Home EXPAT LIFE Moving abroad: an Italian mum in Cambridge

Moving abroad: an Italian mum in Cambridge

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Paola is an Italian mum living in Cambridge that, thanks to Instagram, I met and I follow since I moved here in the UK. In her fabulous Instagram profile, she gives a touch of  her home’s warm atmosphere that is so welcoming that I would immediately want to drop in. Paola has a very strange story, because she is the first person I know, who decided to move because of her daughter. No job offer caused her moving, and the choice to move was her daughter’s choice! Paola (and her husband) left their Roman lives to follow a love at first sight.  Her daughter’s love for Cambridge.

This is such a wonderful act of love, which has fully rewarded them.

At this time, with the confusion caused by Brexit, Paola’s interview is a breath of fresh air. He tells about her Cambridge, the city that never made her to regret Rome and welcomed with open arms.

We might be reading many books to get information about a country, however there is nothing, in my opinion, much more useful than the direct experience of an expat.



Glimpse of a Cambridge house with Wisteria and bicycle

Wonderful glimpse of a house and its wisteria

Paola, tell us about yourself

I was born and I have always lived in Rome; I am an eternal little girl who is realizing now, at 53 years old, that time flies!
I’m a mom firstly and even though my daughter doesn’t live with us anymore -she has been living for almost a year 130 steps from my home now!- my husband’s life and mine has always been set around her. She would surely like to feel much more free, especially compared to her English peers, who already are away at 17 years old…
When I am not in the office (I work for the Cambridge University Press) I like to explore this new country of mine; I love taking hundreds of photos to stop the most beautiful moments, and I’m definitely a social media addicted. Between mobile phone and computer I really never break!


What brought you and your family to the UK and especially to Cambridge?

The choice of Cambridge was a thunderstorm: in the summer of 2011, my daughter returned to Italy from a holiday in Cambridge saying that she had found her place, and decided to move even at the cost of leaving her studies (at that time she was attending the third year of the Language school in Rome) and get to work as a waitress to keep herself.
As we were quite sure to have a little crazy daughter, my husband and I tried to put a good face on it and we come back to England with her for a week, in an effort to understand why Cambridge was so attractive and hoping to change her mind… Result: After a week we all were even more convinced of the transfer!
In the following six months we made all the preparations, compiled many documents for the enrollment of our daughter to a local public school, searched and found home, vaccinated the dog and cats for transport overseas, organized the move… And at the end of June 2012 we were all, dog and cats included, aboard our car, destination Cambridge.
Glimpse of Cambridge, Porta and Rose

The wonderful cottage doors in Cambridge

How do you judge the quality of the English school system?

The English school system is very different from the Italian one. I can only talk about the last two years of high school and first of the university, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

In Italy our children study lots of more subjects. Here in the UK, they choose a maximum of 5 majors, that since the fourth year of high school, are deeply and scrupulously studied, and that are related to the university.
Giulia, our daughter, graduated in biomedical sciences, and in her last two years of high school she studied biology, chemistry, French (she studied it at the Italian high school and wanted to complete its study) and English literature. At a certain point at the beginning of the second year of university she told me: “Here, at this point we begin to study things of the program of biology that we had not done in high school.” Which made me realize how extensive the level of study of the matter is.
The high school provides textbooks (which must be returned and therefore kept to the fullest), computers, and even the diary… And it seems to me that the annual cost required was 35 pounds for the compulsory insurance.
In Rome, where there was barely the heating in the winter (and I don’t want to talk about the toilet paper brought from home!) we were paying a ‘ voluntary contribution ‘ of 190 euros a year… So, yes, I’m satisfied with the English school system.
The university is very expensive, 9000£ a year, and Giulia was really good at working part-time (in a book store) to help her to continue to study. Even before her graduation, she worked for the Cambridge University, so the system worked well for us.
The daughter of Paola

Paola’s daughter

How did your daughter feel the transfer from Italy to England?

The English classmates welcomed Giulia very well; no jealousy, no bullying (that is punished severely), and especially at school, and till the end of high school, they are all  well dressed, all with the same black or gray skirt or pants and the school’s sweatshirt. No excessive makeup, no heels, no smoking banned… In short, here everybody tries to keep the environment quiet for as long as possible. She did not regret one day the move.


What are the English customs and traditions that most hit you and what have become part of your daily life?

We have adopted with pleasure to have dinner early in the evening. Usually at 19pm, we have already tidied up and are just ready to spend the rest of the evening chatting, reading, playing a board game or watching TV. At the beginning we were shocked to see people having dinner in pubs already at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, then, especially in winter, which is dark at 15:30 and all shops close at 17 is not that there is so much more to do than stay at home to cook.

Another English tradition that we now fell is the picnic. We love to enjoy the beautiful days in the parks while having a picnic. Now in our trunk there are picnic towels (strictly waterproof on the side that touches the ground) that live there perpetually and are pulled out at the right time. The English countryside is stunning and the rare sunny days must be fully enjoyed!

Detail of a Victorian house in Cambridge

A Victorian house in Cambridge

Do you think you’d be a different mom if you were in Italy?

If I were in Italy I would certainly be more apprensive; I’d probably still have my daughter at home, but I’d definitely be worried about her future, work… And I almost certainly would not have a job myself, so yes, in Italy my life would be completely different.

Do you miss Italy and if yes, what? 

I miss Italy, I miss the sun, the sky, the weather, the sea… I miss the openness of the Italian people, I miss the beauty of Rome (less its degradation), but when I come back, after a while, I begin to notice many little things that remind me why I went away; such as the endless bureaucracy, the corruption, the traffic… It’s kind of like I had my heart split in two now, but I was aware that I had reached the point of no return. 

Yes, I miss Italy, but I would not go back, and to a young man today I would say to see what there is abroad. It must not be necessarily England, however I think it’s important to see that you can have more, that you can contribute with more love and commitment to the life of the community, having confidence that what you give will be returned, that you can have a greater confidence in the future. And I would really like that one day all this could be said of our beautiful country.

Thanks Paola, with all that is going on and the uncertainty of Brexit, this is definitely an upstream interview and that I’m happy to host on my blog!

I thank Paola for her sincerity and for having shared a piece of her life and experiences here, available for us on the net. I remind you that you can find Paola on Instagram as Mycambridgefairytale.


I leave below the direct links to all the other interviews with mamas around the world:


See you soon!


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3 commenti

Virginia March 6, 2019 - 16:09

What a story! So lovely and intense! I really loved reading it. Thank you

Rosanna November 17, 2019 - 14:57

Dear mums , i would like to be brave enough to leave My life in italy and bring My two daughters to California,where my eldest son is having an extraordinary experience as Exchange student

Would you please give me some courage to leave italy with no regrets to give my children a better future?

mumwhatelse November 18, 2019 - 20:59

La cosa migliore credo sia sempre analizzare pro e contro e prendere in considerazione tutti gli aspetti e le motivazioni 🙂


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