So I finally decided its time to write about my experience here in Italy! I've been living here in Italy for 4 months and I can honestly say that this is my home away from home.
I live in the north of Italy in a small town called Albavilla, you’ve probably never heard of it but it’s near Lake Como. The first thing that I noticed when I arrived in Italy was that everything here is small compared to America, the cars, the streets, the houses, everything. Although everything is small, I managed to get used to it pretty quickly. For me, learning the language came a bit easier since I speak fluent Portuguese and it’s a similar to Italian, but in the beginning I knew nothing. My first host family did not speak any English, which wasn’t a bad thing because it forced me to speak Italian and helped me learn quicker. Now after 4 months I can say that I do not have a problem communicating with people and Italians often compliment me on how well I speak which makes me happy! The Italian culture is very different from American culture. First off, the food is THE BEST IN THE WORLD, and its not just pizza and pasta; here the people a very healthy and they all have gardens with fresh vegetables, which is amazing. Italians are also so open to people; the first thing they do is they come and hug you and give you two kisses first on the left cheek and then on the right. I did not have any problems adjusting to the wonderful Italian culture!
My first host family consists of my two host parents and two brothers one who is 15 and one who is 12. Like I said before, in the beginning it was very difficult to communicate with them because they didn’t speak English so it took my first whole month to get comfortable and get to know each other well. Once I could speak Italian well, my family and I became really close. They have taught me so much about the Italian lifestyle. They have also taken me to so many places I cant even name them all but my favorite trip we went on was to Germany for Christmas! It was absolutely amazing and I really felt like a part of the family. I’m so grateful to have had such an amazing first family; they have done so much for me and I can talk to them about anything. They made me feel so much a part of the family that I didn’t miss my real family as much. I was so sad when I had to switch host families because they are my real family away from home. Now I’m finishing my first week at my second host family and they are super nice as well. I have 1 brother and 2 sisters who are so fun to hang out with. Although I still miss my first family a little, I know I am going to have a great and different experience here at my second one too.
School in Italy is very different from school in America. Here school is Monday-Saturday from 8am-1pm. They have 5 years of high school and they stay in the same class with the same people and teachers throughout these 5 years. I take 11 classes and the schedule is different everyday. School here is also much more difficult. The grades go from 1-10 with 10 being the best and the grades are only based on tests. At first they had me switch from class to class to go to the easier courses, but then I went to one class for an English class and the students in that class instantly asked me lots of questions and wanted to get to know me and were just super nice. So, after, I asked my counselor if I could stay in that class full time and she said yes! Now my classmates and I are really close. I love them!
So far I’ve made lots of friends; friends who are exchange students and Italian friends. When I arrived in Italy we had an exchange student orientation and I got to meet all the others who were doing exchange in Italy. In my district we have about 40 or so students, which is a lot. We all instantly got along because we all have so much in common. Now we always get together in Milan or Como to hangout after school or on the weekends. Italian friends as I said before weren’t as hard to make as I thought it would be because they were all curious to get to know me so that’s how I made friends at my school. They took me to Milan, to go out for lunch, and even to the discoteca! Hopefully by the end of my exchange I’ll make even more friends!
I’m in district 2041/42 which is the area near Milan, Italy. With our district we have done many trips so far. We have gone to Triuggio, Torgnon, Cremona, Rome and Naples. The biggest trip so far was Rome and Naples, which was 4 days, and we got to see so much! Soon we will be going to Venice and Sicily, which I am really excited for. I have already spoken in front of my Rotary club and been to many of their dinner meetings. I am also involved with my club’s Rotaract and have met lots of people through that as well. All of the Rotarians here in Italy do so much for us exchange students to have the best experience.
Overall, I am learning so much here in Italy. I am becoming more independent, learning a new language and culture, and meeting so many new people. I couldn't be happier with my decision to go on exchange and I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring me.
Click HERE to read more about Gabby and all her blogs