Placement blogs

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Tagged: Italy

Year Abroad VIII – final thoughts

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

 

Siena, Italy                                                                                        June, 2017

Ciao!

Today marks a month until I leave Siena, where I have been doing my Erasmus study exchange for five months as part of my Year Abroad. I’m getting all the feels. I don’t want to leave. And I’m thinking of all the things this year has taught me. Here are some of them.

The Year Abroad is more about improving yourself than improving a language.

I feel like there is a lot of pressure on the Year Abroad and returning with close-to-native language skills when the reality is a lot different. Not just because each one of us is doing different activities or spending it in different locations, but because achieving native levels just by immersion is very hard, even if you try to be as active and engaged as you can. If you’ve never spoken the language before, it is easy to track the progress: being able to order at a restaurant or sort out paperwork feels like a milestone. But when you are a language student and have been learning the language for a couple of years, improving in a way that is noticeable is hard. I personally don’t find my French to be much better than when I left the UK. I have definitely improved in listening and reading comprehension and have expanded my vocabulary, but not as much as I thought I would. So don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself and just have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to talk and make mistakes, but also don’t centre on having to improve continuously. The Year Abroad and life are more than that.

Siena will now have a special place in my heart.

Siena will now have a special place in my heart.

The best things I’ve gained this year are more confidence in myself and greater independence.

More than the language side of things, I feel like my greatest achievement this year has been to discard my shyness and put myself out there. I had to do that when I first moved to England for university and that already felt like a massive milestone. This year I’ve had to do it twice, in completely different countries and I’m proud of myself for doing it (introverts, do you feel me?). I’ve learnt to make mistakes without being embarrassed about it because that is how you best learn in this life. I’ve learnt that there’s nothing to lose by approaching new people, the worst that might happen is that they won’t be interested, but you will have given it a shot and have no regrets about what could have happened. If you don’t try, you’ll never win! I really encourage you to try to socialize as much as possible as, if I’ve realized something (more like, completely confirmed) this year is that it’s not about the place you are in - ok, it does make a difference if you are in a big city than a little isolated town but hear me out-, it’s about the people you meet along the way.

Fécamp was such a lovely place to experience France.

Fécamp was such a lovely place to experience France (also, I cooked paella for the first time!).

It’s the people you meet during this adventure that will shape your experience of the Year Abroad.

Clearly, the place you end up in will have a lot to do in creating a good or bad experience of the Year Abroad. If you are a very active and outgoing person and end up in a town in the middle of nowhere, it might not be the best experience. However, at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make new friends and meet new people (in and around the area), but also to choose who you want to become closer with.

Shout-out to Manu, Gillian, Moni and Liam!

Shout-out to Manu, Gill, Moni and Liam!

In France I was in a little coastal town in Normandy and my fondest memories will always be of those I met, be at the school or elsewhere. Parties at the Mill, funny classroom anecdotes, long evening dinners and exploring the town with the other two stagiaires.

Thank-you everybody for making my Erasmus a great one!

Thank-you everybody for making my Erasmus a great one!

In Siena this is even more relevant as most of my friends are other Erasmus students who, like me, are only here for a limited amount of time. My image of Siena is an image in which I’m enjoying the city with all those people I’ve met over the past five months, and that is an image that belongs in this exact moment and will not repeat itself, which leads to my next point.

Ancora degli amici a Siena.

Ancora degli amici a Siena.

Enjoy every moment and grab each opportunity.

The Year Abroad is all about new experiences and learning first hand, so it’s up to you to challenge yourself. Make a list or just head out of the door and explore. Try new foods, new hobbies, go to new places, talk to strangers, get out of your comfort zone. The Year Abroad is an amazing opportunity to push your boundaries – you get to live abroad and meet a lot of new people and you’ll learn to adapt to different lifestyles, so try to make the most of it. You don’t have to become a party animal if you’re the type who enjoys staying in for a chill night, but don’t miss out on events that attract your interest. I ended up joining the student newspaper here in Siena because I saw a recruiting event on Facebook. At first I wasn’t sure because I didn’t really want to show up on my own, but I pulled it together and went anyway and I’ve met a lot of cool people through it and improved my Italian!

I've joined a student newspaper, acted in a French short film and given an improv speech in Italian!

I've joined a student newspaper, acted in a French short film and given an improv speech in Italian!

That being said, you’re allowed to say you’re not having or didn’t have a great Year Abroad.

Hopefully this will not be the case, because it would be a pity, but everybody feels down and questions what they are doing with their lives at some point. Battling homesickness and culture shock is hard and sometimes (especially with the British Council Assistantship), you have no control over where you will end up. Maybe the idea you had of your host country doesn’t live up to your expectations, maybe you don’t really feel like you fit in. And it’s ok. You can ask for support if you need it, but honestly try to battle through. It’s also about being counteractive, especially in cities full of people or small towns. Perhaps it will only be a phase and it will get better, but you have to battle through in order to find out.

And, lastly, you will learn to value your own country.

I only started truly valuing the good aspects of Spain when I moved to England to start my degree. Things like the warmer approach of people in everyday life, the food I can find in the supermarket or the amount of daylight and sun we get throughout the year in comparison to the United Kingdom. Here in Italy I have learnt to value British education even further; oral exams seem like such an inefficient way to go about examinations when a two hour exam would save us all the hassle and long hours of wait for our turn. A lot of my British friends have told me innumerable times how they now appreciate the UK in ways they didn’t before: politeness, the punctuality of transport and efficiency of bureaucracy, just to name a bunch. You never know what you have until you lose it, right?

Thank-you again!

Thank-you again!

All in all, the Year Abroad is an opportunity to grow and have fun before the stress of final year and I hope to have captured that in my blog posts. Hopefully you will also fall in love with the countries that host you and perhaps you will be back after you graduate.

Year Abroad, you have been a great eye and mind-opening experience, you have taught me many things about life and myself and have pushed my boundaries, you’ve been a blast and I am proud to know I’ve made the most of it. Hope all of those embarking on their own adventure do too.

Peace out.

Zoe

 

Year Abroad VII – tips on travelling around Italy

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

 

Siena, Italy                                                                                        May, 2017

Ciao! When I decided to do an Erasmus study exchange in Italy as the second half of my Year Abroad, one thing was clear: I wanted to travel as much as I could. In a country like Italy in which every region is so different from the neighbouring one, it is amazing to be able to go and explore new areas, as there is such diversity. But, how to do this on a student budget? Here are my tips for travelling around.

Choose the right time

First of all, the ideal Erasmus situation is having a timetable in which you have a long weekend. That is, you have either Mondays or Fridays free and so end up with a three-day-long weekend. This would give you more time to travel, but is not always possible. In my case, I don’t have a long weekend, but I can catch up on my Friday lessons easily so I can miss a Friday once in a while… Try to find the timetables for each module when choosing your units, but don’t fret if you can’t do a long weekend – you will find the time to travel anyway!

In addition to that, the time of the year also affects the prices of the tickets. I’ve been in Italy since the end of January and back when it was still winter it used to rain a lot, which is not ideal when you plan on walking around new cities. I’d say the best time to travel is probably late-March to early May: the weather is a lot nicer but the ‘tourist’ season isn’t full-blown yet. Now, you will always find tourists in Italy, no matter the time of the year as it is non-seasonal tourism, but in order to avoid the masses and extortionate prices definitely avoid travelling in late Spring-Summer.

Travelling during the official holidays can also be tricky. First, because obviously everybody travels then so there is a ridiculous rise in prices during that period, but also because it can be hard to nail down the actual dates. In Siena’s case, our Easter holidays were actually only four days long and were followed by a few school days before a pause in the lessons during the April appello or exam period. In theory, the lessons would be on during those days in between, but in reality, a lot of the teachers cancelled their classes and so we actually had around a week and a half of holidays if you were not planning on sitting any exams in that appello period. I’d suggest trying to speak to local students in years 2 or above, as they have more experience of the system, so you have a clear idea of the dates and can book your holidays in advance and save money (whether it be travelling around Italy or going back home).

Transport

There are many ways to travel around Italy, but choosing the right one will depend on the distance you are trying to cover and the time you have available.

For example, if I wanted to visit the Tuscan towns around Siena, the ideal thing would be to have a car. Car Rental companies are incredibly expensive for rookie drivers, so unless you are a big group in which all chip in or you know a local person with a car, this is an option available but hard to realize. You can also travel by bus, which is very cheap, but at least in this part of Italy the public transport connections are poorly structured, with journeys taking a couple of hours to cover only a few kilometres and very limited timetables.

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If you are planning on visiting places in nearby regions, try the coaches or pullman services which are very popular. They are generally cheaper than trains and sometimes even take less time! I’ve been using FlixBus quite a lot, which covers a huge range of different cities. From Siena, I’ve been able to go to Bologna and Perugia using FlixBus and spending around 20 euros both ways. Another coach service that seems to be popular here is Baltour, but I haven’t used that one yet. It’s just a matter of looking into routes and prices! And, of course, booking in advance!

Another option is to use Blablacar. I personally can’t review this service as I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard good things about it. However, use your common sense – it might not the best option if you are travelling on your own, as it involves a car share with strangers.

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A pricier option is taking the train. However, high speed trains are worth it if you are planning to go somewhere that is far away – they are quicker than coaches. Trenitalia works quite well in my opinion, but delays and trains being cancelled is not something unheard of, so beware if you are going somewhere that requires a couple of changes along the way. Another alternative is to fly to your destination. If you are in Siena you will know that your closest airports are in Florence or Pisa though, requiring you to take the train or bus in order to reach it anyway. So, unless you actually have a few days to spare, I wouldn’t choose to go anywhere too far away – it is worth staying somewhere nearer and having more time to explore!

Accommodation

In terms of finding where to stay, hotels are clearly an option but not the most budget-friendly. If you are travelling in a small group, look into youth hostels – they can be a fun experience if you are not too fussed about sharing rooms with strangers and you can meet all sorts of people.

However, my favourite option is Airbnb. I’ve used this platform a few times now and I find it the most convenient for me as it gives me the option of finding a private room within a flat – sort of like a hotel – but cheaper. I always look for an Airbnb with access to a kitchen, so I can have breakfast before heading out or cook dinner and save a few euros. If you’ve never tried Airbnb, it’s definitely worth a shot! All the experiences I’ve had so far have been great and you can find real gems out there.

This particular Airbnb in Bologna had an amazing library!

This particular Airbnb in Bologna had an amazing library!

Of course, if you know someone in the area, they might be able to host you for a few nights too – that would be the ideal situation as you would also know a local to suggest things to do!

Travel companions

In my opinion, the ideal group would either be a couple (2 people) or a larger group of 4. Of course, the amount of people travelling will not only influence your options for travel and accommodation, but will also make it harder or easier to decide what you will be doing each day. I wouldn’t try to put together a group with more than five members because, unless you are in the same mind-set and financial situation, it will probably be hard to get organized and make decisions on what to do, where to eat… My travel buddy in Italy is Megan, a course mate from Bath who is also doing her exchange here. You will probably end up travelling with somebody foreign, because not a lot of Italians seem to have the time or interest in travelling as much as you plan to over your Year Abroad, which is understandable. We make a good team because we both have similar interests and expectations about travelling in Italy. Also, she is the foodie who does the research on local food to try and where to go, whilst I do the cultural research on sightseeing itineraries and museums – great combo!

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To sum it up, think about whom you want to travel with and the pros and cons of your group size. Of course, solo travelling is also an option and, by all means, I would encourage everybody to travel on their own at least once in their life, but use your common sense and be safe about it.

Extra tips

A couple of extra trips I have about travelling around Italy:

·         Write a bucket-list. Usually it will not be a very realistic bucket list (at least mine isn’t), as you will probably jot down way too many places for the amount of time you really have. However, it will give you an idea of where you want to go, if you can join different destinations that are close together (for instance, I went to Bologna for a weekend and spent one of the days in Parma) and ticking off places is always satisfying!

·         State Museums or Musei Statali are generally free-of-charge on the first Sunday of each month, so make the most of it. For instance, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is free, but the queue is massive so set aside some time!

·         Always ask for student discounts – use your Italian badge or student ID to get discounts at most museums. I’ve found that, in general, there are fewer discounts than in the UK, but it’s always worth a shot!

·         Do your research – look online before your trip and make a list of places you want to visit or recommendations for places to eat. There are so many blogs online written by locals that can give you a great insight into the place you’ll be visiting. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to ask your hosts or if you know anybody from the area (which is likely, since at University you will encounter so many studenti fuorisede) on their personal suggestions! It’s the students who know where to get the best apericena in town!

·         Make a rough plan of what you will be doing each day, particularly if you are only going away for the weekend. This way you will use your time efficiently and make the most of your stay.

·         Finally, and in contrast with the previous point, don’t be afraid to improvise! The best stories usually begin with a change of plans!

Look out for local food - the panpepato in Pisa is so yummy!

Look out for local food - the panpepato in Pisa is so yummy!

Hope you’ve found this post useful. Travelling is one of the best opportunities the Year Abroad offers you, so try to make the most of it! Happy exploring!

Alla prossima!

Zoe

 

 

Year Abroad VI – culture shock and different ways of life

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies, Uncategorized

Siena, Italy                                                                  April, 2017

Salve! I’m back with a new post, this time about culture shock, which is a term many of you who have lived abroad or are soon going to have definitely encountered. Here’s a little break-down of what culture shock is, how to recognize it and deal with it, and how I have personally experienced it.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (1), culture shock is “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation”. Basically, when you move abroad it takes some time to feel comfortable in the new country, and this period of adaptation is when you generally feel the culture shock. Everybody experiences it different as it depends on where you are from, where you are going, previous experience of living abroad, preparation before moving… Some people don’t really go through culture shock, or suffer it later on (it can hit at any point, even well into your time abroad), some are very vulnerable to it – everybody is different.

cultural_shock

 

General consensus is that culture shock has three to five different phases:

·         Honeymoon Phase: you’ve just arrived in the new place and everything is different and exciting, new food, new people, new places – you’re loving life!

·         Post-Honeymoon Phase: you start to notice the little (and not-so-little) differences between your culture and the new one, and you’re not too keen on them. Maybe you dislike how people act in a certain situation or you are missing your mum’s food, so you start feeling upset and unhappy.

·         Negotiation Phase: probably the most important as it is the turning point, you decide to give into the negativity and unhappiness or to adapt and make the most of the experience. Hopefully the latter.

·         ‘Everything will be fine’ Phase: you finally feel more comfortable in the new culture, enjoying the differences. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt all of the different traits, but you can recognize them and act accordingly. You no longer feel unhappy or upset and you might even decide to immerse yourself completely in the new way of life and actually end up loving it.

·         Reverse Culture Shock Phase: you can actually go through the whole process of culture shock again once you return home, particularly after a long period of time. Just pointing that out, because it’s a possibility even though it might sound crazy!

Culture Shock final. jpg

 

How to deal with culture shock

The best way of dealing with culture shock is to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the new country in preparation for it – before you go and after arriving. This can range from knowing how the political system works or how to go to the GP, to smaller things like knowing if you can drink tap water.

Other things you can do are to be open-minded and eager to learn; I’ve found that most locals are happy to explain how and why things are done a certain way in their country, so don’t be afraid to ask questions (speaking the local language helps a tonne – and this is relevant even if you have all your courses in English or aren’t necessarily a language student!). Also, try to be as involved in the community as possible, don’t lock yourself in your room because this will encourage homesickness and limit your opportunities of meeting new people and making friends who will help you settle in. Finally, it’s ok to bring things that remind you of home and will comfort you when you are feeling down, as well as keeping in contact with your family and friends back home – the point is getting over culture shock, not completely separating from your previous life-style!

My experience

Here’s a little background knowledge about me. I’m Spanish, I grew up and spent all of my childhood and teenage years in the Canary Islands (save for one year back when I was 7, when I lived in Portsmouth with my family). So the most distinguishable experience of culture shock that I can fully remember was moving to Bath in 2014 to start my degree in Modern Languages. Yes, I’d lived in the UK before (even though I couldn’t remember a lot of it), so I already had a fairly precise idea of what living in the UK is like: the weather, the way people act, the different food, the different language,… but I still had to deal with culture shock. As much a fan of English life-style as I may be. It was indeed a drastic change: first time I was living on my own, in a new country, with a new language, where I didn’t really know anybody. Culture shock hit me a little after Freshers’, when I was still settling into the routine and figuring out the new place. I remember one of the most clear examples of culture shock for me was the way young British people approach drinking – I was definitely not prepared for drinking games or binge drinking. The drinking culture I had experienced in Spain was different and it took me a while to understand (still trying, actually), this cultural difference. I had a positive attitude and was adamant on making the most of the opportunity of studying abroad, even though dealing with culture shock and homesickness was pretty hard at times, but following the advice mentioned earlier helped me cope. Eventually I ended up feeling at ease in England and now I love both my homeland in Tenerife and studying in Bath, each for their own unique reasons.

This year, as part of my Year Abroad, I’ve had to live in France and Italy. Sounds like a chore but it really hasn’t been. I’ve had (and am having) a blast. Fortunately for me, the information sessions in Bath in preparation for the YA are quite extensive and I already had experienced moving abroad once before. It was just a matter of doing the same thing with the two new countries. So far it has been alright. I was in Fécamp, France, for four months and fortunately for me I was so busy I had little to no time to dwell on culture shock or homesickness. I think the fact that my colleagues were British and I lived in a small town was also helpful as I felt really welcomed and supported. When it comes to Italy, I’ve noticed Spanish and Italian cultures are pretty similar, so I feel quite at home in Siena. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t noticed cultural differences, by any means. Here is a short list of anecdotes.

·         Greetings - it might sound silly but I’ve experienced quite a lot of awkward situations in all of the countries I’ve lived in because the way you greet someone when you see them varies not only from culture to culture but also from person to person. In Tenerife, men shake their hands or hug if they are close, while women will either shake hands with men or give one kiss on the cheek, leaning into the left. In other parts of Spain you give two kisses, one on each cheek, again starting from the left. In Britain there is less physical contact and the hand shake or wave is usually the norm, whereas the bisou is big in France; you give two, one on each cheek starting from the right. In some regions you only give one or you might even give three! The fact that you lean first to the right confused me so much when I first arrived in France, and still towards the end of my placement I would forget to start on the other side which would result in a weird moment avoiding the mouth and changing to the right side – I’d laugh it off but it was quite embarrassing! Same in Italy, usually when you first meet people you shake hands, and later on you give two kisses on the cheek starting on the right. I still find myself caught off guard sometimes – fortunately I’m quite short so I don’t usually have to make the first move.

·         Smoking – smoking is quite popular amongst young people all over Europe, but I was surprised by the fact that every single young (and not so young) person I met in France smoked. Might have been a coincidence as I know of other people with different experiences, but it surprised me nonetheless. I knew cigarettes were popular, but I didn’t expect people to leave the dinner table and go outside in order to fumer une clope!

·         Aperitivo/aperitif- this is a cultural difference I’ve grown to enjoy. In France it is custom to have a glass of some sort of strong alcohol – calvados, Campari or whatever takes your liking – with friends before you sit down for dinner. It is quite a social thing to do and something I was not aware of until I moved to France. In Italy it is also very popular- it is quite usual to go to a bar that does aperitivo, usually starting at 6 or 7pm, with some friends to have a drink (aperospritz and Negroni seem to be the most popular options), usually with access to a food buffet where they serve dishes like pasta, couscous, focaccia,… Aperitivo is a great invention!

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Aperitivo is great!

·         Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning Italian men from the point of view of a foreign girl living in Italy. Of course, not all Italian men are the same and I don’t want to generalize, but it did take me aback how straight-forward and adamant some Italians can be, particularly when going out, so be aware of that.

There are obviously many more cultural differences between these four countries than the ones mentioned above and I’m yet to discover even more but I hope you have found this post helpful. As a language student I love discovering new cultures, but it is fair to say this is not always positive so raising awareness about culture shock is a very important point for those planning to live abroad and if you’re currently going through it, just know you are not alone!

A presto!

Zoe

 

(1)    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture%20shock

Images: https://www.hastac.org/sites/default/files/upload/images/post/cultural_shock.jpg

https://eap.ucsb.edu/sites/default/files/Culture%20Shock%20final.%20jpg.jpg

My own.

 

Year Abroad V – the Erasmus paperwork and Welcome Week

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Siena, Italy                                                           late March, 2017

Ciao! I’m back with a new post and this time it is all about the Erasmus paperwork. If you are going on your Year Abroad, then you will certainly be familiar with the Erasmus process to get that very much awaited grant. However, you will also know how much of a long process it is. Here is a breakdown.

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Living the Erasmus life #ESN

What is Erasmus?

Erasmus+ is a European Union programme which provides opportunities and supports to EU students who want to study or work abroad in Europe for up to one year (2 or 3 months minimum depending on the activity). The EU allocates a certain amount of money to the programme and, as a participant, you may be eligible to receive an Erasmus grant – quantity of which changes depending on where you are doing your placement, for how long, what sort of activity you will be doing, and internal matters from the University and EU itself (every year the amounts tend to vary, which is why you are asked not to rely on your Erasmus grant as a part of your Year Abroad budgeting!).

Follow this link for more information about the programme: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/node_en

One of the most important requirements, aside from being a registered student at University, is to complete all the paperwork within the set deadlines.

The Erasmus Paperwork

Probably the most tedious part of your Year Abroad. During the information sessions held by the University pre-Year Abroad we were clearly explained all about the Erasmus grant and paperwork. I must say, the Erasmus team at Bath are super-efficient and helpful with any doubts you might have – do approach them if something is not clear!

On Moodle you will find the basic spread of all the documents you have to go through in order to receive the grants (and probably sign up to modules in your receiving University since the Learning Agreement is pretty much your exchange contract!).

The University of Bath starts with the paperwork quite early on, which is great because then it doesn’t pile up or you are faced with having to deal with it once you are actually away from British soil. My biggest advice is to make a clear list of what documents you have to sign and hand-in but, above all, when they are due. Missing a deadline is the worst thing that can happen. It might sometimes not be the end of the world, but you definitely have to pay attention because missing a deadline can mean not getting the much needed grant…

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The Erasmus paperwork - you can find the chart on Moodle

Erasmus paperwork is different for both Traineeships and Erasmus+ Study. Again, you will find all the information and files on Moodle (your Holy Grail!), but roughly:

1.       Apply for either for a job or a study exchange.

2.       Complete an Online Language Assessment (OLS) – both before going on the exchange and after returning. The assessment is to check your language progress and is made to collect data for the EU. It’s a good way to track how much you’ve improved, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it!

3.       LEARNING AGREEMENT / TRAINEESHIP AGREEMENT – probably the most important documents because they are your ‘contracts’ with your receiving University where you will be doing your study placement or the agreement with your supervisor/company where you will be doing a placement. Keep this thing safe – I have a million copies of the document, all different versions and at different stages of completeness.

4.       Travel Insurance – I’d advice getting the one offered by Bath. It’s fairly cheap and comprehensive.

5.       Certificate of Arrival / Certificate of Departure – document certifying that you made it to sunny Italy or wherever your placement is, and the same after leaving. It seems like quite a trivial document but it’s very important in order to both receive your grant and the correct amount. It’s due two weeks after you arrive/leave, so don’t forget! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement/post-Erasmus blues!

6.       Changes form – during your mobility you might need to change modules, make changes to the agreement or extend or reduce your mobility dates; this is the form to do that. Don’t change the original Agreement!

7.       Finally, the online report /transcript from Host University/After Mobility section – after your placement you have to fill in a report about it. It is a fairly tedious document, but necessary. You will need the collaboration of your supervisor or Host University, so I’d advice leaving this either done and dusted or ready to be before you leave.

When it comes to receiving the grant itself, Bath have split the payment in two instalments, as an incentive for you to finish the paperwork. Believe me, you definitely need the incentive.

My experience

FRANCE

If you’ve read the rest of my posts, you will know I worked at a local language school in Normandy called The English Centre des Hautes-Falaises. Fortunately for me, I had access to a printer so I could print and scan the paperwork, and my supervisor was very efficient when it came to signing the paperwork and getting it sorted. I was lucky in my case, because I know of other students who have had to actually pester their supervisors to fill in the papers, particularly after the placement, so make sure you get it done asap!

ITALY

Now, studying in Italy is a whole different story. In Siena’s case, the Welcome Office deals with the arrival and departure certificates along with the transcript of records. The Ufficio Didattica deals with the actual Learning Agreement and any changes you might make, as well as signing you up to the modules you choose. And then there’s the Erasmus Coordinator. To be fair, after the induction it is fairly clear what steps you have to follow, however the nightmare arrives when your Coordinator is not where he or she should be according to their Office Hours… I had my LA signed back in February to avoid having to deal with it later on, as the deadline to hand it in at the office in Siena was the last day of March. I decided to wait until I made sure my modules didn’t clash before going to the office and, just as I did it, I was told I had to get the changes form signed. Yes, I was forced to change modules because we had to choose the options in Bath back in April when the 2016/2017 timetables were not yet available. Yes, I had to chase down the Coordinator. I went to his office a couple times as well as sent him emails. It felt like such a waste of time but, to be honest, it only made me appreciate the efficiency at Bath even more!

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GENERAL ADVICE

·         Keep on top of it! Make sure you keep track of the documents you have to hand in, when they are due and have copies of them!

·         You need to hand-sign the Erasmus paperwork, which just makes it so much more complicated… This means you have to be able to print the forms, sign them, scan them, and send them back to the respective institution. Having a printer is ideal. I personally did not have one in either of my placements which made it slightly harder. I had access to the company printer during my placement in France, which was great. However, in Italy students generally don’t have/use printers. In this case, the copisterie or print shops will be your best friends. Bring a pendrive and shop around; expect to be spending a couple euros to get the whole paperwork process finished… Also, you can have scanning apps on your phone which turn photos into pdf documents and will save you money (life hack right there).

·         Make sure you know who has to sign what. Find out your Erasmus Coordinator’s Office Hours and contact details as soon as possible – you might have trouble finding the physical person like I did!

Studying in Italy: the ESN and Welcome Week

THE ESN

ESN Italia or Erasmus Student Network is an association of Italian university students who offer their help to foreign students and help them integrate into their Erasmus University. They are like the Erasmus club at a national, regional and local level and are in charge of organising different events – from formal inductions, guided tours and trips to fun events throughout the semester. As far as I’m aware, all of the Italian Universities that Bath has exchanges with have an ESN group.

The ESN group in Siena is amazing. All the volunteers are really friendly and helpful, which is great when you’ve just arrived. They also make sure to offer a variety of different events to take part in, great for meeting other Erasmus people and also some Italians! Definitely look for the ESN group when you arrive at your Italian university!

If you want to find out more, follow this link: http://www.esnitalia.org/it

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WELCOME WEEK

Welcome Week for the second semester in Siena took place during the last days of February/first few days of March. During that week you had to be here so make sure you check your dates when booking your flights!

During Welcome Week we had the formal induction to the Università degli Studi di Siena in which we were given general information about the city and University, such as where the buildings are, the sports facilities, the banking system,… Each faculty also had their own specific induction (mine is Scienze Sociale, Politiche e Cognitive, even though I don’t actually follow any modules within that department) – make sure you find out when yours is because it will be when they give you all the information you need about Erasmus paperwork, choosing modules and actually visiting the building where your lessons will take place.

Alongside the ‘official’ events, the ESN committee organized a tonne of different fun events so that Erasmus students could meet each other. On Monday there was Happy Hour which was great, then there were also a few club nights as well as beer competition, wine tasting, and guided tours of the city and even an outing to Chianti. There was an event for everybody. It was a little bit like Freshers’ Week but Italian style – everything a tad more disorganized and late! I really enjoyed it, so make sure you attend the events! The last night – la Festa al Rettorato – was a proper Erasmus student experience to start the exchange with a bang!

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I hope you found this post useful. Even though the Erasmus paperwork is quite tedious, the numerous opportunities and perks Erasmus+ gives you outnumber the drawbacks. As I said, make sure you keep track of dates but, above all, HAVE A GREAT YEAR ABROAD!

Alla prossima!

Zoe

 

 

Year Abroad IV – moving to Siena, Italy

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📥  2016-17, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Siena, Italy                                                    March, 2017

Buongiorno a tutti! Long time, no see. I have now started the second part of my Year Abroad – my study exchange in Siena, Italy.

Why Siena?

I decided I wanted to do a study exchange rather than a work placement in Italy because I wanted to try out both options. I felt quite confident with my Italian before coming to Italy but I thought spending the spring and summer months as a student in this beautiful country would be the dream – good weather, amazing food and a lot of young people.

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The University of Bath has study partnerships with five different Italian universities: Naples, Rome, Trento, Parma and Siena. When applying for a place, we had to shortlist the destinations to three, so I took it to the Internet and final years’ experience (pro tip – you should totally ask year abroad returners about their experiences, they will be happy to help you out retelling their [hopefully] amazing time abroad from a student’s point of view!) to narrow the list down to three. First of all, I was looking at the size of the destination. I did not want to go to Rome because, as a capital city, I deemed it too large and probably quite expensive for only six months. Remember, I come from a tiny island, Tenerife, and Bath isn’t what you’d describe as a big city either… Naples was a similar case. It seems to be renowned for not being the safest city in Italy which threw me off. In contrast, the location and fact that it is the only coastal place in the list was very appealing, but the cons outnumbered the pros. Then I looked at connections. Trento was soon discarded because I could not even find how to easily arrive there. I’ve been told it’s beautiful and picturesque, but I’m planning on travelling around the country so having good travel connections was very important. And then I was left with two options: Siena or Parma. Both cities quite student-y and of similar size; connections seemed to be equal too, so my choice came down to the region they were in. Eventually I went for Siena because of its history: a very ‘Italian’ looking city with lots of narrow alleys and a wall surrounding the historic centre.

Siena is a medieval town, Florence’s life-long enemy and UNESCO Wold Heritage Site just like Bath (cannot stay away from beautiful cities apparently), in the Italian region of Tuscany. It’s mostly famous for Il Palio, a horse race between the contradas or neighbourhoods of the Old City, held twice a year in the Piazza del Campo. There are two different Universities and it is a very touristy city with masses of tourists arriving each day (even now in the winter), which reminds me greatly of Bath. Inside the city walls, all the buildings have that typical Tuscan look: tall windows and red bricks, along with the laundry hanging to dry under the window sills. I must say I have fallen in love with this (extremely hilly) place and I’m quite happy with my choice.

I'm in love with the style of the houses!

I'm in love with the style of the houses!

My arrival & finding accommodation

I moved to Italy late January, since I was yet to find somewhere to live and had signed up for an intensive Italian course in February to pick up my Italian again, and will stay here until July. The trip to get to Siena was long but went fine. I was quite worried I’d lose my suitcase during the short layover at the airport in Madrid, but I was lucky and my luggage got here just fine. It was a long journey - two flights and a couple of buses and taxi ride-, but I feel like I’ve mastered travelling by now. I had to fly from Tenerife to Madrid and from there to Florence. To arrive in Siena from Florence there are two options: a bus or a train journey with change in Empoli, so I went for the easier bus option – make sure you get the one along the autostrada or highway, shorter and less curvy!

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I’d booked an Airbnb near the Duomo for the first two weeks while I looked for a flat; perfect location a minute from the Piazza and very comfortable since I had the apartment basically all to myself! I would recommend doing this when moving to a new place: find an Airbnb or hotel for a week at least while you look for long-term accommodation once you’ve arrived. Things look so much different in person and this way you’ll avoid scams (I was sadly victim of one before arriving, so please don’t make the same mistake and make sure you look at the place in person before paying anything). I must say, it was hard to find a flat. Since I’d arrived so early the first semester Erasmus students were still around with exams, so their places were not available yet. In addition, a lot of landlords do not seem to like Erasmus students because of the short-term contracts, which limited the options. It has been even worse for male students, as most adds I saw were for female student and camera doppia which means a room-share. I was looking for a central apartment where I could have a single room and I had been doing research from home, sending tonnes of messages to book viewings with little luck. I used webs like uniaffiti, easystanza and housinganywhere. Eventually I managed to get a viewing that was really promising and that ended up being my actual flat. I live in the centre, in the Contrada del Drago, and I couldn’t be happier! Siena is quite small so you can walk everywhere. I’d recommend looking for a place within the walls, because everything happens inside the historical centre, but if you end up outside it’s not much of a big deal either. Also, make sure you actively look for a place; not only messaging online but talking to everybody you meet in the street as I know of people who got lucky because they met someone who knew of an available room. And, above all, don’t give up!

Taking an intensive language course

Concerning the language course I took, I have mixed feelings. Before arriving here we were offered a mostly subsidised Italian language course (75euro) by the Universtà degli Studi: either intensive in February or ordinary between March and April. I went for the February one since I had the time and it would allow me to sort out accommodation before the start of the semester in March.

If you’re going on a study exchange, I’d recommend doing a language course if available just to make sure you’ll be able to follow the lectures. While I was in France I barely got to speak any Italian so my skills had become rusty from being out of use since June. I do think doing the course has eased me back into speaking Italian confidently and has definitely tuned my ear.

However, I found the quality of the course at the Università degli Stranieri (the course is in the other University; my exchange is with the Università degli Studi), to be quite disappointing. We had to do a language level placement test at the start, after which I was placed in C1 level. I was accurately placed since the OLS test results also classed me as C1. However, I don’t know if it was because of the higher level or the timing, the group I was assigned was a mix of international students out of which I was the only Erasmus, contrary to first semester students’ experience. Also, I believe we (the other Bath students and I) were put into ordinary lessons not the intensive course we’d signed up to. Anyhow, we had four and a half hours of Italian lessons a day for three weeks. In my class we did a lot of reading and debating, but not much grammar. I found some of the topics interesting, such as language and dialects in Italy or the economy. However, I do not feel like it was worth the money or the time overall. A week would’ve been enough for me. Everybody was really nice and I met quite a few people in the course, which was great, but if I were to condense the new things I learnt over the course, they’d come up to an hour and a half, maybe two hours-worth of lessons… I did the end test a couple of days ago and all it involved was writing a ‘for and against’ essay (250 words minimum) about social networks and we were given two hours and a half and a dictionary. Talk about challenging… Either this was really easy, or Bath is really demanding.

Overall, it will depend on who offers the language course. Here in Siena it could definitely improve. For lower levels like A2 or B1 I imagine it will be a lot more useful since you’ll be taught actual grammar along cultural topics. For higher levels like me, the experience might vary. I do nonetheless recommend searching for a short course before starting, particularly if you haven’t been able to practice the language during your other half of Year Abroad.

Day trip to Florence.

Day trip to Florence.

Despite the unsatisfactory experience of the course, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Siena thus far. The place is smaller than I anticipated, but now that the lectures have started life has got busier.  I’ve been using my time to run errands and sort out most of the paperwork, as well as exploring the city and surrounding area. I feel like I’ve got a grasp on the situation by now thanks to that extra time. Since I had to change modules and send Erasmus paperwork, I’m glad I arrived earlier and have had plenty of time to sort it out before getting caught up in lectures and module work. I must say the Italian system is nothing like the English one. We’ve had to chase down quite a few people to get the papers signed – it has been quite an adventure – and I expect this is the usual process in this country. My piece of advice? Be patient but persistent, and don’t stress out.

I will be writing another blog entry on the Erasmus paperwork and Welcome Week in Siena because the whole process definitely deserves one on its own, so keep your eyes peeled!

Ci vediamo presto!

Zoe

Day trip to San Gimignano.

Day trip to San Gimignano.

 

What living in Italy has taught me…apart from Italian.

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📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

 

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1). What culture actually means and actually how British I am.

I always thought that I felt pretty Italian, I mean my Dad is from Rome and my mum speaks it fluently. I grew up on Italian cuisine, always  being excited to go and stay at my dad’s because I knew we would be eating a feast! (even if it wouldn’t be ready until like 9pm) I’ve also been to visit my Nonna in Rome a few times over the years so it’s not like I haven’t experienced the Italian culture before. But actually living here is a very different matter. Day in day out of pasta and Italians rapid chatter and really really unreliable transport is just a little bit too much after a while, so I found myself longing for the rolling green countryside of the UK and our silly, but nice over-politeness.

I found myself missing things that I never even realised were such an important part of my life in England. Now that I’m writing them down, it sounds kind of silly, but I really missed being able to have a proper cup of tea, just whacking the kettle on (not having to boil the water in a pan for aaaages). I even started taking my own milk and teabags into work! #desperatetimesdesperatemeasures.

And although I love love love Italian food, I mean In England you would find me with a ciabatta stuffed with prosciutto and rocket rather than a ham sandwhich, I began to miss British food. Potatoes, pies, roast dinners, burgers and even Nandos (the honour of my first meal of my first time back in England was actually given to Nandos, please don’t judge).

But this is just food and drink! You might say, but surprisingly it does make a big difference!

However, I also began to realize something else… The way Italians behave and think is completely different.

Obviously I can’t speak for 100 percent of the population, as with anything,  but for the majority, that stereotype  of families being closer is true.  It’s also true that Italians stay with their parents until much later- one of my colleagues only moved out last year when she got married and she’s 30!

Overall I’ve found the culture to be much more traditional, and perhaps in a way a bit more restrictive, for woman especially.  I’ve found that I don’t really agree with a lot of things and I find it quite suffocating at times (e.g when Italians are shocked when I travel around at night by myself, night as in 10pm). What can I say, I like my independence! But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong and I respect the differences, however it’s clearly shown me that my values are definitely British! And actually how deep “culture” actually goes.

2). To be prepared for anything!

Honestly I feel like anything could happen in Italy. Even when you’ve planned it down to a T, the unexpected will just completely throw your perfect plan out of the window. It’s advisable to have a plan B, and C and maybe even D…just in case. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to take a train or bus and there’s been a strike, always when I need to get somewhere important too like oh I don’t know the airport! Also expect trains to be canceled without reason or notice and nice restaurants you’ve taken the time to research to be closed! Basically you just need to be able to think on your feet, which I can certainly do now!

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3). To Keep Calm and Carry On.

This is linked to the previous one. Seeing aso many things have gone wrong, it makes sense that after a while you get used to it. So now instead of going into panic mode, I just remember that it’s not something I can control and it’s definitely not my fault so what’s the point of stressing? So maybe I’ll be a little bit late, but hey it’s Italy so it’s allowed (I think the public transport situation might have something to do with it!).

4). To go outside my comfort zone

I am naturally a quiet person, especially with people I don’t know so going off to meet new people isn’t exactly one of my favorite things to do, let alone going to meet a whole bunch of them by myself. But I did it because I had to. Living in a small town outside of Milan, it wasn’t always easy to meet people, especially because I had chosen to work full time in an office.  So I really had to make an extra effort and just ignore the fact that it was a little bit scary. I did all the things I could think of like going to an English conversation meet up and meeting people from a website called Conversation Exchange (yeah meeting people off the internet, pretty scary!). But you know, it was worth it because I have made some great friends, that I know I will keep in contact with.

And of course all this is on top of improving my Italian, which I can tell (if I do say so myself) has got a whole lot better. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent, I feel like I probably need another year  or two for that, but I know  a heap of vocab, like the ones that you’d  just never learn but take for granted in English like “My bike has a flat tyre”. I don’t have to think so much when I speak and I feel like I can speak more natural Italian, the kind of phrases that you can only pick up from living in a country.

Most of all though, I have just got so much more confident in speaking Italian. I realized that making mistakes wasn’t such a big deal, the most important thing is to communicate!

So really in 7 months I have learnt a lot! Hopefully the next 4/5 months in Vienna will be the same!

 

The end of Year Abroad part 1.

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📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

This time next week will be my last day at work.

I can’t believe I just said that.

I mean, I knew it was always going to come to this, that at some point I would have to say goodbye to everyone, pack up all my things (things that might not fit in one suitcase anymore) and leave the country I have called home for 7 months...

But it just feels weird. I've gotten so used to living and working here I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

It will be weird not cycling to work every day, braving the cold and the rain and the crazy Italian drivers.

It will be weird not arriving at the office and having a morning espresso with my colleagues.

It will be weird not speaking Italian anymore! (I hope I don’t forget it!)

It will also be kind of weird moving to a whole new city and starting again (again). But, at least this time around I feel a lot more prepared and I know what to expect. Besides, if I can live in Italy, and deal with all the unexpected things that happen (trust me there are a lot) I can definitely live in Vienna right?

Because sometimes things have been quite hard here, from feeling lonely to issues with transport (seems to be a strike every month and always when I need to get somewhere i.e the airport).

It has also been quite hard living in the tiny town where I live, because it's tricky to get around and if I want to go out in Milan, I always have to stay at a friend’s because there is no transport late at night. But they always say, you have to make the most of it and I think I have really tried to do that.

Ok so maybe I have moaned a bit along the way, especially when I have found myself running in panic for the last train/bus but I don’t think you can feel guilty for letting out your frustrations once in a while…it’s only human!

It’s also been hard being away from family and friends and especially my boyfriend. And I found myself missing England waaay more than I expected. Really it was just the little things, like the rolling green countryside or cadbury’s hot chocolate (I really hate Italian hot chocolate it’s all thick and gloopy) but I think they really make a difference, something which I only noticed when I was gone!

So I really indulged in these things when I went home for Christmas. It was just nice being back because I had some time to relax too as usually I work 40 hours a week, that’s a 9 to 6 day FYI. So I spent two wonderful weeks lazing around, eating my weight in chocolate and all the British food I could (mainly involving burgers, curry and nandos).

I was enjoying being back so much that I almost didn’t want to come back to Italy.

Italy may be il bel paese, the home of la dolce vita and possibly the best cuisine in the world (just my bias opinion guys sorry) but nothing really compares with home.

But I was motivated by the fact I only had one month left after I returned before I left for Vienna. One month to do all the things I hadn’t yet done! And to eat all the Pizza and Gelato I could before it was no longer so easy to come by. Naturally I have a bucket list which includes seeing the cenacolo (the last supper by the one and only Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan) and visiting Bologna and Firenze, which I am ticking off in one go this weekend!

As I’m reading this, it kind of makes it seem that I don’t like Italy, which is totally not true, it’s just that it’s not as easy to live here as sun-filled holidays would make you believe and the full time working life is tough!

Going from being a student with an abundance of free hours a day (of course after going to lectures and studying ahem) to working 9 to 6 every day in the week, is quite hard to get your head around at first and kind of exhausting! You also have to realize that no you can’t go out on a Monday night, or leave the house in a mess (not that my Uni house was that messy anyway but I ended up living with some middle aged Italian women here who were slight clean freaks).

So I have at times really missed being a student, and living with other students and really just the whole student community. There’s so much going on at University and it’s so easy to find, but when you’re a working woman (or man) you really have to seek out your own leisure activities, and indeed friends, especially when you arrive in Italy in summer when ALL activities of any kind have stopped, especially August- the whole country stops! But slowly I began to meet people and some people through other people. It was hard but I got there!

So despite sometimes wondering why on earth I had chosen this path for my year abroad and chosen something that to me would seem a bit easier, when I look back at all the things I have gained from my placement such as being able to code in HTML and translating more accurately to the “softer” skills like using my initiative more, I know that for me, someone without any professional work experience and a naturally shy quiet person, that it was the best decision I could have made.

Besides, I can use all the difficult and frustrating things I’ve experienced whilst living here, such as shops closing at lunch time and not being able to buy a ticket on the bus, as answers to those interview questions “tell me about a time you had to overcome a problem”.

Ha! Got that one sorted!

So you see, even the bad things have a positive side.

And that I have come to the conclusion is what the year abroad is about. It’s not going to be some perfect, instagrammed picture but full of ups and downs that will make you better prepared to deal with the stuff life throws at you.

Even if that stuff happens to be in a different language.

 

Travelling (a bit)

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📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

It goes without saying that a Placement is a great opportunity. You will gain valuable experience and skills that will help prepare you for -as everyone keeps going on about- the highly competitive "real" world.

You might even realise what is you want to do after you graduate! (not everyone has their minds made up, me being one of them).

But doing a placement in a different country? That's a whole other level. As well as learning new skills and getting used to full time work (which can be tough at times), you also get to experience another culture (which can be surprisingly different to your own), sample the local delicacies i.e eat all the Gelato you can and even improve (or learn) another language.

And all this while you’re gaining real life work experience.

Fantastic!

But the best thing I think is getting to travel.
Never before have you been so close to so many destinations.
You can just hop on a train for an hour (or two) and tadaa you’re in Venice, or Verona or Lake Garda. No flights to juggle, suitcases to pack or leaving the house at ridiculous times in the morning.
Of course, you can’t go swanning off somewhere every weekend because well there’s bills to pay and food to buy  but planning in advance and finding deals makes a few trips here and there possible.  Much more possible than if you were in England anyway.

At first , you might come across the problem of but who can I go with, depending on your circumstances (when I arrived in Italy I didn’t know anyone. Absolutely zero friends - thankfully that improved).  So I made the most of people coming to visit me and dragged them along to all the places I wanted to visit.

Of course, I haven’t ticked everything off my list and I probably never will because it keeps getting longer but here are a few of the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit and if you’re ever in Italy you should definitely check them out!

Desenzano on Lake Garda and Sirmione.

Lake Garda is incredible. It’s just so beautiful, the taking-my-breath-away kind of beautiful.  A great expanse of stark blue water it stretches for miles, never seeming to end giving you the feeling that you’re by the sea rather than a lake.

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The little town of Desenzano where I went (because there are a few little towns dotted around the lake) is full of cobbled streets and those pretty pastel houses with the shutters. It’s small but lovely with a little harbor in the main Piazza where expensive little boats bob up and down on turquoise water. You could be fooled into thinking you are in the South of France (which is fine by me).

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The real treat though, is just across from Desenzano on the tiny island of Sirmione. It’s really easy to get to, just a half an hour ferry ride across to this little spot of paradise.

 

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Suddenly we were transported into what felt like the middle of the meditteranean, not rainy northern Italy.

Venice

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I had always wanted to go (well don’t we all?) and now that I’m living just outside Milan, it’s only a couple of hours away on the train. Using a two-for-one deal on the train (deals again.yay!) me and my boyfriend took a day trip to the floating city. Unfortunately it rained the entire morning and some of the afternoon too, which kind of dampened the mood a bit (no pun intended honest). But after the sun came out it was very enjoyable (warning, Venice is not the kind of place you can enjoy in the rain).

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Bergamo

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Ok, so maybe this one you won’t have heard of, but it’s definitely up there with the rest. The town is made up of two parts: Citta bassa and Citta alta. The one you want to go to is the latter.

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It’s a medieval town built high above the modern city with stunning views over the whole of Bergamo. You can even see the mountains. It’s tiny at the top but like the majority of towns in Italy full of beautiful architecture and winding cobbled streets. Perfect for a lazy afternoon of wandering, eating (make sure you try Polenta, the area’s typical dish, very yummy but very filling!) and sipping sophisticatedly  from a glass of wine.

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Despite how it looks, Polenta is actually very yummy!

Lecco

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Another beautiful lake-side town, set in the mountains. I’ll admit not as grand as lake Garda but still very pretty nethertheless. I’m making the most of all these lakes and mountains because we just don’t have the same thing in England.

Rome

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Trasteverie in the summer

This one kind of doesn’t count because I’ve been there before as I have relatives there (hence why there's no picture of the colosseum)  - I’m half Italian, dad’s side but I couldn’t come to Italy and not pay everyone a visit could I? To me, this is my real Italian home. I mean, I love Milan it’s a cool place and lots of fun but I’m just not in love with it like Rome.

Verona

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The famous balcony

The city of Romeo and Juliet.

And what a beautiful city for the greatest love story of them all. I could quite happily live here, wandering around, imagining myself as Juliet.

There's even her balcony, which given the story is fictional is totally made up, but you still get swept away with the Romance in the air.

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Love Letters. Who says Romance is dead?!

Without studying languages and doing the year abroad, I never would have had the opportunity to explore so many places. I didn’t do the whole gap year thing and my family rarely goes on holiday (we don't really have the money you see) so for me this is a great opportunity to explore the world a bit. Ok so Italy is only a very small part, of a small continent but it’s a start.

But I’m planning on going to Switzerland too as I’m so close (I can get to the most southern bit within 40 minutes- ok so it’s only chiasso which no-one’s heard of but still!) and have booked train tickets to Zurich because they were so crazily cheap (advantage of being in “mainland” Europe).

Having had a slice of what it’s like to travel (couldn’t have done it without you langauges, thanks!), I want more! I’m definitely going to make the most of all the opportunities to do so this year.

And when I do come back to England I think I’ll go and explore that a little too.

I think we forget sometimes with all this travelling malarkey, that our own country has so much to offer too.

Which is pretty crazy when you think about it.