Monthly Archives: September 2011
Luckily our students get to stay longer, but it was nice to have the recognition of being one of Italy’s (and, heck Europe’s) best places to visit. The New York Times travel section gave a shout-out to Perugia, describing a charming thirty-six hour itinerary through Umbria’s capital and the Umbra Institute’s home. Have a coffee at Sandri, go see how chocolate is made at the Perugina factory, and have lunch at Franky Banana’s restaurant (just around the corner from Umbra’s Bartolo building, and a a staff favorite).
Again, nice to have the kudos from NY–but we knew it all the time!
With so many students that come to Europe (for the first time or the fifth!) with plans to travel, the Umbra staff does all it can to prepare them for those inevitable little issues that arise when you’ve just arrived and aren’t quite sure what to do. From what to do if you lose your passport (be prepared, have a photocopy in a separate place, and head to the local American embassy!) to the best way to find cheap flights (SkyScanner.it is a great site that covers all low-cost carriers), we try to cover as much as we can.
This year, as with recent semesters, we were joined by representatives from SnoworSand Travel (website), a Florence-based company that was launched several years ago by Umbra alum Charlie Stevenson after his experiences organizing group weekends in Perugia. Not only did they share their invaluable travel experiences with us, they also gave away a trip to Morocco over the course of the workshop!
We hope everyone feels more prepared now! Remember that the Umbra staff knows a lot, but the Internet (and especially TripAdvisor) knows even more!
Now you’ve heard everything you wanted to know about coffee in Italy but were afraid to ask. And while drinking a cup of Joe, too! Two days of coffee workshop: a break from the books and a safari of the cafés in the center of Perugia.
Sitting in the comfortable room reserved for us at Caffè di Roma, students learned about the history and even biochemistry of coffee (all those flavor molecules!) and then had a short demonstration on how to use that scary coffee machine found in every Italian house, so
they could replicate the beloved cappuccino (and make it even better). The workshops were part of the Umbra Institute’s Food Studies Program, now in its inaugural semester.
On Tuesday evening, Prof. Zachary Nowak of the Food Studies Program and neopolitan pizzaiolo Felice once again took students into hidden local pizzeria Pizza e musica to help explain the history and significance of Italian pizza. After a quick tour of the pizzeria’s surroundings – it used to be a convent and still has many artifacts integrated into the building – they got down to business, learning about how the Margherita pizza got its name, how the dough rises, and how a pizzaiolo stokes and manages the pizza oven.
Several lucky students got to stretch, dress, and cook their own pizzas, using the long padella to slide the pizza into the oven, rotate it, and pull out the piping-hot final product. Finally, of course, everyone got their own pizza from Felice’s expert hands and sat down to eat, talk, and enjoy a true Italian experience.
With the sun setting over the Umbrian Hills, Umbra Institute faculty member Zachary Nowak and staff member Julie Falk each took a group of twenty students around Perugia for a city tour. However, this isn’t your average historical city tour but rather an entertaining mix of social history, little-known curiosities, and even some local legends. Students paraded around town while learning about the orphanage that once operated in Via Alunni, Perugia’s old marketplace and “the Little Sirs of the Ranieri family”, two piglets who provided free street cleaning in the Middle Ages, the seige of the Goths and the catapulting veal, the aqueduct that brought more debts than water, the infamous Salt War, and more. Students will never look at Perugia the same way again!
The tour was the first in a series of extra-curricular activities, the next of which is a coffee workshop this coming Tuesday.
In Italy, they say “Appetite comes while eating” – L’appetito viene mangiando.
This was absolutely the case at the Welcome Aperitivo for the Fall 2011 Umbra students. When studying abroad in Italy, Italian food culture plays a major role in students’ experience. Aperitivo is meant as a pre-meal moment to stimulate the appetite, but Italians tend to use it as a way to go out with friends without having to make dinner or be out late.
For Umbra students is the best way to meet the rest of their class and all of the Umbra staff. This semester, Umbra held the event at Contrappunto, an historical location for jazz that just re-opened a month ago. Two beautiful terraces overlook the green valley and Umbrian hills below.
All students at Umbra are required to participate in a one-week intensive Italian “survival” course before regular electives (and Italian) courses start. In the morning, an intensive grammar and vocabulary review takes place in the classroom, while in the afternoon, the skills acquired are practiced on site. But this week is not only about language – it’s also about how to survive in a culture that at first might seem quite similar, but upon closer investigation does reveal some profound differences.
This semester the Italian language professors really went all out to give students hands-on examples of typical Italian situations. For Tuesday, Sept. 6th, they even thought to organize a small “sciopero” (strike) to show to students – which immediately went national and almost brought all of Italy to a halt!
Other important things students need to learn this week include how to buy produce at the supermarket (no, you are not allowed to touch it!), how to buy train/plane tickets to get away from Perugia and back for Italian and European adventures during their stay here (if there is no sciopero) and how to get their morning caffeine fix in about 14 easy steps.
Studying abroad in Italy can be disorienting ….whichever city a student chooses as the final destination for their semester. There are obvious cultural differences: the language, the food, the people, not to mention having to adjust to walking on cobblestone streets for the next four months, versus driving comfortably door-to-door in a climate-controlled car. Even something as mindless and natural as trying to flush the toilet might cause confusion.
This is why Umbra hosts a three-day orientation session for new students upon their arrival. Orientation includes a three-course Italian welcome dinner, small-group orientation meetings, a safety meeting with Officer Caneschi who speaks frankly of the dos, don’ts and the dangers of “Disneyland Syndrome.” After an extensive orientation, students are then immersed in one-week of a survival Italian course where they learn how to navigate the nuances of their new environment. The first few weeks are challenging–especially when it comes to communication–but also exactly what students come here for.
After the first group of students arrived last Wednesday to direct enroll in the Italian university system, today’s the day the rest of Umbra students touch down on Italian soil. Arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, they will be greeted by Umbra staff members, travel by private coach bus to Perugia, and check into a hotel where they will meet their future roommates. After having a chance to rest for a while, tonight the Umbra Fall Class of 2011 will enjoy a welcome dinner together with Umbra Institute student services and academic staff and faculty.
The next two days will be dedicated to Housing, Orientation and getting acquainted with Perugia.
It’s going to be a great semester! Benvenuti in Italia!!!