So how do you do it?

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This is a project I have been wanting to do for a while, and do be warned, it’s a bit of a big’un. It’s in a handy, easy to read table (check me out) , so if you don’t have the time to read it all in one sitting, just come back later and check the rest out. I saw some really interesting differences and similarities between the different schools I visited last year. I hope in the future I can travel to some other countries and add to this table!

Ciao for now xx

Italy (state school) England (state school) Rome International school (fee paying)
Food The majority of primary schools in my area, finished the school day before lunch (12:45). This resulted in many children eating lunch at home. However, in the infanzia (preschool, 3-5years) schools, children mostly ate at school. The food was decidedly mixed, depending on what it was. For example, I didn’t rate the asparagus soup sauce mixed with rice. Whereas, the ragu was highly favoured, along with the tomato pasta. As expected some children had school dinner, whereas some had packed lunch. As with the other schools, the children ate in their age groups. But, unlike both the Italian schools I visited, the teachers generally ate separately. It definitely felt like the time was used not just for eating, but also for informal meetings, outside lesson work and respite. Condiments (salt, pepper, oil, vinegar) were always available and students used them in a way that showed they knew how to. Now, bare with me, I know that might sound basic, but for primary age children to know how to season their food doesn’t happen all that often in England. Again, students and teachers ate together with most of the teachers clustered together, with a few spread out. There seemed a very open relationship between the two groups.
Use of technology This was one of the only aspects of the Italian state school system that I felt harked back to my days at school. There was technology but usage wasn’t seamless and the majority of teaching and learning was still done by pen (or pencil) and paper. All classes had a blackboard and most had the addition of a smart board, which was the main piece of technology used. To my knowledge in primary school they didn’t study IT, which is interesting because they clearly prioritise English over IT, which makes sense in terms of their society, because they are unlikely to become a world leader in IT and computing, but good English skills can help them in so many different areas. The English school was both a surprise and exactly how I expected it to be. I knew that technology in schools had progressed, but how and to what extent was a mystery. The sheer amount of usage however was insane. Every classroom had multiple iPads and classes throughout the school were using them from Reception up to year 6 (10-11 year olds). Teachers seemed to have good knowledge about how to use the technology they had been given and I definitely think this is in part because it is technology that they are familiar with, it’s what they use at home. However, the impact of technology was not always wholly positive, some teachers remarked that very young children were treating books as if they were iPads and trying to swipe turn the page as opposed to picking it up and turning it. Coding was an addition to the curriculum since I was at school learning how to work word. And although yes, the children could learn complex technology skills such as coding. They still needed to be taught the basics such as word or powerpoint. When I went to Rome, I definitely had an expectation of quite high levels of technology usage based upon preconceptions about fee paying schools and how schools in England were using technology. I figured that they would be very similar, and they were. They had sets of iPads so that the whole class could have one, this made research for topics in History and Geography a lot easier without having to use clunky laptops. Teachers used iPads to conduct everyday tasks which was all great until the WIFI stopped working. But generally usage was very similar, unsurprisingly to the school in England.
Holistic development First of all, I should say that I am not sure if my opinions that follow will be misguided because of my lack of language skills. However, I felt in the Italian schools that academic development was the main concern. In school, teachers were there to teach and students were there to listen and learn. I never heard anyone say anything about development other than an academic one. This probably because per day Italian children spend less time with teachers than typically in England. Going from the Italian school to the English school within the space of a few days was a big revelation. Teachers had knowledge about their students that well surpassed their academic development (but their knowledge of this was super detailed and extensive). They knew children who were struggling to make friends, or those who were being ‘babied’ by their friends. Like most of the categories, the international school was definitely most similar to the English school. They had astute knowledge about individual children’s social, emotional development.
The school day While not in school, many students are looked after by their parents (typically mother), or more often by their grandparents. During dinnertime discussions with my ‘Italian mum’, we both expressed concern of the challenges that Italy will face when the adult generation now age, but have to work to a later age. Consequently are unable to help with childcare, as their parents did for them. It may be that they begin to follow a more UK style school day.

 

Another important aspect for me about the Italian school day was break time. Some of my fondest memories are of the antics me and my classmates got up to during break and it provided much needed time and space to relax away from class, and get some oxygen pumping around the body again! So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when at break time the children remain, mostly seated, for the entire duration of break. When I asked why, I was simply told they were too small. They. Were. Six. Years. Old.

As with typical English state primary schools, the school day runs from 9am-3pm, roughly. This worked well, with English and Maths always being taught in the morning, when children were more alert. Then the afternoon was used for Geography, History, D&T or ICT. Subjects, which generally hold children’s attention more effectively. Assemblies, for you native English are very readers, are something that I’m sure you are very familiar with. Personally, I have fond memories of assemblies, I especially loved singing all together, because it felt uplifting and bonding to be all together. Italian schools didn’t do this, and I don’t think I really appreciated assemblies until they weren’t there. The school as a whole didn’t have a big community feel, which is very strange for the Italian culture. Daily routine in the international school was pretty much the same in the British school, so I won’t waste time repeating it. However, I will talk to you all about team teaching. This is a mode of teaching that I hadn’t witness before, and it worked very well in this school. The classrooms for each year group were built as two separate classes, but in the wall that separated them, there was a large sliding door. There was just about enough space in each classroom to hold the entire year abroad. The two teachers would split the responsibility for teaching one teacher would be in charge of the Maths curriculum and the other, English. They would often combine for the starter activities and then split into ability sets, and then each teacher would be responsible for different ability sets. So for example, they might be in the fractions part of their curriculum. They would do a warm-up activity together and then separate off where one set might be on adding fractions whereas the other might be on simplying them. Their ability set teacher would then give a short separate introduction and they would go to their desks and complete their exercises. From my experience, this was a great way of doing ability setting. Because they were all together at the start of the lesson, every ability could learn from each other. Keeping the door open whilst working may reduce the stigma of us and them. after a student had done their work they would goto their teacher to have it checked. When a child had done particularly well, for example, understood something they previously struggled with, the teacher might send them to go and show the other teacher their work. I saw the pride children had when this happened. But it is important to note that they did team teaching with a year group of roughly 40 students. Unfortunately, with most English state schools, this might not be possible.
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Comin’ round full circle 

 

The official start of my year abroad was August 28th 2015 when I flew to Verona to be an English summer school coordinator, and you can read all about the drama here. And, call me crazy, but this year I decided to do it all over again. One of the greatest challenges of those two weeks in 2015 for me was speaking Italian, I had great difficulty explaining rules for games and commanding authority in the same way I can do in English. Having spent my whole year in Italy, listening and repeating all the important Italian phrases, the all time big question was hanging over my head; have I improved my language skills? For this reason and many others it made sense to end my time in Italy where it truly started.

The main thing that struck me on my return was how familiar everything was. All the same shops, all the same people, right down to the same bumps in the road. After a summer of new experiences and new places, to be somewhere familiar was very comforting. Luckily I was able to stay with my previous host family and I have to say it was perfect. We picked up right where we left off but with more Italian. I spent another two weeks as a big sister, watching Harry Potter cuddling with my little sister and challenging my little brother to English quizzes. My favourite moment was definitely going to see some fireworks, it was the children’s first time every seeing them and it was a wonderful moment hearing their aahh’s and wow’s.

But I was there to do a job. The summer school functioned slightly differently this time, with 4 English ‘maestre’ and an older male member of summer school staff. Music to my ears after spending most of last year’s summer school afternoons completely shattered. It meant more creative ideas, more resources and the ability to do activities in smaller groups. I had a great time and it was the perfect way to finish my year abroad. I spoke more Italian and felt much more in control by myself than last time. I could listen to and solve their problems, whilst dishing our discipline. The highlight of the two weeks though had to be the children showing us the Italian tune of the summer, and the accompanying dance. Please, just watch the video below then imagine children doing the head back, shoulders writhing dance. Absolutely priceless. It quickly became the most fun ever to put it on at random points during the day and see all the children stop what they are doing and take part.

I was thrilled to hear my Italian coming back and it has given me the push I needed to continue my Italian whilst in my final year at University. When you take an Erasmus placement, you are required to take language assessments before and after, so that they can judge whether the Erasmus programme improves language skills. As I had two placements, I took 4 tests. For the final placement, my entry test placed me as B1, which was exactly where I wanted to be and I was delighted. However, upon my departure from Rome, I took the test again to be awarded A2. What. No. I was devastated, and I felt very demotivated, which wasn’t how I wanted this language learning experience to end. Testimonials from Italians who knew me at the start and at the end meant much more than a language test. Clearly I still have a lot of work to do, but ‘she speaks now!’

 

Swimming in the deep end

In English we have a popular saying, ‘being thrown in the deep-end‘, this means that you were asked (or made!) to do something that you have not been prepared or trained to do. It is based on the feeling of being in the deep-end of a swimming pool without knowing how to swim. Often the coveted transferable skills the English Education system pursue are supposed prepare you for these situations. This week I (sort of) found myself in said situation.

One of the teachers of a class I work in regularly was absent due to sickness. Thankfully the school uses team teaching with a year group of 40 split into two classes of 20, so the introductions to lessons are typically done all together. The classes then break off into separate groups to work more specifically to their targets. The content was taught by the trained teacher, then we split off into classes and a trained learning support teacher and I oversaw the work and gave smaller group support.I had a few free periods so I acted as an extra body. 

That is until it came to the afternoon, when the absent teacher’s class were due to have P.E. Dressed in heeled sandals and a maxi skirt, I was unprepared to teach P.E. So I took the other class whilst their teacher took ‘mine’. Hello deep end. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about the deep end. I do not see it as a bad thing, or something I am not prepared for, I have the transferable skills after all. But this was the first time I have been put in the deep end when it matters so much. Not particularly to that specific lesson: I was not teaching something tricky or superbly important to the children’s future and it was something they would cover again. But it was very important to me, because one day, I hope to become a teacher, and like, y’know a really really good one. Not only this but, I am now of an age when plenty of my friends or people my age are becoming teachers. They do the things that really truly make a difference to life and to little people…

It was both a blessing and an annoyance that I had a very limited time to deliver the lesson, because there was less time for something to go wrong but on the other hand a strict time constraint. Therefore, I did away with the theory, and just did the practical: making paper cup telephones! We were perhaps a bit late packing away, but they all managed to leave relatively in time.

I think in the situation, I coped with the deep end well and it was a fantastic experience and confirms to me that someday I would love to be a teacher.

What about you guys? When were you thrown in the deep end? And how did it go?

Holi

Happy Holi everyone! I hope you’re all okay, whether you be a busy worker bee or slaving over your studies. If I am a procrastination break, then thank you and I hope this post entertains you somewhat or bores you enough to find your work interesting…

Recently I have found myself to be BUSY. As a fairly steady going person, when I’m busy, some things get left at the wayside. Like going to the gym. Like writing on my blog. Sorry ’bout that! I’m sure I’ll have a little write about what’s been going on in my life soon. But for now, let’s start at the most recent event!

Currently, Rome is playing host to a festival of sorts, split into three sections: Oriental, Irish and Latin America. Interesting. The Oriental and Latin America sections seemed to make sense. But the Irish was more puzzling. Not least because they were displaying kilts, which are pretty much a Scottish tradition. In spite of these bizarre decisions, I was happy to see Italy engaging in other cultures and traditions. But, I wonder how many of them tried the Oriental food…

But, the main reason I we visited this exposition of cultures was to attend holi festival. I admit not knowing much at all about holi festival apart from that it was a celebration originally from India. If you haven’t heard of it before, holi festivals that I have seen consist of a large crowd, throwing colourful powder at each other, usually with some music. Some people say it is best to wear white, so that the colours show up very brightly. So, I went dressed in a cream vest and a cheap white lace skirt I had picked up in the late January sales. This particular white skirt, I hadn’t found much use for. It was a very bright white, whereas I usually stick to off white/cream tones. As a result, I had hardly worn it. So I thought it could look pretty cool post-holi and perhaps more wearable, If not, then no matter because I didn’t wear it much before!

The weather was great thankfully the sun came out, and stayed out! Not like the week before, like England and lots of other European countries we had some unseasonably cold weather. I made the decision to keep my sunglasses on, after weighing up the strange  white circles look and potentially painful, uncomfortable powder in my eyes. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done about my mouth apart form to, shut it! My friends and I got a little excited and started throwing powder almost as soon as we got it, alongside other groups of people. This meant we didn’t have any powder for when everyone threw some in air. But we had an absolute blast nevertheless and the results were SUPER colourful and fun.

We then decided to have a mooch around all the stalls inside. Oh my gosh, there were some beautiful pieces of clothing. I would have made some purchases if it wasn’t for the powder. There was also lots of jewellery, pretty little trickets and hand painted boxes. It all seemed a mish mash of different things, which although puzzling were delightful and we drifted around in a flurry of ooohs and ahhhs.

Having experienced a holi festival I felt as though I should see where it all came from. It is a Hindu festival and the colour throwing is one part of a larger celebration. What strikes me most about what I have read, is that everyone is ‘fair game’, whether they be young, old, man or woman. It reminded me of the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia during which the masters provided table service for their slaves. Generaly holi signifies the triumph of good over evil or even just the arrival of Spring and the end of another Winter.

Nevertheless it was great fun and I truly believe we should all make time for fun and laughter in our lives.

I hope you find a little bit of colour in your day today and for now, I leave you with pictures of the result.

Ciao xx

Photo credit @ Corinna Harrison

 

 

 

The Ski Script: Wednesday

Well, Wednesday. I know I said that Tuesday was mixed, with the delight of getting my technique back, but not being able to push myself. But Wednesday gave me much bigger highs and lows. I’ll talk about the negative first and then we can finish nicely on the positives!

The start of this week was election week. I Skyped into my college’s JCR meeting on Sunday and voting was open until Wednesday. It was a contested election, meaning that I wasn’t just running against the option to re-open nominations, I had an opponent. Despite my well meaning efforts, I was unsuccessful. I was of course extremely disappointed because I know I would have done a great job and I was well suited to the role. But I’m sure my competitor will do an excellent job and I look forward to attending lots of international events over the next year. I hope that when I return to Durham, it doesn’t stop me meeting people from the international community and speaking Italian.

But that’s enough of the negative, Wednesday was also very positive! I was moved up a group! Yay! Although I went from being maybe one of the best in my group to being one of the worst in the upper group, I was very happy about this progression. Mainly because last time I went skiing I felt very disappointed because I didn’t think I had improved. I was coasting if you will. This time I was determined to feel progress. The skiing was certainly more challenging, we were going faster and my technique was being much more criticised. But a lot of fun, and we did runs that I wouldn’t have been able to do with my other group which is good. So I will leave you with some pictures from the top of Campo Smith!

Jenn x

 

 

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The Ski Script: Tuesday

Tuesday. The mixed day. I skied well but felt a little out of control due to my continuing resistance to leaning into my boots. Unfortunately this is exacerbated by the numbness in my right foot…Too tight and I lose circulation. Too loose and foot seems to come flying out. I’ve heard that this is what speed skaters do, but I’m definitely not there yet…

As I mentioned in Monday’s Ski Script, I was allocated to the lower intermediates. At the start this wasn’t a issue. I was able to go gently and get my ski legs back. After a while I realised I was probably the best in the group. At first this was great, a real confidence boost but after a while it seemed to hold me back. My teacher, Luisa, did her best to try and cater for us all but I didn’t think I could improve with that group.  Thankfully my teacher Luisa was thinking the same thing and mentioned the possibility of moving up a group. Exciting prospects for Wednesday!

Tuesday was the day for the first day for go pro filming. My sister and my dad both have go pros. If two of you are wearing go pros, then you can see both your point of view and your profile. There are definitely times when I come out of a turn quicker than anticipated and lean back. A lot of the time when I have lessons, my teacher tells me to move my body this way or have my skis x width apart and to me I think that I’m doing it. It’s not until you watch yourself that you realise you look nothing like you think you do! Yes it doesn’t look as out of control but that doesn’t mean it looks graceful. Having never used a go pro before I was very unsure what the quality of the footage would be like. I thought that it would be quite bumpy like my skiing and this would affect the picture. But there’s not a blur in sight! And the footage is as smooth as you like. I was so happy about the quality of the footage it made me want to wear it on my jennventures!

Lunch was slightly disappointing because the sausage I had with my polenta definitely wasn’t like the sausage I’m used to in Italy. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we decided to sit outside, but unfortunately it made the food cold very quickly. Not ideal.

Usually the mountains make me feel very relaxed, usually. This week though, has been election week. Sometimes I felt torn between campaigning and enjoying my skiing. I think I found a good middle ground, only posting in groups rather than messaging individual people.

Let’s hope if Wednesday brings some faster paced skiing!!

The Ski Script: Monday

This post is being written retrospectively, so excuse me for any inaccuracies. Okay, so, yesterday morning was the day of firsts; first shower, first breakfast and first day at ski school!!! My ability is distinctly okay… average if you will. I skied 4 times as a teenager, a week at a time, with varying degrees of success. My second week I went down reds and a black but on my fourth week I was still doing blues and some reds without improving on my parallel. So I was very unsure of how my form would be, seven years later.

To my surprise, I wasn’t half bad, I didn’t come down the nursery slope all in a snow plow (only about 3/4s) . I was put into the lower level intermediates which suited me just fine on Monday. We stayed on the nursery slope but we did lots of exercises. We took a 20 minute break which was greatly appreciated. I hadn’t realised just how dehydrated I kept myself. But at least it gave me inspiration for a #doitfortheblog challenge…

Just as soon as I got my ski legs back, it was time for the lesson to end and for the eating to begin. I met up with my higher intermediate father and sister and they took me up the mountain for a spot of lunch. I recommended the polenta, one of my Italian favourites, but I had one of the dishes of the day, which for the life of me I can’t remember the name of but, they are balls made with potato, bread, bacon and cheese. Needless to say, I enjoyed my lunch a lot, they were nice and stodgy, full of energy and flavour but not too heavy. Meanwhile dads polenta with sausages was MASSIVE. It seemed like the sausages were never ending and once you finally got through the sausages there was more polenta. I look forward to having that on a cold snowy day.

Having had a relatively gentle morning I was raring to get going after lunch. After doing a few runs back down to the bottom of the mountain, my dad decided to take some apres ski while I encouraged my sister to join for a few more runs. My legs weren’t quite groaning for relief, so I wanted to make the most of it.

Throughout the day and especially in the morning, I encountered a problem I hadn’t previously experienced while skiing, pins and needles. It only took one quick shake of the leg and attempted curling of the toes to realise my right foot was actually very numb. I can only assume that I had my boots on too tight, in an attempt to keep my foot and ankle safe. If anyone has also had this problem, please let me know in a comment below!!

What I concluded from the end of the day was that I loved skiing and really have missed it.

Until the next time xx

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My sister and I

Skiing script: Sunday

This week I am lucky enough to be going skiing. I have been rather cheeky and taken the week BEFORE  the Easter holidays off, so I now have 3 weeks in a row off school. #yearabroadproblems, amirite?? In light of this I do feel like I should be productive in some shape or form, especially with lots of my lovely friends going through the trauma of dissertations. So, I have decided to do something a bit different on my blog this week. For now, I think I will call it My Skiing Script. I know I know, it’s not technically a script but I love alliteration and who knows maybe something interesting enough will happen to turn it into a script! If so, I got dibs. Essentially what I will be doing this week is a diary entry every evening talking about my day, how many times I snow plowed and if I fell off a lift (this is fairly likely).

So, I will slide straight in on the events of Sunday and Monday. I woke up as usual to the sounds of my animal housemates miaowing for attention, something I am usually very happy to do. However,I woke up at 6:30 and wanted to be out the door at 6:50 so I couldn’t faff around. Sorry Lewis and Jenson. I ended up being ready in ten minutes and having never used Fiumicino, I decided to leave early. This meant that I got a much earlier train than I had planned. Security was quick and simple and I ended up getting to my gate so early the flight before mine hadn’t  even started to board. I was very tempted to try and board it, seeing as it was a flight to Munich and, after spending a day there two years ago, it’s on my place to revisit. I decided to kill the two hours I had to wait by eating a sandwich and putting some make up on. Much to the disapproval of a couple of my fellow passengers.

Fast forward a few hours and I arrived in tiny Turin airport. As a domestic flight, we were not required to go through passport control. This meant it only took me 6 minutes to get out of arrivals, bang tidy. Unfortunately my transfer had already left so I was left with public transport. On a Sunday. This has nothing to do with it being Italy, but I had to wait for ages for my train. Luckily I had some correspondence regarding advice for a potential student. Big thanks goes to her for helping me kill time productively. Thankfully the train was lovely, clean and roomy because my patience was waning.

Once I arrived at Bardonecchia, it was all systems go go go. I had limited time and lots to do ahead of a very important Skype date with my college JCR. I got my equipment in the blink of an eye, service was speedy but too brief. Then I was left to wrestle with the WiFi. My Skype date went well (I hope!) Then it was dinner with a beaut glass of wine and bed to deal with the excitement.

I’ll be doing lots of snaps to document my time here so add my blog snapchat thejennventures and here are the ones you missed!

Ciao, a dopo!

Ruminations and reflections

So, it’s the end of my first two weeks ‘working’ at the international school and in very typical me fashion I’ve been reflecting quite a bit. What was my favourite? What was my least favourite? Have I been reaching my potential? Have I made enough friends? And the most scary question of all, can I remember everyone’s name? Eeek. As an aside, writing this post has made me realise just how much I (and probably a lot of other people) EVALUATE. Since social media has become a regular presence in our lives it makes it so much easier to compare and evaluate ourselves. No longer are targets resigned to the classroom or New Year celebrations. Nowadays evaluating yourself and finding out how to improve yourself is no longer solely the realm of the self-help section in the bookshop.

 

My favourite moment

I have decided to spread my wings and use my time here to experiment with working with a variety of age groups. Previously, I have stubbornly stuck with primary. I could spout many reasons they I prefer them, but in reality it is probably because I have such fond primary school memories that I am regressing back too. Although I am spending time in secondary, this week I couldn’t help but sidle down to primary and ask if they could let me hang around. On one such happy occasion was my time with the green dragons. This is the name given to the older reception class. In leyman’s terms it’s the 4-5 year olds. It was just after snack time and some children were reading/looking at some books on the carpet. Being a bookworm myself I could resist but plonk myself down. Roughly 3 minutes passed when I was asked if I could read a book to someone. This in itself made me extremely happy because I felt it was a sign of acceptance. But, it wasn’t what made my heart jump with joy. It was when I properly lifted my head up and realised I was almost surrounded  by children listening to this story. After spending time with some very ambivalent year 9 and 12’s, it was so nice to get that thing that humans often desire, attention.

 

My least favourite moment

If you’ve ever been with me in a Psychology lecture you might have seen my eyelids droop quite significantly. Usually I put this down to eating too much melted cheese combined with the boring subject material and the darkness of the lecture room. To my disappointment I crashed in a year 12 Chemistry lesson. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open. I felt doubly guilty because I was an adult and adult’s can’t look a step away from bed in each other’s lessons.

 

My most bizarre moment

Caberet. I think it was my second day when I went to lunch only to be pulled into an empty classroom to learn some classic Greek dance moves. The school’s charity ZOA which funds an orphanage in Zambia organised an event to raise money and have a laugh. Staff and parents were encourage to create some kind of entertainment piece and perform it on stage. Be it the sirtaki, or a middle-age take on Greece sketches. It was a great laugh, I learnt a new set of dance moves and I had a couple of glasses of prosecco. Always a winner with me.

Rome begins

Ciao amici!

I am back in the glorious lands of Italy and specifically bouncing around the Eternal City! Eeeeeee! I’ve been grinning randomly on public transport thinking about the fact I’m here. This is my first time living in one of THE cities of the world. For most of my life I have lived less than an hour’s train ride to London and while London was amazing and fun, it’s kinda felt like home so I was desensitized to a degree. I imagine it is like living next door to a cool celebrity but then meeting your favourite. Rome, I am starstruck for you.

Whilst I have been blessed with a pretty easy ride while I have been here, my first evening was very different. My flight landed at 17:30, with my suitcase being the first on the conveyor belt- result! I took this as a good sign and confidently sauntered out of the airport, ignoring all the signs that might’ve told me where to go. I knew I was getting a bus to either Ciampino or Termini and then a train from there. I opted for a bus to Termini, knowing it is THE train station in Rome. During this time, I attempted to notify my family of my safe landing, only to be faced with the dreaded two words of the 21st Century: no service. At this point, my heart fell through my body onto the rocky Roman roads. Having been faced with these terrible two words for 3 weeks before my Christmas departure, I knew turning my phone off and on anyway would be useless. Nevertheless, as all desperate millennial adults have done before me, I tried the method I knew wouldn’t work. This gave me quite the dilemma. Not only was I unable to contact my family, but also the hosts of the Air BnB where I was planning to spend the next few nights. I had strategically chose my Air BnB to be close to the school that I was visiting the next day, then Saturday would come around and I would check-out to stay in an area strategic to my search for a flat. Unfortunately, that meant when I finally arrived at my station stop, there were no brilliant white taxis waiting to take me to my accommodation. Bear in mind it was about 9pm at this point and I had no map or idea which direction to go. I checked the bus stop- no map. I asked the bus driver and he had no clue where the road I was talking about. I glanced at the people sitting at the bus stop and since they looked at me as though I was a mosquito carrying the zika virus; I wasn’t inclined to ask them. I wandered back into the station, desperate for something but it was unmanned. I stood outside the station for a minute to take stock. I could either continue asking people or start walking and there was a 50% chance I would go in the wrong direction. I decided on the former and approach a using his phone. Using my best Italian, I asked if he knew where I had to go, and of course he had no idea where I was talking about either. Thankfully, he said that he would check on his phone. We found the place and he told me which bus to get and how many stops it was. Thank goodness. So, I drag myself back over to the bus stop and the number that I want doesn’t stop there. Just my luck. I was screaming internally when the hat man came up to me and asked if I wanted him to accompany me on foot. Don’t worry, I am not writing this from the grave nor am I a cat who has 9 lives. At that point, I felt like this was my last option. Thankfully, Daniele (hat man) was a lovely man who took my suitcase and walked with me, making me feel safe despite the scary Italian roads. Wherever you are Daniele, I thank you so much. So, I arrived at my accommodation at 9:30pm and the last time I ate properly, was a McDonald’s at 11:45am, but I was too exhausted, physically and mentally, to even care about sourcing a proper meal and made do with some malteasers and water.

 

Thankfully my travels the next day to my potential school went a lot better and I gave myself plenty of time. Minor disasters aside, the interview, which turned out to be more a discussion, went reasonably well and I am excited to get started. It will definitely be a challenge because I’ll be working with secondary aged children. What I am most interested by is the identities of the children. According to the staff, lots of the children are sons and daughters of diplomats. They have lived in a variety of different places depending on where their parents have been posted. Citizenship is one of the topics that my year abroad supervisor is most interested in, so I am looking forward to some exciting discussions about European/ international citizenship. Particularly in light of the current EU will we, won’t we. I for one don’t identify strongly with being European because my national identity is much stronger and we generally consider Europeans to be from the Continent. All exciting things to come.

Once I realised my discussion was going okay and they were going to let me volunteer, my stress turned to accommodation. Until I have a meeting with HR coordinator, she recommended a website to me before remembering that the Spanish teacher needed a roommate. In my head, I couldn’t believe that I could get everything sorted in the space of two hours. I was expecting my flat search to be stressful combination of getting lost and not liking any of the places I saw. So, I was not expecting much from this flat. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. The room isn’t big but it’s a double with a very comfortable bed. I got on well with my prospective flatmate and she has cats! The fluffiest, friendliest, fabulous cats I have ever met. All for 350 euros. Sold. By the end of my first full day I had a job (volunteering) and a room in a flat. Yay!

I am writing this with one of the fluffballs sitting on my stomach in front of my laptop, bumping me for attention. Tomorrow is the challenge of buying a bus pass, SIM card and joining a gym. Wish me luck!!

And a happy pancake day to you all for tomorrow! May your days be filled with the tastiest pancakes and the most glorious toppings!

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Jennifer and Jenson.