I’m more than happy to write about my experience here in Rome with the Gabrielli family.  Let’s hope this induces more applicants to apply to exchange English with the Gabrielli family.  My writing is as follows:
There’s a saying that time flies when you are having a great time!  In a flash, I’m going to conclude my time with the Gabrielli family in another week.  I have been doing conversational English program with French and Italian families for many years now.  For me, this is a better way of getting myself immersed into local cultures.  I came to Europe over a decade ago as a tourist and upon finishing my visit, I felt something’s missing.  Then, I returned to Europe again but this time as a backpacker.  Armed with Lonely Planet books and deluded with a sense of invincibility, I started to do the backpacking scene but after a while, I felt that something’s still missing inside.  Whilst it’s true to a certain degree that backpacking provides you with an opportunity to meet myriads of people from different countries and from different way-of-life, after a while, you would identify that there’s also a pattern associated with it: drinking, late night, irresponsible behaviours.  Then, I decided to volunteer myself to stay with local families for a while and I would like to see Europe from their perspectives.  With this particular type of travelling, my host family’s priority comes first.  My travel comes secondary.  If you were lucky enough to be placed with caring and emphatic host families, you would realise that the mutual respect attribute would benefit both parties.  By placing yourself with host families also meant that you are relinquishing control and that you are embracing the unknown.  For me, this provides me with an opportunity to learn to adapt to handle myself in trying circumstances.  Also, if you were being good listeners, you would get tips from host families to go places that are not even mentioned in Lonely Planet books.  There seems to be local scene versus the traveller’s scene, which I appreciate immensely.  Italy holds a special place in my heart for some inexplicable reasons.  Somehow, I find Italian’s appreciation of beauty, their grounded humility and sincerity, their total devotion to their family, their intuition with their food and drinks are simply admirable.  And Gabrielli family has given me all of that and more!  I think the most touching of all is that they give me this opportunity to come to grasp of what it meant to be Italians.  I also do find that after encounters with the families, there won’t ever be any clean break.  Somehow, we have grown attached to the families that we have spent time with. After this volunteering session is over, I would make my way to visit my two other host families in Italy and France, who I have also come to know as friends.  They even proclaimed me to be their brother from another mother!  This type of volunteering may not be suitable for everybody.  That being said, if you were genuinely curious and inquisitive, and that you want to give (rather than take), then, this program is definitely something that you should look at seriously.  I would like to think that once you give enough, the rewards would present themselves one way or the other.  I am utterly blessed to be a part of this scheme and I am immensely joyful to share my experience to the readers out there.  May I wish you find your own little Paradiso in Italia!  Arriverdichi from Ping of New Zealand (3rd December, 2013)