Whenever I arrive in a new city in a foreign country where I’ve never been before, it feels a little bit unfamiliar to me. This was also the case with Padova. I arrived, but I hadn’t yet connected emotions and people to all the streets, the bars, the university…
As time passes by, you experience a lot of things, you meet people, you begin to have a connection to the whole city because you get to know it so much better. And the most important thing to me are the people who get familiar. I met so many interesting people, and some of them became my best friends. And this is just something that makes a city or a place feel like home– it’s the people who are there. As you spend time together, you get to know each other quite well after some time. It’s something very precious to me if you can connect with a complete stranger, someone very unfamiliar, who can turn in one of your closest friends. Seeing and feeling the development of these friendships was amazing and I also began to feel more at home and at ease.
It was the same case with my flat mates. In the beginning, I didn’t know them and it was okay to talk to them and have a chat. But as time went on, we cooked together, we went out and went on day trips which brought us so much closer. Living together is another aspect where you really get to know the people around you. And so they turned from unfamiliar flat mates into familiar friends living with me.
My Italian friends helped me a lot with understanding the Italian culture. I automatically adapted to their daily rhythm. Everything was about two hours later: eating, going out, university… We would have lunch around 2pm and dinner around 8 or 9pm, depending on where exactly my friends were from in Italy. The more South, the later you eat. I learnt that you can only drink a cappuccino in the morning, otherwise it’s considered a sin and bartenders truly get offended if they have to prepare it for you at another time. Although this didn’t stop me from drinking my cappuccino also in the afternoon, I began to appreciate and learn a lot about Italian cuisine and culture. For example, Italians know exactly which type of pasta you should use for which meal, not yet speaking about the cooking itself. Also Padova got really familiar as I spent five months there and knew my favorite spots and bars. It is so nice to go to your favorite café where the barista has a little chat with you because she knows you.
The university system is also a little different in Italy than in Switzerland. For example, I had one course for almost eight hours per week, not yet calculating the extra time I had to invest in this subject apart from the contact hours. But it’s also nice to really dive into a new subject and to learn about it in a profound way. I think my whole life in Padova at the beginning was unfamiliar, but got so familiar as time passed. I had my friends living in this same city, I had my daily routine, my favorite bar, my jogging routes… it’s exactly these little things which make a place familiar and let it feel kind of like home. It’s always astonishing how important it is to find friends and people who think in similar ways as you in a foreign place – they brighten everything up! Through them, I learnt a lot about myself as well. It is not so common that you go to a place where nobody knows you and you get feedback about your personality and appearance.