On of the projects this semester involves working with students from a local Italian high school. While we were told that most of them speak English, their abilities all differ. For the first time meeting them they came to our campus where we were all wearing name tags.
Meeting my Italian partner was an interested and nervous experience. Before meeting her I was worried about whether she would speak enough English for us to have a conversation or if I needed to have google translate ready. I was also unsure of when I met her for the first time if I should go for the baci or the handshake. Usually on Wednesdays all I do is homework so I just wear sweatpants. However, I knew I should set a good impression and I should dress up. Turns out I wasn't the only one with this feeling. Before I knew it, the time was here and we were supposed to go upstairs to find our partner. I found it funny how no one would cross from their side of the room. On one side was the Americans all trying to decide whether to go for the baci or not and on the other was the Italian students. Finally, it was like the ice was broken as one person ventured into the unknown to greet their Italian student. From then on it was a free for all for finding your partner. I found it funny how one person wrote the name of their Italian partner on the back of the packet like you see at the airport. When I finally found my partner, I let her take the lead for what to do. She went for the handshake and I was relieved. It was then time to start the interview with each other; the moment I had been waiting for. It turns out her English was good so we could have a pretty good conversation. The only thing she needed help with was the spelling of Maryland and what the letter "y" looks like. She even translated for the other Italian in our group who did not speak that much English.
There were a couple things that surprised me and one of then was the fact that she only has about an hour of homework a day and only for English. She was amazed to hear that I usually have 3-5 or sometimes more homework a day. I also could not believe that they get out of school around 1:30. I have never had that short a school day or that little homework. I was amazed that their school structure was so different. I think she also felt the same about ours. The other thing that interested me was the fact that she said that all she does is sleep, eat, and hang out. While I do these sometimes, a big part of our schooling is extracurricular. Whether its sports of clubs I usually had something every day after school. It was interesting to think that she has no homework and she gets out of school super early yet doesn’t have anything to do afterschool.
Meeting my Italian partner was a super interesting experience. While I went into it nervous I left excited to meet her again. I also feel like this experience is something we may never have the chance to do again and gives great perspective to how a simple thing like school changes with a change in culture. It also showed me that while trying to communicate with someone who may or may not speak english may be nerve-racking, I should not avoid it because the experience I get out of it are far greater than the ones I would get sheltering myself away.
I'm Sabrina Kirsch a sophmore physical therapy student at Duquesne University. I will be spending the spring semester of 2017 in Rome, Italy where I will eat my way through all the gelato and pasta they offer. My goal is to see everything possible and visit as many countries as possible.