Where do I even begin?
The mid-day strolls down Piazza Novembre? My love affair with a true Italian (first name cioccolato, last name gelato)? Or the fact that after a year of anticipation, in between rigorous (mostly awesome) Italian classes, I get to sit back on the steps of the cathedral of San Lorenzo, overlooking the subtle grandeur of Fontana Maggiore and really understand what that wise person once meant when they said, “La vita e bella”.
Being here is a dream.
One thing is learning Italian back home next to students who are more preoccupied with chatting about who they’re voting for on American Idol, and another completely mind-blowing experience has been having my peers each be from a different corner of the world and collect in one open-air classroom, not because of the language’s world practicality or because they need the course credits, but because of the pleasure they get from the way each syllable in the word arrivederci rolls off of their tongue.
Our professors emphasize the fact that attendance is not mandatory, and that exams are merely a university technicality so what should really matter is how well you put to use what you’ve learned. For example, after day 1 of classes, I put it to very good use.
Me: “Salve, buon giorno! Posso provare un po di vaniglia?”
(I would have never figured out I didn’t like the vanilla gelato)
Me: “No, preferisco un cono piccolo di ciocolatto. Grazie.”
And so every morning at 7 am, Olga from Russia, Sofia from Spain, Dimitri from Greece, Mert from Turkey, and all of the others make it to class after what feels like a 20km cardio walk uphill.
Somehow, the risk of falling behind in basic introductory phrases is a risk not worth taking.