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?