Finals? Meh.

Monday morning struck without much wrath. My Italian test gave me as few difficulties as I had imagined it would. Monday afternoon and evening, however proved to be mug more troublesome than I had wanted. My Storia di Parma final was Tuesday morning and I had barely begun to study for it, nor was there much time to actually study it. After I got home from my Italian final and snuck in some studying while eating a hurried lunch, I dashed off to the University to meet Max, my tutor for Storia Medioevale, who has been in charge of translating my paper for me. This seemingly straightforward task of the two of us working in tandem to translate my paper into Italian had quickly evolved into first Max telling me what needed to be fixed (which is fine) and then him taking the translation duties on his own because we had not been given enough time to write the papers and translate them by our professor. Max and I tried to remedy this by suggesting to our directors that he just grade my paper in English because I don’t study Italian at school and will not likely have time to do so before graduating. My directors said no, which honestly left Max to do this on his own. I can deal with that amount of lack of connection to my final paper, but then the Max’s draft came back to me and I nearly lost it. My paper had been entirely modified.

Max had taken all of the argumentative points out of it because in Italy one cannot write a paper, such as this, with any sort of original argumentative. In essence I should have regurgitated the facts I had learned from my research instead of offering my own take on the events of the past based on the facts that I learned. What’s the point of writing a paper like that? Max had, in his translation, stripped my paper of its soul and left the skeleton of a body. I don’t blame him, however, especially since he hates the system as well. Max has the job of making me succeed as well as possible. We were not left with enough time for him to monitor my paper as I was forming it to tell me that I literally am not allowed to write so freely in Italy.

In any case, I me him that afternoon and spent three hours checking my citations and making sure his paper (I hesitate to call it mine) sounded good and got across all of the facts about Italian communes that I had hoped to demonstrate in my paper. The worst part is that I feel helpless. If I get a bad grade, what can I say about it? I didn’t really write the damn thing! If I get a good one I’ll feel, well actually I’ll feel fine about it because my original paper is quite good. Still, it’s odd to be this hands off of something that literally decides my grade for one class. What can I do? It’s Italy and I’m abroad.

Cured Meats

From there I ran home and studied for about another hour before having to get ready to go to our group’s final dinner at La Filoma (the place where Courtney and I went on a double date with my tandem partner, Andrea). The reason our final dinner was on Monday night, before our final, and not on Wednesday night after finals are completed is likely my fault. I convinced Betta to change the day to Monday because I wanted to travel to Sicily with Brian for a couple of days after finals and before we went to Rome on the 19th from where he would depart on the 19th and where I would reunite with that oh-so-elusive girlfriend of mine. Still, I do not claim entire blame for the horrible placement of an abroad farewell dinner before a final because most of the other people in our group planned on vacating Parma almost immediately following finals. Apparently the schedule we received last Spring from OIP did not make it obvious that students could (and were expected to) remain in Parma for a couple of days following finals. This fact actually was the original reason I told Betta she needed to reschedule the final dinner because she had planned it for the 17th when Brian and I would be among the few left in Parma. And since everybody was leaving so quickly anyway I thought it would be a fantastic idea to take a vacation with Brian somewhere new and exciting instead of being the only ones wandering Parma’s streets. I took the opportunity to improve my experience and I did it. Besides, Betta (who teaches our Storia di Parma class and for whom we had the final the morning after our farewell dinner) assured me that the test would be fine. So we went to dinner.

Library in the Pilotta

And the food was great, but none of us could fully enjoy ourselves as we hoped to do because of the finals afterwards. In fact the dinner had less of a farewell feeling (outside of Brian’s toast) than a mid-semester dinner where we still had other stresses, such as school, tainting our moods because we did have other concerns. Everybody seemed to be itching to leave instead of itching to make our final meal, and last time having the entire group in one place, last as long as possible. We sat at 5 separate tables, 5 to a table, with little intermingling among the groups. I guessed this about sums up the unfortunate group dynamic on our trip. Lacking to say the least.
After dinner and saying goodbye to Caterina I went straight home and studied Storia di Parma for about 3 hours before succumbing to the desire to chat with Mom (extraordinarily over due) and then eventually Courtney who returned from whatever shenanigans she is involved with in Granada (still waiting for you to enjoy those shenanigans with me!). I’m not exactly sure when I fell asleep but I woke up early, around 8, to study more before my exam at 10:30. The exam was ridiculously easy and my only problem was that I wrote too much, almost running out of time, and needed to rush through the end of the second question and the third one. Oh well, I know I did fairly well on it. After the exam I went to lunch at Anna and Aldo’s house one last time. It was meant to be a “maschi” (males) lunch because their son Andrea would be joining us, but Brian had to bow out so that he could study for his exam at 4, so Lacey took his place. Matt, Lacey and I all thought the lunch was at 2, but low and behold we were supposed to be there at 1, so we all booked it over there. I was only fifteen minutes late…whoops.

Me and Nice

Matt and Lacey had yet to arrive so I sat in the kitchen and talked to Andrea and Anna. Andrea is the exact mix of his parents and looks incredibly like Aldo. We had a wonderful conversation as I explained to him my reasons for not attending culinary school (Anna had of course told him that I like to cook). We talked about traveling and eating. He had spent nearly a year studying in Belgium when he was younger and knew all about the unique experience of being a foreigner/resident. Matt and Lacey arrived soon there afterwards and Anna began to cook her spaghetti carbonara. I was famished from lack of sleep, lack of eating, general fatness and the odors only contributed to my starvation. The food, as usual at Anna’s house, was spectacular. We had simple sausages, beans and cheeses for secondi (even though who needs any more food after the heaping pile of spaghetti that Anna serves?). We had a great time talking about skiing and all sorts of adventures, but soon it came time to leave and the sadness ensued. Aldo gave us each a bottle of his homemade vinegar to sneak back into the States (crossing my fingers about it!) before we left. And only once did I commence saying goodbye and thanking that wonderful couple for everything they have done for us and for constantly improving my semester with priceless food and conversation that the reality of departing Parma began to sink in. I had finished finals. We had eaten our farewell dinner. I was leaving for Palermo in under 24 hours. How was this happening so fast? Hadn’t it just been the first of December and I was coming back to the realization that Parma and Italy and this entire abroad experience are incredible? Where were all of those minutes and hours? I wanted more and I never wanted them to end. Anna began to cry as we walked out of the door. I felt my gut wrenching up as the sadness of leaving began to overwhelm me, but I fought it off; there would be plenty of time for sadness when I actually left Parma. And nothing is goodbye. I will see Anna and Aldo again.

Anna and Aldo

For now I had to go home and interview for a graduate school scholarship. The interview went well but I could tell from the beginning that I would not be winning this one (I didn’t) because I have very little idea of exactly how my post-graduation life will develop. This scholarship, the Beinecke scholarship, wants highly motivated and likely successful students. I fit at least one of those qualities, but my lack of a plan for graduate school at the end of the 5th college semester doomed me. Well, too bad, but I don’t think it necessary or intelligent, even, to spend my time stressing about future plans that are completely up in the air. I want to leave my paths open. I don’t want to constrain myself to one idea. I’ll make the right choice for myself eventually and I’ll know that time when it comes. Right now is not that time, but unfortunately my philosophy cost me the opportunity of winning this mammoth scholarship.

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