One thing I love about blogging is the opportunity to meet others within the blogging community. That’s how I met Carrie Zimmer, an American expat currently working and living in Milan. Although she’s originally from Cincinnati Ohio, Carrie has lived a good part of her life in Savannah Georgia – a fact I was really excited to learn about since Savanah is only three hours from where I myself was born and raised. Cheers to another southern sista!
Carrie currently works as a Technology Integration Specialist/Coach at the American School of Milan. When she isn’t working, she enjoys studying Italian, learning Ashtanga Yoga, blogging about her life and travels (she’s been to some pretty rad parts of the world), reading, and watching American TV shows on Netflix (amen sista!).
What brought you to Italy and why have you stayed?
I was living in the US and watched three friends move overseas with their husbands’ jobs. I decided that maybe it was something I could do too, so I started researching teaching overseas. I’ve stayed because I’m enjoying the lifestyle: less pressure of having to meet certain American expectations and being able to travel more!
Absolutely agree – the lifestyle here is way less stressful! So how did you land your first job in Italy?
In international teaching there are several companies that work to help place teachers in schools overseas. I registered with one, Search Associates. You pay a fee to place your resume online and get access to school information and lists of positions available. The schools contact you through the site and you can also attend a job fair, which I did in Cambridge, MA. I interviewed via Skype and at the job fair and was offered a job at the American School of Milan after several months of ups and downs!
Wow, I’ve never heard of the company. That’s definitely something worth looking into. So moving on to the fun part… How were you able to legally stay in Italy? What documents did you have to apply for?
I’ve been very lucky in that our school is really helpful in getting this process underway. I did a lot of leg work in the US to get my Visa from the consulate in Miami, but once here in Italy the school has a lawyer that takes you to the Questura and Prefettura and it makes it so much easier.
In the US, I had to have my college degrees translated into Italian and have the State of Georgia add the apostille. I contacted the Miami consulate and a woman there translated my degrees for $7.00 each. I know this was very lucky because I know others have paid hundreds for this service. Once translated, I had to send them to the State for the apostille before traveling to Miami to officially submit all my paperwork for the work visa.
Ok, so the Miami consulate seriously rocks. I’ve heard way worse coming from other Italian Consulates. Sounds so easy! Still, did you experience any other problems and do you have any advice for visiting the “dreaded” Italian consulate?
Ask a lot of questions and don’t procrastinate. The process can be slow, so if you’re on a deadline, don’t waste any time.
What has been the most difficult part about moving here?
I moved to Italy in August of 2011. It is difficult to live away from those you love the most and miss important events in their lives. I miss weddings and babies being born and I’m not around to be in my niece’s life as she grows up. But those are the sacrifices I knew I was making to experience life overseas.
On a lighter note, it was difficult at first sorting out internet and phone options after first arriving. Seems like this is getting easier every year for our new teachers, but my first year I lived with limited internet and a really basic phone. When I first arrived I didn’t have a codice fiscale (similar to an American Social Security #) and this is necessary for many phone and internet services so it took time to figure out what was possible and how to get it set up.
Yes, I’m still figuring out just how phone and internet services work here. It seems like there just aren’t any rules or fast tracks.
How do your friends and family feel about you living in Italy?
Most people are super supportive of my decision. They know that the opportunities I have working at an international school far exceed those that exist working in American public schools right now. My family, for the most part, is also supportive, but they wouldn’t be unhappy if I decided to move back to the States.
Did you experience any culture shock? How did you cope?
It’s been a pretty easy transition, I’ve got to say. Though there are still things that make me laugh about living in Italy, like the doctor asking me just last week if the cold I had was a result of being in air conditioning. Some of the cultural beliefs will never make sense to me, but I’ve learned to just go with the flow. It’s never going to be like the US…and if it was why would anyone need to experience another culture?
When you go back home to America, is it difficult to adjust? Why/why not?
I’ve discovered that while my life continues while I’m gone, so does life for others in the US. Things don’t wait for me. The longer I’ve been gone, the easier it is to know and expect things to be different at home. However, you do learn fairly quickly who is really a good friend, and those people are really good about making time for me in their lives when I’m able to get back to the US.
Did you know Italian before moving to Italy? If not, what are some tips for learning the Italian language?
I still don’t know Italian well. (Dai!!!!) I can ask for most things I need and form sentences and questions, but it’s far from being conversational. I’m trying desperately to learn, but I don’t need it for my job so I can go for weeks without really having to have conversations in Italian. Nearly everyone I work with speaks English. I’ve taken private lessons for the last three years and recently started group lessons at a language school in Milan.
I had Rosetta Stone previously and use the Duolingo app also. I’d recommend both for those wanting to learn.
Yeah, learning a foreign language is a never ending process! *Sigh* What about making friends? How have you met new people in Italy?
Most of my friends are people that I work with. I meet the occasional person outside of work, but because of our schedules and commonalities, I spend most of the time with friends from work.
What’s the best part about living in Italy?
For me, the best part of living in Italy is the opportunity I have to travel and see the world. I live simpler here than I do in the US. There’s no Target next door to drop $200 at every weekend. I don’t have a car. My cell phone plan costs about 10 euro a month. With limited expenses, my travel budget is pretty big. I just spent a week in Egypt with a private guide, something I would never have dreamed about living in the US.
Fantastic point. Living in Italy definitely teaches you to live more frugally, and the travel bug never seems to go away. Thanks Carrie!
The aim of “Moving to Italy Interviews” is to provide a wide range of perspectives on the Italy immigration process. Each interviewee has a unique “Italy” story to tell. Whether they are to be learned from, or simply enjoyed, it is my hope that this interview blog series provides new and enlightening information for Italy dreamers and enthusiasts alike. Read more Moving to Italy Interviews.