by Alison Mariel, Greenheart Travel Language Exchange Homestay Participant in Italy
The time has finally (yet quickly) arrived! It is now the week I leave for Italy. It seems like forever ago that I actually applied to the Greenheart Travel language exchange homestay abroad program in Italy, and suddenly the time is now here. Whenever my trip comes up in discussion , I have consistently been asked the same following questions: “So, what made you decide to do this?” and “Are you nervous?” and then of course, “So have you started to get things ready for your trip yet??”
As for what made me decide to do this, let’s start at the beginning. I have studied the language since 6th grade, and in 2009 I studied abroad in Florence. In 2011, I graduated school as an occupational therapist (OT). That was also the year I attained dual-citizenship in Italy (thanks Dad!). For me, I have always been in love with what I do for a living, but there is also the part of me that strongly identifies with my Italian roots and its culture. I dream of living there for an extended period of time- whether it be for studying, working, backpacking….whatever may be the overarching excuse. When I left Florence for the U.S. in ’09, I promised myself it wouldn’t be long before I would return, and I made sure that became true.
Originally I was intent on traveling around Europe immediately after graduation, that is, before starting work as an OT. However, as one may suspect, my savings didn’t quite cut it for a worldwide backpacking adventure just yet. Therefore, I temporarily set my goal ahead a bit in order to focus on a means for actually reaching it.
Now, a year and a half later, I am getting ready for departure. As for the second question, am I nervous? A little, but mostly with excitement. I will be staying in a small town in the Varese province, in Northern Italy near Milan. I have been matched with a lovely family there who will host me for three months while I teach their two children English. The program entails teaching for about 15 hours a week as well as a cultural exchange living experience as if I were part of the family. The other time is yours to take classes, advance your language skills, explore, etc. I plan to take an Italian language class in Milan a few days/week and really try to advance my language skills to attain fluency. We’ll see what happens!
Lastly, have I begun getting things ready? Well, somewhat. The thing is, the concept that this is actually happening won’t really hit me until I’m packing up my things, driving to the airport, or sitting in the waiting area for boarding. It’s always been this way for me. So the truth is I haven’t done much in the way of preparation. However the language lessons are quite casual and I have been assured by the Greenheart Travel staff that it is nothing to worry about or stress over ahead of time (although I must admit, I am a little nervous). Even though I am fluent in English, being able to instruct someone else in one’s native language is a whole different story- especially since I’ve never been a teacher! But nonetheless I am going into this on Friday with great anticipation and excitement, for surely it is bound to be the experience of a lifetime 🙂