Rome, Florence, Milan, the list of famous Italian cities is endless, but have you ever heard of Campobasso? Almost certainly not. Situated 700 metres up in the Apennine mountains, it is the capital of the region of Molise. Undeniably the least well-known region in the whole of Italy. Molise is so obscure that there is a running joke among Italians that in fact, it does not exist: Molisn’t. So, what happens when you get allocated there for 8 months of your year abroad?
Well, firstly: panic. After a few frantic Google searches, this feeling is heightened. A three-hour train journey from the nearest airport, it’s safe to say that it’s rather isolated. Can I get out of this? Not easily. How will I visit my friends? Not easily. How do I even get there? Again, not easily. Imagining a tiny village in the middle-of-nowhere Italy, probably with no one my age, and definitely no one who would speak a word of English, my year abroad anxieties continued to grow until the day of my flight.
After (many) hours of travelling, I arrived. Was I scared? Beyond belief. Was I overreacting? Definitely. Yes, it’s unbelievably hard to get to: the train journey from Rome to Campobasso takes longer than the flight from Gatwick to Rome; and no, it’s definitely not a place for tourists: there’s a castle and a fair few churches… that’s as close as it gets to tourist attractions. But it’s about the same size as Durham and even has the one thing that Durham infamously lacks: a McDonald’s.
Molise lies on the east coast of Italy and is a tiny region that once belonged to its neighbouring region Abruzzo. It has its own university, so contrary to my expectation, there are plenty of young people here, and I live with two girls who study medicine there. I am working as a teaching assistant with the British Council, and I'll admit that Molise definitely wasn't my first choice! I was allocated here and despite my worries, it has been a great experience so far. I work in a secondary school alongside three English teachers, and, as an assistant, my work varies lesson to lesson. With younger classes, I mostly help with pronunciation (they refuse to believe me when I tell them that “caught” isn't pronounced “coach”), with older classes I tend to lead the classes and try, sometimes to no avail, to get them speaking English. My school is flexible and have happily rearranged my hours to give me time to travel and see friends. Only working 12 hours has given me plenty of time to watch Netflix… I mean, do my TLRP… and even join a gym- which anyone who knows me will tell you is practically a miracle!
For someone trying to improve their Italian, this place is ideal. Hardly anyone will speak to you in English because, other than English teachers at school, barely anyone here is able or willing speak it (including the children who learn it!). Although I miss the home comforts of Tesco and Greggs, I have to say that this really isn’t a bad place to live. Perhaps though, I will not have to be dragged, kicking and screaming to the airport in January, which is what I had previously envisaged.