My husband and I have just returned from a month of working in the International Experience’s Program in the Marche Region of Italy. The experience was rich for cultural immersion. We found ourselves living in the stunning countryside at a magical villa. We were treated to Italian hospitality including homemade pasta, wine and olives. Our host grandmother shared the language of good food and great accommodations.
Working in four different schools within the town of Montecosaro allowed us to share English with 15 classes of students from 8-year-olds to 14-year-olds. There was much enthusiasm and excitement involved in our classroom visits. We shared lessons on American holidays, currency, climate, family life, and geography. Although we were labeled “tutors”, we often found ourselves in the role of classroom teacher. Sometimes we were supported with translation by the Italian teacher, sometimes not. Initially this created considerable apprehension because we knew no Italian and the students had a low level of English. As the days progressed we encouraged our role to be one of support rather than lead in the classroom.
Non-teaching days included weekends and one weekday. With the help of our Italian hosts and a rental car, we were able to investigate many sites in the Marche Region. Intentionally, we were not interested in going to big, familiar cities. Part of the reason for spending time working in the schools was for the opportunity to see Italy as Italians do. The warm reception we received from the Italian people was remarkable in our shopping, eating out and site-seeing adventures. Walking through the cobblestone streets of a town, strolling the piazzas, stopping to observe an olive harvest, enjoying a cappuccino, verdicchio wine or olives all’ascolana were treats of this trip, and unique to traveling as conversation corp volunteers rather than as tourists.This opportunity was rich! The connections we made with the local people were heart-warming and placed this experience as a top-notch way to travel. It compares more favorably than tourist travel. It is much more memorable and immersive. We have built relationships with our hosts and will enjoy future exchanges with them for a long time to come.
Drawings made by the students before Jim and Susan left