Dear Zeri,

Yes, class of 2018, this is addressed to you.

In about seven days time ninety teenagers, from almost as many countries, will be boarding planes, trains and buses that will inevitably bring them all to the small piazza of Duino. This year, you’ll be one of them. No one can tell you what you should be feeling right now, just as no one can predict what this experience will hold for you or how packed your suitcase should be at this point. As a third year my story in Duino is over, just like you I’ll be starting my life over in New York in just a few days time, I can walk away knowing that I leave the town in the capable hands on my primi however I can’t quite avoid the temptation to impart a few last pieces of advice before I completely step back and hand my home over to the next generation.

  1. First impressions are everything and the most important ones will be your teachers. Your teachers can make or break the next two years, especially your personal tutor, Mike and Lodewijk. Earn their respect early on and your life will be a thousand times easier, get off on the wrong foot? It’s almost impossible to undo.
  2. Respect the Duino locals, the school counts on the municipal’s support and co-operation to stay open so staying on their good side is imperative. More importantly, this is their home and ultimately you are a guest in this town. A simple “Buon Giorno” or even just a smile as you walk past them in the street makes all the difference.
  3. Try everything. Jump off the cliff at Porto, go on a spontaneous hike in Carso, climb to Fore beach; there will be moments when someone invites you to do beautiful things like these, other times it will be as simple as an invitation for tea in their room, a gelato in Tuttidi or a coffee at Al Castel – accepting these invitations is your surest chance of making friends and making the most out of the Duino experience. Also, it’s important to realise that if someone is making the effort to invite you it’s because they genuinely want to get to know you better.
  4. Be kind to your secondi. Everyone’s experience with their second years is different, it can range from instantaneous love to prolonged intimidation. What I will say is that your secondi have only been there nine months longer than you, now they’re back in their second home but it’s full of strangers. Third term can be a confusing time, go easy on them and know they are ultimately excited to have you there and want to share this experience with you.
  5. That said, Sometimes your secondi are wrong. Use your best judgement on this, secondi may encourage you to do things that aren’t necessarily in your best interests. Remember that your secondi don’t know everything and make your own choices.
  6. Personal Hygiene is paramount. Simply put you will be sharing a bathroom with up to 20 other people and you will be sharing your room with at least one. Be courteous, be clean, take showers.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help academically. At the beginning of the year all first years take a series of placement tests for English and Maths, my advice is to follow the guidance of your teachers. The IB is a challenging program and there’s no need to go in over your head from the very start. Also if you find the classes you’ve chosen don’t work for you, talk to someone; most likely they’ll help you find a better fit. Lastly, if you’re struggling in a class, talk to the teacher, they’ll be happy to suggest ways to catch up and help in anyway you can.
  8. Don’t forget that everyone has different english capabilities. Firstly, native english speakers: SLOW DOWN. Many people will not have come from situations where they frequently speak english, make their lives simpler by enunciating your words and simplifying things, at least at first. Secondly, non-native speakers: Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t understand or ask people to repeat something. Everyone comes to Duino to experience different cultures, don’t be ashamed of where you come from or how you speak.
  9. Take time for yourself. Sometimes it can feel as if you have an obligation to constantly be socialising and active, remember that you have the right to your own time and space. So if things get busy or overwhelming, take a nap in your room, go for a walk alone on Rilke, eat a pizza by yourself at Porto. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from everyone else.
  10. Explore Trieste. Trieste is a beautiful city with many hidden treasures and it is very conveniently accessed from Duino. Grab a second year or local and hop on the 51 bus any afternoon, you’ll never know when you’ll need a good internet cafe or just a decent cheap meal outside of Duino.
  11. Actually sleep. Getting sleep in a place like Duino can be tricky, either because it seems like something is always happening you don’t want to miss out on or simply because someone is making too much noise in the corridor. Your peers may give the impression that they never sleep and this means they’re having more fun or getting ahead academically, most likely it’s not true. Getting at least seven hours makes getting up for class much easier and allows you to actually enjoy your day, so don’t be scared of asking the person in the corridor to quiet down a bit. That said, the occasional 2am dayroom conversation is definitely a part of the experience I’ll miss the most.
  12. Speak as much Italian as you can. Speaking Italian can be a daunting task at first but by choosing to at least try and order your coffee from Mickey’s or greet the Mensa ladies in Italian you’ll not only improve your own skills much faster, but also build a much better relationship with some of the people you’ll encounter everyday.

This is a very condensed list butI’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own. To send you on your way here’s a list of songs that you’ll probably hear a thousand times over in the next two years.

Bella Ciao:

La Canzone del Sole:

Me S’ombriacato:

Bocca di Rosa:

La Bamba:

Cuba Libre:

Roma Bangkok:

Fouri c’è il sole:

House by the Sea:

Rivers and Roads:

Finalmente, i miei zeri, buon coraggio, buona fortuna e buon viaggio: