So far, my blog has barely mentioned schoolwork, classes, or anything related to my studies while abroad. So, let's step away from the seemingly more fun parts of studying abroad and focus on my academics for a bit! The first thing I'll say is that European schools are no joke! Attendance is strict, standards are high and exceptions are rarely made. But, the rigor and level of difficulty of my classes is a challenge that I am excited to tackle!
Honestly, I was expecting to have an easy course load this semester, but that is far from the case! Since I'm majoring in marketing, I was hoping to take some of my course requirements here in Florence, but unfortunately there were little to no classes offered here that would fulfill my requirements at my home institution. But, there were plenty of psychology courses I could take to finish out my psychology minor! So, I'm taking a class on social psychology that focuses on human social behavior, as well as a class on organizational psychology that studies workplace dynamics.
At the University of Alabama, my psychology classes tend to be easier than my business classes, mostly because I have a much easier time understanding concepts and theories and a lot of the material overlaps. As well, my psychology professors have tended to be less focused on grades and more focused on students actually learning and being interested in the material. That same idea of learning rather than memorizing is being applied by my professors here at the Lorenzo de' Medici Institute, but in different ways. Course readings are extensive, and since both of my psychology classes meet once a week for two and a half hours, work is more daunting. The amount of essays and writing assignments, as well as group projects and presentations that are listed on my syllabi seems unmanageable, but it's all a lesson in time management and prioritization.
Along with my two psychology courses, I am also taking beginners Italian (as mandated by my study abroad program). I was hoping that my poor attempt at using Duolingo for two months would better prepare me for Italian life, but it only managed to teach me random words I would rarely find myself using. I mean, it seems a bit ridiculous that I know how to say most animals like bear and turtle but not how to introduce myself! Luckily, the class is based on teaching survival phrases, questions and words for daily Italian interactions. Two weeks in and I can now order food, introduce myself, ask for directions and much more!
The last class that I am taking is foundation oil painting. For those who do not know, I consider myself to be fairly creative and artistic. I never took classes or practiced as much as I should have. Instead of practicing my drawing I chose to use my artistic abilities in other ways such as makeup or crafting, until last spring semester when I took an introductory drawing class. It was such a great experience and I was able to work with different mediums, learn new techniques and overall heighten my artistic abilities. In hopes of continuing to grow artistically, I figured that Italy was the perfect place to branch out of my artistic comfort zone. I've painted, but mostly with acrylic paints, so I figured the class would be a welcome challenge -- and I was right!
In our first class session we began drawing a still life which we would eventually paint on canvas as our first project. I'm glad I took a drawing class last semester otherwise I would have had a very difficult time with just the first step! Then in our next class we jumped straight into painting. Unlike my drawing class where we learned techniques and concepts first before jumping into rendering, my professor here opted for the 'just do it' approach. I can't say it wasn't overwhelming, because it was! Of course, my instructor was helpful in developing our paintings and giving us feedback, but I definitely left class a bit frustrated. I'm very much a perfectionist when it comes to my artwork, but artwork is absolutely imperfect. So, I'm learning patience and acceptance, in addition to new painting skills and techniques!
Along with my school work, I've also opted to volunteer at a local church giving food and clothing to those less fortunate once a week. My first day was yesterday and it was great being able to give back to others within the city, as well as meet more locals and fellow students. I'll also begin a language exchange program next week where I'll be able to meet with Italian students and help them learn English, as well as practice my Italian with them.
With class from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, five and a half hours of oil painting on Tuesdays, Italian class and language exchange on Wednesdays and volunteering early Thursday mornings, my days are far from free, not to mention, traveling almost every weekend beginning Thursday afternoon! But, I'm finally getting into the swing of things. I know my schedule and my responsibilities, and I have a system of getting everything done while still having fun. It's safe to say that my time studying abroad won't be an easy semester, but it will absolutely be an eventful one!
A presto! (Talk to you soon!)