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?

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Hello World!

My summer long trip in Italia has finally begun! Wow, so much work to get here and I am so happy to say that it is MORE than worth it! Last August Andrea brought me to Cinque Terre. From the moment I stepped foot in Cinque Terre last August I knew in my heart I would return.  And now here I am, 10 months later, so happy to be here.

IMG_3662[1]Since I ended my trip last summer in Cinque Terre, it seemed fitting to start my trip here this summer. These five little towns provided the perfect beginning to the summer.  Returning to Cinque Terre 10 months later with the person I originally came with was like a deja vu of the heart. So many memories came rushing back from the previous summer.  As my mind tried to make sense of the heartache that has come between last summer and this summer, I contemplated how I arrived at this moment.  A place that is so full of happiness.

IMG_3678[1]As we were sitting on a ledge overlooking the sea, my side my mind settled upon this thought, “The most precious moments in life come when we see the world with an open heart and an open mind. It is only when we approach life with openness that we are able to feel a semblance of the beauty in the world, the vastness of the planet we inhabit. When these precious moments of clarity are experienced with a person you love is when you begin to feel a sort of connectedness with the world surrounding you.  This is when you come alive.”

The fifth town in Cinque Terre,

The fifth town in Cinque Terre, “The five towns”.

For me, this summer is a time to experience the unknown; To learn about a culture that is different from my own; To explore my mind and values. So, cheers to an openness that can lead me anywhere!