Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Università

October 1, 2008

I can't believe it's already October! Time seems to be flying by so fast here... University started this past Monday, so I thought I'd post about my first week of classes at my Italian università. First, let me just say that choosing classes was one of the most challenging experiences. The system here is so different from anything in the States, so the unfamiliarity as well as the complexity made planning a schedule for the semester really difficult. When Italians go to university, they only study one thing in a specific facoltà, kind of similr to a major in the States. General ed requirements don't exist here. But us EAP kids are special, and we're allowed to take classes from any facoltà. This seems great, but actually it makes it really difficult to plan a schedule because times for classes in different facoltà tend to overlap. Also, when choosing a class, there are many things to consider: when it is, whether the workload is doable (everything takes 10x longer in Italian), if it will count for credit back at our home campus, whether the professor is good/accomadating to foreign students, etc.
The structure of the academic calendar here is very different from back home, too. The year is split into semesters, but many classes are split into 2 "modules" within a semester. And being with EAP it gets even more complicated. We leave in December before the 2nd module is over; so we can either just do the first one, or we have to arrange to finish the 2nd earlier than the rest of the class which is a pain in the ass. And another thing...EAP requires us to take a minimum of 18 units (approx. 4 classes), which basically works out for me to be one psychology class (only module A...which means it's over by Nov. 8th!), an art history class taught at the Study Center which goes until December, and a yet-unknown class from the Letters and Philosophy facoltà (both module A & B, which will count as 1 class each). The latter class is proving to be impossible to find though.
EAP has not been very helpful either. Basically this whole week we were just told to go check out as many classes as we could until we find ones that work. Some other gripes: classes here are usually 2 hours and 15 minutes, 3 days a week, and trying to concentrate on a foreign language for that long is extremely difficult; I finally appreciate the variety of classes available back home because here the options suck; you don't actually register for classes here, you just get credit at the end if you take the exam, whether or not you ever went to class; following a professor in lecture is much harder than I thought, and I'm really starting to wonder why I chose to study in a foreign language!
Hopefully next week I'll straighten things out and have a concrete class schedule, but right now it just adds a lot of unwanted stress and anxiety to my life. On a somewhat more positive note, I ended up with a B+ in ILP, which is what I felt I earned so I'm happy with it. I also got my other package in the mail with some more wonderful clothes including two pretty dresses! I finally got the flight fiasco for Dublin cleared up (with some help from my mom : ) Also, EAP is requiring us to do this "Tandem Learning" program where we are paired up with an Italian student learning English so we can meet and both practice speaking the languages. My partner emailed me yesterday... He studies chem though, so I don't know if we'll have much in common or a lot to talk about, but we'll see.
My most important news, however, is that tomorrow morning I leave for OKTOBERFEST!! Carly and I are taking a train at 6:30am and getting into Munich at 2pm where we're meeting one of my closest friends Sarah (who's studying with EAP in Sweden) and my old roommate from Rome, Kathryn (who's studying in Bologna now). Even though I know I won't be able to down a liter or two of beer, I think I've mentally prepared myself to be surrounded by it all, and I'm also pretty sure I'll be able to "taste" the beer my friends get and be fine. Regardless, it's going to be fantastic and literaly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I can't wait! I'm sure I'll be exhausted when I get back on Sunday night, but I'll try and post about the adventure asap!

Auf wiedersehen!

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