Tag Archives: Chico State Study Abroad

La Dolce Vita: Living, Learning, and Eating in Italy

By Quinn Western, senior journalism major

I’m a senior journalism student spending my last semester at Chico State in Viterbo, Italy. It’s a small, medieval town where few of the community members speak English and finding avocados is a struggle. The city center where I live, is enclosed by towering stone walls. My apartment building is thousands of years old (which explains why I have to pile on the blankets at night) and is said to have housed cardinals. Viterbo (about a two-hour train ride from Rome) was once an official home for the Pope as well.

Quinn Western, a senior journalism major, is spending her last semester abroad in Viterbo, Italy. She lives just a quick train ride to Rome equivalent to the drive from Chico to Sacramento.
Quinn Western, a senior journalism major, is spending her last semester abroad in Viterbo, Italy. She lives just a quick train ride to Rome equivalent to the drive from Chico to Sacramento.

I learned quickly that my time in Europe would be filled with “Oops,” “Mi dispiace, parlo un po Italiano,” “What did I just eat?” and “How do you say that?”

I’ve been lost, frustrated, mocked, and had some of the best laughs of my life.

There’s no exact routine to life abroad, except for cafés and school, of course, but here’s a peek into my daily life.

7:30 – Wake up and make a flawless cup of coffee. (Insert Beyoncé reference here.) The coffeemaker in our little Hobbit hole-like apartment is an adorable, small, steam-punk-esque contraption that produces life every morning with little care.

9:00 – I walk 10 minutes to school and start the day in my Italian language course. I learn why people looked at me funny when asking for face wash (apparently I was aggressively repeating “I do wash!”). Everyone in brings their mistakes to class. We all learned to get over the embarrassment pretty quickly.

Quinn Western and Charlie Mowery geek out over the famous David in Florence, Italy.
A classroom subject come to life: Western visits Michelangelo’s famous David statue in Florence, Italy.

11:00 – Every week, I either sit in cuisine lecture or indulge in a hands-on cooking class. On other days of the week, I have more Italian language courses and classes in photography, travel writing, and Italian art during the Renaissance. It boggles my mind to read about Michelangelo’s David and then just pop up to Florence for a quick trip to see it. Or to turn a corner in Rome and be greeted by the Coliseum.

15:00 – It’s off to the local gym, where the walls are thousands of years old and maybe the same goes for the equipment. The owner, Egido, was a boxer in his day and always tries to teach some new phrases to the American students who are members. It took 10 minutes of him punching toward my confused face to figure out that he was teaching me boxing terms and phrases in Italian.

Quinn Western and her roommate Sara McGuire, both Chico State students, celebrating carnevale in Venice, Italy. Masks, capes, and all.
Western and her roommate Sara McGuire, both Chico State students, celebrated Carnevale in Venice earlier this year.

17:00 – This is a typical homework/social time over a cafè. Sometimes I’ll hang with some locals, like my friend Salvatore who is helping me read Harry Potter in Italian, at Cafe San Sisto. It’s a modern-looking cafe with white couches on the second floor and complete with a Nutella stool (their Nutella is to our peanut butter—it’s everywhere). The seats are filled with chattering teenagers from the high school down the street and grandfathers bickering over Lazio and Roma futbol players.  Few locals speak English, which gives plenty of opportunities to embarrass ourselves and practice. Ricardo at San Sisto is very patient when I order and practice conversing, and so is the woman at the minimart by my apartment from whom I have ordered way too much buffalo mozzarella.

19:00 – Aperitivo. This is one of the best times to make friends and enjoy a variety of new, fresh foods. While I enjoy indulging in the unknown, it’s good to double-check what foreign foods you’re eating. My roommate, a vegetarian, accidentally ate pig cartilage at Mangia Mangia, a warm, hipster jazzy bar. If I’m not eating out in the medieval nightlife, I often throw together pasta or other new recipes I learned in cuisine class. My favorite to make so far is the eggplant lasagna, a greasy, cheesy, deep-fried Sicilian dish.

Western and McGuire snacking by the heater in their centuries old apartment.
Western and McGuire snacking by the heater in their centuries old apartment.

21:00 – This time after dinner is usually dedicated to homework, socializing, and/or trip-planning. In Italian culture, dinner is eaten very late, sometimes not until 21:00. But the great thing about mealtime in Italy is that it’s always an event. Most nights there’s a buzz at the door, and we’re surprised by a fellow student or local pal coming up the stairs for a visit. When writing this and looking at my shrinking jeans, I’ve realized that my life revolves around food more than ever before. The palette is what brings people together here.

So, although my average day in Viterbo is filled with new experiences and sights (and a lot more espresso), the friendly community and student camaraderie keep me from getting too homesick for Chico. (I still really miss the abundance of avocados though.) My time here comes to an end in a few weeks as I head home for graduation, but I know I’ll be bringing back pieces of Italian culture and so many lessons learned with me.

Just Like the Movies

524919_436747436402574_1195883520_nBy: Amanda Hurley, Senior, Sociology, Communication Studies Minor

Re-Posted From: Chico State Study Abroad

There is no picture that can depict what its really like to walk down an Irish country road. The view of the landscape is nothing less than magical. I have truly never seen green so bright as it is among the Irish hills. Nor will I ever understand how a million stonewalls could be built by merely stacking onetumblr_inline_mkai26fkhw1rymiwg stone on top of the other. These dividers are everywhere; standing tall for hundreds of years without cement substance or tools, their foundation relies merely on balance. The beauty is truly mind blowing. While the horizon is decorated with traditional homes and farm animals, the occasional castle overshadows it. And it is all of this that makes me believe, life can be like the movies.

The quaint Irish city of Cork is built on cobblestone streets spotted with charming shops, markets, churches, and pubs. I’ve been hypnotized by light from the stained glass windows in an aged cathedral. I’ve been lured off the streets into English Markets 62104_436747449735906_1511915398_nby the smell of freshly baked bread. And I’m entirely convinced that nothing on this planet could sound as beautiful as live music in Ireland. The man playing a guitar and singing for spare change sounds like he won a Grammy. And you can experience the most amazing concert by simply wandering into the local pub. For this reason, I am eternally grateful I can still hear the twang of the fiddle, clapping hands, and cheerful voices chiming along. My six months in Ireland felt like a fairytale.207229_436747779735873_2011294182_n

My life is forever enriched by this experience and I know I will never be the same. I learned to enjoy the simple things in life: the blissful pleasure that comes from the ability to relax, to refrain from worry, and to take things slowly. This comes easily when distracted by the abundant laughter of Irish humor, and the recurring phenomenon of turning a stranger into a friend. When life feels too chaotic, I revert back to my time in Ireland, picturing myself running alongside the River Lee, I am suddenly reminded how breathtaking life really is.