Benvenuto in Italia! (Welcome to Italy)

Benvenuto in Italia! (Welcome to Italy)

Currently I am in San Benigno, Italy (about 30 minutes northeast of Turin) sitting in a room facing the snow frosted French-Italian Alps. As I stare at this remarkable view all I can think about is an article that I read about 3 months ago. The following lines stuck out to me the most:

“Even if you aren’t the traveler or the person you want to be in your head, it’s never too late to change. Travel is all about change. The more you say “tomorrow,” the less likely it is that tomorrow will ever come.” (“18 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling the World” by Matthew Kepnes)

A year ago I was on the right track to an amazing career as a fashion and beauty publicist, but reading this article helped me to realize that I wanted more. It made realize that what I really wanted was to indulge in the various treasures of the world and help to change and inspire the people I meet along the way as they help to change and inspire me.

Thanks to GreenHeart Travel and World Education Program (WEP), I will be spending the next 3 months working as a volunteer English tutor and studying Italian in the region of Piedmont, Italy. I am only 4 days into my adventure and already it has been the experience of a lifetime!

I arrived in Milan on January 23 where I met up with Cristiana B. (my WEP Coordinator) and several other college graduates who are also volunteering as tutors at schools around Piedmont. After settling at Eco Bamboo Hostel in Turin, we spent the evening walking around the city. While exploring, I got the vibe that Turin has the look of a big city, but has the feel of a quiet village. It’s a very diverse city with many beautiful buildings designed in medieval and renaissance architecture.

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After dinner and despite of our jet lag, a few of the volunteers and I went to a local bar (in Italy a bar is a coffee shop that also sells pastries, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages). While we were there we met a man named Romano. He didn’t speak a lick of English, but since I have studied a bit of Italian prior to coming here, I was able to translate some of the things he was saying with the help of another volunteer named Rosanna. We spent over an hour speaking with Romano and the entire time he kept buying us beers and telling us that if we ever wanted to visit his second home in Casablanca, we were welcome.


WEP volunteers with Romano (guy in the black leather jacket) and bar owner.

On the second day of my trip, I had orientation and met my host family. My host mother, Marilena (who is also my co-teacher), greeted and welcome me with open arms. After orientation we headed back home to San Bengino where I was greeted by my host sister Letizia, her boyfriend Manuel, and their friend Vittoria. Later that evening I met my host father, Antonio, who unfortunately does not speak English, but he still makes the effort when he can. After dinner, Marilena and I went to Letizia’s volleyball scrimmage were we met more locals. Vittoria’s mother, Antonella, gave me local nut crème. Apparently it is very famous in this area of Torino. I haven’t tried it yet, but once I do I’ll be sure to write about it!


On my third day I spent the afternoon with Marilena and her friends while they had afternoon coffee. They all tried speaking English to me and when they discovered they that spoke well enough for me to understand they screamed with excitement because they felt so accomplished. One of my biggest fears about coming here was the language barrier, but everyone has tried knocking this down for me. This amazes me because when a foreigner is in the US and is unable to speak English, some American’s respond by saying, “You are in America, speak English!”, meanwhile here in Italy (or at least with my experience in Italy) everyone tries to speak English, even if they don’t know English.

The highlight of my trip so far was last night in Turin when I went to dinner with Marilena, Antonio, Letizia, Vittoria, their friend Emma, and Vittoria’s parents, Antonella and Franco ( I thought Franco resembled Stone Cold Steve Austin, but he preferred Bruce Willis hahaha). At dinner we discussed the differences between our cultures. In Italy, many Italians think Americans are rich and that we live a good life. Although our economy is better than most, I explained to them that our economy still isn’t in the greatest shape ever. We also discussed Italian news versus American news. Italians are more aware of things that happen everywhere in the world because their news covers all aspects of current events and because of this they think Americans love to go to other countries and start wars. In American news we tend to focus more so on things that will impact Americans and it all makes us think that these wars the government invest in will benefit us. Schooling is also very different. Italians are forced to make a career decision before they go to high school because each high school’s curriculum is designed to focus on a specific career field. At one point in time an Italian high school diploma was equivalent to an American associates degree because of the amount of work Italian students did on a weekly basis– some students even have to go to school Monday-Saturday in order to meet the requirements for graduation. Despite these differences Italians also embrace the American pop culture. Letizia and her friends prefer to listen to American and British music because they feel there is no diversity in Italian music.


My host family and their friends


My host sister, Letizia, and her friend, Emma


My host father, Antonio

As I continue to immerse myself in the Italian culture, I am excited to experience and learn new and see how it will all change me. Tomorrow I start my first day of teaching and I already have a goal to make my students more confident in their English speaking abilities and hopefully inspire at least one student to travel to the US and have an experience like the one that I am having now.

Until next time, arrivederci!

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