Arrival Home: From Macerata, Italy to Hood River, Oregon

It is very strange being in America. I have had a culture shock upon returning home and this is very odd to me. One of the things I was looking forwards to most was being able to watch a movie or TV show and being able to understand what they were saying. On one of the flights home they played the new Iron Man movie. It is funny because while in Italy I watched some of the TV there and I was always like “These shows are ridiculous. They are sooo dramatic.” And yet I couldn’t even watch the Iron Man movie because it was so bad, which is surprising because I love superhero movies. I found it to be really dramatic and the fact that they were blowing things up every second was stupid. Not to mention the guy in the movie was so sarcastic and arrogant in comparison to the passionate Italian men who are in tune with their feelings, that I was used to.

People are friendly here as well but they don’t seem as sincerely concerned or interested in you as a human being as Italians are. Italians are very trusting and don’t doubt anyone’s sincerity.

I miss not really having access to the things that we consider necessities in the states: clothes dryers, air conditioning, and television/internet. I grew accustomed to not having these and without them you find better ways of living your life and entertaining yourself. I would not have bonded with my roommates, or been as willing to venture out into the town had we had more access to these things. Americans are very spoiled.

Travel here isn’t as enjoyable. In Italy to get anywhere you travel by foot. If you are wanting to visit a different town in Italy you hop on a train and it is very easy and convenient. To get anywhere in the states you have to drive a car. I am living with my parents for the remainder of the summer and we live in the woods and a 20 minute drive from town. It is so challenging adjusting to everything and no one here truly understands what I went through. I really miss Italy, but I am sure I will adjust here in time.

And there are things here that I did truly miss while in Italy: free water, my family and boyfriend, being able to easily communicate with someone and having them understand you instantly, steak and other american food (although I am missing Italian food now…), and many other things that this proud country has to offer.

My flight from San Francisco to Portland (home)

My flight from San Francisco to Portland (home)

Gift from Shane upon arriving home :)

Gift from Shane upon arriving home :)

My sister (Traci) got a puppy!!!

My sister (Traci) got a puppy!!!

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to study abroad in such an amazing country with such amazing people. And to return to such an amazing country with such amazing people. Life is good :)

-Jolene Johnson

Preparing to Return Home: Macerata, Italy

I really wish the program was longer because I am just now used to Italian customs, starting to understand the language, and am really enjoying myself here. But there are things about the states that I really do miss. I would say I have mixed feelings about going home. I am at a point where Italy is my home as well. I have friends and a family here that I am going to miss dearly.

Italy is and isn’t what I visualized at the same time. The atmosphere is even more relaxed than I anticipated. Filiberto says that Italians run on “Italian time.” Basically meaning they are usually late because they show up somewhere when they feel like it.

The country is just as gorgeous as I anticipated and it is surprising to me how much of Italy reminds me of my home back in Hood River. One thing I stated in my pre-departure post that wasn’t true was the use of English. The language barrier was a lot bigger than I was expecting it to be, and I wish I had memorized at least a few phrases in Italian before departing.

I did manage to sing in one of the cathedrals we went in and was able to attend an opera which were things that I was really looking forwards to doing while here. Filiberto said that there was a music program going on here shortly after the art one that I just took, and it would have been amazing had I been able to do that as well.

I will miss these ladies. From top left to right: Kris, Sarah. Bottom left to right: Me, Marisa.

I will miss these ladies. From top left to right: Kris, Sarah. Bottom left to right: Me, Marisa.

But I do miss my boyfriend Shane

But I do miss my boyfriend Shane

And I really do miss my sisters. Left to right: Me, Traci, Sierra

And I really do miss my sisters. Left to right: Me, Traci, Sierra

Arrivederci Italia!

-Jolene Johnson

Week Four: Macerata, Italy

We had our last excursion this week and it was by far my favorite. We visited a little village called Loreto where we saw a massive cathedral.

The Church in Loreto

The Church in Loreto

We also went to a town called Sirolo where we saw a gorgeous beach out by a cliff (just like one of the ones I was wanting to see). The edges of the cliff were white and were surrounded by a vibrant blue-green water, and the structures around the beach were just as colorful. I wish we knew of this beach sooner because we may have frequented it more.

The beach at Sirolo

The beach at Sirolo

The last stop on our excursion was Grotte di Frasassi where we visited caves. These caves were amazing and it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit in them which felt marvelous after all the heat we have been having in Italy. Actually during this last week the weather has been the same as Africa and with the humidity along with the heat it is impossible to have dry clothes (meaning you are constantly sweating).

We had another wine tasting which was fun. We finished up all of our artwork and had to prepare it for an exhibit as well as having our Italian exam.

My final art board at the exhibit

My final art board at the exhibit

We also had our farewell dinner and farewells to everyone slowly day by day. It is so sad because I have become attached to everyone here just in time to leave. We check out of our apartment today and start our journey home.

-Jolene Johnson

Week Three: Macerata, Italy

My homesickness is gone-all I wanted was to hear my loved ones voices and words of encouragement. I am also used to the time schedule here, over my motion/sea sickness, and am really glad to be in a place that finally feels like a home. The group dynamic amongst us girls is great as well, and we all get along. I have become great friends with my tandem partner and I consider all of the adults at the school to be my family.

View of Macerata from the bell tower

View of Macerata from the bell tower

 

Macerata is very hilly

Macerata is very hilly

My tandem partner, Francesco, studied in Spain for a few terms and while there met a girl from England, a girl from Poland, and a guy from Germany. During this week they all came to visit him so we all ended up hanging out, which was loads of fun.

From left to right: Francesco,  Me, and Kris

From left to right: Francesco, Me, and Kris

School is in full swing now and is the main focus that we have. Sometimes being in the studio from 10 am-roughly 6 pm everyday can prove to be challenging but I just take a lot of breaks and venture off to the cafe for a cappuccino or a gelato.

Gelato!!!

Gelato!!!

 

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

This week we went to Urbs Salvia and saw the roman town there. This was really amazing and almost eerie to see these ancient roman ruins. We also were able to walk amongst an archaeological dig and saw the home of some Romans. Another part of the archaeological dig, was part of the roman road. And I learned that the road leads all the way to Rome. At this news I was excited, but Filiberto enlightened me by saying “It takes a lot of money just for one archaeological dig. And history has to be overridden to a certain degree for the present and future to take place.” It was just really interesting to me that underneath the earth I was standing on, were homes and roads where a civilization once existed. We also saw an Abby where we observed several monks pray or chant. It was really interesting seeing that Abby after the ruins because the people that built it re-used marble from the roman structures. I Really wish I had time to see Rome while here but perhaps that will be a good incentive to come back.

Roman Amphiteater

Roman Amphiteater

We also learned how to make traditional Italian pasta this week, went wine tasting, AAAAAAAND saw the Opera: Il Travatore!!!

At the Opera!

At the Opera!

-Jolene Johnson

Week Two: Macerata, Italy

The beach was great this weekend (not exactly the cliff side beach I was imagining, but a beautiful beach nontheless). Civitanova (where the beach is at) is a much larger city than Macerata. There is a lot of shopping and on Saturdays there is a massive market. I have never been to a warm beach or swam in the ocean. The water was sooo warm and salty! It was also odd bobbing along in the waves. Not to mention the amount of scantily clad Italians frolicking on the beach.

Civitanova

Civitanova

Sunday we went to a harvest festival. It was great fun watching traditional Italian dancing from back in history and then the now traditional Italian dancing. We also had an amazing dinner with fresh food from the farm-and I discoverd what REAL lasanga tastes like.

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival

Monday we began our journey towards Venezia. It was much easier traveling with people who speak Italian. Venice is gorgeous!!! But I get motion sickness really easily though so the first few hours upon arrival were not very enjoyable. Actually most of the time there was not as much fun as I thought it would be. To get anywhere you have to go by ferry (for long distance) or foot. I was seasick a lot of the time there. Venice is also full of tourists which is really obnoxious and because of this things are about doubled in price in comparison to that in Macerata. We spent most of our time in the Biennale which consisted of contemporary art work. I was actually a little bit upset that this is the artwork we saw, because the states is full of contemporary art work and I was really looking forwards to seeing famous works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci. We brought a sketchbook with us to Venice and were required to fill the entire thing with sketches from the Biennale and things in Venice in general. The weather was also continuously getting warmer but luckily (and this was a rarity) we had air conditioning in our hotel.

Venezia

Venezia

Me on the balcony of Basilica di San Marco

Me on the balcony of Basilica di San Marco

Typical art from the Biennale

Typical art from the Biennale

We got back on Thursday and Macerata finally feels like my home. I was so glad to be back in our apartment and in a place where I recognized things, places, and people.

On Saturday we went to Civitanova again. This was our first free weekend!!! Us girls ended up getting a hotel there and stayed the night. Civitanova really is a fun place. Filled with bountamous amounts of gelato flavors, warm sand and water, and shopping as far as the eye can see. I was also able to reach my family and boyfriend using the phone in the hotel (before departing the states I had purchased phone cards but in order to use them you have to use a land line phone. And the phone cards I bought did not work so I had to purchase one there-nontheless I was able to hear all my loved ones voices and this was such a relief).

-Jolene Johnson

 

Week One:Macerata,Italy

The first time I arrived in Germany (where I was catching my connecting flight to Italy from) was when I noticed that I was the foreigner. Everyone around me was speaking in German and it all just sounded like gibberish. But the real culture shock happened when I landed in Bologna, Italy. At least in the German airport there were a lot of things in English. Here mostly everything was in Italian. The airport was super relaxed and security seemed very slim. I didn’t even have to go through customs-unlike when you land in the US. My first encounter with an Italian was when Sarah (my traveling partner) and I caught a bus to the train station. When we went to pay we didn’t have exact change and the bus driver was very confused. He was also a really crazy driver. Driving down the streets was gorgeous and surreal because it was exactly like the photos I had seen of Italy. Tall and narrow old buildings lined the street we were on. They were colorful with plants and laundry hanging outside different windows.

Getting to Macerata was such a struggle. Our flight from Washington DC to Munich, Germany was delayed 2 hrs which threw our entire journey off. Not only was it challenging figuring out the public transportation system but there was the language barrier. This was such a greater deal than I anticipated.

At the deserted train station...just hoping our train comes

At the deserted train station…just hoping our train comes

We managed to get to our hotel in Macerata at 11:30pm (or should I say 23:30 because they use military time) thanks to the help of many kind people. It thundered in the night and poured rain all the next day…not really what I was anticipating summer in Italy to be. But luckily I packed a few warmer clothes and a rain jacket.

Rainy Italy

Rainy Italy

Once we met up with the two other girls in the program (Marissa and Kris) and our site director (Filiberto) though, things (including the weather) started to turn up. Although I am very homesick and due to this find it hard to eat. Wish my laptop hadn’t broke on the way over as well…but the internet access here is very slim so not like that would change anything. I am also having issues finding a phone so I can just say hello to my loved ones. At least we are in our apartment, have started classes, and are starting to get settled here.We have also been assigned tandem partners to better learn the language so I now have an instant friend. We have been on many tours of the town, but I am tired, jet lagged, home sick, and due to this have a detachment of interest in all the things we are seeing. This weekend we are going to the beach!

My Italian Family

My Italian Family

So far I have learned that I am more independent than I thought, and more dependent than I thought. What I mean by this is that during all of the travelling I was able to figure out a lot of things and not afraid to try talking to people or asking people for help, which is something I have issues with back in the states-perhaps under pressure it forced me to do this? And being more dependent is in reference to how homesick I am feeling-and just within the first day I noticed it! During school in the states there are times when I go months without even talking to my family and yet here I severely miss them. Is it just the greater distance?

-Jolene Johnson

Pre-Departure: Macerata, Italy

In a few short days I will be leaving for Macerata, Italy. I will be there for 5 weeks and will be studying painting, drawing, and a bit of Italian.

I expect Italy to be just the way I see it on TV/Movies and in books-a beautiful country. From rolling hillsides to beautiful beaches. With old buildings and cathedrals. A super relaxed atmosphere. A place that will be very enjoyable in the summertime.

I looked up the place in which I will be staying on the map and saw that it is very close to the Adriatic Sea. But seeing as the places I will be staying are pretty rural, finding images of it is a bit challenging. I anticipate and hope that the place that is only 30 minutes from Macerata will look something like this!

Italy on coast

I expect many people to speak Italian, but the town is near a University so the amount of English should also be highly prominent. I am really excited and almost find it hard to believe that I am going. I am also really nervous-especially the closer the departure date gets. There is a part of me that is stoked to go and a part that doesn’t want to leave at all. I will miss my family and boyfriend sooooooo much!

My dream would be to not only study art there but to also brush up on my opera. I have studied opera for quite a few years now and to get the opportunity to study it in Italy as well as art would be mind blowing-ly awesome.

-Jolene Johnson

Pre-departure post: Just saying hi!

Hello everyone!

My name is Ann and I will be traveling to Siena, Italy in three days!  I am very excited.  In fact, I’ve been excited for months.  The reason I am going to Italy is for the Sign Language program they offer during the summer.  Once there, I will be learning signed and spoken Italian along with their Deaf culture and history.  I can’t wait!  Although, my Nana has been warning me not to fall for any “cute, dark haired, young men” while I’m there.  Her words not mine.  Don’t worry Nana, I’ll focus on the beautiful landscape and real gelato (ice cream) instead. Gelato towers

Piazza del Campo

My expectations for the culture do not really exist.  I have been to Europe in the past and have learned first-hand that there are many “subcultures” within any town or city.  I am simply looking forward to going there and meeting people from a culture different from my own.  I am a bit sad to be missing the Palio di Siena by a few days though.          The Palio di Siena is a large, annual horse race where thousands of people crowd into the Piazza del Campo (town square, shown above) and race three laps around a pre-made, dirt track.  It apparently lasts roughly 90 seconds.  Ah, but the energy generated in the crowd of spectators would have been amazing to witness first-hand.Palio di Siena

Over the past few months, while getting everything ready for the trip, I have gone through stages of excitement, nervousness, a bit of trepidation, and back around to excitement again.  This last week has been all excitement, though!  My family have said they cannot wait for me to go so I will stop bouncing off the walls in my eagerness.  Well, in less than 72 hours, my adventure begins.  Siena, here I come!  :-)

 

Pre-Departure

I’m leaving for Italy in six hours! I cannot believe how fast time has flown. It seems like just last week I was imagining what it would be like to study abroad and how amazing it would be to experience such an adventure. I am really excited for this trip and expect to be way outside my comfort zone. Growing up, I found happiness to be where I was most comfortable and could relax and act myself, and here I am about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life all alone. That being said, that is the main reason why I wanted to do this trip, to expand my horizons and go outside my comfort zone. The good news is that I have already made contact with some people through CIS (Center for International Study: the company in which my trip is set up through) who are also going on the trip. Also, I have been told that I am living in an apartment (European colleges do not have dorms like most American ones) with four to six other people which I have yet to meet.

My interpretation of Italy is that it is kinda like Portland’s Saturday market. Lots of people walking around, a friendly vibe, lots (and I mean LOTS of walking), and a good variety of locals shops to visit. However, that is based on movies, books, and pictures, and is sure to change when I get back to the US.

The biggest thing that is on my mind right now is how much cultural shock I will experience while over there. Will I feel really homesick and just want to hang inside my apartment and not do anything, or will it not affect me at all? Of course I hope that I will not see any effects of cultural shock, but I am confident that if I do, I will work through it.

My number one goal once I get there is to get out and make friends as soon as possible because those are the people I will rely on to keep me sane and help me fully enjoy my once in a lifetime trip.

Michael