Getting lost in Tuscan fields, Italian exams, and endless goodbyes
Hello, my name is Catherine Osborne, and I am currently in denial about how much time I have left on Erasmus . Yes, the countdown is on, with just over three weeks until I board my flight to Heathrow and say goodbye to this wonderful chapter in my life. Sobs… Trust me, I really did not intend to become one of those ridiculously annoying and pretentious people who won’t shut up about their year abroad, but here we are- I am fully ready to take all abuse and memes in exchange for doing this experience, 100% worth it. But alas, it is indeed coming to an end.
So in between the stress of end of semester exams, essays for Warwick, planning for next year, paperwork and working out how on earth I’m actually going to get to my summer internship, I have taken the executive decision to start having as much fun now, because it seems like I will be working right up until I start third year. Which means of course, more pilgrimaging…
All 28km of it!
Yes, having enjoyed the previous leg of the Via Francigena so much, my flatmates and I embarked on the next leg of it, from Siena to Ponte D’Arbia, which featured far less walking through woodlands and shaded pathways, and saw us full on, Theresa May style, hiking through the Tuscan fields of wheat for 7 hours in 33 degree heat.
Let’s just say, whilst we were this happy when we started in Siena, by the time we reached Ponte D’Arbia, we were shattered, and pretty burned (even though, yes mum, I did reapply my factor 30)
And even though I’d like to say Ponte D’Arbia greeted us with its beautiful views and charm, in reality, it might be one of the smallest and worst towns I have visited in Italy. This opinion was really impacted by the fact that the only bus back to Siena left 5 minutes before our arrival, meaning we were confronted with the choice to either walk the 28km back home or wait 3 hours. However, in true Erasmus style, life surprised us, and in light of our continual whining to the ticket seller at the cafe, a phone call was made, and within 10 minutes, a delightful man named Ethan, working for a charity supporting pilgrims on the Via Francigena offered to drive us back to Siena. For free. Oh Italy…
We love you, Ethan, and your lifesaving of a Fiat Panda!
And of course, what better way to rest our muscles the next day (and escape the 36-degree heat in Siena) than to head to the beach. Situated around an hour from our home, Principina al Mare is a quiet little beach that made for a welcome change from Tuscan fields and sweltering heat.
Vamos a la playa
Although I probably should add that despite all the fun, I have indeed been attending my final classes, which should hopefully finish this week- you never really know with Italians- just in time for my exams to start next Monday. In fact, to celebrate our last class for my History of Theatre module, we had our lecture in Siena’s Teatro dei Rinnovati, which is situated in the big building in our main square, the Piazza di Campo.
Exploring the palcoscenico!
As part of our Erasmus agreement, Italian studies students have to sit exams for 30 credits worth of modules (not measured in CATS), but luckily, we don’t need to pass them, which is something I am quite grateful for, given how chaotic the Italian examination system is. Let me break it down for you…
You sign up for exams on the University of Siena app and pick whichever date you want to do it (you have an option of 6). Naturally, you will probably choose the first option, because here, the reason there are 6 options is that it is possible to resit that module 5 times… a semester. Still failing on the sixth attempt? That’s fine, just do it next semester, and do it a further 6 times! You then turn up to the exam at the chosen time and date and wait. Italians are not really keen on written exams, so orals all round it is, meaning that even though the exam is at “9:00am” you might have to wait 5 hours for everyone else in the class to talk first… Do you understand my fears? When you are finally chosen by the professor to do your colloquio, you simply answer some questions for 20 or so minutes, sometimes longer if you’re interesting, and then receive your mark. All I will say is that with every day, I love British efficiency more and more.
So much so, that I even visited home for a weekend recently! Well, I also went home for some quality family time and for the birthday party of my best friend- you see now that I am no longer a 23 hour, via Toronto flight, away from home (I love you Bogotá) I can take advantage of cheap flights and fly home!
<3 <3 <3
Although, I had to make it only a 72-hour trip home, as by the time I flew back, the first of our many leaving dinners began. Yes, the best thing about Erasmus is you meet people from all over the world, but it also means that they eventually have to go home. Which means I seem to have a leaving dinner every couple of days for the next three weeks, until of course, I celebrate my own…
There are worse ways to say goodbye than an evening of wine tasting with a barbecue overlooking our beautiful city…
I think one thing this year has really taught me is the value of time. Particularly in Italy, I have really adopted a work-hard, play-hard lifestyle, which has shown me how much more you can get done if you want to. Compared to my first year at Warwick, I feel so much more in control of my time, and how to maximise every moment- something that is so crucial whether you’re having the time of your life on a year abroad, or doing second/ third year, when your degree actually counts.
It has also shown me how to value people, as the friends I have made in Colombia and Italy are truly friends for life, and knowing that I haven’t seen some of them for 6 months already, and I won’t see some people everyday like I do now, makes my moments and goodbye dinners with them now even more special.
So even though this seems to have become yet another post where I soppily confess just how much I love living here, and being on my Year Abroad, but I do hope it shows any prospective language students, or Year Abroad takers, just how special a year in another country can be. Obviously, I don’t want this to end, however, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that didn’t want to return to the beloved Warwick humanities building now, and see how different and more ready I feel.
A presto,Catherine xx