Live Your Dream, Just Like I'm Doing!

Kristin took a chance, followed her inner voice, and is now living her dream of running a teacher-training program in Florence, the art capital of Italy. Read on to learn how she did it, what she thinks of living in Italy as an American expat, and her advice for those thinking of moving to Italy to teach or to just live there.
Kristin Lanese
Kristin Lanese

-Where were you born?

I was born in a small city in the Cleveland (Ohio) area called Chardon.

-In which country and city are you living now?

I currently live and work in Florence, Italy.

-Are you living alone or with your family?

I'm living with my family.

-How long have you been living in Italy?

I first came to Florence as a study abroad student in 1999, stayed for a semester, but met a lot of friends, so I then came back in 2001 and stayed until 2003, went back to the USA, and moved here definitively in 2006.  So, I've lived here for a combined period of over 7 years.

-What is your age?

 Early 30s :) 

-When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

I was living and working as a teacher in California when I decided, by way of a friend's suggestion, to apply for a master's degree course in Florence.  I did and I was accepted.  I had then moved back to the US but had always had a nagging thought in my head to open up a language school and teacher-training program.  I knew that I had an approach that could work and that would be appreciated by future students.  I felt compelled to follow that inner voice inside me that said, "You can do it."  So, I found the way to make my dream a reality.  First, I had to make the agonizing decision to leave a great job with various career paths.  I did and I took a leap of faith, and I'm so glad I did.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

I married an Italian, so it was no problem for me.  There are, however, other options for those who don't happen to be married.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

No, it wasn't.  I'm part of the system.  However, since I've had a couple of negative experiences with that system, I've also elected to buy my own private health insurance at an EXTREMELY affordable price.  I bought it through an Italian insurance company and most Americans would be shocked at the coverage for the amount I pay.  I'd like to add that many things in Italy are hidden; that is, you really have to do your homework.  If you do, you'll be rewarded ten-fold.  This goes for every aspect of life.

-How do you make your living in Italy? Do you have any type of income generated? 

I own and run a teacher-training center and language school.  Originally, I had two partners, but have been running it alone for some time now, and I'm assisted by some very talented staff.  I admit that it's not easy; in fact, there are many other things that I could be doing that would be easier in terms of generating income.  But, this was my project, or my "dream" so to speak, and there are many rewards like hearing the students say, "thank you" at the end of every course or seeing very young learners walk away using new language that they JUST learned!  

TLC (my company) trains teachers.  So, if you're looking for a new rewarding profession, this is an option for you. We also organize internships, so this is a very valuable option in order to get some experience and test the waters of your new profession!  

-Do you speak Italian and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.

Yes, I do.  It's really important to give yourself a break at the beginning of the process of learning a new language.  You'll get better and better as time goes on.  Though it's not important that new teachers know the language fluently when they arrive, it certainly helps as they find their place in the culture.

It is very important to respect local customs and not to judge them from your point of view as someone who comes from a completely different country.  Of course, in order to understand others' customs, one needs to first evaluate them from his or her own reality.  The next step, though, is to realize that each one of us has limitations in really understanding and empathizing with some "foreign" customs.  Working through these thoughts and feelings can be a truly remarkable growing experience.  You'll be surprised how much you learn about yourself! 

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? 

I do have two nieces, and I miss them very much.  As I grow older, I also realize the importance of spending time with family, while in my 20s, that didn't seem very important to me.  So, yes, I miss my friends and family because I'd love to share so many things with them that I'm experiencing or learning.  Living overseas is an experience that is sometimes uncomfortable and therefore, it forces you to really analyze your own thoughts and actions and therefore grow.  It would be great to share these feelings with family.

Luckily, though, I have many friends and many things that I am interested in/hobbies I take part in.  My life is way fuller than it would be in my home country.

-Do you have other plans for the future? 

YES!!  Always!  My learning center (The Learning Center of Tuscany- TLC is constantly growing and I've got tons of ideas and I cannot wait to see them take shape!  As I said, I'm lucky enough to be able to collaborate with real professionals and I'm so proud to be able to offer such top-quality services to language teachers and language learners alike.  

And personally, I love to travel.  I recently went to a country that I had never thought of visiting (Albania) because of the preconceived ideas I had about this part of the world, and I absolutely loved the experience.  I now want to see, visit, know, and understand it and the countries surrounding it.  I'm very interested in learning more.  

-How much does typical housing cost in your area?

A home with two bedrooms would cost about 350,000 euro, at least.  Real estate is very expensive in Florence. From the American point of view, the houses can seem very small.  But again, it's all in the way you view the situation.  They're not small; they're just typical for this area.

-What do you think about the Italians? 

Once you get past the touristic areas and meet real locals, they are lovely people.  In any culture, you've got some friendly people and some not-so-friendly people, kind people, and not-so-kind people--You get the idea!

 I'm lucky enough to have kind, warm, generous quality people in my life.  Well, I say "lucky", but I was careful to consciously choose positive people to have in my life.  It's a choice anyone can make!

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Italy?

Food:  Well, everyone knows that the food is a definite positive!  I eat about 3 times the amount I eat in the US, and I actually lose weight here.  So, not being hungry all of the time is a definite bonus to living here! :) Seriously, the quality is fantastic and other countries should really follow suit in this respect.

People:  While I find that it's much easier to initially meet people in my native country, the relationships I have here are real and way stronger than the ones I had in the States.  Tuscans can sometimes be complicated, especially from the American point of view, but it's definitely worth getting to know them!  It would be silly to live here and have only American friends!

Flexibility:  This is something that drove me (and sometimes still drives me) absolutely crazy about this country. You've GOT to learn to be flexible.  Very few things go as planned which is a stark contrast to the way things go in my country. But I learned so much from being forced into being flexible, so I'll still list it as a positive.

The Countryside:  Take a drive and you'll know exactly what I mean.  When I need to clear my head, I take a nice drive and the calming effects of Tuscany work their magic.  There's always some new place/view to discover.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Italy?

If you're looking to teach English, I can't stress the importance of going to a TEFL certificate program that is high-quality.  It's is almost useless to do one that does not prepare you adequately.

If you are looking to move here in general, then my best advice would be to come with both your eyes and heart open!  If you truly do that, then you're sure to succeed and truly have the time of your life! 

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Italy?

Yes!  Come and visit the TLC website!

Contact us with any questions or contact me directly at: 

some advice?

jkmorgan's picture

Hi Kristin! I'm Kelley Morgan, and I'm a current almost-25-year-old master's student in political science (European Studies). Though my degree is coming from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I had the opportunity to study in both Paris and Siena. Paris was great (a bit too expensive) but Siena was amazing, and I hope to go back in January. Do you have any connections in Siena (or in Florence) that might be able to help me? I'm looking to start working during my thesis, to continue as a career move afterwards. If you have any ideas, I would appreciate it! I will send over my résumé in English and in Italian.
Thank you for your help!
Kelley Morgan