For young people, living abroad and attending a local school is a great adventure: a formative, educational, and cultural life experience for study and learning about a people. The motivations of a foreign youth for coming to Italy to study are many: perhaps they love the beautiful country, its art, its history, the historic cities, the landscapes, the design, the variety of Italian and regional cuisine, the Slow Food movement. Then there’s the lifestyle, the hospitality, and last but not least, Italy’s language and culture. What makes all this possible, given the ambition of such a project for someone so young, is the ability to stay with a family, entering the very heart of the chosen country’s society, learning and exploring the culture within, from a privileged position.
How do others see Italians?
Let’s consider the image Italy has built over the years. In the early 1900s, the country was considered a land of poor, starving emigrants, looking for work. Then, as their skills and abilities became more widely known, they gained a reputation for being great workers, excellent masters of tailoring, carpentry, and cabinetry: people with skills, abilities and a desire to redeem themselves. Luckily, Italy is also a land of able navigators, artists, painters, sculptors, creative, fashion stylists, designers of furniture and machines, of chefs… the list is endless. Abroad, Italians are said to be chatty, friendly, imaginative, refined, stylish, tasteful, who often wear designer clothing, are terrible drivers, detest rules and pay only lip-service to laws; they are flexible, and always open to compromise; they only eat pasta and pizza, the women are beautiful, and the men are Latin lovers. This description is a very superficial way to label an entire population.
The stereotypes are a poor fit for all and lose their effectiveness thanks to the possibilities opened up by the many communications options available today. Now, few of us trust what we have heard; we want to deepen our understanding, to learn in person, and hospitality is the way to achieve this, to help people understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each of us. This need is what powers the welcome and opens the front door to a young person who wants to try out a new location.