Friday, February 18, 2011

Lizzie writes in From Italy!!!!

I’m currently sitting in a small trattoria near my house, where I just enjoyed a delicious risotto. This is my life for the spring. I wake up to real Italian coffee for breakfast, have a nice 20-minute walk to my school, go to classes, and then spend the entire afternoon exploring the streets of Florence. Being in Italy is so amazing, and so different from Oberlin and Manhattan, where I grew up. People are truly kind and friendly here. They are patient with Americans, who are just starting to familiarize themselves with the culture and the language, and are happy to have us here in their country. My schoolwork is very simple because professors know that the real lessons learned here are on the streets and outside the classroom.

I live with an 83-year-old woman, Loredana, and have an American roommate Taylor. Even though it’s just the three of us in this big, old, beautiful home, people are constantly coming in and out of the house. Friends, children, and grandchildren spontaneously show up for dinner or just to have a coffee. It’s a great family and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

I’ve done a lot of traveling so far and have plans to do more! I went to Switzerland last weekend. I don’t ski, so instead I just walked through the Alps with a friend and saw the most breathtaking views. I have lots of travel plans within Italy: Venice, Rome, Ferrara, Assisi, Ravenna, Bologna, Sicily…the list goes on.

Speaking different languages is a big passion of mine, and it’s really fun to really know another one well. Florence is a very touristy city, so there are a lot of Americans as well as Italians that speak English, but I definitely seek out those Italians who are willing to help me practice. At the dinner table we have long discussions about religion, politics (everyone hates Berlusconi!), and various philosophical concepts.

I’m working this semester at an elementary school, teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade English. I love being there every week because I get to interact with Italian kids and at the same time feel connected with the true Italian culture. It’s a great experience for me as a teacher as well as a student.

Going abroad is truly an amazing experience and I want to encourage everyone to go abroad if you have the chance! You learn things that you couldn’t possibly in the US because everything is new, everything is scary and yet you figure it out in the end. It would have been easier and safer if I had stayed at Oberlin this semester, but I feel so much stronger and wiser now – like a real adult.

Friday, February 11, 2011

LJ and Meredith share their Winter term with us!

"For winter term Meredith and I went to Costa Rica. We worked on an organic farm in Puriscal. It was mainly a dairy farm, but they also had chickens for eggs and a vegetable garden. In the morning we would pick lemons or oranges and make juice. We spent our time raking, working with animals, gardening, and building. On warm days we would hike to a waterfall and on rainy days we would read in the treehouse or doing ceramics. My favorite animals were the seven puppies that lived on the farm, Meredith's favorite was the baby goats. We left the farm early and travelled around Costa Rica.
Some of our adventures included going on suspension bridges in the cloud forest, visiting volcanos and going to the most beautiful beach. We loved going to the Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw so many animals including, two kinds of monkeys, two kinds of sloths, exotic birds, iguanas and cool insects. We also went on a zip-line tour over the cloud forest which was breath taking! The tour even included a Tarzan swing, a rappel that was 100 feet and the final zip-line was in a superman harness so it felt like flying! The forests were so beautiful it looked like it was right out of Avatar. One of my (Meredith) favorite things about the whole trip is that I got a chance to use all of my spanish with native speakers, who were overall so helpful and so nice.

Overall, our stay in Costa Rica was great, PURA VIDA!"