Eating chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, wandering the ancient ruins of Rome, and relaxing at the Amalfi Coast. All the activities I should be doing right now. However, I am instead sitting in my bedroom, in my college town, waiting for my Zoom class to begin. This is how students all over the country are going "back to school" amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While this is our current reality, I have learned to allow myself to be sad and upset and frustrated and then turn those emotions into actions. So, here are the ways I am channeling my inner Italian while spending my semester abroad, at home. 

I Am Taking Italian 101

Buon Giorno! Buona Notte! Spaghetti! This is pretty much my complete knowledge of the Italian language. I was so excited to learn it in Italy, giving me the chance to practice with the locals. Yearning for a little fun this semester, I decided to accept the challenge of learning my third language. While I cannot practice with the residents of Roma or Firenze, I can count on my Zoom classmates! Hopefully, no one will start screaming at me for my pronunciation. For the time being, I will have to settle with sitting at my computer, repeating the alfabeto and verb conjugations out loud, as my roommate in the background encourages me. 

I Make Homemade Pasta

Emma Tick-Raker

For my dad's birthday this year, we got him a pasta maker and while it was a gift for him, I had my eye on it the moment we bought it. It would be a sort of bonding experience to make it together. The first time my dad and I made it, let's just say we would be shamed by any Italian. However, we persevered, and before we could say "mama mia", we had delectable homemade pasta. 

Now of course I dreamed of learning to make pasta in Italy, preferably by an old Italian grandmother, but that is not a possibility, at least not for now. So my plan, in honor of Italia, is to make and eat as much pasta as possible! When I get really desperate, I can call on Nonna Nerina, an 84-year-old Italian grandmother who has gone viral for offering live online cooking classes. Homemade pasta is almost as Italian as you can get, and if I can get the nod of approval from a nonna, my heart (and stomach) will be happy.

I Make Baked Ziti

Emma Tick-Raker

Ziti, tomato sauce, and cheese. This Sicilian dish is pure comfort. Perfect for group dinners or even better, leftovers! Ever since I was little, my dad would make me and my brother baked ziti for dinner on special occasions. It was always my favorite night and evokes so many happy memories, sitting on the couch together watching tv, and giggling for hours. Every time I go home, I ask my dad if we can make it together. Now, being back in college, I am channeling those experiences and making my own baked ziti. My roommate and I even made a fancy one, throwing in some pesto and parmesan. Delizioso!

So, while I am not living in Italy and taking a class on how to properly make Italian food, I will continue to carry on this delicious tradition. Buon Appetitio! 

I Make Espresso. Often. 

Emma Tick-Raker

One of the activities I miss most from pre-COVID times is going to do work in coffee shops, sipping on an over-priced but totally worth it drink. I can still wander over to my favorite cafes and pick up a drink to go but it doesn't feel the same. Cue the genius Italian invention of espresso! My roommate and I have challenged ourselves to develop the best at-home latte recipe using the Italian made Bialetti espresso maker. I am fully prepared to have shots of espresso to keep me going when all-nighters begin, midterms come creeping, and finals week hit. 

Bonus Idea: A Dinner Date at Olive Garden 

Mi dispiace. I am sorry to all the Italians out there. I know how upsetting this sounds. But if we are being honest, I am deep down, just a college student, on a budget, who is supposed to be in Italy studying abroad. Who knows how long I will be stuck in America for so I might as well soak it in for all its glory. And hey, the breadsticks aren't half bad, there's an unlimited pasta bar, and they have parmesan. So, I am going to grab my best friend, who I was supposed to go abroad with, and venture off to *Italian hand signal* Olive Garden! 

Now What?

No, I will not fuggedaboutit. If I forget, I cannot process the thoughts and emotions I have. This is one of the greatest lessons I have learned from this whole experience. I have no control over the reality we live in, but I have control over how I react. So yes I am sad, but I am going to turn that sadness into something productive, like learning Italian, making pasta, eating baked ziti, and drinking lots and lots of espresso. Ciao a tutti!