Shereen Sodder | Bologna, Italy | Post 4
I have basically a month left in Bologna, which means that I’m almost at the end of classes, and I’ve even started taking some finals. The only one I’ve taken so far was for my Unibo course, which was an oral exam that counted for my whole grade. This test, as described by the professor, seemed like it was going to be pretty chill, but during the actual test the professor asked me the most random questions that were literally the opposite of what he told us to focus on in class. I wholly credit my advanced conversational Italian, my BS-ing skills, and my milking the pity vote as a dumb American as much as possible for getting an A (or rather a 30, the Italian equivalent). As one does, after this exam I got a gelato with one of my friends from the course who is taking the exam in May. She told me multiple times how much she loves my vaguely-Boston accent when I speak English and how she wishes she had it when she speaks English, so now I know what it’s like to be British or Australian basically.
The weekend before my exam, my program organized a trip to Trento, which is a small city in Northern Italy surrounded by the Dolomites and along the Adige river. After checking into our hotel where I stole all the soap, we went to Rovereto to go to a modern art museum. This was for a class offered by my program that I’m not taking, so whenever the professor was saying something about art I was studying for my exam. The following day, before returning to my studies, I went for a walk along the banks of the Adige where I mastered the downhill crabwalk to get closer to the river without falling on my ass or getting dirt on my pants. Overall a successful day.
Trento used to be part of Austria/Germany, which means that all of the food had a ton of butter and milk and is best enjoyed with a giant beer. As someone who is #lactoseintolerant, I was very happy to find that there was a street fair going on that weekend with food from all the different regions of Italy and from all over the world that I could eat without feeling nauseous. It was pretty funny when, during a lunch of traditional Trento food, my waitress was terrified that she had straight up killed me because I was eating apple strudel instead of the fruit salad she brought me (But like, come on, how am I gonna eat a bowl of honeydew over apple strudel? I’m still human.).
Aside from this weekend trip, since my last post I haven’t left Bologna, mainly because of that exam. I was even here for the week off that we had for Easter, because even though Unibo is a public university, this is still Italy so the Catholics always win. My friends and I did a lazy version of an Italian Easter meal, which means that we made asparagus risotto and salad and ate a Columba, the Easter equivalent of Panettone. We also saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” keeping with the theme of embracing Italian culture. I’ve also had a chance to get to know my roommates a bit better, which has led to some new insights on Italian culture. My direct roommate is from Le Marche, the region immediately south of Emilia Romagna, and she is super nice and cute and very Italian (eats cookies and Nutella for breakfast Italian). She had her finals from fall semester up until the end of February, so the first time I hung out with her and her friends was after this when I went with her to eat all of the Sardinian food her best friend brought from home. All of her friends were really nice and welcoming and always say hello whenever I see them. However, they are slightly racist (they use terms like “the Pakistanis” and “the Chinese”), especially towards the many African immigrants that live in our building and have an extremely different cultural background. My other two roommates are from Cameroon, and they are also both really nice. One of them constantly makes cakes and huge pots of Cameroonian food, and she usually offers me some to taste when I’m in the kitchen and it’s always been very good. The Italians usually get confused by the food that the Cameroonian girls make, and they also get grossed out when they thaw their meat on the kitchen counter or leave their pots on the stove with the food still inside (but they have yet to be sick from this, so it seems ok to me).
I met some of my Cameroonian roommate’s friends on her birthday when she had people over for dinner, and, even though they were all really nice and clearly affected by the racism they’ve encountered in Italy and receptive to my experiences with it, they were all super conservative in a rather judgmental way. For example, they seemed scandalized when I told them that I wasn’t religious, and even more so when I told them I didn’t have a boyfriend because I’m tbh too strong and independent to deal with another person’s feelings and shit #girlpower #foreveralone. They were speechless when I told them that I didn’t go abroad with a boyfriend or have a boyfriend at home and that this wasn’t something that concerned me in the slightest. From what I’ve heard from my friends with immigrant roommates, most of them share these same beliefs. So while xenophobia is still definitely an issue for Italy, the country’s conservative nature is mirrored in its immigrant groups. I’m not sure what it means for the political and social progress of Italy that the younger generation of Italians continues to be xenophobic and that the immigrants are, for the most part, extremely conservative and judgmental in a country that already is so, but it has definitely given me some insight on aspects of Italian culture that I didn’t even know existed.