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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

Non Parlo Italiano

After studying Spanish for over 8 years (including 4 semesters at Cornell) I arrived in Rome a week before the intensive Italian class, and began to speak a strange hybrid of Spanish and Italian during my failed attempts to communicate. I added “s”s to plurals, kept saying “hola” instead of “buon giorno” or the ever universal “ciao,” and kept inserting Spanish vocabulary into badly formed sentences.
That first week was a blur of sorts. I was jetlagged and Erica dubbed me “Ginny: My Roommate the Bat” because of my bizarre sleeping habits. We found the local grocery stores “Punto” and “Despar” and discovered that prosciutto and cheese are unbelievable and that wine costs about as much as water. We ate at some more terrible restaurants because we kept falling into the tourist traps that we were had been warned about.
I was completely lost most of the time due to Rome’s patchwork city plan and my complete lack of a sense of direction. A group of us made a few trips wandering around the city, stumbling onto the Victor Emmanuel II monument and Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis Museum. The weekends were fun; I spent them roaming around the city, eating meals with new friends and learning a bit more about the eternal city.
Erica and I even stumbled upon the Pantheon and debated whether or not it actually was the pantheon because it simply emerges out of framework of Rome’s residential buildings.

In front of Richard Meier's Controversial Ara Pacis Museum
In front of Richard Meier's Controversial Ara Pacis Museum
Vittorio Emmanuelle II, Right down the street!
Vittorio Emmanuelle II, Right down the street!

Finally, Italian class began and immediately we started to learn how the language worked; I found it similar to Spanish in a lot of ways. By day three I felt like I was on a roll! By day four I found myself confined to my bed with a 104 degree fever, sick as a dog. I learned that an epidemia had overtaken the city and the symptoms were high fever and a cough, of which I had both. Much to my luck I also developed a sinus infection, which was treated after a very easy visit to the doctor upon the aid of Anna Rita and Anne Marie.
I spent days and days in bed. When I saw my roommates going outside into Rome I was incredibly jealous but asleep most of the time so I only noticed the jealousy in small feverish bursts. I finally emerged five days later and made it through the remainder of my intensive Italian class. I continued to have a weird sleep schedule, but it was a relief to feel human again.
Post-sickness I was incredibly overwhelmed when I stepped back onto the cobblestone streets of the Centro Storico. I forgot all directions, my Italian was spotty at best and I was still in quite a daze. I relied on my city-planner roommates Taylor and Lindsey to guide me to Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona and to Via del Corso for shopping, coffee and other touristy indulgences the first days back.

I couldn’t wait for class to start, when it finally did, I got right back into the swing of things and my navigation, Italian and overall competence as a temporary Roman greatly improved.


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