Alicja gniewek

Alicja Gniewek

I took part in the Summer School programme, which allowed me to go to Italy for a month to study Italian. I love travelling, so I was really ecstatic when I heard I had managed to secure a place.

I took part in the course with fifteen people from the University of Leeds and I still keep in touch with some of them. I have shared a flat with five other girls and we had a very funny landlord. I really enjoyed the experience as I met a lot of great people from around the world that I plan to visit at some point in the future.

The university we studied at was based in 'Cita Atla' which was the old city, at the top of the fill. This meant every morning we had to walk uphill for twenty minutes, in the heat, which was not the greatest of experiences, but we managed. The views on the way to the university were amazing! The lessons were quite intense because the teachers spoke Italian to us the majority of the time, even though they could speak English, so sometimes it was hard to contribute to lessons. However, after a four hour exam, I have managed to pass the course.

During the weekends we travelled, individually or in groups. I attended a trip organised by the university to Mantua. We had a little tour around the city with a tour guide and afterwards we visited the Basilica of Sant'Andrea church, which was built in the 15th century. I have also been to Milan, though I did not enjoy that as much as it was mainly composed of expensive designer shops - although the Duomo di Milano was very impressive.

My favourite city I visited was Venice; it was the most expensive trip but definitely worth it. We walked round the lovely canals of Venice and went to loads of adorable shops, such as the carnival mask shops. Later on, we met a Spanish family and decided to share a gondola with them to spread the cost.

After the long day, we bought our return tickets to Bergamo, however we found out that we have missed the last transfer train in Verona, so we had to spend the night at the train station. We met some other people at the train station and decided to stay together for safety.

After we eventually got back from Venice, which was 8am, I had a shower and a brief nap, and was up at 10am to go to Lake Garda, which is the largest lake in Italy and was really beautiful. I managed to get some more sleep on the train and once we got to Lake Garda we swam and sunbathed all day. Overall, the day was really relaxed and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I love nature.

On another occasion, a small group of us went to Lago di Lecco, which is another lake. Surprisingly it was in the city, so there was no grass or ground to lay on; we entered the lake through concrete steps and jumped into the water from a concrete wall. Even so, it was still an amazing day.

I have really enjoyed the food in Italy. Throughout my stay in Italy, I have visited many different restaurants and tried different types of delicious food and wines. I have learnt a lot about the Italian culture which was so interesting. For example, how football is a very serious event, with Italians cheering for their team proudly and loudly, and after a positive outcome, they drive around the street of Italy hanging out of their cars’ windows shouting and singing.

When we were not travelling or doing anything exciting, we would spend some time together, whether it was playing games or drinking together. Both way, we were never bored, and every day was amazing. We would also go to 'Cita Basta', which was the 'City at the Bottom' to go for walks or to pubs. Every Friday, we would go to Sant'Agostino, a beautiful party venue with a live band and breath-taking views.

The fund has helped me to pay for my flight to Italy and back. I would have still gone to Italy even if it had not been awarded, however with the fund I did not have to worry about being in debt or borrowing money from my family. It's possible that if I didn't receive the fund I would not have been able to visit as many places as I did.

Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I was able to meet some amazing people, and visit some amazing places, whilst still expanding my knowledge. From this experience, I have learnt that I am ready to travel around the world, and not to be scared of trying out new things. It has built my confidence in independent travel and has made me weary of things to look for when on my future travels. This experience has made me more excited about visiting the world, and I am already planning a trip around the Europe for next summer.

I would like to thank the Lifelong Learning Centre for the Opportunities fund.