Tag Archives: Language

“A dopo,” not “arrivederci”

I can’t believe how quickly time has gone by.

It seems like just yesterday that I was packing my suitcase to head off to Italy for the semester, worrying about my choice to live with a host family and planning what I wanted to do over the four months. Indeed, even the last month has flown by, with trips to Rome, visits from my family, and weekend in Cinque Terre all while trying to finish up my final papers and exams. I’m still planning on composing some belated blog posts for those trips, but I wanted to jot down a quick reflection now that my semester just ended.

Hands down, one of the best parts of my experience this semester was living with my host family. Julia and I would repeatedly gush to each other about how lucky we were to have them, and I couldn’t have imagined my semester without them. My host mother, Emanuela, was incredibly caring and sweet, truly playing the role of mother while I was abroad. My host father, Paolo, provided endless laughs and entertainment as he mocked our American pronunciation of words and teased us about “finding a Mario.” Our family dinners each night––Emanuel, Paolo, Julia, Liz, and me––were almost always the highlight of every day, a time to relax and catch up on our daily lives.

Living with a host family also enabled me to drastically improve my Italian language skills over the course of the semester. While I still can struggle to find the words I want, the last four months have enabled me to become conversational in the language and to significantly improve my comprehension skills. It helped, of course, when our nightly dinner conversation in Italian ranged from everything from Italian politics to positive psychology to American geography.

On my final night in Italy, I gave Emanuela the scrapbook I had put together of our time in Italy, with photos of the three of us and thank you notes at that back. I was incredibly touched when she got tearful at seeing it, sparking tears from the rest of us as well.

“This is my favorite thing to receive,” she told me in Italian, “because I can just sit here after you leave and remember all of these memories.”

When Emanuela woke up the next morning at 3:40 a.m. to wake me up and make sure I made my 4 a.m. taxi ride, I again was reminded how lucky I was to be able to get to know such a wonderful individual.

“This isn’t goodbye,” she told me in Italian. “You can come back to visit anytime, and you know that we’ll always be here. This is dopo, until later.”

And truly, I have a feeling that I’ll hopefully be back in Florence someday in the future. And because I hate goodbyes, I’m sticking to Emanuela’s advice.

A dopo, Firenze.

Music in the Library

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Our Italian professors arranged for a singer and guitarist duo come perform at the Villa last Tuesday night. They played both Italian and American songs––the girl had an incredible voice, à la Joss Stone––and we had an opportunity to sing along with a song that we had practiced in Italian the week before, “Ma Che Freddo Fa.” Our Italian professors invited some guests to the concert, and it was a lot of fun to talk to them (in Italian, too!) over dinner.

Cos’è la vita-a-a, / senza l’amore-e-e, 

è solo un albero che foglie non ha più.

E s’alza il vento-o-o, / un vento freddo-o-o,

come le foglie le speranze butta giù.

Ma questa vita cos’è se manchi tu.

Sunset on the Danube

In Vienna, every time we tried to navigate our way through the U-Bahn, we commenced a kind of game of verbal gymnastics, struggling to pronounce all the German words. This was further complicated by indecipherable name of the metro nearest to our apartment: Taborstaße, with a funky ß character that we had no idea how to pronounce. (Turns out, it’s just a kind of s-sound. You can become a better German speaker than me here.) As we would try to chart our route, we would inevitably stumble over stops like Kettenbrückengasse, Donaustradtbrücke, and Perfektastraße. Of course, this was only made more embarrassing by the fact that most Austrians speak English perfectly, with almost no accent.

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We got up extra early to meet Matt at his metro station at 8 a.m., then jumped back on the metro to head to Schönbrunn Palace, which served as the summer estate for the Hapsburgs. Once on the grounds, we quickly purchased our tickets then took off to explore its grounds.

The Schonbrunn Palace, whose name means “beautiful spring,” has over 1,400 rooms inside this Rococo summer residence from the 17th century. The gardens of the palace stretched on far into the distance. Manicured gardens extended across the back lawn and up this gigantic hill, where we climbed up to have a spectacular view of the estate below. As part of the palace estate, there was also a labyrinth, zoo, and never-ending trails.

After a jaunt through the garden, we headed back into the palace to get a tour of the inside rooms, only to realize that the crowds had significantly grown since we purchased our tickets at opening time that morning. Squeezing our way through the tour groups, we picked up our audio guides and began to walk through the imperial apartments. (Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed!)

We headed back over to Stephanplatz to show Matt around the area and finally find St. Peter’s Church, which we had tried to search for in the afternoon rain the day before but failed. At last, we used the handy GPS from the Trip Advisor app to locate the church, and peeked inside for a quick look. Church #7—check!

When we were walking through the area, we also came across the performance of an Austrian dance group in the street.

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Belvedere Palace was the next stop on our list. Along the way, we found the Turkish embassy!

IMG_2475 We also stumbled upon a Soviet monument. Matt was able to translate it for us: “Monument to the soldiers of the Soviet Army, which for the liberation of Austria from fascism have fallen…” Upon further research, the monument was built in 1945 to honor the 17,000 Soviet soldiers who fell in the Battle of Vienna during WWII.

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Belvedere served as the residence of the Prince of Savoy, today housing two Baroque palaces, the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. We didn’t go inside, but we took the time to walk around the gardens and appreciate the buildings themselves.

Afterwards, we headed back to our apartment for the afternoon to catch up on readings for class. In the evening, Alex and I decided to take the U-Bahn down to see the Danube River, since we hadn’t had a chance to visit it in Vienna yet.

The view from the U-Bahn station––much better than the dark, damp tunnels of DC's metro!

The view from the U-Bahn station––much better than the dark, damp tunnels of DC’s metro!

Like Prague and Budapest, Vienna stretches over both banks of a major river. By the time we arrived, it was just in time to watch the sunset.

Once the sun had set, we quickly took the metro over to meet Matt for dinner. We decided on Pancho, a Mexican restaurant that our host had recommended. Coming from California, I could eat Mexican food every meal of my life and never tire of it—so I was extremely happy to find a substitute for my Mexican fix in Vienna. (And it was surprisingly good!)

Afterwards, we headed over to Café Central, one of the famous coffeehouses in Vienna, for some dessert and coffee.

Because when in Vienna, sometimes you have to do as the Viennese do—with sachertorte and cappuccinos.

Life 101: Lessons in Turkey

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I’m currently at the Antalya airport, mooching off this café’s free wifi as I wait for my flight to board. (My flight leaves at 10:50 a.m., but I left Alanya in the dark of 4:40 a.m. in order to take a shuttle with everyone else.) As we begin our fall break and split to our separate travel plans, it seems like a natural opportunity to reflect on my time in Turkey so far. These past 35 days have gone by both fast and slow—it’s strange to think I’ve already been here for over a month, but then it also seems like these experiences fill quite more than a month. Time is a funny thing.

I’ve also learned a lot over these past several weeks. I know it’s cliché to talk about travel in this way, but I don’t quite know how else to put it. Instead, I’ll try to move beyond the clichés of “travel while you’re young” to keep track of all of the specific things I’ve learned thus far:

For example, I’ve learned that there’s few better ways to create a connection with someone else than learning some basic phrases in their native language. This morning, I was proud to know enough Turkish to be able to ask our bus driver how he was and talk about where our school was.

Helping out in the English class at the local middle school

Helping out in the English class at the local middle school

Living in such a tourist destination like Alanya, I’ve also further appreciated the importance of language—and how sad it is that most Americans only truly know one. Earlier this week, when we were trying to order pizza, the man on the phone asked us if we spoke Swedish or Danish, before passing the phone to someone who could speak better English. Many Alanyans speak some kind of combination of Russian, Danish, Swedish, German, or English along with Turkish. We had a conversation about this early on the trip with our tour guide in Istanbul. “Americans are lazy about language,” he told us, “but they can afford to be. You can’t travel to another country if you’re Turkish and expect someone to speak Turkish.”

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Sign in front of the bookstore in the Antalya airport

At the same time, I’ve learned to nod and mutter enough “Evets” when someone talks to me in Turkish and I have no clue what they’re talking about. Truth is, the smile and nod can also get you a long way.

I’ve learned that it’s better to walk. Walking allows you to slow down and appreciate your surroundings. It can also allow you to unexpectedly stumble upon a World Lacrosse Expo in the middle of the beach at night—just like Alex and I found after dinner one evening.

Lacrosse... in Turkey? (This was also several minutes before we almost got pegged in the head with the ball, twice.)

Lacrosse… in Turkey? (This was also several minutes before we almost got pegged in the head with the ball, twice.)

I’ve learned that it’s important to make time to write. While I kept a meticulous journal of each day during the study tour, I’m still making sure I write down a couple of sentences for every day even when we’re in class. As a result, this past months has been one of the best-documented times of my life. I’m so afraid to forget anything that I’m driven by this compulsion to obsessively capture as many moments as I can. However, it’s also given me a wonderful record of my experiences in Turkey to look back on once I’m home.

It's also great to receive letters too!

It’s also great to receive letters too!

I’ve learned how to develop a more serious resting face to ward off aggressive shopkeepers and hawkers. This is partly a cultural adaption—it’s very much an American thing to smile at everyone you meet and greet them accordingly. While Turks are equally just as friendly and hospitable, they also don’t go around randomly smiling at strangers (which admittedly can be pretty odd). It can give off the wrong impression. And so, I’ve also somewhat adapted to this habit.

Serious face? (Or maybe i still have some work to do...)

Serious face? (Or maybe i still have some work to do…)

I’ve learned that I can never live for too long away from the beach. It’s something that I truly fell in love with this summer when I lived in Santa Cruz, and it’s something of which I will never tire in Alanya. I love its changing colors—the way it can be like smooth silver in the morning and a rich blue in the heat of the afternoon. I love the waves, the sand, and the sun. I may never truly be able to tan, but I could honestly lie out there for weeks on end (with many reapplications of SPF 50, of course).

I’ve also learned that possibly the best way to cope with locking yourself out of your apartment is to create a blanket fort in the middle of your friends’ apartment and singing Disney songs obnoxiously at the top of your lungs. I’m incredibly thankful for the people I’ve met on this trip so far, and I couldn’t ask for better friends to share in this experience.