Blog #7

Ciao Tutti Voi!

I have had a “bentornata a casa” last Saturday as I settled back into my routines in Venice.  The students returned from their free weekend Sunday and I surprised them Monday by showing up at the Istututo Venezia where they were in classes.  While I was having a warm welcome back by Matteo and Elisa, Matteo’s secretary, the students came up behind me and when I turned around I saw the excitement in their faces to see me.  I am sure they saw mine, also. There was an explosion of hugs and joy!  What a welcome-they made me feel like royalty. I am truly so fortunate!

Matteo, Anna, the language teachers, student teacher, Francesca, Monica at the front desk, and Elisa, Matteo’s secretary are an integral part of our FVCC program.  They truly are our “Sister School” and our “other Home away from Home” here in Venice.  We couldn’t ask for a greater symbiotic partnership and friendship. I am grateful for all of these folks!  The Istituto Venezia is the quintessential language school with a consummate reputation.  It amazes me, for example, how quickly our students are interacting with the Italian language and exercising it in their daily life around the city. They have been working hard and I see their confidence expanding!  Great teachers mixed with full immersion has excelled the process.  I would also like to applaud Gerda Reeb, our Italian instructor at FVCC.  Because of her expertise in preparing some of our students with the Italian language before arriving in Venice, we have a student this year now in level 4!  Bravi Studenti!

We began this week with an introduction to the Art and Architecture course I am teaching.  I made dinner for the students in my apartment and a lecture.  I was happy to catch up with all their travels I forgot to take photos.  I thoroughly enjoy their company and all each one of them brings to the group!  We are off to a great start in March!

La settimana prossima! (til next week)

Love from the Lagoon,

Susan,

Program Director

FVCC Venice Semester Abroad

  • Anica

March has arrived and so has the painful twinge of realization that I have only one month of school left here in Venice, time goes to fast.

This last week we finished up our Theater and Music class with a grueling final, aka a lot of writing. After such a busy schedule last week, it was a little strange to find the afternoons open for three days. I used them wisely and got gloriously lost while taking walks.

Today marks the end of our free weekend, we had two and a half days to spend as we saw fit. I went to Mantova Saturday afternoon by train and arrived around 4:30. I found my hotel and checked in. An hour later I left for the main event of the weekend, a concert I had been planning on going to since December. About ten minutes after leaving my hotel and getting turned around, a nice policeman stopped me to see if I needed directions. Apparently lost tourist was written all over my face. When I said him I was walking to Palabam he recommended I take the bus, I said it was okay I wanted to walk the 4.7 kilometers. Note: when a policeman recommends taking the bus, take the bus. Not having to cross Italian highways would have been worth the 2€; too much traffic for this small-town girl. On my walk I was able to take many splendid pictures and saw someone walking their pet wolf. Yes you read that right, pet wolf, my poor Montana brain was confused when I saw a wolf in a collar and leash.

Finally, I got to see Lindsey Stirling in concert! She is my favorite artist and it was amazing to finally go to one of her concerts. Afterwards I decided a taxi would be a good idea, after browsing the internet and not finding a number to call, I ask a young couple if they spoke any English and they helped me out. In the end, after waiting fifty-two minutes, I ended up taking the same cab as them. Note: I am under the impression that speed limits and highway markings are suggestions, not laws to taxi drivers here; wear your seatbelt! Interestingly, I bumped into the same couple Sunday morning while out on a walk and then again later when we took the same train to Monselice! It’s a small world, they were a very pleasant and fun couple to spend time with.

Sadly, like all good things the weekend has ended and I ceremonially end it with homework; writing my part of blog 7.

  • Amber

“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, and that changes everything.” I don’t know who said that, but whoever they were knew what they were talking about. Home is wonderful, home is safe and secure and promised. How can we learn and grow though when we are not presented with different situations around different people in different cities, states, and countries? This last weekend I went with part of the FVCC group to Bergamo, Italy and while exploring the city we happened across some botanical gardens. The gardens were up on a hill overlooking the whole city, and although it was raining, it was fairly warm. I stood there with my umbrella in one hand and my camera in the other, unable to even take a picture because I knew that moment couldn’t possibly be captured, no matter what angle I shot it at. I just stood there, staring at this pond in the middle of these gardens that was rippling continually but silently beneath the raindrops that shattered the reflection of the trees that towered over, weaving into each other and around the small wooden bridges placed over the small ponds and gardens that patterned around me. The vibrancy of the green against the grey of the sky was outstanding and magical in a way I can’t even get into words. It was one of those moments that just makes you forget all about your worries, troubles and fears because everything is so perfect and beautiful that your mind can’t possibly be bothered with wandering in any direction other than where you are right then, at that moment, seeing what is right in front of you. There is something so surreal about being somewhere you have never been, seeing things you have never seen, and being able to feel emotions you have never felt. You’d think by 23 I’d have experienced most of the emotions there are to experience in life, but every time I travel somewhere new I feel something different and emotions I didn’t even know existed flow through me in a way nostalgia does when you look at old pictures.

Last Tuesday we finished our music and theater class, which was a little devastating in a way to be honest. I have had a lot of teachers in my 23 years, from kindergarten to middle school, high school and college and I can say that very few measure up to the amount of passion and heart that Anna and Stefania had for their subjects. Now I’m a pretty bad actress, and I’m as close to tone deaf as one comes, so it wasn’t necessarily the subjects I loved, as interesting as they were. What I loved was the way these women loved what they taught. They loved it so much that they made me love it just seeing the passion they spoke with and the “awe” in their voice when explaining a play or opera that they had already read or heard a hundred times and yet were touched by it all the same. To have so much passion and love for something is a beautiful thing and something I strive to have for whatever I chose to do in life. Blessedly Susan is back this week for the rest of our adventures here in Venice and she has as much passion as Anna and Stefania and even more energy. We are so excited for her to show us more things that she will undoubtedly make us fall in love with as well.

  • Fernanda

Hello everybody, This week was very intense and went by in a blink. I went to two different cities, I took two exams, and I finished two disciplines and moved up another level in Italian. Phew!

On Sunday, Amber, LeRoy, and I went to Verona. The city is famous for, among other reasons, being where Romeo and Juliet took place, and for that reason, it is still called the ‘city of love’. I enjoyed the visit to Verona and got to do some sightseeing. The city was once ruled by the Venetian Republic and I quickly figured that out by seeing so many lions holding books (one of the symbols of the Republic). The big highlights for me were to visit the Cathedral of Verona —the Duomo— and the Arena di Verona. The Duomo is enormous and beautiful. We walked in right after the mass was celebrated, so we were able to still see part of the community in its surroundings. As with churches in Venice, the Duomo is fully decorated with painting and sculptures. The other incredible monument is the Arena di Verona which is a Roman open theater. It was the first time I visited an open theater and it impressed me and made me feel tiny. I imagined how many plays were performed and gladiators had battles on that very stage.

We also had our free weekend between the 3rd to the 5th of March. That means that we didn’t have class Friday afternoon or Saturday and we were able to choose to stay in Venice or to go to different destinations. There are so many options of cities close to Venice and affordable that deciding which to visit wasn’t an easy choice… Abby, Adara, Amber, LeRoy, and I chose Bergamo. Bergamo is divided in Old Bergamo (Città Alta) and New Bergamo (Città Bassa). We focused more of our time visiting the old part of the town since that was advised to us from people who know the city. The “Città Alta” seems like a city ready to defend itself because the walls are high and thick. Bergamo is a good place to visit outside the most famous and commonly known of Italy’s cities.

As I said last week, we had our theater and music final on Tuesday and I took my Italian midterm on Thursday. I am done with level 3 and I will start level 4 tomorrow. We will have two more weeks of Italian classes and, after that, we will be off on our tour. Susan is back in Venice and the whole group will start the class about Art and Architecture of Venice also tomorrow. I can’t wait to experience all the interesting activities Susan has prepared for us.

  • Adara

Ciao!

A week full of adventures just came to a close. We finished out our theater and music class with our final at the beginning of this last week, and as much of a relief it is to no longer have class in the evening, it is also a little sad, as we don’t have any other classes taught by Anna and Stephania.  During our free weekend a few of us went to a beautiful city called Bergamo, it is close to Milan and at the foot of the Alps. It is quite amazing how spending so much time in Venice I’ve grown to seriously miss mountains and bright vibrant greens, or even at this time of year, snow. Arriving in Bergamo was an adventure, the group of us: Amber, Leroy, Abby, Fernanda, and myself, met up with one of Amber’s acquaintances from a YWAM DTS, named Sam and made our way to the rental apartment (with a little trouble and some very kind help and patience from the land lady). The following day we all adventured out into the rain to see the beautiful city. Everything is tinted just a little bit green, whether from the plants growing on or out of the bricks, or the lichens that are coating everything or the fact that the misting rain makes colors more vibrant. The portion of the city that we traversed was on the old side of town, with all of the cobbled paths that are common to Italy and the tiny roads in between tall buildings, and squares with beautiful architecture everywhere you looked. There are so many hills with tall stone walls creating railings for the view, the walls had a tendency to be at least two or three stories high and often had little “windows” that where built into them. Viewing the city from any of these edges you see green hills, old buildings with terracotta roof tiles, and mountains. Have I told you how much I miss mountains? A lot.

Since the day was rainy there where very few people out and about, the city felt so much more surreal and empty than even the following day full of sun. But because no one wanted to be walking through the rain we had all the time in the world to go explore and see anything we wanted. There was no plan, just an idea of what there was to see and some reviews for the best places to go from the locals. Wandering through the city we made it to a botanical garden, that is closed in February so lucky us that we came at the beginning of March, and high up on a hill. The path we traveled was quite slippery and probably not the safest thing to be walking on, but it was worth it! There where so many beautiful plants and some wildlife, an Amber in her natural habitat taking pictures, and an Abby hiding out in the bamboo forest and in many a climbable tree or sign post, as well as Leroy monkeying around and sliding down bridges, and a Sam taking in the whole view with an umbrella stating OK. Everything was OK, in fact it was fantastic and full of wonderful sights, and the clean smell of the rain as it continued to fall throughout the day. Our return trip took longer than expected due to the fact that we took a path down, down, down, a hill that led into a park at the bottom, and was on the other side of town from our temporary residence. What a happy coincidence though, we found ABBY on top of a building, and got to see the wonderful river running through a park full of devout runners, and many a dog, as well as Italy’s version of soccer being played by tween aged kids. It was a beautiful day that led to a wonderful dinner, cooked by the fabulous Amber, and a lot of great companionship and in depth conversation.

I know that there is not much about school in here, but this week was more focused on the experience as in Italian we are continuing to learn how to conjugate many a verb, but now in the past participle, as well as all of the nouns for clothing, food, shops, and measurements, to make up the full conversation of shopping for food, clothes, and anything else you may need in your stay/vacation in Italy.

Thanks for reading and have a Fantastic week! -Adara Dugan

  • LeRoy

This concludes week number seven of our study abroad trip in Italy. This weekend was spent in Bergamo. This city is divided into two parts: Città Alta (high city) and Città Bassa (low city). The high part of the city is much older and goes back to the 18th century and is surrounded by tall stone walls, which gave an amazing view of the city, and where we visited the San Vigilio Castle. The whole place had such a medieval look, which I enjoyed so much, my imagination was able to run wild there, picturing noblemen and knights and such. Then there was our walk about in a botanical garden and a visit to a science museum full of fossils and animals, including a life size mammoth! It was really an amazing city which, ironically, very few Italians even know about, seriously some have never even heard of it before. I think, because it’s so close to Milan, it kind of gets pushed aside and doesn’t get much attention. Although I have never been to Milan, I’m sure Bergamo will be able just as nice a place.

This week we also took our final exams for our Theater and Music classes, which marks another milestone in our trip itinerary. We have less than a month left until the end of the program! It is the better part of a month, but still, it’s crazy to think about all that we’ve done so far. I’m still excited for what is to come in the next month. So, now is when I will start making and checking off items on my Italian bucket list.

  • Abby

Woohooo! Another week has gone by! I’ve notice that these weeks started out slow, and have picked up velocity along the way! At first I felt like I was walking on pins and needles, trying to fit in to the culture, feeling afraid to make mistakes with the language, feeling lonely because I didn’t have many any friends, and wasn’t yet close to the group I was traveling with. But now the weeks are speeding by! I’m comfortable, I have friends in Italy, I can speak better, I understand the culture, and I don’t feel so lonely! I’ve found my swing, and I almost wish I didn’t have a swing so I could slow down the time again! Just one more blink and I’ll be back home! 😦

This week has been incredible! We finished our theater and music class, which was so full of variety and hands on experiences, thank you Anna and Stefania for organizing the class! But this week, since class was over, we had evenings off, and we made good use of them! For example, Amber and I jumped into the Adriatic Sea on Wednesday, just for kicks and giggles. It was freezing, and the rest of the people walking along the beach were still in their winter coats and scarves, staring at the crazy Montanans in the frigid water. It shocked our nervous system a little, and we had to get home with wet clothes, but It was honestly refreshing, spontaneous, and beautiful in some kind of way! I would do it a thousand times over!

This weekend we went to Bergamo, the hidden gem of Italy. It’s very close to Milan (the fashion capital of the world), so it often gets overlooked. Me, Amber, Leroy, Fey, Adara, and Amber’s friend Sam all spent two nights in this cute little apartment, made our own meals, walked over 20 miles, saw ancient castles and museums, and laughed. Amber’s friend, Sam, is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met! He believes in the power of random acts of kindness, buying us one of our meals, and even went to the store and bought me itch cream for some bug bites I had, just out of the blue! It’s so refreshing to meet a stranger who is so loving right off the bat!

Besides meeting Sam, Bergamo was gorgeous. It was raining the day we saw the ancient part of the city, which gave the city this erie feeling. The lush green plants crept up these gorgeous stone walls, so vibrant with the damp atmosphere! The stone walls were over one hundred feet tall! The view in Bergamo is gold, no matter where you stand! This weekend was perfect!

If you are planning on going to Italy, do not overlook Bergamo! It is a treasure! I am more and more grateful everyday for the people with me, this country, and my experiences good and bad!

  • Sarah

Hello everyone!

Wow what a week.  My legs are finally enjoying a break while I sit on the train tonight coming home from Milan.  All I have to say about Milan is; Molto Bella (very beautiful).  I got in on Friday night and was welcomed by some friends of my aunts who are originally from Paris and have an apartment in Milan.  I’ve never met them but was gladly invited to stay with her and her husband for the long weekend we had off from school.  The second I arrived the two of them took me in as if I was their own daughter. They have an adorable apartment on the seventh floor next to a huge castle in the city. You could see the Milan Cathedral and Duomo from my bedroom window. So Brigitte and Herbert (the couple I’m staying with) invite me to go out and have dinner with them the second I arrive. Of course, I say yes because I’m exhausted and hungry from traveling.  We had an amazing night and they were the sweetest couple I’ve ever met.  I got some rest and the next morning they greeted me with a warm cup up coffee early in the morning and we sat and had breakfast together.  That night Brigitte insisted to make me a nice French dinner at their place.  They even brought out a baguette and fresh cheeses for me to try after the meal. It was insanely yummy and we talked for hours.  The following day Brigitte happily showed me around her favorite secrets spots of Milan and she treated me to lunch on the rooftop of the most famous mall in the world.  Even though I think I said thank you for everything about one million times while I was there, I hope she knows how much the weekend truly meant to me. Almost being away for 2 months now, I really needed something like that to give me the comfort of family and home.  I hope parents know how much their presence really does affect us kids.  I didn’t know how much I really missed mine until this weekend, but I was blessed to experience family somewhere else.  It’s really great that we get a chance to meet and connect with people all of the world and be impacted so much by the little things they do for us. The city life of Milan was everything I hoped for and more, but my weekend was special because I was back with my family.  And that was the best part.

Ciao till next week,

Sarah

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Bridge next tot he Castle Vecchio- Verona
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Amber gives us the stadium- Verona
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Fernanda and Juliet – Verona
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Spring Rains – Bergamo
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Adara in Bergamo!
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Evening Vista-Cita Alto, Bergamo
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View of Bergamo
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Monument of Cavour-Verona
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Enjoying green space with Sam (a friend of Amber’s from Switzerland)
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Three Amici
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Abby and Her Woolly Mammoth-Civic Museum of Natural Science-Verona
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Amber gives us Bergamo!
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Sites of Verona at the Roman Theater
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We are too far away to see the goosebumps-Lido
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Free Day! San Viglio Castle-Bergamo!
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Sites of Verona
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The Lovely Fernanda!
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