I can say, without a doubt, that my time in Urbino greatly improved my language skills. My vocabulary and knowledge of contemporary Italian culture grew substantially. For example—and this might not seem like an important achievement—I now have a much wider array of insults and colloquial phrases that I can draw upon in Italian. That might seem like a petty, silly improvement, but it has helped me understand how Italians interact in daily life and how people communicate displeasure within the Italian culture.
On a more serious note, I have gained a substantial amount of new (non-offensive) vocabulary, as well as been introduced to two new tenses: the remote past (passato remoto) and the passive (passivo). I have also had a great review of the various forms of the subjunctive tense (congiuntivo), which I did not understand nearly as well before. I also learned about really fascinating cultural concepts like “mammoni,” or men who become too attached to their mothers, and are often manipulated by them long after they are married. I also learned about Italian gestures, and how to rudimentarily communicate using only my hands. A lot of this progress is due to having small classes (only four students in my class!), and a fantastic Italian teacher, named Enrica. She was always very open to students asking dumb questions, she absolutely drowned us with positive reinforcement (which is exactly what I needed), and she made us talk as much—if not more than—she did in class. Her friendliness (five minutes after I met her she insisted I use only the informal tense with her), support, and the relaxed atmosphere in her classroom made me feel truly comfortable speaking Italian, which was a big step forward for me.
On top of that, I also learned a lot from the cultural seminars that were held almost every day. One day I learned how to make tagliatelle (read: inedible dough—I still can’t cook), another day I performed in a Commedia dell’Arte skit, and yet another day I went on a city-wide scavenger hunt, which resulted in my new Australian friend Gus and I making friends with a local bar owner, who helped us figure out where certain landmarks and monuments were in Urbino for nearly an hour. I also had the opportunity to get to know the director of the program, Sergio Guerra, and practice a bit of my Italian with him. Surprisingly, the director was one of the funniest and most interesting people I have ever met.
All in all, going to the University of Urbino’s summer program was an amazing experience that really allowed me to develop my language skills in a safe, friendly environment while vastly improving my cultural and linguistic knowledge. Thank you to everyone who helped make this adventure possible.