Interview: Mom and daughter move to Massachusetts from Rome

Expat interviews
  • Sabrina and Paola
Published on 2020-11-10 at 10:00 by Francesca
Mum, Sabrina and daughter Paola left Rome a year and a half ago to settle in Massachusetts, United States. They moved because Sabrina's husband, an Italo-American, has been working there for some time. And it was an important change to say the least. Both mom and daughter had to adapt to new habits and customs, and Paola joined a college in the perfect American style, like those you only see in movies.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, and how long has it been since you left Italy?

My name is Sabrina, and I'm 43. Together with my then 13-year-old daughter Paola, we left Rome one and a half year ago.

Where do you live currently and what made you leave Italy?

We decided to reunite with my husband, who is also Italian, but a naturalised American citizen and who has lived and worked in Massachusetts, near Boston, for several years.

Did you find it hard to adapt to the American lifestyle?  

The greatest difficulties are often due to psychological factors. It's when we realise that unlike previous times, we are not here for a few weeks of vacation but with the intention of staying here forever. So in a particular historical moment, like the one we are currently experiencing, the distance from our loved ones in Italy weighs a lot. We have never imagined that we will no longer be able to embrace them for so long. Also, we don't know when this can happen once again. 

Since we were not able to return to Italy for the summer, we decided, partly as a time pass and partly for fun, to create a Facebook page through which we share our experiences via funny videos.

Over time, I realised that our initiative had begun to have a therapeutic effect. I now have a different view on our American experience and everything that surrounds thanks to the enthusiasm transmitted by our followers.

This helped me to better understand how lucky we have been, although at times I thought that after all we already had America in Italy.

What type of visa do you have to get to move to the US, and what were the steps to follow to obtain it?

Honestly, our move didn't turn out exactly as we had planned. We started the paperwork from Italy by applying for a K1 visa (fiancée Visa). Unfortunately, I went through a very complex divorce process from my first husband, which lasted exactly six years. When my daughter and I came here last summer to spend a few weeks and left at the beginning of September, I had finally been divorced for about ten days, and I knew that the sentence would not be published until mid-September. And instead, to our great surprise, the day after our arrival, I received a phone call from my lawyer informing me that the sentence had been published. At that point, my husband and I looked each other in the eyes and decided to find a way not to leave each other again and not to have to wait who knows how long to finally be able to fulfil our dream of a life together. We consulted a local lawyer, who suggested that the easiest way would be to get married here, even though my daughter and I had come as tourists with the ESTA.

How is Paola's schooling going on? What were the steps to follow for enrolment?

My biggest concern was actually Paola's adaptation to a new country where the biggest obstacle to making new friends and having a good academic performance is the language. Fortunately, my daughter has always wanted to live this American experience, so she realised that it was an opportunity to do so. I was amazed by her splendid smile at the end of her first day at school. She told me with enthusiasm how it was exactly like the one she had always seen on TV, starting from the lockers along the corridors. Professors and the students are very friendly with her and are always ready to help her, without ever making her feel in uncomfortable. The school provided her with a tablet with a translator that she can use to communicate with others and perform certain tasks. Enrollment did not require any procedures, except for a simple certificate from Paola's previous school in Italy.

What are your views on the healthcare system? What are the differences between the US and Italy?

It wouldn't be true to say that American healthcare lacks efficiency, especially considering the good organisation from a telematic point of view, with personal portals where you can check the results of your analyses or request advice and appointments. The problem is rather what we all know -- American healthcare is expensive. I can testify with what happened this summer to my daughter when she was bitten on the finger by a squirrel while she was feeding him. I rushed to a hospital's Emergency Room, fearing the risk of dangerous infection and thinking that she would need a rabies vaccine. Fortunately, the doctors reassured us by saying that there was no danger and that Paola would simply have to wash her hands carefully from there in the next few days, until the wound was completely healed. I was relieved. However, I was surprised by the bill, even though Paola has health coverage. So I had to pay 250 dollars!

Let's talk about COVID-19. What is the current situation in your region? 

Fortunately, Massachusetts is one of the least affected States. Perhaps the credit also goes to the number of hospitals and medical centres that we have here. We never really had a lockdown and people we not forced to stay indoors. At least in the area where we live, people are respecting the rule, and although they are waiting impatiently for the situation to improve, they are acting responsibly out of fear. Unfortunately, restaurants are suffering a lot as the capacity of the premises is now reduced, and not everyone can afford spaces with outdoor tables. Remote working leads to far fewer customers for lunch or breakfast. Many people prefer to build a barbecue or oven corner in their backyard because they don't feel safe going to eat in a restaurant. School closed on March 13 and switched to remote learning. Now with the beginning of the new academic year, they are offering three different modes to choose from for the current year -- homeschooling, remote learning or hybrid learning. Paola has chosen hybrid learning which allows her to go to school on alternate days. So one day half of the class is present while the other half is in remote-learning mode, and the next day it's the opposite. Wednesday is the only day on which all students are in remote learning so that the school premises can be cleaned up and sanitised.

How do you spend your free time?

By exploring the country, of course! Especially now that we have the commitment of our Facebook page, we feel more motivated to go and discover new things and attend events that otherwise we wouldn't have been interested in perhaps. However, all of this wandering around and experiencing the US in our own way helps us create new memories, which I firmly believe is the best treasure I can leave for my daughter.

What are the most striking customs and habits in the US?

First of all, even if it is a topic that is comes up very often, it's the eating habits. Trying to eat little and healthy when going to a restaurant is something inconceivable here. Even what you think should be a simple salad is dressed with a mix of sauces that still make it very delicious. Even the portions are at least double what we are used to in Italy, and most of the time it is impossible to clean up the dish. Still, you can take the leftovers home. Another stunning aspect is the dressing style, which at times seems a bit sloppy. Over time, however, we begin to appreciate their "easy lifestyle" although we had a hard time accepting the idea of ​​wearing flip-flops in the snow. Honestly, the list is too long, from the absence of the bidet in the houses to the difficulty of finding a bathrobe or an umbrella stand because they are not indicated, or the air conditioning of rooms, especially in restaurants, etc.

On which social channels can our readers follow you?

We hope to be able to devote some time to Instagram or Youtube in the future. For now, we have a Facebook page called 'Dodo and Mimi discovering America'. You can find not only unusual and funny videos but also photos, short stories and a bit of curiosity that will surely surprise you. Our page doesn't have a specific audience as our aim is to share our experiences and memories.

Share your expat experience!

Contact us to be featured in the Interviews section.