Trying to balance schoolwork and free time in a brand new environment can be difficult, especially if the environment is Italy.
Whether you plan to study abroad for five weeks or five months, it is crucial to remember that you are overseas for an education first, with entertainment coming second.
I am taking a three-credit course about the history of the popes, and it meets Mondays and Wednesdays for four hours per session. There are a couple of classes on-site, meaning we will be taking field trips to ancient Roman locations. It is inferred that the material we learn from these trips will be on the final exam.
So far, there hasn’t been any homework and the two tests for the entire summer are take-home tests. Although it sounds easy so far, I shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this will be a walk in the park. Looking over notes before and after each class will help me remember key lecture points, and jotting down ideas for potential questions that could appear on the exams isn’t a bad idea either.
When is the best time to do homework or study for an exam while abroad?
In Italy, towns tend to shut down from about 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to allow for a lunch break and a siesta. Lunch in Italy is considered the most important meal of the day, and children are usually excused from school to go home and have a hearty lunch with the family.
I typically venture into Rome to see attractions for most of the morning and some of the afternoon and then go to class at 2 p.m. I’ll usually review some lecture notes and then have dinner. If you have class in the morning and then are off in the afternoon, do your sightseeing immediately after class since some museums and other sites could close earlier than you may think. Then review notes after sightseeing but before having dinner. Any additional study time needed can be done after dinner.
The bottom line is that it is easy to forget you have classes to go to and study for when you’re suddenly the victim of culture shock. Study hard but still give yourself time to explore the country in which you’ll be living for quite a while.
Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, and Naples
In other news, this past weekend consisted of a class trip to the Campania region of Italy. About 40 students went to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, and Naples. Here are some thoughts on these places and what you can expect if you decide to go there.
Pompeii is truly massive. The once-bustling center for commerce in the 1st Century AD covers about 65 hectares and would take about two full days to see in its entirety. Most of the ruins are untouched and it feels like you’re walking through history with every step. Seeing what houses looked like back then, along with shops, spas and town squares, is great for all you history buffs out there.
Our home base was Sorrento, a small but incredibly busy town on a cliff looking out towards the sea. Narrow streets were filled with awe-inspired tourists from all around the world, poking their heads into small antique shops that line the main drag. Sorrento is a solid destination if you want a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea and also want to get a glimpse of life in southern Italy.
Capri is the mecca of shopping in southern Italy. Only a 25-minute ferry ride from Sorrento, the island of Capri is home to the rich and famous (Giogio Armani’s cliffside mansion, anyone?) and sometimes it requires you to have deep pockets to buy some of the finest the island has to offer, mainly clothing.
The main town on Capri is rightly called Capri, situated very high on the island. It is either a five-minute tram ride or a horrific 45-degree-slope walk up. I regretfully chose the latter, but it was a quiet walk nonetheless and I got in my exercise for the day. Some of the best views of the Mediterranean are from Capri, so get your camera ready when you head over there and pose for the Christmas card picture.
We were waned by our trip leaders that Naples is a dangerous place for tourists because the city is underdeveloped and ripe with petty crime. There are three distinct neighborhoods in the greater Naples area – one is decorated with graffiti and has many buildings with boarded windows and poor road conditions.
Next is the downtown area, which is the center for business and tourism. Plenty of museums and pizzerias await eager visitors and, for the most part, this section of town seemed quite safe and harmless.
The other section belongs to wealthy homeowners. Gated communities are perched high above downtown and get to deal with less commotion than their fellow Neapolitans down below.
If you have any comments or questions about these places, please feel free to leave a comment.
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