UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

La Classe in Italia

“Vorrei un cappuccino, per favore”

The mornings were soft, the cold of the night warming in the Tuscan sun. My roommate for the duration of the trip was still asleep but I am an early riser. I slipped out of bed, tossed on yesterday’s rumpled jeans, grabbed a key for our airbnb and headed out. I strolled through the fifteen minute walk to the Duomo. Jumping in and out of the uneven stone streets as motorbikes zoomed down them, smartly dressed Fiorentini on their way to work. As I walked, I peered into the various cafés and watched while people sipped morning cappuccinos. This struck me as a good idea. I approached the counter in a café, ordered in Italian and sipped at the counter while I observed local life as it shuffled through the shop and along the sidewalks outside.

“Buongiorno.”

Satisfied with my coffee fix, I walked back to the apartment for class. By now, my classmates had emerged for the day. Coffee was brewing on the stove-top and morning cookies were plated in the center of the communal table. A few of us popped out to purchase fruit to add to the breakfast spread. The textbooks were sitting where we left them the night before, after we completed our homework. A few pages of worksheets after dinner. Soon we were gathered around the table reviewing what we had studied the day before. Shortly, there was a knock on the door.  One of our two professors had arrived for the conversation session while the other went shopping for foodstuffs our lunch.

“Libro giallo”

Our conversation session centered around a murder mystery. A high school reunion filled with sweet love, betrayal, a dramatic murder, and the suspense of police investigation. We read a chapter each day, each of our small group has an opportunity to read and then ask questions about the words we not seen before. Afterwards we answered questions about the chapter and gossiped about the characters. We shared our thoughts about the romances and histories between the characters as we theorized about who  murderer might be.

“Un dramma.”

Now that we were immersed in drama, we were tasked with creating a skit. Given characters and a setting, we created as outrageous a story as possible within the boundaries of our aggregate  Italian vocabulary. Inspired by the murder mystery we were reading, our skits were filled with betrayed lovers, disappearances, and intrigues of our own creation which of course must come to tragic conclusions.

“ho una domanda”

Both professors were the captive yet appreciative audience of our skits. After the performance, the cast settled in to a quick review of homework, while our professors prepared lunch. We’d review and cover a few new concepts while going around the table doing examples. Everyone was involved for the entire class, encouraging us all to ask questions and actively participate.

“Siamo andati a prendere la frutta.”

When the meal was ready, we served the food and made our best attempt to describe our morning to our professors in Italian. We gained confidence with each coming day to make mistakes and correct them. By early afternoon, our stomachs were filled with wonderful food and our brains overflowing with Italian thoughts and phrases. Basta!

“Andiamo!”

Once we broke from lunch we set out to explore Florence and practice our budding Italian. Sometimes going to museums, sometimes going to see sights, sometimes challenging ourselves to find the place with the best view for studying, and sometimes on hot days, we would drop everything and just hunt for the best Gelato flavors. Lemon sorbet, nutella, strawberry and banana being among the finalists, but really, who could choose?