Non parlo ItalianoMilan, Spring 2010

It has been three weeks since orientation and I can’t believe this is only the beginning. But, before going on about all the crazy stuff I’ve been able to experience, I figured I should probably start with some more practical information that those of you considering the program may be wondering.

Coming into this I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know much about Milan, I spoke very little Italian and I just jumped in with a “here goes nothing” attitude. And honestly, I have yet to be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong this is a big change. Right now, for instance, I am writing while eating my dinner of ravioli and salad, which I made for myself. This in itself is a big step because at home my lack of domestic skills is a common joke, and now I am forced to gain them in a foreign country. On top of this, Milan is a big city, a huge change from my life in suburbia so I’ve had to learn basic things like how the subways work. All this coupled with the fact that everything is in Italian and all the subtle differences in how life is lived have made for some interesting, embarrassing, and occasionally overwhelming experiences. But that’s to be expected. Nothing remotely close to terrible has happened and I always have other IES students right there with me and equally confused, which makes it easy to laugh at.

And, in being regularly confused, you often need help. The Milanese people, while definitely not overly friendly (though I can’t think of any large city with overly friendly people), always seem willing to assist when we’ve needed it. Unless, of course, they don’t speak English, which happens more frequently than I’d guessed. We’ve all learned the phrase “Dove è” which means “where is”, and multiple times we’ve stopped people to ask “where is….” and are then shocked and slightly embarrassed when they answer in Italian and we must use our other favorite phrase “Non parlo Italiano”, “I don’t speak Italian”.

But we are all learning, a fact that always seems to satisfy any Italian that gives us a disapproving look after hearing that phrase. The majority of students in this program came into it with no past Italian language experience. For the past three weeks everyone, on every level, has been taking an intensive Italian class once a day, every day. On Monday regular classes begin but we are all still required to take Italian three times a week.

Class once a day has been a small price to pay for these past three weeks and I’ve had an amazing time. Everyone here wants to experience as much as they can and we’ve been doing just that. My apartment is really nice (as are all the IES apartments I’ve seen) and my roommates are great. We’ve just been trying to embrace this whole situation and that seems to make any difficult adjustments fade away.

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