When I set off to start my program in Italy, I couldn't help but wonder: Would I be happy leaving all of my family, friends, and the comforts of home? Would I meet anyone that I could travel with and identify with? Will I be able to teach my host family English? However, I'm glad that I didn't let these worries stop me from having an unforgettable experience.
The experience has forced me to do things a bit differently.
Personally, running and simply being outdoors are two of my hobbies. I had to find a way to make sure that running was integrated into my daily routine. Planning runs in busy European cities was definitely different from planning them at home, but the views I saw still leave me in awe, and the uphill terrain gave my workouts a boost!
As with any adventure, I hoped for surprises that would lead to growth and progress. These surprises have definitely happened! I’ve gotten on the wrong train, I’ve been very lost (for hours in Paris at night, minus the coolness of Midnight in Paris) without cell service, and I’ve miscommunicated about and bargained down prices. Looking back, I don’t see mishaps, but rather opportunities. These opportunities have made me a more knowledgeable, better person.
I was able to meet and travel with great people.
Another concern of mine was meeting travel companions. Let me be clear – this is not a typical study abroad program with dozens of other young English-speakers in a large metropolitan area. In my opinion, the InterExchange teaching program is better, but it did force me to be proactive about finding people to travel with.
I found a few early-twenty-something fellow travelers through the InterExchange Facebook page, and there began the domino effect. I could spend pages explaining the relationships that blossomed! I even caught up with an old friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in over five years and learned that we were accepted into graduate schools a week apart.
Meeting people on this program was truly beautiful, since it highlighted what we had in common. We had late wine nights gallivanting around, we celebrated Carnevale in Venice, but we also stood in reverence inside millennium old churches. We celebrated our humanity while wandering through vast royal gardens and museums which told the history of entire civilizations.
While I enjoyed traveling by myself, my host family also showed me the hidden treasures near my city. In the Marche region, there is a beach town called Numana with an unforgettable cliff-lined coast. If you get the chance, you should go - you will not regret the trip!
My host family has been amazing!
I couldn’t boast enough about how wonderful my placement has been. Even though my host parents are busy and they have three children, my family has truly enriched my experience. It may be difficult at times to encourage young or shy children to sit for English lessons, but they have still made progress.
I’ve found that simply talking helps a great deal – exposure! Always keep the communication lines open! Ask your host siblings to go with you to walk around the town or to go to the market. I also highly suggest you cook a traditional American dinner! Converting the measurements and temperatures was a bit of a chore, but my family loved the southern comfort food I made.
All of the doubts and worries I had going into this experience seem small and irrelevant. I have had an incredible experience. If you have any concerns or questions about diving into a life abroad, especially one teaching English, I encourage you to try it! I think you’ll find the same outcome.