Happy first day of autumn a tutti!
I am almost at the end of my third week here, and I have started to see that exchange isn't completely rainbows and butterflies.
I started school this week in a Liceo Linguistico, a school where the main focus is on languages -- thus we study English, French, Spanish and Latin. We also have Religion, Italian, Science, Math, and History. This is all fine, but the catch is that school is all in Italian. All day listening, reading, and talking in Italian makes me very hungry and tired by the end of my school days. But I am starting to understand more, I understand French class, and my Italian is improving, so there are my bright sides!
In terms of friends, I have been told that the people here in the North aren't quite as open and out there with newcomers as people in the South and I found that to be true. In a small/medium sized town like Sanremo, all the kids have known each other for years and years (just like my experience at Stargate for 9 years), and they take some time to warm up to new people in their environment. At first, everyone just observed me, but by the end of the week, I had made really nice new friends; I got invited to go out around after school Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I am going to go into higher classes for English and Math and I am very content with that, because I can meet more than just 25 kids at school (Italian kids stay in the same classroom with the same people all day). I'll know so many people soon!
I also have really fantastic support from AFS/Intercultura here because they introduced me to a girl at my school, Ghila, who went to the US two years ago with AFS. My contact person, Elena, went to Greenland two years ago. She is fantastic -- she checks in on me, takes me out for gelato and introduces me to new people. (People who might take me to Milan for a football match in the winter!)
Elena and another returnee play on a softball team here in Sanremo and have invited me to try it out. To me it is ironic that I will have played soccer/football/calcio in the United States and then softball in Italy, but I am up to try something completely new and different. I believe a sport is a perfect way to meet new girls and take up some time after school while my Italian classmates are studying. I am really excited to try it out! I always have soccer if it doesn't work out. ;)
There is a camp coming up in October for all the Intercultura students in the North and I am super excited! So far I have met some really cool Italian kids, but it is still a highlight to meet and talk to the AFS students. They are so interesting and we are all sharing this experience with each other. We are never alone! I love talking to my exchange friends on a daily basis. Meeting in Torino for a long weekend should be fantastic!
Through this challenging week, I have missed my family at home a lot. I finally appreciate the beauty in the fact that we were always together. It is tough seeing photos or talking to my family without feeling homesick. I am really close to all of my family back home, and I just want to be able to hug them. Luckily I have a host family and friends here who have been completely supportive and taken care of me this week. I always feel better when I get out and do something and I am lucky I have people to do that with! Every day gets better though, and I believe it will be easier to talk to family without being homesick after a couple weeks of making friends and getting involved.
Overall, this week has showed me the tough side of exchange. I know there are more challenges heading my way, but I also know that this experience is going to be the best time of my life as well. I just know that I will be so strong at the end, and that I will blossom into the person I want to be. It's true -- exchange isn't rainbows and butterflies, but it is a beautiful experience.
Thank you again to all of my friends and family for getting me here and for sticking by my side while I do it. Don't be discouraged by this post, I am perfectly okay and happy! I am looking forward to the months ahead and keeping an optimistic attitude. Every day, my situation with friends and school improves, and all will settle beautifully with a little time!
Baci e abracci,