Settling in to a new Italian life

A view of Brescia from the Castello

After a hectic and fun first week in Italy, the first few weeks of October brought about the settling-in period of my stay. After moving in with my second, longer-term host family, finalizing some paperwork, signing up for my very own metro card, connecting with other SITE interns, and beginning to plan my own lessons, everything was beginning to feel a lot more like permanent stage of my life. It finally began to hit me that I’m not just a tourist, but settling into a real life here — an idea that’s both incredibly exciting and overwhelming.

Based on the advice of my advisor teacher, Luigina, I decided that my first planned lesson with my students should serve as an introduction to my home country. In our very first meeting, the students already had the opportunity to learn about me, and from their questions I could tell that their ideas about America could use a little clarification. Especially when it comes to geography, and the particular challenge of locating Ohio on a map! I spent a lot of time preparing this first lesson, and I think it paid off. It was important to include maps and images to illustrate my points, and I ended the lesson with an activity to make sure the students were involved: plan your own ideal trip to America lasting one week.

I’m using this as an introductory lesson with all of my classes, which gives me a break from planning as a I settling into my new schedule. I meet with 12 different classes, one hour per week. Most of my classes are second-year English subject classes, but I’ve also been assigned to 4 hours of CLIL classes with older students: two computer information classes with the fifth-years, and two tourism classes with third- and fourth-year students. Twelve different classes every week means a LOT of students, and unfortunately I’ll never remember everybody’s names. It’s taking me long enough to remember the locations of the classrooms in the building! 

My school kinda looks like a prison, doesn't it?

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The school and the teachers are friendly and welcoming, and I’ve enjoyed spending my time with an espresso in the teacher’s lounge or cafe between classes. I go from classroom to classroom, to teacher’s lounge to copy room, treading a familiar path. The students smile and greet me in the hallways, and are happy to see me when I walk in the room, because they know my presence means we’ll be working on something a bit more fun today. I’ve told the students I don’t speak any Italian, but I do get the opportunity to practice some of my language skills with fellow teachers and staff members. The other great news: Luigina was able to arrange my schedule in such a way that my classes are spread over four days instead of the six days a week the school is in session. This means I’m free as a bird from Friday to Sunday, and many a long weekend are in my future.

Besides settling in at school, I’m working my way into a routine with my new host family. After my classes finish, at the latest around one in the afternoon, I walk a few blocks (usually in the rain) to catch the bus home for lunch. School and home aren’t so far from each other, but the bus takes a circuitous route and my commute usually takes about 20 to 25 minutes. Lunch is a big deal in Italian culture, so the whole family is usually home to enjoy a multi-course meal together. We usually have two small courses, followed by salad, and ending with fresh fruit for dessert. The family uses this meal as a chance to take a break from their busy schedules and enjoy each other’s company—after lunch they usually head back to work, attend more classes, or settle in to study for a few hours. In the later afternoon, they’ll meet up with friends, exercise, practice their music.

Walking in B Town

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But me? With only morning classes on my schedule, my afternoons are unexpectedly very free! At first I used this time in a number of ways, like getting a head start on lesson planning, catching up on my sleep debt with a afternoon nap, or simply getting outside to explore my new city. But very quickly I’ve started to add another activity to my repertoire: teaching private English lessons. There’s a lack of mother tongue English speakers in Brescia, so my skills are actually very in demand! My first lessons are arranged by fellow teachers at my school, who would like me to work with their children. It’s a great arrangement to fill up my afternoons, plus it gives me more experience tutoring in a one-on-one setting. It’s also the perfect way to earn a few extra euros on the side.

Now that I’m here, I’m also making the effort to connect. This means meeting up with the a few other members of the SITE program! We’ll have our first program meeting in November, but I don’t want to wait until then! Early in October, I met up with Chloe, another Brescia-based intern, and I made plans to meet up with Grace and Gretchen, both friends-of-friends who are teaching in Milan! I also got the good news that my good friend Candace from back home will be subbing in to an open position here in Brescia. She’s been nannying in Switzerland for a few weeks, but now that this position is opened she’ll be transferring here in a few days—and moving into an apartment with Chloe. We’re so excited to see each other again, and to start planning some great travels in Italy for our long weekends! I can’t wait to see what these next few months have in store.

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