Dal Trentino

Storytelling Stati Uniti


Francesca Contreras
Trentini Youth Exchange Program 2018

Upon my acceptance into the 2018 Trentini Youth Exchange Program, I couldn’t believe I had
the opportunity to go back to where I came from. Not everyone gets to do that. Antonella gave
me that chance to, not only go abroad for the first time, but to step outside of my comfort zone
while meeting people I’ll never forget.

My host Anna and her boyfriend Alessandro took me in when they didn’t know me and I opened
my arms to traditions I never knew about. My knowledge of the Italian language had been
scarce, but my hosts and their families still made me feel like I’ve been living there all my life.
Spending a day with people who you don’t speak the same language as and vice versa is very
humbling, freeing, and even pretty funny. It was when I met the group I’d spend most of my time
with on this trip that my language skills began to soar. As someone of Italian and Colombian
background, the frequency of when I spoke Spanish was very little. However, I still knew more
of that than I did Italian. So when all of the Trentini candidates finally met, I realized that much
of our group spoke fluent Spanish. I was nervous, unsure, and I felt as though I stood out, but
that was never the case at all.

From day trips to museums to going out for gelato together, our entire group acted as one whole
unit. We spoke with each other in various languages and embraced all the culture around us. I
improved my Spanish without even noticing all while falling in love with the beauty of Italy. The
art and architecture were the most incredible that my eyes had seen. Learning about it with
people who are more like you than you think really is a humbling and liberating feeling. I learned
so much about myself, Italy, and the places in which my group came from.

Three of my fondest memories while I was there was going trekking at Val di Fumo, celebrating
the heritage of the people in Grumes, and visiting Venice. When our group had planned to go
trekking it wasn’t on our agenda or events, it was a free day. But you would’ve felt like it was
part of the itinerary because nearly all of us decided to join in together to go. I had never seen
something so vast and majestic, but we were all in awe. We trekked for two hours and helped
one another during a terrible storm on the way back. Although we did get drenched it was
something I’ll always remember so clearly. In Grumes one night we spent the evening watching
a play then having food cooked by locals and listening to live music. It was almost like a dream.
The people were so inviting and even though we weren’t from the small town, they celebrated
with us like we were old family friends. It was a special night that felt like time stood still. One
day that every single person looked forward to was going to Venice. It was a magical city that
made us all fall in love. The structures, the canals, the people all enchanted us and I already plan
to go back again.

In three weeks I changed because of this program. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I spoke
with people I never thought I would, and I got to see exactly where my grandfather grew up.
That was the best memory of all. It was a beautifully enriching experience that can never be
replicated again. It belonged to all of us and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it all.

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