When I arrived to Palermo, I was greeted by a warm hug from my host mom and we drove home. She is so kind to me, and speaks to me in English when I don't understand. Right away, I realized how amazingly beautiful Sicily is. There are tall mountains almost everywhere you look, which I am not used to at all. They are so beautiful! We arrived home and I saw the house and my room for the first time. The house is more of an apartment, a lot of people live in it, but everyone owns their own section. My room is a little small but comfortable.
The night I arrived was very difficult for me because everything was very different and it was a lot to take in. I also missed my family so much and wondered why I left them for so long. I could not stop crying and all I could think is that I wanted to hug my parents one last time. I have never been so far from home before so it was a little disorienting. My dad reassured me that I would eventually adjust to this new way of living and that, even though I would be homesick sometimes, I would still have the experience of a lifetime here in Italy. I am beginning to realize that it is ok to cry sometimes and that it is ok to miss home but it doesn't mean that you can't still be happy to be where you are.
After sleeping for almost 12 hours, I woke up and had breakfast with my host parents. Afterwards, my host mom, Daniela, took me on a tour of the city. We went to big Cathedrals which were like nothing I have ever seen before. When we walked into one of the Cathedrals, there was a wedding taking place and I was able to see what a typical Italian wedding was like. It was very beautiful and when the bride and groom walked out, rice was thrown over their heads.
I really love this city and I'm beginning to get used to the fact that everyone speaks Italian and not English. Although I don't really understand sometimes, I can still get by. The food here is amazing! My host mom cooks very well and after dinner I had my first gelato!
Going to Italy has been my dream for years, and now, that dream is has become reality. I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am for my family and for Rotary for making this possible for me and for being there for me. I thank God for giving me this opportunity to be an exchange student and for blessing me and keeping me strong.
This is the most adventurous, exciting, life changing, yet one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I wouldn't give this opportunity up, no matter what. I've been here for a little over month now, and I still can't believe I'm here sometimes. Time has gone by pretty slowly so far and I feel as though I should know a lot more of the language by now. I know that it will take time, so I just have to be more patient.
So much has happened in this short amount of time; School started, I've made new friends, I've been to a lot of places in Sicily, and have met so many people. I've also tried a lot of new foods, went to a wedding, and saw the Pope! All of these things were a lot of fun and have helped me to learn Italian more. Leaning another language is both exciting and exhausting at the same time. I'm learning more and more everyday, and can understand most the time. Speaking Italian is more difficult than understanding it, but I do the best I can.
I haven't really experienced culture shock too much. Although, I did have some trouble getting used to the times here. In Italy, not only do they eat a lot, but they eat very late too. In Florida, I usually eat dinner at around 6:00 pm, and here, we eat at 8:00 or 8:30 pm. Italians also like to stay up late, even during the week. I don't like this too much because I have to get up early for school the next day.
School here is so much different than in America. Here, everyone stays in the same classroom all day; the teachers are the ones that change classes. I kind of miss having to switch classes, but at least here I get to be with my friends all of the time. What I dislike the most about school here is the fact that we have to go to school on Saturday; I guess that when I get back to America, I'll appreciate my two day weekends more. My favorite subject so far is English, for obvious reasons. In English class, the teacher speaks mainly in English and makes everyone else speak it as well! I don't really like it that much though, because whenever I have to speak English, I feel like I'm failing with my Italian. I am also learning French which is my least favorite class. The teacher speaks French most of the time which I don't understand. Then, if I ask her to explain what something means, she translates it to Italian, which I also don't really understand sometimes.
I'm starting to get used to everything now and I'm not really too homesick. I do miss my family and friends sometimes, but I know that I have their love and support; this helps me to go on. My host parents are so great and have made me feel like part of their family. I really love it here in Italy, and honestly, I can't see myself being anywhere but here right now.
Grazie! Until next time,
I've been here for three months now! I can't believe it! Italy has become my second home and I'm very happy to say that.
November: We had Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My host parents were nice enough to make all of the typical dishes that I normally eat including a huge stuffed turkey! We invited the other two exchange students in Palermo and their host families to join us also. I was so grateful to have celebrated this holiday in Italy with all of these wonderful people. I was able to show my host family a part of my culture as an American and also, I was able to have a little taste of home. Thanksgiving day was a little tough for me because I missed my family. I talked to them all through Skype, but seeing them together without me made me a little homesick. I know that Christmas will be tough, but I'm very excited to experience an Italian Christmas!
December: Putting up the Christmas tree, seeing all of the lights, hearing the Christmas music, and going Christmas shopping... in Italy! I never thought I would get the chance to say that. Christmas in Italy is very different then the one at home. There aren't as many lights on the houses and Christmas music doesn't play 24/7 on the radio. There are a few lights around the city though which are really pretty. I spent this holiday at my host parents' house in San Martino which is a small town in the mountains outside of Palermo. My host mom's relatives stayed with us and I was very happy to be able to spend time with them all. They gave me wonderful gifts and made me feel like part of the family. I decided not to Skype my family back home because I thought it would be easier that way. I didn't have nostalgia too much so it was a pretty good Christmas. It definitely wasn't the same without my family, but I was glad to have experienced something different. Thank you so much Rotary for making this possible for me. I love it here!
Buon Natale a tutti! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
It's been a little over five months since I arrived here in Italy and I've been having the time of my life. I've made friends from all over the world and have done things that I never thought I'd get the chance to do. I know that I only have half of my exchange year left and it makes me so sad knowing that in five short months I'll have to leave everything here; I don't want to think about that just yet though.
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go to Mount Etna with one of my best friends and a club that's part of her church. We took a bus there which was about a 3½ hour drive and had a hotel all to ourselves. Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is situated on the east coast of Sicily in the city of Catania. It was so amazing seeing the snow covered volcano and being able to go sledding and have snow ball fights on it. Also, my friend and I got a bunch of people together to write Florida in the snow; it took 25 people to spell it all out and I'm so happy that they all did that for me. It was definitely one of the best weekends I've had here yet.
Before leaving Florida, so many people asked me why I wanted to go away for the year. Why I would leave everything behind to live and go to school in another country, by myself, where I would have to learn a new language and adapt to a new life. Well.. why not?? This year isn't only about learning a new language or going to a new country that I'd never been to before; It was about experiencing something new, making new friendships and bonds that would last a lifetime, and proving to myself that I could adapt to a different lifestyle and strive for independence. I've been given the amazing opportunity to be an ambassador for my country and tell others about my culture and my life at home in America; I know that I am so blessed to be here in Italy this year.
This exchange year, with all it's ups and downs (mostly ups!), has been one of the best years of my life so far. I've been here for seven months now, which means that I have less then three months until I leave this beautiful island that I now call home. It's going to be beyond difficult saying goodbye to all of my friends and having to go back to Florida where I will no longer be a foreign exchange student; however, I look forward to seeing my family and friends again and bringing back with me some of the cultural aspects of Italy.
A lot has happened since I wrote my last journal.. first of all, there was Carnival which is is around the same time as Mardi Gras. We went to Sciacca, which is a city south of Palermo and also where some of my ancestors originated from. We partied and enjoyed the weekend there with the other two exchange students and a bunch of other friends. The parade floats there were about four stories tall and had moving figures made to resemble and mock Italian political figures. Almost everyone was dressed up and the historical streets were flooded with people. It was one of the funnest weekends I've had here yet!
A few days from now, I will get to see my parents again for the first time in seven months. Linda, the Austrian exchange student that lived at my home last year, is also coming to visit me. I'm so happy to be able to see them again and be able to celebrate my 16th birthday with them; I'm excited to have the opportunity to show them the life that I've been living here and how wonderful and extraordinary it is.
until next time!