Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Off topic: Your first experience abroad?
Thread poster: Francesca Battaglia

Francesca Battaglia
Italy
Local time: 23:07
Member (2007)
English to Italian
+ ...
Nov 18, 2007

When? Where? What was your impression..? What did you learn?

Actually, my very first experience abroad (on my own, not with the school) was in Dublin, for my 18th birthday, I went with an association calles STS. During the day we had class and we were free to explore the city in the afternoon.

I was in a town called Dundrum, not too far from the city but of course you needed to take the bus..And I had no idea you had to raise your arm to stop the bus :S I actually missed quite a few rides before I noticed someone doing it and then understand the trick.

To have lunch so early in the evening (about 6 pm) was a shock for my stomach, I always ended in some macdonalds in the city later at night and as a result I could fit only one pair of trousers at the end of those 3 weeks.

OH! THAT SENSE OF FREEDOM! I felt like the city was mine..

I had the chance to visit Ireland and Dublin many other times, it is actually my favourite place to be, but that first time is still in a special place in my heart.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:07
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two year working holiday in UK, age 23 Nov 18, 2007

francesca battaglia wrote:
When? Where? What was your impression..? What did you learn?


After I completed my studies I had already taken out a study loan for a fourth year at college, but learnt that they didn't have enough students for that year. So I went on a working holiday to the UK using that money, doing unskilled labour.

I learnt that living in a country where everyone speaks English isn't necessarily good for your English... I think the cultural differences between countries where the same language is spoken, can be a damper on your language skill, because language is culture.

I also learnt how to operate industrial dishwashing machines used at conference centres, how to pack tabloid and broadsheet papers on "euro" and British pallets, how prepare whisky for export, how to deliver filing cabinets, how to clean a hotel kitchen in a single hour because the health inspector was spotted getting on the ferry, and a whole host of other skills I won't be needing in my country because I'm the wrong colour. Does that count? If I had stayed in London for longer than a month I would have learnt Arabic too (I already spoke Afrikaans, which is nearly as common).

[Edited at 2007-11-18 18:11]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
seraalice  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:07
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
Sleeping outside the Victoria Coach Station in London Nov 18, 2007

I am already 30 and settled down but my youth was quite "stormy". I had and still have a great desire to meet new people, places, etc.

It was in May just after finishing my college, I was seventeen (great age - being seventeen). I decided to go and spend some time in Britain as an au-pair. But my host family was not as I supposed it should be and it happened. I leaft and had no place to sleep, even no money to pay for a hostel. My bus was to leave another day so I had to sleep outside with some homeless people covered by cartoon paper. I can still remember how scared I was.

But I do not regret doing it because every experience (even the worst one) is, in some way, good experience.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:07
English to Portuguese
+ ...
About learning a foreign language Nov 18, 2007

I began studying English when I was 9, at an American language school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Two years later, my family moved to another neighborhood, and by coincidence, the school moved elsewhere. So it became more practical to change venue for my language studies as well, and I went to a British school. I knew so little at the time, that I didn't notice much difference, in spite of both schools at that time employing only their respective native speakers.

At age 17, going to college, I dropped it just one semester short of taking the Cambridge Proficiency exam.

These schools certainly did a good job. I could read, write, and even translate fairly well for a beginner. I didn't realize they hadn't taught me to speak!

So at age 23 I went to California, to stay a month with some relatives who only spoke English. In the first days, I was certainly taken for a moron. It took me soooo long to listen to a phrase, mentally translate it into Portuguese, and then translate my response into English, that when I was finally ready to say it aloud, the person was gone.

On the third day, I was watching 60 Minutes on the TV when I suddenly felt a whack inside my head, and my English suddenly came out, naturally. I was finally thinking in English! It took me about a week to "fix" my British accent, and right then I began to speak just as I do it today.

In the years that followed, I worked for American companies in Brazil, and went to Connecticut, New Jersey, England, Canada, and other places.

Nevertheless, some 20 years later, an amateur "Professor Higgins" from Princeton U said I didn't have a Latin American accent, but instead I sounded like someone born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, which was precisely where those relatives lived at that time.

Though I am a sample of only one, maybe that very first immersion is an everlasting one.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Liliana Roman-Hamilton  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:07
English to Italian
ah, the memories... Nov 18, 2007

Ciao Francesca!

The very first time I went abroad by myself (not with my parents) was in 1986, when I was 16, on a 3-week-stay in Bournemouth with EF, for a study vacation.

Like you Francesca, I had to go to classes in the morning and in the afternoon we were partially free, unless we had to go with the group for some sightseeing.
All in all it was a fun vacation, I learnt a lot, the most important thing being that I didn't have to be afraid to talk to people in a foreign language. In fact, having only started to learn English at 14, at 16 I felt that my English was still very basic (which actually was) and I had a lot of insecurities, basically I feared that people would laugh at me when I talked to them in my broken English. But I overcame the fear and after that I felt much more confident in my way of relating to people, because I thought that it being able to communicate to other people in another language was actually FUN!!

After that experience in England I also got the "travel bug": I started to travel whenever I could, getting to know new people, making friends, seeing new places. I started to keep travel journals which I still have and treasure, and from time to time I read them remembering the jolly good times!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 17:07
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
S.W.A.P., U.K. Nov 18, 2007

Waaaay back when I was a 20-year-old student at the University of Ottawa, I took advantage of the Student Working Abroad Programme and chose to go to the UK. I lived 4 months in London, working as an office temp, which turned out to be very helpful in so many ways. I made a point of taking off every other weekend, to visit surrounding countries within the UK, and to Ireland and across the Channel.

Here's a funny anecdote: Certainly, many Europeans were amazed to hear that I would take a one-hour flight to spend the weekend somewhere else, but I explained (again and again) that it was nothing for us back home to drive two hours to have supper, or catch a hockey game, in Montreal. The expanse that is North America has given its inhabitants a different perspective on distance and travel.

So now for the anecdote: I'm in Marburg, Germany, visiting a German who had come to Canada for a year (we'd met in Quebec the year before; I knew his landlords.) He introduces me to his three friends, students at the local Uni. They are aghast at my having flown over from London just for the weekend. You're crazy!! they shout, laughing. My response? Where are you from? - France. Where are you studying? - Germany. What are you studying? -Russian. Well, craziness is in the eye of the beholder, I guess The pluralingualism that is Europe has given its inhabitants a different perspective on distance and language.

In any case I had such a good time that I returned two years later, for a longer stint this time, even though I no longer qualified for SWAP. I made it on my own, and believe me, I will encourage my children to do the same. I remember upon my return from the first trip telling fellow students that I had learned more in 4 months of travel in Europe than I had in 4 years of intensive study at University. I still hold this to be true. I am so thankful to be living in an age where travel is so accessible.

Great topic, Francesca! Thanks for the little trip - down memory lane...

Nancy


Direct link Reply with quote
 

James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:07
Russian to English
+ ...
An American in Frankfurt Nov 18, 2007

This story should be a little different.

I had joined the U.S. Army, gone through language school for Russian, and been sent to (West) Germany. My second day there, I took an Army bus to the I.G. Farben building to in-process and was held so long that I missed the last bus back to my kaserne. I had no money in my pocket for a German bus or taxi and knew no one who could give me a ride. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I had to get back to the kaserne. I was really nervous about being on my own in a strange foreign city, but I just started walking, trying to reverse the route traveled by the bus I arrived on. The problem was that I hadn't been paying close attention and recalled only the general direction the bus had come from.

I spoke passable Russian but knew no German. I walked for at least an hour, during which I was propositioned (in English) by a prostitute. I probably should have asked her for directions, but I was pretty shy in those days. In fact, I was too shy to ask anyone for directions.

Eventually, I got into downtown Frankfurt and wandered around for another hour or so, then I happened to notice a sign for a street that had the same name as my kaserne -- which I had luckily remembered. I turned right, and lo and behold, the front entrance to my kaserne was about a block away. I figure if I had turned left, I would still be walking today.

One result of the experience is that I have never again been nervous about getting lost while walking about a strange city. In fact, it became my favorite way of learning a city. And I was never again shy about asking for directions.





[Edited at 2007-11-18 21:33]

[Edited at 2007-11-18 21:33]

[Edited at 2007-11-18 21:34]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:07
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Slow plane to Singapore & Hong Kong Nov 18, 2007

May 1953. (Will that be the earliest date in this thread?)
Corporal in the Royal Air Force. Flight to Singapore, en route to Hong Kong, took five days in a piston-engined Hastings aircraft.
First stop: Idris, Libya. Accommodation in a Moorish-style building like something out of the Arabian Nights. First experience of hot dry wind.
Second stop: Habanniya, Iraq. Accommodation in tents.
Third stop: Karachi, Pakistan. Accommodation in an old barrack block with the word CONDEMNED painted on it in letters four feet high.
Fourth stop: Colombo, Ceylon (as it was in those days), Accommodation in reed-roof huts set among coconut palms. Were told a sergeant had been killed there only a week previously due to a coconut falling on his head,
Fifth stop: Singapore, Accommodation at Changi in an old block which had once been part of a prison camp run by the Japanese.
For some reason we were stuck in Singapore for about a month.
I went back to Changi Airport there last year. What a difference!
Final stop: Hong Hong. The Hastings had to make a tight turn within the seven mountains round Kowloon to line up with the runway at Kai Tak. At one time it looked as if we were going to land in Nathan Road. Stuck again at Kai Tak for a week before finally reaching Little Sai Wan on Hong Hong Island. There were six of us, all Russian linguists. We marched in to be met by the officer in charge. "Ah, our six new linguists! Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese?" "Russian, sir." They hadn't a clue what to do with us. Four were flown back shortly afterwards and ended up in Germany, but they found a very little work for me and one other to do so I stayed there in a very "cushy" post for two years. So it was a happy ending for me anyway!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:07
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Propositioned at 13 on a French train Nov 19, 2007

My first trip abroad:
My family sent me to stay with a French family (who didn't speak English) on an exchange when I was 13. I was top of my class in French at the time, but actually being in France was quite different. I went by boat and train to Paris - to be met by the family on arrival at the Gare du Nord. On my way to the toilet on the train I was shoved into a corner by a leering Frenchman who then (I think) propositioned me. It scared the life out of me and I charged into the toilet, horrified to find it was one of those holes in the ground that I'd never experienced before.
I was also impressed by the smell (universal at the time) of Gauloises and garlic everwhere - unknown to me then - and horrified by the salami-type sausages served up as hors d'oeuvres every day - I love them now.
I was baffled by what was going on most of the time - the family seemed to visit cemeteries at least once a week.
I shared José Enrique's experience of feeling like a moron because I couldn't understand anything, or speak other than haltingly, but then, after several weeks, I got that sudden "click" and found myself thinking in French and even laughing at and making jokes. Bliss! I've never looked back.
Vive la France!
Jenny.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:07
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
Canada, age 8 1/2 (1970) Nov 19, 2007

My first experience abroad without my parents was in 1970, age 8 and a half.

My dad's brother lives in Canada, with Canadian wife and kids our age. So back then we started an exchange program: each summer one of us went to spend 6 weeks in Canada, and one of my cousins came to Italy so that we could learn English and Italian respectively.
(Our parents of course knew each other, but us kids had never met, nor did we know our uncle and aunt)

When my turn finally came, it was great - the long flight as unaccompanied minor, with flight attendants fussing over me, being invited in the pilot's cabin, wearing the pilot's headphones (not very interesting, just strings of numbers!) and even being allowed to press a couple of buttons, getting extra portions of dessert and various goodies...

In Canada my auntie and cousins only speak English, and my uncle wasn't around much. But it was fine. That year I had started taking English lessons, taught by a very nice and kind Scotsman, which helped a lot. And when I resumed the course after that summer, I remember asking him the meaning of a word that everybody used all the time, in every other sentence, which really puzzled me: "maybe" - he explained it meant "perhaps"

And I discovered houses with basements used as playrooms (in Italy we lived in an apartment, as did all my friends), breakfast cereals and green cool-aid, tiny little red packets of raisins handed out as sweets, melted marshmallows over a bonfire on the shores of the St. Laurence, swimming in the river (no salt in your eyes!), driving around in a camper...

It was great


Direct link Reply with quote
 

John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
The Click Nov 19, 2007

Jenny Forbes wrote:

but then, after several weeks, I got that sudden "click" and found myself thinking in French.

Jenny.


I hope I'm not going off on a tangent from the idea of the thread, but I found it fascinating that people have expressed this idea of a "click" occurring and suddenly they could think in another language.

I had the same experience when I came here to Spain. It's sort of as if a light bulb goes on suddenly above your head. I can't remember exactly how long I had been here (maybe weeks or months), but up until that moment I basically translated in my mind everything I read or heard. One day I was sitting in a bar reading a newspaper and translating it in my mind as I was reading. I remember thinking that it was very tiring to read something like that, so I mentally flipped the switch and started reading the Spanish and understanding it as Spanish. The same thing happened when people spoke to me. It was just a brief click and everything fell into place. It was almost like a religious experience

It'd be fun to read a thread like, "Where were you when the "click" occurred"?


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Albert Gomperts
Local time: 23:07
Dutch to English
+ ...
picking up the threads Nov 19, 2007

It was 1946 and I was about 4 months old. My parents were travelling from Harwich to Hook to look up family and friends in Belgium and see how they were getting on. The Dutch customs impounded my pram and my mother had to borrow a push chair. My mother, British to the core, was encouraged to breast feed me while other people were in the room. She never forgot the feeling that all those men were staring at her. One of the "men" incidentally was Willem Elschot.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:07
Member (2007)
English to Italian
First day: a complete shock Nov 19, 2007

When I left home for England, I was kinda of a spoilt guy… you know, the classic italian stereotype. Still living at the parent's house at the elderly age of 27, having nothing to worry about but waking up in time for work every morning. No shopping for groceries to do, no ironing, no washing up, no bills to pay… you get the picture, don't you?
I arrived in Manchester that was such a dull day in September; the guy I had to meet actually didn't show up. I jumped on the wrong bus, had to come back to square one, couldn't put a full sentence together to get the info I needed, nor I could get my way around the complex bus route, so I had to invest a considerable amount of money in a luxurious private cab which eventually took me to the right address.

The house I was supposed to stay in was actually going under severe redecoration… there was rubble everywhere, no wallpaper, no carpet on the floor, no hot water to get a shower, the furniture was so full of white dust that a cocaine addict a bit too stoned could easily mistake the place for some kind of heaven. Also, the electricity was off because of a short circuit happened during the day. I was quite tired for the journey and I ended up on a wooden bench, being served a "gorgeous" plate of beans on toast and a can of lager. I went straight to bed, which was a lousy sleeping bag. Somebody blew on the candles and while I was wondering what the hell I was doing in there I just heard: "Welcome to England".


[Edited at 2007-11-19 21:57]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:07
Italian to English
Exchange visit Nov 19, 2007

1962, at the age of 16, I went to stay with a French family known to my French teacher (at 3 Place Sathonay, Lyon). Their son, (Yves-Noel Dron in case anyone should know him - I've lost touch) had stayed with us in England a month or two earlier. My planned visit the previous year had been cancelled because of the Algerian troubles – police with machine guns in the streets!

The first problem was that the train from the Gare de Lyon the travel agent had scheduled was a train bleu – all sleeping cars – and I didn’t have the right ticket. So I arrived on the next train, at least an hour late, with Madame Dron still waiting for me on the platform.

I have vivid memories of my supper, my first ever pot of yoghurt, with jam and later of the pot of ratatouille permanently on the stove; and of wine with water at every meal, from which I got alcohol poisoning and spent 3 days in bed. Which wasn’t all bad because Yves-Noel’s stunning elder sister looked after me – I was a shy boy and must have had a permanent blush and an even worse stammer!

For a lad from a small country town, the great city of Lyon was an eye opener.

The family then left for summer holidays, camping on the shore of Lac d’Annecy in Haute-Savoie and messing about in an inflatable canoe. It was one of the happiest periods of my childhood.

My school French was good (though I doubt the Dron family thought so) so I don’t recall any great communication difficulties. It was very much improved after 3 weeks though and gave me a life long passion for travel and language, which I am lucky enough to be able to indulge after a 33 year interlude in architecture.

Ironically I have forgotten most of my French since discovering Italy and the Italian language.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Liliana Roman-Hamilton  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:07
English to Italian
Food for a picky brat's palate! Nov 19, 2007

Gianni's story brought to my mind a couple of anecdotes linked to my already mentioned stay in England.

At 16 I was a spoiled brat: I would get my weekly allowance, I loved shopping (still do), I didn't do a thing in the house because my mom would do everything (from cleaning to cooking). In a few words, I was the female version of Gianni!

Anyhow, my landlady in England was very nice, the house was nice, but boy! she was a lousy cook! One night (5pm) we were about to have dinner when she announced she had prepared an Italian dish! Wow, we thought (we were 3 Italian girls in the house), that sounds good!
Well, she served us a plate of ring-shaped pasta, over cooked (on the brim of being mushy) and smothered in a red sauce that was warm KETCHUP! Yuk! Poor lady, after the first taste we left everything on the plate, and she was mortified because we were not eating. I don't remember what we told her when she asked why we were not touching food, but at that age you are pretty tactless, so I guess we told her we didn't like it.
After dinner we took the bus downtown and ran into an Italian pizza place and had a huge pizza!

Another day she said she had prepared a typical English dinner..... so she served each of us a little stuffed pie. When I broke the shell with the fork I got a whiff of some sort of stewed meat that smelled disgusting to my picky nose, the color of the content of the pie was utterly uninviting (greyish), I think it was kidney pie. I tasted a bit of it and I was about to gag....
Also that time we ran to the pizza place, that by then had become our safe haven!





[Edited at 2007-11-20 00:37]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Your first experience abroad?

Advanced search






Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search