First Month in Trentino with the European Solidarity Corps Blog dei volontari

20/12/2021 Fabiana Paoli

Sometimes it hits me – I’m living under the snow of a small town in the mountains of Italy, with two flatmates I’d never met prior, and having never taken an Italian class before arriving. For someone born in the dense city of Paris, who’s lived for years in the warm weather of California, who’s always had a narrow view of their future, and who began their post-high school life with the traditional path of attending college at a 4-year university, it may seem like joining the European Solidarity Corps at this time and in this climate would be illogical, or inconceivable. In fact, 2020-me would probably never have imagined being here in Pergine Valsugana working in a youth center. But as a result of a series of unexpected life events, here I am, and I’ve pinched myself enough times to know that this isn't a dream.

I arrived in Italy on November 9th, in Venice. Two trains and one carpool ride later, I saw my new home for the first time, the youth center #Kairos Giovani, right before going out to do some grocery shopping, thus making my way around the town I would spend the next 6-months in. I was immediately confronted with the notorious language barrier when trying to find the right items to buy – a barrier that still handicaps me to this day. Thankfully, my French-English bilingualism and the years of Spanish under my belt proved to be very helpful in expressing myself and understanding others, but I’ve also learned about how much can be shared despite everything that is lost in translation. From the first day on the job, I began to share moments with others who don’t speak the same languages I do. In fact, this is what most of my work consists of: singing karaoke, playing soccer, foosball, ping pong, pool, or card & board games with young Italian and international people from around 10 to 30 years old. I also informally teach French or English every week at the local library to any participating adult. It’s a fun work environment in which there is mutual appreciation and much to gain from each other’s different backgrounds and life experiences.

My international presence is valued in Kairos, and in exchange, I have the wonderful opportunity of developing myself. From the Italian classes I now take weekly, to the many different people I’ve met and connections I’ve made, the unique life experiences I’m making, travel opportunities, cultural exchanges, but also the struggles that come with the isolation of being a foreigner away from everything I know, I can say that my experience so far has been formative. In the last month, I’ve witnessed a deepening of my adaptability, improvement in my language skills, growing independence as I’ve traveled to different cities in Italy and became more financially independent, development of teamwork skills and tolerance as I’ve learned to live with flatmates that have different personalities and points of views, all different aspects of myself that have had to grow since my ESC experience began. 

While I’m not one to say that “everything happens for a reason”, I would argue that we can gain from any situation we’re in, and these gains give meaning – this, to me, is the meaning of my time here. When I accepted to come to Pergine with the European Solidarity Corps, I had to put aside my worries that naturally came with such a life decision, and I can proudly say that having embraced it with open arms and viewed it as an opportunity for growth I am happy with this decision and thankful for the opportunity of participating in this project.

Tristan