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!