James, outbound to Italy

To begin to attempt to describe this journey in and of itself is a daunting task. I fear that my inevitably inadequate description of these events equates to no less than an injustice. Nevertheless, an attempt must be made.

The trip overseas - no pun intended - flew by. Before I had realized what I was actually doing, I was stepping off an airplane onto Italian soil, and into the car of my new host family. I was greeted at the airport by my host father, Ulisse, and one of my host brothers, Claudio. We spent the 15 minute drive to their house making small talk in a rather obscure blend of English and Italian. Having managed to discuss their city, sports, Florida, and the quality of my flight, we finally arrived at their house.

The home portrayed a striking blend of modernism and classical architecture, putting a classical Italian twist on the modern suburban home. Having entered the house I then met the rest of the family, including my other host brother, Luca, and my host mother, Daniella. They were extremely welcoming and in the process of organizing plates of food for my host father's birthday party. I then met many of my host families friends and relatives, who came to the birthday party .

The next day, there was yet another party, this time a pool party at the next door neighbor's house. My host brothers and I played a game of soccer versus all of the children at the party (there were 6-8 of them), needless to say, the 3v8 Thermopylae-esque match was hard fought but inevitably lost. At this party I met the neighbors, and a vast number of other people, all of whom were very welcoming and eager to speak with me.

Now the days have begun to blend together, beginning to ferment into the fine wine of the "exchange experience", I suppose. We ran errands one day, played more soccer on another. Last night (9/10/2015) my family and I went to a dinner party with all the other exchange students and their families near the main city of Torino, There were four Americans, including myself, one Colombian boy, and one Taiwanese girl. The party was lots of fun and we got to celebrate the birthday of the Taiwanese girl, Rich, who turned 18.

In this first week, a lot has happened. My main takeaways have more or less been these:
1. Study your language. I feel am having a much better time because I studied Italian. My host families main worry was that my Italian would be bad, I think I won them over just by having studied Italian before I came.
2. Try to maintain "la bella figura", or, "the beautiful appearance". It is an unavoidable fact that you will be making a million first impressions on exchange, especially early on. Being able to look nice, smile, be courteous, and be attentive will take you far when you go to three parties and meet 100+ people in the first week of your exchange.
3. Give complements and be gracious. While this doesn't mean you must be obsequious to every person you meet, it certainly does entail being consistently kind. No matter who you are with or what you are doing try to give complements, it may seem simple or even unnecessary, but Rotary is a purely volunteer-based organization, and your friends in your host country or your host parents or the friends of your friends or the friends of your host parents or… or… or… they all deserve complements and gratuity. Something which is admittedly obvious, but undeniably vital.

I hope to make my entries a trifle more narrative in the future, I am just having trouble processing everything at the moment. I don't really know how best to finish this entry, but I suppose a quote will have to suffice.

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." - Ludwig Wittgenstein

This applies more to exchange than to life itself.

Until next time,

Ciao!

-James

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