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. 

I miss missing you…

               I am sorry. I have been shamefully quiet on my blog and while this is partly due to running around doing things. On the other hand, I have allowed my insecurities, laziness and lack of self-discipline overrule my duty and desire to make this blog as great as I possibly can. I not apologising to you readers, because I know everyday you are unendated with articles, blogs and interesting titbits. I know my blog is just one of many (I hope) interesting pieces available for you to pursue. But, I apologise to myself for letting myself down.

The majority of my posts so far on this blog have been informative pieces about the places I have been and things I have done. So, I have decided to mix it up. I am due to return to Italy next week and it feels like a good time to complete a draft that has been sitting in my folder for weeks. Besides, everyone loves a good list, don’t they?

What I missed about England:

    • My family, of course. Staying with a family is great for many reasons, but you’re never fully part of their family and it can get a bit nostalgic.
    • Decent buses when living outside of a major city.
    • Toasters.
    • Cadburys, I’m sorry Milka but you have nothing on our milky goodness.
    • REAL Christmas trees, I’m sorry but for me the smell and texture of a real tree is acres better than a fake tree.
    • My sofa.
    • Penn State Sour Cream and Chive pretzels.
    • Belgian buns with their raisin-ing icing goodness
    • The English language, because generally I can understand it.
    • Microwavable chocolate puddings, for those days when you feel absolutely pants and just want a chocolate pudding, some custard and a good book.
    • Teaching as a passion and life calling rather than a job. I said it. The couple I saw who seemed to view teaching as a passion were always the ones I liked best.
    • And most importantly, free tap water in every eating establishment.


What I miss about Italy:

    • My Italian family, it’s difficult to keep in contact but something I will try to do.
    • Real Italian pizza, it does trump our pizza all the time.
    • Most of the food made by my Italian parents.
    • Salty, oily salad that doesn’t earn me disapproving looks.
    • Passion for good quality food, which is why this list is mostly food…
    • Cycling without too much worry about being hit by a car.
    • Variety and amount of interesting places to go. Psst, there is more to England than London!
    • Mascarpone, both sweet and savoury.
    • The Italian language, it’s a’ight really.
    • Cheap and fantastic wine.
    • A real community feel to life.

What I do not miss is not knowing what I was missing. I would much rather times of missing things from both countries than to have never experienced the differences. On the eve of my departure, I know I will miss lots about England, but that’s okay because while I am here, there is plenty I miss about Italy.

What do you miss when you’re away from the place you grew up? What do you miss about places you visit? Let me know in the comments!

2015 New Year

I wasn’t planning on writing a new years post, but I have been somewhat inspired by social media. Lots of people have remarked that 2015 has been the best year of their life. I have to disagree, not because I haven’t had a fantastic year but because I think it is too difficult to compare different years. I mean I can’t even remember whole years of my life!

2015 has not been a year of change, but a year of progress. This summer I received my results for my second year of University. I have to admit being disappointed at myself at the percentage, but thrilled at the fact that I passed every modules. Having failed my first year at University it meant a lot to pass this year round. More importantly it meant that my year abroad was going to go ahead.

I would love to say that I had always dreamed of going abroad and it was all of my wishes coming true, but that would just be a lie. Deciding to go on a year abroad was a calculated decision with just a pinch of ‘dreaminess’. However, it has been one of my great calculated decisions. I has given me so many skills and many wonderful experiences. It has brought me into contact with people from different cultures in their home country. When I started this year I was trying to convince everyone else that I would be able to learn a different language just by living. At the same time I was willing everyone to stop thinking about it because I wasn’t convinced myself. Whilst I still have a way to go I have come further than I imagined.

Friendships have been a notable aspect of this year and I am learning more and more how to cope with the change in relationships. Lifestyle changes as meant that my close friends are as scattered as they have ever been. I love all of my close friends, but some of them don’t know each other more than by name. I hope maybe next year I will be able to get them all in the same room in the next year (new years resolution anyone?!)

And isn’t the most momentous thing that I finally cut my hair off. So thank you 2015. Who knows what 2016 will bring?

And here is a few pictures of my favourite moments (when I remembered to take a picture).

Independent in Innsbruck


Last weekend I went on a weekend trip to Innsbruck. I had always considered visiting Austria because it is a bordering country to Italy and I love Austria, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. This trip was eventually encouraged my best friend was going on a road trip around Austria. They were stopping in Innsbruck and I knew that there was a train from Bologna to Munich, stopping in Innsbruck, perfetto! They had lots of places to go and subsequently wanted to spend one day in Innsbruck. However, I had the whole weekend free so decided to make a weekend of it. In the end I left my house at 7:30 am and arrived in Innsbruck at 12:30- not bad considering in England this is just a little over the time it takes me to get from my home in Essex to my University in Durham. As soon as i alighted to the train, I was greeted in German asking if I spoke German. I looked up at the man before me, and for some reason in Italian, “no, ma io parlo inglese”. I should probably be happy that Italian came to me first, but he was probably slightly confused. English was fine, as expected with Germans.

First thing to on the list: lunch. I was ravenous and so decided to eat in the station, my eye was instantly drawn to a little Italian cafe and I had a classic margherita… Okay, so maybe I have become a little Italian! With a full tummy, I set off to explore my new surroundings, with a bit of shopping.

I wandered over to a shopping centre which was close to the train station. Here on the centre’s map I have never been so happy to find the word ‘Primark’ written. I went in, relishing in the familiarity of the crowds, messy clothes and cheap as chips prices. With the knowledge that I was flying home with only a 20kg suitcase, I had to choose wisely. I opted for a gym vest and gym socks for my newly found, but quickly waning commitment to the gym. Turns out a gorgeous blue vest isn’t the way to improve prowess at the gym… Who knew? In addition to my trip to Primark I visited C&A, a popular store that can be found in some European countries. There I bought a gorgeous checked scarf and hat. When I packed my suitcase for my year abroad, I clearly did not think about the weather or the length of period I would be gone, with nothing prepared for the winter weather. I suppose that serves me right for packing the day before. I certainly wasn’t complaining. Having bought the essentials to see me through my last 5 weeks in Italy, I decided to stop shopping. Some may think this was willpower. In actuality it was my desire to go and lay down for a while. So, I left the warmth of the shopping centre with Google maps in one hand and my shopping bags in the other. Classic tourist.

I headed for the centre to have a look around while there was still light and to find my B’n’B. On my arrival, I was met by a lovely tranquil building, I let myself into my room and fell onto my double bed. Unfortunately after my long journey and shopping trip I was frankly feeling pretty disgusting, so I opted for a shower with my gorgeous smelling lush products and then relaxed with a little TV. After an hour or so, it was about time to start thinking about dinner. I was on my own and a little nervous about striding into a restaurant on my own. On the other hand I knew I couldn’t just go and get a McDonald’s while in a foreign country with their own culinary traditions. So with a bit of British stiff upper lip I put my new hat and scarf on ready to face this new challenge. Now don’t get me wrong, I like being by myself and I can easily be my myself, shopping, relaxing or eating. On the other hand I was nervous about eating in a busy restaurant by myself. I ended up walking past a modern, busy burger restaurant. I hovered outside for a while wondering if I should eat a burger when I could be eating traditional Austrian cuisine. Then, I realised I could do whatever I wanted. Sometimes I have these voices of guilt but ultimately, people are not that judgemental, and those who are frankly aren’t worth listening to. More to the point my burger was bloody amazing.

Sunday in Austria is quiet. Very quiet. After 3 months in Italy, I was able to notice the lack of loud voices and general loud ambience. It was B E A UTIFULLLLL. It was mainly quiet because there were no shops open. This to me, is a strange concept. Ever since my living memory, shops have been open on Sunday, albeit with shorter opening hours. Generally I loved working in retail on Sundays perhaps with the exception of working after a particularly heavy Saturday night “on the town”. I had a few hours to kill before my gal arrived, so I walked around the old town and the edges of the Christmas market. Then my beautiful friend arrived with her new friends and we walked around the Christmas market. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed by the Christmas market in Innsbruck. Perhaps I was mistaken, but I expected to have lovely sausages sizzling all over the place, but they mostly sold sweet things or Gluhwein etc. I am not too disappointed though because Verona (one of my favourite Italian cities), is hosting the Nuremberg German market. Nuremberg is the only German city I have visited, but I really enjoyed my time there. So my favourite Italian city and my current favourite German town put together sounds like a recipe for close perfection!

Please find below a little album of Innsbruck.


During my stay in Mirandola I am fortunate enough to be hosted by an Italian family. This has many benefits and one weekend something quite exciting happened. My host-father was going sailing with his friends and they had one extra space. Very kindly, he offered this space to me, without any charge. So, I bucked the Durham rowing tradition to spend my Sunday aboard a boat off the West Coast of Italy. The gods and goddesses of weather were smiling upon us and we were bathed in uncharacteristically warm November sunshine. It was a gorgeous boat and the company was good. ‘This is the life’ was definitely an appropriate phrase.


I was even taught how to change direction using the sails, in a wonderful mixture of Italian and English. This was an extremely exciting addition to the list of skills I have picked up on my journey so far. By lunchtime I was STARVING not just hungry, STARVING. When I’m with new people I feel a little uncomfortable expressing my almost constant desire for food, which yes, has gone up since living in Italy. But we decided to just have a little quick something so that we could spend more time on the boat, practising our new (for me) moves. I had a tasty salami focaccia, because I was told how good the focaccia was from this region and I obediently followed this advice. After this I remained firmly to my principle that I only have a limited time in Italy so I must eat ALL the ice-cream humanly possible.

On the car journey home my host-mother messaged me to ask if we were hungry and wanted something to eat. And when we arrived home, there was pasta and ragu waiting for us. All in all it was a beautiful day, definitely worth the 5:30 wake up call and the 4hour round trip car journey. I have to admit the general age group of the company made for an interesting feel to the day, because they were all older than me but not as much as say my parents. It was really difficult to know how to act around them!

Stay tuned for a post about my recent weekend in Innsbruck and take a look below at my picture album of La Spezia.

My Italian Summer, part one!

I think now is the time for some ‘back-blogging’! I will give a general overview of what I got up to this summer when I suppose my year abroad fully began. The main reason I went away in the summer was because I wanted to try and learn some Italian, but also to challenge myself to see if I could live in another country. For months people had asked me ‘do you speak Italian?!’, ‘how will you manage?’ etc. I tried to sound super confident and at ease with an offhand ‘what’s the worst that could happen!’ and ‘I’ll just learn it!’ but inside I was doubting that these things would be possible. I figured if I could go for 7 weeks then I could manage a year (with a Christmas break). I will split it into two different posts, because I stayed in two different places, doing very different things, Florence and Dimaro (in Val di Sole). First up…


I begun my time abroad in Florence, studying at a language school for two weeks. I chose Florence because I wanted to go to a city that I had never been too before and one that had a language school with a relationship with my University (so I could bag some money off). So, I chose Florence as it was one of the big cities and very popular. My time in Florence was nice, it’s a pretty city and the weather was a decent temperature, thankfully not the 38° it was in July! Though, I have to admit I didn’t love Florence. It just wasn’t Venice or Rome. These were the places that sparked my love affair with Italy, with their history, their architecture and the Venetian glass woo-ed me in a way that Florence couldn’t.

During my time in Florence I stayed in an apartment, trying to live the authentic 20 something life. It was important for me to have my independence because I was doing something that to me was very scary, and it calmed me to be able to cook for myself and have freedom to come and go as I please. Essentially, I needed to keep something in my life the same, when the rest was changing so much. I think if I had stayed with a family, it would have been too much, too soon. While in Florence I attended the ‘Europass’ school in the morning, and explored or relaxed in the afternoons. In addition to this, I spent hours staring at my computer screen, trying to find the right URL, but that’s another matter. The school was nice enough, they were welcoming and didn’t panic too much when I suddenly erupted into tears near the end of one of my classes. I probably didn’t study Italian enough, but I survived it and small steps are ok. I had a whole year in front of me after all and it is much easier to learn a language when you are just living. Nevertheless, it was reassuring to have a purpose in the mornings. Like a lot of people on their year abroad I found myself spending a lot of my time with English people (Durham and Bristol), some on the homestretch of their year abroad or just at the start like me. However, it did give me a chance to pick their brains about useful phrases and year abroad experiences, even if it was just how to successfully navigate a supermarket.

Some afternoons I took advantage of the trips organised by the school. These were to interesting places around the city with stories given in Italian. However, I didn’t go to all of them. Although it was somewhat useful to listen to Italian because I knew I needed to just try and understand as much as I could. I was told to keep listening until things start to make sense if you will. On the other hand, I did not have the energy to try and understand such complex language, and I wanted to go to places and understand them. This is why, when I took my trip to the Duomo, I went alone, so I could read the English and not feel bad about ignoring a speaker. By the way, the Duomo can be a bitch to climb up, especially on your own, it’s a long way up and down!

One of my favourite experiences when I was in Florence was apertivo time. From my experience when people say apertivo they could mean different things, sometimes it’s just a drink and a tiny buffet, here I’m talking crisps, little sandwiches and pizza. Or, they could mean a drink and a large buffet. When I say large buffet I am talking an impressive and typically Italian spread. During my time in Florence I went to two and I have to admit, when I go back to Florence it’s how I want to eat! Cocktails are typical apertivo drinks but beer and soft drinks are also available. It is fun, flirty and fabulous. Almost all my favourite f words! I hope to bring apertivo back with with to Durham!

  Cinque Terre

The literal translation of ‘Cinque Terre’ is ‘Five Lands’ and it is a name used to represent 5 villages on the Italian Riviera. These towns are particularly famous for their bright colourful houses positioned jauntily on the cliff-side, I have seen countless (edited) pictures of the scene. It was one of the places on my ‘must see’ list, so I was very happy to be able to tick it off only one week into my time in Italy. Originally I wanted to do the traditional hike and maybe spend two days there exploring the trails and the towns. However, the company ‘Smart Trip’ was organising a trip from Florence that a few of my friends were interested in going on. So, I decided that it would be good to go now then maybe later on in the year I could go and do my hike. We left Florence and travelled by coach as far as we could then walked down to a train station. There are few roads that can be accessed by car and practically none that can be accessed by coach. There were two different tour companies using the coach, so at this point we separated off. Unfortunately, our group was not getting the boat trip between two of the towns, but it’s definitely on the list for next time! This was to be the first time I encountered trains in Italy and I wasn’t sure what to expect, I had heard mixed things… Some saying Italian trains tend to be late, whilst some assuring that this was just an exaggeration about the Italian stereotype. As soon as the train arrived I forgot all thoughts of punctuality and cleanliness because I was so astounded to see DOUBLE DECKER TRAINS. No one had thought to warn me of this transport revolution happening in the Mediterranean. We don’t have double decker trains in England, because I think our train lines are a little older than some European ones and they were built shorter and therefore we don’t have sufficient height to make two levels viable. Once I recovered from my emotional response to the train. I could appreciate the beautiful villages and the tasty gelato. When we settled in our final village we bought some typical Tuscan focaccia, mine had Pomodoro and mozzarella, and so was essentially pizza, we washed it down with some cold drinks and made our way to the beach. To the very hot, stony beach. My feet certainly were not ready for that and protested with every step I took. It was in fact impossible to touch the sand with any part of the body, unless you liked that part to start burning immediately. However, I perched myself onto a small towel I had bought with me and proceeded to start reading, with frequent breaks to apply sun lotion. Eventually I got too hot and decided to go for a swim. The water was very refreshing but it wasn’t hot! It was a good job the weather was warm otherwise the water would have been a tad too cold. We headed home with the promise of that typical post-beach good nights sleep. However, before we could think of bed, we had to stop off at a pizzeria for pizza and wine. Adorably they made our pizza in the shape of hearts. That night I fell asleep very contented with my day. I would recommend whole-heartedly a trip to Cinque Terre, but not if you want a beach holiday.

pretty things Is this heaven? I think so. gorgeous waters at Cinque Terre Fireworks for a local dead saint. ponte vecchio, it's a'ight Street art in Florence. Artist:Clet

Myself and two friends at Cinque Terre. Photo credit to Emma.
Myself and two friends at Cinque Terre. Photo credit to Emma.
Florentian sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Florentian sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.

The man. The legend. The penis. child statue in graveyard My street in Florence.

If you have made it this far I applaud you, and I apologise for what was mostly a memory vomit upon this blog.

Caffè crawling and normal life

Ciao tutti,

I am currently in the progress of writing a long post about my summer adventures, but I wanted to do a little post about normal life. The year abroad in it’s essence is something that will vary from person to person. I have felt slightly bad as though I am not making the most of my time in Europe, you see lots of pictures and stories on Facebook of amazing things that people are doing and seeing and I sometimes wonder, what am I doing wrong? This isn’t an attack on people who are doing lots of interesting things, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, my friend’s blog is excellent:

I am so pleased for everything doing exciting things, but I’ve realised that I don’t have to necessarily be doing loads myself, not right now. I live in a small town in Italy, there are no clubs in the town and few bars that are frequented by young people, and although life is quiet right now, that is ok. With the rise of social media (this blog included!) it has made it so easy to show people what a great time you’re having and far too easy to see what other people are doing and compare the two. I have started to try and think, what do I want to do? Instead of, what do I want to show people?

So I will now tell you about the little things I do to fill my lovely life.

I go to the gym, Italian food is heavy and there’s lots of it. I have realised that my body is capable of eating a massive amount of pasta. And I have also realised it probably doesn’t need 2 or 3 servings of pasta each and everyday. I have been meaning to ‘get fit’ for a while now, because exercise is generally good for you. But also, because I have joint hyper-mobility. Basically it means that my joints are a little loose so my muscles have to work pretty hard to keep things stable and standing.The main problem is with my hips and my back, so unless I work on my core I experience horrible pain in my lower back and hips. At it’s worse it has forced me to lie down for 5 hours following 4 hour work shift. This week I have started swimming too. Main thing to note about this is that you have to pay 20 cent on top of the money you pay for entry to shower. Piss take.

Caffè’s are a big part of my current existence. Usually me and one of my friends here like to go fairly regularly to keep up with what is happening in each other’s lives. For example, we might go to the gym then go to a caffè. Sometimes, if we are feeling especially indulgent we go to both of the main caffes in the square. Now, there is logic to this. We prefer the drinks in one but the pasticcini’s (or minions) in the other. So, usually we would go for a drink and then go for a snack. At first I was very unsure of these ‘minions’ but after trying a few I found my favourites and they are a winner.

Pasticcini, yum yum.
Pasticcini, yum yum.

My (Italian) family. I am fortunate enough to have been placed with a lovely family, with two delightful children whom I babysit twice a week. For my services I am permitted to live rent free (I am very lucky), I help them with their homework and bake with them, very tranquil. So they are obviously very generous, and very interesting, I have had some of my best conversations with this family. They have provided an invaluable insight into the parent’s perspective of education here in Italy. They have also been my friends, they have advised, encouraged and cheered me up when I needed it. Generally I speak English with the parents and Italian with the children. It was with the family that I found the thing that I have valued most is not my trips but my laughter (pizza is a very very close second). Trust me, nothing makes you feel at home like laughter does, it truly is magic.

So, I say yes. I say yes to family events, to bars with friends, to Italian cinema trips. I’m saying yes to the normal stuff and I am content.

My summer reads

One of my favourites parts of this summer has been my return to reading. When I was younger I used to read obsessively. I would read while I was doing everything. Often my parents would check on me in the morning and I would have my trousers or tights halfway up my legs, completely abandoned to just finish that chapter.. Unfortunately in a tale almost old as time itself, with increasing school work I spent most of my free time in front of the TV (moderation is key kids). I lost reading completely because I felt guilty that I wasn’t reading my school books, so I stopped reading completely. This year I decided enough was enough and while on my year abroad I could indulge some time to my favourite hobby. So from when my exams finished in June to now, armed with my Amazon Kindle I have managed to read 21 books. I now appreciate that whilst these books might not explicitly relate to my degree or learning the Italian language, they still have value in the light of my degree. Reading often helps your writing and your vocabulary, which is important for essay writing. Also, the fact that both subjects in my degree involve people, it is interesting reading books about people, written by people. They all vary in length but I have to admit being slightly disappointed in that number. But, quality not quantity hey? I will now pick out my favourite five books and give a ‘lil review, because I am avoiding translation work and this post is semi-practical (she says).

5) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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So, Gone Girl has come in at a respectable number five. I haven’t yet seen the film so I took the opportunity to read the book while Amazon had it on a special price of 99p. I had managed to avoid the spoilers and most of the hype when the film came out, so my expectations were pretty average. But, it is a great story and very well written. It was the perfect balance between not knowing exactly what would happen and actually having no idea what might happen. I have to admit the ending was personally for me a little disappointing, but then I am usually disappointed when a book I am enjoying comes to an end. Overall, I was extremely pleased and glad that a book with some much hype was actually worth it.

4) From Italy with Love by Jules Wake

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With my imminent move to Italy (I still can’t believe it), I wanted to read some novels based in the country. I wasn’t too bothered about cultural accuracy, I was just super excited and this book definitely didn’t dampen that excitement. A road trip through Europe with a Ferrari ending at the birthplace of Ferrari, which coincidentally is not too far from where I am living. The exciting build-up to driving the infamous Stelvio Pass was appropriately written. I have to admit as someone who has not yet learnt to drive, this made me want to get behind the wheel of a car fast! Maybe one day I will attempt the Stelvio Pass drive, but first I will wait to see how good I am at driving. This book stood out for me because I didn’t really know what to expect and I wasn’t expecting amazing things. However, the main character was written very well, realist but not boring. Overall, a pleasant, easy summer read.

3) Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

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‘Girl in the Dark’ charts with me at number 3 because I think it is such an important book. The book is a memoir based on one woman’s chronic illness. She develops an extraordinary sensitivity to lights and the memoir is all about charting her life in the dark. It was fascinating for me on many levels but, from a scientific and psychological point of view particularly when she sought answers from the medical and psychological community. It amazed me just how little information they could provide and how they wished to box her into something they could understand, even if it wasn’t the best/right thing. It also made me appreciate my health and how lucky I am. Chronic illness are often misunderstood and unknown. It was beautifully written, and probably the had the best writing out of all the books in my list.

2) The Summer Man by S.D. Perry

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The Summer Man is a recent read but it is one that I think will stick with me for a while. It makes my list because like most on this list, it is different. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good crime or romance novel but every so often I really do value something different. The Summer Man had the best of all worlds and most of all it examined the human condition in both an obvious and subtle manner. If you wanted to think about why different people might be acting in a particular way, there was plenty there. But if you just wanted the story as it was, that was also great quality. The theory of what happens in the book is very interesting and made me wonder a lot about myself and how I might personally react if I was living in Port Isle

1) John Russell series by David Downing

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The full set of the David Downing series on Jon Russell known as the ‘Station Series’ consists of 6 books. However I only read the final four because when I started the first one I read, I did not realise that it was a series. However, as my number one summer read, you can see it did not detract from my enjoyment. Maybe including a book series as one read is somewhat sneaky, however I couldn’t choose between these books because it is the whole series that makes it. What I gained most from these books was an appreciation of what Nazi Germany might have been like from the inside. I had not often thought about how the war and the regime would be affecting normal Germans, not just significant figures such as Oskar Schlinder. The book was sensitively written and whilst I cannot speak fully on topic of the historical accuracy, I think it was generally pretty good. I credit this series with providing a different viewpoint to WW2 and challenging potential views and stereotypes that had previously been portrayed to me.

If you managed to get this far, congratulations and thank you! If you go on to read any of these books I would love to hear your thoughts, so please do comment below!

Tutti in cerchio! The ‘English Summer Camp’.

Ciao amici!

I made it. I have survived my first two weeks working with Italian children and trust me when I say I have learnt a lot. For these first two weeks, George (a fellow Durham student) and I have been running an English Summer Camp with the assistance of two of our ‘best Italian friends’! This is the first time a camp like this has been run in the town, so we had to wing it! Sunday afternoon before the camp began George and I came up with a general sketch of the week ahead with the expectation of having around 20 children between the ages of 6-13 years old from 7:30- 13:30. Needless to say when it came to 9 o’clock and the day’s activities were due to start, we were surprised to find 45 children ranging from 6-14 years old lounging in front of us. In addition to this we were told that later on in the week there would be children who would be staying in the afternoon. So wing it we did!

The most challenging aspect of the week was discipline, neither of us knew how children were disciplined in schools, so we tried various methods. For future reference, counting down from 3 seemed to be the best method… Another challenge we encounter was the vast difference in the abilities and personalities of the children. In Italy children start formal school at 6 years old, so we struggled to find activities that the whole group could do together to learn English and have fun, with the added attitude of the teenagers! To solve this we split the group into two so we could do age appropriate activities.

I led the group with ages 6-9 years. We went over various topics such as colours and animals to ensure that when they returned to school, they could impress the teachers with their memory. I adapted already known games such as splat with colours and animals. We played mime games, which didn’t go as well as I thought it would, either because they struggled with the language or were completely uncreative with their bodies. One of the potential issues with the Italian Education system is that they break up in the middle of June, and begin the new year in the middle of September. With a 3 month break it would be unsurprising that children forget a lot of what they learnt previously. I also introduced directions to the children, left, right, etc with various games. We did a treasure hunt, to great success.

I learnt some useful phrases in Italian, such as ‘tutti in cerchio!’, and just as a side note, these Italian children could not make a decent circle without a guideline to stand on! But often I resorted to general noises to gain attention. However in the most desperate times when things had descended into complete chaos I reverted to the good ole Essex ‘oi!’. Of course this wouldn’t be appropriate in schools, but for the camp it was. I am now very interested to see what the discipline is like in schools.

Image 1: camp week one.                                                                     Image 2: amazing workers at Happy Camp

Thank you to Arianna for the photos!12004130_10207876587216281_4031301312691927049_n12002589_10156139382740195_4061694012528149845_o