Archive for the ‘chronicles of a night student’ Category

A few years ago, when I was still living in Hungary, I went on a week trip to Germany with a colleague to visit some of the sponsors for the charity association we worked with in Budapest. We went to the Black Forest area in the south of Germany and on the weekend my colleague suggested we go over to Switzerland for a hike.

We hiked up the Säntis, which is one of the most prominent summits in the Alps and in Europe. It was a lovely Spring day and we set off early in the morning. We started the hike and I walked as fast as I could, my colleague told me to go slow otherwise I would get tired before reaching the top.

At first it was easy, I was full of enthusiasm and the view was glorious. Then as the hours passed by and we kept walking it got harder and harder to keep going. As we left the valley behind the climb got more intense. We had to go across the rigde that was snowy and scary. I hate heights and going down the rigde was a frightening experience that took a lot of courage. The last stretch was the hardest. When I made it to the top, I was on my hands and knees and didn’t get up right away; I burst into tears of exhaustion, of fear, of stress, of frustration, of victory and of accomplishment all together.

It took us four hours to get to the top but then we had to go back down. And that was just as hard, my feet couldn’t take another step forward even though I was wearing good hiking shoes. It took us five hours to get down to the valley. You know, looking back if somebody would have told me that I would go on such a hike I would have thought them crazy. I’m not at all a nine-hour-hike type of girl. But I’m glad I did it and is one of those little interesting stories I can talk about at dinner parties.

I feel the same way about my three years of night-school experience. It’s over now and just like climbing the Säntis I would have never ventured into it if I had know how difficult it would have been. It hasn’t been easy to be away every evening for three years, and possibly if I had to redo it I wouldn’t. It’s not simple to make long-term commitments without feeling weary half-way through. Actually the second year was the worst one, I thought of quitting many times. The last year, which I thought would be the most difficult, being pregnant and all, turned out to be the best.

I am of course very happy of my night-school years and it brings me satisfaction to complete something that seemed eternal at the beginning; it was challenging but it turned out to be such a wonderful experience after all.

Sometimes life itself feels like a long, ardous climb. Some of the sacrifices we make, the hardships we endure are not what we expected at all. But when you reach the top, when you finish a project, when you fulfill your dreams you realize it was so worth it.

Do you remember the song “The Climb”? That was my anthem during my last year of school, a good reminder to keep climbing when the climbing got rough.

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb.

Photo by Holger Bergner, my fellow hiker and now on a Mission project in the Phillippines.


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When I first started night school three years ago I hoped it would allow me to meet people that worked in the social field and perhaps it would open doors for new experiences and opportunities.
Besides making friends with some of my classmates and going to a lot of conferences and seminars I got to meet and work with three different organizations that have been important in my professional life.

After-School Project for disadvanted children: I met a group of volunteers that work with families of low resources and disadvanted situations, who put together an after-school project to help the children with their homework and provide a safe environment where they can do sports and extra-curricular activities for free.

Foster Home: through a school project I was an intern for a week at a local foster home for minors that come from broken-down homes. Although the project itself was only a week long I kept in touch with them and go visit the girls every once in a while. When school is over I’m hoping to start a knitting class with them.

Italian Language Course for Foreign Women: this has been the most gratifying projects I’ve been involved in lately as well as the most challenging one. I met the lady in charge and offered to volunteer, I’ve actually never been involved in an educational program for adults before, I usually work with children and teenagers, so this has been a unique and learning experience for me as well.

Networking is so important, they say it’s not about who you know but knows you! And making personal contact with people from all walks of life only helps make one’s life richer.


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I picked up French in night school. The truth is that the first two years I didn’t get the language at all, which was strange for me for two reasons: 1) it’s a latin language, like Spanish and Italian and 2) I have an easy time learning a foreign language due to living abroad for a number of years.

But it’s only in the last year that I can actually say that I learnt French. I don’t learn languages the way most people do with grammar books and lessons. I have to “live” the language and this year we started reading and speaking French and that made all the difference for me.

There’s something quite wonderful about being able to read in the original language. Shakespeare is meant to be read in English, Neruda in Spanish and Victor Hugo in French.

For me personally besides being able to read and communicate, knowing how to speak multiple languages has had a practical benefit as well, as a language tutor.

When I lived in Budapest I worked as a Spanish tutor in a private language school. And the way that came about comes with a funny story.

I had just come out of metro 3 at Ujpest and was going up the stairs when someone handed me a flyer. I thanked the person and kept walking. By the time I got at the top of the stairs I heard a guy calling someone, I turned around and realized he was talking to me. I told him in Hungarian that I didn’t really speak Hungarian.

He spoke English and he said “You are the first person that thanked me for the flyer. Can I invite you for a coffee?” and since I had some time to spare I went for a coffee with him.

His name was Lajos and he was an English teacher. When he found out I spoke Italian and Spanish (besides English) he offered me a job at his language school. I worked there for a couple of months until I moved back to Italy.

Here in Italy I tutor a couple of high school students and that adds a little income on the side.

I also volunteer at the Italian School for Foreign Women and knowing both English and French is useful when I need to explain something to the women from Ghana and Senegal.

Knowing a foreign language opens up a whole universe of opportunities, and understanding the culture and mentality is one of the most important benefits you get when you learn another language.

Studies show that after learning a second language it’s easier to learn the third, the fourth, the fifth…that’s why you find people who speak multiple languages as if it was a walk in the park, for them it is.

That’s why Loris and I decided we will speak in Italian and English with Lorenzo in order to give him a jump-start in life from an early age.

I’ll let you know how that works out for us. Any advice on the subject of raising bilingual children is appreciated! 🙂


PS: I liked this particular photo because it has “Jo napot kivanok” in it 😀

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School starts in a week. I have been trying to prepare myself to a very difficult nine month period. Last year was quite the challenge for me and I had to adjust with my job, studying, my personal life, my relationship with Loris and finding time in between to sleep. Once or twice I almost didn’t make it, I thought I was going crazy, I experienced for the first time in my life panic attacks, I can assure you they aren’t nice, nor was I prepared to handle them.

It wasn’t bad all the time and the truth is that going back to school was my idea and I like studying but I’m not superhuman. There’s only so much I can do and it takes a lot of humility to recognize your limits.

I don’t excel in school, never have! I do well with languages and I sort of have an easy time with social subjects like law and psychology. But I’m not overly smart and somethings just don’t make any sense to me, like Math!

This is my last year and I know it will be difficult, I don’t expect it to be easy but I want it to be special. I don’t care about landing exceptionally good grades, I know that because of my work schedule and responsibilities there’s only so much I can give as a student.

But I do have a goal! I want to leave something behind, I want people to remember I passed through. Last year, at the end of the school year some of us students got together and for the first time in the history of night school there was a performing band that played live in the school premises.

First time in the history of night school! Think of that! Maybe it will be something that will happen every year, you never know, maybe we started a new trend.

My sister Vanessa is also starting her last year of school, we talked about what our goals should be one evening. I told her I don’t care about the final exam and grades; those things matter very little to me. Instead I want to leave a landmark, a sort of “inukshuk” (look up that pretty little word) that states that I was there, and I made a difference.

I want to be remembered for being positive and happy, for having a little of that mystical spark you have when you believe in something greater that yourself. I want my classmates to think of me and remember me with my guitar and my dreams of making the world a better place. I want my teachers to know that they are too playing a part in the wonderful future I’ll have and that their job is both important and appreciated.

This is a quote from Stephen Grellets that says exactly what I want to accomplish in my last year of school:

“I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, to any fellow being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”


Our class singing John Lennon’s “Imagine”

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Did you notice that saying “oh this summer I’m going to learn French” and you actually learning French are two different things?

Good intentions unfortunately don’t lead anywhere; whereas deadlines help you accomplish so much. I learn French at school (and Math and other happy subjects that I am not particularly good at), and I thought that during the summer break I would take so time to listen to French music, read some French novel, find a native speaker who would drink champagne with me while conversing in French and feel très Francaise.

The truth is that ever since school ended I’ve been busy with so many other things and French has been left on the back burner, along with Math. Really, who has time for French when there’s so much going on?

But during the school year when I have a test on any subject I HAVE TO study, there’s just no way around it. If I didn’t have to study for a test I probably wouldn’t study at all. Deadlines, I discovered, are actually your best friend; they make you do things that otherwise would never get done, especially when they deadlines aren’t self-imposed.

I accomplish the most when I’m forced into doing something, finish a paper, study for a test, prepare a powerpoint presentation for the English course at school, learn a particular song to play for a gig, just to name a few things.

Not that I like deadlines, sometimes the stress that results from having deadlines drives me insane. But on the other hand, when I look back at all that gets done I kind of feel satisfied and thankful. Deadlines? Yeah, bring them on!

“Good intentions are quite continental but deadlines are a girl’s best friend.”

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I discovered that night school is not limited to middle-agers who have taken the challenge to go back to school, but also welcomes high school students who for a serious of reasons attend evening classes.

My class is divided in three groups of people: the older ladies, not ancient but close to their 50’s; the 25-35 age bracket students, of which I’m part of; the young, silly teenage kids, who are loud and have almost no interest in studying.

I’m glad the class is varied, it makes things interesting.

At the beginning of the year I sat in the very back with the talkers but since I don’t have a lot of time to study at home, if I pay attention in class it makes a world of difference, thus I moved forward to the front seats.

We started the school year with 33 people but we’ve already had some people quit because of language problems (all the foreigners except for one Romanian girl left) or because they couldn’t manage work, home and school all at once.

I swear some evenings it’s difficult to pay attention, especially after a full day’s work, when tiredness takes over all your senses. And yet we are all willing to make the sacrifices needed to pursue this “impossible dream”. Even though we all come from different backgrounds and lead different lives, we all feel part of a team that wins and loses together and we support each other.

I think that enrolling in night school is going to prove to be one of the greatest experiences of my life!

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