I’m out of practice with this blogging lark.
Finally, seven weeks after my year abroad officially came to an end, during which I was on holiday with my family near Mainz (we really travelled far), a lovely 5 days with Charlotte in Rome, 4 very worthwhile weeks doing an internship with Bärbel, a freelance translator, and with just a week before I go back to uni, I am writing my final year abroad blog. Obviously, nothing more has happened with my year abroad, but I would like to write this final blog as my way of signing off from a truly unforgettable year, full of invaluable experiences.
On 24th September 2013, I bid farewell to England, to my home, to my family, to my friends and to Charlotte for what seemed like an immeasurably long year away. Thrown into the wilderness that is Italy, forced to converse in a language that really varies from place to place, and made to suppress every organisational bone in my body so as to “go along with it”, my year abroad began. I’ll come to my personal thank yous later, but everyone involved contributed to making it incredibly enjoyable and I was made to feel very welcome. Then after such a wonderful time in Italy, I made my way by bus, stopping off in Austria, to Germany. Despite my worries that Germany wouldn’t be as welcoming as Italy and had a lot to live up to, and despite my initial concerns about where I was living, Germany pulled through and I fell in love with it all over again, enjoying just as good a second semester as the first. I set out the complete diversity between Germany and Italy in a comical, light-hearted way, but in all honesty, looking back, I loved discovering the cultural differences between the two over the year. And I fell in love with the two cultures for completely different reasons.
One very poignant moment on my year abroad came in Salzburg in December, when I went to visit Tom Dodd. I learnt not only a lot about his year abroad, but also a lot about my own. I realised that my number one personal goal in both countries was to attain a high level of fluency in both languages that would run through with me and my career, hopefully in a translation sense. This has come through in many aspects of my year, from going out of my way to buy more papers than I could ever hope to read, to taking every opportunity I could to expand my cultural (and therefore linguistic) knowledge, even to translating these blogs into/from Italian and German to track my progress. Of course, other aspects were important too – making lasting friendships, exploring the vast amount of historic and wonderful cities in the two countries, exploring the very wide ranging food of the two countries – but my language was my priority. And I vividly remember a few times when I realised I was at the height of my fluency in the respective languages. In Italy, it was spontaneously shouting “ma lei non parla italiano, dio can” (what?!? She doesn’t even speak Italian, for fucks sake!) at Fil on one of my last nights after months of incessant exposure from Jack and Fil of “bestemmie” (possibly the worst swear words there are in Italy). In Germany, it was less clear cut, but I think it came during World Cup, when Germany beat Brazil 7-1 – it must have been the sheer adrenaline of the occasion 😀
So yeah, I’ve got the language side out of it, and I’m happy with that. But apart from that, over the course of this year I’ve had the pleasure of making a wide range of new friends, having uncountable wonderful experiences, experiencing two new cultures and finding two new homes in two wonderful cities, Padua and Mainz.
My particular highlights in the two cities:
Arriving to Via Luigi Luzzatti, 7, to Giacomo making me a massive plate of pasta
In general, Jack and Fil’s cooking throughout the year
My birthday weekend with Jack, right after I arrived
Exploring several Italian cities, including Verona, Ferrara, Venice, Vincenza, Bologna, with Helena and Georgina, and when he got out of bed, Connor
My weekly meet-up with Pietro, my Italian-German tandem partner
Marvelling at how good Giulio’s English was, while I did my best in Italian
Exploring Venice with my parents and Charlotte when they visited
FIFA nights with Connor
Going to visit Tom in Braunau, going to the Christmas market in Salzburg and enjoying the journey to and from, going through snow-capped mountains
The ESN trip to Vienna/Bratislava/Budapest, particularly in the thermal baths in Budapest while it snowed
Getting to know loads of Germans and being able to practice my German
Loads of flat parties at Connor, Yannick and Nicolo’s house
The Padova game, where we couldn’t see anything and then our Christmas meal
The many nights drinking in the piazze, in particular with Spritz!!
Coming back after Christmas to Pan e Vin at Fil’s
Vale and Laura telling me off for walking around without shoes on
Crashing into a parking barrier on my bike on my way home drunk one night
Absolutely winging my Filosofia del Linguaggio with Helena and Georgina and getting a 27/30
Going to the San Siro with Jack, his dad and others to see Inter vs Cagliari
Rome with Connor
My last night with everyone, and my massive party, after which we had to scrub down the whole flat
The Mix Tour, getting to know Marcella, Clare, Niall, Farrah, Jan, Christian, Pablo, Daniel, Matteo and many more
Discovering Mainz, or at least the Eiscafés in Mainz, with Niall, Farrah, Marcella and Clare
Discussing everything from politics to comedy with Jonas and experiencing the Studentenverbindung
The MAX Tour and many other TOM tours
Being truly educated in the world of beer by Niall
Exploring several German cities, including Frankfurt and Heidelberg with Niall, Farrah, Marcella and Clare
Going to a Frankfurt game with Max
Going to a Mainz game and the last Frankfurt U23 game ever with Jan, Christian and Stephan
Niall’s farewell party and the Johannisfest
Learning how to cook Spätzle and having a legendary 3rd floor going away party just before Paddy left
Several nights spent at Jan, Christian and Stephan’s, discovering Maultaschen, Kräuterbutter, Club Mate, 11 Freunde, and most importantly, all the really hip German things that the cool kids say (like “keepst it real” and “haust rein”) 😉
That beautiful shot bar in Mainz that had a wide selection of unbelievably good shots
Exploring the night life with the English-speakers, including an uneventful attempt in getting into Schon Schön
Showing Charlotte and my parents around Mainz and Wiesbaden
Losing my brother’s case on a train (always fun)
Visiting Berlin, Munich and Cologne to see Becki, Oliver and Sam, respectively
THE WORLD CUP! with English-speakers, German-speakers and others 😀
Watching German vs Brazil with Farrah, Christoph and his flatmate
Watching the final with Jan, Christian, Stephan, and others, celebrating in town, having a Germany shot, and basically getting drunk 😀
Discovering Beste Worscht far too late
I’d recommend this opportunity to have this experience of a year abroad to anybody. I can tell you that it is a wonderful year that you’ll never get back and you’ll never forget.
But above all, I firmly believe that the experience would have been nothing without the people who were part of it…
First of all, thank you to Charlotte for supporting me all year, picking me up when I’ve been down, encouraging me when I’ve had no confidence, showing incredible patience despite not having me around for a year and all round being my rock.
Thank you to my family for also supporting me and being there for me when I’ve needed them. I know it was hard for my parents to send me off to two new countries, into the unknown, but I appreciate their worrying all year.
Thank you to Liam for coming over and losing your case. Really made the weekend. Thanks pal.
Thank you to my friends at home, for not moving on and forgetting I existed 😀 Pete, a.k.a. Mop Brother no. 2, Tom Dodd, an all round adequate 21st best friend :D, Joe, Becki, Elliot, Aaron and Gemma, for gracing me with the occasional Skype when I had nothing to do and to Elis, Becki, Sam, Oliver, and Tom for all letting me visit you and being wonderful tour guides around your respective cities.
Grazie ai miei coinquilini di merda 😉 – Jack, Fil, Laura e Vale (E PES!) – che mi hanno aiutato ad abituarmi ad una nuova città e un ambiente nuovo. Grazie per l’aiuto in cucina, l’aiuto con la mia comprensione della vostra lingua (DIO PORCO!!) e l’aiuto con la vita quotidiana in generale. Grazie a Jacopo, che mi ha preso i soldi ogni mese e grazie a cui ho scoperto la Pizzeria al Duomo. Grazie ai semicoinquilini – Luca, Tommy e Lainz. Luca ha la scusa di esser il fidanzato di Laura, ma Tommy e Lainz, trovatevi una casa 😀
Grazie agli amici di Jack e Fil (Lainz, Fede, Ale, Cristiano, Giorgio, Riccardo, Ilaria) che mi avete fatto sentire accettato e che non avete ignorato “lo sporco inglese” :D. Grazie agli altri italiani – a Pietro per il miglior italiano-tedesco tandem, a Giulio, che mi ha fatto vedere che ci sono gli italiani che parlano l’inglese perfettamente e comunque mi ha permesso di parlare in italiano con lui. E a Mirko – peccato che non ci siamo visiti un po’ più spesso ma ci vediamo per forza!!
Grazie a Andrew – un professore eccellente della mediazione inglese. Mi hai sentito quando mi sono lamentato della vita italiana e apprezzo la tua compassione 😉
Thank you to Connor, for FIFA, for a bit more FIFA, for providing a male voice to our English group, for the interesting football chats, FIFA, alcohol, pickled onion juice + vodka, and all round banter. Thank you to Helena and Georgina, who provided me with a bit of British sanity when the Italian ways just got too much! Oh and all the actual socialising we did 😀
Thank you to all the Erasmini (I think that’s what ESN called us) for making the Erasmus experience that little bit wilder.
Danke euch Deutschen, mit denen ich mein Deutsch üben konnte.
Dziękuję Bogusz za nauczenie mnie polskiego (I used Google Translate 😀 )
As for those in Germany ….
Ich danke Jan, Christian und Stephan für alles, was ihr mir beigebracht habt – Maultaschen, Kräuterbutter, Club Mate, 11 Freunde, and am wichtigsten die coolsten Sprüche, die alle die coolsten Deutschen sagen, wie “keepst it real” und “haust rein” ;). Danke auch an Jonas, Christian und die anderen von der Studentenverbindung für eine ganz verschiedene Erfahrung in Deutschland.
Ich danke außerdem meinen Mitbewohnern – Boris, Alex, Paddy, Zinat, Patrick, Michael, Rishi und Lucian – Inter I ist und bleibt die Scheißbude von Mainz, aber es war ein wahres Vergnügen, mit euch allen zu wohnen. Und sonst danke an Christoph, meinen tollen Tandem-Partner, Steffen, meinen Fremden werden Freunde, Daniel, die Wissensquelle von Mainz und Jacqui und Teddy.
Thank you to all the English-speaking people in Mainz, who I tried to work out the complicated German university system with. Thanks to Niall for educating me in beer and Farrah, Clare and Marcella for all the German fun 😀 it wouldn’t have been the same without you guys! Also, right at the end, getting to know Frank, and also getting to know the other English group, with Ben, Jenny, Toni Lee, Meeri and Jack!
Grazie agli italiani e gracias a los españoles!
And so, as I sign off for the last time on my year abroad, sad as it may be, I realise how lucky I have been to have had this opportunity and I’d like to thank each and every one of you again, and wish you all the best of luck in your futures. Keep in touch!
See you soon, bis bald, a presto, hasta luego, à plus!