I want to begin my post by telling you how wonderful my Italian peers, teachers, locals and mentors have been to me. I recently came down with the flu, so as I sit in my room, unable to attend classes for the next three days, I keep thinking about how caring every single person I have met here has been. Yesterday, a living assistant walked me and another student over to a local university clinic. She was all smiles and engaged both of us in conversation. I was scared that I was going to get her sick and her response was "Don't worry, I'm strong". She was even willing to take my jacket and backpack while I went into the doctor's office. I mean it's the little things like that, that make me feel welcomed here. Although these past two weeks have arguably been the best two weeks of my life, I am getting hit by a bout of homesickness that is really hard for me. I've talked to several other students about this problem and it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one struggling. I miss my friends back at home. I miss the beautiful Arizona weather. I miss my family and dog. I miss being a four hour flight from home. I miss the familiarity of my campus town. There are lots of things that I miss, but there are so many new things to love and I want to share how these things have gotten me through the past few weeks despite my "nostalgia di casa".
1) Orientation week: every day there is one useful informational session and then during the night there is something fun! My favorite was going to apperitivo at Le Banque near the Duomo. Apperitivo is like a happy hour, but with more food! It's amazing. They also offered ice skating and a spa night! The activities took my mind off of home.
2) IES Abroad offers several fun trips in the first few weeks!!! Take advantage of them! This past weekend I got to go to Verona, Padua and Venica, and let me tell you it was the most incredible trip I've ever been on. I got to see Romeo and Juliet's houses, the Scrovegni Chapel featuring Giotto's iconic frescoes, Murano and Burano (famous for glass, lace and colorful houses) and explore an island built on canals. This was a great way to meet friends!
3) Call your family and friends! I've done this at least every day that I've been here. There is no shame in doing this at all. Using WhatsApp and Skype/FaceTime will make everything better for you. Put yourself out there and meet new friends of course, but it's also great to call and let those closest to you know how you're doing.
4) Go out and eat your feelings! What better place to do that than in Italy. Pizza and pasta here are no joke. I would've have probably gained 20 pounds the first week if it hadn't been for all the walking that I did, but it was all so worth it. My favorite food so far has probably been panzerotti from Luini, which was sort of like a fried dough stuffed with salami and mozzarella. Absolutely delicious. You didn't think I was going to forget gelato... my favorite flavors have been pistacchio, grapefruit and hazelnut!
5) If you ever end up in a situation where you need medical attention, IES Abroad will send you to the university clinic which is completely free to all students. All you will have to pay for is the medicine and it was extremely cheap. Also it took 5 minutes at the pharmacy to get what I needed. Healthcare in Italy is so convenient and such a luxury that many don't have in the States. It's a beautiful thing to not have to worry about racking up bills. I'm hoping that you won't need to go to a clinic/hospital while you're here, but just in case, it's important to know that you will be in good hands.
6) Keep a journal! I can't stress doing this enough. I am going to look back at this experience and love it all so much more if I can remember as much as possible. It may seem hard now, but it's only going to get better. Soon, I'll be crying about having to go back to the United States. In some ways, this feels like my home already. I love going back and reading about my better days and thinking about what I can do in the following to try and achieve days like those again.
All in all, I can't explain how humbling this experience has been for me. It is challenging and rewarding in the best possible ways. I have begun Italian classes and feel confident about speaking it in public. I feel supported by all the IES Abroad staff and faculty and that has helped me get over this homesickness that I am still struggling with. If I am sure about one thing, it is that everything is going to be ALRIGHT!