My very first time abroad was for an exchange during my second year in high school. I begged my parents to let me go because going to England (and improve my English) was one of my biggest dreams. So I flew to Norwich (a little city in southern England) with a group of schoolmates in September 2009. When we arrived at Stansted Airport, we took a shuttle that led us to the meeting point with our host families. So, we got to this beautiful park and each family was holding a sign with the name of the boy or girl they were waiting for.. I looked for my family and they were not there. At a certain point this bearded man waved his hand and told me he would took me to my family since they couldn’t come to pick me up. So I jumped in the car and a shiver ran down my spine: they drive on the other side of the road!. I knew it, but sitting in the passenger seat was kinda scary.
We got to what I called home for two weeks and on the porch a grandad and granny were sitting siping a cup of tea. They stood up, smiled at me, hugged me and they let me in welcoming me in the warmest way possible. All of my other mates were hosted by young families with kids, but I was the luckiest: I was spoiled by two grandparents that treated me like I was their own grandchild.
The house was cozy, lovely and warm. After showing me around, my host grannyJenny, served me some tea with milk, Frank put my luggages in my room and then we started chatting sitting in the back yard. Since I was a child, I’ve never had problems to make a connection with new people, I mean, I love getting to know new people, so we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about random stuff and it was amazing! All you need to know is that during my entire time there I preferred staying at home with them watching XFactor, chilling on the couch instead of going out with my mates.
Behind the house there was a beautiful garden where Jenny used to grow flowers, plants and all the vegetables I ate there. Just beyond it there was a little lake! No joke!
There were no gates and all the doors were unlocked, so during the day there was a huge hustle and bustle… The librarian next door, Jenny’s life-long friend… Every time was tea time!
Every day my alarm set off quite early but in a super sweet way: Jenny knocking at my door with a glass of water telling me it was time to go to school. That was the first time someone called me “darling”. I got ready, I went downstairs to have breakfast and the table was full of delicacies! All kinds of cereal, milk, tea, juices, jams and of course I tasted everything.On my first day Jenny walked me to the bus stop, 10 minutes away from home. I got on the bus, showed my pass to the driver and after a 40 mins ride I reached the city centre where my school was. I had so much fun at school, the teachers were nice and funny and then it was soon lunch time. The afternoons were dedicated to walks and trips!
Norwich is a quite small and concentrated city . People were nice, kind and strolling around was a real pleasure. Besides visiting Norwich Castle (which had been a prison in ancient ages and is now a museum), I had the chance to visit London and
as well. I had been waiting to see London for so long!I wanted to visit the city so bad and I still remember the feeling when I saw the Big Ben from the coach window. I was moved. The tour in London was short because we had little time so we had a glimpse of its hotspots and my heart was beating so fast seeing those wonders. Moreover, it was my first time out of Italy, so everything was kinda magical to me.
The second trip was to Cambridge, the famous university city, and here I was also impressed by the beauty of that place; it seemed to be in a Harry Potter movie and all I was waiting for was Madam Hooch to show up for the flying lesson.
I remember I shed a few tears when it was time to go back to Italy and said goodbye to my host grandparents. I’ll always keep that experience in my heart, where I immediately felt comfortable even if I was with people with different habits and culture.
Are you going on exchange with your school soon? All you need to know is it will be awesome! You will have a lot of fun and you will not want to go back home. Don’t be afraid of new things, of living with a family that is not yours, because that is what it’s really interesting of the whole thing! You will learn a lot, you will improve your English and you’ll have loads of stories to tell!