Chapter 26 : The End

Well, folks, the time has come to say goodbye! It feels surreal to say the least that this time tomorrow I’ll be well on my way home. So I thought for my final blog post it would be a nice idea to sum up some of the things I’ve learned and loved during my time here, and some of the delights that I can’t wait to be re-united with.

First Things First: What I’ve Learned

How to boil an egg

This might sound plain ridiculous to any self-respecting 21 year old, but before my year abroad I had absolutely no clue about cooking. When I arrived here, before I could figure out how to work the oven (don’t laugh) I was convinced that the only thing that could be cooked on a hob was pasta. I’ve come a long way culinary-wise this year, and while producing the odd monstrosity in accidental homage to my past self, I think general cookery knowledge will probably be the most useful skill that I take away from this experience.

Have a little patieeeeence

You would go insane in Italy if you didn’t manage to develop at least a little pazienza. Nothing happens quickly or on schedule here – from my first pay check taking three months to arrive, to the hour long queues in the post office to the painfully slow walking that is borderline moving backwards (wouldn’t be an issue except that building works, also showing no sign of being finished anytime soon, mean that all foot traffic is single file along the main street.) This year I’ve gradually got the hang of turning my speedometer (mental and physical) down a notch and trying to just enjoy things. Slowly. 

A whole lot about myself

How do you go about defining yourself when plucked out of your home environment and placed somewhere with no friends, family or easily-joinable clubs? With no precedent or expectations telling you who you should be, it’s an interesting experiment in finding out what really matters. So, who am I? Turns out I’m a food-loving countryside enthusiast and wannabe yogi. All I have to do is reinstate my friends and family into the equation and I’ll be complete 🙂

Second Things After First Things: What I Will Miss

The Food

No surprises that this was the first item on the list: I LOVE ITALIAN FOOD. While I think I might just about have had my fill of pizza for the time being, I’m not quite ready to part from my best friend brioche, or the gelato. Fortunately Rome airport has a pretty decent gelateria – clinging on to the very last!

The Teaching!

Yep, shock horror, and not just my favourite students (yes, I have favourites – think I’ve hidden them well though) but all the lovely diversity and hilarity of school life, like trying to explain the ‘meaning’ of the lyrics to ‘All About that Bass’ to confused teenagers, or the boy who, when asked what he would buy if he had €1 million responded ‘a tank.’ Anything else? ‘No, I just need the tank.’ Given that the social side of my year abroad has been a bit dire, having the school community and befriending some lovely teachers has been what’s kept me sane.

The Community

As above, the school has been amazingly welcoming, but there’s something about this whole area that just feels close. Reggio has almost 200,000 inhabitants, yet I feel like the community spirit is stronger here than in Aston Clinton, which has under 4,000. You can’t walk along the main street without someone recognising a pal and wandering over to shake their hand. Speaking of which, I’m now on hand-shaking terms with the gentleman that works at my supermarket, while the owner of the corner shop has been known to buy me an espresso when I come in and comments if I miss a weekly visit – ‘we thought there was no way you could be in Reggio.’ Similarly, the man on the cash desk in my favourite café noticed when I got a bit of a tan and has started giving me free chocolate. These people have all made me feel so welcome in their own small way that I wasn’t sure if I ought to be going round telling them all that I won’t be popping in in the future. I decided against it though, as I’m pretty sure that’s how they treat everyone, because people here are lovely.

Travelling

Before this year I’d seen a fair bit of Italy, but now I can confidently claim to have been to pretty much anywhere that people suggest. Rome, Florence, Turin, Perugia, Capri, Naples, Pompeii, Palermo, Parma and Bologna have all been highlights of this year, with other local Southern places peppered into the mix for good measure. While I’m looking forward to being rooted back at home for Summer and returning to Cambridge in Autumn, this year has shown me that it’s much less effort than you think to get around and see some beautiful places – all of those trips were done over long weekends and have fed my enthusiasm for all things Italian throughout the year.

And Finally: Things I Can’t Wait to be Reunited with

My entire wardrobe (and not having to censor what I wear)

Only through the process of packing did I realise how little I have accumulated this year. All my stuff fits easily into two suitcases, whereas my Cambridge move is usually an entire car full! As such I’m getting a little bored of wearing the same clothes, and making sure those clothes are high-necked, low hemmed, not too fitted and not too summery. There is an unspoken uniform here of jeans, trainers and puffer jacket in winter and jeans, t-shirt and and lighter jacket in the summer (Italians don’t seem to feel the heat) –  none of my preferred clothes fit that criteria at all (I didn’t even bring jeans with me), so I am left feeling uncomfortable either because I’m wearing things that I wouldn’t usually be seen dead in or because everyone, leery men especially, is staring at me because I’m different. I’m looking forward to being back in a country where no one gives me a second look!

Shock Horror: English Coffee and Food!

I know, I know, I just said that the food was something I’d miss, but while Italian food is scrummy, it is all Italian. There’s one Chinese restaurant to visit, a Mcdonalds and then that’s pretty much your lot. I am absolutely dying for a curry, proper fish and chips, a burger (not from Mcdonalds) and some tapas. I have varied and expensive tastes that Italy fails to satisfy. Similarly, while Italian coffee is the pinnacle, it’s a very intense experience. I can’t drink it without quite a bit of sugar, and find myself missing it’s weedy cousin Nescafé. I’m also looking forward to the lengthy coffee dates that a long English beverage necessitates. Espressos are great, but gingerbread lattes with friends beat them every time.

The Countryside

One of the best things about my placement this year has been the location: right on the gorgeous mediterranean coast. I’ve loved my runs along the seafront and (very) occasional dips in the ocean, and now I’m ready to go back to my home: the English countryside. Over Summer I’m planning on spending a lot of time with my family in the West Country and am excited to swap ice creams and salty air for cornish pasties and fresh country breezes!

My Friends and Family

I won’t lie, it’s been quite a lonely year. To make up for that, my social calendar for my (four month long!) Summer is absolutely jam-packed. Nothing beats home friends, but more than that, I’ve learned that absolutely nothing beats my family. They’re a mad lot, but I feel a whole lot saner round them than I do anywhere else!

So it’s time to say a fond farewell to Reggio Calabria, and an excited squeal at the thought of seeing my parents at the airport tomorrow. And what will I be having for my homecoming meal? Fish and chips, of course!

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