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!

Friday, November 26

26.Novembre. 2010 - “Ringraziamento"

 The past two weeks have been pretty eventful. I've had a lot of fun times especially with the other Rotary Students in my district. They've been such a blessing to me during this time and I'm so thankful for them!

We went to our first Rotary dinner and I met A LOT of older men in sharp business suits. We had a classic "Cremonese" meal, listened to some long speeches and me the governor of our district who was quite a hoot as you can see to the left. :) This night was really fun for me because it was probably the first time that I really felt like an exchange student.

I got a chance to see the new Harry Potter came out...not at midnight but at least the first day! It was fun to go and see how much of it I could understand and what things I still needed to work on.  I also learned a lot of new, magical vocabulary words.

Sunday was the "Festa Del Torrone" Which was a festival that celebrated Torrone, a type of candy.  We congregated with the other students in District 2050 and we walked around Cremona in the rain and tasted the Torrone. It was fun to see the town set up in "festival mode" kind of similar to the festivals we have in Northfield

Us Americans made and shared a lovely Thanksgiving meal together on Thursday. It was all delicious and I felt just as sick as I normally do after eating so it seemed close to normal. :) I can tell that the holiday season is going to be very difficult with missing my family and my traditions but I'm very lucky to have such a great family here.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Thursday, November 11

11. Novembre. 2010 "Walking in an Italian Fog"

At this time of the year, in my region of Italy, the streets are consumed by a thick, mysterious and yet beautiful blanket of fog. It starts sweeping in at around five-thirty every night and lingers there patiently until eight in the morning. By the time I go for my nightly run (or walk..these days) the fog is so dense that you can only see things that are within a five meter radius. T he only clues that you're not about to walk off the face of the earth, are the faint glowing balls of hope in the distance; the lamps that line the street.

People that know me, know that I am a “planner”. I usually have, at least, one planner of my upcoming events, and it's very difficult for me to spontaneous. A lot of high school, especially senior year, was about planning for the future. What classes did you need to order to get good order to get into a good order to get a good job etc. However, here in Italy, I have nothing to plan. This year is about...this year. Of course, I will take back with me new friendships, languages and lessons learned, but I have a stable future, or the start of one, set out for me when I return. I'm walking through this experience like I am walking through an Italian Fog.

I have my own streetlamps that illuminate little parts of my future here: Rotary events, class trips or holidays. Most of my path though, besides what's going on right around me is unknown. It's forcing me to live in the moment, because really I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow or in a week or two. I have to find out when I get there and enjoy it at that moment before it's gone again lost in the fog behind me.

It can be scary walking down a path that sometimes seems like it has no end, but those little lights keep me curious and heading forward and I know that I'm going to discover so many memorable moments that come out of no where. And for now, I'm enjoying my walk through the unknown.

Friday, November 5

5. Novembre. 2010 "Mese Numero Due"

I cannot believe that I arrived in Italy two months ago today. Before leaving for Italy, the longest time I'd ever been away from home had been two weeks and now I haven't slept in my own bed in over 60 days. I know I talk about the concept of time so much but I just can't get over the fact that these two months seemed like they went by so quickly but then how it also feels like I've been here forever. I was just reading my first blog after my first week of being here. I said it felt like I'd been there forever and now weeks go by so quickly. So after two months most of my problems seem to be getting better but I've had a pretty difficult last couple of weeks. Dealing with loneliness has been my biggest problem these days. Because of the location of where I live and the fact that my host mom works until very late most nights, after school I have to take the train home and then usually most days I'm at my home alone until 8 at night. I've tried to get involved with some after school activities but all of them are in Cremona and at night and I have no way of getting into town so that makes it very difficult. There are also not really many kids in my little village or a place where they go to hang out where I could meet the few inhabitants. The kids in my class are very sweet and I like them a lot but otherwise I don't have very many friends here and that's extremely difficult for me because I'm such an extrovert. However, I'm very very fortunate to have such lovely other exchange students here. I know that everyone tells us to be careful of spending too much time with the other exchange students, but I'm so thankful I have some people to talk to and laugh with during school and on the weekends. I know that when I change houses and move into Cremona I'll be able to get together with people after school and participate in my after school activities. These days have been extremely difficult for me but I know that these moments will pass and time will continue to move faster and faster. I'm fortunate, though, to have such an amazing support system back home. I realize that it wasn't they're choice to have me leave for an entire 10 months and I realize that it's difficult for them too, but they're strength and support for me has made all the difference. It's times like these that I know will make me stronger, and I know that things are looking up. I always appreciate thoughts and prayers and feel free to contact me at anytime.  Grazie a tutti :) 

Tuesday, November 2

2.Novembre.2010 - “Time to Be a Tourist”

I believe that one of the main objectives of a Rotary Exchange Student is to live life like a regular Italian teenager, boring moments and all. However, I have ten months in this beautiful country and I'm determined to see as much of it as I can. So last weekend I took matters into my own hands and had some really fun adventures!
Adventure #1: Castell'Arquato
Castell'Arquato is a small Italian town that has maintained the same medieval appearance as it was in the early 10th century! You have to walk uphill through windy, tiny, cobblestone streets to get to the main piazza at the top of this huge hill. I got to go there with my host brother and some of his friends and they took me there at night. You would never think to go site seeing at night, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It was kind of rainy and the lights and the smell of wood-burning stoves made it a magical experience. I could hardly take it in as I walked through the streets. I felt like I was walking through the set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it was amazing. This picture is a picture of the center area at the top of the hill. (the modern cars make it seem a little less magical :) )
Adventure #2: Venenzia (Venice)
Unfortunately, us exchange students here haven't had any oppertunities to travel with Rotary (besides one trip to a lake for a couple hours) since we've gotten here two months ago. So, the four of us American girls in my town decided to take matters into our own hands and with the help of our host parents and siblings we were able to plan a trip to Venice! If you were judging the trip on how things went as planned, the trip would receive an F. However, I believe that things happen for a reason, and even though we missed our train four times, we were only able to stay in Venice for about an hour and it was raining the whole time, I know that I will always look back on that day as one of the most fun days of my life. We talked, laughed, bonded and laughed a lot more. We also got to witness some pretty cool things. We ran into a man that lived in the same small town as one of the other girls on the top of the Scalzi Bridge in Venice. We also were on a train ride where me met a Greek student studying dentistry and man from Canada that happened to have grown up in Greece! I love finding out how small this wonderful world is! The day was full of fun and surprises and I will never forget it!
Us on the Scalzi Bridge in Venice. Picutred: Liz, Lindsi, Me & Katherine (Photo thanks to Katherine)

Adventure #3: Turin (Torino)
this wasn't really so much of an adventure as a class field trip. It turned out to be a 14 hour trip in all so it was very exhausting. It wasn't as exciting as our other trips but Turin is yet another beautiful city in Italy. My favorite part about the city is that you're able to catch glimpses of the Swiss Alps in the distance as you look down each city street. The drive to Turin was almost better just because we got to watch the Alps get closer and more magnificent! Just another beautiful view from a piazza.
I feel like after some of these travels I'm finally starting to get to know Italy a little better. I hope to as many of these famous and beautiful cities as possible! If any of you get a chance to come to Italy..take it! It's just as breathtaking as everyone says it is. :)  

Thursday, October 14

14.Ottobre.2010 "Ode to a Public Bathroom"

I give your fair warning, this blog is a tad bit graphic and “angsty” but if you choose to proceed…enjoy!

I would like to dedicate this blog entry to one thing: the public restrooms of Italy. It might seem a little strange to devote an entire entry to this one thing but I seriously cannot figure them out. I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to use public restrooms anyways but using the public restrooms here are like participating in an advanced yoga class every time you have you have to go! Here is a picture of what any bathroom in any bar, train station, or café will look like.  You might say, “…well Stina it is obvious that you have been going into the MENS room!” But  no, that is not the case.  Now I will give you a chance to figure out how a woman would have to contort her body to use such a device. Yes, it is similar to going to the bathroom in the wilderness, however instead of a nice forest floor you have a tile surface that is stained with the urine of thousands of people. I know gross, but it’s true! I just do not understand how, and if someone has any insight please let me know, how a person properly uses such a bathroom. I just think of the poor people with injuries or elderly people and how difficult it must be for them. Another thing is most of the time there is no toilet paper but merely a little hose, which I also do not understand, and you have to be pretty lucky to find a bathroom that is equipped with soap and paper towels for afterwards.  I’ve learned to deal with this by mainly only going to the bathroom at my house, and I’m fortunate to have a pretty good bathroom at our school, pictured is the best one that I could find.  But once again they rarely have toilet paper, soap or paper towels.  I’ve figured out a system that consists of carrying around Kleenex and hand sanitizer wherever I go, but I just had to share this with the world. J

Wednesday, October 6

6. Ottobre. 2010 “Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Before I left, a lot of people asked me if, after spending a year abroad in a completely foreign land, it would be difficult for me to come back to Northfield and go to college in my hometown.  At first I was a little worried that I’d want to go out again to a new and difference place, but now I am so happy to be in Northfield and to be going to St. Olaf next year.  Even though I am loving this experience here and it’s great to be on my own, I think that I will always be a “home body”.  This blog is kind of personal so it won’t be important to lots of people but this one is mainly for my own fun.  This is a list of 25 things I’ve really been craving to do back home lately. (Next time I’ll make a list of all the fun things I’m excited to do here.)
  1. Walk around in downtown Minneapolis.
  2. Study at Blue Monday with Dan and two large hot chocolates
  3. Take my doggy, Zebedee, for a walk with my family
  4. Take a walk in the apple orchard
  5. Go to an Emmaus church service
  6. Walk down St. Olaf Ave and see the beautiful colors on the trees
  7. Get French toast at the Ole Café
  8. Go to the science museum
  9. Eat a popcorn dinner with my family (which they think is really funny here by the way! )
  10. Wake up in my bright orange room
  11. Create “my lighting” in a couple choice rooms :)
  12. Watch an American football game with my dad
  13. Go for a run with Amy at Tostrud
  14. Sing with last years madrigals in that room by the auditorium
  15. Go on a road trip with my family
  16. Sing in a NHS choir concert and go to a cast party afterwards
  17. Drive up to my grandma Mum’s house
  18. Take a walk in the Carleton Arb
  19. Watch Simply Irresistible with Ellen
  20. Go for a hayride
  21. Go to Lake Byllesby with The Boys The Boys
  22. Go to Dairy Queen with Meredith
  23. Walk across my creaky stairs in my hallway
  24. Listen to Dan play the piano
  25. Hear the church bells playing outside my house everyday at 6
I want to do all of these things, but when I look back at them I realize that it's not the things I want to do..but the people I want to do them with. I'm writing this down because when I get home I'm going to actually do all of these things! I don't want to take the people and the town I love so much for granted! I can have fun and enjoy my time here for now and have this list for when I get back! 

Monday, October 4

4. Ottobre. 2010 “Uno Mese"

I remember when I found out that I would be going to Italy for my exchange year, it didn’t seem true or even possible.  The year went by and through the orientations and the other students leaving, it didn’t seem possible.  Even on the ride up to the airport I remember feeling like a dog on the way to the vet because none of it felt real and I felt completely unaware of the reality of what I was doing.  I wrote in my journal at the MSP airport, “This is it.” We had all been expecting that moment and preparing for it for months but I still had to remind myself that it was actually happening.  Now one month has gone by, I’ve made some friends, started some activities, picked up basic Italian and even now I forget the reality of what I’m doing. I have to remind myself, almost everyday: This is my Rotary Exchange year, right now. It’s so weird because we just built it up so much and I just can’t believe this is it.  Like I said in my previous blogs I am working very hard to seize the day and take advantage of every moment I have here.  For this blog I’d like to share a couple of things I’ve learned, about Rotary and Italy, over my first month here.

  1. I’ve discovered that while a Rotary Exchange year is about learning about a new culture and a completely different way of life, I have discovered more new things about myself than things about Italy.  I can already tell that this year is going to be such a time of self reflection and maturity for me, I already feel like I know myself better than I did before I come. And I’m so excited to learn even more and reflect on those realizations. Sometime later I’ll share some of my personal discoveries.
  2. The Rotary Club here in Italy (or at least my district) is very, very different from ours back home.  The main difference, for me, is that in our whole district is only ten students!  Going from the seventeen students in Northfield alone to the ten in my district here has been very interesting.  Another thing is we’re all Americans! This was really disappointing for me I was really looking forward to meeting more people from other countries and seeing how they assimilate to the Italian culture. However other than that the other kids are always really nice and I’m excited to get to know them even better.
  3. Another difference between the Rotary Club here and back home is that here the Rotary Adults are a lot less present in my life.  WE had our orientation day yesterday, which was the first real Rotary event I’ve had during my time here. I was expecting a day with talks and rules and pamphlets but instead we eneded up traveling to this lake and just walking around, eating and shopping.  We thought about the 4 D’s for maybe about 5 minutes but that was all. While it was fun and most people would’ve preferred that, I’m the kind of girl who likes getting information so it was a little disappointing.  However, every Rotary person I’ve met so far has been incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic and their excitement for Rotary makes me so much more excited!
  1. Language: I love the Italian language and I’m so excited to get better and it!  I love when people yell or get upset…not at me though.  I know it’s kind of stereotypical and sorry to my Italian friends who are reading this but it’s TRUE! ;) There are so many vowel sounds and it can get so loud so all of the words just kind of blend together and it’s just so hard to understand but it sounds so cool.  It sounds so strong with still being so beautiful.  I’m very excited to yell at people in Italian when I get home.
  2. Affection: The people here are so incredibly affectionate here, I love it.  Being an exchange student can get pretty lonely, especially for someone like me that needs hugging or cuddling a little bit more than a normal person. But everyone here is so affectionate and it helps so much.  I love the tradition of kissing cheeks whenever you greet someone or say goodbye.  Girls are always hugging me or linking arms with me and it’s stuff like that I just love about this culture and I appreciate so much.  To me it shows how open and welcoming they all are about everything.
I think that staying busy is necessary during this process so I’ve been trying to find some activities for myself after school. I’m starting to get involved in track & field, singing activities, observing the practices of a theater production of the Hunchback of Notredam, and I’m loving the friends I’ve been making at school! I still get weird feelings when I think about staying here for 8 more months and I miss my life back home so much.  But everyday I get a little more accustomed here, and I’m starting to believe the reality of it more and more.  It’s a difficult process but I’m in love with the Italian culture and the Italian people.  I really appreciate reading peoples comments so comment away or email me!
Ciao <3

Wednesday, September 29


 29. Settembre. 2010
I love to calculate time.  My family knows that I like to leave for school at exactly 7:23. My friends know that when I say I’ll pick them up at 6, I’ll really be there at 5:50.  And I know that I always will know how many days or months until the next birthday, holiday or vacation.  I love to calculate time.  I’ve realized that that’s how I’ve been dealing with my homesickness.  Right know I would be able to tell anyone that it’s about 69 days until I switch host families, 76 days until my sister returns to Northfield from her term abroad and 87 days until Christmas. I also know that as this week comes to a close I’ll have completed over 1/10th of my exchange year.  I think that it’s fascinating how people are able to view the same amount of time in different ways.  Sometimes I fee like I’ve been here forever, but then it seems like yesterday that I was eating a poppy-seed muffin in the airport not knowing hoe much my life was about to change.  When I’m feeling lonely or homesick it’s comforting to think, okay…I can do this ten more times, but then again ten more times seems absolutely impossible… BASTA! ENOUGH! Enough countdowns! Enough fractions! Just…enough! While making countdowns might make a physics lecture go by faster…it’s not going to change anything.  Time happens and you can’t change it.  All you can do is keep breathing and time will keep passing.  So me and time are going to take a little break.  I need to focus on what’s going on right now, and how I can make the present as enjoyable as possible.  Right here. Right now. 

Tuesday, September 14


School is now in session! Even though I'm going to school and starting to lead a more normal life, I still get caught up in the luxurious beauty of this country and this culture. I know this might sound terrible...but I remember thinking, when I got off of the plane and saw a Janitor in the airport: "What are you doing? You know you're in Italy right? Go drink some wine in the Italian country side and relax!"
I too get wrapped up in this wonderful stereotype that infiltrated peoples' minds as soon as I say I'm living in Italy.  While I'm loving the fact that most of these wonderful things are true, it's even more interesting to discover the things that make life in Italy normal and real. So in this blog I want to share my observations about two things. School & FOOD. 
1. School on Saturday...not cool Italy.
2. It starts at 8 and ends at 12 or 1...which is nice
3. There's nothing on the walls, no decorations, just 2 blackboards
4. There is no lunch break so everyone brings snacks to school to eat during the breaks
5. I can always hear them talking about me during class because I hear phrases like "blah blah cristina blah blah american" but it always has to do with trying to get me to understand something, so I don't really mind
6. Even though I say now..."SOLO stina" when people ask my name...everyone calls me Cristina anyways so I'm just gonna give up :)
7.  Almost every subject is lecture based, and the students never talk and they always take notes very diligently.
8. Like most schools in other countries we don't move throughout the school except for physical education class.
1. Pasta pasta pasta pasta. Usually eaten with fresh vegetables or some meat.  You think that this great big bowl of pasta was the dinner..but no there is always another course. 
2. We hardly ever have dessert, which is difficult for me, especially with my chocolate addiction. However when you go out..the gelato is to die for.
3. Most of the bread we eat is hard. It's still good, but I do miss my mommas "melt in your mouth" French bread.
4. I have to say "no ho fame, no ho fame" (I'm not hungry) at least 5 times a day.  No matter how much I eat it's never enough! They're trying to fatten me up I just know they are :)
5. It's interesting to hear what kind of food they think is "typical american". Most of the time it's McDonalds :/ 
6. I really really miss ethnic food. I usually love to eat Chinese, Indian and Mexican food but here it's only Italian cuisine. I know that it is amazing but I really do miss the diversity. 

I'm still trying to line up some extra curricular activities because the school doesn't offer anything besides the lessons. Otherwise, life is good here in Italy.

Friday, September 10

Week 1

Ciao ciao ciao!
I have almost completed week 1 of my Rotary experience in Italy. It feels like I’ve been gone forever.  This week for me has been a great mixture of feelings for me. Most of the time I feel pretty brilliant and lucky to be in such a beautiful place but I do find myself feeling a little homesick sometimes. Like I said in my previous blog it happens when I’m not preoccupied with something else. Tomorrow is our first Rotary Club of Cremona meeting and I am so excited. It’ll be so nice to connect with the other exchange students that’ll be going to school with me, and actually have some FRIENDS. I love being around Italian people, even when I don’t know what is going on.  I can’t wait to post a video of what it feels like to be in my shoes. Everyone talks so fast and then talk constantly and then all of a sudden they stop, look at me, and ask me a question that I have NO idea how to answer.  I’ve been carrying my iPod and I’ve been jotting down things that I find interesting or funny and things that are similar or different to society back home. While I love learning new things about the beautiful Italian culture it is very comforting to observe similarities in a world that feels so far away from my home. So today for my blog I’m going to write down a list of some of the similarities and differences that I’ve observed so far! Enjoy
* In downtown Milan I saw a man wearing a University of Minnesota sweatshirt! It was great but I wasn’t able to get a picture. L
 Parents fight about the same things with their children. My host mom and brother have the same fight everyday about him wanted to take the car when he really should walk. Hahaha mom, I think of you every time that happens.
* Girls talk about the same things; boys, clothes, boys, gossip, boys and boys.
* There have been a couple of nights that we’ve had thunderstorms here and for some reason it’s comforting to know that it storms here just the same. J
* They mainly listen to American music. It’s comforting because when we’re yelling out the lyrics I’m the only one that actually knows the lyrics. It’s the one time I don’t feel incompetent!
* They have frozen pizza here too! It’s just a little different.
* Yesterday morning I watched Zach and Cody on tv in Italian. I  had no idea what was going out but it was funny to watch.

* They, at least my host mom, puts a ton of salt on lettuce for salad. This is one Italian food custom I will not get used to. I could not finish it. :/
* I’ve only seen 1 stop sign in Cremona or Castelvetro. It was huge and had flashing lights. Otherwise it’s all yielding and there are a couple stop signs in the city.
* The lovely people I’ve been hanging out with smoke so much but they all also have beautiful teeth..I do not understand
* Another mystery is a common one I’m sure…HOW CAN THEY EAT SO MUCH AND STAY SO SKINNY?! I am determined to figure this out before I leave here because I really do not get it. I used to think it was because they would walk or bike everywhere, but at least in the village where I live no one does, and they are all so skinny. Ayyya?
* Everyone is very tan here, I think it’s partially just their genes but they also like to “take sun” (as my host brother would say) a lot. I’m pale for Minnesota. I’m SUPER pale for Italy.
* In Italy I’m TALL! Or at least above average. It’s great J

These are my observations so far. 
A few pictures :) 

(left): The main Piazza in Cremona.

(below): La casa mia

I’m looking forward to school starting and joining a choir of some sorts. Once I get into a routine I know that I’ll start to feel more at home here. However, I am already having a brilliant experience so knowing that it will get even better is extremely exciting! I’ve been kind of slow on responding to emails but always feel free to message me. Ciao ciao!

Monday, September 6


Cioa Ciao Ciao io sono arrivata finalmente in Italia. I have finally arrived in Italy! Because I have been only listening and speaking in Italian, my English is getting worse and worse so I’m going to do this thing bullet point style! …Also because I am too lazy. J  This is long but it’s interesting so READ IT!
  1. Saying Goodbyes: Anyone who knows me will tell you this: I am not a very adventurous person. I do not like; driving over the speed limit, jumping off bridges, or eating raw cookie dough because it might give me food poisoning. Let’s just say I would certainly NOT be in Griffendor. However going to a country where; I don’t know the language, I don’t know anyone and living with one woman who does not speak any English, is pretty darn adventurous. This past week was very difficult for me. I was very nervous, excited, scared, sad, and just stressed out. Being the last Rotary student to leave Northfield was definitely not a good thing, the initial excitement of Rotary had kind of passed because everyone had already been in their country for so long, and it didn’t even really feel like I was going to go anymore.  However, I said my goodbyes, which were really difficult, and come Saturday morning I was off to Italy.
  2. Traveling: Overall my traveling was very smooth. In Minneapolis they had to empty out my entire backpack because there was so much stuff inside of it that they couldn’t tell what things were. The flight to Newark went smoothly I didn’t sit by anyone because it was such a small plane, but I slept most of the time so that was not a problem.  The 6 hour layover in the Newark airport was NOT fun.  Besides watching a pigeon walk around inside the terminal for awhile, I was bored out of my mind. Eventually I met up with Lindsi, another Rotary student from Texas going to Cremona, and we chatted for awhile and noticed that they had changed the gate.  When we got to our actual gate I got the first hit of reality. The flight to Milan was going to be about 90% Italians and 10% Americans. People gave Lindsi and I weird looks as we chatted away in English. We were still in America and we were already the minority. The flight to Milan was fine, it was a little overwhelming because they spoke in Italian as well as in English and they talked so fast that it frightened me. I sat next to an Italian gentlemen that said one word to me the whole flight, “Piacere”. Which means nice to meet you and he said this when I introduced myself.  When we arrived in Milan things went very fast. At “customs” all they did was check our passport and then they sent us on our way, so that was nice. We found our luggage and then Mama Teresa was there to pick me up outside of the gate.
  3. Mama Teresa: My host mother’s name is Teresa Tedesco. She is recently divorced and has two children. Gabriele and Giulia. However Gabriele is attending a University in Switzerland and Giulia is on a Rotary Exchange year as well in Texas.  She does not speak any English but we’ve been able to communicate alright. I feel bad though because sometimes I can see her getting frustrated when I can’t understand her and, because unfortunately I am who I am, I sometimes take it personally. I just wish I were able to communicate better with her. However, I am surprised I can say and understand as much as I am. It was only one day and I already feel like I’ve improved so much.  In the long run I think it’s going to be great that she doesn’t speak any English. Our house is very European. It is kind of small and narrow but it has three floors and my room is the top floor, which is nice but it doesn’t have a door and the house echoes a lot so you can hear everything everywhere.  I’ll put up pictures later.
  4. Cremona: After arriving at the house, and taking a nap. Teresa took me to Cremona. Teresa lives in a small town named Castelvetro Piacentino and it’s about a 10 minute drive away from Cremona. Cremona is beautiful it’s not a terribly big city and there are, of course, no sky scrapers or anything. One thing I love about Italy is that all of their buildings are different colors. Seeing all the yellow buildings everywhere really makes me miss my lovely yellow home back in Northfield. Cremona is known for it’s violins and piazzi (plazas). I can’t wait to put up some pictures of the piazzi, they are so ancient and beautiful.  Teresa, myself and one of her friends hiked up about 300 stairs of this tower in the middle of Cremona and I was able to look out over all of Cremona, the neighboring towns and into the Italian countryside. It was beautiful but I had forgotten my camera. Darn.
  5. Downtime: When we got back from Cremona I had a couple hours of downtime, and I learned my first lesson about Rotary. You need to stay busy. When I finally had time to think, and I wasn’t sleeping my mind immediately went to. “Wait this is my actual LIFE now?”, “I’m supposed to stay here for HOW LONG?” “I’m so far away from the people I love and it’ll be so long until I see them again!” Anyways my first wave of panic started to set over me. I felt bad because I thought is this normal to already be feeling homesick the first day I’m here?! I think that when you don’t have any friends or any siblings you feel a lot lonelier. Wise words huh Dan? J Obvious I know but I have to keep reminding myself of that, and the fact that that’s normal.
  6. Nightlife & Italian TEENAGERS: Luckily Teresa had invited over two of her daughter Giulia’s friends over for dinner. These parts of Rotary are so funny because it’s pretty much like being set up on a blind date, except for that you don’t speak the same language as the person. Dinner was fine, a little embarrassing, but then they invited me to go out with them after dinner. Even though I hadn’t slept for almost 48 hours I agreed. So then I got into a car with two strange girls and sped off to somewhere without a phone or a clue of what was going on. Ah Rotary J We ended up going to a pub, where we sipped on caffe. It reminded me of the benches downtown because friends would just come and go. I met so many different people and I have NO clue what most of their names are anymore. I could only understand what was going on part of the time but I could understand when something was funny. A lot of the time they would laugh about how I didn’t understand but I thought that was funny too! Most of the people I met were boys. For some reason there seems to be so many more boys in Italy than girls. The stereotype of Italian boys are very true, however the two girls I was with were very protective of me and most of the time they just joked around with  me like they would with each other. One thing that I'm going to have to get used to is smoke. Italian teenagers smoke SO much. First of all everyone does it and then they smoke about a pack in 3 hours or so. I feel bad for my lungs but I'm aware that for the year, I'm just going to have to get used to it. I was nervous before I left if it would be hard to say my name there. “Stina”. At one point when I was introducing myself I had a conversation like this: “Come ti chiami?” “Stina” “Cristina?” “Non just Stina” However I forgot to say “solo stina” which is only stina in Italian so now everyone calls me Justina J They know it’s a joke but they call me it anyways!
  7. Driving: Quick note on driving. It is crazy. No no it doesn’t matter if you’re in the lane for oncoming traffic, if the person is going slowly you pass them no matter what. There are no speed limit signs and no police on the roads. However, because everyone is driving so crazily so far it seems pretty safe.
  8. Finally I’ll talk about Faith: For me this experience requires an enormous amount of faith. I need to have faith in the people I meet, that they’ll take care of me and not get me into bad situations. I need to have faith in Rotary that they’ll take care of me and tell me what I need to do in terms of school and activities. I need to have faith in my relationships back home. That my friends and family that I love so dearly will still be there when I return. And finally I need to have faith in myself. I need to believe that I can not only make it through this year but enjoy it thoroughly.
I will post a piu tarde, later, but email me if you have any questions or anything.

A presto!

Wednesday, June 30

And So It Begins...

"I'm going to be spending next year as a Rotary Exchange Student in Cremona, Italy". With the graduation season among us, I've been saying this phrase A LOT.  After I say it, I always have to wait approximately 30 seconds while the person slips into a quick daydream of Italian Villas, pizza and of course the wine.  They usually snap out of it with a comment like, "Well that will be just amazing", or "Can I come visit you?". While I share their daydreams, and I'm more excited about this adventure than anything, it doesn't take me long to say what I've been feeling lately, "I'm scared". At the orientations they talk about how this experience is an "emotional roller coaster", and I'm already starting to feel it! My excitement and my nerves are fighting each other for my attention and I can't decide which emotion is more prominent at this time.  I'm confident though that this is the right path for me and I can't wait to start this amazing journey.

I will be in the Rotary District 2050.  As you can see it's in the central northern part of Italy. The center of this district holds the well known city, and fashion capital of the world: Milan. However, I will be staying near the city of Cremona.  Known for it's rich history of music and the arts.  It's most famous for it's beautifully crafted violins. (Maybe I'll have to pick up my violin after four years of  not practicing!)

I'm amazed by the crazy technology of this  day.  I was able to go onto Google Maps Street View and actual take a virtual walk around Cremona and see my school! It made the whole experience seem ten times more real, and I can't imagine that soon I'll be taking that walk everyday.

My host family situation is a little unstable at the moment.  Because of recent developments the powers that be in my district over there might be switching around some of the host families. Although this leaves me not exactly sure where my home will be in two months, I've been in contact with some potential families :) and they've already been very kind and welcoming. I can't wait to actually meet them. As of now, I'm leaving at 8:57 on Saturday, September 4th and arriving on the 5th. From what I've heard, I'm the last Rotary student to leave from Northfield this fall.  I know that by that time I'm sure I will be bored, with all of my friends being gone already, and I will be itching to get over to my new home.

As of now I'm working on getting down to the Italian consulate in Chicago to get my visa, and to deal with the  charismatic Italians working there that I've heard so many interesting stories about.  Also my lovely fellow Italian from Northfield, Sara Jaramillo, and I have been taking a few Italian lessons to prepare for our trips.  She is much better than I am so I need to keep studying so that she stops showing me up at our lessons!! :) So these last couple of months I will be working on my Italian, figuring out my host family situation and obtaining my visa. I hope to keep this updated on any developments along the way.

Also good luck to my fellow exchange students that are leaving in July! I will miss you all and I can't wait to hear about your many adventures!