#ETAtoITA 2015: Gabrielle Longo – una testimonianza da Brindisi

Gabrielle Longo è una dei 5 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants statunitensi che trascorreranno l’anno accademico 2015-16 in Italia insegnare la lingua e la cultura statunitense presso le scuole superiori del Sud Italia. Gabrielle viene da University of California – San Diego e al momento si trova a Brindisi dove presterà servizio come ETA presso il Liceo Linguistico “Palumbo” – e l’ITI “Giovanni Giorgi”.

Abbiamo raggiunto Gabrielle per farci raccontare come sta andando la sua esperienza in Italia.

Hi Gabrielle! What brought you to Brindisi? How long have you been here?
What brought me to my host city of Brindisi was basically a lifelong obsession with Italy and with the idea of cultural exchange. I have spent the last two years living in Indonesia as a Peace Corps volunteer and can’t say enough about how valuable it is to be immersed in a country whose culture, religion, or way of life is different from your own, nor how important these exchanges are in creating a more trusting and understanding world community. After Indonesia, it was only natural for me to apply to Fulbright Italy so that I could have a chance to understand better a country I already loved so much.
Had you ever been in the South of Italy before?
Yes! Except for a few short trips, most of my time in Italy has been spent in the South and I absolutely love it. I studied abroad in Sicily and was lucky enough to call Naples my home for a few months as well. I find the South to be one of the most complicated, compelling, and beautiful parts of Italy and the fact that the Fulbright Commission places most of their ETAs here was one of the main aspects that attracted me to the program. Although being a Fulbright ETA would undoubtedly be an incredible experience no matter where you wind up, I think it’s great that we are in smaller cities in less touristed parts of the country because it allows us to gain a more authentic insight into the Italian way of life.
How do you like your experience so far?
Finding an apartment, opening a bank account, and handling all the other paperwork that comes along with moving is a headache no matter where you are moving, but especially so when you are moving to a new country. Apart from that I have really been enjoying learning more about Puglia, a part of Italy I have never been to before. So far the people have been incredibly nice, we still have beautiful sunny days (and it is November!), and my students are great. Between exploring Brindisi, the great beaches in the area, and the beautiful neighboring cities and countryside, it seems like there should be plenty here to keep me occupied!

What’s one thing that may have surprised you about the habits and customs of the Italians you’ve come in contact with?
Something that wasn’t necessarily surprising but that I find particularly endearing about Italians (or at least Brindisini), is how willing most are to help. When I first arrived in Brindisi and was having trouble finding an apartment in my town, I decided to ask a few of the local shop owners if they had heard of anything for rent in the area. I was taken aback by the response. Nine of out ten times, people stopped what they were doing to call neighbors or friends that might be able to help, walked me to neighboring streets where they had seen “for rent” signs, or said they would ask around…and then they actually would call me up with new information they found. One particularly awesome grandfatherly figure closed down his pastry shop to walk me around to his neighbors and then gave me a free pastry for good luck. Naturally, he has bought my loyalty for life and his is the only pasticceria in Brindisi from which I will ever buy!