Years of dreaming, months of planning, days counted down and a nine-hour plane ride later, I finally made it to Italy! I have wanted to study in Italy since I was a little girl. Search through old journals of mine from elementary school and you’ll find things such as “Someday I’m going to go to Italy, but not just go, I want to live there at least for a few months or so…wait, does a few months count as living somewhere?” I was a curious girl obviously.
Anyway, after researching, running around campus talking to various directors and frequenting OHIO’s Office of Education Abroad every other day, choosing a program, applying for a loan, applying for a scholarship and getting passport pictures taken over and over again for various forms, meeting with a travel agent to plan our trip before I started school and driving to every family members house to find the best (aka biggest) suitcase I could bring… I’m here! I’m in Italy!
My mom, my grandma and I flew into Rome on August 2 to start our two weeks of traveling. We spent four days in Rome, four days in Florence, two days in Venice and five days in Milan. We did the trip like typical tourists: getting lost, complaining about our feet, asking for butter for our bread and trying to eat dinner too early. On the other hand, we walked 182374198375 miles a day (with my 79-year old grandma!) ate amazing food, saw all the main sights of each location and stumbled by all with my lousy Italian.
I made this video from photos of our two weeks traveling. Of course it doesn’t describe every detail of our experiences, but I think it accurately shows the fun we had and some of the beautiful things Italy has to offer.
My mom and grandma left August 18 and I met my Italian family for the first time later that day. I have been talking with them for a of couple years now, after they contacted us about my grandfather’s death. Usually I would attempt Italian and my cousin Vero (Veronica) would attempt English. Now I would be living with them until September 1! Two weeks of only Italian with people I didn’t know–mamma mia!
You can imagine that there were barriers. The most glaring one, the language, was frustrating and limiting and difficult. But there were others too, a prime example would be my first morning living with my family.
“The Breakfast” happened my first morning I was with my family. I woke and made my way downstairs, not really sure of the usual routine or what I should be doing. Vero, my cousin, was up and sitting at the table on her computer. Breakfast was ready and the rest of the family would be there shortly. In my half-awake state I sat down and looked at the large bowl of warm milk, spoon and biscotti that was in front of me. I picked up the spoon, then put it down. I looked around the table. Picked up the bowl, then put it down. “Mangia, mangia” Vero said, “eat, eat.” “No Ill wait for you,” I said, thinking of the grand idea to watch what she did then mimic. “No, no I never eat breakfast, go ahead!” I sat and stared for a moment more before, surrendering to the fact that I was clueless, I finally had to ask Vero how I was supposed to eat breakfast–like a four-year-old! The breakfast became a joke between all of us during that week. I couldn’t deny how silly the situation was and wasn’t against laughing about it. In case you were wondering, they dip the biscotti in the warm milk and then eat it. It is the same idea as cereal just…not.
After a week in Pioltello (a suburb of Milan) with my family, we headed north to a tiny mountain town called Piazzatorre to finish out the rest of the August vacation.
Paty and Roby had to work, so it was just us girls living with their grandparents, Rosanna and Jones. In Piazzatorre we hung out with two of their friends, Marco and Umberto, who I’m thankful to now call friends of my own. We went ice-skating, hiking and to the local pub to play fooseball. The town is absolutely gorgeous, like a little mountain postcard.
Looking back, everything about my stay was great, however, it wasn’t always easy. Being in a room with four Italian teenagers when you don’t speak the language isn’t necessarily easy. We would go out to dinner and I wouldn’t say more than a couple of words, which would sound unbelievable for anyone who knows me. Still, after a couple of days I stopped caring as much, I loosened up and I laughed at my awful language skills. I improved so much in those two weeks simply because I was forced to improve to survive the two weeks. In the time it takes to say Ciao, I went from studying the Italian language and culture in America to the being completely submersed. Definition of culture shock! Fortunately for me it also became the definition of an amazing vacation.