Guest Post: Top 5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Siena


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

It’s pretty impossible for anyone to have a less-than-awesome study abroad experience in Italy. The food alone is reason enough to pick Italia as your abroad destination of choice — after all, this is the birthplace of pizza and spaghetti that we’re talking about here! And Siena is, by far, one of the coolest cities in the whole country. There are tons of reasons to study abroad in Siena – somehow, I’ve managed to narrow it down to five. Check ‘em out (and try to refrain from drooling over your keyboard!):

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1. The aforementioned food. I could really go on and on about the merits of authentic Italian cuisine. Once you take your first bite of pappardelle alla lepre (it’s pasta; that’s all you need to know!), there’s just no turning back. And Italian food in the Tuscany region? It’s simply the best in the world. Best of all, Siena is located smack dab in the middle of Tuscany, where the highest-quality olive oil runs as freely as the Tiber River. Be prepared to try the freshest and most mouth-watering bruschettas and antipastos that you’ve ever had in your life.

Tuscan Pici

Tuscan Pici

2. Gelato. Okay, so this could technically go in the food category, but the truth is that Italian gelato is so good that it deserves a category of its own. Gelato is just the Italian version of ice cream, but it somehow surpasses the deliciousness of any ice cream you’ve ever had (this is probably because of the butterfat content, I admit). You’ll wander the cobblestone streets of Siena, gelato dripping from your chin — and you won’t even care, because it’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been.

3. The Palio di Siena. This medieval-era horse race is one of the biggest and most historic events in all of Italy — and it happens twice a year in Siena! Basically, it involves ten jockeys racing bareback around the city’s main piazza, but the scale of it is roughly akin to the Macy’s Day Parade. If you’re lucky enough to study abroad during the Palio festivities, get ready to witness one of the coolest cultural events you’ve ever seen.

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4. The Tuscan countryside. We’ve all seen the requisite pictures of Tuscan olive groves and green countryside. But, the truth is that until you’ve seen those rolling hills and gorgeous vineyards for yourself, you really won’t understand. Experiencing the Tuscan countryside should be on everyone’s bucket list — the sheer beauty of it is just that amazing. Get ready to experience some of the loveliest villages and mountainous views that you’ve ever seen when you decide to study in Siena.

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5. It’s not as touristy as other major Italian cities. Though it’s close to some of the bigger tourist hot spots in Italy, Siena itself just isn’t as touristy in comparison. This makes for an excellent cultural opportunity for students — in Siena, you’ll get a much more authentic feel for Italian life than you would if you studied abroad in Rome, or even Florence. You’ll also get more of a chance to be fully immersed in the Italian language — meaning, you’ll be speaking Italiano in no time (which, trust me, will make you feel like something of a linguistic rock star!).

 

About the Author: Justine Harrington is an admissions advisor for SPI Study Abroad, a provider of language immersion and global leadership programs for high school students. She studied abroad in the south of France – it was no Siena, but it wasn’t too shabby. Justine adores languages and travel, dreams of adopting at least five dogs, and has never met a bowl of pasta that didn’t instantly become her best friend.

 

Word of the Day: Eh? and Ehi?


La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

It’s true. I’ll admit it. We Canadians do use the often-mocked term “eh” pronounced “ay“. I for one, find it extremely useful in my everyday life. I say things like:

canadian eh?

“Cold today, eh?”

“Take care, eh?”

We use it when we want a response from someone, when we want someone to acknowledge what we said. We’ll even use it on it’s own if we’ve asked a question and a bit of time has gone by and we want to show that we’re still waiting on an answer. “Do you need my help with that?” Seconds pass, no response. “Eh?” 

“Yeah, eh?”

When I started spending more and more time in Italy, I realized that this tiny little two-letter word also had not one, but two Italian counterparts: ehi, pronounced, ay-ee, and eh, pronounced eh, more open-mouthed. My maple leaf-shaped heart burst with joy.

Now, the pronunciations are a little different, and the uses vary, but the Canadian inside me loves to be able to sneak in a little “ehi” or “eh” when I’m speaking Italian.

I answer the phone, “Pronto?”  I realize who it is (a friend) and say “Ehiiiii” like you would say “hey”.

I need to get someone’s attention. “Ehi, ascolta un attimo.” Hey, listen up for a second. 

I’m not sure about something that someone asks me. My response starts with an eloquent “Ehhhh, non lo so.” Hmm, I don’t know.

Don’t believe me, eh? Check out this little beauty I found:

eh?

Stavo mica scherzando, eh? I was hardly joking, eh?

So the next time you find yourself speaking Italian, just remember, there’s a little bit of “Canadian” in there too, eh?

Why Study Italian?


La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

Let’s just get this out in the open right from the start: Italian is not considered a particularly useful language.

Don’t gasp. Don’t cry. Don’t be surprised to hear this coming from me. I may love Italy and all things Italian, but I know the score.

In the grand scheme of the world, not that many people speak Italian. The big discussions between political leaders don’t happen in Italian, and not many people (other than those living in Italy) are forced to learn Italian at school. You don’t need to understand Italian to read Dante any more, and you don’t need to speak Italian to get a job unless you live in Italy. You don’t need it in order to travel around Italy because a ton of people there speak at least some English, and you don’t need it for immediate access to pop culture anywhere outside of Italy.

In today’s world of immediate gratification and propelled by the widespread need to do things for the main purpose  of “getting ahead”, why push yourself to eke out a bit of time from your jam-packed schedule to learn a language that isn’t going to help you in pretty much any tangible way? (At least, that’s what you think).

English is the language of the world, and any of us with it as our Mother Tongue should count ourselves lucky. English is it. Italian (and every other language) is out. Isn’t that the general consensus? 

pizza

I’m here to tell you that contrary to popular belief, Italian is useful.

It’s useful, it’s helpful, and it’s a language that, through its nature and the nature of its speakers, lends itself to being fun.

Knowing a second language in general is a good thing. It’s like gymnastics for your brain when you switch back and forth between the two. They say that people who know and use a second language, ward off alzheimer’s disease longer than their monolingual counterparts. Who doesn’t want that?

Also, if you tell me that Italian hasn’t been useful in my job hunts, I’ll eat my hat. I have had four, count them, FOUR jobs that knowing Italian has helped me get: my job working for a tour operator in Tuscany, a group leader for summer abroad students in Italy, writer for an Italian-Canadian magazine, and Italian instructor at a university. In a couple cases, my knowing Italian was the deal maker/breaker in my getting those job offers. Now tell me that it hasn’t been useful. And tell me that those jobs aren’t at least somewhat cool. Tell me!

You can’t do it. Because the jobs are cool, the experiences were/are amazing, and Italian has proved itself useful for helping to feed my salvadanaio (piggybank).

Then there’s the more “Italian” side to this argument, the touchy-feely side.

Think of how many more people you can talk to if you know a second language. And think about the people who speak Italian. There are a lot of real personaggi (characters) on that peninsula, and by knowing Italian, you get to talk to them. You get to get to know them. You get to read Dante in all his original 13th century splendour, and you get to listen to songs like “We No Speak Americano” and understand all the words.

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We don’t study Italian because we need to, like everyone who studies English does. We don’t have that pressure. Our jobs, (well, most of them), our livelihoods, our families don’t depend on our knowledge of la bella lingua. But maybe that’s just it, the beautiful part of it all. We study Italian because we want to, not because we need to. Because the music of the language moves us to learn it, to engage in this “impracticality”, to throw some of our precious time to the wind and do something simple for the pleasure of being able to pronounce words like piacere.

dizionario

And if I wasn’t convinced of the merits of knowing Italian before, a conversation with the owner of a language school in Rome this summer really tipped the scales for me.

Sarah,” he said, cigarette in hand, leaning casually on the railing of one of the school’s small balconies. “In this Italian school, we used to also share the space with an English school. Our two sets of students were completely different. The English ones, well, they didn’t want to come to class, they walked around with their heads down, all grey, you know,” he shrugged.

“But the ones who were studying Italian,” his eyes lit up and his voice took on a breathy quality.

“Sarah, the ones who were studying Italian were just more…” he waved his hand casually as he searched for the word. It didn’t take him long before he plucked it out of the Roman sunshine and gave it to me through a slow smile.

“… Beautiful.”