Written by Nolan Deja, (The University of Virginia) Student Correspondent CET Siena Spring 2022
An eight-hour flight from Washington, DC to Munich, Germany. Sitting around for a long tiring two hours, I got onto another plane traveling from Munich, Germany to Florence, Italy. Ah, yes Italy! We have arrived! Nope, not yet. The last leg of the trip was a bus ride from Florence, Italy to Siena, Italy. Including travel time to the airport, layovers, waiting for everyone to arrive in Florence, and the sheer tiredness everyone was feeling from the18-hour trip, it felt like three days. Those 18 hours were well worth it when I was greeted by my Italian roommate, Federica, and the absolutely stunning town of Siena.
For this semester I chose the apartment option and within each apartment of American students there is one Italian roommate, and in my case that is Federica. In my apartment there are five Americans and Federica. Immediately upon arriving Federica was very eager to prepare a meal for us. The meal consisted of a pasta coupled with a ragu sauce and it was absolutely delicious and incomparable to the airplane meal I had a night before. The days following Federica helped us all assimilate to the culture here while we asked her an abundance of questions – from pronunciation of a certain word to restaurant recommendations to about anything you can imagine. I know this might sound like a cliche but truly I have felt like I have known and been friends with Federica for a long time. Through our bonding over Bugie (an Italian cookie almost like a funnel cake) and American peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which Federica had never before the start of our friendship here in Siena.
Watching the sunset with my roommates, Jamie, Halley, and Federica in Verona.
My roommates and I grew very close with Federica in the first week and within that week we all booked a trip to Venice together. I am not the only one who felt an immediate friendship with Federica. My roommate Halley Ray feels the same way with her initial impressions with Federica. Upon arrival Halley was eager to meet new people during the semester here and her eagerness and excitement was reciprocated by Federica. The excitement from Federica was on par with ours even though we were the ones traveling and experiencing this new opportunity in the beautiful country of Italy. Halley also said it was very nice to have an immediate friend in the country and I thoroughly agree with this. The frightening feeling of unfamiliarity and the language barrier of coming to a small town was immense especially where English is not as common as it is in the big cities such as Florence, Rome and Milan. Having Federica who speaks amazing English and knows the town Siena was very reassuring.
The cold gondola ride through the empty canals in Venice with my roommates.
Though I stated that it is a new experience for us Americans, it was also a brand-new experience for Federica as well. I was curious on the perspective of Federica – having 5 random college students from 4,000 miles away coming to sleep, eat, hangout, and live with her. Federica shared similar expectations and worries before our tenure here started. Federica was very curious about who we are but did not know until the day before. The curiosity was balanced with her overall excitement of being able to live with roommates and being back in Siena after two years due to the pandemic.
The many conversations and time spent with the people on this trip so far shows me that there are common themes – experiencing a new culture, trying new things, and most importantly gaining lifelong friends.
One week full of good memories… and 14 more to come. Ciao a presto.