loveinbrescia's Expat Story - One Year On
I have noticed that a lot of people who are unhappy with their experience here use this forum as an outlet to release their frustrations and perhaps can I suggest to anyone who is reading this forum because they are thinking of moving to Italy, take everyone's comments with a pinch of salt!
I thought I would share my story (its long):
As you may have guessed I am one happy expat - I moved to Italy a year ago from the UK and I can truly say I am now happy, content and settled, but don't get me wrong it was not always the case.
Reason for the move:
My reason for moving to Italy was not uncommon - I met an Italian man! He did his Masters degree at the same university as me and we met and fell in love, well over 4 years ago now. After a year and a half - he had graduated and had been looking for a job for 6 months, he moved back to Italy. We promised we would stay together and try and have a long distance relationship whilst I finished my medical degree, but alas it was not to be. We split up 3 months later. However - save your tears. A month apart and we realised being without each other was simply unbearable and we would make it work, and to do this I would have to move to Italy- and one week later we were engaged! he had just got an amazing job opportunity in his home city. So, I packed in my medical degree after 4 years (gasp- i know) and went to work for my dad to save enough money to move over. My family and friends were dubious, but came around as they could see how in love we were.
One year went by of planning, saving, small trips every 6 weeks (it helped that I worked for my dad), we were lucky enough to be offered one of the family apartments, bigger and grander than anything we could have afforded – the catch was it had to be totally renovated! I saved every penny I could and made sure I had copies of all my documents and certificates. I was set to move on May 26th and renovation work started in March – 2 months late! However I carried on with my preparations: got the TEFL certificate, had my leaving party, packed up the removals truck, booked my first class BA ticket (more luggage capacity) and set off on May 26th 2011.
I arrived to a shell of an apartment– and moved in with my fiancés parents! After 6 weeks of lolling around the house, going to the park, drinking spritz’, reading –a lot, beginning to study Italian, my apartment was done and we moved in – but then I realized I would have to find a job!!!
I sent my CV to language schools and received an influx of responses and accepted 4 interviews for teaching posts. I warmed to two schools and chose the one with higher pay. This school offered me the moon on a stick – so this is also a warning to those first starting out- trying to lure me to work for them as a very rare madrelingue inglese, they promised me training, teacher support and Italian lessons. Great! I thought. They also tried to convince me to open a P.IVA but I opted for thecontratto di progetto on the advice of a friend. I was literally thrown in at the deep end, two weeks of summer camps with 30 kids and just me and another teacher – remember that I couldn’t speak a word of Italian!
It was tough and really put me off teaching, I decided the only thing I could do is work my hardest at learning the language so I could get a different job. The normal teaching jobs rolled in, companies, private students, groups of adults and children – but I realised it wasn’t the job for me as the hours were irregular and although well paid, you had to spend a lot of your free time on preparation and marking homework! Another downside was a lot of the lessons are in the evening or on a Saturday- time I would have rather been spending with my boyfriend. I also hated that I couldn’t control my success, I could only offer 40% of their learning experience- the rest depends on the students willingness. So, I soldiered on and after a few tear filled evenings complaining about my job and a clarifying talk with my mother. I signed up to a job agency willing to work in anything from a restaurant to a factory – just not teaching. To my surprise and delight, the wonderful woman at Adecco was straight on the phone to me and had set up 3 interviews in one day – working in a logistics team at an international shipping factory, working as a client representative for Ferrari and one as a translator of scientific and medical translator of documents. I chose the translator position as it was full time, working as an in- house translator with training etc., was near my house, it used my already obtained medical knowledge and I thought it would be the best way to meet new people and learn the language as quickly as possible. I was right, 6 months later- I love my job, work a regular 9-5, have Italian colleagues and friends, I have a brilliant contract (which is unusual for Italy I know), it’s well paid, I get sick pay, quartodicesimi, etc. and I would say my Italian is incredibly good! I have just bought myself a mazda mx5 – before I have to grow up and be responsible!
This is an area in which I never really had a problem – luckily I already knew a group of people through my fiancé- all English speaking, and have gradually branched out to make my own friends. Working at the Language school did help at the beginning as there were other English people there and I made some good friends-also Italian- during my time there and still see two of the girls when we want to natter in English and drink tea and watch Desperate Housewives on my Apple TV. Socialising became easier as my Italian improved and I no longer got frustrated by not being able to express myself. I love the lifestyle here, I live in the North which has a more ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude and I enjoy aperitivo with colleagues after work, shopping, going to the nearby Lake Garda at the weekend in the Summer and Madonna di Campiglio in the winter. I would say, due to the fact I am 25 and already knew people, it is easy to make friends – especially being an English girl, young Italians who I have met love English culture, music, language etc. and always are eager to talk to me on a night out to improve their English.
After my enormous story (sorry) I would like to summarise my experience in a few tips:
Always be willing to get stuck in and work hard, Italians (in my experience) appreciate hard workers and like a genuine, happy person, willing to adapt. I found that you can’t be afraid to be forward and organise social occasions and don’t rely on invites as people who live here already have their life/timetable etc. A language degree doesn’t get you very far here so don’t be scared if you haven’t got one or afraid you won’t find work without one. Use the network around you, family, friends, colleagues etc. Italians never feel put out by doing favours for people.
My only bad experience was the language school turned out to be very money orientated, often taking on too many students for the amount of teachers and I actually did my first 2 months without any books! Which were always ‘being ordered’.
I know it can be difficult. It isn’t easy and I was lucky to have already made the contacts I had. I have seen 2 English people come and go, dreams shattered, both with language degrees and Masters’– they couldn’t find work apart from teaching or freelance translating which they felt they were over qualified for. Luckily I had my Biology degree and the language followed. Experience and hard work count for a lot in Italy.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story, and I hope it helps someone to give them a (very) extensive account of my move and my first year.