Shanny Neuman - 2014 Program Participant
This is us: Shanny, Marta, Matilde, and Jacopo, my crazy kids, my students, my friends, my family!
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I've always been a curious person and felt that restless sensation of wanting to know more. As I grew up I realized that the best and more genuine source of knowledge comes from people. From that thought, I decided to study hospitality management and learn how to treat and serve people. My curiosity lead me to my first real world experience in 2014, when I went for six months to work at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida through the International College Program. There I worked with and for people from all around the world, making it one of the greatest experiences in my life. I promised myself that from that moment on I would not stop, I would go out to discover the world, it's people, and their culture. Italy became my next big project.
Why did you choose GeoVisions in Italy?
I had my mind set on going to Italy, that was my only goal. As much as I wanted to go, I didn't know how or what I would do there, so I looked up for all kinds of programs till I came across GeoVisions, specifically with their Walk and Talk program. That was it, the opportunity I was looking for! From my first contact with the company, they were very friendly, supportive, and gave me guidance; not just to really understand what the program was about, but to make everything possible to adequate this experience to my goals and needs so I could make the most of it. It felt like the program description was made just for me, since it covered exactly what I wanted: a genuine and up-close experience with the Italian culture, the chance to teach English and work with kids, and an opportunity to improve my Italian.
What was your favorite part about the location of your placement?
I stayed in a small town by the shore called Tortoreto in the Abruzzo region. For me, coming from the big, busy Mexico City to this small town, this was a big change. Life was calm, easy, and quiet. At the beginning the change was really abrupt for me and I got bored sometimes, but as time went by, I started to feel more as a local than a tourist; this city became my home.
I think everyone's dream is to live by the sea, and this was a dream that came true for me. Within a 10 minutes walk I was at the beach, a bike was my main transportation, and I was living in a touristic city that came alive even more as the summer was approaching. Tourists were mostly Italians, that way I was still submerged in the atmosphere of the Italian life in the summer. I lived and worked in a touristic city in Italy on the beach during the summer, what can be better than that?
Living the bella vita in Positano in the Amalfi Coast
What made your program experience unique?
The Walk and Talk Program allowed me to do more than one thing during my stay there. I not only took care of kids and taught them English, I did both simultaneously! The whole experience became richer and more complete since the approach to others was more complete and varied. After this experience, and also after getting to know other au pairs that were working at the same location as I was, I've come to the conclusion that every experience is unique, since you are the one that creates it; it is up to you to make it unique!
How did GeoVisions’ team support you throughout your program?
Sadly, I never got the chance to personally meet any of the staff at GeoVisions that helped me along the way in this experience. Nonetheless, there was never a lack of contact or support from them, since I knew that if I needed something, they were just a mail away and that they would do anything they could to help me. They kept in touch the whole time, were aware of what was I doing and where I was at, always cared about my well being, wanted to know how was I doing, and how could they make my experience even better.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
It's human condition to wonder about the always inevitable and uncomfortable question, "what if?", and this is no different for me. When I started this adventure I had a million doubts, fears, wishes, and expectations. Now that I left Italy and I'm back home, I finally understand why everything that has happened in my life was for me to be right here, right now. As hard as it is to explain, it's also hard to understand without falling in the cliché category, but for me the philosophy that "everything happens for a reason" was my mantra during this experience. Sometimes we discover the reason, sometimes we don't, and sometimes we know it right away or it might take us a lifetime to figure it out if we are lucky.
So what I wish I would've done differently? Nothing really. During the moment I might have thought about it, but as time went by and the understanding hit me, the impossible wish of doing things differently faded away. I realized that having expectations or being too rigid about life will only prevent me to miss out on incredible things that are yet to come, that I've never imagined or thought possible. Don't deny any possibility of what could happen, life really works in mysterious and unexpected ways!
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
As an overall description, my day consisted of taking the kids to the beach everyday (even for me it seems unbelievable! Who would kill for a job like this?). We had pranzo at 1:00 p.m., the nonno made fresh homemade pasta everyday, and then we had English lessons for around an hour and a half.
Some evenings, if the parents needed my help, I would stay with them playing or going for gelato. The evenings where my time to go and do some exercise, grab my bike and explore the surroundings, or do anything I wanted. We had dinner together every night and would go to a special event in town if there was one, or I would just go out to meet some friends.
The day-to-day routine might be the same, but everyday was different from the other; different games, bumping into different people, new things to learn, a different flavor of gelato, or a new spontaneous plan! Every time I told someone about a day in my life during this experience, and mostly when I told them these activities were part of my job, they couldn't believe it!
Conquering Italy with family and friends at the Gran Sasso: Italy's highest mountain!
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
To travel! I had a lot of trips in Italy during my stay there. Since I had the weekends off, I would just create a new plan for each one. In total, I visited 21 big, small, near, and far cities in Italy! Sometimes I went with friends and sometimes alone, every time was a new adventure to discover. Because of Tortoreto's location in the middle of Italy, it was easy to move all over Italy, from Milan and Florence to the Amalfi Coast and Rome, from the Adriatic Sea to Italy's highest mountain, Il Gran Sasso. Everything was only a few hours away! I traveled by bike, car, bus, tram, train, plane, and even ship! For being there two months, this is impressive; I really wanted to make the most of this experience.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I lived with my host family in a different house, separated by a small garden. This house was like their summer house, fully equipped with a living room, kitchen, and a playing room. In there I had my own room, with a shared bathroom we all used; having privacy was key for me. At the end of the day when I was tired I could just relax away from the kids, or if I went out till later at night I didn't disturbed the family. I could make use of the kitchen if I wanted to, so it was pretty advantageous for me.
How has your time abroad impacted your life at home?
Every time I travel is the same: I return as a different person, but in fact it's just a new version of Shanny, a better and a more realistic one; a more true self. The real challenge starts when you get home and realize everything is still the same, that the one that's changed is you! At the beginning I was afraid that this adventurous, free, and brave version of me faded away and only exist then and there, but that's the ultimate task.
Keep being the same person you became and live your life as if you were traveling, exploring new places where you live, meeting new people, and don't let that adrenaline of living be a thing of the past.
After this experience, I've realized that it's not just the journey itself, it's about that incomparable and unexplainable feeling of knowing you're in the right place at the right time. This experience opened my eyes wider. I visited amazing places, met extraordinary people, and experienced unbelievable things; everything was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
To travel is to experience the world, to understand it better, and that's why you become a more humble, generous, and open-minded person. You understand and accept different cultures and ways of thinking, you learn to appreciate the fact of being able to call "home" a place away from yours, and famiglia this group of extraordinary people who shared their lives with you and yours with them.
There is no cure or remedy to prevent missing something or someone, just the full and aware enjoyment of what is happening, so live life to the fullest! I know that more amazing things are yet to come!