FUTURE TEACHERS OF ITALIAN IN THE US
Teaching in Lombardy, Italy
By Anna Rocca & Kathryn D. O’Connell
Leaving home to study or work in a foreign country can be an emotionally complicated experience. It is normal to look forward to the travel with anticipatory nervousness and, as the messages below attest, acclimation can be an unexpected and wonderful process. Kathryn O’Connell graduated in 2011 with a major in Music and minor in Foreign Languages (French and Italian). Thanks to her academic excellence she was inducted into the International Foreign Language Honor Society Phi Sigma Iota and was offered an eight-month teaching fellowship in Italy during the 2011-2012 academic year. The Future Teachers of Italian in the US program brought her to work in two schools in the Lombardy region. Kathryn summarized her experience by stating that “I would like people to know it is not easy, but it is worth it!”. Kathryn and I have kept up a lively email conversation over the past months and she is happy to share her experience with Lingua Franca. The following are excerpts from her emails in chronological order:
JULY 27, 2011
Hi Anna! I am sorry it has taken me so long to email you with an update, although I have more information now than I did at the beginning of the summer.
First, I’ll be leaving in the evening on September 21 and arriving in Milan just before noon on the 22. I will have a few days to get settled and then start work on September 26. The school I’ll be at in Legnano is a middle school. I will have 6 lessons (one every other week) with the second years and 12 (one every week) with the third years. For the younger group, I’ll be their first exposure to a native English speaker from what I understand.
After I am done there I am hoping to come home for Christmas so I can at least see my mother and my boyfriend, then go back so I can work the school in Busto Arsizio. That school will be a high school and I’m not entirely sure about the details there yet. I’m waiting for the teacher I’ll be working with there to get back from vacation. But I do know I’ll be able to come home the first week in June. I’ll be done at the end of May, but he suggested I stay for a few days and wait for my last bit of pay.
The teacher I’ll be with in Legnano arranged housing for me. I’ll be staying with a family that lives in an apartment near the school. She says they are sectioning off part of their living room to make a bedroom for me and I’ll have my own bathroom because there are 2 in the apartment. I believe I’ll be staying there the entire time I’m in Italy, which will be nice so I don’t have to worry about adjusting to new places twice.
The only thing I am really nervous about right now is getting a visa. But the teacher in Legnano said she has emailed the program to ask specifically what the process is and then will pass the information on to me. Other than that, I’m starting to figure out what I’d like my lessons to be about. I know what the intern in Legnano did last year so I’m using that as a guide.
SEPTEMBER 24, 2011
I have to admit, I was worried for nothing. The host family is wonderful and very kind. They help me with my Italian and I help them with English. Today they are taking me to meet the grandparents. I did not want to go at first because I am worried that I do not speak well enough, but they said it is not important. I will write more about my initial experience as soon as I can, but I wanted to tell you all is well and I am happy!
SEPTEMBER 25, 2011
Ciao! I am enjoying my time in Italy so far. Now that I am settled I can write in detail about my experience so far.
I left my home on September 21 to come to a small city in northern Italy. At first I was quite overwhelmed, but now I love it! I live in an apartment in Legnano with a lovely family. The parents are Giulia and Ezio. They have two daughters, Giulia and Sophia. From the first moment they have treated me as a member of their family. Communication is a little difficult but we make it work. I speak as much Italian as I can. Sometimes Ezio translates for me because he speaks some English and sometime we have to use an online translator. It gets easier every day.
On Friday, I went to both schools that I will be working at and met the other English teachers. They are wonderful! They all gave me their phone numbers and I am supposed to call them if I need anything, no matter what it is. Between the 5 of them and Giulia it is like having six mothers! They gave me my work schedule and it is very light. They didn’t want me to be stressed. I will work twelve hours a week, with 2 or 3 one hour classes 5 days a week. We also discussed my lesson content. I get as much, if not more, input as the other teachers do about what I would like to teach.
Yesterday my host family took me on a bike tour of Legnano. I haven’t been on a bike since I was 14! If the rest of my days here are like this I will be very happy here. I will write more when I can.
OCTOBER 25, 2011
Hello! I have been one very lucky woman this week. I went to La Scala not once but twice. The first time was a concert with music by Brahms and Bartok and I went with some other American students. The second time was on Thursday night with one of the other teachers from my school. She and her husband heard that I studied music and like opera, so they wanted to take me to see something. The only thing I knew beforehand was that it was Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss. What I did not know is that they had box seats. I was in heaven. I loved the music. The other teacher and her husband were great company. It is something I think I will never forget.
I also have started to realize that I am not as alone here as I thought I was. There is another American in the same city and we have been talking a lot. We tend to check in with each other every couple of days to find out how things are. The teachers I work with are fantastic. They have all given me their cell phone numbers in case I need anything. And my host family is the best I could have asked for.