Thursday, September 8, 2011

La Pazza Straniera

Exactly one year ago, on this day and at this exact time, I was frantically rushing home to pack my suitcase. This year I'm back. I'm once again American. And it's surprised me how much I remember now about America, when I was in Italy I had no idea what this was going to be like. Well, surprise, surprise, it's all the same. As soon as I stepped foot onto my old school's campus again, I remembered it all. I remembered where the G building is, my old locker's combination, and all the familiar faces. For them it was normal to remember, but as this was all coming back to me I felt like I was losing the Italian part of me. And in a way I am. I don't know when I'm going back, I just have to move on and be American. 
"Being American" has such a different meaning for me now than it had a year ago. Last year when I thought of America I just thought hamburgers and Starbucks. Now the word "America" brings images of a mix of different cultures, somehow coming together to make a new one, while slowly becoming ignorant to their original cultures and homelands. 
In these two months that I have been back I haven't been able to believe how little we Americans know about other cultures (not to say other cultures are geniuses either), we make assumptions about things we don't know about without taking the time to experience them. My school is and International Baccalaureate school, and is completely against all foreign exchange experiences. We don't have one foreign student in my school, and students are encouraged not to go abroad for a year or semester. After my experience, hearing my counselors telling me "I told you so" after I ask for help to make my schedule in a way that allows me to graduate on time kills me. How can people, above all, educators, be discouraging the most valuable learning experience I've had in my life? This is ridiculous. I'm making it my mission to spread the word of what cultural exchange is really like.
I talk to people I barely know at school about my exchange year, cashiers at my grocery store, my parents' friends, and anyone else who will listen about Italy. And I encourage others who have had experiences like mine to do this too. If you haven't, express your desire to experience the world, people I meet don't even understand why I would have wanted to take a year abroad. The amount of ignorance in our world is ridiculous, and I believe it's because we are encouraged to stick to a cookie-cutter plan in life. You do these courses in high school and these courses in college to get to this specific career that you will stay in for the rest of your life. People breaking the pattern are told that they are failures. Yep, according to my school, my exchange year has ruined my life. My response? Yes, it has. My future is ruined. I don't get to take four years of high school, four years of college, graduation, get a job at a public high school and stay there until I die. My exchange year has given me bigger plans. Why not take a gap year? How about I save up to buy a plane ticket to Romania? What if I decide to go to an Italian university? Learning Arabic might be nice...
So in short, I'm spreading the word. If you read my blog while I was in Italy and liked it, if you are a foreign student, or if you want to be, please let your community know that a world outside of their own exists!!!! And it's awesome.
Enough of being an activist. I'm sorry I didn't write when I promised. Since getting home I feel like I had nothing to talk about. Just daily routine. I miss Italy. So much. But this is my life now, I've changed so much but in the end I'm still the same. Just older and more determined. Maybe a bit more irritating (what can you expect, all I want to talk about anymore are foreign exchange students ;D) I have an Italian girl at my house for the year, so I'm keeping my language up, don't you worry. I have the Italian SAT subject test in December and the Italian AP test in May. I'm at school eight and a half hours a day (not Saturdays though, whoopee!) and spend a lot of time studying for the four independent study classes I am taking alongside my school classes. Yet, even with all this work, I don't regret for one moment my year abroad. I miss my friends and family so much. I miss the feeling of everything being so strange and new. I miss everyone seeing me as strange and new. But I'm back. And I'm not here to stay. If there is one thing I know about myself that I didn't before, it's that I'm destined to be an eternal foreign exchange student. But where am I going next? Muhahahaha, you'll just have to wait and see!!!!! 

Semi-unrelated side note: I don't check comments often so if you have any questions for me about my year, about me, or anything I've written on my blog, or you just want to make fun of my grammar mistakes, send me a message on facebook (If you friend me and I don't know you, I won't accept, but if you send you a message I promise to answer more often than I write my blog posts! XD)

Friday, July 8, 2011

L'Ultimo Giorno

So today's my last day. I'm almost packed. I don't want to leave. On Thursday my host sister and friends threw a surprise party for me. I wanted to cry. Last night my host sister told me she would miss me so much. My little host brother tells me everyday that he wants me to stay. Next week they are having a carnival like thing with the whole town blocked off and filled with rides for it's patron saint (San Martino in Martina Franca). I'm going to miss it. I leave early tomorrow morning. Then never see these people again. Leaving sucks.

I looked back in my blog and on November 8th I wrote a blog post including a list of all the things I miss from America. Here we go with a list of things I'm going to miss when I go back to America:

1. My host sister. She is awesome. We talk everyday. We stay awake to talk to each other late at night. She is my best friend. We fight like sisters, but we love each other like sisters too. I am not kidding when I say I am literally going to die without her. 
2. My host brother. Little Nichi. I am going to miss having a little little brother to play with. He is the awesomest 10 year old alive, and I want to put him in my suitcase and take him with me. 
3. My entire host family. From my host parents who took me in as their own, treated me like family, and helped me through some hard stuff, my host aunt, uncle, and cousin who also treated me like family, cooked for me everyday, and drove me to school every morning. I am going to miss my big Italian family all living together in two countryside houses. 
4. Martino. 
5. My friends. My awesome friends who threw me a surprise party. Who I go out with to do idiotic things every weekend. They are awesome. I want them all with me in America.
6. The other foreigners. We supported each other with our culture shock, freak outs, and difficulties in general the whole year. I'm really gonna miss our Martina support group when we are all in our own countries so far away again. 
7. This is running the risk of turning into a list of just people I'll miss so for a change... Italian food. Tiramisu. Pasta. Caccioricotta (awesome cheese). Stracciatella (cheese). Italian ricotta and mozzarella. Italian bread. Macedonia (fruit salad, but better). Focaccia. Espressino Freddo. Gelato from Florien. Hot chocolate the consistency of pudding. Mmmmmm...
8. XO. Ok so I figured me and my friend spent enough time out of school sitting in this bar in the center of Martina. It has the best hot chocolate, latte macchiato, espressino freddo, and (according to Made') mini hamburgers in the world. Ok well maybe just Martina. But I practically lived here. 
9. The Market. Every Wednesday people set up booths and sell hilarious stuff. Some of it's good. But mostly it's just a whole bunch of cheap sparkly shirts with nonsensical English on the front. That's why it's awesome.
10. Going out every Saturday night and seeing the entire town out all at once.
11. Being foreign. I can do whatever I want and people won’t judge me. Because I’m foreign.
12. Sparkly unflattering cartoon character shirts being socially acceptable. That’s right. Teenagers dress like kindergarteners here. It makes me feel better about leaving the house dressed like an idiot, because I’m not the only one (not that I wear sparkly unflattering cartoon shirts, only an awesome Kermit the frog playing a guitar shirt with a giant American flag on it, I’m awesome)
13. Doing things just because Italians do. Like walking around with coffee breath. Or eating your meat like a starving animal. If Italians do it, so can I.
14. Doing nothing at school. I basically spent an entire year in the computer room. Can’t do that in America.
15. Speaking English. No one understands me. I talk about whatever I want in front of anyone and no one gets offended. It’s awesome.
16. Walking to the city to meet my friends whenever I want. In America there is no city in which to meet friends.
17. Pretty much everything. One more time I’m gonna say Fede and friends… I don’t want to leave these people who have become so important in my life…. Like I always say to people here when they ask me what I’m going to do when I leave, I’m going to die. Not literally. But I’m going to feel like it.

So I guess this is the last post I make from Italy. I’ll post some more when I get home and then the last one will be around Christmas time when I reread letters me and my host family wrote. Goodbye second home….. I’ll be back soon.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Uh huh. I do remember promising myself that I wasn’t going to be one of those exchange students who kept a blog then just forgot about it for months. Well, bad news…. I am. But it’s not a bad thing! In fact I’m using my excuses for not writing as an excuse to write something that I hope helps future exchangers now. To all those who are like me and promise themselves things that they will do/ keep up during their exchange year… trust me… IT DOESN’T WORK. You can’t plan your exchange year. Nothing about it. Not going to the gym, not continuing your favorite hobby, not even talking to your best friends in your home country (and certainly not keeping a blog). If giving up your best friend, or your favorite thing to do for a year sounds depressing to you, it is. All of my exchange friends and I have experienced it. For the first months here we had no idea what to do with ourselves. Everything had changed. The first month I tried living life as I had in America. I talked to my best friends from school. I kept up with news from my family. I spent my evenings and afternoons inside the house, just as I had done in America. I went to bed at 8:30 every night.
But in Italy my American lifestyle isn’t normal. People go out in the afternoons just to hang out in the streets. They meet acquaintances and make friends. They have groups of people to go out with that change. They don’t stay at home. In America my house is constantly full of my family and foreign students. There is more to do at home than outside. Before leaving I hadn’t even thought of the possibility of that. I knew it would be different, but I was stubborn and unwilling to change.
When I switched host families about a month in, I was forced to change. And I did. Not just my daily habits. I grew up a lot in the course of just a week. Had I ever thought that it would happen like that? No. That was the most immediate change that I went through here. My habits changed slowly over time too. I have done things here in Italy that I never would have done before. I started liking Italian clothing (some of it… fashion still sucks here), I spent a period of time when I went to the gym, I have been swimming at the beach. I look back to myself in America and I can’t remember who I was. And this sounds really cheesy and fake… but it’s so true. I have grown up and become Italian. I have 35 days left in Italy… and I don’t know what I am going to do when I get back. People might not recognize me. I might not recognize people. They moved the Borders out of my town. I have forgotten how to drive. They remodeled my school cafeteria. I don’t know how to speak English any more. My family has lived a year without me, but with two foreign exchange students in my place. My little brother has grown to my height. I think half in a different language and respond first in Italian before translating what I say into English. I have no vocabulary anymore (which is by the way another reason I have not been writing in my blog…. I feel like I can’t express ideas in English anymore)
Now this post isn’t the most organized, and I don’t know how much sense it will have for whoever reads it. But the bottom line is…. You can’t plan your year. You will change. You won’t want to do what you enjoyed before. You will give up your life, your friends, everything. And the best part is, it’s not the end of the world. It is a complete change in everything. And it’s cool. Only now I realize, an exchange year isn’t changing your life once… It’s changing your life twice. I’m going back to America soon. And it feels like my life is going to change all over again. We shall see. 
Anyway, I’m not thinking about anything else. And everything else I am thinking about pertains to my normal boring Italian life. I don’t know what else to tell people who read this. So please, if anyone wants to know about being awesome (aka a foreign exchange student), or about Southern Italy, please ask specific questions! It’s my life now so I can’t just write a blog on nothing… tell me what you want to hear!
 (also, if anyone really wants to know, I will be back in CA the 18th of July, after my NYC adventure with my friend and NYC college tour with my father… WOO!)

Friday, February 11, 2011


So hey. It's been what, like a month and six days? Yes I do think we can safley say that I suck at blogging. I'm back though now. And on a good day! It's the half way point! I have been here for 5 months, and I have 5 left to go! It's a little of a bittersweet thing, I really love Italy, and as the time passes I worry that I haven't done anything in all this time. I worry that in the next five months I won't do anything either. I have still not seen Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice..... and I've been here so long. It feels like I no longer have so much of a life in America as I have in Italy, but even then, I don't have a complete life in Italy either. I talk to other foreign students and it's the same for them. So here is my message to all future foreign students: THIS IS HARD!!! Don't go abroad thinking that it's going to be all fun. Everyone has these thoughts that can't be expressed into words and can only be partially understood by otehr foreign exchange students. It's not just feeling divided, it's feeling (no matter how bad you wanted to come in the begining) that maybe things would just be easier if you hadn't come. And yes, many of us foreign students feel horribly depressed, I have felt sad and have dealt with my foreign friends feeling so down that they try to push away their friends, the family, the culture, just looking for something stable in this experience. So let me tell you, nothing is stable. You have got to learn to go with the flow of your host country, everything can seem different and stupid, you may not understand the culture or the language, but we foreign students accept it. Foreign exchange students are saints. We deserve to be appreciated. Seriously. But enough of the part that normal people will probably entirely skip (hopefully future foreign students won't, but hey they can't be included in the normal person catagory, we are crazy for wanting to put ourselves through such crazyness).
So now, on to the part that you like to be reading...... FUN THINGS!

1. I am going to Trento soon! Trento is in the north, my host dad is from Trento. It is supposed to be very green. Now excuse me for knowing absolutely nothing else about this place, but I am going there. I'll tell you about it later. Promise. (BTW this is for exchange week, a special program specific to AFS Italy that sets students up with host families for a week in other parts of the country to see the different cultures, which trust me is WAY different throughout Italy)
2. I'm going to Germany!! To Koln. To learn German. Crap. German? I can't even say a frase in German. But I will have fun anyway. I hear we might go to a chocolate museum. God I hope so. I'm going with my school, but I really don't know anything else about it... once again an adventure.

Anyways, I really cant think of other things I want to include in that list. Hmm. Well I can talk to you about my language, because it's important. And maybe useful. Yeah. So people in America always ask me if I can speak the language yet. The answer is yes. Am I fluent? I don't know. I don't think so. I understand really almost everything of people's conversations. I can answer any question you ask me. I structure my sentances well and people understand me. I can have long discussions about culture, people, problems, and just complicated topics in general. Politics and history are a little hard because I don't know all of the specific vocabulary, but usually when a person is lecturing me on something I understand it all. Now, does that mean I can keep up in school if I can understand everything now? Um, no. I do not understand teacher lectures. In Italy they never take written tests, just oral tests. That means to get your grade you have to memorize many pages of a textbook and repeat exactly what they say outloud to the teacher. I can't do that, because it is hard enough to understand and translate, bu then to memorize it all and repeat it in a language where half the time I have no idea what I'm saying? yeah, like that's gonna happen anytime soon. Well, actually to tell the truth I kind of prefer it this way... XD
Hmmm, what else... well I am losing my skill to make sentences with nuances in English. I lost a lot of my vocabulary fast, so now I am trying to say something serios without making it sound harsh, I just can't. My word choice sucks. I am the laughing stalk of all my English speaking freinds. My goal has been reached.
Also, I eat too much. Not just pasta. Everything. I swear I didn't like cream cheese this much when I was American. So much bread. So many good places to eat. I love Italy. Next blog post will be a list of foods I can't live without. Meaning the cause of my death when I return to CA.
I love Italy. It is starting to feel like my home, my foreign home, but nevertheless, it's a home. I am happy here. I'm just not Italian. So foreign, but I like it. Italy is nothing like me, you can't label someone with the perfect country for them, being at home here is a matter of looking past so many flaws and just liking it anyway. Which is why we tend to stay in the same place we grew up in I think, for me America has it's farmilliar flaws. Now as Italy's flaws get more farmilliar, I can start to love it in the same way as America. But different.
Now since I have made this post at school, there is no spell check. Sorry. I have reread this many times to try and hide the fact of how much my English sucks. Sorry. It still sucks. The bell just rang, no more badly needed correcting. Live with it. I am off to go do something Italian. Ciao ciao!!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy (Belated) Holidays!!

Looks like once again I have forgotten to write here for a while.... whoops. Apologies to people out there who are actually reading my blog!! So in my absence from this blog lots has happened here =)
First thing: My host sister's 18th birthday!!! She had a big party with all of her friends one Saturday to celebrate her birthday that was on the 15th of December =). So I'm just gonna say once again: Auguri Fede!!!!!
Second: Christmas!!! Almost the same as a US Christmas but with a few different traditions:
  • Il presepe: when we put up the Christmas tree (fake) we set up a cute little scene or figurines and moss with a little nativity scene in the corner. It is really cute. And it's still there so I will go take a picture of it later and put it on facebook (because pictures don't work on my blog... sad)
  • In California we can go in the pool on Christmas. Here it was freezing. Not like California "freezing". Literally 0 degrees Celsius. Brrrrrrr....
  • We stayed up until 3am on Christmas eve watching Avatar. Oh yes.
  • The next day during Christmas lunch (Turkey and lots more food) we watched (and I sang XD) MAMMA MIA!!!! 
  • When we got bored later that night we watched (and sang) to Phantom of the Opera!!!! 
And if you know me at all you will know that the last two points were definitely the highlights of my whole Christmas. And you will also probably figured that I have sworn not to watch two movie musicals in one day to prevent massive headaches/ sore throats.
Third: MY FRIEND DANA IS AMAZING!!! Just kidding, she just told me to say that. No, really I love NZerssss!!!!!
Fourth: Happy New Years!!!!! I spent New Years this year not watching the ball drop over NYC, but burning a giant scarecrow then lighting so many things on fire we couldn't see anything through the resulting smoke XD. And singing karaoke. Needless to say, best New Year's ever!
Fifth: I don't really have anything else to say except..... My host mom made Kiwi jam!!!!! It's amazing. Oh yes, and a package from America got here containing warm clothes and enough Jello to last me three lifetimes. Thank you America!!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow and Santa Lucia

Last Friday it snowed here!! It was only the second time I've ever seen it snow, and it was beautiful! I have no pictures of it actually snowing (because during that time I happened to be making a four hour skype call.... Lauren.... XD) but it was still there the next morning so I took some pictures then,(blogger isn't letting me put them here, so I put them on facebook in my second Italy album). There was a lot less that morning, so we had to go to school. Apparently, if it snows enough (from what I hear, still not a lot) we don't have to go to school! It is supposed to snow again this week on Wednesday and Thursday... I'm excited!! But scared since all I have to wear is still a fall coat and converse... hmmm. Strange having to buy all these clothes and wear layers.

Oh, and today is a holiday. Santa Lucia day. Last night we put out little sacks, fruit, milk, and raw polenta by the fireplace. And then this morning when we woke up and there was chocolate and presents all over the floor!! I am told this is a tradition in the north of Italy, and not usually in the South. My host dad explained to me that in the past Santa Lucia day used to mark the solstice, but when Christianity came about it kept all the old holidays and transformed this one into a day for Santa Lucia, a little girl who rides a donkey and died for the religion by having her eyes pried out. She is the saint of vision now. Lovely. Anyway, cool holiday, I have some chocolate and new house socks and gloves that I really needed now =). Thank you Santa Lucia!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spongebob and Chirsmas Lights

I have things to say! Sort of....
First thing: The Sponge Bob song in Italy has no words! It was so horrible the first couple of times I watched it, it's just an instrumental version of it along with the normal animation, but it feels so empty without the picture of a pirate singing. So of course at the begining I was the one who had to sing it out loud every time to make myself feel better about it's emptyness. But THEN, a couple of weeks ago, we found that if you change the language on the TV to English, that the song plays like normal! Now people believe me that the song has words! Oh yes!!!
Another thing: In America I always used to randomly start talking in a British accent. If I am speaking English and I do that here, no one notices. I have English class with one of the first year classes at my school and they have recorded voices that they have to repeat. The voices are recorded in British and I find it hilarious to repeat it in British as well. Then I start laughing at myself and the entire class is like "what???" which makes it all even more funny. No one finds the humour (hehe) in me walking around saying "I'm Harry Potter" in British either..... oh the depression.
Good news! I might go to Germany! I would be going with a class a year older than mine who has had a lot more German than I have studied and in the mornings I would be expected to go to their intermediate language class with them. I find that very funny since my German level is so low that I walked into German class the other day and the teacher asked me how I was and I got really confused because I couldn't understand her. Yes, that's right, 2 months of German and I still can't say "How are you?". Good news is that most Germans speak English better than I speak German, so I think I'll be ok. It's easier to just focus on Italian, not German, for now.
My town has started hanging up Christmas lights! Some people in the city even hang them from the balconies and the whole town is pretty now at night. Next time I'm going to take some pictures of it because it's beautiful! But I will still miss the way it is in America... I have yet to see a shiney penguin hanging anywhere. I expect many, many, many front lawn penguin army pictures to be sent to me from America. 25 days until Christmas anyway (more important now, becasue I skipped Thanksgiving...), I'm excited!