Wednesday, February 12, 2014
5 Things I Want To Accomplish in Italy
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
1. Take the path less traveled (both literally and figuratively).
Make the study abroad experience your own. Don't just do what everyone else does -- tailor it to what you want out of it. Group activities are great, but you have a limited amount of time. Having some degree of vision of why you are here will help direct your choices and how you spend your time. Make wise decisions. Don't be afraid to travel solo. Visit the neighboring smaller towns, and focus on traveling locally to really know Italy.
2. Get involved in the community. Meet the locals.
I didn't anticipate the amount of effort it would take to break out of the "study abroad bubble" -- the comfort zone that has formed with all the other American students. It's easier to want to adjust and find a routine, as well as being around people that speak English, than those who are different from you in culture, lifestyle, and background. Volunteer. Join a choir. Spend more time with your home stay. Go to the local flea market and talk to people. Accidentally go to a church service in Italian. You'll be surprised at all that you learn.
3. Push myself to learn as much Italian as possible.
Especially in Florence, you probably could get by without speaking any more Italian than "ciao" (I only wish I was kidding). It isn't because Italians speak fluent English -- although some do -- but more of the fact that it's easier for us not to try and learn. It's going to take practice and brainpower, and you have to make a conscious effort to speak it. But do so, and you'll be rewarded with appreciative Italians and a better knack for learning new phrases. It also will better enable you to do #1, 2, and 4 on this list.
4. Continue to try new things. Be more outgoing.
Take different routes to school. Discover a new cafe. Go to the chocolate festival on the other side of town. It's natural to want to find a routine, but getting too comfortable will defeat the purpose of studying abroad. Whether it's braving the bus system without knowing what stop you're getting off at, or trying a gelato flavor that sounds atrocious (pistachio, anyone?), you're abroad to try new things. Don't let fear stop you.
5. “Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo Da Vinci
I spent a pretty insane amount of time in undergrad studying science -- virology, anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, etc. All my jobs were science-related: nursing, teaching health/biology, tutoring chemistry, working in a chemistry lab. I've only taken 4 liberal arts courses: a religion class taught by a Jewish rabbi, a drawing class (from when I thought I would also major in studio art), an English class, and a regional studies on Africa course.
But now I'm here in Italy to play catch up as an artist to match my science-oriented brain. I know about the individuals that dedicated their lives to deciphering DNA, but what about those that spent 27 years on a set of bronze doors for a city? (Lorenzo Ghiberti)
Human abilities and talents vary immensely, and we need to study both the sciences and arts to better understand the world we live in. Florence has a unique history with both foundations.
A fascinating example would be the Black Plague. Many believe it delayed the start of the Renaissance -- which probably would have started in the 1300s with Giotto (the most influential artist at the time, breaking away from the mold and depicting reality more than idealism). But it didn't because of the plague, thus wiping out the population and putting a halt to art development.
Or when painting, how to use colors with our perception of light. The science in colors (black absorbs, how our brain interprets via the rods/cones of the retina) determine how to apply the theory in painting.
It's all related -- you just have to look for it!
Here's to a semester of artistic and scientific insight with some Italian in the middle. I'm looking forward to sharing experiences of the above accomplishments in future posts!