Monday, June 13


   I've been putting off writing this for a while. How do you wrap up an experience like this? I'm usually someone who's very in touch with her emotions (my family knows this well) and it's driving me crazy that I can not figure out for the life of me how I feel in these last, strange days. Weird. That's truly the only word I can use to describe the excitement, nervousness, relief, gratitude, sadness, nostalgia and all of the billions of other emotions I'm feeling.

    My host mother and I have been talking lately about how strange of an experience this year abroad really is.. Move thousands of miles away, to live with a completely foreign family in a foreign country speaking a foreign language. Spend ten months there learning how to make that life your own and make it normal and then over the course of a 20 hour travel day..come back to what you left.. hah. Good one Rotary. It's really such an amazing experience and if I think about it, it's all that craziness that has taught me so much over this year.
    I actually am quite a home body. I never really went to camp as a child, I didn't do many sleepovers and I've been planning to go to the university that's four blocks away from my house my whole life.  Let's just say it came as a pretty big surprise to my friends and family when they learned that I wanted to undertake this experience. It wasn't a very "Stina-ish" thing to do. However, I believe that I'm returning, back to my life that I love and cherished oh so dearly, a much more confident, independent and open-minded young woman. I still have a ways to go to become the person I want to be, but now I feel like I know what I'm headed towards and this experience has given me a really good start.

   I can't express how hard it is, in these days, to say goodbye to all the things that have become so normal and cherished in my life here. Fresh gnocchi with pesto, old Italian grandpas playing chess in the park, Lindsi's amazingly loud laugh, turning heads as we walk down the street in our shorts, the smell of ready espresso in the morning, Jasmine running to greet me even if  I've seen her just an hour earlier, jamming on the guitar and harmonizing with my dear Damiano, the life of the market twice a week, tanning and talking for hours with Katherine...really the list goes on and on. However, it's comforting to know that any time I see an Italian flag, or listen to "Stand by Me" and so many other triggers, I will ALWAYS think of these times. I'm leaving them for now but I know that the impact of them will stay with me forever.

    More than anything though, I am just so grateful for all the people that helped me out during the course of this year. I cannot express how thankful I am for the sweet group of Italians that reached out and were interested and helpful to me. The group of the other 6 exchange students in my town that I love so dearly and that will continue to be a part of my family for the rest of my life. And to all of the support from back home, from my friends and family, I am truly blessed to have you all. If it weren't for these people I'm not so sure I would be sitting here writing this.

If you dissect the word "Arrivederci" it literally means: until we meet again. In these days I say them to the people and country that I love, and hope and pray that it's true.

Once again, my deepest love and gratitude to you all. Veramente è stato un piacere. Non vi dimenticarò MAI.


Monday, April 11

What's Been Going On

 I have completely lost my drive to blog. I haven't written any updates in almost two months! I'm kind of sorry about this, but not really :) Here's what I've been up to lately...

February 23rd
Inter vs. Bayern Munich @ the stadium in Milan. There were 80,000 people there, including a rowdy group of Germans that set off fireworks during the game. The Italian boys, that we went with, got angry at me after the game for saying
"congratulations" and "good game" to the German fans afterwards :)

February 26th
I was a good citizen and did NOT take a picture of The Last Supper, because it is a big "no-no". However, I wanted to be able to give a visual of the entire piece of artwork.  It could have just been my ignorance but I was always under the impression that The Last Supper was a painting, not a mural. By the picture above you can see that I was proven wrong. The Last Supper or "Il Cenacolo" is in a building attached to a small church in Milan. Our Rotary club had to make an appointment 6 months in advance to see the room for 10 minutes!

March 5th
We were able to go to Venice one of the days during Carnival! Carnival might not be as big of a deal here as it is in Brazil but they do love the excuse to dress up.  Venice, being famous for it's Carnevale masks, was completely packed with people, some in very elaborate costumes. I should have taken more pictures but it was so unbelievably crowded that it was hard to even get at your camera! 
March 27th
I was so fortunate that I was able to have a visit from my best friend Dan (who happens to also be my boyfriend :) ) and his wonderful mother Cindy. We spent a couple days in Rome, seeing the sights and falling in love with Italian Pizza and then some more days back in Cremona meeting my friends and getting acquainted with my life here. For those of you who have partaken in a long distance relationship you know that it's not always easy, so it was so great to be able to see each other after so much time apart!

April 8thMamma Mia! Rome twice in one week! Not even a week after Dan left I went on our Rotary trip to Rome for about 3 days. It was a little tiring seeing the exact same sights for the third time, but how could you complain about being in Bella Roma. It was great and fun to have more bonding time with the other exchange students that I've come to know and love.

So, you can see that I have been an absent blogger for good reasons! I've started to realize what short time I have left here in Italy and I'm trying to enjoy every moment as best as I can. I'm loving the fun days and trips with my friends while also taking pleasure in reading under the sun on the terrace and going for my long runs in the park. 
   I promise to update at least once more before I return home to beautiful Northfield, but for now.. CIAO

Thursday, February 17

La Vita è Bella

    I was talking to a dear friend, and fellow exchange student, the other day when he asked me what had been going on lately over on my side of the world.  I found myself blurting out the appropriate response that has been instilled in me for years now, without even thinking.."Oh you know..nothing much".  I realized just seconds afterwards that in the past two weeks I not only had had friends visit from home, but also two beautiful trips one to Venice and one to Barcelona... I would definitely call that something! I found it a little bit funny, and admittedly a little sad, that I've started to become so accustomed to this amazing life. Now it feels normal here and the strange reality of returning home is lingering, I realize that I just need to sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty that will be in these last months. More later!

At the theater with lovely friends from my class :) 
It was great and surreal to go to Venice with two great friends
 on an absolutely beautiful day!
Beautiful Barcelona with my girls! 

Tuesday, January 25

Stereotipi Degli Italiani

Thanks for all of your input and ideas for Italian stereotypes! Of course what I think is not the truth but I do think it's interesting to see someone's view of Italy after 5 months.  Maybe my fellow Italian exchange students in other regions of Italy would disagree, but this is what I have discovered! 

1. Men spend a lot of time on their appearances.
Of course, I cannot speak for every single Italian boy but for the most part I would say TRUE. However, this is just said in comparison to what I know of american men...or my amazing father, who wore the same yellow sweatshirt for the first 15 years of my life! Love you daddy :) But it's true that you would never see a boy show up at school in sweatpants and a t-shirt. I think that they're more concerned about being classy and fashionably dressed...but this just adds to the famous Italian male charm now doesn't it?

2. Everyone is beautiful.
Ugh..the number of gorgeous people is a little overwhelming! Men, women, young and old...they seem to carry their beauty with them wherever they go.  It could be the naturally tan skin, dark features and hair with plenty of "flow" ( Katherine ) but they seem to have this appearance that is just stunning.  However one thing I have noticed is that, while most people are stunning, a lot of people look very similar, so there isn't much diversity.  I kept seeing this one girl on the way to school, and after a couple weeks I discovered that it was actually three different girls that just happened to look a lot alike! 

3. They eat pasta, pizza & gelato.
TRUE TRUE TRUE. Here's what I have to say about these things...
Pasta: I never knew that there were so many types of pasta! But it's a good thing because I think the average Italian family eats pasta about 7-13 times a week...Let's just say, while I love pasta, I'll be taking a little break from it when I get home.
Pizza: Mmmm when you order a pizza in Italy, you are served an entire flat crusted pizza and it is absolutely normal, and even expected of you, to eat it all! Also many Italians take the pizza, cut in fourths, then fold each slice and eat it like a pizza sandwich. I'm not sure but it does just taste so much better that way, and I intend to always eat my pizza like that in America.
Gelato: I am sorry to say but..I can't describe it. It's NOTHING like ice cream in America, it's so much better, sweeter and softer but I can't do it a justice so you'll just have to come to Italy and find out for yourself!

4. People are very fashionable.
Once again, not everyone is but I think it's something that they definitely win the prize for above the USA. We generally get the music and movies before they do here in Italy, but Italy discovers the upcoming fashions. I used to think I was fashionable back home but here I have to really work at it! Fashion people, start looking for tucked in shirts and middle parts in the future :P 

5. People are very loud and yell at each other! 
True :) I think that this is one of my favorite parts of Italy, while it's overwhelming at times, it is so much fun to observe! They put so much passion into everything they say, and they're able to string together the most beautiful phrases of expletives I've ever heard!! It's hilarious :) 

6. There's lots of soccer.
They play it. Watch it. Breathe it. I'm terrible at it. 

7. There are lots of pick pockets.
I haven't discovered this around where I live in Central Northern Italy.  When I went to Rome people where constantly warning me about it.  I think it's more common in touristy areas as well as more down in the southern areas of Italy where there's more poverty.  I haven't had anything stolen yet...knock on wood.

8.  They're big into music.
I don't know really how to answer this one.  They love music and it's funny to see the amount of people that have their iPods in when they're walking to school or taking the train.  However, most of the music that they listen to is American music, which I found a little disappointing.  They also love their techno and house music, which isn't my favorite but I'm learning to appreciate it.

9. Everyone rides mopeds.
Everyone in Cremona rides BIKES.  However, I think that in the bigger cities, where there's more cars and less parking, more people have mopeds. I have had the pleasure of riding one, and I felt very Italian...and very Lizzie Mcguire :P 

10. People use their hands when they speak.
Oh yes they do, and it's very contagious.  After only five months of being here I can tell how much more I use my hands when I talk.  It's kind of embarrassing when I find myself gesturing at a movie when I'm alone, or at the phone when the person obviously cannot see me. I like it though, and I think that it just adds to the beautiful language! 

So as you can see I've found that a lot of the Italian stereotypes are true. However, there were a lot that are untrue that weren't mentioned. No one asked about the Mafia, boys that still live with there mothers or if people actually do say "Mamma Mia!".  The last one is true but I guess you'll just have to come to Italy and figure out the rest for yourselves! 



Sunday, January 9

MythBusters!...Italian Style


I'm sure many of you have read the book, or seen the movie Eat. Pray. Love.  If you haven't .. you should. The first third of the movie takes place in Italy and is revolved around eating and the Italian culture.  When the Italian reviews of the movie came out they said that it was like one big stereotype put into about 40 minutes of film...which I guess is pretty much true.  However throughout my time here, it's been fun for me to discover which stereotypes we have of the Italian culture are more or less true and which ones are completely false.  ALLORA, for my next blog I would like to share my personal opinions on the subject! 

So please leave a comment of an Italian stereotype that you've heard of and ...if it's appropriate..I will share my thoughts on it! 

I'm counting on you all


Wednesday, December 29

O Dio! Dicembre!

Well by looking at everyone else's blogs I can tell i'm not the only one that's been having trouble keeping up but I am not one bit sorry HA :) December just flew by and it's starting to scare me how fast the weeks are going. So here's what's been going on this month...

1. ROMA: Oh goodness grazie..Rome is just as absolutely beautiful as everyone has always told me.  I can't describe the feeling of seeing and touching some amazing piece of history that you've seen so many millions of films and pictures of.  I spent 4 packed days, with my host mother, touring through every important site in Rome, I saw tons of ruins and Piazzas and I know I will go back other times in my life but I truly feel like I've seen everything that a person needs to see.  It was an amazing adventure..and my feet are still recovering from all of the walking. 

2.  Switched Host Families:  My year in Italy is divided pretty much into three equal parts with three different host families, so I kind of look at this experience in three different phases.  I would name my first phase: "Getting to Know ME".  Because of the people and location in my first host family, I spent more time alone in those first three months here that I probably have in my entire life.  Although it was really, really difficult at times I wouldn't trade it for anything. I grew up in those three months and learned so many things about myself. I learned the things that I like about myself, like how I can even make myself laugh, and the things that I definitely need to work on, like my patience with myself and with other people.  I was able to rely on myself for strength and comfort and I know that I am a better and more confident person because of that time.  I am also very thankful for my first host mom and host brother, they will always hold a special place in my heart...I'll never forget how hard Gabriele (host brother) and I would jam to Eminem in the car. :)  HOWEVER I have moved into the center of Cremona with the lovely Dal Bianco family and I am loving it there. They are so present in my life, and they're constantly teaching me new words and phrases in Italian.  It really feels like a completely new experience and I can't wait to see how the rest of it goes.

3.  Christmas:  Christmas time started out with some Rotary events which are always really fun because I love our little American family we've made here. Note our "family Chirstmas card picture".  I learned that not every country takes Christmas as seriously as we do in the good old US and A.  I missed the Christmas tree, music and movies.  It really didn't ever feel like Christmas to me, because it was missing all of the most important things..the people I love.  It was definitely a difficult  couple of days, but they're past me and it is a great feeling to know that the hardest times, I hope, are past me.

The day before Christmas Eve, which is the day that I usually have my traditional family Christmas celebration, I went out to a dinner with my class here.  I had such a great time chatting with them and we ended up staying at the restaurant until it closed singing songs all together, some in English and some in Italian it was a great night but it reminded me of the people I've met and all of the new experiences I've had here so far.  It was the best Christmas present I could've asked for.. I had the realization that I love it here.  I miss my family and my friends back home terribly but I don't count down the days until I go home anymore, and I'm really just starting to LIVE.

So buon natale and buon anno nuovo from Italy. Ci vediamo in 2011 :)

Baci **

Saturday, December 4

4. Decembre. 2010 "For Future Exchange Students of Northfield!"

One Year Ago with Inbounds 2009-2010
It's crazy and a little scary for me to think that it was an entire year ago that we all had our Rotary interviews.  I remember my interviewers and the classroom we were in perfectly.  I remember the Brazilians capturing my mom..and me having to later remind her, to her dismay, that I was applying..not her. :)  I remember driving home afterwards with Maria Estenson, and us talking constantly about all of the possibilities of our future. We were so excited we couldn't seem to think about anything else!  Even though I am loving my experience here, I find myself a little jealous of you new student who are, and should be, brimming with this initial excitement.  My advice for the interviews, if it's not too late, is be yourself and go in with an open mind.  You never know which countries might end up interesting you. hint  hint italy hint. :P However I would say is take the time to enjoy the excitement because this is just the beginning of an amazing and life-changing process! So take it all in. I can't wait to hear where you all are headed!!

In bocca al lupo!  

(This phrase means good luck in italian..even though it's directly translated to in the mouth of the wolf.....oh italians :) ) 

Baci a tutti!