Jillian, Outbound to Italy

First off before I start this journal, I just want to apologize for how long it has taken me to write and submit this. I thought I would’ve been more consistent but this has proven to be slightly more difficult than I thought. Anyway, I’m not 100% sure where to start with this, so I’ll just try to recount my days here from the beginning until now, hopefully briefly. Traveling here was the easiest and best travel experience I’ve ever had and I feel really lucky for that. I flew from Jacksonville to Miami, Miami to London, and finally London to Milan. Every single flight was perfectly on time and I somehow managed to not get lost in a single airport (Heathrow airport was so strange I’m really surprised I didn’t get lost.) This also was my 1st time traveling alone and going abroad so I was naturally a bit nervous at first but things worked in my favor. I can only hope for the same travel experience on my way home at the end of the year. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of my first few weeks here because time moves quickly and so do priorities. I do remember how awfully tired I was though and how lucky I felt to end up with such a nice family and to live where I currently do. Speaking of, I’m about to switch host families for the 1st time in 3 days and I’m quite nervous. With my 1st host family, we live on a mountain overlooking a beautiful lake in the very small town of Darfo Boario Terme, northern Italy. When it was warmer out, I would go hiking sometimes with my host mom as it was very beautiful but exhausting. This town is in a valley so everything is surrounded by mountains. When it was still hot, almost every day a friend from Australia and I would go swimming in the lake and sunbathe. I miss that now because it’s always freezing since it’s winter time. I started school after a few weeks here and I can easily say that school here truly is one of the most boring places. I’m sorry but it’s true; most schools in Italy, including mine, have school 6 days a week and you stay in the same classroom while the teachers rotate in and out. Each class is an hour or 2 depending on your schedule that day, and there’s also no lunch period, only two 10 minute breaks for the whole day where you can have a snack or drink from the school cafe or vending machines. I also think school is a lot less interactive here. My classes usually are just lectures out of the textbooks, and they have tests and oral exams often. Anyway, in October we had our orientation in Venice (!) and we met all the other exchange students throughout Italy. After the Venice weekend, we stopped in Verona which is a really beautiful city. I’ve also traveled to a city called Pavia and to Milan since I’ve been here. So here is where I’ll bring up homesickness; life here very quickly just becomes your daily average life, which is expected. What was unexpected in my case to me, was how quickly and how often I would experience homesickness. Also, this may not be the case at all for you, you may rarely experience homesickness because everyone’s exchange is different, so don’t take this too personally. Off the bat I felt slight homesickness but it wasn’t too bad, mostly just the realization of not seeing my family again for so long. After a month or 2 was when it really was starting to get to me. It often still feels like the homesickness will never go away and I’m left wondering when I will feel better. To be quite honest, I’m still figuring it out. Getting out of your house and being around people definitely seems to help me at least somewhat. Just a word of advice, and I know from experience that this is much easier said than done, but don’t let the homesickness control you if you go through the same thing as me. It’s hard to let it not get to you, but seriously try anything to make yourself feel better, because you don’t want it to control your exchange. You are supposed to be in control of your own exchange, so really try to make it the best that you can. I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve, so I do truly believe many more better days will come with the New Year.

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