Building Roots

As a recent college graduate I decided to pursue a new life abroad.  Graduation came and passed and I awaited my new adventure in Italy.  February arrived and I excitedly packed my suitcase with my most precious belongings.  As I stepped onto the airplane to start my 25 hour journey, I was filled with hope for what my future in Italy may hold.  In my eyes, Italy represented a land filled with boundless adventures and delicious food.

I came to Italy expecting adventure to find me.  I expected to magically integrate into Italian culture, learn the language, and meet countless friends who were just like me. I spent almost 2 months waiting around for these things to happen.  I would end the day dissapointed, thinking, “Maybe tomorrow I will meet someone new”  “Maybe tomorrow I will be able to ask for directions” “Maybe tomorrow I will be able to communicate with the shop keepers”  After 2 months, maybe tomorrow was just not working for me…

I came to realize, if I wanted Italy to become my home, I must actively seek it out.  As a naturally shy person, this concept seemed difficult for me.  I actually had to put myself out there and make friends with complete strangers.. what?! Where do I even start?

After 2 months of “maybes” I found the strength inside myself to purse a life I wanted to live.  To integrate into Italian culture I did three main things:

  1. Join Expat Groups
    • I began searching for Expat groups on Facebook.  As I searched, I found many groups created to help English speakers survive in Bergamo, Italy (my city). These groups provide great resources- suggestions of local events, English speaker meet-ups, job connections, English speaking doctor recommendations, and much more!  Joining a Facebook group in your community can help connect you to many valuable resources!
  2. Study Italian
    • After 2 months of “dabbling” in Italian, I was left understanding 1% of what people said around me.  I felt isolated from the community around me.  I was unable to do the most simple things like order food at a restaurant or ask for directions.  This left me stranded in my own little world, helpless.  At the 2 month mark, I could not take the isolation any longer.  So began my quest to learn Italian, I bought Italian textbooks and registered for Italian Courses. Although I am just a beginner, as I study Italian, I feel a greater sense of belonging with Italy.  I am investing in the now and as I do that I feel myself becoming happier with my life here.
  3. Practice Speaking
    • As a shy person, this part is the hardest for me, however it is so important for becoming fluent!  I have to continue to force myself to practice the new phrases I learn. I often make mistakes with my pronunciation or grammar but oftentimes Italians will offer me a smile and kindly correct me.  As I put myself out there I am realizing that many people react kindly to my attempts and each time I gain more confidence!

We all have our unique stories. What have you done to build a home in a new country? What advice would you give new Expats for integrating?

Round 2

This weekend I had my second little piece of heaven. I revisited the Grigna mountain range, this time from a different altitude.  Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I decided to climb this mountain (5,500 feet!). As the hike began, I was invigorated from a night of restful sleep.  As I hiked I observed many of the beautiful sights I saw before, but I lacked the curiosity from the first time.  There is nothing like exploring a place for the first time, when all your senses open to absorb the world around you.

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Desiring something more, I continued up!  Arriving at 3,000 feet I found myself surrounded by dead trees, still lacking the thrill I had been chasing.  Realizing that it was only 2 hours to the peak of the mountain, I started trekking upwards!  I was only 30 minutes in when I began to feel immense exhaustion; My feet ached from the jagged path and my thighs twitched from the constant incline.  The path lead directly up without reprieve!  As I crawled upwards I began a battle within myself.  One moment I was determined and kept a strong pace, the next I was questioning if I could physically take another step.  While this battle carried on inside of me, I continued to place one foot in front of the other.

After 2 hours of trekking up, the end was in sight!  At last, I saw the house, a little sanctuary at the top of the mountain.  I threw my hands up in the air! I did it!

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This hike reminded me of an important lesson. Determination can get you anywhere in life, you just have to believe in yourself and your abilities.  Sometimes you may feel weak, but just keeping small steps forward and eventually you will reach your goals!  Don’t let the negative voice in your head stop you!  You can do it!

A Piece of Heaven

As we walk down a winding gravel path, smells of lavender and wet moss linger in the air.   The grass has been kissed by spring and small specks of vibrant yellows and purples appear scattered throughout. The country side sings with chirping birds and buzzing bees. The world is waking up from its winter slumber.

As we round the corner, an abandoned Italian village emerges.  The village spans the length of 4 stone houses. Where people once lived, cobwebs now inhabit. Behind the village, the Alps rise in the distance.  As I reflect on the beauty, a soft breeze touches my face and I am overcome with tranquility.  I have found my little piece of heaven.

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