Saturday, 29 June 2013

Saying Goodbye

I have two suitcases packed to bursting with stuff upstairs. Aside from running away, this could only suggest one thing - that I am home for good from my year abroad.

And what an unbelievable year it's been. I can't leave this year behind me saying I've learnt nothing from it. It has been shaping and educational and all the things all your predecessors tell you it'll be. It has been amazingly fun, different and filled with amazing new people.

It has also been tough.

The location doesn't particularly matter - any year in the life in any place will never flow by effortlessly, and sure enough mine didn't. I hit language barrier troubles, had difficulties adapting to the culture (even though on the grand scheme of things it really wasn't so different), making friends, keeping friends, fitting in and sometimes even buying cereal.

But nonetheless the mix of family, friends from home and friends I'd been making throughout the year and my boyfriend far away in Sweden kept me afloat and I made it out the other side, content and already nostalgic.

From the day you leave school, saying goodbye seems to crop up on your agenda more often than you'd care for, but you start to get used to it. 

I left Parma behind knowing that the English friends I'd made I'd see all too soon on our own turf and that it's not really a final farewell to those from further afield.

I left Italy behind knowing that I'd come back (at least to Rome as there's a coin in the Trevi fountain with my name on it), that I'd seen a lot and travelled happily around soaking in the sights for the best part of a year.

Goodbye to Parma, the Conservatorio and the streets I walked every day

Goodbye to travelling

Goodbye to amazing friends

Goodbye to my room and its dusty floor

Goodbye to Italy, 'a dopo'!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

I'm back (for now)

I last wrote a blog over three weeks ago. Perhaps the longest time I've gone without (I think). It's been half-related to how busy I've been and half to the laziness which inevitably follows.

So I'll catch you up with what I've been doing.

Since the last time I wrote I have:

Performed in four concerts

Taken three exams (all in Italian)

Said 'addio' to half of my teachers

Taken daytrips to Cinque Terre (twice), Bologna and Milan

Spent many evenings drinking Aperitivi with friends

Celebrated two Birthdays

Had a picnic by the river

Had my Mum and her Fiancé come to stay

Returned to England for just a weekend to play flute in my friend's wedding

Said goodbye to some very important friends here who are leaving soon

And although the ever-nearing prospect of leaving Parma forever and returning back to England is in some ways exciting, this place continues to grow on me and only too soon I'll be on the train to the airport and saying goodbye to it all.

Our Concert in Auditorium Paganini (an old Sugar Factory)

Jess and I ended up stranded in this town (Pontremoli) on the way to Cinque Terre

Getting lost in Pontremoli

Michelle enjoying the crashing waves

Huge waves!

A very musical daytrip to Milan with a fellow erasmus student from the Conservatorio

So much talent outside Castello Sforzesco

Jess' Birthday - count those candles!

Rosie's discovery of the beautiful riverbanks in Parma

My Mum and her fiancé in Parco Ducale

I have one of these shots for every season

Parma's specialities

The Flute Choir (the original Flute Salad) for Louise's wedding

Tying the knot

The bride!

Monday, 20 May 2013


The first thing you worry about when moving abroad is mostly how lonely you're going to be. With family a good distance away and certainly not within reaching-distance if something were to go wrong, you rely entirely upon the friends you make when you move away.

The very first true friend I made I am sure will stick with me for life. Meg and I were mostly joined at the hip from the moment we met in October until she left for Germany in March. She helped me get settled in and introduced me to a lot of the good friends I have now, and I in turn took great pleasure in cooking for her most evenings. We shared food, gossip, the same taste in alcohol and the same views on some people. Be they good or bad. Also the same address (more or less). We were never too far away and never too busy to find something to do together.

Coming just at a time when I really needed her, Ellie turned up, both of us ex-school-friends excited at the prospect of living so close to each other after almost three years living at opposite ends of the country. Her energy, excitement and enthusiasm seemingly never-ending, we'd often have intense conversations about our futures, our fears and our ultimate goals. And then, after the briefest of moments, she went. Her brave decision to leave Italy and head to Germany instead still inspires me and will remain something I think back on whenever I have an important choice to make.

Without these two important figures in my life here, each of us helping each other through the difficulties you encounter during a year abroad, I thought I'd find myself lost and lonely as I'd been convinced I would be at the beginning. 

But the truth is along the journey of this year I've picked up some truly inspiring friends. Each of them heading down a different path in life and each with their own outlook on the future/past/present. And we always have such a wonderful time together. 

Take yesterday for example. An example of the snowball effect. What went from meeting one friend, to inviting another and another resulted in the perfect Sunday afternoon with some great girls.

I know by the end of my time here, I'll be thanking these girls for everything they've given me (including tonnes of support) throughout the year.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

the dangers of being spontaneous

So it basically all started when a friend told me he'd found cheap flights to Gothenburg for a weekend. When I asked him how cheap, he replied with a number I'd been dreading - only a quarter of what Hugo and I'd been paying every single other visit between us.

I had also just found out that as per the Italian way, nobody had told me of the upcoming week off lessons. 

I duly whinged to Hugo about these two facts and he planted that little tiny idea in my head that I could come out sooner than originally planned.

It was a Sunday night, and I'd booked to fly out the coming Friday. So we checked on the website and lo and behold there was a cheap flight available for the following afternoon. 

I clicked on 'book'. 

Nothing happened. 

I clicked again. 


In my state of feeling very much like this was the first ever truly spontaneous thing I'd ever done in my life ever I agreed with Hugo that I'd get up at 5:30 the next morning, travel the 3 hours it takes to get to Milan airport and buy my flight there and then. 

Obviously my stomach was turning and churning so much I hardly got any sleep, but the next morning, before sunrise I headed for Milan.

I got to the ticket office. I bought the ticket. It couldn't have been simpler! And so I got on the flight.

Two hours, a hop, skip and a bus ride later Hugo met me at the station and we began to spend the eight beautiful days we now had, together.

We filled our days with concerts (Mahler, Britten, Sibelius, Mozart), zoos, shopping, vintage, cafés, bars, friends, sushi, burgers, sunshine, nature, lakes, picnics, parades, buses, trams and trains, scrabble, worms, connect 4, lazy afternoons, and tonnes of arguments about how to chop onions correctly.

And when it was time for me to get back on the plane to go home, I was heartbroken to have to leave it all and him behind, just as I felt we were both finally getting a chance to really get to enjoy Gothenburg in all its splendour. 

Hugo took me back to the airport, where I would check into my flight (hopefully without a problem as I'd been worrying all week about 'that ticket I booked that I didn't end up using...'). He went for a wander as I tried to tackle the self-service machines.

"No Booking Registered" it said to me.

No... booking... registered?? 

I started to panic. Scanned everything through again, including my passport which told the machine I'd be flying via Amsterdam that day but no more than that.

With no sign of Hugo anywhere, I scuttled nervously over to the ticket desk to sort things out. 

The kind Swedish woman behind the desk pleasantly informed me that I "would not be allowed to board the flight as your booking has been cancelled. If you'd like to fly today you need to buy a brand new ticket. That's what happens if you don't get your outbound flight."

In a teary-eyed mess, I tracked Hugo down, who gave me a hug and steered me towards the ticket offices. We asked for a ticket for the flight. They told me it'd be £500. I cried. Full on cried.

We were directed to the nearby ticket office for SAS airlines and then asked the same question. 

The woman smiled sympathetically, asked if I was under 25 so that I could qualify for "youth prices" then printed me out a ticket for an extremely reasonable price.

With a different flight booked and 3 more hours to spare, we hopped on the bus back into town, grabbed lunch and a coffee and said goodbye for the second time that day.

I was very ill when I returned home. I'm putting it down to stress.

As a bonus, my bike was stolen.

So here's the lesson:

It's fun! That week I spent with Hugo was the best week I've had all year.

But. Don't be too spontaneous...