The start of my Italian adventure

By on December 21, 2011

It’s always the small things you miss. Never before have I realized how much a French toast bagel from Dosie Dough means to me.

Being away from home has renewed my appreciation for the adorable Lititz. I love how people always say "hello" when you pass them walking down Main Street. I love Wilbur, and I have yet to find somewhere that makes better chocolate.

I love the Teddy Bear Emporium, where you can always find a smile. It’s the best cure to any case of the blues. I also love Second Friday, when the downtown really comes to life with food and music. It is guaranteed to be a good time.

However, despite how amazing Lititz is, I am in no hurry to come home. In fact, I will be gone for another eight months. I am spending this year "living it up" as an exchange student in the most beautiful country in Europe. That would be Italy. For this, I might be one of the luckiest young ladies in the world. I owe a huge thank-you to the Speedwell Foundation, who provided full-scholarships for three Warwick High School students, including myself, to become ambassadors for the U.S. through American Field Service (AFS).

When I heard about the opportunity to study abroad, with all expenses paid, I immediately jumped on the offer. This was over a year ago through an announcement on the beloved morning show at school, and look where I am now.

Not even once did I look back and second-guess leaving behind my great American life. The thought of being thrown into a whole new culture thrilled me. I did not care that I did not speak Italian. I did not care that I knew nobody else going to Italy. I think I will take the liberty and label myself as the "adventurous type."

In my American life, I was an average teenage girl. I enjoyed hanging out with my friends and participating in cross country. If I was there this year, I would be dragging my feet through the load of junior-year schoolwork, attending sporting events and planning bonfires on starry fall evenings where there would be guitars and marshmallows. I would have recently celebrated my 17th birthday with a death-by-chocolate cake in the most American way possible.

On Halloween evening you would have found me sitting on my porch giving out candy… "one for me, one for you." I would also be working and saving all my money for my first car. Oh, never mind — I really like shopping, and college takes a bit of cash. I suppose the car would have to wait.

In Italy, I have been doing some of the same things the Italian way. I found a cross country team to run with, and no matter where you go in the world you cannot escape homework.

I often get together with friends, and we always eat. If you come to Italy, you will quickly learn that life revolves around food. It is impossible to be truly hungry when you live under the same roof as Italians. This is not surprising though, since the food is amazing. Everything is so fresh and delicious. I will probably cry when I return to Pennsylvania and find frozen pizzas.

As you may be able to imagine, it was not easy to pick up all the pieces of my American life and leave the country. I have a great family, and it is so strange for me to not sit down to eat with them every evening. All of my neighbors are a sort of family also, considering that I have grown up with many of them in my life. It’s odd to not see them on a daily basis when one of us is getting the mail or walking the dog, or trying to remember frantically where the spare key is because we locked ourselves out again. Of course, my friends have always been there for me. They are the family that I was allowed to choose, and I think I did a good job of picking. The last day I saw them was hard. There were tears and many claims of "We are going to Skype all the time."

As nice as these promises sound, my American life and my Italian life have become two separate worlds. I am as busy here as I was in America, and I know everybody back home has way too much on their plate at one time. I can’t tell you where the past two months have gone. I have been in this new life for a while, and I still feel like I arrived yesterday.

In reality, obvious clues show me that I have been here longer. I can have a conversation in Italian, and I have solid friendships with people from all over the world, which is so cool. I feel completely possessive of my host family and town; they are MY family, and it is MY town. I no longer think about all the amazing architecture around me without being reminded, and the daily cup-of-wonderful called a cappuccino has become a normal thing. When I miss the bus, it is not big deal like it was the first few times. I have accepted the fact that it is a lifestyle. Also, I have adopted the Italian sense of style, which has many strict and unspoken rules.

On the note of fashion… I could dress like an Italian in America, but I can’t dress like an American in Italy. Here, flare jeans are not allowed, and even grandmas rock the skinny jeans. Floral is not common, nor are bright colors. Organic colors and stripes are closet staples, as are leggings for any day you aren’t wearing skinny jeans. (Just a note — men, this does not apply to you. You do not have to wear skinny jeans or leggings. In fact, please don’t.) Most importantly, scarves should be worn with everything. Who cares if it doesn’t match? Not the Italians.

So far, so good. This new life has taken me in and set me on my feet and pointed out where I can find the best gelato in Italy. I could not ask for anything more than I have been given, and I am enjoying every minute of this incredible experience. Thanks a million to everybody who has provided guidance and support. It means the world to me (quite literally).

Chloe Eberly is 17 years old. She grew up in Lititz and would be a junior at Warwick High School. However, she is spending this year as an exchange student in Italy. More ITALY, page A22