Just as my classes began, the two hour lesson-blocks are starting to disappear. Randomly and unexpectedly. My literature class ended yesterday instead of today because there are train and bus strikes today and the teacher can’t make it in and the one-on-one lessons were getting a little bit tiresome (although nice, when you teach a class you would like to teach students, plural). My History of Theatre class will end today thanks to the negotiations between professor and students. And of course I still have class next week, right up until I leave Friday.
We had our last meeting with the program director today to receive our permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay; Merry Christmas and Happy end of stay type gift). The director proceeded to talk to us about the experience as a whole. She hit the exact points of thought I’ve been having over the last few days: it isn’t the academic experience that matters in the end but the personal growth. I definitely have had some points where I just marvel at how little motivation I have to study and at the marvels of the Italian education system.
I’ve been a bit apprehensive about returning to Harvard because, I know, that I will go through yet another period of adjustment and transition comparing my self pre-Ferrara, Ferrara to the new post-Ferrara Stefan. I wonder who that will be, and he won’t be defined until February, since exams still have to happen in January and the return to Harvard happens at the very end of the month.
The toughest part of the whole personal growth here in Ferrara has been the being independent. There is no Middlebury representative here, no physical presence, no safe space. You are really out in the middle of nowhere left to languish a little bit, a little baby left to cry when he falls down only to realize that you really aren’t hurt. The director said herself that it is that absence of a presence that makes the students in Ferrara flourish so much. I definitely feel more grown up, feel like I’ve accomplished something. But I also know that the exams are still ahead and want to stretch to impress, because so many students here just don’t care at all. But even at the end of those exams, I know there will be a whole new process of re-integration on the horizon, waiting for me when I arrive back in the land of Ivory Towers.