After reading all of the blogs that I have written as well as reading the blogs of my classmates I think that I can sum up this trip in one word: experiences!
The pattern that I have discovered in my blogs is how many times I mention being uncomfortable and being out of my comfort zone. This is my first trip abroad and the longest amount of time that I have been away from my family. My family is loud and fantastic. We spend most of our time together; my mom, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles! Going to Europe to study abroad for a whole month seemed like someone else’s experience. I would NEVER do something like that; yet here I am. I believe that the reason that I have talked so much about the things that are different from home is because they ARE different. For example, my very first blog was written about calling home so much. Many people were content with emailing and instant messaging, but I had to hear the voices of my family and friends, even if it meant racking up a rather large phone bill.
I also voiced a lot of complaints about the food here. It was different than what I was used to and I was somewhat disappointed, because I was told that Italy had “the best food ever.” When I get home I am still going straight to Sonic!
Life in Maryland is the only life that I have ever known and here in Italy I have been faced with the ultimate culture shock! In intercultural communication class, we learned about the concept of culture shock. It is difficult for people to come to a different country and expect to know immediately the way to live. In the cafeteria, we all had to learn that you got one pasta, one entree, plus two sides and either fruit OR yogurt OR dessert (sometimes). The lunch ladies would correct you if you took too much, but we had a difficult time understanding because of our very limited Italian vocabulary. After three weeks here we have finally started to understand how the mensa (cafeteria) works and the fact that colazione (breakfast) only consists of fruit and a crossisant most days.
Once I got over the culture shock of Italy, I started to learn the concept of working the hyphen. Working the hyphen is the practice of learning the culture and trying your best to be part of the culture. I have found that I am trying my best to speak Italian (no matter how broken) and do my best to understand Italian when it is spoken to me. I have also learned that some of the local customs including going out at midnight and staying out until five a.m.! Living in a foreign country means that you have to learn and I have learned a lot, especially about my new found love of wine!
Now that I have realized my limitations, especially stepping out of my comfort zone, I believe that I will be a better person for it. In my life, I have let opportunities slip by me because I was afraid. I left my home and live d abroad for one month and now I know that I am that much stronger and that much braver because of it. I have also learned the importance of looking beyond the stereotypes.
Before I came to Italy, I was given a lot of misguided but good-hearted advice, including places to visit, to be careful of the dashing, charming Italian men (where is he?), and what to eat. I wish that no one had given me any advice and just allowed me to make my own discoveries.
My final project definitely will be enhanced by the things that I have learned here. I can now appreciate the differences between Italy and the United States without necessarily thinking that my home is better; it’s just different.