Teach Abroad Italy: Katie’s Experience

Teach Abroad Italy: Katie’s Experience

Katie Bleck is currently a participant on Greenheart Travel’s Teach Abroad Italy Program. She is currently working as an assistant teacher in Turin, Italy. We asked Katie a couple of questions about her experience so far!


What is the biggest difference you noticed between the U.S. and Italian school system?

The three main differences I noticed between the U.S. and Italian school systems are the subjects of emphasis, teacher work hours, and the school community. The first difference I noticed between the U.S. and Italy is what subjects are emphasized by the curriculum. In American schools, math, reading, and writing are by far the most dominant subjects. (Especially in the younger grades). The Italian curriculum includes these subjects, but also introduces foreign languages at much younger grades. For example, my students were able to communicate in English, French, and German in addition to their primary Italian language. I thought their skill set was absolutely incredible! Secondly, teachers work very different hours in America and Italy. In America, you spend 40 hours a week in the classroom with students and additional hours in meetings, lesson prepping, and grading. In Italy, teachers only spend 18 hours a week in the classroom with students, about 2 hours in parent conferences, and additional hours prepping and grading. I couldn’t believe how short my school days were! Lastly, I noticed a difference in community between American and Italian schools. In both countries, the staff has close relationships with one another, but the relationships between students throughout the school is much different. In Italian schools, there are no athletics, musical theatre, clubs/organizations that are apart of the school. In my opinion, this creates a school community because students are able to interact with numerous students outside of their class and grade.

What is your favorite part about being a volunteer assistant teacher?

My favorite parts about being a teacher assistant is having the opportunity to share my American cultures while also forming new relationships. This position has allowed me to enhance students’ second language in a fun and engaging style. The students are always so excited to have me in their class! It is honestly so heartwarming having the students cheer my name and clap upon my appearance. I truly feel the love! The teachers I work alongside are also so kind and extremely helpful! It has been a pleasure to get to know them and learn from their teaching styles!

In addition to forming relationships with my family and at school, I have also been able to meet another North American teacher assistant and have traveled around the country with her! We have been able to share our experiences and honestly became such great friends! Some cities we have traveled to include: Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, and Genoa!


What did your host family do with you to help you acclimate to the community?

My family welcomed me with such open hearts and has genuinely made me feel apart of their family! To acclimate to the community, my family introduced me to many to their family members/friends and always invited me to accompany them in their daily activities. Some of these activities include going to the park, going shopping, hanging out with their friends, etc. Participating in daily activities has made this transition feel less overwhelming and a lot like my life back home. In addition, my family also speaks English when I am around and makes me feel apart of every conversation.

Do you travel with them outside of Italy or around Italy?

YES! I have been so fortunate to be able to travel to some amazing places in Italy with my family! These places include skiing in the Alps, boat rides and island hopping on Lake Maggiore, the Ivrea Carnival, and several places in Turin. I have very much enjoyed exploring and learning more about these beautiful and historic places with my family.

What do you do with your host family for fun?

Some activities I do with my host family for fun include playing card games and cooking/baking. I’ve been able to teach my family some of my favorite card games and they have taught me theirs. There’s one specific game American they loved so much, we play it many times a week! I have also very much enjoyed learning to how bake/cook authentic Italian recipes! Some of my favorite dishes I have made include tiramisu, gnocchi, and carbonara. I have also been able to make some simple American dishes for my family that they have never tried before. Some of these include French toast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and confetti cookies. It was so fun seeing their reactions to the food! In addition to sharing recipes and card games, I have also shared my American culture with my family through holidays. My time in Italy has been during Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. I learned that these holidays are celebrated very differently between the two countries. To share my traditions, I made valentines, St. Patrick’s cards, and hid Easter eggs around the house for them. They were very excited and appreciative of this gesture!


Did this change how you view families in Italy/ Italian lifestyle ?

Before this experience, I didn’t know much about the Italian lifestyle aside from the stereotype that they eat lots of pasta. Which is very much true! In fact, we ate different types of pasta everyday for lunch when I came back from school! Besides the pasta consumption, I have learned that the Italian lifestyle is much more simplistic. For example, you don’t need a hundred different outfits and life moves at a slower pace.


Does this make you want to pursue teaching upon return?

ABSOLUTELY! Prior this experience I already  had a profound love for teaching! Having the capability to educate and inspire the younger generation is something I find truly special! Being a teacher assistant has provided the opportunity to do so in another country and it has been remarkable! This experience has only enhanced my love for this profession and I cannot wait to share some of the Italian culture with my future students and coworkers when I return home.

Do you want to stay in touch with your host family?

DEFINITELY! After spending this period of time with them, I feel as if they have truly became a second family! Outside of school, I spend most of my time with my family and have formed bonds to last a lifetime! I can’t imagine not staying in touch.


Learn more about Greenheart’s Teach Abroad Italy Program!

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