Tuesday, February 8, 2011

La vita scolastica

Although some of you may have forgotten the intended purpose of my sojourn in Bologna (namely, to take classes at the University of Bologna and generally be a student) amidst all of the descriptions of gite (trips) around Emilia-Romagna, musei (museums), and unbelievably delicious cene (dinners), this same purpose has recently been brought rather forcefully to my attention with the completion of my orientation class exams (oral!  in Italian!) and my first attendance of a lecture alongside actual Italian students.  So, cari lettori (dear readers), the purpose of this entry is to regale you with tales of my trials and travails as I attempt to navigate la vita scolastica (academic life) a Bologna.

The process of my transformation into a true universitaria bolognese (Bolognese university student) has been both gradual and utterly mysterious.  In fact, it continues to be somewhat mysterious.  Coming from the orderly world of Wash U (never before have I appreciated WebSTaCs existence so much), I was not prepared for the entropic labyrinth that is the University of Bologna.  After all, how hard could choosing classes possibly be?  As it turns out, choosing classes can be very difficult indeed.


1. No centralized university website or course catalogue.  L'Università di Bologna is divided into a multitude of facoltà (for my Wash U readers, think of the five schools and then multiply them and remove the ability to mix and match), each of which has its own website and course catalogue.

2.  Scratch that, course catalogues don't actually exist.  Some (not all) of the facoltà have "orari delle lezioni" (timetables of the courses), which list the names, times, and locations of all the courses offered in a given year.  Or at least a few of these bits of information.  Never descriptions though.  Those can only be found on a completely different website if you search the course name and professor.

3.  Classes all start on different days (ranging from 31 January to the end of March).  Sometimes the orario delle lezioni is helpful enough that it will provide a start date...but sometimes not.

4.  There is no such thing as a MWF or TTh class.  That would make avoiding overlapping classes far too easy!  No, instead classes happen on random days, usually at a different time (and sometimes in a different location) each day.

5.  Classes are held ALL OVER the city, which means that commutes between class can stretch up to a half hour walk.  Walking through Bologna is lovely, but the long distances between classes can make putting a schedule together even more difficult.

With a lot of patience, a lot of time, and some help from those who actually understand this system, I managed to put together a list of classes that I would like to take and that do not (frequently) meet at the same time.  Although the whole process was slightly mystifying and often frustrating, it was an interesting and (once I had figured things out a little bit) enjoyable challenge.

Having discovered the start dates, times, and locations of my classes, I struck out today to actually attend my first lecture, Istituzioni di storia del cinema (Institutions of the history of film).  Contrary to my expectations, I found the aula (lecture hall) without incident, and consequently ended up there ten minutes before the class was scheduled to begin.  Fortunately, the same was true for about twenty other people so I took a (metaphorical) deep breath and picked out a seat.  Over the next half hour or so the huge, terraced lecture gradually filled up with approximately 200 students with varying degrees of piercings and dyed hair (to be expected when one takes a class in DAMS, le Discipline delle Arti, della Musica, e dello Spettacolo / Artistic, Musical, and Theatrical Studies).  The professor arrived approximately twenty minutes after the scheduled beginning of the class and began to lecture approximately ten minutes after that.  Lectures here supposedly all last two hours each, but between the late start, the early release, and the five (make that fifteen) minute break in the middle, this one ended up being a lot closer to the hour-long lecture to which my time at Wash U has accustomed me.

In any case, I enjoyed the lecture (seeing as today was predominantly an extended discussion of the syllabus and exam procedures, this probably had more to do with my ability to understand than the gripping nature of the content) and even managed to strike up a conversation with the girl sitting next to me during the break.  I'm beginning to realize that my American accent is more of an asset than the annoyance I had originally believed it to be because it is an excellent conversation starter.  Any time someone asks a question (such as, "I got here 40 minutes late, did I miss anything?") and I respond with my accented Italian, they usually follow it up with an "Oh, where are you from?" aaaaand voilà.  Conversation.

So I leave you now looking forward to the prospect of beginning another class (Storia dell'arte moderna / History of Modern Art, which in this case means the Gothic/Baroque periods...it's all a matter of perspective I guess) tomorrow and having a familiar and friendly face in class on Thursday when my film course meets again.  Così vi lascio fino al nostro prossimo incontro, i miei cari lettori (I leave you until we meet again, my dear readers)!

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