Good morning! This morning I slept in until 11am! I was super tired because last week I went to the end of the year AFS (intercultura) camp! Because I couldn’t make it to my region’s camp in Turin since I was in Naples, I went to this one in Reggio Emilia. It started on Wednesday when I went to Milan. Luckily one of my host mom’s friends, Nino, was able to drive me to the metro in Milan, where I met Tiantian! I got to stay at her apartment for the night because I had an early train in the morning. She was so nice because she took me to the restaurant Roadhouse to eat barbecue ribs and New York cheesecake! Thanks Tiantian!
Thursday morning was crazy! I woke up at 7:30, and Tiantain and I took the metro to the train station where I took a train to Reggio Emilia. When I arrived at the station, I was told to call the main AFS volunteer to come pick me up. However, she told me that I needed to take a “little train” to the main bigger station. So I walked around trying to find the “little train.” After asking two police men, a fellow who lived in the area, and two bus drivers, I finally found the “little train” which was actually just a normal bus. I got on and sat down and waited to be taken to the station. That’s when tragedy stuck. The bus went past the station! That’s when I realized I had gotten on the wrong bus. Thankfully when I got off at the next stop and asked an old lady where the bus to the station was, she knew the answer. Apparently I had gotten on bus #4 when I should have gotten on bus #5! Oops! Finally after taking the right bus I finally arrived at the big station where the AFS volunteer picked me up. She accompanied me to the even bigger bus with all of the other 70 exchange students. And that’s when the fun started!
I met so many new people on the bus ride it was overwhelming. But I gotta say, I did learn something very important from that 1 1/2 hour bus ride: Exchange students are some of the most amazing, open-minded, friendly, fun, and sweetest people you will ever meet. I’m not going to lie, I made so many new friends this camp I can’t even begin to say how blessed I am. I made friends from all different countries – China, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina, Croatia, Germany, and the list goes on and on. Thank you for everyone who made my time fun this past weekend.
When we arrived to the campsite I felt like I was back home in Arizona at our deserted cabin in the middle of nowhere. The campsite was two log cabin structures on the top of a deserted mountain far far away from any habitation! We all got settled in our rooms. I was placed in the smaller cabin. There were three rooms – two for students and one for volunteers. Each room with four bunk beds. What the craziest part was – there was only 1 bathroom for all 24 of us!!! WHAT IS THIS PLACE??? Luckily the volunteers agreed to use the bathroom next to the kitchen in the other cabin, so that reduced the amount of people. I as well decided to use the other bathroom because it was WAY to long of a wait in the morning to use the one in our cabin!! Another thing, I hadn’t brought my sleeping bag because no one ever told me!! Thankfully my friend Nicole let me use hers because she had blankets to use. To top it off, the food was horrible! Well, maybe that’s going too far, but it just didn’t taste like the real Italian food that I’ve been eating for 9 months. Hmm, now I’m scared to taste Italian food when I get back to the USA because I know it’s not “real” Italian. What if I ruined my love for Italian food when I came here? Oh god WHAT HAVE I DONE!?!?
Every day of the camp was long, but productive. We would wake up, eat breakfast, separate into groups of 15, do group activities, eat lunch, do activities with everyone, separate into groups again, do group activities, have dinner all together, do activities with everyone, and then go to bed. Now you’re probably wondering about the activities. Well, they were activities to prepare us for when we leave Italy on July 10. For example we would talk about our experiences as exchange students, how we overcame fears, how we adjusted into school, our Italian families, Italian culture, and what lessons we can bring back to our home countries when we return. Some of the activities were emotional, like the night we all sat in a circle in the dark with candles in the middle, and we each had to light a candle for every good memory from our exchange, and blow out a candle for every bad memory. Or the other night when we all had to lie on the floor in our sleeping bags and listen to calm piano music while one of the volunteers told us a story pretending to be us, narrating the emotions we will feel when we go to the airport the last day and leave our Italian families. Overall though I think all of the activities were very beneficial.
Than there was one day after lunch where we went on a long walk up the mountain to find “the lake.” No one knew where “the lake” was but we trusted the volunteers to take us there. We were all expecting this walk to be short and sweet, but we were wrong. We got lost twice, were bitten by mosquitos, and had to walk up the mountain over slippery muddy rocks and a long long road that seemed like would never end. It was a journey, but in the end we made it to the lake where we got a reward of cookies and apples. I calculated with my phone that we had walked a total of 6.5 miles with 15,306 steps to the lake and back. I think that’s something to be proud of!!
At the end of the camp on Sunday we all parted our ways at the train station. It was a desolate moment for me because after all of my friends took the same train back together, I was left alone having to take a bus and two trains by myself. What was even more annoying was that my first train was 20 minutes late, and then the second train had a technical problem. I ended up arriving in Verbania 4 hours later after leaving my new friends. And than I was late to my AFS departure dinner with Isabelle, but luckily I arrived just in time for dessert :)
Yes this past week did have it’s ups and it’s downs, but mostly ups! Although the location of the camp was crummy, I still had an AMAZING time! I met some of the most incredible people, I got to hear stories of their own experiences as exchange students, I learned so much about myself and my strengths, I learned how much I’ve grown this past year, and I met so many new people from different countries, some of whom I can call “life long” friends. Grazie per questo campo, è stato un piacere a conoscere tutti voi. È stato veramente una esperienza fantastica e indimenticabile con persone meravigliose. Vi voglio tantissimo bene.