By Maddalena Bienati, Boarding School Program Participant, Hosted in Patiala

“Namaste, mera nam Maddalena hai. Meri umar solanh saal hai aur main kar raha hoon an exchange student from Italy, currently in Patiala since July.

When in Italy we talk about India, everybody imagines elephants, tigers, jungles, old temples, spicy food and poverty.

When I arrived in Patiala, I was really surprised to discover that Punjab is completely different from that beliefs.

Punjab isn’t a tropical paradise; there aren’t elephants, tigers or jungles but infinite rice fields and lowlands. Punjab is a fertile land, where Punjabi (the name of Punjab’s people) cultivate rice, sugar canne, millet and fruit trees. Punjabis take real pride of their lands and their traditons.

Fifty years ago the majority of Punjabi were farmers. Now it isn’t like this, but all the festivals and traditions that they used to celebrate as farmers, remain. My favourite Punjab’s tradition it’s Bhangra, a typical dance that Punjabi used to dance for celebrate the beginning of spring. Punjabi love bhangra, they dance it during functions and it’s a way to stay together and having fun with your relatives and friends.

Punjabi people are the most friendly and humble people that I’ve ever met.  Everybody tries to help me as much as possible for make me feel well. For example, the first Sunday in Patiala, I went with my host mama to her meditation lesson. There, I met a woman. At the end of the lesson she said to me that I’m her daughter and for this reason she gifted to me one of her bracelets. I was really surprised, nobody in Italy is so friendly with someone that we don’t know.

Now life is going on. I’ve started school, I participate in lot of functions and I’m learning Hindi and Punjabi, so I’m living completely like an Indian girl. At first it wasn’t easy. I was feeling sad because in Italy I used to do something everyday, I was always with my friends somewhere.

Sometime I forget that I’m here in India to enjoy (and study). Infact I think I waste somedays, only because I missed what I used to do in Italy. I’m trying to improve myself so I hope that I will not waste more days. I mean, not a lot of guys are so lucky to be loved by two families!”