For my first blog post (technically second, but first since arriving in Siena,) I figured it would be appropriate to wait until I did a lot of the first time adventures. Over the last two weeks, I did a week of orientation, had our first week of classes, and took my first weekend trip. So I am going to tell you about all those experiences.
First, orientation. Anytime I have to go to an orientation, I usually groan. But I thought that this may be different since we are in a new country, new language, new people, etc. Turns out that when everything is so new and exciting, orientation is still boring. I'm not saying it wasn't useful, just saying that I wasn't on the edge of my seat when we were talking about how to dispose of our trash. We however, did do some cool tours. We visited a contrada and its museum which was really cool. Contradas are basically neighborhoods that have churches and community centers, and Siena is divided up amongst 17 of them. The big thing for the Contradas (so all of Siena) is the Palio horse race. Shoot me a message if you want to know more about Palio and the contradas, there's too much info to cover in a short blog post. It was neat to see the Unicorn contrada's museum and see the Palio flags that they won and even some other historical artifacts. The museums aren't open to everyone, so we got a special invite and tour.
Once orientation week was over, it was the weekend and we were on our own to entertain ourselves. One of my roommate decided to travel, but most of us stayed in Siena to get acquainted. A group of us decided to tour the Duomo (big cathedral) and is still one of my favorite things I've done thus far. We toured everything but the chappel, since there was so much and we got hungry. The next day (Sunday) four of us decided to go to the Duomo chappel for mass. Inside was incredible, and was interesting to listen in, but I found myself mostly just looking around since I didn't understand.
I was weirdly glad when classes rolled in however, it gave me a sense of a schedule and things to do. All of my classes are good, some are a little drier than others, but learning from a Italian and European perspective is really refreshing. Lots of my classes back in Penn State look only at the U.S and China, and often don't look at the smaller countries. Italian language class for me is finally starting to some together, I think I was getting ahead of myself with all the verb conjugations, that I was having a harder time just learning the phrases. But now that we are starting some grammar rules, things are making more sense.
Once the first week of classes ended, six of us decided to go to Pisa and Lucca for the weekend. Made sense to me to have an easy first trip that was close, but still fun. We wanted to make the most of of our time, so we left early on Friday morning (no Friday classes for me!) got to Pisa around 10:00, went out for a breakfast where we knew we got ripped off on the price (dumb Americans), then went to our AirBnb to check in, saw the Leaning Tower and did all the fun pics, then really just walked around the town, stopping in stores and museums. The Tower is really neat and iconic to see, but I would reccommend only doing Pisa for a day, not much else is happening there. The next morning (Saturday) we took an early train to Lucca, and really loved it there. Mostly was just walking around, but the stores and outside vendors had neat things. The best thing we did though was a bike ride on the city walls. We had dinner and drinks in Lucca, then went took a late train back to Pisa to sleep. On Sunday, our train didn't leave until the afternoon, so we did some more tours in Pisa, had a long lunch, then walked back to the station to head home. On our way home though, one of the girls with me got gelato, but someone had stolen her phone while she was eating it. A bummer of a way to finish our weekend away. She's had a really good attitude about it though, but please if you travel, keep things out of coat pockets.
That's some, not all of what I've been up to. This weekend I'm going to Florence for a day, then next weekend I'm off to England to see my sister! Super pumped for that.
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<p>My name is Scott Durrwachter, and I am a junior at Penn State studying Business Management. I am studying abroad in Siena, Italy on the Business and Economics of the Food and Wine Industry (does it get any better than that?). My goals in Italy are to keep studying the coffee industry (especially espresso) and to befriend an Italian grandmother who loves to cook.</p>