Crepi!: Taking an Exam in Bologna

Waiting. We wait for hours at the DMV, the post office, the doctor’s…so even in this world of instant gratification, we’re used to it. However, for those of us who have taken an exam in Italy, the concept of waiting is accompanied by stress, frustration, and anxiety.

My first exam was in December. After four months of improving my spoken Italian, I was still quite nervous. I had no idea what to expect, and the format of an oral exam was both discomforting and unfamiliar. When I arrived at the archeology department at 9:30 am, I was seriously debating my academic to choice to study abroad. In Italy, rather than signing up for a class, you register for an exam about two weeks prior. It is a bit like Southwest: you try to sign up exactly at the appointed time, and you are still 30th on the list. Because there were so few students in the class, I was third to take my exam. I knew that my agony of waiting would not last too long. The professor took roll around 10 am (so already late, in the Italian fashion). She then apologized, telling us she had a meeting in the afternoon, but would try to get through as many people as possible. “As many as possible” turned out to be two students. My professor then disappeared for the most stressful FOUR hours of my life. There was no way to know when she was coming back, but I knew that when she did, I would be next.

When I finally entered her office to take the exam, I couldn’t speak. No words – English or Italian – came to mind. As American students, we have not prepared for thinking on the spot and communicating information orally. So, rather than answering the incredibly vague prompt (“Let’s talk about statues”), I started to describe anything and everything I could remember about the Etruscans. Miraculously, it worked.

I went through this process four more times. The waiting varied, but the anxiety never did. It is quite a challenging experience to take an exam in Italy, even for the most adept students. The amount of preparation is not necessarily proportional to the grade, and neither is the performance. For foreign students, it really seems to be a question of chance. So with that in mind, I can only say “In bocca al lupo!”


StraBologna Photos

For me, it is a privilege to run.  To get out and run is a simple luxury that I, as a student, try to enjoy every moment.  Usually, I run alone through different cities in the Province of Bologna, but the pure joy of running comes in the form of organized events.  From my knowledge, running is the only sport in which professional athletes, amateurs, enthusiasts, and even couch potatoes can compete at the same starting point in the same event, be it a marathon, half-marathon, or StraBologna.

Streets were closed for over 12 thousand runners: marathoners, occasional runners, disables, non-disables, and children all came together as one to take over the city peacefully, one step at the time; as a unit, we were so powerful that it seemed like we had some magical power to stop the rain and leisurely strolling through the shadows of the porticos under the beautiful Bolognese sun.

Here are some photos of my housemates and I participating in the event.


Three of us are running, and I do not forget to represent our program….


….and of course my house, Casa d’Azeglio.


Run or walk, the day belongs to StraBologna.


Since it is a family event in Italy, smoking is always an option.


At the finish line, I am not the picture because I finished ahead of them 😛


For the lack of words, privilege, luxury, and joy all came together.


This photo (courtesy of StraBologna) sums up what the event was about.

Strabologna: How Runs Became My New ‘Thing’

Strabologna, Bologna’s very own city run, took place this past weekend with a starting point in the famous Piazza Maggiore. I had first learned about the run through a friend a few months ago and right then and there I had made a commitment to run in it. Before Strabologna I’d never participated in an organized run before. I had wanted to do the Color Run because many of my friends have participated in it and it always looks so fun! Besides, who doesn’t want Holi powder all over them? Being covered in beautiful colors and running with a group of like-minded individuals just seems too perfect. However, I’m not the greatest math expert and I had always been too lazy to look up how many miles 5k is. And the fact that I was running miles- instead of a mile– was always a bit daunting. There was also the fact that I wasn’t a big distance runner.

I had ran track in high school for four years as a sprinter and there were rare days in which running on a treadmill was inviting but if I wasn’t running on a team, then I usually wasn’t running. I enjoyed other types of exercise. But this winter I began running for long periods of time and it became something I enjoyed. There’s a whole other world out there when you’re running in the snow listening to music and enjoying your settings. I had even developed a ‘place’ (the park at Montagnola which is closer to where I live than Giardini Margherita). The park allows me to run consistent laps and zone out. But even running there I was not accustomed to running through a city. I wasn’t really accustomed to running with a lot of people and the morning of the run I got nervous.

Would I be slow? Would I like running with everyone? What would this run feel like? Would it feel long because I was running through the city? I had a lot of questions but mostly I was filled with nervous excitement. The race was composed of three main routes: a short run of a little over 3k, a medium run at about 7k and a long run at about 11.5k. I ended up running the 7k and it was one of my favorite moments here in Bolgona.

I was surrounded by people who also liked to run (or walk as there were a lot of people walking) and there was a sense of community. We were all there to give back to Bologna but also to gain something from ourselves. This run went by pretty quickly for me and the whole time I couldn’t stop smiling. All I could think about when I was finished was how I wished there had been more runs like this in the city and how I cannot wait to do more runs like it when I get home. I realized that I have really, truly grown to like running medium-long distances and I hope to run a marathon one day soon, but for now I see the Color Run and the Nike Women’s Run in my near future.

If I hadn’t experience running here in this city this year I would probably still be the girl who hated long distances and glared at the treadmill, but now I’m the girl who loves running and can’t wait to feel the freedom, challenge and peace of mind that a great run brings.

The Great Italian Outdoors

As a Los Angeles native I know all too well that living in a big city makes it is easy to forget about a wonderful thing called nature. In Bologna especially, it is far too easy to be swept away by the vibrant terra cotta buildings and unrivaled beauty of the churches, each more mesmerizing than the last. Yet, the urban charm coupled with our often strict schedules keep us going for days—even weeks—without any interaction with real green space.  Heck it was even a struggle for me during my first few weeks in Bologna to keep a connection with nature–and as a Forestry & Agriculture major, that’s a big deal! I was convinced that the concrete jungle lacked any green oasis and that the scattered winter kissed trees along Via Indipendenza were the closest I would get to the wide, open forests that I craved. Yet, like searching for anything in a new city, I knew that it would take some time to discover any real gems. And let me tell you friends, the search is well worth it! After picking the brains of both local and foreign nature lovers alike, I have delved into the green world of Italia and plan to trek, climb, and stroll my way through as much of the country’s natural beauty as I can!

So whether you’re a fellow environmental nut, a runner looking for new scenery, or are simply looking for a beautiful place in the city to take a walk, I invite you to join me in my pursuit of the great Italian outdoors!

Spazio 1: Giardini Margherita

If you’re living in the city center, this beauty is one of your closest urban getaways! Just a ten minute walk from I Due Torri, Giardini Margherita is a park lovers wonderland and situated right outside of Porta Castiglione. The park is a whopping 26 hectares (about 64 acres!!) and is a lovely mix of paved roads for runners and strolling families, spans of wonderful fields of grass, and even features a tranquil pond, with ducks and all. What more could you ask for?

            For colder days I suggest grabbing your favorite book, or even that pesky reading assignment you’ve been putting off, and stake out a bench near the pond. Or if reading isn’t your thing, watch the old men sharing their midday snack with the ducks, or the little Italian children wobbling around in their puffy jackets. Grab a coffee at the café next to the park and watch the fountains, or maybe just sit and listen to the winter melodies of the park’s feathered friends.

            And for the days that our good friend, the sun, decides to pop out for a visit—grab some friends and stop by the Carrefour Express supermercato outside of the park’s gates (vicino alla Farmacia Castiglione). Stock up on your favorite sandwich tidings, wine, and chocolate and have yourself a good ole picnic out on the grass! Bring a Frisbee or lay back and watch the local jugglers, while enjoying the beautiful surrounding stands of trees. If you have a bike, take a giro around the perimeter and just enjoy the happiness in the air!

             And after your visit to the park—regardless of the temperature—stop by la Sorbetteria Castiglione for some of the best gelato in the city! (I suggest Guglielmo!)

 Here’s a picture of the park after a February snow:


And the lake, after the ice melted!


 So take those free hours this weekend and explore your own backyard—sun and fresh air do wonders for the soul!

Bologna is…


What is Bologna?

Bologna is sitting in the Santa Cristina Library, the most important library in Italy in regards to gender and feminist studies, the sun shining through the windows only to better illuminate all eight books spread out in front of the girl next to me as she studies.

Complesso di Santa Cristina - Bologna

Bologna is bowl of skittles. Mainly the orange, yellow, and red ones; however, if you happen to get one of those strange tropical flavored packs you would find a lot of pinks around here too. The best time to see what I mean by this is at sunset. Whether you are walking down the streets, standing on your balcony looking out across the red ceramic roofs of the city, or if you are adventurous and find yourself up in the rolling hills to the south of the city, the color of the walls of each house or apartment in Bologna are fantastically enhanced by the setting sun, turning the city into.. as I said earlier.. a bowl of skittles.


Bologna is window shutters. Throughout all of Bologna you will find window shutters that open outwards and hug the walls next to the glass panes. They are long, rectangular, and most often green.


Bologna is graffiti. Everywhere. Whether you are in the University zone of the city and students protest through their paints or you are in the city center and come across strange figures. My favorite, is the person who keeps re-painting a sort of treasure hunt trail. Every now and then when I leave my house, there will be a red heart with a green arrow under it pointing me in the direction of the next heart. I still have yet to follow it until it ends..


Bologna is parks. In particular my favorite, Giardini Margherita. Spring is in bloom here and young and old people alike have traded in their winter coats and big boots for a much lighter attire. It is almost difficult to find space at the park for you and your group of friends or even if it is just you and your books. Italians know how to fill their public spaces, and not just with their bodies, but with music. Drum circles create a beat that echoes across the green field of grass, drawing people to it who want to bob their heads in sync.  The guitarist sits not far away.


Bologna is the Tiramisu I just learned to make. Now that spring has arrived I keep finding myself dreaming about the next time I will make this delicious and cool dessert that cleverly combines nutella, coffee, mascarpone and pavesini in a mouthful that will make you drool.


Bologna is doorbells. Anytime you need to get into a building you need to know the name that is on the doorbell. An interesting concept to those of us who are used to having our friends or family walk up from the sidewalk to our door and knock. Instead here you ring the doorbell, a voice comes over the speaker asking who it is, and then you get buzzed in. Even in the hills of Bologna.


Bologna is arguing in the kitchen. It should come as no surprise that disagreements are frequent within the culinary world seeing as Italians are often very precise on how to cook things. Being American brings with it the stereotype that we eat strange things. And when we try to cook these “strange things” in front of an Italian roommate, friend, or significant other, one must be prepared for the intense “what are you doing”, “how can you eat that”, or the all time favorite “che schifo” which roughly translates into “how gross”.


Bologna is dubbed films. Not just American films, but British, French, and others as well. It is always interesting to see Leonardo di Caprio on the TV screen and then all of a sudden the voice of his Italian inner-self comes out. This comes in really handy when trying to learn the Italian language. When you know every word of a film in English, mix it up and learn every word in Italian as well!

What is Bologna to you?

Welcome to our fabulous new blog linking Bologna and California!

In this blog you’ll find one time posts from students who just want to write about something interesting or crazy that happened to them in Bologna, Venice, Venice Beach or San Francisco!

Our next post will be from Kate Kaplan (UC Berkeley), our nature specialist, but for now I’d like to introduce you to one of our students who will be contributing with a column of her own talking about life in Bologna, Shantel Dickerson (UC Santa Barbara):

Here’s the word from Shantel:

My name is Shantel and I study at the University of California Santa Barbara!

I study Global Studies, Psychology, and Italian Studies!

I like parks, the smell of old books, people who don’t take life to seriously, and adventures!

My camera comes with me everywhere I go.

Black and white are my least favorite colors as they aren’t very colorful, and crepes filled with nutella and strawberries sweeten up my life!

I am living here in Bologna for one very short year, and where the wind will take me next, who knows!

I want to try and understand this world, and more specifically the people who spice it up.