By Hope Gaffney

28 November 2014 - 06:09

'I’ve realised how differently they do things in Italy.' Photo (c) Daniel Peckham, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and adapted from the original.
'I’ve realised how differently they do things in Italy.' Photo ©

Daniel Peckham, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and adapted from the original.

Hope Gaffney, who's spending eight months in Italy working as an English language assistant, explains how the experience is helping her grow.

1. How to be self-sufficient

As a university student, I had already lived away from home for a few years, but self-sufficiency in a foreign country with a different culture is a completely different ball game. From going shopping to opening a bank account to finding accommodation, doing these things abroad and in a foreign language is bound to make you more confident in relying on yourself. This is especially true if you're living in a country with no relatives around to help you out. I've found that using Italian to negotiate a housing contract, a bank account, or even a few tomatoes has brought a real sense of achievement.

2. A new perspective on the UK

It's natural when you're in a foreign country to compare it to the one you come from. Working in Italy, I’ve realised how differently they do things here, and in some ways it's given me a deeper appreciation of Britain. For example, I was particularly lucky in my high school to have a native French teacher. It's a rarity in Italy to have native language teachers in schools, which is why the English language assistantship scheme run by the British Council is so worthwhile.

But there are many positives that I will take from Italian life. In Italy, spending time with friends and family is just as important as going to work and concentrating on a career. Italian people seem to have a great way of making the work-life balance look so easy! I think I should definitely take a leaf out of the Italians’ book and start enjoying the time I have with my family more.

3. A better idea of what to do in life

My experience in Italy hasn’t provided me with a revelatory idea for my future career, but it has rekindled my love for travel and discovering new cultures. I have also loved updating my blog whenever I can, and writing articles for various student and travel magazines has made me rediscover my passion for writing. I am also enjoying teaching, and my love of working with children has also been reignited. I am still unsure if I want to become a teacher, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s much harder than I thought it would be. But if I can handle a class full of rowdy Neapolitans, I think I’m ready for anything! One day, I could find my perfect job as a teacher-by-day and travel-journalist-by-night, but until then I’m going to continue travelling and experiencing new cultures along the way.

4. A love of art, history and culture

Italy is a country so rich in history that it’s easy to become a lover of the stories of how this wonderful country came to be. Each region, city, and village has its own unique story, and discovering them is just as exciting in each case. I have seen ancient ruins and churches so intricately and beautifully designed that they have left me astonished. Art is also a large part of Italian culture. As a country steeped in religion, Italy has religious art almost everywhere -- mesmerising even for the less religious among us. I already enjoyed art and history before I came to Italy, but coming here has definitely reinforced my love for them. I can’t wait to discover the story behind even more places.

Apply to be an English language assistant

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