Bulgaria and Italy: Students' Experiences
Experiences of students from the Secondary School for Foreign Languages Ivan Vazov, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from Cultural Exchange with the Classical Lyceum Piccolini-Palli, Livorno, Italy. Article for the " International Survey: Bulgaria-Italy" of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency).
1) What is the difference between a trip to Italy and cultural exchange? We were asked this question after the departure of Italian students who had arrived in Bulgaria in Plovdiv for a week in our school.
The beginning wasn't easy for the Italian children, but we are sure they were interested after they became familiar with our daily life – a little odd and rash - after they found out what we like, what we eat and what music we listen to.
After the first two days of their stay we found that our guests were not different from us and we might call this exchange one of our more emotional experiences since we started studying the Italian language.
Last year we went to Italy and wanted to learn more about Italian history, visiting Rome, Venice and Florence.
However we didn't have the chance to get closer to the Italians, to exercise what we have learned at school and mostly ran through the streets to visit monuments and sites having no time to stop, to look around and to 'hear' the rhythm of Italy.
When the Italian children arrived we couldn't show them the whole beauty of Bulgaria, but we made friendships for life.
2) This cultural exchange was a very useful experience. We not only managed to exercise our Italian, but also made some real friends.
In the first day the Italian students came to our school. We had prepared a presentation about the city of Plovdiv. We tried to make them feel at home and they learned some interesting things about our city.
Other students from our school had prepared traditional Bulgarian songs and dances, as well as a very amusing theatrical performance in Italian. Then we went together with our Italian friends to the old town. They visited also Sofia, Bachkovo Monastery and the town of Koprivshtitsa.
We talked about things that interest teenagers like us. We asked them what subjects they studied, what foreign languages they preferred to study, what was life like in Italy, where did they go for leisure and what things they organized. We hope that next autumn we will go to visit them.
3) We were very enthusiastic that we were going to meet Italian children. When they came to our class we stared at them as if we had never seen Italians before, although it wasn't true.
There were two or three girls that were attracting the attention of most of the boys and a boy who became the 'hero' to almost all of our girls. We were together every day.
One of the boys of the Italian group liked one of my friends. We went together to different cafes, to the park and in the shopping mall. All the Italians were beautiful and looked like they were having lots of fun.
4) This was a very positive experience because we met many new people and exercised our Italian. It was fun to talk to our peers. All the girls were very beautiful!
5) I have been studying Italian for two years and I think that the cultural exchange was very useful because we exercised the language and met real Italians. When they came to our school, to our class, the first thing was to get introduced.
Their names sounded strange. I don't know why; maybe those were typical Italian names, but they sounded strange to me. Then we listened to a presentation about Plovdiv elaborated by four girls in my class. I think they liked it.
After the third class for the day we all went to see a theatrical performance in Italian, which our classmates had produced for the Italians. However, the hall wasn't large enough and we couldn't see the whole stage.
6) Cultural exchange was a pretty useful experience for both participating parties – Italy and Bulgaria. Before they came, the Italians didn't know anything about us. They liked our nature, our traditional folk dances.
It was amazing to find out that some of the dishes that we eat salty they ate sweet and vice versa. Many of our Italian counterparts said that they would like to come back and I think that cultural exchange should be continued because this is the most interesting way to master a foreign language.
Furthermore, it is very useful to establish good relations with Italy because in Plovdiv and in many other places in Bulgaria there are Italian companies and it is important the Italians to think good of us.
The only difficulty was that our school does not have the sufficient funds to make a good presentation and to organize a better stay for them in our country. If the Italian Embassy could help it will be better for both sides.
7) The idea of cultural exchange is very good, because we had the opportunity to exercise the language, we saw the beautiful Italy and made ourselves familiar with Italian culture.
When we were in Italy we visited some cities of art, met many people and lived in the homes of our Italian counterparts. All families were very kind and hospitable and we were pleased to meet them, because they were all very nice and happy.
This year the Italian students came to Bulgaria. They do not study Bulgarian, but the exchange was very enjoyable for them too. They saw a different country, different people and ways and managed to feel the Bulgarian atmosphere.
The girl who lived at my place was interested in our lifestyle and even before she came she asked me what was eaten here, what was our religion, how did we get to school, etc. When she arrived, I showed her all my favorite places in the city.
The Italian students visited several Bulgarian cities and saw artistic and historical sites. They tasted many typical dishes and liked the Bulgarian cuisine. I hope this meeting will not be our last one.
8) My impression of Italian students is that they are very polite and communicative. We spent wonderful time together, even though none of them lived at my place. I exercised both my Italian and my English and learned some interesting things about Italy. I made good friends with some of them.
For me, their stay in Plovdiv was very amusing and interesting. I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet them and I am keeping some very dear memories. We were all very sad at the end because we had to part. It would be wonderful if we could meet again!
9) Besides being interesting and amusing, the presence of our Italian guests helped us to communicate in the Italian language without being worried that we were making mistakes. We made new friends and exercised the language in a spontaneous way.
The arrival of the Italian students and the time spent with them gave us even stronger motivation for studying Italian. We are missing our Italian friends a lot and cannot wait to go and see them again in Italy.
10) After the arrival of the Italians, we found that Italian boys were not as romantic as we thought, but just like us. They tasted different dishes from the Bulgarian cuisine, visited a few places in the Old Town and of that of the Bulgarian Revival.
It was an unforgettable experience both for us and them. We sincerely hope, in fact we very much want this experience to happen again in the next academic year.
11) It was a sunny and very nice day. Birds were singing and the Italian students arrived. When they departed, it was rainy and cold.
12) We met our Italian friends form Livorno in our class and introduced them to the history of our city. Then we started talking about various things: what do we know about Livorno, what foreign languages are studied in our school, etc. We were very impressed with the fact that in the classical lyseum they were studying Latin and ancient Greek.
The Italian students made a tour of the school visiting all classes that study Italian as a first foreign language. Then we all convened in the big hall. Before entering they tasted a bite of the traditional Bulgarian flat cake with salt (according to the Bulgarian tradition, dear guests are welcomed in this way).
In order to greet them with the typical Bulgarian 'welcome' we sang and danced for them and gave them each a red rose, which is the symbol of our country. Our welcome program ended with a performance featuring students from the classes which study Italian language.
The last evening before their departure was really very emotional: we talked, we danced, ate different Bulgarian dishes; we had a lot of fun and didn't want the evening to end. We are very happy that we had the chance to meet the children from Livorno, to make new friends and to realize that we have many opportunities to meet and to spend time together.
13) The day we found out that we were going to have a visit by Italian boys and girls from Livorno we were extremely excited. For us that would be an incredible experience and lots of fun. Ever since we started studying Italian we have always wanted to meet and befriend young people from Italy.
The more the day of their arrival was approaching the more we were concerned: 'What are we going to say to them? How can we explain everything when we miss some words? Are they going to laugh at us if we make mistakes?'
But apart from those concerns, it was very important for us to make our Italian counterparts familiar with our culture and our city, because it was their first time here. We wanted them to have good impression of what they saw and experienced.
Unfortunately, nobody in our class could accommodate Italian students, but we made a perfect program at school and each day was different, full of emotions and new discoveries. Although we couldn't spend with them as much time as we liked to, in order to get to know them better and to talk more, later we made contact with them on Facebook.