O. Dio. Mio. It’s so hard to believe that my study abroad experience is already half way over. So much has happened in the past month – but there’s still so much that I have planned for my remaining time here.
Over the past month, my grandma visited me for a weekend, I traveled to Siena and Assisi for class trips, and I have gone to Firenze (Florence) on three separate occasions. I also have learned SO much about Italian culture – between my Contemporary Italy class and my History and Culture of Food in Italy class and my intensive intermediate Italian language class, I’m adapting much quicker to the Italian way of life.
Most importantly, I now feel that my level of independence has completely soared above and beyond what I thought I was capable of. I suppose that being in another country, especially one that doesn’t really speak English, does that to you. While the transition was difficult at first, with frequent bouts of homesickness, I now find myself becoming sad when I think about leaving – and I still have like seven weeks left! If you want to experience a place that is completely different from America, Italy is definitely the place to do it. Italy, while admiring America, does not allow for a lot of outside influence in their modern day culture (this is both good and bad, but that’s another story).
I love Italian culture. I love ‘la pausa,’ the time of day between 1 and 4 pm where the shops close up so that people can go home and have lunch with their families and rest before continuing their work days. I love that people are fashion conscious here, they dress up for EVERYTHING – even if just going to the supermercato. Italians have a reputation to uphold, una bella figura, and they take it very seriously.
Also, EVERYBODY is always outside. Whether they are just strolling through the streets, or sitting in the piazzas, young and old people are constantly out and about, even late into the night. On the weekends, there are more people out at midnight than at 9 pm. That’s just how life works here. While you can have a drink outside (no open container laws here), people don’t get absolutely wasted here. Italians despise public drunkenness, so people don’t typically get too crazy at the pubs and out in the streets. It’s a much more pleasant experience – you can have fun without worrying about other people being too drunk.
Being here in another country, learning a new language and new culture, has given me so much more perspective about life. Life’s too short to allow yourself to be stuck in the same pattern day in and day out, particularly with work. In America, you are expected to get a job and start a family and buy and house and a car and whatever else right out of college. There’s so much more to life than that. While they don’t like to move out of their hometowns, Italians love to travel. They get a month’s worth of vacation days from their jobs, so they actually have time for travel. After being here and spending some time out of the States, I’m going to be rethinking my life plan – in other words, I’m not going to have a life plan. I’ve learned to take things day by day and enjoy myself. Yes, it is still important to be future-oriented with certain aspects of life and planning is significant, but before coming here I was CONSTANTLY planning for the future – to the point where I’d forget to actually live in the present. Truth is, things happen all the time to change plans – it’s just a matter of how you handle of it. When our train to Florence never showed up (and almost missing out on going to Croatia), I could have thrown a fit and let myself get overtly angry – but I didn’t. I understood there was nothing I could really do but try to figure out another way to get there. I stayed calm and it got me a lot farther as far as figuring everything out and keeping my sanity intact. The lessons I have learned here are going to last me a lifetime.
Now, midterms are over and it is time for Fall Break. My friend Hannah and I are heading to Ireland and Scotland for the next week and we are absolutely stoked. Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it when I get back.
Until next time!
P.S. Here are a few extra pictures from the past few weeks: