28 Things I have learned on my Year Abroad so far

So the other day I realised that in a weeks time I will be halfway through my YA. In light of this news, this is a post of just some of the things I have learned and noticed whilst in Italy.

1. Your YA might not be what you expected, or what you wanted – but you can still make it the best year of your life – I got my last choice of region (in the south rather than the north), a smaller town than I wanted and a secondary school rather than primary. Although I didn’t get the things I wanted, I have learned that you have to make the best what you do have and not dwell on the things you don’t have. After all, your YA is what you make it.

2. It takes time to settle in somewhere new and everyone has different times of adjusting to new environments – It took me a good few weeks to settle into Italy, which for me was a shock as I thought I would find it easy to settle in my new life. But although it’s taken me a while longer, I have finally got there.

3. Being English is like gold here- If anyone finds out that you are fluent in English, they want you immediately to teach  them, their kids and friends. Being able to speech English is a quality which is very sought after here in Italy, everyone wants to learn English.

4. The food is just amazing- I know I have mentioned this a few times before, but I can’t leave it out! The food will always be one of the best things here. Doesn’t matter where in Italy you go, the food will always be amazing.

5. Disorganisation– This is the one things I hate about Italy. It’s very laid back and lacks any kind of organisation. It’s just how they are and it has made me appreciate England a lot more.

6. Working as an English Language assistant – no day is ever the same – This is something I really like about my job, you could definitely never get bored teaching children.

7. Italian Chinese food- I am yet to find a good Chinese takeaway in Italy! They’re just not the same as English Chinese takeaways. Definitely opt for another kind of takeaway unless you fancy soggy crispy chicken.

8. Jetting off to a new city at the weekend is perfectly acceptable – Last week it was Venice, before that Riccione. It’s just part of being on your YA.

9. There are siesta’s in Italy in the winter as well as in the summer- This is something I don’t understand, I thought the whole point of siesta’s was to avoid the afternoon heat, but how does this apply in the winter?! Hey I’m not complaining though, any excuse to nap!

10. Strange opening times – Because of the siesta’s most shops shut in the afternoon from about 1 until 6pm. If you walk around during that time, you will find a ghost town.

11. Strikes are a regular occurrence – whether they are with transport or at work, there is some sort of strike every month. Be prepared to have to change your travel plans like I had to in Rome.

12. Public transport isn’t the most reliable– I haven’t heard as many complaints about the North of Italy, so this might apply mainly in the South, but transport here is not always on time and in some towns, public transport doesn’t even exist. To get to the nearest airport which is Brindisi, I have to get 2 trains and a bus, which as you can imagine is rather annoying when in reality the airport is only an hour in the car.

13. If you don’t ask, you don’t get – Exactly what it says.

14. You can’t say no to people offering you food – Italian people get really offended if you do not take up on their offer of food, whether this is at their house or even at a bar or café, you just can’t say no. This means that you always leave an Italian’s person’s house feeling like you can’t eat for about a week.

15. Panzerotti – these things are a little piece of heaven. If anyone is planning on visiting the south of Italy, it’s definitely something to try.

16. Driving in Italy has fewer rules – Think of GTA. Okay without the guns and stealing cars, that’s what it reminds me of. There aren’t many rules on the road in Italy and everyone does what they want. Special attention is required when walking as well as driving.

17. You can travel in Italy  fairly cheaply – now this applies mostly when using trains and if you book way in advance. Treniitalia.com allows you to choose from 3 different price ranges from first class to super economy so you choose just how much you want to spend. Be careful though, the cheapest train tickets always sell out pretty quick so if you are planning a trip make sure you book in advance! It is also worth looking at EasyJet and Ryanair too!

18. Crisps in Italy just aren’t as good – I am a crisp lover. Everyone who knows me will know this. I will absolutely choose crisps over chocolate any day, and in Italy they don’t seem to share this passion with me. They don’t have the variety but they also don’t taste as good. I miss Walkers. However, Italian dolci make up for this fact in every way.

19. Goodbye ready meals/easy to cook foods- Italy prides itself with their homemade food, however, making food from scratch just for one person every day is very time consuming and sometimes I just can’t be bothered and want something easy. Here it’s not at all easy to find ready made/ partially made foods. Everything is fresh. Which isn’t a bad thing, but there are those times where the student in me just wants to have beans on toast or a pot noodle.

20. Dog poo – Now this is something that really annoys me. More often than not people aren’t willing to pick up their dog poo, which I just think is terrible. If you own a dog then you should look after it and everything it leaves behind! I have to say I have yet to see a dog waste bin in Italy too. This means when walking you always have to keep your eyes on the ground; it’s only a matter of time until you end up walking in some.

21. Italy can be cold too – I think this was just me being naïve, but I was convinced that Italy would never be as cold as England. Oh how wrong could I have been! Although snow isn’t that common here in the South, in the North it is. I have noticed that sometimes Italy has been colder than England too – I was glad to bring back my winter coat from home after Christmas.

22. Post offices – Be prepared to be waiting a long time in those places. Whenever I go to the post office (which is a place I like to avoid) I usually have to wait a good half an hour before I can post some letters or pay my bills.

23. Italians take pride in how they look – Although it may not be my kind of fashion, Italians do take what they wear and how they look very seriously. Everyone always looks presentable and like they made an effort which I like. It is very rare that you see Italians dressed scruffily.

24. Cheap alcohol– 1 euro wine anyone?

25. You can’t drink water from the tap – Now this isn’t always the case, but where I live the water isn’t drinkable which means I have to buy bottled water. It wouldn’t be a problem if I had a car, but I can only buy two/three bottles at a time which is annoying.

26. More than half of Italian TV is dubbed – There are advantages to this, in the fact that of TV programs that they do show are American, English and from other places in the world, however, I do not understand their need to dub absolutely everything that they air on TV. This might be just me, but I find it very irritating watching a film and noticing the actors/actresses voice is very different than what I am used to. Subtitles will do just fine! However, it does help you learn Italian.

27. Meal times – So here you eat at 2 pm and then again at 9 pm.  I still find it difficult to get my head round and when I am eating alone I often cheat and keep to my English meal times.

28. Smiling – It is not very common for people to smile at you when you are walking down the street. Actually it’s viewed as almost strange if you do! I miss random smiles from strangers; sometimes all you need is a smile to cheer you up for the rest of the day.

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