Be Kind

I am currently in Italy and have been for the past twenty-three days. All of these days, especially the ones in which I lived with a Southern Italian family, have given me plenty of time to interact with new people.

Before going into this experience, I was a worried about the way I’d be perceived and treated by others as a foreigner. I thought that I would not belong or be appreciated.

I rid myself of these negative thoughts and focused on being my authentic self, along with respecting and studying Italy’s rich culture and history.

The part of my experience that influenced me to write this blog, is the homestay part of my trip. From the tenth to the nineteenth of July, I was part of the Giuzio family in Cosenza, Calabria.

We would always have our dinners together and would have the most engaging conversations. With much curiosity and positivity, I would be asked plenty about my life back at home. They celebrated all of my differences and taught me their values as a family and individuals.  I felt like I was part of the family! We got so close and shared so many happy memories in such a short span of time.

My Cuban upbringing made it easy for me to get along with this family and other Italians. We may speak a different language, eat different foods, and engage in different activities; but from what I’ve gathered, we both value time spent together above all else.

A major part of living with my homestay family was hanging out with Giulia and Giorgia. One is sixteen and the latter is fourteen. Giulia spoke amazing English, which is due to her education and gravitation towards American media. I got along with them so well because we all liked the same shows and music. Below the surface though, we were also all interested in attending university and pursuing altruistic careers.

Giulia introduced me to her friends, and they were all extremely friendly. They were so extroverted and enthusiastic. I was so happy to be approached by everyone. Our conversations would begin with the basic “Where are you from,” and get to “I can’t believe the book ended that way!” When we would have trouble understanding each other, we would work towards figuring each other out, which ended in even more laughter.

I got to know what life was like for Italian kids my age while feeling comfortable and having the best of times. Their everlasting energy and free spirits inspire me to appreciate the people around me and have more fun. I acquired lifelong friendships with my homestay sisters and other wonderful Italians. We hope to continue our friendships and see each other again.

As an anxious and vulnerable fifteen year old that has never traveled abroad, getting into this was terrifying. Entering a different country five thousand miles away from me, coming from a completely different culture and not speaking the language of all the other kids made me worried and anxious. It was beyond relieving being welcomed and celebrated for my differences.

Thanks to this experience, I now have more compassion for foreingers because I know what it is to be one. I understand the feeling of not knowing what to say or do to be accepted. I now want to take the place of the ones who welcomed me. I’ve seen how it was done for me so I know how easy it is to simply be kind to foreign students. They have so much to offer, all they need is to receive a little attention and kindness. Ciao!