I spent my first hour of travel to Italy in police custody.

Okay, hear me out for a second – I wasn’t committing any crimes. I wasn’t already getting myself into classic Snyder mischief, but I did make a cross-cultural mistake. You see, I was unaware of the fact that pepper spray is illegal in England, and actually considered the same magnitude as a FIREARM. Yes, my pepper spray in my purse was like having a gun, so security didn’t like that so much. Luckily they knew I was an American and they had me fill out paperwork for a “Community Resolution” and, 1.5 hours later, I was finally set free, JUST as my flight to Bologna was boarding. So my trip went from broken bag to abduction scare to run-in with the police. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

When I got to Bologna, I met up with Grace and Jane and we took a taxi to our hotels – Il Canale Hotel for others, Hotel Regina for me, which is located here in Bologna:Piantina-hotel-regina-bologna.jpgAnd if you thought we were going to have a transition period, you were wrong. The moment we stepped into that hotel, we were given a brief introduction solely in Italian. Needless to say, it was intimidating. After getting situated in our rooms (shoutout to Nina and Justyna, my two-week roommates) we went out to find some IL CIBO (food) because it had been awhile. But it was 3:30 in the afternoon, so the Italians were taking their afternoon breaks. Not much was open, so after an hour and a half of searching, we opted for the grocery store. I got the most delicious, freshest salmon carpaccio from PACKAGING! It was incredible! It set the stage for 6 months of incredible food.

Later, we met up at the Bologna Consortial Studies Program (BCSP) office – where we will be taking a few classes – just to get acquainted with our directors before going out for aperitivi, which is Italian for appetizers, where you get drinks and eat small plates. It was a great way to get to know everyone.

This morning, we had a 4-hour orientation at the BCSP office in 100% Italian!!! I could not believe I was able to understand about 90% of it!? It’s so in-depth Italian that we actually had to sign a piece of paper saying that, the moment we step into the office and while at school, we are NOT ALLOWED to speak in English; we can only speak Italian. Now that’s full-immersion, for sure. We discussed the general culture change,  immersion, travel, security, etc. etc. and, most importantly, housing. For those of you who don’t know how our housing works here, we are dropped off at these hotels for two weeks and in that time period, we have to find our own housing with Italian students. You heard that right. They do not find housing for us, we do it ourselves, speaking in Italian, to the Italians. Intimidating? VERY. Luckily, they’ve set us up with all the resources we will need to go through this process (websites with ads, past student experience videos, apartment tips, etc.). But just imagine living with people for 6 months who don’t speak your language! Such a great experience, I cannot wait.

We had some time to explore this beautiful city today (opted out on pictures for the time being because wanted to just see today) and we found a little cafe to get lunch. We’re really trying to work on our Italian, as (if you didn’t know) we’re taught in Italian; we don’t have English in our classes. If they speak English as well, Italian-speakers will generally start speaking to us in English because we’re very obviously not Italian; however, at lunch, we purposefully asked them to speak to us in Italian so we could get some more practice and correct us if we made any mistakes. Not only did they appreciate and respect us for it, we also got a better relationship with the servers. We plan to do this everywhere now. I got some delicious fish carpaccio, and I told them to just serve me their favorite one. And you know what it was? SWORD FISH! (peep the Prosecco)IMG_0197.jpg

The fact that I get to experience these random meetings and new experiences and wonderful people every day for the next 6 months is just unbelievable. We are going around town, speaking solely in Italian to native speakers, and we’re getting around easily. We spent an hour getting a phone service and we didn’t use a lick of English! It’s only been a day and a half and I can’t express how much my communication, my comprehension, and my overall understanding of the Italian language and the Italian culture has increased. I can’t even imagine where we will be in 6 months…

Now, time for a bit of rest before our group dinner…Ci sentiamo presto!! (Aka: “Talk to you soon!”)

– Alex