Next we are featuring Jessica. I don’t know Jessica, but connected with her through tefl.ie. Jessica is currently in Treviso in Italy. As you know, Italy has been one of the hardest hit areas of this pandemic, losing over 20,000 people to Covid-19. Read Jessica’s story below.
1.Where do you currently live?
North of Italy, Treviso.
2.How long have you lived there for?
About three months.
3.Is this your first time living outside Ireland?
No, I was living in Thailand last year teaching children English.
4.Why did you leave Ireland initially?
To pursue a career in English teaching, gain international experience, and just for the love of travelling!
5.What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about moving abroad (after the pandemic is over), but is nervous to do so?
I believe if something makes you nervous, that is the next thing you need to overcome. The crux of living abroad is to be out of your comfort zone, only then does your perspective change, of the world, and the many cultures it encompasses.
Preparation is key, not only is it an exciting part of the experience, but it will also ease the worries you have. Some great ways to prepare before your move is to: learn some of the language (even just basic phrases), research the cultural norms, and get in contact with people who have lived or are living in the country – they will have invaluable advice. You can never prepare for everything there will be obstacles, but half the fun is figuring it all out. If you have a yearning to travel, I’d advise you to feel the fear and do it anyway! There is no time like the present.
6.What are some major differences you’ve noticed between your new homeplace and Ireland?
Waking up to blue skies every morning is a far cry from the lack of sunshine in Ireland. Not only does it give my fair Irish skin a kiss of colour, but it also lifts my mood in general.
For Italians, dinner is the main event when they go out. After savouring an aperitivo, they will have dinner late into the evening, afterwards, they could talk over an espresso with their friends for hours. One of the first things that struck me when going out is that I no longer see the crown of people’s heads while their eyes are glued to their phones; they more engaged in that sense.
Ireland is known for its amazing sights, but the beauty of Italy to me never gets tiring; the charming cafes and rustic intricacy of their homes make for a beautiful view every day. They are very conscious of how their infrastructure looks, even Venice has a Spar supermarket built into a historic theatre which you have to see to believe.
7.What is the best thing about living in a new place, in your opinion?
No feeling compares to the experience of living abroad: meeting new people, eating food you’ve never heard of, and immersing yourself in a different culture. In my opinion, living abroad is one of the best educations you can have, you develop more empathy and curiousity. The greatest thing about it is learning there is more to explore than just the place you were born. You are not tied to one place for the remainder of your life; the world is your oyster!
8.How has coronavirus affected the city you currently live in? What measures have been brought in there?
Veneto has been one of the most affected cities in Italy. It was a distressing time when the country was facing a lockdown, the number of cases was climbing at an alarming rate, and we are still in the midst of it. Nevertheless, you learn to live with the measures, and the number of cases seem to be finally reaching a plateau. Currently, only essential shops are open, and public outings are not permitted. It is compulsory to wear masks in public, and gloves must be worn inside shops. The measures are stringent, but they are being respected.
9.Did you leave Ireland alone, or with a partner/friend? And do you currently live alone or with others?
I left Ireland by myself, and I am currently living with another roommate who emigrated from China many years ago.
10.How has the coronavirus and what’s currently happening in the world affected you? Has it had a direct impact on any aspect of your life in particular?
Yes, it did affect my plans this year; my family and friends planned to visit me, and my mother had planned her 60th birthday in Bologna which I was looking forward to, but they just have to be rescheduled. I also had to spend my twenty-fifth birthday in isolation, but I still managed to make the best of it by video-calling friends and family. Sadly, a relative of mine recently passed away, and not being able to see my family at that time was tough. However, I know other people are going through far worse, and hopefully, this pandemic will come to a close soon. In regard to my work, I am teaching online from home now, I’m very thankful to still be working in these circumstances.
11.Have you thought about going back to Ireland in light of what’s happening?
Yes, but when Ireland started progressing towards a similar lockdown, I knew if I went back, I mightn’t be able to return to Italy for quite some time. I made the decision to stay in Italy instead; it would’ve been hard to leave my new life and job here behind.
12.How do you find living away from home in times like these? Are you worried about loved one’s back in Ireland?
It has been challenging, I only arrived in Italy three months ago, I was very excited to spend my first couple of months exploring and adjusting to life here. Now that I am confined to my apartment, I feel I’m missing out on time I could be having new experiences. Nevertheless, I have maintained an optimistic outlook on the situation, and I am still enjoying my time here. My perspective is that at least I had the opportunity to travel before the travel ban was enforced otherwise, I may not have had the chance to travel or pursue a job I love this year. I do think about the welfare of my family and friends at home every day at a time like this is it so important to continuously check in with them.
13.Do you think that living away has better equipped you to deal with social distancing in any way? For example, most people are now keeping in touch via virtual means like Zoom/Google Hangouts, were you already doing this with your loved one’s in Ireland?
Yes, I am used to using technology to keep in contact with those at home. I didn’t use video-calling a lot in the past unless it was the occasional interview. I had a resistance to it initially as I feel it didn’t compare to face-to-face contact. Now that we are all social distancing, video-calling has been a great way to keep in touch with family, especially on St. Patrick’s Day and Easter when I was feeling homesick. Using Zoom is now part of my job teaching online, and I think it is an invaluable tool.
14.Did the coronavirus affect any upcoming trips home that you had planned?
Since I have only been here for three months, I wasn’t going to plan a visit until later in the year, but I am looking forward to reuniting with my family after the dust settles.
15.What have you been doing to cope in this stressful time? Some people focus on being productive, others binge watch Netflix, what is your coping mechanism?
I am making this time as productive as I can, but I don’t put too much pressure on myself either. Everybody is dealing with this situation differently, it’s best to find what’s effective and healthy for you. I’ve been availing of free online courses in a subject I enjoy, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Cooking has been very therapeutic for me at this time, making nourishing meals is good for the body and soul. When I have stressful days, I think journaling has really helped, and I will be able to look back on my entries, months or years from now.
16.Do you think there is any silver lining to what is currently happening in the world?
Yes, I don’t want to downplay any of the tragedies caused by this pandemic, these are trying times, but I think it has had a positive and profound effect on people. In a situation that is out of our control, our perspective on this is something we have full control over. This fact has reminded me of the importance of focusing on the opportunities we have now. I have witnessed acts of kindness and unwavering strength in people, which is so encouraging and heart-warming. I think when everything is uncertain, everything that is important becomes clear to us.
17.Do you have any plans to move back to Ireland at any point in the future?
Ireland will always be my home and I will be visiting regularly but I have no plans to move back at this time.
Please feel free to share anything else that you think might help other Irish people who are living abroad at this time.
Make the most of the opportunities you have now living abroad, this quarantine is temporary, and it will pass. Feel free to message me via Instagram (@jess_jeffery) or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), if you have any questions or need advice.
Disclaimer: All the images in this post are owned by Jessica Jeffrey