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Softball Blogs: Del Conte, Lantz Spend Summers in Europe

Andrea Del Conte spent her summer studying abroad in Italy (Photo courtesy: Andrea Del Conte).

Andrea and Katie's Study Abroad Photos

Juniors Andrea Del Conte and Katie Lantz took advantage of their summers, spending time in Europe honing their language skills and traveling. Del Conte spent eight weeks in the town of Padova, Italy while Lantz spent the same amount of time in Madrid, Spain. Both players wrote blogs describing their experiences overseas and shared pictures of their adventures. Both blogs are posted below, and click here to access their gallery of photos.

Del Conte:
This summer I had the incredible opportunity to spend eight weeks abroad in Italy studying Italian, immersing myself in the culture, and soaking up the sun in the Mediterranean.   I had always known I wanted to study abroad in college, and after starting Italian my freshman year at Harvard, I became excited to plan my Italian excursion.  Unlike my previous stay in Italy when I was solely a tourist, I wanted my study abroad experience to take me deeper into the culture and to help me understand life in Italy from an everyday Italian’s perspective.  I am pleased to say that my journey this past summer accomplished exactly that, and allowed for some fun exploring along the way.

I participated in a study abroad program run by Boston University in the city of Padova, a city in the Veneto region only a thirty-minute train ride away from Venice.  Padova was a perfect place for a study abroad experience.  Relatively untouched by tourists, Padova offered a taste of authentic Italian living: shopping in the daily markets, interacting with local shop owners, and speaking only in Italian.  For the six weeks of the program I lived with a host family in a neighborhood outside Padova’s center.  Living and eating with an Italian family taught me so much more about life in Italy than I could have ever learned staying in a dorm (not to mention the home cooked meals were incredible!).  I took two classes, Italian self-expression and modern Italian history, both of which were taught in Italian.  I really enjoyed the history class because I was able to apply my language skills in a subject matter I loved and because I learned how to look at history, particularly the twentieth century in Italy, from a perspective other than that of an American.  Succeeding in that course proved to be one of my most rewarding experiences abroad.

I took advantage of the days I was not in class to discover as much of Italy as I could.  These excursions took me to some unbelievable places: Ischia, Capri, Rome, Bologna, Venice, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Florence, Cividale, Gorizia, Trieste, Verona, and Ravenna.  These trips hold some of my most fun memories from my time abroad.  From coordinating with the ever unreliable Trenitalia website to sharing hostels and planning and navigating in new cities, the experiences I shared with my friends travelling in Italy were once in a lifetime.  Even so, travelling made me appreciate Padova so much more, and with every return Padova felt more and more like home. 

It’s true: Italy became my home away from home.  From the Italians I learned to relax and live in the moment.  I began to appreciate their easy way of life, complete with the midday riposi.  I tried things I never thought I would: my first bite of fish, another of horse meat, and almost every flavor of gelato.  The joys of each and every day were found in the time shared amongst friends drinking vino in the piazze or sharing a pizza.  But more than anything I did in Italy, my proudest moments were those spent speaking with everyday Italians.  Whether it was being approached by a man sitting at a fountain in Rome who wanted to know what I was writing, or joking with the waiter at an American restaurant in Rome as the only guest who could speak Italian, or talking with a curious couple who owned a small bakery in Padova about my experiences, those moments losing myself in conversation with Italians were the most valuable of my journey.  In eight weeks I fell in love with Italy.  Study abroad was just the beginning of this love affair; I know someday I will return for more adventures.  Until then, I say arrivederci, Italia!

 

Lantz:
This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to spend eight weeks in Madrid. After completing four semesters of advanced Spanish at Harvard and earning my language citation, I was ecstatic to be able to travel to Spain’s capital through Boston University’s Madrid Internship Program. With this program, I interned during the morning hours Monday through Thursday and took classes in the afternoon. I interned for an American food production company, Cosmen and Keiless, which consists of seven bakeries around Madrid, a factory in the pueblo of Torrelaguna, and California Cookie Company. For the first two weeks, I worked the cash register at two different bakeries and practiced my Spanish skills with local Madrileños (people from Madrid) who were quite meticulous about which ingredients they wanted in the gourmet bread that they bought. For a girl whose knowledge of bread stopped at the 5-grain honey oat Publix brand loaf, explaining in Spanish to customers the types of grains and herbs that the different loaves contained was rather challenging. For the next six weeks, I worked on different marketing projects alongside one of the owners of the company.  These projects ranged from dressing up in a lederhosen dress to give out free pretzel samples outside of one of the bakeries to traveling to several different bakeries around Madrid to assess the product and pricing competition. Not only did my Spanish skills improve exponentially with this real-life practice, but also it was very interesting to observe an American company trying to navigate and survive Spain’s present-day rocky economy.

While in Madrid, I lived with a host family in their beautiful apartment located between the Prado Museum and Santiago Bernabeu futbol stadium, home to Real Madrid. My host family welcomed me with open arms and was extremely kind, generous, and interested in learning more about me. I ate lunch and dinner with my family everyday and, to my surprise, quickly grew accustomed to the late Spanish dinner hours (lunch at 3 pm, dinner at 10 pm).  I spent a weekend with my host family at their country house in the mountains just outside of Madrid and was even included in the annual family photo with my host sister and her 24 cousins! The kindness of my host family epitomized the warm-hearted, genuine nature of the Spanish people.

Between my morning internship and afternoon classes during the week, I had some time to explore Madrid. I was able to attend a bull fight, walk through Plaza de Madrid and Sol, jog through Retiro Park, and eat my fair share of tapas plates (croquetas, paella, jamón). Every weekend, friends from my program and I traveled to a different city in Spain, taking the high-speed train to Sevilla, Barcelona, Valencia, and Toledo. With its cobble stone streets, gorgeous cathedrals, and flamenco flair, the Andalusian city of Sevilla in the south of Spain has unparalleled charm making it one of my favorite Spanish cities. For my last weekend in Spain, I treated myself to a true European style vacation to the picturesque island of Ibiza.

My summer experience in Spain is something I will never forget. I left Spain feeling both accomplished, fulfilled, and independent. I made new American and Spanish friends, became immersed in a completely new culture, spoke Spanish with confidence, and proved to myself that I could live and thrive on my own in a foreign country.  I will miss strolling through Madrid’s expansive Plazas, popping into a cute pastelería for a late-afternoon café con leche, and eating delicious meals with my host family courtesy of my host mother. Madrid is an incredible city within an even more marvelous country and I encourage everyone to visit. I cannot wait to return!