This is a question that I have been asking myself and have been trying to answer since we arrived in September. Our original intentions didn't quite work out, so we are in Siena as part of a backup plan, figuring things out as we go along.
Our original plan was to come to Siena for the month of September so we could both take a month long language course at the Universita per Stranieri (university for foreigners). Then in October, we would move to Parma where I would begin a pastry program at an Italian culinary school. Everything seemed to be working out fine, I had enrolled at the culinary school, enrolled in the language class, bought one way tickets to Rome, purchased health insurance for a year abroad, given notice for my job, and told our landlord that we were moving. Then at our appointment at the Italian consulate in July, everything changed. We were told, sorry, you can't have the visa you need for this school. Apparently, since the culinary school offered an intership as part of its program, you couldn't get a regular student visa that we were applying for. And, these special student visas that allow you to do an internship are few and far between. The Italian government had already given out it's alloted amount for the time period that I was applying for. So, sorry, you can't go, was what I was told.
Well, this information didn't exactly settle too well with me. Actually I was pretty much in hysterics at the consulate office. There goes thousands of dollars, years of my dreaming and hard work, just for a stupid student visa. As Justin was driving home, I thought that there was no way we would be able to come to Italy. My dreams were crushed. When we got home, we started talking about different options and what we could possibly do. The problem was the culinary school. The language class in Siena only required a normal student visa, which was still available. So I did the only thing we could think of that would still allow us to go, I enrolled at the language school for the entire year. After a couple of weeks of scrambling to get everything together, a few more trips to visit the nice lady (HAHA sarcasm here) at the consulate office, I was promised a student visa valid for a year. Less than a week before we were supposed to leave, I got my passport back in the mail with a visa stamped in it.
So, here we are in Siena. For the last 4 months I have been taking language classes, but as of December, I have completed the highest level. (don't ask me how, I still have trouble with the language and am no where near fluent.) Since arriving I have been questioning what I am doing here and what am I getting out of this experience. I haven't done anything food related except cook dinner at home. This was supposed to be a year-long food adventure, but it hasn't quite been what I had been expecting so far.
Well, thanks to our landlord, that is about to change. Our landlord knows a woman who runs a culinary school in Siena. He talked to her and told her about my wishes to learn about Italian and Tuscan cuisine. I met with her and she offered to let me take her classes for free in exchange for my help with translating for some American students. So, starting January 18, I will be back on the culinary track again. Finally! I am so happy about this opportunity to finally be here working on something that pertains to my original desire to come to Italy.
So, I guess that is the long version of me saying that I am starting a cooking class in a couple of weeks. :)