Shelby Feurtado, an honors finance major in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, shares some hard-won wisdom on air travel and his notes on life, travel and studies in Italy.
This is my last week in Italy, and it has been an absolute blast! The pace of life here is something that takes a lot of getting used to. You have to accept the fact that nothing is open more than 40 hours a week, and hours of operation are up to the particular establishment. This means that if you haven’t eaten lunch by 1 pm you might have to wait until 3pm for something to open back up; or a store may be closed on Wednesdays so that it can be open on Saturdays. But, once you get a feel for the pace of life and pick up a couple of key Italian phrases, the experience becomes almost comfortable.
I had a very eventful trip here to Paderno del Grappa. I spent the week before class started exploring the United Kingdom, London in particular. I had a 6 am flight from London to Venice on a Sunday. An unfortunate series of events delayed my departure from my hotel to the airport. RyanAir will not allow you to pass through security within 40 minutes of the flights departure, meaning you have to get through security at least 40 minutes before the flight departs. I arrived to the front of the security line with 38 minutes, and I was denied access. I still do not know why it takes 40 minutes to walk from security to Gate 1, I could even see that the plane had not arrived yet. But I guess that’s policy.
So now what was I going to do? RyanAir is the only carrier that operates out of this airport, so I was stuck dealing with them. This is what the clerk told me: “first I need a 100 pounds to cover the fee for missing your flight. Here is the deal the best we can do is get you into the country.”
I replied, “And how does that help me?”
“Well, we can get you to Trieste, Italy by 11 am. It’s a large airport that is pretty close to Venice, so all you would have to do is take the inter-airport transport service.” It did not take long to discover that this truly was my only option. So I took the clerk on her word and boarded a plane for Trieste.
I stepped to the tarmac in Trieste, and it did not take me long to discover that this was not the large airport I had been promised; they did not even have a terminal. I found probably the only person in the airport who spoke English and explained my situation. It took us half an hour to figure out how I was supposed to get to Venice. Well, 2 trains, 3 buses and 8 hours later I arrived at the Venice Mestre train station. If I hadn’t been wearing a razorback shirt I never would have made it. A U.S. foreign exchange high school student from Washington saw me and figured I needed help. She got me to the Venice Marco Polo airport by 22:00, and no one will ever know how thankful I was for this foreign exchange student.
I am now at the correct airport where I was supposed to meet a fellow student from Arkansas, only problem was I was 12 hours late. I did have the address of our hostel so I went to find a cab. The cab drivers refused to take me because the hostel was not far enough for them to earn a high enough fair. So, at 23:00 I start the 4km hike down a dark street. I was in the exact situation that they tell you to avoid in the pre-departure meetings, but I made it. The next day the CIMBA staff bused us from Venice an hour to the northwest to the campus in Paderno del Grappa.
After that whole situation, my Italian experience could only improve, and it did. Italy has exceeded my expectations on almost all accounts. The food is not good like you would think, but that is a small price to pay when you compare it to the beauty of this place. As I am sure most students who study abroad are, I am taking 6 hours over the course of three weeks. My first class is Global Economics and International Trade and is a required class for one of my majors. The other is Entrepreneurial Strategy. I am taking this class as a business elective and took it because it sounded interesting enough. As it turns out this class will form the foundation for my honors thesis, so it is safe to say that the class is of value to me.
The routine here is fairly simple. You take two classes and the schedule is a block schedule of three time frames (8, 9:30, and 11am). Class time rotates week to week and each class has three four blocks throughout the semester, where you might be lucky enough to take company tours. As I alluded to earlier, the food in Italy is nothing to write home about if you are bound by a college budget. One of the things I look forward to the most about going home is not eating so much carbs. In Italy you have pasta with every meal, which gets old in like a week. The program is structured so that you are in class Monday through Thursday so that you have the weekends to travel. On my weekends I went to the beautiful coastal community of Cinque Terre, the culture mecca of Florence and the awe-inspiring Rome. Traveling here is one of the most stressful things I have ever done, but it is also the most fun.
One thing that I did not expect to experience in Italy was the value of all of those years of Spanish classes. I do not claim to be good at Spanish, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that what little I knew about Spanish could help me function in Italian. Because both are Romance languages many of the nouns are close enough that you can figure it out. This discovery proved useful on multiple occasions when we were trying to get directions.
This summer I will spend almost seven weeks here in Europe, four in class and not quite three traveling through Europe. This has been the best time of my life. But as I write this over a month into my journey the idea of home is appealing. For you see, over here you never totally understand what is going on, you just kind of roll with it. I look forward to being back in the states where there is a comfort level and I know what to do.