An Adventure in Italy! Senior Rebecca Sparer Shares Her Experience

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An Adventure in Italy! Senior Rebecca Sparer Shares Her Experience

By: Rebecca Sparer, Staff Reporter

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When you think of Italy, there are a few things that usually come to mind. Homemade cuisine, iconic landmarks, and breathtaking scenery. What most people won’t tell you, however, is that Italy’s best quality is its people. The warm and welcoming attitude of Italy’s residents is its best kept secret.

I stayed with 6 different host families, each of which were similar and different in a myriad of ways. Of course I missed my own family, but it was hard to feel homesick when I was constantly being given so much love from host families, the teachers, and students of Vittoria Colonna. Whether it was my host-grandmother making sure I’d had enough to eat, sightseeing in Arezzo with my host sister, or having lunch with the students, I became increasingly more comfortable throughout my stay in Italy.

During my time in Arezzo, I learned a lot. Not just about their Italian culture, cuisine, and daily life, but about myself. I learned to take care of myself and make friends, despite the language barrier. I even picked up on some of the language. I learned how much gelato is too much before dinner, how to pace yourself while hiking a mountain, how Italian sausages and cheeses are made, and most importantly, how the students of Vittoria Colonna live their everyday lives.

In the mornings, most kids take take the jam-packed train to school for as long as two hours before arriving in downtown Arezzo. Because they wake up so early, their either skip breakfast or have a quick shot of espresso to last them until lunch. School typically starts at about 8:30 every morning, with an average class size of 20. Instead of switching classes every 45 minutes, the students stay at their desks, while the teachers move from classroom to classroom. There is typically a break around 10:30 for a snack, and kids can move around and talk for 20 minutes before returning to class. When the school day ends at 12:30, most kids go out for lunch downtown or at their grandparents’ houses where they eat a heavy meal, usually being pasta. School ends early in the day, but the students study hard for hours until dinner. They teach themselves so they’re prepared for tomorrow’s lesson, do homework, and often help their siblings with homework as well. Dinner is much later in Italy, usually around 8:30 or 9:00. Dinner typically takes about an hour and a half because there are so many courses and so much conversation. After dinner, people chat at the table for a long time, sipping coffee and bonding.

The typical day of an Italian student varies depending on what kind of school they go to. When a student turns 13, they decide what type of high school they would like to attend. There are schools like Vittoria Colonna that teach language, but there are also schools for psychology, science and math, art, or music. At Vittoria Colonna, the students study French, Spanish, English, German, and of course, Italian. Along with their language classes, they also study math, science, and history. The students stress about school, but every afternoon they teach themselves the next day’s lesson so they have a better understanding. Due to the shorter school day, they have more time to study in the afternoon so they can relax, bond with their families, and get more sleep at night.

Being away from home for an entire month was difficult at times, but I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who’s ever faced with such an opportunity. It’s definitely a very maturing experience, and comes with a lot of responsibility. There are an infinite number of reasons why travelling abroad is amazing, and only four reasons why it can be hard. The first is homesickness (which always passes). The second is the rare occasion of not feeling well.  The third reason is jet lag, and the last and worst reason, is having to go home after having the time of your life. Saying goodbye to my host families was definitely sad, but now I know that I have friends I’ll keep for a lifetime and families in Italy I can visit (not if, but when) I return.

I never thought that in my life I’d get the chance to travel Italy, let alone see so many wonderful things within one month that many people don’t get to see in their lifetime. I feel so lucky to be only seventeen and have seen the beauty of Venice, climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, thrown a coin in the Trevi Fountain, and explored the Colosseum in Rome. All of the sites in Italy were absolutely breathtaking, but so much of the experience was just me immersing myself in the culture of Italy. I relished every second of being surrounded by the music, language, food, and the life of my host families. I’m so thankful that I had this amazing experience.


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