Living life to the fullest in Italy

AFS exchange student, Kara,  in Italy.

November 13, 2013 - This is my second post containing the word "YOLO," and for that, I'm really, really sorry. But then again, I'm not, because YOLO really isn't a terrible way of living.

In fact, I've hit YOLO mode for the past 2 months and plan to stay there until the end of my exchange.

I've always lived with a lot of regrets, and I'm going to guess a lot of you all do, too. Some of these regrets eat me away inside until I have a cringe attack and can't function. "Why didn't I tell them how I felt?"… "Why did I wear that?"… "Why did I say that?"… " I bet ________ would have been better than ________."

That's what the inside of my brain was like, until I told it to shut up. What really pushed me to do this was returning from AFS Camp (aka arrival orientation) and realizing how long it would be until I would see many of my fellow AFSers again. I started thinking, "Who am I going to be when I see them again? Will I be speaking Italian like an Italian? Will I be able to attend school 6 days a week and actually follow the lessons, rather than stare at a wall 75% of the time?"

In 6 months, when I see them again, I'll know immediately whether I'm a changed person or not. The scariest part is, just a couple months after that, I'm going to return to my quiet, unexciting Pennsylvanian life, back in the land of Honey Boo Boo and Nascar.

Yeah, of course, I'm already planning on becoming an AFS Volunteer, no doubt about it. AFS is family. AFS is love. AFS made my life what it is today, so it's never NOT going to be a part of my life.

But it's different being here. Here, I'm in a totally new environment, and I get to recreate my own image of myself; be born again into this new society of people who see me as a foreigner, even though their whole existence is foreign to me. And I have only eight more months to take it all in and live in a style I couldn't live anywhere else. So, I'm going to live for every flipping second and be exactly who I want to be.

Una Gita a Siracuas

And speaking of "YOLO" (again, sorry… so very, very sorry), I just took the greatest "gita" (little vaca) to Siracusa, a city in Sicily.

Siracusa has caves, an island, and many beautiful things. AFS Intercultura planned the trip, so I went with several other AFS students who are living with host families near mine.

Anyways, we went to Siracusa by bus, which takes about an hour and a half each way. On the bus, I sat with my Scandinavian bff Roosa (from Finland). When we got to Siracusa, we met up with the Siracusa AFS chapter, which has so many awesome kids. I really think that if I weren't being hosted in Catania, I'd want to be there. There's Leticia from Brazil, Michelle from Australia, Ari the whale slaughtering football player from the Danish Faroe Islands, Luis from the Dominican Republic, and one of my best friends, Lucy, from Guatemala. She's probably less than 5 feet tall, but she's the most energetic little person I've ever met!

The tour guide literally forced us to do this pose, haha.

So off we went to these cave things. I know I'm not using all of the correct scientific terms, so here are some pictures to show you what my edumacational skillz cannot.

Inside the cave, it was dark and damp and we all didn't know what the heck we were doing. Our tour guide, a 50-something woman, started to sing to prove that the cave had an "echo".

Me in front of one of the caves. #modelstatus.

After the cave, we went to a Greek amphitheater. A little knowledge about amphitheaters that everyone in Italy knows but I didn't know until I came here:

When the Greeks were building their amphitheaters, they built them into a mountain, so there was no wall. Only seats etched into a mountain. The seats in Siracusa are made of limestone, while the seats in the one in Taormina are made out of lavastone (it just depends on where they are located). Both of these amphitheaters are located in front of water, because the water helps the sound spread from the stage/orchestra up the side of the mountain (because Julius Caesar didn't use microphones).

The amazing, ancient Greek amphitheater.

Our tour guide gave us 10 minutes to "take pictures" (screw around) on the top of the theater. So, naturally, Roosa, Lucy, Nano (from Argentina), Hiroshi (from Japan) and I did a dramatic reenactment of the famous scene from Titanic. I'm flying, Hiroshi! I'm flying!

After our tour, we took a long walk to the island of Siracusa. This island is basically the epitome of stereotypical Italy - narrow streets, clothes hanging from balconies, loads of old vespas, plazas centered around Catholic churches, Gothic styled everything. It was probably the prettiest thing I've seen here.

The catholic church in the island's piazza.
A view of the main piazza.

We were allowed to roam freely in Siracusa for 30 minutes, so of course the bubbles came out. We also talked about buying a large house right on the pier just for AFSers.

Successful "High School Musical" shot.
Fun with bubbles during our free time.

On the trip home, Lucy had to take a different bus, so we said our goodbyes. It was the epitome of sadness, because I honestly don't know if I will see her again. But then again, you never know.

A shot of the whole group.

And this is why I love being an exchange student.


If you’re interested in learning more about the program Kara went on, click here.

*This post was adapted from the posts, "The Unironic YOLO," and, "Una Gita a Siracusa," on the AFS Student blog, "How to Succeed in Being an Exchange Student (Without Really Trying)."