by Elizabeth Ferguson, Staff Reporter
How does one react to the unknown? Well, being human, one would fear it. However, with the help of Education First (EF) Tours, students from around the globe are embracing and even seeking it out! This spring, a group are venturing to Italy for 11 days to explore Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, and Capri, and also to further their understanding of the unknown and, more specifically, different cultures.
Lisa Sears, group leader and art teacher/enthusiast, has always wanted to travel to Europe, so, when she saw the opportunity, she said she “had to take it.”
Sears said she is more than prepared to immerse herself in the exploration and investigation of the remnants of the Italian Renaissance, which was a period of great cultural and artistic growth.
“I know a lot about the art we’re going to see because I took tons of art history courses,” said Sears, and added, “…The search for knowledge is just exciting. I’m excited to learn about another culture.”
Renee Armstrong, 12, feels the same way.
“Being able to experience a whole new culture fascinates me more than freaks me out,” said Armstrong.
As March, the month of departure, gradually approaches (almost too gradually, the students might say), the excitement grows and thought shifts toward arriving in and adjusting to Italy and finally getting out of Indiana.
Giorgia Ravasio, Italian exchange student, offers some insight on differences between Americans and Italians. “[One of] the major differences is nutrition. Italians have a Mediterranean diet, and Americans have access to a wide variety of foods,” she explains.
Food is the other aspect of the trip that wholly excites Sears. When she went to Paris for EF’s group leader training, she ate everything considered ‘Parisian cuisine’ and she says her goal is to do the same with Italian cuisine. Giorgia would agree with this philosophy, as she urges trying as much food as possible. “We have all kinds of ice cream, but for the best I would recommend asking [around] for the best gelateria in the city.”
Ravasio also explained the other key difference between Americans and Italians: character. “People are very friendly here, while Italians are reserved.” This doesn’t seem like it would bother Sears, though, as she simply loves to listen to people speak different languages.
When it comes to adjusting to another culture, one may think the communication barrier would be the most difficult aspect to adjust to.
Ravasio seems to have already figured this adjustment trick out, as she simply declares, “With the right timing, I can adapt to everything.” She will be staying in America for a whole year, and the EF tour lasts only 11 days. Some, like Armstrong, haven’t yet considered learning snippets of Italian for the ‘immersion’ trip. For students like her, Giorgia offers one key word: “grazie” (graht-si-eh), which means ‘thank you’ or ‘I don’t know,’ depending on the context. Sears recommends researching Rick Steves’s travel tips and videos on Italy.
Until springtime, the excitement will build steadily. One can only imagine how the students will retain their composure on the approximate 12-hour flight to Milan. Armstrong claims that she won’t mind the plane ride, as she travels often, but who knows if she, other students, and Sears will be able to stand the anticipation?