Monday, April 25, 2016

Rania in Castellanza!

Ciao! When I first arrived in Castellanza, Italy I was a bit disappointed. I thought this little town that I was going to be living in for the next four months would be vibrant and bustling with people –almost city-like. Instead, it was a ghost town and with hardly anyone around. To be fair, it was a Monday morning and most things in Castellanza are closed on Monday mornings, as I would soon find out. I had super high expectations because of the various movies I have watched that were based in little Italian cities (I watched Eat Pray Love on my flight over). After waiting for over an hour at the train station, me and two other UNCG girls were finally picked up by a few members of the university’s erasmus “welcoming” committee. Their cars were so small (much like the other cars in Castellanza, except for the occasional Jeep or Range Rover), that we had to split up so that we could fit ourselves and our multiple suitcases into the car. 

Pisa, Italy: Barely nudging the tower of Pisa back up straight.

Florence, Italy: Me in the busy streets of Florence in front of the Ponte Vecchio

Throughout this journey I’ve tried to be super transparent with how I’ve been feeling and what I’ve been experiencing here, good and bad. I’m not going to lie, the first couple of weeks of being in Castellanza were hard. We were told that we had to get a Residence Permit in order to travel throughout the EU, so the first few weeks after orientation were spent tracking down papers to send our Residence Permit application in. Getting our residence permit and fiscal code was the most trying experience I’ve had since being here. The directions for what to do and how to do it were so vaguely described that it really tested my patience and desire for being here in Italy. One thing that I definitely miss about UNCG is the set class schedules. When we arrived, during orientation week, we had to sign up for classes that we wanted to take. LIUC’s class system is all over the place with some vital classes having time conflicts. It’s a super frustrating process, much like most things in Italy, but luckily it all worked out in the end. 

Castellanza, Italy: My school an old cotton mill. In an odd way, it's pretty cool. When there's sun in Castellanza, it's a huge deal (for me at least). This is a picture taken from the residence hall's outside passageway.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’m finally adjusted to the Italian way of life… although some things still surprise me. I would say the first month was definitely the hardest. While I still have moments of homesickness here and there, it’s not as bad as in the beginning and I think it has to do with the traveling I have done recently. Since being abroad, I have gone to: Milan, Italy; Florence, Italy; Pisa, Italy; Trento, Italy; Barcelona, Spain and Paris, France. Each place I have gone to has obviously been different, but they have helped take my mind off of missing home. I’ve tried a few things for the first time since being here too, like skiing on the Swiss Alps in Trento, seeing the tower of Pisa, standing under the Eiffel Tower and staying in a hostel (which has actually been a pleasant experience! I highly recommend the St. Christopher’s hostel chain). My favorite place that I have visited thus far has been Paris, of course. Before even going to Paris many people said that it’s overrated but I loved every bit of the short weekend we were there for. We finally met some Americans, I saw a friend from high school and we even ran into a fellow Spartan. My favorite part about Paris was the diverse Gare Du Nord neighborhood we stayed in and the grounds around The Lourve museum. And of course, you can’t forget the croissants and macarons! Paris was such a great place to visit for one of my last trips and I can’t wait to get back. 

Trento, Italy: Me skiing in Trento for the FIRST time ever! Had a blast, shed tears, laughed way too much.

Before I conclude this post, if you’re like me and have been feeling a little homesick and experiencing culture shock, below are a few tricks that have helped me get through it:

1. Say Yes Often Saying “yes” forces me to get out and interact with people. Sometimes I do say “no” because I just need that alone time. But more often than not, I agree to go out and socialize with the other erasmus students. It helps me get out of my comfort zone and I get to know the others a little better than I did before. 

Barcelona, Spain: Palm trees and blue skies in Barcelona! We were there for a whopping 9 days for Spring Break.
Barcelona, Spain: La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen. Besides the Duomo in Milan.

 2. Talk About Your Problems Actually tell people what you’re going through. Most people will not understand, but sometimes it helps just getting your frustrations and emotions out. It’s okay to cry, too. I spoke to my roommate about my homesickness and now she understands why I may act the way I do in some situations. We now have this mutual understanding, where at first I thought I was only going through this phase alone. 
Paris, France: Being goofy in front of the Louvre Museum.

3. It’s Okay To Be Alone It’s also okay to be alone sometimes too (see #1). You have to let go of that FOMO and make time for yourself. It’s okay to miss out on a night out, and I promise you, having time to yourself will help you stay sane. It can be overwhelming to say “yes” and go to every single event. Having that designated alone time is necessary. 

Milan, Italy: The Duomo of Milan during Carnival.

4. Communicate With People At Home A lot of people say that you shouldn’t communicate with people at home because it can make you more homesick, but I disagree. Sometimes when I talk to my friends or family about what’s going on at home or at school, I instantly feel better afterwards. Just having those few minutes of catching up with them is all I need to feel better and motivated. They’re the only ones who fully get me, so talking to them is refreshing. 

Paris, France: Three Americans and one Scot in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower!

So that's it! Hopefully this post wasn’t fully depressing. I’m having a wonderful time in Italy, it just took me a few weeks to adjust and settle in. Me and Alphonso (my dragon) sign off for now. Arrivederci! 

Rania Bolton
Universita Carlo Cattaneo (LIUC)
Castellanza, Italy