It's time to leave! And what a year it's been...
This blog has been an amazing way of reflecting daily on the amazing and surreal experiences I have had during my year abroad and being able to look back on it in the future will be something I'll always be grateful for. It has had pretty high ups and pretty low downs, but I wouldn't change it for a minute. I have learnt so much and become so much more of a better person than I was before my year abroad, thanks to the amazing people and opportunities I have encountered along the way. I wanted this blog to stay very positive and enjoyable, which was an easy feat in France, but a few weeks into Naples I realised that it was a better idea to be completely honest about my experiences, even if they are not all smiles and sunshine!
France was the best 6 months of my life. The country, the food and the culture were amazing, but what made it incredible were the people. My incredible housemates, who went miles out of their way to help me fit in and make sure I always had a social life, will be people I have only been more grateful for since I have lived in Naples which is a completely different experience. Aix is the best city I have been to, and I will and do miss it more than I can say. I can't wait for when I return in the future, and hope I can see all the amazing people I met there again. Sure, sometimes things were mildly frustrating at the start with university admin problems, but these were barely problems, and even at the time I knew every problem I faced was outshined by the fantastic atmosphere of the city given by the people that inhabited it. Aix will always be in my mind!
Naples was a very different story. I always expected Italy to be more fun than France, although I don't really know why I thought this. There were times in Naples that I nearly gave up and left. But every erupting volcano, knife threat, pickpocket, harassment and university issue taught me something invaluable. While my housemate learnt how to be truly sassy and never let that city win (I'm so proud of her for this) I learnt to truly, truly appreciate every good thing that comes my way, and to stay positive after even the hardest, scariest day. Little things in Naples truly blessed me each day, whether it was one teacher at university giving me some long-agonized-over advice, a kind stranger out and about or even just the sheer beauty of the volcanic, historic, beach-side mash of cultures and language that is Naples. I am proud to say I got through everything it threw at me and am still smiling at the end!
So all in all, this year has toughened me up, but most importantly has taught me to be always grateful, positive and happy no matter what life throws at me. I am grateful for English culture, admin - even food! - more than I ever thought possible. And if I ever forget this life lesson, it is immortalised in my blog to remind me.
Aix, Naples... Ciao and au revoir!
Campi Flegrei is the name of both the next metro stop from my house and the supervolcano that looms over the stop. It is beautiful but pretty scary since there have been articles in the news recently about how it is on course to erupt... Hopefully this will not affect our flights home and will not be worth worrying about! Italy and this region in particular is famed for the beauty of its hilly, volcanic land, but it can be pretty scary to think about what has happened to the area in the past due to volcanoes, and what is happening currently in the central region with earthquakes.
This means “are you kidding me” in Neapolitan, and crossed my mind today when my phone charger and laptop broke in the same day, then I burnt my thumb on the oven. To be honest I just laugh about these things now, if that is the worst that happens today then I’ll take it!
I’m looking forward to booking my flights home to England sadly, as much I am trying to keep this city in my good books. Too much has happened for me to totally love it here but it could be so so so much worse and I am well aware of that! The thing I dislike most is the loneliness, because I love talking to anyone and everyone and making friends, and that was my favourite thing about Aix but I can’t do that here. However, it makes me appreciate the friends I do have and all my amazing friends and family back home and in other places this year, they are all amazing and have helped me through some bumpy journeys this semester!
This is a phrase that means something along the lines of “all’ well that ends well”. I learned it today when my landlord came over after not speaking to me out of sheer awkwardness for the last two months. He apologized for what he’d done at least, but then tried to get an extra months rent out of us that we are not supposed to pay, inexplicably for the month after we will leave. My housemate Georgia dealt with him like a pro, and stood her ground beautifully.
I think we are both learning lessons here in Naples that I couldn’t have learnt in Aix even though I had a better time. Georgia has discovered a sassy side brought on by the all the little bits of rubbish we have to deal with from people here every day. I still have the soft, naive outlook that I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and look on my time here with optimism, but I am learning to deal with the more serious things that have gone wrong here, and for me it has put everything outside of Naples into perspective. I am so, so grateful for my time in Aix, and my little trips to other places in Italy, and when I meet someone who is genuine and kind without an ulterior motive here, I appreciate it more than I ever could have. And I still think it is better than I’m honest about my time here for the benefit of future students.
Today I woke up in Siena after staying with Emilia who is doing her Erasmus semester there. And what a beautiful city!!!!!!
It reminds me a lot of Aix. It is tiny, but I like that, because there is a real sense of community both among the locals with the contrada festivities and the students, who are everywhere. You are free to sit where you like in the day, and go out at night safely. The buildings are beautiful and the nature is stunning and the food was amazing!
I met a few others from Bath while I was there (big up Chris, Zoe and Megan!) and it was sooooo nice to see them, I’ve really missed my class in Bath and I love how you can just wander round in Siena and bump into people because of its size. There was no sense of danger anywhere and it was just so picturesque and beautiful. I would love to go back one day! Thank you everyone I saw there for making it so great!
Today we battled out the task of signing up to our exams (prenotarci agli esami). This is another example of Naples organization, so I will put in bullet points to counteract the lack of clarity in what I will be writing.
Our teachers told us to sign up for Segrepass, a website used to sign up for exams
We need a special code for this site, so we go to an office to get our Codici Fiscale (fiscal codes) so prove we are staying in Italy
We successfully sign on. However, we are told by the site to go the Segreteria Studente since we aren’t real students of the Uni
We go. It is shut. The website lied.
Next day, we try again and skip a lesson for it. We queue. First we are told off for not bringing our passports. Then we are sent to a different office in a different building in the city.
At this office, we wait again. Luckily we see the man we need and grab him. He then laughs and tells us we just need our teachers to write our names down as Erasmus students don’t use Segrepass. DOH
We email our teachers. They both reply with one word answers. We are successfully signed up.
Here it seems you have to go from A to H to Z to J to R, just to get to B.
Part of our French exam is Dettati, or Dictées in French, or Dictations in English, where the teacher reads a paragraph or two from a book and we write down what she says. This is actually harder than it seems, and our exam is coming up so fingers crossed for that!
This means luggage handling, and I had such a classic Naples experience on my flight to and from Madrid I had to write about it (luckily no more emergency landings thank goodness!).
On the way there, someone's luggage fell off the little car thing they brought it over the road on, and people noticed but they just left it there... some poor tourist must have arrived with no baggage!
On the way back, the pilot landed and said that they were just sorting out the staircase on the door of the plane, opened the door and the staff at Naples airport had put the staircase about 5 feet away from the door of the plane. The woman next to me rolled her eyes and said "Napoli..." and I have never felt more spiritually close to a stranger in my life. Haha...
I have been away a few times this year to visit my boyfriend in Madrid, but haven't written about it because it hasn't been a place that I've lived in specifically for my year abroad this year. I left for Madrid today to surprise my boyfriend for his birthday, which went really well! But I adore the city, it was my first time going this year and I have loved every second of being there. I want to learn better Spanish so I have an excuse to go back!I would recommend it to anyone, it is clean, safe, beautiful and there is a lot to do. We have been to tapas restaurants, rooftop bars, friends houses, restaurants with his colleagues, spas, parks, lakes... all sorts! See you next week!