I stayed in Chiaravalle with a lovely family for about three months. I learned a lot back there and when I say that, I don’t only mean the language. But what did I learn there? I learned to let go. When I left I thought it’d be easy. I thought I wouldn’t miss home all that much. But when I arrived there I missed it instantly. Because it felt a bit strange, you know that you won’t see your home for quite a while. I remember driving away from home looking back knowing that I wouldn’t see it for a trimester. Luckily my host family was really kind and warm. I thought I would be shy the whole time but I actually felt really welcome there. It felt like a new home. Now, a year later I kind of miss my home in Italy from time to time.
Since I arrived over the weekend I didn’t immediately notice the differences. They were more interested in the way I did things and I was still finding myself. The first couple of weeks I just followed Sara and her friends. I tried to be flexible and not complicated. I found out that things I would say no to at first were actually nice. I quickly realised that I had to make it a good time myself, that they couldn’t just give me a good time. Being flexible is not something you can be from one day to another. It is something you have to learn and an experience like this really helps a lot with that. I didn’t think I would try as many new things as I did back there. I was quite scared for the food because I am a difficult person when it comes to eating. It was sometimes difficult to go out with Sara and her friends because of the age difference. I was 16 when I was in Italy while Sara was 20. I don’t often go out, although in Belgium I hang out with my friends from time to time. And when we go, we leave at noon until the evening. In Italy they only leave in the afternoon around 2 or 3 pm. For me that was a big change. They stay outside the entire time so I remember I was often quite cold. There were some conflicts when I wasn’t up for going out. I just wanted to stay home but they wanted me to come along. I know it wasn’t easy for Sara to drive me all the way back home so I realise I must have been quite annoying. Now I sometimes think about it and then I think to myself that I maybe should have gone. But would that have been the right thing to do? I don’t think I should just do whatever they wanted me to do so I am maybe a little bit proud that I stood up for myself. That is something I learned there as well. Standing up for myself and not be all too shy. Not being shy in a place you don’t know with people you don’t know is not always easy. I had to walk up to people and talk to them. I had to learn a new language because I realised quick enough that English wasn’t something they spoke easily. I met three people who I could fluently speak French with. One of the teachers spoke German. Everyone else spoke only Italian. Some of them tried to talk to me in English but soon enough the conversation would end because it would become too difficult. The first weeks Sara was there to translate things for me all the time. It was then when I realised I wanted to speak Italian. So I started to write down words and memorise them. I started to make small conversations in Italian. After a few weeks I understood almost everything they said to me. Answering their questions was more difficult than I thought but I mostly succeeded in making them understand my few words of Italian.
Me being able to speak other languages, other pupils started to get inspired and actually tried more. They wanted to be able to speak as many languages as I did and I often heard them say that I grew so fast in my Italian skills and that I had a great accent. They sometimes even thought that I was the Italian one and Sara the Belgian one! They asked me how I did it all that time. I was proud because I got the chance to explain them how I did it and I was so proud of them when they dared to try. A language is something you only learn by listening and speaking. Listen to others, native speakers and then try to communicate. Nowadays I am still so happy when I meet someone who speaks Italian when I can tell them that I can say some things. I changed my “sorry I don’t speak Italian” to “yes, I speak a bit of Italian” thanks to this project. Even still now, when I learn new words and things I immediately tell Sara. Thanks to my basic Italian I could make new friends and new connections. I got to know new people and I still am in contact with them daily. I can proudly say that I am partly Italian. Maybe not by blood but definitely in my heart. Being away from home made me understand things in a different way. It made me understand how other people felt by my leaving or by me showing up in their life all of a sudden. When I was thinking about it I went to Sara to talk to her. She was really wise and made me open my mind more. Even now that I am in Belgium and she is in Italy she always listens to me and she will always be one of the people I go to when I need to see things in a different way.