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When the going gets tough, the tough take a gap year

Will I survive the year in Italy, stay tuned folks…

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Of all the skills that I would have previously imagined requiring before my second year of university, Italian was not one of them. When I entered uni life in October 2017 I expected to have a standard experience, or as standard as I could hope to have. I hoped that nothing more dramatic than casual financial ruin or passing out after drinking a bottle of gin would spoil my student days, and I would eventually graduate with a few good stories and all my limbs still intact. First term went well, I only got thrown out of one nightclub and even then, I managed to befriend the two people who carried me home – drunkenly screaming at strangers is a real icebreaker. But it all seemed too simple, and as destroying assumptions is one of my hobbies I started subconsciously searching for a way to create some extra drama in the four years stretching out before me.

That is how we got here. By here I mean me running away from Cambridge after applying and accepting an exchange year at a university in Pavia, Italy. From when my flight leaves on the 15th of September I will officially have rejected my 2nd year at Cambridge for a trip to the continent which I imagine involves drinking coffee, smoking and wearing stripy t-shirts. Tell me if I’m wrong. As of yet, I have no idea where I will be living, the course I will be studying or where exactly the nearest Tesco is, but I’m nothing if not adaptable. I also need to learn Italian, but we can worry about that later.

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I’ll set the scene for how this started. Mid-December. I am lying on a sofa, pretending to listen to my mum discuss turkey whilst scrolling through my emails, perhaps in the hope that my lecturers have finally noticed my true genius and will start giving me higher marks. I am unfortunately still waiting on that one. In the peak of my boredom I decided to apply for anything and everything possible. No internship, summer job or exchange wasn’t investigated in my pre-Christmas listlessness. Solving illiteracy in Uganda? Applied. Saving Nepalese children through theatre? Applied. This while my family were next door drinking gin and drunk texting my senile grandma. That is when I came across the possibility to take a year to study in Italy. It wasn’t quite saving the third world, but I thought I might as well apply.

The positives: the year is mostly free, and I get to eat as much pasta as I want, even though thanks to my feral and minimalist cooking style I had already eaten enough pasta to feed the entirety of Italy. Additionally, I would be adding a fifth year to my already four-year degree, thus delaying adulthood into the distant realm of 2022. Was it not Versace that said twenty-three is the new twenty-one? The negatives: I speak less Italian than a Dolmio pasta sauce advert, have never been away from home for over two weeks and the only time I went to Italy was in Venice and I developed an irrational fear of water. Not exactly a CV for a citizen of the world.

It was by no means an easy decision to make, I had to consider all the big things: the language, accommodation, lifestyle, and how often is too often to eat carbonara. (The answer, never.) Another terrifying prospect was that of freshers’ week, it was horrific enough in English but surely would be even more so when conducted in Italian and the drink of choice is limoncello. Then I had to consider my friends, they all seemed unanimously confused by my decision but promised to come visit me if only to exploit my vicinity to lasagne and warm weather. And with that I was going. I figured that if I am only to live once I might as well spend one of those years in the country that created Silvio Berlusconi and coincidentally the jacuzzi.

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It was a tough decision.

Before you think that I am turning into an extremely low-budget version of Eat Pray Love I can assure you I have no intention to go to either Bali or India as of yet. I am also not Julia Roberts as of yet. As well as this, the idea of meditation pains me because every time I try to retreat into my own thoughts I am reminded of the time I organised a party for 30 people and only 5 showed up. It was a depressing moment and the amount of moral strength needed to appear unembarrassed will perhaps come in handy for the year ahead on the 15th of September.

So Arrivederci Inghilterra for the time being, I will miss my friends, my family and cheesy chips but I’ll just have to listen to Brexit drama and pretend I am there with you. So, the bags are all packed, (well not quite), but they will be eventually.

And as they said in The Sound of Music, an analogy that has nothing at all to do with Italy, ‘So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, and until 2019, ciao for now.’