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!’