I’ve been in Bologna for about two weeks and my program started just last week. I remember coming earlier this year during spring break to get a glimpse of what my life in Bologna would look like; honestly, that trip didn’t do it justice.
I live in an apartment just outside the city center. It’s located on a busy street but luckily my room is situated on the opposite side of this clamorous street. Even so, as soon as my housemates open their windows I can hear the passing of cars and motorcycles, the engine of the bus that arrives every five minutes, the drilling that comes from the construction workers at the apartment building right across the street, and the characteristic sirens of European ambulances and police cars. It seems chaotic but you get used to it very quickly.
The nice thing is that everything here is pretty accessible. As soon as I exit the wooden framed doors with crystal windows that secure the entrance to my apartment building, I’m met with a small market, a bakery, not one but two hairdressing salons, and a handful of small restaurants. It’s definitely one major difference I’ve noticed that separates the US and Italian city planning choices.
Back home in LA, it is essential to have a car if you want to get anywhere. Public transport isn’t very reliable and Uber isn’t the same economic choice we once took it for. These problems seem to disappear in Bologna. With a variety of reliable and efficient public transport methods; busses, trams, trains, and e-bikes, Bologna makes it easy to move around the city without the need for an environment-polluting vehicle.
I’ve also noticed the pace of life here is far more relaxed than it is in the US. I’ve learned to take my time, be fully present, and enjoy my meal, the time I spend reading a book in the park, or whatever it may be that I’m doing. I feel that life back in the states can become so crammed and hectic with duties. This of course can be true for any place in the world but in Bologna, prioritizing time for myself hasn’t been much of a challenge. That’s not to say that I don’t have productive time as well, on the contrary, I’ve been able to build a good routine, and now that university courses are finally starting it’ll be interesting seeing how I manage to balance this out.
Throughout my summer ILP course, I learned many of the differences between the Italian university system and the UC system. The differences include written vs oral exams, letter grades vs number grades, and exam dates vs exam week. It seems that the Italian university system grants students more freedom to complete their degrees on their own terms. It’s stunning to think they don’t assign homework here. Doing the readings and understanding the material being taught is essential to your performance on the oral exam which is your grade for the class. It’s been about two weeks since I got here and already I’ve observed some key differences between US and Italian culture and society. The next few months should be filled with more discoveries.