July 28, 2009
July 28th, 2009 |

What I’ve Learned

Looking back over the blogs I’ve written, it’s obvious this whole trip has taught me a lot about myself. I’ve grown here, and I’ve begun to see myself and others in a different way.

I’ve even realized more about how people both in my own culture and in others see me based simply on my appearance. I have, in a small way, some Italian blood in my heritage, but never really made much note of it. Growing up in the extremely diverse San Francisco Bay area, I’ve thought about what my ethnicity is. Obviously, other Americans notice, as I wrote in our first week here, “’Why is that guy wearing a USA tee?’ says the first fellow. ‘I don’t know. Is rugby popular here? Is our team good?’ says the second.”

What’s more funny, however, is how the Italians themselves see me. Raised in the athletic “jock” culture of the States, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly big. I’m athletic, I know this, but when your best friend since the age of eight has always been a half-foot taller than you, one doesn’t feel particularly tall. But being here, I see now that things are bigger in America, “A few moments later I hear a familiar tune on the breeze. I look over at a few teenagers sitting below a tree. They’ve got their cell phones out and are giggling. They look back and forth from me to the phones and I realize what I hear comes from them. They’re playing a remix of ‘Macho Man.’”

I’ve learned a lot about the similarities we all share, no matter what our culture, “Speed freaks from California and Pennsylvania finding yet another reason to love Italy and forget, at least for a moment, those left back at home and the stress of work and tight deadlines. That is the reason for this night. I remember a comment from a few nights ago. I’d told Giovanni, editor of the local newspaper, that I loved the driving of his countrymen as he brought two of the professors and I to a meeting with a sommelier we’d been invited to. ‘We do not drive,’ he said and raised a fist to the windshield, ‘we fight!’”

The main thing, though, is that I’ve learned a little more about myself and who I am becoming, “Most of my colleagues here are one or two years younger, some even younger. These folks, though, might as well be decades older than me. I put-on a hyper and confident front often, but I’m actually timid. I’m nervous about traveling. I don’t handle being away from my family for long times yet, and most of the other kids here (because I am still a kid) see their kin only a handful of times a year. I have little confidence in myself dealing with others, constantly thinking I’ve annoyed or insulted them, but my fellows here meet new people with confidence. I’ve learned a lot from them all this past month, and I’ve learned a lot about myself. “

I’ll admit I’ve only read a few of the other students’ blogs, but nearly all seem to have this same realization of who they are and who they are becoming. We are all in the early stages of adulthood. Some are more confident and sure of themselves than others, but I believe one never stops growing and learning, and what more obvious place to spur this than working in another country? I know I’ll be going home more confident and with more knowledge of who I am now. For this, and everything else I’ve learned, I’m glad I came here.

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