The Beginning of Life Abroad
My first night in Italy was overwhelming. Not only had I just met all of these new people but I was exhausted from traveling and didn’t even know where I was, as I followed a group of other teachers to a welcome dinner.
On our way, we stopped and stood in this beautiful piazza as the sun was starting to set over the Adriatic. I was excited and happy about this new adventure in my life. It felt like the right place to be.
That night at dinner, is when I first introduced my allergies to the director of my school, along with some other school staff. I had mentioned to one of the teachers I spoke with before coming but I didn’t want to worry anybody and at my age it is certainly not a job prerequisite to let people know. I had my chef card in Italian. I took it out to order dinner. I was sitting near an Italian woman who works in the school office and she looked at my card and helped me order. Pheww…! The meal went well. I did have a lot of attention brought upon me by my allergies but just out of peoples’ surprise by how many I had and how careful I had to be. I am used to this kind of attention at every new experience that I embark upon so I already knew what to expect.
The pizza I had that night is still the best pizza that I have had since living in Italy. I had no problems and by the end of the night most people there had some idea of my allergies.
Social Food Allergy Support Abroad
My roommate, co-teacher, school staff, and friends, have all been really fabulous with my food allergies! I feel fortunate to have such kindness and support from everyone here. Right from the beginning I’ve had no difficulties with people taking my food allergies seriously. The school secretary helped me speak to the kitchen staff about my allergies to make sure I would be able to eat the lunch, and gave them a copy of my Chef card to put in the kitchen. My co-teacher always makes sure to wash her hands if she eats anything with nuts. My roommate has her own peanut butter knife that she keeps in her kitchen cabinet, and is extremely careful not to use it with the sponges. She also is awesome about washing her hands if we are out somewhere and she eats something I can’t have. Peanuts are often served with drinks at a cafe or bar, so that is often where I need to be most careful about reminding others. Whenever someone has a dinner party, they always ask about my allergies and try to make sure I can eat what they are making. I have never been around people in a new situation who are so aware about my allergies and care about making sure I can also eat. It is extraordinary to feel that included! I am grateful to have social support in Italy with my food allergies.