Sara in the Carneddau, Gwynedd

About me

Hello/Ciao/Shwmae/Hallo/Hola/مرحبًا! My name is Sara, I’m 28 years old, and I’m an Italian *PhD student at Bangor University.

I come from a small village at the foot of the Alps, in northern Italy. I’ve always enjoyed meeting new  people, and I think that being able to speak different languages is a big part of this.

I have friends from all over the world and even in Bangor I have the chance to use three different languages when I speak with friends and colleagues!

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I start mixing languages in a sentence. I think I’ve said something that makes sense, but when my partner looks at me in a funny way or starts laughing, I realise I’ve muddled up my languages again!

I’ve been living in north Wales for 2 years now, and I love it!

My take on school

Gianico, the Italian village where I’m from, is very small and until I was 14 years old, me and my friends all went to the same school.

When we started comprehensive school, suddenly we were in a much bigger building, in a bigger town, with students and people from the whole valley.

I had no friends in my new class at first, but eventually I managed to find my place.  I went to a secondary school, but I was lucky to study subjects like Latin and Philosophy there as this isn’t always possible.

The school system is different in Italy, and you don’t have the same freedom to choose what subjects you want to study.

When you’re 13, you must decide which school offers the subjects you enjoy most,  and your subjects then don’t change for the next five years unless you move to another school.

I always loved school. I think I was a bit of a nerd. In fact, I think I still am!

Gianico, Lombardy:

I’ve always been fascinated by ‘new’ things and love learning things about people and nature. My favourite subjects in school were science and history.

I was always homesick when I was younger, to the point that I wouldn’t stop crying at bedtime if I wasn’t in the same place as my mother (until I was about 12!).

My family was so surprised when I told them that I wanted to apply for a scholarship* to spend a year studying in Ecuador* when I was 17! Nobody believed I could do it, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Languages and me

Obviously, my first language is Italian. I’m also proud to speak my local dialect*, a language that is now disappearing and younger people easily forget that dialects link us to our humble farming history.

I’m also fluent in English and Spanish, decent in French and I’ve also started learning Welsh since I moved here!

I learnt Spanish during my exchange year in South America and I know French as my nain grew up in France, and I also studied it in secondary school.

I know bits and bobs of other languages, just a few sentences that I like to use when I travel. There are many more languages on my ‘to learn’ list: Portuguese, Esperanto*, getting back on track with learning Arabic, Scots Gaelic… the list is never ending!

I’ve had a bit of a tricky relationship with German. I’ve tried to learn it, but it simply doesn’t stick in my head for some reason.

In general, I think the most important thing isn’t how fluent you are in a language, but rather your willingness to learn even just a few words: it’s a sign of respect, inclusion and humility.*

Not everyone speaks English and I think it’s dangerous to believe this.

My student life

At university in Venice, my course was a BA in Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, and I studied Arabic and Farsi.*

I was passionate about science and wanted to study medicine, but I thought that a degree in languages would allow me to travel more. Plus, I was fascinated by international cooperation and diplomacy.*

I wasn’t able to spend time in an Arabic-speaking country for a number of reasons and I found the grammar exams very difficult. I also discovered that, especially in Italy, it’s hard to make a career in diplomacy if you don’t move in the right circles  or are not rich enough.

I soon realised that International Relations wasn’t for me, and Arabic grammar even less so, at least at that time. Still, I carried on, I didn’t want my hard work to go to waste, and I finished my degree with a mark that I was happy with .

During my internship* I was lucky enough to work in an International School in Dubai and tutor pupils with special needs. I was fascinated by how kids approached language learning.

Sara during carnival in Ecuador in 2012

I had found my new vocation* and I wanted to learn more about brains! I spent a year studying modules in physiology*, statistics and programming, and I signed up for a masters* in Cognitive Neuroscience shortly after that. Back to Science!

I had some amazing times during those two years, and some hard times too. I was mainly based in Italy – to my disappointment.

I had always wanted to move abroad after my first experience in Ecuador, but a big family meant that I had to help at home, and I’ve always had a job alongside my studies since I was 16.

I spent six months in Germany for my master thesis*, where I did learn a lot about my project and about myself. I made some good friends in the dorms*,  but the experience in the lab wasn’t exactly inclusive* – which probably caused my issue with German.

I really did get the most out of my degree and I never thought I’d do as well as I did! I was really proud of myself.

I spent six months in Germany for my master thesis, where I did learn a lot about my project and about myself. I made some good friends in the dorms*,  but the experience in the lab wasn’t exactly inclusive*  – which caused my issue with German probably.

I really did get the most out of my degree and I never thought I’d do as well as I did! I was really proud of myself.

Future me

I reached a point where  I had my degree, I was a beekeeper, I had a disappointing experience in Germany, and I had moved from one place to another around Italy and spent a bit of time abroad during my studies.

I wasn’t sure about a PhD but I wanted to be forward-looking, so I applied for a few positions, not really taking it too seriously .

I was happy where I was, really happy. But then Covid hit.

I was one of the lucky people to live in a small village with a big field where I could breathe and spend time with my bees, and none of my loved ones were hospitalised because of Covid.

But ‘future me’ wanted more , and I got scared I would end up stuck in that valley.

So, I decided to move to Wales to pursue my passion for bees!

I’m grateful for this experience, and for being able to be part of many exciting projects, such as MFL Mentoring.

And I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

  • PhD – a research-based university course which is the highest level of qualification you can get in the UK
  • Scholarship – when you apply to have a course paid-for by an organisation
  • Ecuador – Ecuador is located in the western corner at the top of the South American continent.
  • Diplomacy – managing relations between different countries
  • Internship – a short-term job offering practical experience in a professional role
  • Farsi – this is the modern Iranian language spoken in Iran and Afghanistan. It is also known as Persian language
  • Dialect – is a form of a language that is spoken in a particular part of the country or by a particular group of people
  • Humility – Someone who has humility is not proud and does not believe they are better than other
  • Vocation – is a job or occupation that one is particularly drawn to or suited to
  • Physiology – this is the study of how the human body works
  • Masters – an academic course you can study after completing your first degree at University
  • Dorms – usually these are shared bedrooms
  • Inclusive – making everyone feel they are welcome
  • Esperanto – is an artificial language devised in 1887 as a way to communicate between countries
  • Thesis – a really, really, really long essay!