So, I’m going home next month. I haven’t been there for eight. Looking back, I’ve been coming to the realization of how much I have been learning every month, every week, and every day that I’ve been here. But the past few months have been the most important in respects to growth, lessons learned, and just being happy. I’ve discovered so much about myself. 

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I live in the moment”. I’ve always said that. But I think this year I really learned how to live in the moment. I’ve learned to eat slow, drink wine slowly, laugh, and enjoy every minute. I’ve discovered what it feels like to be truly and completely happy. I try to stay grateful for every single second I’m alive, I now try not to waste time being mad, sad about little things, or holding grudges. I’ve learned what it feels like to love life in such a beautiful way, to love the people around you, to have a complete and utter desire to travel the world and learn about every new culture out there.

I realized how short our lives are. It hit me that I’ll probably be old before I know it. That’s why I want to travel, live, love and be happy as much as I can. I want to read more, and learn as much as I can about the world that’s around us. I want to learn new things every single day, and I know I’m going to live up to that. I want to learn new languages, I want to experience new foods and cultures. I want to meet new people, and make connections all over the world. 

Every day I can’t help but think of how happy I am that I went on this exchange.

My current project for my school here in Italy. Before this, I had never painted before. I hope to finish it soon!!

My current project for my school here in Italy. Before this, I had never painted before. I hope to finish it soon!!

It’s amazing how much you learn and grow up when you go on an exchange. I now understand how much cultures & countries can differ, and I think one of the most important things I realized was how much I really do appreciate my home. I can now speak and understand Italian. I’m independent and I feel like I can go anywhere in the world. I think about myself at the beginning of this exchange, and how scared and alone I felt. Now I feel like I can be anything I want, I can go anywhere I want, and I’m not afraid. I’m 17 years old, but I don’t feel like it at all. I think I’ve learned lessons here that some people don’t learn until much later in life. I feel like I’ve changed, but I can’t say specifically how. All I know is that now, I think in a much different way, and I also see the world in a much different way. I can’t say that this year was the best year of my life. There were a lot of hard times I had to go through, but I’m glad that I had those times. The first three months were very, very hard, but I think those were the months when I grew the most, and learned the most. When I think about returning back in America within less than 3 months, I don’t know how to feel. I’m excited to see my family, my home, and my friends, but I’m not ready to leave the family and friends I have here. I have a life here that I know I’ll never get to have again. And that’s scary to think about leaving. 

Noto, Sicilia

Noto, Sicilia

Thanksgiving Weekend and whatnot

Buongiorno! So a couple weekends ago, I got to celebrate my first Italian/American thanksgiving. It was so much fun! On Saturday morning me and my Canadian friend Zoe woke up early in the morning and prepared a big apple pie (with like 18 apples) and then took the hour bus ride to Noto (where we were going to meet all the other exchange students). The most fun thing about that bus ride was eating some of the apples out of the not yet cooked apple pie. ahaha.

When we arrived in Noto, our friend Savannah (from Idaho) picked us up and took us to her host parents’ house. The other exchange students arrived a little bit later as we were preparing the turkey, apple pie, and lots of other yummy stuff. There was also a point where we wanted to make sweet potatoes, but we had no idea if the big white thing Savannah bought was going to be a yam or not. So we kind of experimented: we cut the yam thing up, put it on the stove with a stick of butter and tons of sugar and hoped for the best. It ended up being pretty good. :)

Also that day, all five of us went and toured around Noto, taking pictures, and looking like crazy tourists. Noto was so beautiful! It’s crazy though because now I am totally used to seeing beautiful, old buildings everywhere. Now it’s just part of what I see everyday. I guess that’s one of the differences between being a tourist and actually living somewhere for awhile. Anyways, that night included making a big pan of hot chocolate, eating a huge bag of sourpatch kids, making fun of Austin’s Jersey accent, playing ping pong and laughing about REALLY stupid jokes. It was also nice speaking English again. We were all talking sooo much. haha.

Then, the highlight of that night was Thanksgiving dinner of course! We started eating pretty late (at around 10) and some of Savannah’s host parents’ friends came over so we had a pretty big group at the table. :) Before we ate, we all said our thanks in Italian. (Io ringrazio la vita per… - I am thankful for…). It was great! I got some on video so I’ll try and upload it sometime. But dinner was perfect. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, apple butter, pumpkin cake, and apple pie. It felt just like home and everyone there felt like family. It was an unforgetable Thanksgiving and sadly I will never have anything like it again, but I think that’s what made it so special.

Other than that, I haven’t been up to too much! A couple days ago, I hit the three month mark, and it really made me realize how fast this is all going. I feel like after Christmas, this whole trip is going to fly by. That makes me sad because I am having a great experience overall. Although homesickness hasn’t been an issue lately, I have been going through a lot of problems (school especially) and it’s been very hard. But I’m glad for that too because I am learning a lot. I already feel like I’ve grown more as a person because of this exchange and I’m so thankful for that. The language is also coming along, I can understand a little more every week. Speaking is still very difficult, but even though I make mistakes, I know I need to work on practicing a little more everyday.

Anyways, if I don’t get on here before Christmas, Buon Natale everyone!!


Updating my blog at long last. :)

Ciao everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t written in my blog in a VERY long time, I just haven’t made the time for it. haha. So let’s see… October was a pretty relaxing month for me. I began to adjust to school here a little more and there are times now when I can even understand the main ideas of what my teachers are talking about! I’m not saying it has gotten any easier, but even though speaking Italian itself is still a challenge, I am beginning to understand what people say without having to try to translate it to English in my head. I feel like that is an improvement! But I cannot believe 2 and a half months have already passed. I feel like I’ve been away from home for a long time, but I also feel like I just got here! Okay so here are some of the highlights from October:

October 21st My Italian birthday!! Okay so this was an AMAZING birthday that was so different from any one I’ve ever had back home. From what I’ve heard about Italian birthdays in general is that the whole family and relatives come over for a big lunch, and then in the evening, you go out with your friends. And that’s exactly how mine was. :) I slept in on the day of my birthday, and woke up with my host grandma in the kitchen already starting lunch! And as the hours passed, more and more relatives and people were arriving. It was great. :) I asked for my birthday lunch to be a surprise, and was excited when they brought out the best lasagna I’ve ever tried in my life. After that we had a yummy cake, spumante (a sparkling wine that is soo good), and then I had pictures taken with my family. Later that night, I went out with my friends to the city center. It was amazing because there was a group of about 25 of us! We went out for really good pizza and then stayed out til about 2am just hanging out, walking around, and having fun. I’m so grateful that I got to experience my birthday here because I know I’ll never get to have one like it again. :) Another plus was that I received a really sweet birthday care package from my parents. I got a lot of sweets that I’ve been craving, some jewelry, my favorite candles, but what I loved most was the fact that they sent me some dried autumn leaves from Spokane. That was very special to me because I was really missing Spokane’s autumn on my birthday this year! My birthday here was one I’ll never forget. :)

October 29th-30th Rotary weekend in Piazza Armerina! So this weekend was one of the most fun I’ve had here. My friend Zoe (who’s also an exchange student) and I took a bus ride with a group of Italian interact students to a beautiful inland city about 2 hours away called Piazza Armerina. We then carpooled up to this BEAUTIFUL bed and breakfast type hotel place called Gigliotto Agriturismo (look it up, it is amazing!). Zoe and I were literally freaking out because there, it looked like your traditional gorgeous Italian landscape that you only see in movies and magazines. haha. So that evening it was just us kids, and we even got our own hotel rooms! It was really great because it felt like we had a ton of freedom and were on our own little Italian vacation. :) That night was so much fun because a DJ came and we pretty much had a dance party until late at night. Afterwards, Zoe and I stayed up even longer that night, murdering the hundreds of flies in our room and then going back to the dance party to steal desserts (only for fly bait, of course ;) ) The next morning, we ate breakfast in a beautiful dining hall, and then attended a 4 hour long Rotary meeting. It was hard to try and stay awake when we couldn’t even understand any of the speeches ! ahaha. But other than that, my weekend in Piazza Armerina was perfect because I really felt like I was on a vacation for the first time since I’ve been here.

October 31st- Halloween with Zoe! Okay so this was one of my most fun nights! Zoe and I met up and went to the city center together. We walked around for awhile, went shopping, and then later went out to dinner at a place called the Rossopomodoro (they have the best pizza I’ve ever tried). After dinner, the waiter brought us totally free heart shaped deserts covered in chocolate. We thought it was just an Italian thing to bring out a free desert so we just kind of ignored it. But then, when I got up to go to the bathroom, a man who worked at the restaurant handed me two heart shaped notes and said “This is for you, and this is for your friend”. It was so funny because each of our papers had the cheesiest notes on them along with the guys’ numbers. Mine said “My heart stopped beating. -Salvo” hahaha. It was SO funny. But you know, how can you complain when you get free desert? :D Other fun things about that night were: searching for a store to buy markers at 11 at night just to draw on our faces, hearing people speak English and screaming “OH MY GOD YOU SPEAK ENGLISH” and then hanging out with them for the rest of the evening, and finally, running like crazy at 12:30 AM across downtown just so we could get home on time. This was definitely the best halloween I’ve ever had. :D

Other than that, October was a relaxing month. I feel at home and comfortable here. The language is coming along and the feelings of homesickness have begun to go away. I can’t believe how fast everything is going! And it’s just going to get faster. I just know I have to enjoy every single moment I have here because although it doesn’t feel like it now, I will be home before I know it. 

And don’t worry- next time I won’t wait more than a month to update my blog. :) 

Buonanotte tutti :)

School, etc. :)

Okay, so on the 15th I started school. School here is… different. First of all, the students don’t change classes, but the teachers do. So I stay in the same seat, with the same people all day long. That is so weird for me! And school is from Monday to Saturday which I really don’t like. Also, in my school there is a lot of writing and graffitti covering the walls in the classrooms, and the bathrooms don’t even have toilet paper. haha. Honestly, it really made me appreciate my clean school back in Spokane! Besides that, I can’t understand anything my teachers are saying which gets really, really boring. On a good note though, I can understand science, math, and english (obviously)! :) The kids in my class are very kind and welcoming, and they really encourage me to speak Italian so I can learn.

Since school started, I haven’t been doing much. I really want to look into doing a sport, volunteering or something just to keep busy! Saturday nights are awesome though because that’s when everyone goes out. Last Saturday night, I went out with my friends and we ate gelato and then paired up and went on bumper cars. And last night, we went to the town center which is really cool! It’s always packed with people which is a lot different than Spokane at night that’s for sure. haha. 

So I have been having a great time here! Living in the city is different for me though. These last few days I have really begun to realize how much I appreciate and love my hometown. And I didn’t think I’d ever say I loved Spokane. :P And I’m not saying I don’t love it here, but it’s just the fact that when you are away from home, I think you start to see things in a different way. Although I think that’s a good thing. :)

Also, with the language, I understand a lot if it is spoken slowly. I definitely want to start speaking more though because I know sooo many words in Italian since I was learning it for 6 months before I left. I just have realized that I’ve been here for almost a month and I’ve hardly been talking! I am learning a lot though. And I’m also learning some Sicilian words. :) 

Oh, and one more thing. So, before I left, Rotary pretty much told me that I would be living with one family for the whole year. And they told my host family that same thing. But recently I found out that in three months I will be changing families. Although, the funny thing is, is that I already know that other family pretty well because they are the good friends of my current host family. So I don’t think the change will be bad at all. My next host family is so kind and they live very close to my current host family (so I will still be able to come over whenever I want). :) I think it’s a pretty good deal! 

Well, I’m going to go to bed. School is tomorrow! 


First Week

So far, my days here have been a lot of fun. On wednesday night, we left for Naxos because my host family has a beach house there. The next morning, Chiara and I sat at this little restaurant on the beach and had gelsi granitas, brioche and coffee. Thank god that is a regular Sicilian breakfast because they are so good. 

And then that day, we mostly sat at the beach, ate pesto pasta (mmm) and then later that evening, we went to Taormina. Taormina is so beautiful and there are so many shops and things to see there. 

My host sister Chiara and I in Taormina.:)

The next day we went to Isola Bella which is so amazing! The water is so shallow and warm around the island, and it’s perfect. I seriously need to bring this ocean to Spokane. ;) Here are a couple pictures of it:

And then last night, I went out with Chiara, her boyfriend, and Giuliano. They are all so nice and so much fun to hang out with. We went and played billiards, and then went to Chiosco where they sell really good drinks. My favorite is made out of mandarin orange juice and lemon. After that, we went to the center of Catania and I got to see all the beautiful piazzas. I was surprised how many people were out at after midnight. I mean, there were a ton of people. Spokane is usually dead downtown around that time, so Catania’s downtown was really fun and different for me. And today, I think I’m going to the countryside. It will be fun! Thanks for reading, ciao!

Finally here!

So on sunday morning, I had to wake up at 3am and we left for the airport at 4:15am. I didn’t get any sleep that night- obviously. :) My grandma, grandpa, aunt, parents, and James came to say goodbye to me at the airport. God, that was sad. Goodbyes are the worst! But anyways my flight left at 6:00 am from Spokane and after a verryyy long time of flying, I arrived in Catania the next day at around 3:30pm. 

My host family is so kind and I felt very welcome from the beginning. :) Their apartment is right in the city and it’s beautiful. The kitchen is my favorite! One thing that’s much different here is the humidity! It is so. hot. haha But right when I got to their house, I got a tour and then we ate. We started with gnocci (which was amazing) and then this delicious meat. And then afterwards, we had fruit, and then a cookie. And then I tried my first Italian coffee! It was delicious. So far, I am loving the food. Afterwards, some relatives came over and I showed them some photos of my family and friends. I already feel like part of the family. :)

Today has been relaxing so far. I woke up, had coffee with the family, and then Chiara (my host sister) and I went out to buy a unit converter. The city is beautiful and the ocean is just a couple blocks away from the house. Right now, grandma is making lunch and I am watching tv with Chiara. I miss home so much, but I put all my photos up of my family and James on the wall in our room. It helps:)

Anyways, I have to go eat lunch soon! I’ll post more later! Ciao :)

My itinerary!

Sunday, September 4th

I will be leaving Spokane at 6:10am and then arrive later in Salt Lake City. (547 mi)

I will leave Salt Lake City at 11:10am and arrive in Detroit at 4:38pm (1481 mi)

I will leave Detroit at 7:00 pm and arrive in Rome at 10:00am (4627mi).

Then, I will leave Rome at 1:50 pm and arrive in Catania at 3:05pm! (335mi).

It’s crazy that I’m leaving so soon. For awhile, it has felt as if I have so much time before I leave, but now all of a sudden, it’s here. I am so nervous. So excited. So sad. And so happy. God, these emotions are going to kill me. I can’t believe I’m leaving…! ahhh