media telling us of the abhorrent actions of horrific people, it was more than just refreshing to experience first hand the goodness that so many people do in fact have to offer.

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