Amanda Shular, Prospective Student Recruiter and Advisor for Undergraduate Student Services, studied at the Faculty of Arts’ School in Cortona in 2013. These are her reflections (and a couple words of advice!) to those who are travelling to, or thinking about travelling to, summer school in Cortona, Italy.
On September 22, 2013, I boarded a plane to Cortona, Italy. After a year of planning, saving, preparing and anticipating it was finally time to embark on my three month journey abroad.
Arriving in Cortona alongside 20 of my fellow U of A classmates, we quickly bonded in our new house over heaping bowls of homemade pasta and wine served from water pitchers. We spent endless hours in the common room studying Giotto di Bondone’s painting, Ognissanti Madonna, for our Art History class, practicing our Italian phrases while gesturing wildly with our hands, and booking our next weekend trip to a new city in Europe. We travelled on an endless number of trains, planes, and boats together; hunting through the streets of Naples for the best piece of pizza or along the beautiful cobblestone streets of Firenze for the finest gelato, we would find the freshest fruits and vegetables at the Mercato Centrale, and attend the wedding reception of our favorite professor in the church of Sant’ambrogio.
We learned to love our pint-sized rooms, and Mama, the elderly Italian woman who cleaned them each afternoon. We spent hours debating if Mama understood more English than she let on, and I still believe she understood every word we said.
I – like many others – still refer to this as “the best months of my life”. I lived in a beautiful and historic city, ate delicious cuisine, stared up at some of the most famous paintings in the world, and truly lived like a local. Today, I continue to search for pear and pecorino cheese ravioli that I know will never come close to rivaling what I tasted in Florence. I drive to the grocery store and wish I could be walking to the Sunday market with my classmates, picking out fresh tomatoes and olive oil so green I barely recognized it as such. In Edmonton, I can buy an iced coffee anywhere I turn, but still long for that delicious Italian cappuccino from the cafe near campus and my leather bag from Mercato di San Lorenzo sits in my closet prepared for my next adventure.
“I lived in a beautiful and historic city, ate delicious cuisine, stared up at some of the most famous paintings in the world, and truly lived like a local.”
Never in my life did I imagine I could accomplish so much in three months. I traveled to over 15 cities in five different countries. I rode a gondola through the Grand Canal in Venice; surfed the “best waves in the world” in Morocco; ate traditional Greek gyros while watching a Thessaloniki sunset; signed my name on the Lennon Wall in Prague; and danced until the sun came up in Barcelona. I spoke a few phrases of semi-convincing Italian and ate 1,000 bowls of pasta (and probably even more gelato). I learned so much about myself, grew up in ways I never would have imagined, and made amazing friends and memories that can never be replaced. It is true that studying abroad will be “the best months of your life,” but trust me — it is so much more than that. It is truly a life-changing experience.
Congratulations to those of you attending Cortona this spring term, I hope you relish every minute of your time there, because trust me, it will pass by far too quickly.
Read more about the School at Cortona here.
All photos by Amanda Shular