Grace in Italy
Wow, it has been two months already, time has certainly not slowed for me as I experience the history and beauty of Italy and the Lombardy region. This first month has been completely different from any expectations I had for my exchange and I think that it is benefiting me as it’s not always easy and through the difficulties I am learning the importance of mindset and how the smallest things, like a conversation with a stranger in Italian or a glimpse of sunlight can really make your day and boost your mood. It’s unusual the amount of different emotions one can feel within the space of an hour on exchange and it is certainly something all the students have dealt with at some point. Being relaxed and taking one moment at a time as you never really know what the future entails and to not compare your experience with that of other exchange students, is important in dealing with this.
I am attending an Alberghiero school which is a professional school, so twice a week we do pasticceria where we make regional Italian desserts. Because of this you get a mixed bunch of students, some who seriously want to learn and become professional chefs in the future and those that use it as an opportunity to ‘slack off’ by not doing as much school work academically speaking. This has been a really fun experience because at the end of every class we come together and have a sit down meal. Speaking of food Italy has not disappointed in this aspect, pasta is a daily affair and pizza weekly, I have not gone short of gelato. The interesting thing about Italian cuisine is the diversity between the regions, here in the North people tend to eat pasta with a butter based sauce as opposed to a tomato sauce more common in the south, this can get very heavy after two months of pasta drenched in butter every day, sometimes twice. Italians are also a very resourceful and waste conscious population, as they generally only use ingredients that are easily accessible or local to the region and their recycling system is very thorough.
And my early morning 1-hour bus rides are slowly becoming less painful! I have also visited some beautiful places the past two months, we have had two orientations, the first one to Cremona, where Giorgia is from, and I got to meet her gorgeous family and then another to Bologna. I loved the atmosphere of Bologna and it was great just to walk around the city and discover it for ourselves. I have also been to Lovere, a town on Lago d’Iseo, with two Italian girls from my class, we went ice-skating and had lunch. We recently had a long weekend in celebration of Carnevale a commonly celebrated festival all throughout Europe, where people of all ages dress up and line the streets confetti in hand for the parade. I also visited Bergamo which was a great change of pace to the village lifestyle, the Alta Citta was breathtaking, with the Venetian inspired architecture. I was also lucky enough to visit Rome for the weekend with my friend’s host family which was breathtaking the history and art, cannot compare to anything we have here in Australia and as the Italians would say I was literally ‘senza parole.’ Last week I visited Milan with my host mum and it was a beautiful day, I saw sun for the first time in a good month and we climbed to the terrace to the top of the Duomo di Milano, I thoroughly enjoyed the city and seeing how the Milanese live and the contrast between the ancient and modern. My skiing has also greatly improved, I have progressed from about 10 falls to maybe 2-3 per ski session.
My host family is wonderful they are so welcoming and endeavour to make me comfortable in their home. Although the distance and isolation of living in Pezzolo, a village of less than 100 is a bit difficult, the views well and truly make up for it. I have also had a few close encounters with the animals here in Pezzolo, for example almost being chased by a heard of deer, I have never run so fast in my life, being stalked by guard dogs and almost being trampled by some cows on one of my afternoon walks. In the short time I have been in Italy, I have come to realise the truly beautiful experience that is exchange and that you must fully embrace it and be open to all the experiences and people you meet and that a simple ‘ciao!’, and smile, go a long way. Thank you to the rotary club of Manningham and District 9810 for making this experience possible and all the time and effort that goes into volunteering.