Sitting in the classroom my initial reaction was that these children were extremely different from the students in America. And while there are extreme differences in language and maybe even learning styles, the overall atmosphere and behavior of the students were similar.
I felt that after watching and interacting with these kids they are extremely similar to the children in the United States. One student was the class clown while another was the shy studious child in the corner. It mirrored the classroom environment of many classrooms I have seen and been a part of in the United States. As I looked more closely however, I did see a difference in the independence of the students. I observed that in the Italian classrooms the students were much more independent in their studies and took an initiative to finish the work on their own while in the United States students more heavily rely on the teachers. It seemed to me that the students were more likely to work on the task alone and help one another before going to the teacher.
Another difference I noticed in the school was the most obvious one yet the most surprising; the fact that the students spoke very good English. They all could translate things that I was unable to and even that the teacher was unable to at times. It was so surprising to me because these children were no older than 10 years old and were speaking amazing English. This contrasts the United States in that most schools don’t teach language until middle school and even then the language courses are not taken as seriously as they are in Italy. These children are learning a language other than their own at such an early age and they are succeeding much more than the students in American schools.
Overall, kids are kids anywhere; each with their own specific learning habits and personalities. However, there are distinct patterns and generalizations that differ from the United States and Italy in the schooling system. The way that we teach language and the amount of independence we exhibit contrasts one another extremely. Only being there for a few hours I was able to observe these differences and it leaves me wondering what else I would have seen if I had been there for longer.
You would think that by my 9th week here I would no longer be amazed by everything around me. But, it seems that the more time passes the more amazed I am by this city and by its’ culture.
Let me paint this picture for you. Right now, as I write this, I am sitting at an outdoor café, surrounded by strangers. A mixture of tourists and residents, lovers and friends, families and strangers. The sun is slowly setting, creating an indescribable, move-like setting. Horses attached to carriages add to this dream I suddenly feel I am in.
If that wasn’t enough, in the last 5 minutes, I have been able to hear at least 5 different languages being spoken. The culture that surrounds me never ceases to astonish me and as the laughter of children fills the air, I think to myself that if paradise exists, I must be in it.
For a moment in time I find myself lost in thought. I find myself rid of worries, rid of hardship, rid of questions. You see, lately I have been nervous about my summer plans. And as my roommates get interviews with various companies, I worry about what I want from life. I worry about my future, but in this moment of pure simplicity, there are no worries about what the future holds, there is only now.
Living in Italy has taught me a new appreciation for life. It has taught me to live life to the fullest. Here, time passes faster than I could have ever expected and it teaches me to appreciate everything around me, to take in every moment and every experience. It teaches me that these are the moments I want to remember.
These little things are the simple things, the beautiful things that I want to remember and appreciate for the rest of my life.
In my past posts I have written about pretty general concepts concerning abroad. And don’t get me wrong I love those posts, but not once have I addressed or discussed anything to do with Penn State. However, being abroad here not only means missing my family, but also missing events at my university. Watching my fellow students this weekend at THON, Penn State’s annual 46-hour dance marathon where all proceeds go to the Four Diamonds Fund, I found myself more homesick than ever. This blog post won’t be about feeling homesick or my experience abroad though, it will be about something much bigger; about THON.
For those of you unfamiliar with THON and what it means to Penn State, let me start off by saying it defines us. Any Penn Stater will tell you that THON was the reason many of us chose Penn State. And, I personally believe it continues to be the reason we have this cult-like lifestyle where once a Penn Stater, always a Penn Stater applies. It continues to inspire us to take part in the lives of families whose problems are much bigger than our own.
So, amidst the chaos and sadness we all felt this semester everyone was nervous to see the total. But, we managed to raise over $10 million and we never once let the opinions of others shame us or deter us from raising money for something much bigger than ourselves. The opinions I am referring to are those of media personnel that attacked our university at a time when we as students were doing all we could to rise above the actions of certain individuals.
In a recent article however, ESPN strayed away from the scandal and addressed THON. Truthfully, I am slightly alarmed by the lack of detail that they chose to describe this amazing event and by the emphasis they placed on Joe Paterno’s absence from it.
Just like many of my peers, it was saddening that Joe Paterno was not present at THON. But I believe, just like many of my peers do, that THON isn’t about whether Joe Paterno is present or not, it is about and will always be about the kids. I respect and honor Coach just as much as the next Penn Stater, but I don’t think it’s fair to take away from all the students do and hundreds of families that are helped by THON.
So I ask, why is it that many news sites manage to cover weeks worth of stories concerning a scandal that had nothing to do with the students but cannot manage to show what a wonderful thing the students are able to accomplish?
After writing this post I stumbled upon another article concerning THON. I felt like I should add it just to give you more of a taste of the student opinions on THON.
It’s week 5 and time has never moved so fast. As I look back on the past few weeks I am astonished at the things I have been able to see and do. Night sledding down the Swiss Alps…seeing the first snowfall in Rome in 25 years…and don’t forget living a “normal” everyday life in Florence.
It all feels so unreal and dreamlike. Even as I sit in this Americanized café, listening to my American music, writing in English, I can sense the difference from my life at home. I can sense the change in myself as well.
And so when the waitress brings me a glass of water I automatically mutter “Grazie” as if it were the language I were taught to respond in.
Small instances like this remind me that I am no longer a visitor here, but in other instances like when I cannot understand a single word the taxi driver says to me, I am reminded that I am not a resident either.
So which one is it? Visitor or resident? I really believe it’s somewhere in between. After all, I now call Florence my home and at the same time, I don’t speak the language and I still get lost on my way to the store. Showing me that I am constantly struggling to find a place between tourist and resident.
I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever really fit in on either end of the spectrum but for now I think I’ll take that somewhere in between and continue to be a “resident” annoyed by those real tourists crowding the streets and continue to every now and then be one of those “tourists” stopping to stare at the beauty of the buildings around me.
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