When studying abroad, there really is no set routine. Sure, you have your class schedule, but in addition to being a student, you’re also juggling the titles of traveler and local. There’s a lot to do, and every week is different. That being said, here’s what a week in my life in Perugia looks like from classes to festivals to travel.
The dreaded Monday. Mondays are tough, but waking up in Italy does help negate some of those lethargic Monday feelings. My week starts with Italian 101. The class is exactly what it sounds like: we’re learning Italian. One of my reservations before studying abroad in Italy was the language barrier. I think somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean it started to set in that I literally knew no words except for ciao. However, don’t let the language barrier stop you from studying abroad, or even from going to somewhere more off the beaten path like Perugia. I would probably find a lot more English speakers in Rome, but even here there are plenty of people who also know some English. And if not, in my experience Italians are very patient with you if you attempt to speak in Italian.
My only other class on Mondays is Archaeology. This semester we’re studying the Etruscans, who lived in this area before the Romans conquered it. It was important to me that my classes were related to the place where I was studying abroad, or else I might as well have taken them back in the States. This course is one of the ways that I’m taking advantage of my location while I’m abroad. Speaking of location, Perugia is hilly. Wherever you go, you’re walking up or down, but rarely have I found a truly flat street. A few times a week I usually go for a run, which is made even more challenging by the terrain of this city. Still though, there is no better way to see new parts of the city than by running down streets never taken.
My Tuesday schedule is a bit different. After Italian class, I go to my photography class. I knew I was going to take tons of photos while I was abroad, so why not learn more about the methods behind what makes a stunning image. In between classes, I might grab a piece of pizza for lunch or take a walk and work on my photography portfolio. My last class is a course on ancient Mediterranean religions.
After I left the Umbra Institute, I walked right into the beginnings of a festival. In Perugia, January 29 is the official celebration day of San Costanzo, one of the three patron saints of this city. The festival begins the night before, with a torchlight procession called the luminaria. This medieval tradition honors San Costanzo, and I followed the sound of the drums to find a line of people dressed in medieval period costume ready to walk from the center of historic Perugia to the Basilica of San Costanzo. The procession begins around sunset, and all of the candles create a beautiful and somewhat reverent atmosphere. Although it is comical to see people dressed in medieval costumes standing in front of modern day shop windows.
Wednesday was January 29, the day of the celebration of San Costanzo. After my morning Italian class, I headed out to Piazza IV Novembre (the main square where the Umbra Institute is located) for the tasting of the Torcolo di San Costanzo. The Torcolo di San Costanzo is a ring-shaped cake, or rather a sweet bread, that is made with candied citrus peel, raisins, and nuts. At the tasting, large tents are set up and vendors offer samples for everyone to try.
After archaeology and another early evening run, I met some friends for dinner. Dinner is another thing that varies. Sometimes I cook at my apartment, sometimes I go out, and sometimes I just grab a quick slice of pizza on my way to study.
You guessed it, Italian class first thing. We actually spent some time window-shopping to help us learn the vocabulary terms for different clothing, which was a nice way to get out of the classroom. Then photography class, followed by my religion course and my evening was free. Some friends and I went out for dinner on Thursday. We just walked around until we saw a place that looked good. We ended up at an Italian restaurant that served handmade pasta and roasted chicken, with more Torcolo di San Costanzo for dessert. Overall, going out to eat hasn’t been that expensive here. There are definitely places near the school that are reasonably priced with delicious food.
At the Umbra Institute, students take classes Monday through Thursday, with Fridays free unless one of your classes has a field trip. This Friday, my religion class took a field trip to Assisi. Assisi is famous for being the home of St. Francis of Assisi and the Basilica of San Francesco is well worth the short 20-minute train ride from Perugia. Our field trip was a guided tour of the Basilica for a couple of hours, but once the field trip was over, the rest of my day was free to explore more of Assisi. If you ever find yourself in Assisi, be sure to see the Rocca Maggiore, a medieval castle that gives you the best view of the city, and the Oratorio San Francesco Piccolino, which is the small chapel where St. Francis was supposedly born. There’s also tons of other smaller churches to see, and many delicious pastries to try.
That’s my school week in a nutshell, not to mention all the places you can go on Sabato (Saturday) and Domenica (Sunday). Again, every week is different. My schedule has some reoccurring moments, like classes or going for a jog, but I try to leave the rest of my agenda pretty open. I love stumbling unexpectedly into street festivals and having the time to attend them. In Perugia, I live and study in the heart of the city, which means that I can always find somewhere to go or something to do. My only complaint is that I will never have enough time to do it all.