Wednesday, September 28, 2011

       Yep, I'm finally in Italy! I've been here for two weeks already and I've been having a ton of fun! So update time:
        I finally got my Visa (obviously, cuz I'm in Italy)! It took a long time, and it was a huge hassle but I finally got it the week before I left. We had a lot of problems with the consulate in LA, and eventually had to have AFS interfere to help us, but now I have it (and its by far the best thing in my passport). I said goodbye to my friends and family. I had a small party at my neighborhood pool and we all hung out for a while before a few of them went with me to see Rise of The Planet of The Apes. The day after that my we had a family going away party at my house which also was a lot of fun. Two days before I left I did last minute travel shopping with my best friend, and then went out to dinner with her and my family at Pinnacle Peaks. We then spent the night wandering Trail Dust town before finally saying goodbye.
        New York orientation! It was fun, but not all that helpful or informative, the best part was meeting all the other AFS students going to Italy! The worst part about it was staying in New York and only seeing the houses the things that passed by on the way to the hotel from the airport (a few houses) Hopefully someday I will be able to return and then get to go sight seeing :). At the end of the orientation we boarded a plane for Zurich. For the most part I slept along with playing soduku on the little game pad the airplane had.
        Once we arrived in Zurich (may I add that it was one of the prettiest places I have ever seen) we hung out for two hours at the airport. While we were there we talked with each other and met a few of the other passengers going to Rome. Also with us was an Italian football (soccer) team and we had a lot of fun talking with them. Soon it was time to board the plane to Rome. I talked with the two other AFS girls that were sitting next to me for the short flight, as well as looking out the window and watching the Alps.
       Soon we arrived in Rome and after a small mishap (Our chaperone accidentally led us out of the airport without getting out luggage and going through customs) we were on our way to the orientation which was located about an hour from Rome. We were given a huge warm welcome once we arrived and after we got settled into our rooms (the orientation is at a Youth Hostel) we hung out with the two groups that had arrived before us. We spent that day just greeting all the other AFS kids that were arriving from other countries and playing a few ice breaker games with the volunteers (Funky Chicken and Big Fat Pony). The next day was spent welcoming more groups and then splitting up into groups by language and region. These meetings were very helpful and we got to find out who was going to be in the same region area as us. I discovered that there actually was one other girl going to my host town and school, as well as two others that were going to be in the Brindisi chapter with me. That night we just hung out with everyone again and it was very crazy but extremely fun. (Imagine several hundred teenagers from all around the world gathered in one place with access to loud party music). Finally in the morning we got up at the time appointed to our group and left for the train station. I almost left my only jacket in the hotel, but remembered it at the last minute. Unfortunately in the time between getting on the bus and getting on the train I lost it anyways.
        The train ride was an extremely unorganized scramble that took awhile to work out. Thankfully we were able to finally get on our train and settle down. The train ride was both very nerve wrecking and very exciting. Students were getting off at random intervals depending on where they were going to be staying in South Italy. My stop was the second to last one, and it took about 7 hours to get there. For the first half I talked with a girl from Brazil, and we became good friends. Once she got off at her stop I sat by myself for a while and then moved to sit with Renee (one of my closest AFS friends and the only other American in the Brindisi chapter.) and a few of the other girls. We spent the last 30 minutes of the train ride freaking out. Both Renee and I were super nervous to meet out host families, but everything was alright in the end. The only problem we ended up having was that they gave Renee and Julie (the girl from Norway that also lives in my host town) the wrong stops. They made Julie get out at Fasano (Renee's town) and Renee had to get out at Brindisi (Julie's stop) it was all sorted out and I got to meet my host family for the first time.
        My host family is absolutely awesome! I love them all very much. Admittedly the first day was just a little bit awkward ( I was completely exhausted and ended up taking a nap very soon after arriving) but I still had tons of fun. I also got to encounter my first big difference in culture at lunch. My host mother served me a huge lasagna that was as big as about 3 servings in American standards. I managed to eat about 2/3 of it before I was completely stuffed. I soon realized that his was just the first of many courses, because then another huge plate was brought out for me, and after that another. I was completely unable to eat veering. The other big difference in meal time is that people here eat FAST! by the time I'm done with half of my dinner everyone else has already completely finished and has been talking amongst themselves for several minutes. Thankfully in the last two weeks I have learned to eat super fast.
        My first night there my host sister Daniela took me out to Mesagne and we went to the Vila, which is the center park in town where everyone gathers almost every night. I got to eat my first Italian hamburger (it was very different, but very good). When we got back we had a huge dinner and then I went to sleep. The next day was spent unpacking and then going out again that night. This time We went to the school. On week nights, Daniela and her friends all hang out in the school parking lot for a few hours and I got to meet all the people that I hadn't met the day before. Daniela's friends were all super friendly and welcoming and I had a great time.
       The next day was my first day of school. The school hasn't had a meeting to decide on a permanent schedule for Julie and I (They're actually having that meeting tonight) so we were given a temporary schedule for that day. I actually had a lot of fun at the school. School here is very different from school in America, its 6 days a week (that took some getting used to), and instead of worksheets and tons of homework, the teachers here give lectures and show us specific things in our books while we take notes and ask questions. Also while in America we switch classes, here you are given one class for the entire year and the teachers rotate. Because of this all the students in class are very close, and it is much easier to make friends.
       When I’m done with school I go home and do my whatever homework I have, and if I’m really tired I take a nap. A little later on Daniela and I go back to the school to hang out with her friends. After about an hour Marika picks me up and I go to a small park with her and spend time with her friends, who are all in university. The time I spend with Marika and her friends tends to be a bit calmer, and a lot of the time it’s a nice break from the crazy time that Daniela has with her friends
        That’s all I can think of right now (I know I’m probably forgetting a ton.) I’ll update soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Packing and Other Updates

Hello again!
     Here are some things I have done since my last blog post:
  1.Applied for my Visa.  My family and I drove up to Phoenix to the honorary Italian consulate there and got everything stamped.  The man who was going over the paper work with us let my siblings stamp a few things and they had a lot of fun.  We did have one misunderstanding though!  The honorary consulate is in the Italian club, which consists of a bar and a dining hall.  We got there on time, but no one was there to meet us.  We waited there for almost an hour before we found out that the consulate was upstairs!  Thankfully the staff was very understanding and so everything turned out fine.  Once we had all the stamped paperwork from there we sent it off to the official consulate in LA, hopefully my visa will arrive any day.
  2.Went shopping for cold weather clothing.  I found out that Mesagne has very cold winters, and since I live in the desert I didn't have much in the way of winter clothing.  Unfortunately because it is still the summer the only thing we could really find was pants and one very comfy jacket.  Luckily my host sister messaged me today and told me that she would take me shopping when I arrived, so I'll be able to get warmer things once I arrive.  I'm also very glad that she'll be there to help, because I really have no clue what to do when it comes to shopping.
  3.I started packing up my room.  As soon as I'm gone my little brother will be moving into my room and my two other siblings will be moving into his room.  Unfortunately this also means I have to pack everything I'm not taking with me, which is quite a bit.  The only other things I can leave out are things I'm going to be needing in the next two weeks before I leave, so I have to decide what books, games, clothes, etc. I'm going to be using.  So far its going well though and hopefully I will be fully packed up by the end of the weekend.  After that the only thing I'll have to do with my room is convince my younger brother not to paint it black and neon yellow while I'm gone.
  4.I met someone used to live right by Mesagne.  I have to admit that this was by far my favorite thing out of all this.  As random as it was, the person was the dental assistant at my dentist.  I had mentioned that I was doing foreign exchange in Italy and she freaked out when I mentioned Mesagne.  She was able to give me lots of good advice for living there, as well as telling me all her favorite things about it.  I had a lot of fun talking to her and I learned a lot more about my new town.
  5.Lastly I finally planned a going away party.  This may not seem very big to you, but it was a lot harder than it sounds.  All my friends live pretty far away, and with some of them its nearly impossible to get a hold of them unless your at school.  Also they all have very conflicting schedules so it was hard to find a time when most of them could come.  Thankfully my best friend Corrina helped me out a lot, and managed to contact everyone (Coco, if you're somehow reading this, thank you sooo much!).
       Thank you for reading my blog, the next time I post will mot likely be once I'm in Italy (11 days!), or maybe a small post once I get my visa.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting My Family

I know its been awhile since I posted, but to be honest I almost completely forgot about the blog!  Anyways since my last post i was accepted into AFS and was given my host family and town.  I have a mother named Antonella, a father named Antonio, and two sisters, Marika and Daniela.  Marika is 3 years older than me, and Daniela is one year younger.  Daniela and I have been talking alot on facebook and she is incredibly nice.  She has introduced me to alot of her friends (on facebook of course) and everyone is very welcoming and friendly :).  I will be living in Mesagne, Italy with them, and it is a beautiful city!  I am not to far away from the beach either, which is very exciting for me since I'm from a desert. I also got my school!  I will be going to Liceo Scientifico Epifanio Ferdinando with Daniela.  I'm a little worried because I science is my worst subject, but I'm sure I'll get by.  I am really excited to leave for Italy and meet my new family and all the other AFSers for the first time!  I'll post as soon as i get more news, Ciao!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Hello again!
       Okay so my last post was mainly just about fundraising, so I figure I should probably include more information about myself.  My name is Anne Hallett, but I prefer to be called Annie.  I am 16 years old and I live in Tucson, Arizona.  I love to read, write, and do photography.  I also really love to travel when I get a chance.  I have three siblings, and I am the oldest.  One of the reasons I became interested in foreign exchange is that a few years ago I got a chance to visit Europe for a little while during summer vacation.  We visited England, France, and Italy for a few days each, and during that time I really fell in love with Italy.  Just today I got an email saying that I was accepted by AFS Italy, and I'm so happy!  Even before that though I had wanted to do foreign exchange, but at that time I really didn't know where I wanted to go.  My short trip to Europe just managed to finalize my decision.  Thanks for reading!

Starting Out

       My name is Annie, and in around 6 months I am leaving for my foreign exchange year in Italy.  Foreign exchange is something I've wanted to do for a very long time, and I can't wait to get started.  I'm really looking forward to learning more about the Italian culture and becoming a part of an Italian family, as well as learning the language.  I hope that doing this will help me learn more about the world and give me a new perspective.
       However my trip is very expensive so I need some help fundraising.  At the top right of this page is something called chipin and its an easy (and safe) way to help sponsor my trip.  Every little bit counts and during this month (April) AFS is doubling all donations.  This would help so much, so if you have a little spare change please consider contributing.  Also this will be my blog for the duration of my Italy trip so keep checking back for more updates, especially while I'm oversees!

Thank you all so much!