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PHOENIXVILLE —Imagine only living in an area for a few months before getting the itch to move again. Imagine living in not only different cities, but different countries. Imagine the longest you’ve lived in the same place is three years.
Rachel Gallina, a junior at Phoenixville Area High School, was born in Michigan, but has lived in the Balkan region of Europe since she was five. After the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, Rachel and her family moved to Kosovo to do war relief. The country she spent the most time in, moving from city to city, is Kosovo. The Gallina family was very excited when the country declared independence in 2008.
“It is kind of our homeland,” Gallina said.“We feel very patriotic towards the country. So on the day of independence we were there in the country, dancing in the streets with everybody, and waving flags, being crazy people.”
Two years ago they moved to the country of Macedonia, which is the country they lived in before coming back to America. Gallina has also lived in Albania. She can speak Albanian fluently, but has never had formal lessons, and can’t read and write Albanian very well. By the age 10 she could speak the local language and converse with the natives. She made many friends in Europe, and found it very difficult to say goodbye when she moved back to America.
“After 11 years over there, saying goodbye was really hard this summer,” she said. Gallina and her sisters have many national and international friends. It is very difficult to keep in touch, but she emails, Skypes, and chats on Facebook with her friends whenever they can.
Gallina finds Phoenixville very inviting, and better than she expected.
“We were pretty anxious about school, from what you see in the movies and stuff; we’ve never been to an American public school before,” she added. The first day in the lunchroom was intimidating; the noise and the amount of people was surprising. People have been nice and Rachel feels like it’s going to be a good year.
Gallina was mostly home-schooled by her mother, who was a hard teacher. She said Phoenixville classes so far are actually easier than her mother’s “classes.”
Gallina has an older sister named Amanda who is 19, and a younger sister named Emily, who is a sophomore here at PAHS. She is very close with her sisters; when they moved, her sisters were one of the few constant things in her life. When they moved back to America, Rachel and her sisters noticed a cultural difference between them and their parents. Rachel’s parents were very used to America, and came back to a feeling of home, whereas Rachel and her sisters are in a completely different place.
“It is very weird to feel like your parents come from a different culture than you,” she said. She hopes that living here in America will help her understand her parents better.
Gallina finds America very fast-paced, compared to European culture which is more laid back, especially the impoverished part of eastern Europe.
“Poorer countries are much more community-centered...much more focused on the experience and loving each other and living life. Not so much on accomplishment,” she said.
Gallina likes to be with people, talk to them and hear their stories. She’s very into the arts and loves anything creative. Gallina loves to cook, paint and read. She wants to try everything, but there always seems to be just one more club, one more activity to try.
She loves kids and currently is working as a babysitter, but also works at the Wooden Spoon downtown Phoenixville.
In the future, even though Gallina is unsure of what she wants to do, she would love to work as a cultural anthropologist and a psychologist, traveling to work with different governments to help them understand other governments and their people groups. She also wants to work with art therapy to help victims of abuse and war trauma work through their struggles.
She said she loves intercultural studies, peace negotiations, and thinks, “A lot of the times the crises we find in the world are due a lot to cultural misunderstandings and a lack of communication between individuals.”
Gallina doesn’t think she would live anywhere permanently because she’s accustomed to moving around.
For now, we wish Rachel Gallina luck in her endeavors, and hope she enjoys Phoenixville while she’s here.
Soren DeMartinis is a writer for Phoenixville Area High School’s newspaper, The Purple Press.
caption: Rachel and Emily Gallina drinking Turkish coffee in Istanbul.