The plane ride was very long and bumpy and gave me lots of time to think about what life and school would be like in a whole different country.

I was absolutely terrified and didn’t have much of a clue about what I was getting myself into.

Aside from all the negative emotions, I was also absolutely ecstatic.

The idea of a different school in an entirely different country intrigued me just as much as it scared me: I was very interested to see the differences and really get to experience the different culture. 

Of course, the fact that my family wouldn’t accompany me on this trip was playing on my emotions, but I was determined to push through that fear of separation from my parents and fully immerse myself in the experience.

Skip to the first day of school: as I was walking in to my classroom (3b), I was pleased to see that some of my classmates’ faces were familiar and smiling at me as they had come to my house a couple of weeks prior for the “welcome Giulia party” my nonna had thrown.

I relaxed a little and smiled back, making my way to one of the spare seats at the back, copying the other students as I set my school bag up behind my chair and sat down quietly.

Already in those first few seconds of school, I had seen so many differences from Australian primary school.

In just those five months, I learned and saw a lot.

First of all, every bit of stationary, book or anything we needed at school had to be bought ourselves, which was different from school in Australia and very exciting for me as I could choose and customise all my little pens and pencil case.

Much to my pleasure, there was no uniform and our hair could be down, but we had to wear a grembiule over the top of our casual clothes; I had chosen a special “winx” grembiule and actually loved wearing it.

As unfamiliar as it was at first, by the end I had quite gotten used to the fact that there was no interactive whiteboard, but instead a chalkboard set at the front.

We had three different teachers and many more subjects than what I was already being taught; science, geography and history were very new for me.

We also relied heavily on our diaries for our homework and due dates etc.

Even the way we had to write was so bizarre to me: it had to be a very fancy joint writing that took me ages to learn.

Unlike the iPads and laptops at my school in Australia, there weren’t any electronic devices apart from four old-fashioned, bulky computers in a room which hardly anyone went into.

The tables were set up in rows with only two children per table, and there were no tubs that we slid out underneath – instead, the top would open and underneath was a place where we could keep all of our things.

We were given a lot more homework than I was used to and oral tests were a completely new thing for me.

But by far the thing that was very different for me was lunch and school times.

For our first snack, it was 15 minutes of chatting time and eating a little snack we had to bring from home.

This was very similar to my school in Australia.

But then for lunch, we travelled to a hall in a different section of the school, to be served plates of hot food.

There were several long tables where different friendship groups would sit and then eventually get served plates of food (mostly pasta) by the cooks.

This was called the mensa and we had to bring in buoni (tickets) every day in order to be able to eat there.

I believe this free time would last for about an hour and then we would go back to our classroom for the rest of the day.

We weren’t given any time to go and actually play outside like we are encouraged to do in Australia, so that was very strange to me.

Another thing was that every Wednesday and Friday we would finish school at 12:30 pm (which was right before when we would usually go to eat lunch at the mensa.

The year that I went to school there, I was very lucky to have been involved in a school performance.

It was all about peace, and highlighted the different cultures in our school.

Overall, my experience in Italy is one I will remember forever.

Although it was a bit hard to adapt to the completely new ways of living and schooling at first, I still enjoyed every moment of it and it taught me many things.

This article was translated into Italian by Flavia Antoniazzi (Year 12, Sacred Heart Girls’​ College Oakleigh) and published in this edition of In classe.

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