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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Year Abroad Photo Diary: Bergamo part 1.

I moved to Bergamo to study here for my Erasmus year abroad in September and intended to start a weekly blog then to document everything I did, how I was feeling and basically the process for others intending to go to Italy to study abroad. However, life got in the way and I never fully got around to doing it. So in true Lauren fashion I am procrastinating from revision and decided today is the day.
So like I said I first moved to Bergamo in September and had already sorted out my accommodation through the university's website; I was very lucky in this sense because I know that a lot of Italian universities do not have this service. The first day I arrived I was lucky enough to be picked up by one of the ESN (this is one of the Erasmus agencies in Bergamo) members who drove me to the hostel I stayed in over night. I then asked the woman at the desk to help me ring my landlord because he only speaks Italian and after a summer of literally doing NO revision my Italian was pretty basic. She was lovely and gave me a map to where my flat was located and there was a luggage room for me to keep one of my suitcases whilst I dragged the other for half an hour through the town (there was a bus but at this point I had no idea how to use it or where to get off so I figured it would be best to use google maps and walk it). 

I was lucky as my flat turned out to be pretty nice and my bedroom is HUGE with the biggest wardrobe I have ever seen (definitely need one for all my clothes back at home). I spent the first few days getting my bearings and moaning to my boyfriend that I couldn't find a supermarket anywhere - there turned out to be one about a ten minute walk in the only direction I hadn't tried, obviously - and about a week later we had our first Erasmus event. For anyone considering doing an Erasmus year abroad, the best piece of advice I can give you is to go to every single event at the beginning; this is where people form their friendship groups and as you are going to be living there for a year/a few months then you are going to want to make friends! I met some really nice people and pretty much everyone spoke English which was good for the social aspect, not so good for my learning! I also took the first few weeks as an opportunity to explore the city whilst the weather was still gorgeous.

The best part of my first semester was spent drunk, hungover, sweaty in a club, bloated from all the pizza and pasta I was eating but also having lots of fun with all the friends I had made. I did find the transition quite difficult at first, I have to admit, as I felt weird being in a different country to all of my friends and I missed being able to go into a shop in England and just ask for something without having to properly think about what I was saying, but it goes without saying that the experience has seriously improved my language abilities. I did an intensive language course when I first arrived just to remind myself of the stuff I had 'forgotten' and then did a CIS language course for the first semester at university. This really helped as it was essentially like a university grammar lesson but lasted for two hours, twice a week and was taught solely in Italian. It really pushed me to understand and speak in Italian as well as improved my written and grammar abilities. For someone who had seriously struggled in my previous years at university this was definitely a perk for me! 

I was worried about going to Bergamo at first because it is such a small city I felt that it would be pretty boring. And whilst it does have its times when it is pouring with rain and I'm wondering whether I may as well have stayed in Manchester for another year, it is actually a lot of fun if you actively go out looking for it. There aren't any clubs like in Manchester and most shops shut at 8pm latest so there's no late night wine runs (you have to plan these sporadic drinking nights well enough in advance to buy the booze) but aperitivo and €4 gin and lemons make it worth the while! Especially since the Bergamascan idea of a top night out is karaoke at a bar called Velvet where the DJ has a projector and youtube to look up the songs you want to sing to... and there's a pole. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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