The Ties That Bind

By Michele Derdzinski

All my life I’ve wanted to experience what it is like to live in a truly small town. I can’t think of a more charming one than Cagli. Although it is completely different than most American small towns in terms of culture and history (and, not to mention, continent…), the dynamics are just as I imagined.

In my first day here, a woman who also was shopping in the grocery store spontaneously introduced herself to me. She made a point of knowing the people who were in her town and remembered me when I ran into her later on. For me, this was a unique experience to meet someone (especially another customer) in a grocery store; I am used to keeping to myself and having little interactions with other customers and employees.

Walking through the streets of Cagli during the weekly Wednesday market today, I thought about the elements that bind this town so closely together.  The market is central to this. Instead of a typical shopping center or a Walmart, everyone gathers to shop for daily necessities, clothing, and food. To walk past the market stands, though, locals also end up interacting with each other as they walk and shop.

In a town this small, there are only a few “hot spots” where everyone hangs out. There are two main caffes within the Piazza Matteoti run my Mimi and Jake where I have frequented multiple times each week here.  It is neat to recognize not only the owners, but also the regulars of each caffe. Just down the street are Stefano’s Caffe del Teatro run and Bianca’s Dolci Folle, my favorite gelateria in Cagli. The time spent at the caffes is longer than the time it takes to just “grab and go” an expresso. It is not just about the coffee, but also the conversation.

All of this rich small town culture seems to have rubbed off on our group. Even though this is just a four week program and I have known the 24 other students for a grand total of only 27 days, it feels an entire year. With less access to talking with our family and friends back home and all being immersed together into Cagli’s way of life, we developed dynamics that resemble that of a small town. We have a little bit of every personality and every role from fatherly to big brother, big sister, and little sister. We’ve bonded and bonded quickly with nicknames, jokes, days and afternoons and nights together, trip to Assisi, Florence, and Rome, haircuts from Mateo, and songs we here every night at Stefano’s, Seven’s, and Due Pini.

Everyone has distinct roles and personalities, but it complements one another to the extent that most, if not all, are not wanting to leave. While I am incredibly excited and anxious to catch up with family and friends back home, I know I will feel separation anxiety from the people that I didn’t even know existed a month ago. We are together in a beautiful city and a beautiful country, but the most beautiful part of this trip is the individuals who are a part of it. Each person in our group has left a unique imprint on my life that won’t easily wear away. Although the time we have together is down to just three days, the photographs and multitude of memories won’t fade away.

Michele Derdzinski is a student participating in the study abroad program this summer in Cagli, Italy. Read more about the students’ experiences on the Cagli Marquette blog.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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