Letter from Abroad: Stephanie Klein ’21

Stephanie Klein ’21, Abroad Columnist

As someone who has been abroad in two countries this year, I have absolutely loved my time abroad. Last semester, I was in Bath, England with the ASE (Advanced Studies in England) program and really enjoyed my time there and my new friends. Currently, I am in Bologna, Italy and, while the situation at hand is not ideal (in regard to the Coronavirus outbreak) I am still making the most of it. Thankfully, Bologna has not been affected yet and while our classes this week have been cancelled, we are still using this time to explore the city and immerse ourselves into the Italian culture.

The food here is incredible, as expected. I do like to joke that Bologna isn’t very vegetarian-friendly, but the spinach and ricotta stuffed pasta is my go-to (or the whole pizza you can get for just 5 euros). I will say that I have gotten some very intense looks of disgust from pizza shop owners when I ask if they could put pineapple on top, but some places will do it! 

Given that we’ve only been here for 4-ish weeks and are now told to stay put, I’m afraid that my traveling experiences have been minimal. The Italian Studies students took a 3-day trip to visit Bolzano, in Northern Italy, and Trentino. I did manage to go skiing in the Alps though, and see Austria from afar, so I can cross that off of my bucket list. 

I live with a host family and they’ve been nothing short of wonderful and accommodating. I can either take a bus into the city center or I can walk the 2.5-ish miles. Lately, partly due to the gorgeous weather and partly due to the fact that I’d rather not be on a crowded bus and risk anything, I’ve chosen to walk to class. Doing so, I’ve been able to see all the small cafes and fruit stands underneath the porticos and appreciate all the old art that still stands in some places. I’d also like to take a moment to mention how many dogs there are in Bologna: a lot. There’s a bit of a cultural difference in that it is a little strange to ask to pet someone’s dog, but I’ll take the strange looks.

Being part of the Italian Studies program, we are, of course, encouraged to speak only in Italian. In just 4-ish weeks, I can say that I’ve noticed quite a difference in my comprehension skills because, let’s face it, Italians talk fast. While I still have to pause for a moment to form a reply, it is a lot quicker than at the start.

I’d also like to mention the topic that we’re all thinking about: how has the coronavirus affected our studies? Well, I can answer that. this week, (Feb. 24-29), both University of Bologna classes and Dickinson college classes have been suspended. Gyms are closed. The streets aren’t as crowded. Some people wear masks (but I think it’s more of a fashion statement, given that the virus isn’t airborne). We’ve been receiving emails almost daily, sometimes more than once a day, updating us about what Dickinson will decide to do. Some students have already left to go back to America. Dickinson College has advised the remaining students to stay put in Bologna and not travel outside of the area which kind of sucks, because I have Spring Break plans.

All in all, it’s still been a cool experience thus far and I’m glad to have had the privilege to study here in Italy.