Week 1 in Siena: Overcoming Jet Lag

Maddison Sullivan
June 21, 2016
Leaning Tower of Pisa

I am officially done with my first week in Siena!  It’s been challenging at times, but it’s also been wonderful.

When I last left you, I was sitting at JFK waiting for my flight to Rome. I’m happy to report that the flight went very well, and flying with Alitalia made it sink in that I was going to Italy.  When I made it to Rome, I bought a new SIM card for my phone with an Italian number, and then I took another plane to Florence.

Despite the fact that I watched the woman at Air France reroute my checked bag on the phone, it, of course, didn’t make it to Florence.  Shout out to my mother for telling me to pack an extra outfit and toothbrush in my carry-on in case this happened!  I would highly recommend doing this for everyone else traveling, as well.  (Don’t worry, my bag showed up four days later).

When I got to Siena, I met my host family. There’s a mom and dad, and they have three kids: one girl (11 years old) and two boys (14 and 9).  They’re super sweet, and the daughter and dad speak English very well, so that’s helpful.  My first couple of days in Italy, I was running on little sleep and I had that deer-in-headlights look every time someone spoke Italian to me.  It didn’t help, either, that my brain automatically switched to Spanish whenever it detected a foreign language was being spoken.  It was as if my brain forgot I’d taken a year of Italian. 

I will admit that one day when I came home from class, I was still quite jet lagged and sleep deprived (I’m always emotional when I’m tired), and I came home and cried myself into a nap.  I was tired of hearing Italian and feeling like an idiot everywhere I went.  Don’t worry, though.  After a few hours of sleep, I woke up and felt much better.  

I started classes this week, as well.  I’m in the program with five other girls from America, but none of them have had any experience with Italian before this, so I’m in my Italian class by myself. I basically have a private Italian tutor eight hours a week.  The other class I’m taking is with everyone and is taught in English.  It’s about the history and culture of food in Tuscany.  Unfortunately, it’s usually right before lunch and always makes me hungry.

When I wasn’t in class this week, I was getting lost in Siena.  The town is stunning.  Everything was built around the Piazza del Campo (the town center) and goes out from there in a circular pattern, but the streets don’t just go straight. They’re all windy and hard to follow.  I tried to study a map before I went out, but it was too confusing, so I figured I would get a handle on it when I actually walked the streets. Well, I can get around Siena and not get lost now, but I can’t tell you any street names and I rarely take a direct route.  It doesn’t help that all of the buildings are connected and six stories high, so you can’t see very far down the street in front of you and you certainly can’t see what the next street over is.

When I was exploring, I went as far as I could from my apartment to the other side of the city.  Siena is still surrounded by the city walls that were built in the 11th century, and everything inside the city is built up and cramped (but in the best possible way).  When I left the city walls, all of a sudden the whole countryside opened up and I could see mountains and villas for miles.  I can’t even capture the beauty of it with words.  I’ve seen pictures, which are of course beautiful, but no picture can accurately show just how far the mountains go.  It’s unbelievable.

Despite my inability to properly navigate around Siena, I must say the town is gorgeous. I’ve been getting gelato and finding a spot in the Piazza del Campo to sit and people watch.  Every street is a hill in Siena, too, so I’m getting quite the workout here.  I’m already seeing that my once snug pair of pants aren’t so snug anymore.

The food here is great, too!  Almost everything here is prepared with fresh ingredients, and it’s not pre-packaged and processed food like in America.  It feels healthier.  My host mom is a really good cook, too, and makes dinner every night.  I can already tell I’m understanding more and more Italian as my host family talks about their day at the dinner table.

I will say, I decided to put myself in the “I’m living here for six weeks” mindset rather than the “I’m vacationing here for six weeks” mindset and because of this, I’m enjoying the mundane things like taking a walk and going to the market, rather than trying to do all of the touristy things all the time.

This weekend, the girls and I went to Pisa and I took pictures in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Unfortunately, there’s not much else to do there.

I’ve also developed a horrendous cold, so I had to go to the pharmacy to get medicine.  Luckily, I remembered that health lesson from my Italian class this year and I was able to get what I needed.  I was pretty proud of myself after that endeavor.

Oh yeah…one more thing. Most of you that are reading this and are my age probably had an obsession with Lizzie McGuire at some point.  My elevator has the double doors like hers did in the Lizzie McGuire Movie.  I’ve also been waking up to “What Dreams Are Made of” every morning.

Ok, that’s enough rambling for now.

Until next week…


More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Maddison Sullivan

<div>I&#39;m a 21-year-old former Irish dancer, cheerleader, marching band member, and bagpiper. Right now, I&#39;m a psychology&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">student at Carnegie Mellon University where I bleed plaid! I also study Spanish and Italian and spend my free time&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">volunteering as a member of our student-run EMS organization on campus. I&#39;m beginning my journey as a world&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">traveler, starting in Italy, stopping in Walt Disney World for a semester, and ending in Spain. I love trying anything and&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em;">everything and I can&#39;t wait to take you on my journey with me!</span></div>

2016 Summer 1, 2016 Summer 2
Home University:
Carnegie Mellon University
Behavioral Neuroscience
Explore Blogs