Heather Johnson – Bologna

August 16th

 I am currently sitting in a car going from Polson, Montana to Butte, Montana. The weather distinctly reminds me of Scotland, and the hills and fields around me don’t detract from the sense of déjà vu I’m feeling. The Italian lesson on my Ipod, which I’m ignoring in order to write this, is the only indication that in less than one week, I will be away from the comforts of all the places that have come to be my home: North Carolina, Montana, and Scotland.

I haven’t even begun to think about packing because I’ve been busy working all summer, but that misfortune of an activity will just have to wait until I arrive in North Carolina, which will give me two days to shop, pack, and visit with my friends and family there. I’m arriving early for the Italian course offered by the University of Bologna. It will probably be better than anything I’ve put on this Ipod! My early arrival is allowing me to have six weeks before my classes in Linguistics and Greek begin. My accommodation is already sorted – I’m taking the place of a former Edinburgh Erasmus student in a central flat. I am so thankful that I don’t have to look for a place to live after arriving.

I haven’t given much thought yet to the logistics of going to Italy other than applying for my visa (I’m American, not from the EU) and finding a place to sleep. Even so, I think that I’ll be alright, because as far as I’ve heard, the Italian culture is a lot more relaxed than British or American culture. I’ll just show up and see what I find. Actually, whenever I think about the move to Italy, I get nervous. I’m not some unphaseable wonder – I’m just avoiding thinking about this because I want to avoid that nervous feeling. However, I love travelling, and this is such an incredible opportunity to experience a new culture. I shouldn’t be nervous at all; I should be gleeful. Things that I’m excited about: the food, learning Italian, seeing classical things, meeting new people, the weather. I won’t go into the list of reasons I’m nervous. That would only add to my problem.

Well, I’ve arrived at the famous Fairmont Hot Spring out near Butte, so that’s my cue to cease my writing.

A presto, Heather


August 20th

 It’s strange to think that only a few days ago, I was in Montana, picking Lamberts at a cherry farm. I had begun to have reservations about the Erasmus exchange: I don’t know Italian well, I don’t know anyone there, I haven’t packed, the course offerings aren’t available yet – oh, there were so many reasons why I should return to Scotland instead of going to Italy. I had been so busy worrying that I had not even considered what excitement I should be feeling about living in beautiful Italy!

But driving through those Montana fields, the resemblance to Scotland was striking: grey skies, calm rain, and mountains. I was ready for a change. I didn’t cancel my ticket to Italy, and a few days later, I was sitting on that plane with my Ipod full of Italian lessons.

One heat wave, a train crash, twelve kind Italians who carried my luggage, two cries, one greedy station porter, dozens of misunderstandings, and a few marriage proposals later, I am sitting in my apartment/flat, waiting for an opportune time to unpack. I am much more keen on exploring the city, although today I tried to do so without a map, and my thirty minute wander turned into a four hour workout. But on the bright side, I found a fruit and vegetable vendor who sells everything for one euro per kilogram.

The people here are so kind. On the train, people kept offering everyone else food to eat. Everyone who saw me struggling with my luggage offered to help me. I of course am paranoid of stranger-danger so unfortunately I rejected a lot of helpful offers, but when I finally realised that people were genuinely concerned to see a 20 year old girl struggling, I let them help, and I wasn’t raped or kidnapped or anything. The Italians tried so hard to translate into English for me all the announcements about what was happening after our train fell apart. They think it’s endearing when you try to speak Italian, even when you’re not very good!

Other than getting lost in the city (I have yet to buy a map), I haven’t done much exciting. I’ve unpacked and cleaned up the room, bought a water filter, and explored. I highly recommend the Mercato delle Herbe on Ugo Bassi for fruit and vegetable purchases. I found gluten-free pasta here, which is exciting. And I heard Taylor Swift being played in the Coop near where I live. I sang along, though most Scottish people probably wouldn’t know her. She’s a country singer in America. However, I have discovered that it’s socially unacceptable to wear shorts in the city center. I knew that I hadn’t seen any other women wearing shorts, but I didn’t mind looking like a foreigner because it was so hot! I didn’t want to wear jeans, and I didn’t want to sweat through my nice clothes that I had to wear with the skirts I brought. However, yesterday I tried to go into some tourist-attracting building in the Piazza Maggiore, and the people who were watching the entrance refused to let me in because I was wearing shorts. Today I wore a skirt. Nobody looked at me disapprovingly. I don’t really know how I’ll be able to go running here if I can’t wear workout clothes. We’ll just see about this problem…

My Italian lessons start in two weeks. I am actually excited to be learning the language more formally, but the people here have been wonderful so far in helping me to develop my linguistic skills. I just love the Italians.

I wish I had better stories to tell, but Bologna is quiet in August since everything is ‘chiuso per ferie’…

A presto —

Categories: Bologna, Italy

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