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My Family's Year in Italy: Episode 79: Michelle Damiani

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Most people would love to take a year off and experience another culture. The reality is however few give themselves permission to do it – especially where there are three young kids involved.
For Michelle and Keith Damiani a one year experience for their family in Spello, Italy was something they had planned for prior to having children and saw no reason to change their plans once the kids arrived!
In 2012 they embarked on a one year journey that became more than just covering distance – it was a trip that affected every member of the family deeply – providing both Keith and Michelle with a new perspective on life and their children with increased confidence from taking on a new challenge and coming out the other end as winners.
We caught up with Keith and Michelle to discuss their experiences, why they chose to put their children into Italian speaking public schools, how Keith handled the hospital system after a short bout of pneumonia and the secrets to coping with returning home at the end of the journey.
You can catch their journey at Michelle’s blog where she has written a book “Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center”
What I learned from talking to Michelle and Keith:

Sometimes we can be too protective of our children. Much like the Wagoners Michelle and Keith chose to enroll their children in a local school rather than an international school which provided them with a deeper experience and a chance to learn the local language. Although a sink or swim moment all three children came to love it and gained invaluable confidence as a result.
Citizenship is an option if you have long term Italian decent. Although there are boxes to tick and the process can be time consuming it is worth considering if you want to spend a long period of time in any part of the Schengen zone. If you really want to speed it up follow Keith’s lead and move on over!
As other interviewees like Daniele Le has discussed there is a huge difference in culture between the more competitive work environment of the US and countries such as Spain, France and Italy where culture is heavily focused around enjoying life and creating a community.
Returning from an overseas experience can be a pretty tough landing. It took the Damiani’s a while to settle. Michelle's advice is to accept how you’re feeling and look for opportunities to view your home environment through new eyes.

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