by Alicia Weber, Greenheart Travel Language Exchange Homestay Participant in Italy
As I was sitting on the plane, looking over the beautiful ocean and flipping through the channels on the screen I came across the flight details. 594 mph, -51° F, 38879 feet altitude and then I saw 3,102 miles from origin. I think that was the first time that it had set in that I was thousands of miles away from home and about to have one of the greatest experiences of my life. I think that for everyone this happens at a different time; while you are packing or driving to the airport or saying your goodbyes. All of these things had happened for me, but I sat wondering when would it actually hit me that I had signed up for this language exchange homestay program in Italy, and am heading half way across the world to live for a month.
Well here I am, sitting in wonderful Italy during my second week here and it is wonderful. My family is more than I could have ever hoped for, already welcoming me as one of their own. The food is spectacular, just as everyone reads about in the books. The lifestyle is completely different than one I have ever known before. Already in a week I have seen and traveled immensely: Lake Como, Moneglia, Milan and with many more travels planned ahead of me. I am trying to take in every moment of this experience and live as an Italian would to truly understand their lifestyle.
Even though I have only been here for a week, there are many things that I can recommend when traveling with this program:
1. Be sure to pack a journal, I have wrote in my journal every day so that I can remember everyday what had happened. Without this journal my days, weeks, and month would all become jumbled together and when I’m explaining my trip to family and friends I want to remember every minute of it.
2. Bring your laptop! I had made the decision not to bring my laptop and the minute I got on the plane regretted it. Luckily I have a wonderful family who has lent me one of theirs to use for the month! With a laptop you can upload pictures to update people of your travels, look up recipes from your country to share with your host family (ex. I’m making pancakes today with my family!), look up train tickets and other events that you can pre-order online so you can get the best prices, help look up ideas for English games to help your family learn English in a more fun way, and so much more! So for my next trip, it will be a MUST on my list!
3. Don’t over pack! Right before I was ready to leave, I went through my bag one more time and took things out. You want to make sure to leave plenty of room to bring things back from the country that you visit! As well, many times you will reuse many of the things that you wear and can always do your laundry since you are staying with a family!
4. Stop worrying. Although every minute of every day before I hopped on the plane I was SO excited for my trip, I also was nervous about many things. Will I get along with my host family, did I pack enough to wear, what if no one can speak English, should I have learned Italian before leaving, and so on. Here’s the deal, EVERYTHING will work out for the best! Greenheart Travel ensure to place me with a great family and that they have more than lived up to! If you didn’t pack enough, you can always buy clothes here. The majority of people here in Italy can speak some English and if not, they are more than willing to try to help you or understand your language! Many foreigners travel across the world everyday so you are not alone!
Lastly, there is no better way to learn Italian than being surrounded by it! Within the first couple days I was able to pick up words in conversations and be able to answer questions spoken to me in Italian, it’s incredible what your brain can do! Overall, the point of this is to not be afraid to do something like this because otherwise you could miss out on a great life experience. If I had listened to my worries, I would not be here today and that would be one of the greatest regrets of my life!
I have to thank Greenheart Travel for giving me such a great opportunity that I will cherish forever! This is only my first week in Italy so I will be sure to keep updates during the rest of my travels. Until then. CIAO!