Lessons Learned While Roaming Italy

Lessons Learned While Roaming Italy

While visiting Italy over the summer, our tour guide pointed our the difference in cultures in the various cities. Even Italian constants such as pasta differed from region to region! For example, Bologna was famous for inventing lasagna and tortellini, while I learned how to make ravioli in Rome.

Many of these cities also have different histories. Before Italy was a unified country, it was a collection of states — each with their own way of operating and separate governments. To this day, the different regions and cities boast their own history.

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In Rome, the residents celebrate the Roman Empire and the days when all roads lead to Rome. In Florence, they show off all of the important works of art that originated there and the crucial role their country played in the Italian Renaissance. Meanwhile, Venice teaches tourists about the days when the doge, or chief magistrate, ruled and their world-class glass blowing. Despite all of this, every region comes together to share in the collective history of Italy.

Seeing all of the cultural differences in Italy made me think of how we view culture in America. For the most part, we celebrate our own culture, and cherish different familial traditions. Many Americans hold tightly to where their ancestors came from and what their heritage means to them. All of the different cultures in America contribute to a mixture of different traditions, which is expected since America is a nation of immigrants.

However, there is still hostility towards cultures that certain Americans view as different and wrong. Instead of celebrating our differences and how the influx of immigrants has always brought prosperity and growth to America, some of us tear each other down. In Italy, the difference between regions is melded together to create a united country. While regions do compete with each other, it is always friendly and many choose to focus on similarities rather than differences.

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I think that Americans should learn to see different religions and cultures in a friendlier way, and we should celebrate the things that make America wonderful. Heritage is important to all of us, and we should still work hard to preserve our history and our culture. Many of the social problems that America is currently facing stems from the fact that we don’t respect each other ‘s differences. I believe that if we can learn to see each other as contributing something special and unique to the “American Melting Pot” culture, then we will have a much more accepting America. Italy showed me what it meant to truly love thy neighbor.

Nina Grotto is a Girl Scout Ambassador from Hinsdale, Illinois.

For more information about other Girl Scout Destinations, including  Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico next year, click here.

Girl Scouts Embark on a Swiss Adventure

Girl Scouts Embark on a Swiss Adventure

Nearly a dozen girls from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana traveled to Switzerland this summer on a council-sponsored trip. Accompanied by five adults, the group arrived in Zurich after an eight-hour plane journey from the States. Once there, they hit the ground running on a walking tour of Altstadt, or Old Town, in the Swiss city of Zurich.

The next day, the Girl Scouts went to the Swiss National Museum and the Zurich Zoo, where they happened to see Beyoncé! Next up was Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The group enjoyed many free sites here, such as a bear pit, rose garden and botanical garden.

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Girl Scouts in Bern, Switzerland

The following day, everyone participated in a walking tour of Bern and was luck enough to see Le Tour de France as the cyclists biked through the town.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the nine days the girls got to spend at Our Chalet, which is an international Girl Guide/Girl Scout centre and one of five World Centres of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, or WAGGS. While there, the girls met other groups from the U.S. and Canada, including their pen pals from Canada.

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Girl Scouts white-water rafting at Our Chalet

While at Our Chalet, the girls also went zip-lining, abseiling into a gorge, white-water rafting, met a woodcarver and did a lot of hiking. The views of the country were phenomenal. Finishing up the trip was a day in Lauterbrunnen where the participants saw Trummelbach Falls, the only waterfalls in Europe you can see inside of a mountain.

This trip was a culmination of a year’s worth of planning. Once the girls applied in June 2015, they began discussing their itinerary. They also attended a panel with people who had either worked at Our Chalet or visited there to get a better sense of what to expect.

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Girl Scouts at Trummelbach Falls in Switzerland

At the end of the trip, the girls agreed that Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places they had ever seen and they returned to the States with bags of cheese and chocolate for souvenirs.

To learn more about council-sponsored travel opportunities, click here. For more information about traveling as a Girl Scout, please email our senior program manager of arts, cultural awareness and travel programs at achristensen@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.