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A hazy shade of winter

Perhaps it was just wishful thinking-or simply pure delusion-but I truly didn't believe that Italy would ever get cold. I expected that the days under the Tuscan sun warmed by the Mediterranean heat would last my entire semester abroad.

But now the harsh, cold breezes seem to be relentless. And I'm forced to walk around in a pea coat, scarf and... flip-flops. The coat was a precautionary packing measure-an article of clothing I never thought I'd need-the scarf an Italian purchase and the flip flops? My staple from March till November.

As my roommate and I, both native North Carolinians, saunter around Florence, we elicit stares from Italians-not aimed at our bright clothing in a sea of black, but rather at our bare toes.

Just last week, as I was walking to school and enjoying the absolutely perfect weather-clear, blue skies without a cloud in sight and temperatures appropriate for mid-October-U2's "Beautiful Day" came on my iPod and for a second, I couldn't tell whether it was Bono or the Florentine hills serenading me.

But Monday on that same trek, the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter" shuffled right onto my playlist, without consideration that the season is still two months away.

While I'm not necessarily a winter enthusiast, even I will admit that it's not such a terrible season when being outside consists only of walking across the quad from my warm room to a warm classroom.

And the first chill of the year is usually rather charming. Cool nights mean it's time to go to the State Fair, eat funnel cake and ride the ferris wheel. It's time for alums to return to campus for Homecoming and as of this year, it's also time for Joe College Day-an event I'm eagerly anticipating next fall.

The excitement of crisp mornings and chilly evenings, however, wears off easily in Italy, where national law dictates that residents can't turn on the heat until Nov. 1. Accordingly, my roommates and I freeze in our apartment and try to layer as much clothing as possible-even sleeping in jackets-to no avail.

Nevertheless, the promise of our 10-day long fall break to warmer destinations-Spain and Greece-helps ameliorate the situation. But even more exciting than a vacation is the prospect of bookbagging on ACES-as much a Duke tradition as Tailgate or Tenting (or so it seems from Florence).

Although I'm thousands of miles away, it sometimes feels like I'm right on campus when the computer lab is buzzing with talk of spring courses and housing assignments. From abroad, without the luxury of meeting with our advisors in person, my classmates and I must decide what major requirements we need to fulfill during our last three semesters of college-a daunting prospect in itself.

But even worse, we face the inevitable chaos of the housing crunch. Although Residence Life and Housing Services warns us that on-campus housing may not be available, we won't find out for sure until mid-December, when we'll be lucky to find a vacancy in Chapel Hill.

Despite the uncertainties that next semester carries, I hope that I will return to a new Duke-a Duke fully recovered from the lacrosse case and perhaps a Duke that takes itself a little less seriously.

Well, at least it will be warm.

Victoria Ward is a Trinity junior studying abroad in Florence. Her column runs every other Wednesday.


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