My Exchange Week in Sicily!

This past week was crazy! It was full of so many emotions all mixed together to create one crazy, fun, eventful, inspiring, eye-opening week! I would definitely rate this past week as one of the best weeks I’ve had so far in Italy.

March 12: My journey started on Sunday, when I got to the airport in Milan and met up with Tucker (from Vermont in the US). I remember thinking, thank god another person who speaks english! And looking back I’m glad he was there because it was nice to have company at the airport, and of course it was nice to have a break from speaking Italian all the time. By now I’m speaking Italian on a regular basis to my host family, friends, and everyone who lives here. So when I get a chance to take a break and speak my native language, it feels like a rock has been taken off my back. I feel like one of the hardest parts of exchange is not being able to show your real emotions. I remember in the beginning it was extremely difficult for me to share ideas and feelings because of the language. Now it’s easier, but I still feel more comfortable speaking english. So having Tucker there was definitely a positive thing. After a two hour plane ride to Catania, I met my host family at the airport and they drove me to their house in Enna. My host family was so sweet, I couldn’t have asked for a better Sicilian family! I had a Sicilian mom, dad, and 15 year old sister named Carlotta.

March 13: This day was literally paradise. My Sicilian host family took me to Taormina! It’s a beautiful little town on the east coast of Sicily. The drive was pretty long, but we listened to music with made it seem a little less long. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I got to see the ocean, the amazing town of Taormina, and even the little beach house my host family owns! The town is stupendous, it’s literally what you would see in the movies that are placed in Italy – with the narrow cobblestone streets, the tiny shops on both sides of the street, the random orange trees on the sidewalk, the old churches, and the breathtaking view of the beach and ocean waves.

March 14: Monday was the first day of AFS activities. I woke up bright and early in the morning and went to the city Agira, where I met the other exchange students in my program. There was Tucker from Vermont, Cecilia from Brazil, and Vania from Bolivia. I also got to meet the Volunteers for the local chapter of Enna, Sofia and Andrea. I loved our group because it was a small amount of people and it felt very comfortable. For our first day together we visited a language school where we made presentations about our countries for the Italian students and talked about our experiences we’ve had so far in Italy. I felt proud of myself afterwards because it was my first presentation I’d ever made in Italian :) Then after the school we visited the beautiful castle of Agira and took a whole bunch of pictures! Then Sofia took us to her studio (she works for a news company called SiciliaNewsTv) and we did interviews about our experiences. I’m not sure when she is going to post our interview online, but when she does I can post the link. After that we visited a little bakery where we made a short film advertising the DELICIOUS “cassatella” (a famouse Sicilian pastry). We were each given a short phrase to say in the film, and it was really fun filming because we kept messing up! <http://www.sicilianews.tv/2016/04/22/intercultura-bolivia-vs-usa-vania-e-sienna-a-confronto-intervista-doppia/&gt;

March 15: Tuesday we visited the language school that my Sicilian host sister Carlotta goes to in Enna. For the first three hours the other exchange students and I were separated into different classrooms where we got to meet the Italian students. Then we all gathered in the gymnasium and did the same thing as the day before where we talked about our countries and our experiences here and we played some games with the Italian students. After school I had the evening free, so Carlotta showed me around the old city of Enna and I got to meet her friends. I felt like a real Italian strolling the streets with friends at night. In Phoenix it wouldn’t be safe to go out at night, even with friends. But here it’s different, the city is a lot smaller and there are always people walking around. I had a good time.

March 16: Wednesday we spent the day in Catania! I took a bus from Enna to Catania and met the others there. The first half of the day it was freezing cold and it rained, but thankfully the sun came out after lunch. I don’t know why, but it seems like every time I go on a trip somewhere here in Italy it rains. For example when I went to Ivrea for the Orange Battle, and when I went to Milan for the Chinese New Year, and now in Catania. Maybe the universe wants me to experience a lot of rain while I’m here because of how little rain I get in Arizona haha! Nevertheless, Catania was beautiful, we visited a famous church, a beautiful garden, and I got to taste the famous “arancini” of Sicily. Arancini are stuffed rice balls coated with fried breadcrumbs. They are usually filled with ragù (tomato/meat sauce), mozzarella, and peas. They were so DELICIOUS! After lunch we went to a local university in Catania and played ping pong and pool. Then after taking another bus back to Enna, Carlotta and I watched the second movie of The Hunger Games! It was an amazing day, I remember smiling a lot :)

March 17: On Thursday we visited a cooking school in Enna. This was my favorite school that we visited because it was so unique. I’d never seen a high school for cooking before, so it was really interesting to watch the Italian students learn how to cook. The four of us exchange students got the opportunity to make bread and then shape the dough into whatever we wanted. Then we got to eat our bread which was DELICIOUS! We also ate lunch there and the students practiced serving us. After lunch we visited the castle of Enna as well as the famous Tower of Federico in Enna. We had to climb a whole bunch of steps on the spiral staircase of the tower and we were totally out of breath once we got to the roof. It was worth it though because it had the most incredible view ever!

March 18: On Friday we visited two schools – a school that teaches classics and another language school. It’s kinda cute, every time we visited a school, a whole bunch of students would immediately add us on Facebook and Instagram. I literally gained like 100 friends on Facebook in one week hahaha! For lunch we went to the house of a friend of one of the AFS volunteers and ate “un sacco!” (a lot). I ate so much I got a stomach ache afterwards and could barely walk…I’m not kidding. Luckily I went to Ceclilia’s house afterwards to rest, so I didn’t have to walk too much. Tucker came too, and we all sang songs while Cecilia’s host sister played the piano; she’s amazing!!! In the evening we all went to the city Leonforte for the celebration of San Giuseppe, which is a week long celebration where people put out long tables of food for the less fortunate and homeless. We were able to see the tables and taste some of the food. Most of the night though was spent walking around the town chatting and playing pool in a bar.

March 19: Saturday was my last whole day in Sicily with my new friends and Sicilian host family. It was also “La festa del papà” (Father’s Day)! Luckily I got to sleep in for the first time that week, and then I watched my host mom cook homemade lasagne and homemade tiramisu for lunch. So DELICIOUS! They looked like pretty simple recipes too, so maybe when I get back to the U.S. I can try cooking them! In the afternoon my host family took me shopping at the Sicily outlet mall! I recognized a few of the stores such as Zara and Abercrombie & Fitch, although we didn’t buy anything because everything was way too expensive. For dinner the four of us exchange students, the AFS volunteers, and the host families, all gathered for a goodbye dinner at a pizzeria. It was a sweet and sour moment for me because it celebrated the most memorable, amazing week ever, but it also meant that we would leave Sicily the next day and maybe never see each other again. I know I will see Tucker again at the next AFS camp, but the others I’m not sure. I really hope sometime in the future we can all get together again #SICILYSQUAD4EVER

March 20: Departure day. I had a lot of time before my 15:30 flight, so my host family took me shopping at the Catania shopping mall. I didn’t buy anything because I didn’t have enough space in my bag, but I did see a red shirt that said “Arizona” with Indian feathers around it! We ate lunch at The Old Wild West and I ordered barbecued ribs with fries, and cheesecake for dessert. So DELICIOUS!  My stomach was happy after a good old-fashioned US meal :) After lunch was the sad part of the day when my host family dropped me off at the airport. I gave them each a little American flag carabiner to remember me by. I feel so lucky to have had them as my Sicilian host family for a week, they were so generous and sweet. Thank you so much! At the airport I found Tucker and even Vania for a little bit before her plane took off for Rome. Unfortunately the plane to Milan was 2 hours late, so Tucker and I had to wait a little while. Now I’m safe and sound at home in Pettenasco, where I shall stay for 3 more months until my final departure.

Overall, I would rate this past week a 10/10. I loved every second, and I feel like I gained a lot from this experience. I proved to myself that I can speak in a foreign language to a large group of people more or less with comfort and ease (even if it’s not totally correct). I proved that it is possible to make life-long friends even after knowing them for just a week, and I became more adaptable and open-minded about living in a different culture and trying new things. This was an incredible opportunity. I will cherish it forever.

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