It doesn’t only rain in Spain!

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Ciao tutti!

So it’s been about 10 days since I last wrote and things are still going swimmingly! Literally. It has been raining so much the past couple of days that I come home soaked from head to toe and being as it is the middle of October I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the rain so much, and especially in Europe because it just makes everything more beautiful! The smell, the look, everything about this time of year makes me feel so happy and alive. I was almost sad about missing a Canadian autumn this year until I experienced an Italian one. I was surprised by how similar it is to home. There are a few differences (one being that it always smells like sausages), but I am in awe of how beautiful it is. Italy is just a gorgeous country and I feel like autumn is actually making it more beautiful. Every time I pass through a street lined with golden and red trees, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be able to experience a whole year in another country and every day reveals a little bit more as to what that really means.

Despite the downpour, I have still had school, which is going very well I think! My teachers and peers have noticed the improvements I have made and being able to speak a little bit makes it easier. I can understand so much more than I can say, but the fact that these people really talk with their hands also makes it easier! And yes, I talk with my hands a lot now. As far as the language, I have definitely been improving. I even helped some nice men from Kuwait make their way to Milan the other day when I was going to my lesson so that boosted my self esteem! I even had my first thought process in Italian today, which I didn’t even notice until after! I also love how my lessons are in a gorgeous part of the city. Today I had some extra time before my lesson, so I just wandered around in the rain and it was really nice. I love exploring a bit and seeing new things every day, it’s one of my favourite parts of traveling.

This past week, I did a whole load of things, but some of my highlights were going to Lecco for the second time, seeing my second movie in theatres in Italian (Insidious 2, let’s just say I’m not too great with scary movies so it gave my host sister a good laugh), going shopping with my family and eating some incredibly scrumptious risotto. Last night I went for a run and forgot my keys which was stupid of me, but was able to get a hold of my awesome host mom who called a friend to let me in. Thank goodness for amazingly kind Italians! I’ve been pretty busy so far in my exchange, but at the same time usually have a bit of time each night to relax too, or do some homework (yes, I do homework!). Speaking of homework, I wrote a test today in English and I will be writing a test on Philosophy in I-don’t-know-what-language because my prof doesn’t speak English so she speaks a broken version of French and Italian. Fritalian! It was a bit hard to understand her sometimes but I really appreciated the effort she and all my other profs have been putting in to help me understand. Really makes me feel welcome and at home! 🙂

The next few weeks will be full of exciting things, so I am excited to experience those! On a different note, today is a very special day as well! It is the birthday of my beautiful mamma, so tanti auguri mamma! I hope you have an absolutely amazing day!

Until next time, ciao ciao

L

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadians! I hope you are all in the company of family, enjoying the season, the weather, the food, and each other. Please savor that turkey for me, as my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a kebab wrap. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but no turkey dinner! Oh, and cranberry sauce. Please eat all the cranberry sauce. I hope you all had wonderful weekends, whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re with!

It’s almost been six weeks since I got here and I can hardly believe it. I’ve started Italian lessons twice a week in Milan, which seem to be helping! They are organized through Rotary, so I go with four other exchange  students. Our lessons are in the house of this adorable little Italian woman who is really sweet and actually quite hilarious! Time seems to fly by, which means I must be enjoying myself, so that’s good! I’m not sure exactly when, but over the past couple of days something has changed in the sense that I am finding myself speaking and hearing only Italian, except when things are really difficult and translation is needed. Sometimes, when talking to people I don’t know very well, I end up speaking what I like to call “Fritalglish”, a mixture of French, English, and Italian, but it seems to work just as well! Anyway, the Italian is improving in spades and I am really proud of what I have accomplished so far in terms of language.  I know I’ve got a heck of a long way to go but when I think of how much I knew six weeks ago, I realize how much I’ve learned! i’ve gone from deer-in-the-headlights to slightly-confused-at-times, so I’d say that’s pretty good! I hope to speak quite well by three months, maximum. Vediamo!

Other than that, things have been business as usual. I enjoy having a daily routine, as it makes settling into regular life much easier. Last Sunday I traveled with my host family and host sister’s softball team to a city far away for a softball tournament. It was a pretty long day and it ended up pouring rain all day (as it has for the past week, and anyone who really knows me will know how happy this made me), so I spent most of the day in the cafe with my host mom and friend, drinking cappuccino, eating chocolate, and playing cards. It’s safe to say it was a really nice day, and also a great time for me to just spend time with my host family and friends. I also got to know a few people on the softball team, so talking to them was great. I made one friend who went on exchange to Ohio, so it was nice to be able to just talk without thinking about it for a while.

This past week was probably the most normal and casual I’ve had, which was nice and relaxing! I got to go shopping a bit for some warmer clothes in Milan (let’s just say I was successful), hung out with my family, went running a few times, and just lived regular life with my family. I went on errands with them, helped them with dinner, and really got to spend time with them.

Yesterday, while my host family went to a softball tournament, I was invited to go to MIlan for a 10k run! I went with a friend of mine who is a competitive runner and we took the metro to Castello Sforzesco, which is Milan’s castle. It is absolutely beautiful and is surrounded by a huge park, which is also gorgeous! Yesterday, there was an added sea of orange tee-shirts, blasting music, confetti, sign-up stations, and spandex. It was my first time being at the castle itself. and it was amazing. I found out as I was walking through that, y’know, Leonardo Da Vinci lived there for ten years. No big deal. Italians, man. And although I have been to my fair share of historic European landmarks, this was the first moment where history really hit me like a slap in the face. I just could not believe that this man, who crafted so much of what we treasure today, walked in the very same place I was walking, saw the same things in the sense of the castle, and thought up some of his most famous works in a place where, 500 or so years later, I would be running a 10k with 40, 000 other people. It just amazed me. This world is a crazy, fantastic place. I had no idea what I was getting myself into because I was casually asked about this on Friday and decided to do it on Saturday, and it turned out to be a fantastic day! The run was like a 10km tour of Milan, through some really beautiful areas, so it didn’t really feel like work. It was hard and tiring, but the scenery combined with the atmosphere and adrenaline made it a lot easier. It was my very first 10k and I finished in an hour exactly, so I figured that wasn’t too bad! What a great day.

So, to finish things off, as I sip a warm cup of tea, I am reminded of everything I am thankful for. I am so incredibly thankful for the fact that I get to wake up here every day for the next ten months and experience something new every day. I am thankful for the people who have taken me in and cared so much for me in such a short time. I am thankful for the friends I have made and the copious amounts of knowledge I have acquired. I am thankful for every opportunity I’ve been given. And, obviously, for the food I get to eat every day. I honestly miss Canadian food so much sometimes, especially at this time of year, but then I have a cappuccino and I feel so much better! Anyone who knows me will know I am crazy about this time of year and am incredibly festive, and here in Italy the atmosphere is quite different. There is no thanksgiving here, so enjoy yours! Enjoy your turkey, your talkative grandmas, your copious amounts of gravy, pumpkin patches, colourful maple leaves, farmer’s markets, and crisp autumn air. And for those of you who are university students and are complaining about missing your family even though they flew you back for Thanksgiving and you’ll see them in eight weeks, just try to be grateful that you understand everything that is said to you, you know exactly what you’re eating, you know how to use the toilet, and most of all, you got to see your family. Whoever you are, no matter how much your family might bicker or annoy you, just try to appreciate the fact that you get to spend the holidays with them and hug them a little tighter for me. Sending my love and hugs to my family and everyone else at home! Happy Thanksgiving. Have a great one! 🙂

Ciao

L

La Bella Vita :)

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So I know this post is late, don’t hate me I got a lot on my plate! (See what I did there?!) these past two weeks have been full of adventures and I can’t believe it but as of today I have been here for a month. A month!! That’s just insane to me! On one hand it feels like its been longer because of everything I’ve done and accomplished, but at the same time it feels like I just arrived! It’s been one of the craziest months of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world! And I can’t wait for what’s to come. 🙂

On a more serious note, I did want to mention the tragedy in Sicily on Thursday. In case you didn’t know, a ship carrying immigrants to southern Italy caught fire in Lampedusa. 150 people were saved but there were 500 on the ship, the majority of whom are unaccounted for. Yesterday in school we had a minute of silence for the victims and the people of Lampedusa. Many people cried. One thing that amazes me about this country is the comradery between everyone, and the attachment of Italians to their country. No matter where I am, when people tell me stories of this country they brim with pride and warmth. It is nice to see a people with such a love for their country and its people, and especially to see them come together at a time like this.

On a brighter note, lots of great stuff happened this week! This past weekend I got to skip school for two days and travel to the beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna, specifically a small town called Fognano. I swear, everywhere I go in this country I feel like I’ve entered a postcard. Emilia-Romagna is known for its’ agriculture, so there was vineyard after vineyard among the rolling hills, and laying in the midst of all of that was a giant convent which we stayed in! We were in Fognano for an Italy-wide inbound Rotary conference so there were over 100 kids there, plus adults! So a hotel just wouldn’t cut it ;). It was a beautiful building, albeit a bit creepy at night, with giant hallways that stretched on forever, Madeline-esque rooms lined with beds, and stunning courtyards tucked in the middle, though slightly inaccessible (don’t worry we managed). It was such a great opportunity to meet everyone in Italy, from literally all over the world. India, Finland, France, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Thailand, US, Taiwan, you name it! It was so amazing to get a taste of every country and be in an environment where we can all come together like that. The weekend was jam-packed, with some hiking, gawking at the views of the town and castle, information sessions, impromptu singing, purposeful singing, cheesy photos, exploring, and socializing. Oh yeah, and EATING. It was an absolutely amazing three days and I had a blast. When I got back I was so used to speaking English that I couldn’t remember any Italian! Luckily it came back quickly and I am improving still! I start a course in Milan on Monday so we’ll see how that goes. I am able to have simple conversations so that’s good!

Other than that, school’s been pretty much the same. I am learning so much in my art classes, it is crazy. All of my teachers are so passionate and it really makes school interesting. I prefer the school system here, so for me it’s great! The last week has been pretty relaxed with not a whole lot going on. I went to Milan a week ago with friends to show them around, I’ve been going to the last of the softball games, running a lot, and hanging out with my family and host sister. Last night I went to Milan for a big event where the Inbounds (that’s people who are here on exchange) meet the rebounds (people who have come back from exchange). It was at this swanky lounge where we ate appetizers and drank funky alcohol-free cocktails. 🙂 Italy is starting to really feel like home now. Although last night I received some devastating family news which is very hard to deal with when you are on the other side of the world and you can’t be with your family, and on top of that I think I have the flu, I am keeping my head up and hopefully can take it easy for the next few days and then return to normal. Exchange is full of ups and downs and so many things you don’t know how to deal with, but my host family is amazing and they are letting me grieve in peace. Every day makes me a stronger person and I enjoy every minute, even if it is really hard sometimes. Make no mistake, I am enjoying myself more than I ever have, but not every moment is bound to be an “up”. That’s just life. Accepting that and moving forward with a strong and positive attitude is what makes people successful. I know I’ve got so many adventures ahead of me, and I can’t wait for them. So until next time, have a great weekend and smile.

Ciao

L

Feels Like a Dream

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Ciao tutti!

The last few days have been a blur of memorable moments and increasing progress. I don’t even know where to start, and the thing that kinda sucks is that I should be writing in my journal every day and I have but for the past week, I just haven’t had time to sit down and fill it in. So, with that said, today’s blog will consist of me completely relying on my memory, which at the moment is a little scattered due to the amount I stuff into my brain every day. But let’s give it a shot. Andiamo!

School has definitely gotten a lot easier! I thought I would dread going because it’s school, but I look forward to it. I have made a few friends now despite the language barrier, and I am confident that as I learn more it’s only going to get easier. I have some really fun classes and others which I can’t even hope to understand, but if I don’t understand the lecture I try to learn a few new words if I can. I really like my teachers as well, although only two of them speak English. Also, my host sister switched into my class, so we were both really happy about that! It’s nice to have a few translaters around when I need them as well. School has been so good for me and I think for my friends, because as they teach me their language I teach them mine. It’s a beautiful cycle that makes me smile and is very fulfilling. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but for anyone out there who is thinking about exchange, immersion is THE BEST way to learn a language! 100 percent.

Apart from that, I’ve just been hanging out with my family, running a lot (I live in a very active community so that’s great!), and doing loads of things around my town. On Saturday we had lunch with some family and then had dinner with my third host family. Absolutely delicious! They also showed me where I will be staying in their house, so that was kind of cool. They were also incredibly generous enough to give me a phone, so I can finally contact people here! Something tells me it will come in handy.

Yesterday was one of my favourite days so far. It makes me a little uncomfortable saying that actually, because I believe that every day should be fully appreciated and lived to the fullest– the truth of that statement never really hit me until exchange– but it was a day that stands out to me because of the amazing adventures which were had. By the way, I know I’ve said this before, but I just need to re-iterate that my host family is absolutely fantastic. They do so much for me and I feel as if I’ll never be able to repay them, so I always make sure to tell them how much I appreciate everything. They’ve really gone out of their way for me a few times, whether it was to get things sorted out and get me settled or show me a new city, and it just means the world to me. So grazie mille a la mia famiglia hospitante!

Anyways, yesterday my family asked me if I wanted to go to the sea with them, or to the mountains with my second host family. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve always wanted to go to the Mediterranean and I didn’t know if I would get another chance, so I opted to go to the sea and my second family came with us. Right now they are hosting a student from Turkey, so he came along with them. Luckily he speaks English, so communication was easy! We drove about two and a half hours to Liguria, which is a province on the western coast of Italy. We were going through all these tunnels and all of a sudden, out of my window I could see this dazzling turquoise water. I think I smiled so big I almost broke my face. We missed the exit we wanted so we ended up driving along the sea through all these little towns, what a hardship. It was absolutely ridiculously beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it it in my life. I had to keep telling myself, “Dude, you’re in the Mediterranean!”. I was so happy I couldn’t keep myself from getting a little choked up. That has happened quite a few times actually. Whenever I think about the fact that I am actually here, I am so overcome with happiness and fullness that I get tears in my eyes and I have to go hide in my room and pretend I have allergies. All joking aside, I seriously am so incredibly lucky and to everyone who has helped me get here, not a day goes by that I don’t say thank you. To the wall, because obviously you’re not here. But still.

We drove through so many towns but one that stuck out to me was Rapallo. We stopped to get foccaccia and I just walked around with my mouth hanging open, marveling at how a place could be so beautiful. That happens a lot too. We ended up in San Margherita Ligure, which is an absolutely beautiful town on the sea with these amazing different coloured buildings spanning the boardwalk. We hung out at the beach for a while and ate our foccaccia and other things which I can’t pronounce. I also swam in the sea for the first time! The water’s edge was composed of these giant white rocks, and the turquoise water was a perfect temperature. Not too hot, not too cold. You didn’t even have to wear a light jacket (that reference was for you dad). The water was so clear and behind the beach were all kinds of colourful houses nestled in the hills. I swear, I’ve seen it on a postcard. I had a moment where I was tanning and I had the realization that, hey, I’m laying on a giant rock in Mediterranean Italy without a care in  the world. How did I get this lucky?! After we hung out at the beach for a few hours, we walked around San Margherita and took lots of pictures. We then drove home and had some lovely pasta with the “true” pesto, staight from Genova. Scrumptious!

So, after a great week, we launch into a whole new week of adventures. This week I am going to a three-day multi-district conference in Emilia-Romagna! Can’t wait. And if I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: There is no way to know what the next day brings and for that reason complaining about “tomorrow” is useless. Why dread what you have to do tomorrow when you don’t know what tomorrow brings? You might meet a life long friend or eat the best gelato you’ve ever had. There is absolutely no way to know how many tomorrows you will have in your life, so make them “todays” and enjoy the heck out of them instead, even if you don’t want to go to school or work, etc. It will make you a happier person and you will absorb more than you ever thought you could.

Ciao ciao, until next week!

L

Weekly Updates

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Hello all,

So I know it’s been about a week since I last posted and that is due to the sheer business I have been becoming accustomed to! Sorry I’m not updating more often, but I’m going to try to post weekly!

I’m starting to get used to life here, and I’m feeling way more comfortable. Life has gotten a lot easier and less overwhelming than the first few days, and I am just so enormously ecstatic to be living here in Italy with my amazing host family and to be doing what I’m doing. I just love it here!

So since I last updated I have started school! I go to an arts school so I am doing cool things like figure drawing and sculpting! Other classes I don’t understand at all (like art history) so I just listen and try to learn new words whenever I can. None of my teachers speak english except my English teacher, so that’s been a bit of a challenge but her along with my host sister have been instrumental in helping me get comfortable at school here. It feels like being a baby again, being thrown into this whole new life with a new language and people and school, and I can’t do a lot at school because of the language barrier, but the potential of learning is huge. Every day I learn so much, about the language and the culture and myself. I’m only about 11 days in and I know this is the best decision I have ever made.

On Saturday I went to the lovely town of Lecco for a Rotary district meeting! It was the first time I met the inbounds in my district so that was really cool! Lecco is absolutely ridiculously beautiful. We walked around the streets and the lake for a bit while eating the best gelato I have ever had (SO MUCH GELATO IT’S RIDICULOUS). It was really cool to see the area around Lago di Lecco and Lago di Como. The mountains are so big and fake-looking, it’s like I was in a fairytale or something! I also met my other two host families, who are also amazing! I have gotten so lucky with my families, I can’t wait to experience this year with all of them.

Apart from all that, I have been going to a lot of softball games (Vai Chiara!) and have fallen into a daily routine here. I am also taking some Italian lessons with a lovely friend, although the fact that the lessons are in French makes it a bit difficult! I am trying my best to grasp the language as fast as I can, but I have to constantly remind myself of how little time I’ve been here. When I think back to when I got here 11 days ago, I really didn’t know ANY italian and now I can have small conversations and understand most of what is said to me. Immersion is AMAZING.

That’s all for now! I will post more on my adventures soon.

Ciao ciao

L

MILANOOOO

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Ciaooo! So yesterday I went to the outskirts of Milan for a softball game and I thought we were going into central Milan right after, but we came back for a beautiful lunch and after that my host sister and I took the underground to the Duomo!! The Duomo is absolutely breathtaking. When I was walking up from the subway and I saw it appear I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that it was actually happening! This is my life and I am so incredibly lucky to be here. I love central Milan!! We walked and walked and on the way we saw some popular streets and shops (Including the famous galleries, where I did some sort of famous circle with my heel on certain spot which is supposed to result in good luck), roman-era ruins, and the winner of Italian X Factor!! Milan is so magical, I just fell in love with it. What a great day!

This morning I didn’t do much, but after a lunch of delicious Italian spaghetti some friends came over and I helped them with their English homework, which was surprisingly hard for me! After that we went for a long walk to eat some gelato, which was the best I’ve EVER had. Benissimo!!!

I am really having a great time and am starting to feel like this is my second home. I am so incredibly grateful for this, what an incredible experience. Wouldn’t change it for the world (no pun intended)!

ciao ciao

L

Busy busy busy!

So yesterday was definitely a full day! My host sister and I watched some American TV shows in the morning and I met a friend of hers, Marco. I also met some of her friends the night before. Everyone here is very friendly and welcoming! I am still trying to figure out the way things work here but I feel extremely happy and comfortable with my family.

Yesterday we also to the mall in a town which I think was called Lambiate? There are so many small towns here squished together that half the time I don’t even know where I am! The mall was no different than a Canadian mall, with very similar stores, just more expensive! We also went to two softball games, which is very popular here. There is American music playing and they sell hotdogs, and it is very Americanized I think. Italians often talk about how people here just want to live the good old American Dream, but I am glad to see that traditional Italian customs and behaviour are still at the forefront, although the country is very westernized. Usually I get bored easily during sports games, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself, partly because of these three crazy number one fans who brought giant flags and smoke machines and big drums which they would bang and sing chants with. It was very funny and entertaining. People here are very lighthearted and have a great sense of humour. It almost felt like home for a little while, only this audience was much more rambunctious than the one at home. I loved it!

i have had some delicious food so far including prosciutto, panini, pasta, pizza, fritata and some things I can’t pronounce. i haven’t loved all of it, but I have been encouraging myself to only eat things I haven’t tried before. Its one of my favourite parts of traveling!! I am about to make my way to Milan for another softball game followed by a day of shopping. Can’t wait. 

 

L