Friday, November 29, 2013

My Big Fat Italian Thanksgiving

Hey everyone,

Sorry that it's been so long since I've last posted, but nothing extremely exciting has been happening. I'm finally settled in, feeling like a normal(ish, I'll never be normal, let's be honest) italian teenager, and I'm developing a sort of routine. The language is still difficult, but the amount that I've learned at this point is outstanding, and I'd never have guessed that I'd be able to understand so much in such a short amount of time. Anyways, on to the fun stuff! 

Yesterday was thanksgiving, which I'm sure all you crazy Americans know. Also, fun fact, my second favorite holiday after Christmas. Getting to see all the family, eating a disgustingly large amount of food and not regretting it at all, and the official start of the Christmas season. 
Well, of course, this year I'm not with my family, which is a little sad, but luckily I have another great family here. One who is so excited to share a huge American tradition with me, even though they're italian. So last afternoon, I went to my host grandmas house and baked a (slightly failed) pumpkin pie, while she, her sister, my host grandpa, and my other host grandma made turkey, focaccia, mashed potatoes, and other fabulous foods.
Even I made a focaccia!
It was such a fun, great night, and I'm so extremely grateful for this second family I have. And on that note, here's a list of things I'm grateful for this year:

• My family at home, in particular my parents. This year wouldn't be possible without them and letting me leave them the same year as my sister must've been so hard, but they always support me no matter what, and for that, I will always be grateful. 
• Italy. The people in it, the food I've eaten, the friends I've made, the new language and culture I'm struggling to understand, and the challenge it's presenting me with to overcome. 
• My dogs. Lord do I miss my dogs. 
• My friends at home who stick with me through thick and thin, even when we fight, or don't agree on something, even when I'm 5000 miles away. They're the best. 
• Me. I'm grateful that I have the courage to do this, that I'm pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone to accomplish something that has and will change my life, that I'm investing in my future, and that I'm having fun doing it. 

Okay, now that all the sappy, loving stuff is out of the way, here are some more pictures: 

Buona festa del Ringraziamento! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Only People I Can Relate To

The beautiful hotel

So if the title wasn't enough info for you I was talking about AFS kids. It's hard to describe, but once you become an exchange student, you automatically connect with all other exchange students on a whole other level. It's insane actually, like I've known most of these people for a couple days but we all love each other anyways.

Last Saturday I hopped a 4 hour bus ride to Palermo with two other AFSers in my local chapter. We were headed on our way to a 4 day "entrance camp" at a hotel with 75 or so other kids who are currently in Sicily. I had mixed feelings as we first drove up... Yay, I'm missing school! Wait, who are all these people? I don't remember anyone.. Will I be the only one with any problems? What if everyone else is having a perfect time??!??!?!

My favorite people(:
Well this camp beat any mixed feelings I had out of me because it was AMAZING. It's indescribable. To boil it down:
1. No, I am not the only one with problems. In fact many people are having a much harder time than me. The good thing about this is I appreciate my amazing host family and friends much much more.
2. My Italian is quite good; there are a lot of people (most asian, but it's more excusable for them because their languages are SO much different) who can't speak a lot more than "ciao".
and 3. AFS students are awesome.

Okay so basically this is what the weekend looked like:

Saturday: We all arrived and then had a group meeting where we talked about expectations and rules and such. After that we switched into our smaller groups for the weekend. I ended up getting the best group in the whole camp (in my opinion ;) ). Most of the people were spanish-speaking and were very good at speaking Italian, which was great because we almost always spoke Italian, and I found out that I'm actually good at speaking it! Anyways, after our first group activity we ate dinner and then split into countries to make a poster representing our culture. All of us US citizens (everyone at the camp refused to call us Americans because, and I quote, "the USA is not the only country in America") got together and drew the US and our respective states.
Mai (from Thailand) in her Thai
Boxing outfit and me 
Sunday: We woke up and had breakfast, then split into groups and did some activities. After that we had lunch and then more group activities. And then the rest of the day we had personal interviews. A personal interview is when one AFS volunteer sits down with an AFSer and talks about what problems they may be having and if they like it here. I was lucky to get Carla, the head of the camp. She had previously told us that she went to the US 16 years ago, but only after sitting down and saying "I'm from Minneapolis, Minnesota" did I learn that she had gone to Mankato, Minnesota! So we had a lot of fun talking about Minneapolis and snow and that I miss my dogs and parents a lot. She was so understanding but also helpful; giving me tips and ideas to make my stay here better. My interview was probably the highlight of my weekend. After that we just had dinner then hung out.
A girl from China in the talent show
Monday: Monday was great, basically free time all day to hang out and be crazy. I really got to know a lot of people that day. Then at night we had a talent show, where almost everyone participated by doing something (like dancing, singing, painting) that was part of their culture. This was so much more fun than anyone expected it to be and we all danced and sang in all different languages which was crazy fun.
Tuesday: Departure day. Very sad. Not much happened, just ate breakfast and then took the bus home.

I think I learned a lot from this camp, in fact I know I did. Now I am so much more confident in speaking, and it's made an impact on my life. It's easier to hang out with my host family, in school I'm always laughing and talking with friends, and I feel better in general. Turns out, no one is going to laugh at you for not knowing how to say something (I know, crazy right?).

Anyways, that's the update! Right now I'm writing this before starting on some homework. This week we only have 4 days of school because of All Saint's Day. Also on Thursday night I'm going to a Halloween party that STARTS at midnight. I'm becoming a normal Italian teenager :)


Monday, October 7, 2013

La Vita e La Scuola

Ciao ragazzi!
(or for you non-Italian speakers: hi guys!)

I realize that I haven't posted anything really long or that actually describes my life here at all, so I'm going to write something about school and my daily life here.


Here's a basic description of school in Italy. Almost every school is Monday-Saturday, which may seem like a bad thing, but I've come to appreciate it a bit more than I originally thought I would because school is 8am-1pm, with many random early releases. So yeah, I have to get up early another day that I normally would be sleeping in, but I have so much more time in the afternoons to do things, including taking a much-needed nap. Those schools that take Saturday off, like my youngest host sister's (whose name is Beatrice- pronounced bay-uh-tree-shay), have school until 4 on Fridays. So, I'd rather take the extra morning.
The class setup is much different than that of American schools also. Instead of getting up every time the bell rings to rush to the next class, the teachers are the ones who switch. The students are put in one class and stay with that class for their entire 5 years of "high school" (that's another difference). I'm in class 3C this year, and I love everyone in it. They become your family after spending all that time with them, and I can already feel myself falling in love with my little family.
The school I'm attending would be considered a "public school" in America (although I'm not sure there are many private schools here), but there's definitely a dress-code. I have no idea if it's actually enforced, but I'm choosing to fit in rather than stand out and possibly get in trouble. Everyone wears jeans or leggings, shorts for girls are a no-no, while if boys choose to wear them they have to be long. On gym days, you need to wear or bring sweatpants or leggings. Tennis shoes are basically required for everyday, but sometimes I see the occasional sandal. I personally stick to my trusty Birkenstocks on non-gym days.
The classes I am taking this year are:
  •  Italian/Latin- luckily, being an exchange student, no one expects me to take Latin. Thank god, because the first time I heard my fellow classmates reading in Latin, I honestly thought they were speaking an alien language that hadn't been discovered yet. My friends, who've been taking it for several years now, are even confused by it. So, I'm off the hook on that, but my teacher recently gave me an Italian grammar book, so I've been doing some exercises with that. It's a bit of a throwaway class because the real Italian lessons come from everyday discussions with family and friends. Think about it, you can study the verb endings of a language for a year, but you won't be fluent unless it's the only thing you hear all day!
  • Math- UGH. I already didn't love math, but now I dislike it even more. Everyone says that math is a universal language, but let me tell you, I can't just look at a math problem and automatically understand it, and unfortunately, explaining it can't be done without Italian. So I've been struggling a bit, but I just recently bought the math textbook so hopefully with a little luck (and a lot of Google Translate) I'll be able to understand the lessons more.
  • English- by far my favorite class (I wonder why?). Instead of solely focusing on grammar or sentence construction, we're actually learning British and English history, which may sound boring to some, but because it's my only class where I don't have to focus on translating, I really love it. I also enjoy history so it's a good class for me.
  • Which brings me to History- to contradict my statement about enjoy history, I do not enjoy this class. And it's not because of what we're learning (not that I really understand what we're learning), it's because of my history teacher's tendency to go "uhhhhhhhhhhhhh" after EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE. Even though I can't understand the other things he's saying, hearing "uhhh" over and over makes me ready to jump out of the windows of my classroom. And I'm on the second floor. So you know I'm being serious here. 
  • Physics- I've always liked physics, and my teacher is really nice and wants to help me, so this class is up there on my list. Just recently she set me up with a laptop and gave me a list of things to look up on Wikipedia and other websites so I'd understand. 
  • Chemistry- I know, crazy, right? I have two science classes! Luckily both of these are my favorite science topics and are things I've studied before, so I don't think I'll have a huge problem with them.
  • Art- Italian art class is a lot different than American art class. Sure, we learn art history in America, but art history in Italy is much more focused on Italian artists (uhhh duh, because they're some of the most influential artists ever). Also the drawing part is different. Last year I took a painting class in America, and it was all about free painting and creativity. Not the case here. Actually, it's more of an architecture class than anything. Very focused on angles and lines and perfection. I kind of love it. 
  • PE- turns out physical education is even more of a joke here than in America! The teacher for this class is BY FAR my favorite, and everyone else's as well. He's hilarious and fun, and basically lets us do what we want. Most of the time we (the girls) do some half-hearted stretching, then pretend to jump rope for bit, then finally end up sitting in a circle on the huge mats and talking for the whole hour. It's really fun.
One more difference between Italian and American schools is that you don't have the exact same schedule everyday, which I actually enjoy a lot because it mixes things up a bit.

My everyday schedule:
6:45 am- the first alarm goes off, which I quickly silence
7:05 am- I finally roll out of bed and get myself into the bathroom
7:30 am- I head out to the kitchen for breakfast (which usually is cereal for me, because I tried but I can't stomach cookies for breakfast) and to watch tv
7:55 am- my host sister (Lucrezia) and I drive with my host mom to school
8:10 am- school starts
11:00 am ~ 11:10 am- quick break for a snack and talking with friends
1:00 pm- school ends
1:30 pm- the bus comes, also bringing the daily violent struggle with 40 other teenagers to secure a seat on the tiny bus
2:10 pm- Lucrezia and I arrive home after the short walk from the bus station
2:30 pm- we're both usually starving so we eat lunch
3:00 pm ~ 5:00 pm (on Tuesdays and Fridays)- Italian lesson with two other AFS-ers in my area

Then the rest depends on the day! I mostly have a lot of free time, which I try to fill with things to do. It turns out that being alone for a long time doesn't help with homesickness, so I've been really working on keeping myself busy!

Well, there it was! My first reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaallllly long, in-depth post.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read it!


Thursday, October 3, 2013


Time is really strange.

Yesterday marked 4 weeks since I left Minneapolis. It's hard to explain, but while it feels like I was sitting in my kitchen eating breakfast this morning, it also feels like it's been about 10 years since I've seen my family and friends. Time is moving remarkably fast, which makes me realize that I can't waste a second of my ten months because, after all, it's only ten nine (!!) months out of my life..

Life is starting to feel more normal in Italy. I've established somewhat of a schedule, I'm trying to keep my days busy, I've made a lot of friends, and I love my host family. I definitely still have "homesick days" every once and awhile, but overall I'm doing well. I love the people here.

Some of the things I've noticed since my last post:

  • Talking with your hands really is an Italian thing, although more Sicilian. And since I'm about as South as you can get, the conversations generally consist of a lot of flailing limbs and me attempting to dodge a slap in the face while also trying to keep up with the extremely fast garbled Italian. I think this has helped me though; my Italian is improving IMMENSELY. I'm actually glad my host family really doesn't know much English, I think I'll learn so much faster.
  • When one Italian get sick, everyone gets sick, not only just because of their lack of normal medicines like DayQuil or their tendency to go to school every day unless they're dying, and not even just because they insist on using the same tissue over and over until it's so disgusting that they have to throw it away... No, it's because THEY DON'T COVER THEIR MOUTHS WHEN THEY SNEEZE OR COUGH. And when they do, they do it with their hands, then don't wash them. It's hilarious, but at the same time terrible because of my weak immune system. Oh well :)

I'm sorry this post isn't very long... Anyone who is reading this and wants to know more please feel free to email me!

One day at a time..

Love always,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cultural Differences and an Update

Today I have officially been gone from Minneapolis for 2 weeks. It's weird... I feel like I've been gone only a second, but at the same time like I've been gone for years already. Anyways, in my first week in Italy I've noticed a ton of cultural differences and I thought I'd share with all of you (and afterwards an update on my life)!

When people say the driving in Italy is crazy, they're not joking. I mean honestly everyone here is a terrible driver. It's like the Hunger Games: Italian Road Rage Edition. If I were to write down the rules for driving I'd write these: 

  1. Disobey any signs you see. No, those stop signs don't actually mean stop silly!
  2. Honk at anyone who's even remotely close to driving out in front of you. In fact, just honk at everyone... It's fun!
  3. Don't wear your seatbelt! Why would you need it?
  4. Drive as fast as you can.. ESPECIALLY when driving on very small two way streets and cliff-side roads. 
  5. Since we're all being so safe here, you might as well text while driving.
  6. Oh and you know round-abouts and intersections? Just go whenever you feel like it and hope for the best. 
  7. Also if someone's driving too slow for you, pass them- just remember to accelerate to at least 100 mph while doing so.

School is booooooring in Italy. I really thought it couldn't get worse than my high school at home but oh it can. Try sitting in the same classroom waiting for teachers to come in and only talk for 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Then try it in a language you don't understand. I've already fallen asleep once (oops). Basically this year it seems like I'll be teaching myself math through Khan Academy and just hoping for the best in the other classes. Luckily school only goes until 1, that's the only +.

I love Minneapolis. One of my favorite things about it is that everyone says hi when they see each other on the street. Even if you don't know someone it's customary to say "hey!" when walking around Lake Harriet. Luckily for me, Italy is basically one giant Minneapolis in that respect. I've gotten a lot of "ciao"s and "buongiorno"s since I've arrived and it makes my day!

Going Out
When my friends and I go out at home, we usually go to someone's house or maybe to the movie theater, but usually we end up at a house. Here it's completely different. Since Saturday is the only non-school night, the town center in Modica Bassa (I live in Modica Alta aka Upper Modica. Most shops and food and stuff are in Modica Bassa aka Lower Modica- named this because it's literally lower than Modica Alta) is packed. I went out last Saturday with some friends and we got pizza and then walked around the town. It was so cool. There were barely any cars, just a couple thousand (seriously!) kids, teens, and adults walking around and talking and laughing and mingling. I really love the atmosphere. Everyone's just out enjoying friends and the weather.

Meals & Food
Not only is the food amazing here, the time taken to socialize during a meal is too! Meals are more of a big deal here. Everyone sits together and talks or watches tv (but always at the table) and just generally soaks up the Italian-ness. When you go out to get pizza, instead of ordering one or two for everyone to share, you each other one yourself (omg so good). Speaking of so good, the gelato is AMAZING. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE HOW AMAZING THE GELATO IS. I love Italian food.

So yeah, that's just what I've noticed so far!

Well, the first week was hard. I won't lie. I was exhausted ALL THE TIME. I had a headache from trying to understand, and I felt so lonely. I was extremely homesick. I can't describe how hard that week was. But I'm so so much better now, really. I found that (surprise, surprise) being alone when you're lonely and homesick doesn't help! So instead I've been hanging out with my host family, limiting time on Facebook and Skype, and generally feeling happier. 

My host family and I will be getting a dog on Monday or Tuesday- a wiener dog. I couldn't be more excited to take care of a new puppy. I have 2 at home and will love the distraction and exercise I'll get and really, who wouldn't love a little puppy to cuddle with?
I joined a volleyball team on Monday, then promptly quit after the first practice because I'm too tired and busy to do it every single day. But don't fear! I'll be swimming 3 times a week with my host sister, walking my new dog everyday, and also doing yoga in a studio by my house.. Hopefully I won't be a billion pounds by the time I get home ;)

I miss my friends and family but I'm also having an awesome time. I love it here and am learning more and more everyday!

Love always,

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Journey Begins

Well. Here I am in Italy, at the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.
The last few days have been insane. I've never been more exhausted or confused in my entire life hahaha. Here's a recap of the week:
Wednesday morning I woke up bright and early, and by bright and early I mean the ungodly time of 4:30 am. I had finished packing the night before, so all I had to do was get dressed. My dad & step mom came over to my mom's, along with my 4 closest friends who wanted to come along to say goodbye (thank you again Max, James, Fiona, and Ellie-- you're amazing amazing friends and I love you so much). Then we went to the airport and had to say goodbye.
I'm not gonna lie,  that was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. In fact I feel sick thinking about it because I miss my parents soooo much :(
Gahh.. Anyways then I flew to New York, red eyed and nervous, and met up with three other girls from Minnesota. Two were going to Spain and one to France. We waited several hours at the airport as other kids started to arrive, and then eventually took a bus to our hotel.
There were only a couple of orientation things that day, the most important one being each group was meeting with a returnee from their country. That part was really fun and made everyone super excited.
Thursday we woke up and headed down for breakfast and several more orientation activities. After lunch, we waited until our respective countries were supposed to go to the airport. The Italy group left at 2:15. We then spent an hour or so checking in and going through security.
  The plane we took was giant, but filled with about 150 AFS kids. Add all felt bad for the other passengers hahaha.
After about 7 hours of movies, crappy plane food, and attempted sleeping, we landed in Zürich, where everyone realized just how tired we were. We spent 4 confused and disoriented hours there, and then flew an hour to Rome. Most of us (me included) fell dead asleep during that plane ride.
By the time we got onto a bus headed to our orientation site in Rome, it was 3:15 pm on Friday. We were all confused and desperately wanting to shower. We arrived at our orientation site, which is a huge villa-like thing with a bunch of different little buildings where we stayed. It actually used to be an abbey. We struggled through the first night, tired and hungry, meeting a million different people from a million different countries.
I sat with a few friends during dinner and we talked a lot about how we'd rather just go straight to our host families. I felt a little lonely because I though I was the only one who was homesick, but I think there were others who didn't say it.
I struggled a bit with sleeping the first night because my body and brain were so confused, but after a phone conversation in the afternoon with my dad and stepmom, I felt tons better and ended up having a lot of fun on Saturday!
Sunday morning I got up and basically said goodbye to friends and stuff, and then at 12 all 30 or 40 of us headed to Sicily got on a bus to go to the airport. The flight to Sicily was only an hour long and then all of a sudden we were there. We were all so so nervous but as we walked through the airport to the baggage claim we could hear all of our host families cheering and stuff. We got our bags and then went out to the area where we could meet our host families. It was insane! People were screaming and holding up signs and cheering. I saw my host family right away and ran over for hugs and kisses and ciao's. It was such an amazing experience. 
After tons of pictures, we drove home, communicating mostly through google translate on their iPad. Then, after getting home and putting my bags in my room, we ordered pizza (because they knew I was tired) and talked for awhile. I then called my dad on skype and we talked for a long time. After that I hung out with my host sisters a bit then hit the hay.
After a much needed 11 hour sleep, I woke up confused and wondering where I was. After I realized that I was in my new home I got up and got ready. We ate breakfast (cereal for me) then headed to Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) to see my school (which starts Wednesday ahhhhhhhh) and go to the police station to get my residence permit. 
Then we went back home and I talked to my mom for a loooong time and then my host sisters showed me their favorite artists. It's so funny- they love Macklemore, Robin Thicke, Nirvana, Ozzy Osbourne, P!nk, and a bunch of other American singers. Then I painted my nails and also painted Beatrice's (my littlest host sister).

Now I'm writing this barely able to keep my eyes open, so I'm gonna take a quick nap, then we're going out for dinner and meeting their grandparents. Since I speak little to no Italian, wish me luck :P


Friday, August 16, 2013


Hey everyone!

I went to Chicago two weeks ago for my visa appointment. Unfortunately, right as my mom and I got to Chicago, we realized that that we had no idea where my passport was. So, after much stress, we gave the woman at the consulate everything else, went home, got a new passport in 2 days, and then FedEx-ed it to the consulate. Thank god everyone was helpful and they allowed us to do that, because yesterday all my papers came in the mail :)
My luggage tags also came in the mail. Everything's starting to feel real at this point. I'm so excited!

19 days until I leave!

Monday, July 8, 2013



These past few weeks have been crazy. I received all the information on my host family a couple weeks ago, and haven't had the time to update the blog until now!

Okay, so here's all the info:
I'll be living in a town called Modica, which is on the south end of Sicily. It's situated in the Hyblaean Mountains, and is one of those super beautiful stacked towns- where all the buildings and houses are stacked up the mountains. It's absolutely amazing. 
Some history: Modica was owned by many different countries and inhabited by many different people, but was annexed to Italy in 1860. As the city developed it was gradually split into "Modica Alta" (Upper Modica) and "Modica Bassa" (Lower Modica).

Garibaldi Theater

Cathedral of Modica
Modica is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in Sicily, in the Sicilian Baroque style. Some of its most famous buildings are a large Baroque Cathedral dedicated to San Giorgio, Castello dei Conti, and Garibaldi Theater. 

Along with being a picture perfect city, Modica is also known for its chocolate! Great 20th-century Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia once said that "Modican chocolate is unparalleled in savor, such that tasting it is like reaching the archetype, the absolute, and that chocolate produced elsewhere, even the most celebrated, is an adulteration, a corruption of the original." If that isn't perfect enough, every year in April there's a five day Chocobarocco festival, devoted entirely to chocolate. I think I've died and gone to heaven.

I'm going to be living with my host mom (Valeria), dad (Antonino), and two younger sisters (Beatrice and Lucrezia, 8 & 14). I'm really excited about this because I've never had younger sisters :) I've been talking to my host mom on Facebook (thank god for Google Translate) and she's amazing. They're so welcoming and excited for me to come. My host mom even told me they already have a room ready for me. Knowing my family makes me a whole lot less nervous and a whole lot more excited!! My flight leaves New York on September 5th. It'll take 7 hours to get to Zürich, Switzerland, and then from there I'll take a 2 hour flight to Rome.

Countdown: 59 days, 20 hours, 20 minutes, and 16 seconds!


PS- Unfortunately you can't donate directly to my tuition anymore, but if you'd like to make a donation just email me and let me know!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Hello all,

Sorry I've been so absent recently- I've been crazy busy these first few weeks of summer! This Saturday, the 22nd, I'll be running Grandma's marathon in Duluth, so I've been preparing for that. I also have a job as a teacher's aide at a camp, and am there Monday through Thursday 9-4. Needless to say, I haven't had much time to update y'all! After this weekend I'll have more free time and will post more!

• I haven't received my host family information yet, although I've been eeeeeeagerly awaiting it! Everyone asks me where I'm going, and it'd be nice to be able to tell them. Oh well! Hopefully I'll get it soon...
• I've been working on the first few lessons on Rosetta Stone, and I think I'm learning! Ciao, il mio nome è Maeve. See? :)
• The online system for donations hasn't been available for awhile now, but I think within the next week or two it will be. I'm also currently writing letters to companies to ask for donations. If you have any ideas about who I should contact, let me know!

Nothing extremely new... Let's hope the next post will be about my host family!!


Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Hello everyone!

Sorry it's been so long since I've last updated!
I was officially accepted to the AFS Italy Program on March 16th, and have been working on raising money for the tuition and other minor details since. I'm so excited to go, and will hopefully be getting my host family information within the next month.
At this point, I'm just fundraising, fundraising, fundraising.

I'll post with more information soon!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chip In Replacement

Hi all,

Just a quick announcement that my chip in app is currently being updated so please don't donate through it until I post that it's available to use!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Submitted the application!

Hello all!

Hope everyone is doing well.

Well, we're one month into the new year, and yesterday I submitted my full AFS application! While I was a couple days past the priority deadline, I was told I'd still be likely to get my first choice (Italy!).

Here's hoping there aren't any problems with the application and I get accepted soon (crossing my fingers)... I'll keep you updated!