News from Lombardia! Future Teachers in Italian
By Anna Rocca
In September 2016, senior students Lindsey Asaro and Caitlin O’Toole, both students in the BA in World Languages and Cultures program with a concentration in Italian, together with Megan-Michael Powell, who is minoring in Italian, joined the Teaching Assistantships Program in Lombardy, Italy. The Lombardy program is known as SITE, which stands for Study Intercultural Training Experience.
SITE is an internship opportunity for English-speaking students or recent graduates who wish to immerse themselves in the Italian language and culture while assisting local teachers and getting professional training on language teaching methodologies. Students work part-time as English teaching assistants and get a monthly study stipend of 600 or 700 euros assisting secondary school teachers of English.
Since her departure, Caitlin O’Toole has been writing posts for her blog entitled Cartolina-Caterina, which literally means “Postcard-Caterina”. Her first month, Caitlin O’Toole remarks, has been filled with experiences and opportunities. While having a great time working with twelve different classes in the school Olivelli Putelli in the Dolomiti, Caitlin was also asked by a local business owner to develop a weekly English class for local hotel owners. She has also been offered a part-time position at an ESL business known as Wall Street English. “I cannot thank you enough for helping me get into this program. I am having a wonderful time here!” she wrote.
However, in her blog, Caitlin gives us a more nuanced perspective of her Italian experience and courageously tackles all the ups and down of being in a foreign country. The following are some of the things she wrote on her blog talking about what she felt after settling in. As you can see, the early feelings of isolation in no time at all gave way to feelings of elation.
“As grateful as I am for the opportunity to participate in such an incredible internship, there was nothing that could have prepared me for the lung-crushing isolation. Although I have had an incredible first month in Italy, my happiness has felt overshadowed by this growing feeling of loneliness. [… ]
Let’s be honest here. There is nothing that can prepare you for the heavy homesickness you will experience when you travel. As close as I am to my family, I had convinced myself that I would be perfectly fine living in a foreign country. Within the first month of living in Italy I navigated through three international airports, deciphered puzzling train maps, and traversed through multiple foreign cities on foot. I knew that I was more than capable of thriving in Italy. Yet, whenever I found myself conquering another challenge, I always felt empty. There was no one to celebrate this victory with. […]
After some self-reflection, I reminded myself that I needed to be kind to myself. I had made such a tremendous journey, and I needed to give myself time to adjust. I decided to actively combat my loneliness. The best way for me to do that was to set goals for myself. First, I decided that I would contact other interns in my program. Who better to speak to than people settling into a similar situation? Once I did this, I realized that there were others who were suffering from loneliness as well. Next, I planned to meet up with other interns as often as possible. If I kept myself in contact with other people, I knew I would feel included in a larger community. Ultimately, my time became so consumed with planning that I didn’t have time to focus on being lonely. There are still times when I feel myself getting lost in those feelings, but as I build a support system here, I know that I have people to lean on. For anyone else suffering silently, you are not alone. There is a place for you, and you will find it.”
You can continue to follow Caitlin’s experiences at: http://www.cartolinacaterina.com/