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Gap Year Abroad

2 posts categorized "Hannah Hlavacek"


The Team

Ciao Ciao! 

I have been in Ferrara for almost two months now and the world continues to open up to me. But, in order to keep these doors of opportunity open, I have to reciprocate it by opening myself to the world. 

I have begun to do this through honoring all of the experiences that occur here- good and bad. But, by keeping myself open I have realized that it is so important to build relationships here. 

I had arrived here with ten other American students and immediately we all stuck together. We spoke english for the most part, it was the only thing familiar to all of us at the time. We explored the city together, went for dinners together, and took Italian classes together. We became this type of 'team' that was there to support each other. 

Once we had settled in and started our core classes, we began to meet more people and branch out. We were speaking more Italian and meeting other foreign exchange students from around the world. The opportunity for international friendship flourished. 

At first, it was difficult because of this sort of paradigm I placed myself in when I first arrived here with the other Americans, but I quickly gained confidence in realizing that I was not alone. 

Just as nervous as I was to build relationships and overcome language barriers with new people here, they had the same fear as me; The other Americans had the same fear as me, my host family had the same fear as me. All the anxieties I felt and nerves I had everyone else was experiencing to some extent as well. 

In that moment I realized to me, what the key to building relationships here was. It was not trying to change my American ways to fit Italian ways, or my foreign language accents to be rid or any hint of American, it was to do my best to learn to love different kinds of people so that I can learn to appreciate the language and culture through the peoples eyes; appreciate the individual person as a person, not defined as their nationality.

I cannot stress enough how rewarding it has been for me to network myself to so many different people. I found that being myself and being open minded is one of the best ways for me to begin to build a relationship even with people that you may think you have nothing in common with superficially. I am learning to be loyal to myself for who I am and use adaptability to learn new perspectives and try to enlighten myself to new experiences. 


Filling in the Gaps

Ciao Ciao!

    Mi chiamo Hannah (My name is Hannah). I have officially arrived in Ferrara, Italy for my gap year! So far my experience has been invigorating and exciting. I truly feel blessed to have this opportunity. When I left, I was initially very worried about any sort of culture shock I may experience. I feared that I was entering an entirely different world where the word "foreign" would fail to even remotely describe the feelings I had anticipated. In some ways, coming here from the states can be described as entering a different world, but I quickly discovered that no matter where you are people establish a core values system that connects us as humanity. I have seen people show kindness and love as well as anger and sadness- emotions and actions everyone is familiar with. This quickly grounded me. I found that in terms of culture, daily structure and social customs I was constantly adapting but I was still able to find commonality within my relationships here through emotionality. I was welcomed here with open arms.

    What has turned out to be the most useful tool to me is an open mind to opportunity/learning. I am currently working on completely immersing myself in everything Ferrara has to offer me with confidence and giving back to Ferrara anything I have to offer. Establishing a place of interdependence has been very helpful for my as well. This helps me learn more by being able to ask for the help of others and then taking it upon myself to take that information and learn the language and culture. I found that patience is also very important. By taking the time to really experience la cena (dinner) or learning about aperitivo I am able to feel more connected with the home I am building for myself here. I expected the "culture shock" I experienced to be a negative thing; something that would inhibit my initial impressions or hinder my ability to experience things here. I found that the culture shock actually worked to my benefit. It was a good thing! I motivated me to want to learn more. I turned the fear I had around it into excitement  for what could be. Culture shock to me is a mind set. You can choose to grow into it or let it dampen the perspective you can gain. More importantly I am learning to embrace change. Although there will be many possible hardships, I am grateful for the chance to be here. 

Addio per ora! 



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