By Gauri Mahajan, Hosted in Italy

“My exchange month in Italy can be described as a combination of pasta, espresso and magic. This five week long journey has changed me in ways I cannot encompass in words. Not only have I become more independent, but I have gained a world perspective by meeting fellow AFSers from countries like Malaysia, Sweden and USA, among many more.

The most important lesson that I have learnt in this short while is that a lot of us may look very different and have different cultures; we’re all the same from the inside. I’ve also learnt to appreciate the small things in life. I’ve realized that a thing as simple as having dinner together as a family, without a television, can really make your day better.

Travelling to another country is great, but living there and becoming a part of a family is truly amazing. My host family was not the wealthiest in the small town of Carrara, but the amount of love I received from them was truly priceless. Whether it was discussing how many gelatos I had that day, or comparing stark differences in our cultures, it was truly fascinating to see their eyes spread wide open when I told them that we have 22 official languages. Something which seems so normal for us could be so surprising for someone halfway across the globe definitely made me proud of my heritage and the diversity of my country. Interacting with people from different countries has made me more confident and a better listener.

My time in Italy was like a double chocolate cake, where you cherish every moment and never want it to end. If given the opportunity, I would definitely go again to Italy, the place where I learnt to appreciate life.”