Foreign Correspondent Update: The Awe of Inefficiency

By Emma Way

Senior Elm Writer


After standing in line for nearly an hour to sign up for classes during my semester abroad in Italy and watching many fellow international students walk out of the international office with a somber and defeated look on their faces, I was finally registered for classes.

Though this process normally takes three minutes sitting behind a computer screen at Washington College, I was reminded of the lack of a state of efficiency in Italy and that things to not run there the way they do at WC.

The whole registration process didn’t make logical sense. They had already made the international students pre-register for classes months ago and then told us the classes we were initially accepted into. Then why did we have to wait for an hour to register again?

Waiting in a slow-moving line at 9:30 a.m. was one thing, but the fact that they scheduled the only registration time for every international student at the same exact time as our intensive Italian language class that we were all taking boggled my mind.

Unfortunately for our Italian language professors, registration came first and so classes that morning were completely empty. Knowing that this is a problem every semester, why does the international office insist on this process semester after semester? Why? Because this is Italy, and Italy enjoys being inefficient.

Italy’s inefficiency is annoying and confusing, but there is also something about everyone’s slow pace and their lack of thought put into minor things that is teaching me to let the little things go and enjoy my time abroad to the fullest.

While standing in line for registration and pretty much anything I do in Milan, I am annoyed, but I don’t let that annoyance get the best of me.

After I arrived in Italy, I had to apply for a “permit of stay,” which is similar to my Italian visa, but no one ever looks at it, and I had to pay nearly 150 euros for it. It is an enormous waste of time and money that is a requirement for living here.

First, you have to purchase an overpriced stamp to mail your application for a permit of stay, just to arrive at a long line at the post office and then pay more for the permit itself. Then you get an appointment time and location, usually at a police station that is completely inconvenient to where you live.

At this appointment, which is typically at a random and again, inconvenient, time (mine was at 9:17 a.m.), they take your fingerprints and refuse to speak to you in English even though they definitely understand you. Then you have to wait weeks or months for your physical permit to be made, and then go to the police station (at least an hour away) and hope you’ve chosen a time when they’re open because it would be too simple to have normal business hours.

This process and so many more like this irritated me in the beginning of my semester, but now I expect it and am that much more grateful for the aspects of my life that are efficient. Italy’s inefficient ways have taught me to relax and stop worrying about the little annoyances of life that are out of my control.









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