What makes living in Viterbo unique? Well, lets start with it's not well known. And then let's get a kick out of telling people I've lived in a little medieval city in Italy for 9 months and haven't stopped going back there since. I love watching people's eyes widen when I tell them that, and then of course I immediately I start looking for flights to Rome. I think this is one of the things about studying abroad and living in a place like Viterbo; you can't get enough of it.
You all need to know that you're going to fall in love, and I don't mean with an Italian boy like I did (unless that happens to you, I support you!), but you're going to find your self falling in love with another way of life. You will learn to adapt well to their cultural hours, festivities, eating habits, pisolini (naps), and gelato eating so rapidly that when it's time to leave, you've acquired more culture shock going home than when you arrived in Viterbo. I would say, be prepared for some unexpected feelings going home. I couldn't express more literally that my life has taken a full 360 in almost every way.
Let's move on to some serious stuff though; academics! I personally had a great academic experience studying in Viterbo. The courses offered by USAC lean more toward liberal science, art, and history, but of course they do. I mean look at the place! Viterbo is so rich in history, beauty, art, and love. My course load, however, was not as packed as others, so I had more free time to go away on the weekends, which I didn't do much because I enjoyed spending time in Viterbo, near by cities, and Italy in general. Yet, the workload can be challenging, which is a good thing! I know some students had their personal issues with professors and the way they teach and blah blah, but you got to make it work, and you will.
To sum up, it's completely manageable studying in Viterbo, being academically challenged, and fitting in you're travelling and fun all at the same time.
1. Listen and learn the language. "La lingua Italiana sia bellissima!" Most of the young generation speak little English, with some cute grammar mistakes, but the older Italian man who owns the local printing shop down the street and who loves to talk you ear off doesn't know what you're talking about.
2. You will be stared at. Don't take this personally, all Italian's stare and it's what makes them intimating, but in a beautiful way (can I say that?). And if at first they don't smile, not to worry, they'll come around and notice. It took me about a week to get the barista at Happiness Cafe to smile at me every time I walked by.
3. Localize yourself and get in with the locals. Some people are so shocked that I could speak Italian pretty fluently after a semester and that's because I not only studied the language to the core, but I spent 80% of my days speaking it. I traveled mostly to Italian cities and if not I was in the center of Viterbo chit-chatting it up with everyone I could. I mean, I heard Sicilian and some Italian growing up, but never truly picked it up. So, I spent most of my time hanging out with the local Italian students and Viterbesi. It's fun, honestly, and localizing yourself is worth while; people start to know who you are and want to hang out. I got friends all over the place now. I think I sent more graduation announcements to Italy than in California.
4. Food tip: MANGIA! (EAT, obviously). And find a cute Italian boy, or girl, to make you Carbonara like I did. Also take all food, cuisine, and cooking courses that USAC offers. The cuisine exam is a joke because there's so much information for a multiple choice, but you will pass I promise and it's so wonderful tasting wines and eating cheeses in class!