Monthly Archives: January 2007
Academics come first at Umbra, but we recognize that great Italian experiences reinforce that learning. This weekend fifteen Umbra students did something few Americans have ever done: slipping into hot springs, water heated naturally by underground geological activity. The group left Perugia with staff member Zach Nowak, stopping first at the little Umbrian borgo (walled town) of Castiglione del Lago, which sits on a promontory over Lago di Trasimeno. The restaurant, “La Cantina”, was formerly an olive oil mill, and had the presses and barrels to prove it. After an “antipasto misto” of cheese and Umbrian salami, the students had “picci all’aglione,” a hearty, garlic-laced pasta dish with handmade pasta. After a fruit dessert, the students reboarded the bus and continued on to the hot springs of San Casciano dei Bagni, out in the middle of a field in the Tuscan hills under the towers of the medieval city. The delighted students soaked in the hot sulphur springs under the stars until midnight, when they got back on the bus and return to Perugia.
For most Americans, pizza and Italy go hand in hand…luckily it’s the same for most Italians. Last night the Umbra Institute packed more than a hundred and thirty of its students into the Paiolo Pizzeria in the historic center of Perugia. The Herculean efforts of the staff of the pizzeria resulted in full bellies and smiling faces for every recipient of the classic “Margherita” pizza. No fear, students who didn’t make it: there will be another chance to taste delicious, hot-out-of-the-oven pizza in two weeks!
Yesterday was the second and one of the best Tandem meetings. The meeting, organized along with eGeneration, a local organization that works with university students, took place in the 100Dieci cafe of the University of Perugia. The live jazz band in the background didn’t drown out the buzz of lively conversation between Umbra students and their Italian companions. The aperitivo was offered by Umbra and eGeneration.
The Tandem program is a series of encounters that aims to bring American and Italian students together, not only for linguistic exchange, but also to help Umbra students integrate into the Perugian community. The meetings will be held every week for the rest of the semester.
>Usually during this time of year, students and locals pass by the fountain and likely see it iced over. With the recent mild weather however, the city seems more reminiscent of June rather than January. Favorite outdoor activities in town such as, la vasca—the famous Perugian pastime of strolling up and down Corso Vannucci—and people watching at “The Steps” until the wee-hours of the night have been in full-effect. Along with the rest of Europe, Perugia has definitely enjoyed these rather warm temperatures for winter. Until now.
Today the Perugian winter has officially begun. Late as it may be, the tramontana winds that whip right through the center of town have not lost any of their chilly bite. Yes, snowy skies are in the forecast and this is the January that we all know and love.
Spring 2007 students are about to discover a totally new side of Perugia that they’ve had yet to see since their arrival. They’ll put down their beloved gelato and in exchange they’ll warm up with a cozy mug of pudding-thick hot chocolate from Café Baglioni. They’ll experience the excitement in the air when the first street in Perugia, Via Bartolo, closes down due to icy road conditions. They’ll see snowballs whiz by them as local school kids celebrate a snow day. They’ll experience the still, silent city that Perugia becomes when its cobble-stone streets and red rooftops are blanketed under a fresh layer of fallen snow. L’inverno e’ finalmente arrivato.
It was an overcast Sunday in Perugia, one for museum-going or a latte macchiato in a café, but the mediocre weather did not stop Umbra students from coming to the Perugia “Nooks and Crannies Tour.” StudentServices Assistant Zach Nowak lead the group around the city, concentrating not on chapels and frescoes (well covered by Umbra’s art history teachers), but rather the “nooks, crannies, photo ops, and weird history” of Perugia.
The tour included explanations of the Salt War (the reason Perugia had papal rule and still has awful, saltless bread), stories about market-cleaning pigs and fascist meteorological stations, and even the medieval aqueduct that brought (as one medieval city councilman grumbled) “more debts than water.”
Nowak started doing his tours because Italian guidebooks, “…often bury the most interesting stories that a city has to offer under a ton of frescoes and pope’s names.” Nowak is also the editor of the Umbra Students Guide to Perugia, a comprehensive guide with practical, historical, and cultural information about living in Perugia and Italy. The tour will be offered again next Sunday for students unable to attend this weekend.
“Experientia docet,” Learning by experiencing. One must, however, be open to what experience teaches, and always be ready to change. In keeping with this philosophy, Umbra has instituted a new format for the first week of classes, in which students participate in a week-long program of intensive Italian language instruction. The program offers four days of intensive study…with a twist.
After four hours of grammar, phonetics, and vocabulary, students experience one of the Institute’s “cultural immersion workshops.” Taught by the staff or outside experts, these hour-long workshops are aimed at introducing the students not only to some basic vocabulary (they are conducted in Italian), but also some important aspects of Italian culture, like caffè (coffee), ceramica (ceramics), cucina italiana (Italian cuisine), and lirica (opera).
The response thus far has been extremely positive, and the hope is to make those immersion workshops a permanent part of the academic program. Because “culture shock” is fundamentally the result of a clash of both a new culture and language, these workshops seek to bridge that gap, helping students to become excited about living in Italy and more knowledgeable about their new home.
In photos: Francesco Gardenghi, director of the Italian language program, leads a cultural workshop on Umbrian pottery (also shown at left); Zachary Nowak, student services assistant, engages Umbra students in a discussion on la cucina italiana.
>We received an update from the Lombardi family this Christmas. Dominic and Michaela Lombardi met while studying at the Umbra Institute in the Spring of 2001. Dominic was enrolled at the University of Colorado-Boulder and Michaela at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Shortly after their semester abroad, the two were engaged, married, and returned to Perugia for their honeymoon. When Gianni came along, we dubbed him “the first Umbra baby.” From the looks of the photo they sent along, the Lombardi family is doing well in Colorado.
Do you have news or an update you want to share with the Umbra Institute? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Spring 2007 semester is underway! Students from colleges and universities from across the United States arrived last week. Since their arrival students have been attending orientation sessions, acclimating themselves to life in one of Italy’s greatest cities, and preparing for a semester of coursework. Today, students began a week-long period of intensive Italian language courses. Italian courses will continue throughout the semester but this intensive program was created to help students in the first few weeks of living in Perugia.
After this week of intensive language courses, students will attend courses as part of the General Studies Program at Umbra while others will take advantage of Umbra’s Full Immersion program. For more information on the academic offerings at Umbra, please visit our website: www.umbra.org.
In photos: a group photo of the Spring 2007 class on the steps of Perugia’s duomo; students follow a local guide on a practical walking tour of the city to acclimate them to the city of Perugia.