My time in Italy was awesome!
Before I begin… A fun fact! Italy is literally on the opposite side of the world from where I live (Hawaii). Okay, you must go a bit directly north on the map.
So, Piedmont has a lot of history behind it. Sure, you hear a lot about Rome, Venice, Florence, etc. but if you look up the location there is a lot to see and do within the region. I really recommend going to Langhe and to the mountains.
With technology these days, Google Translate will be your best friend. Make sure to download the Italian language pack so you don’t have to rely on the internet connection. Also, Google Maps, make sure to download the Italy region into your offline maps. In the Piedmont region, there are less English speakers than if you go to the tourist regions so make sure to practice some basic Italian.
The stereotype is that Italians are crazy drivers. This is true in some ways but in regions outside the city there were no problems. Thankfully, the family I stayed with had an automatic car! One important thing I should mention is that STOP signs do not really mean stop. It means slow down to check and just drive on through (almost like a rolling stop). So, proceed with caution. Oh, and you'll need an International Drivers License. Get one before you go to Italy.
Italians are very expressive and vocal. So, do not be discouraged when they tend to talk a lot in your classroom. There was only one quiet/shy class that I had and that was when I was guest teaching in another school in the region. The organization in the school is rather poor and if a piece of equipment breaks (like the computer in the school) it may take a LONG time before it gets repaired. My advice is to try incorporate some fun English game days during the week (especially at the beginning). This allows you to gauge the students current understanding of the language.
If you have access to a train station, you are pretty much set. The rail system runs on-time 80% of the time. I was not one of those who traveled every weekend to cities across Europe. I only traveled to Verona, Turin, Venice, Pisa, Florence, and Rome. I do recommend traveling and it is extremely easy with the rail system.
So, the reason I did not spend so much time traveling was that I wanted to feel like I wasn’t a tourist and live more like a local. This included going to the gym, helping the family, and meeting new people around the town. The family I stayed with had a maid that cleaned the house so I didn’t have to change my sheets or anything. The mother also offered to wash my clothes for me, but I wanted to do them myself which was no problem. All families are different, but always try do your best for them and help when you can. By spending a lot of time with the family I never had the difficulties of being homesick believe it or not.
Phone & Credit Card:
I have T-Mobile and it is fantastic. The cost to call to the US is relatively cheap. If your family and friends are also on T-Mobile then texting is free. (So, text more often than you call.) In Europe the use WhatsApp and since you have free 2G data you are always in constant contact with them. I have never had any connection issues unless I was underground. During my time abroad I used the VISA Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card. The USD to Euro rate is fair and I highly recommend it and no foreign transaction fees!
Hope this review has helped you. I really recommend this opportunity if you can meet the steep costs.