I'm quickly approaching my second week here in Rome and let me tell you, it's been quite the adjustment. From the culture, to the food, to the language Rome has definitely challenged me in many rewarding albeit taxing ways. Going abroad to a country where you don't quite understand the culture and no nothing of the language is definitely the most confusing and yet exhilarating experience of my life. It truly opens your eyes to the world around you and as cliche as it may be, gives you a global perspective on life. So let me break it down for you; the good, the awkward, and the momentous parts of my trip throughout this semester. We'll start with the basics of my first 2 weeks:
Rome is nicknamed the "Eternal City" for a reason. Alongside the epic ruins of the Roman Empire lies a city with a pulse like none other. It's fast paced, diverse, and vibrant. The Italian people are known for being some of the friendliest in the world and I can tell you they haven't disappointed yet. Whether I'm hopping on the bus to school or sitting down to a meal with friends at a local restaurant everyone is all smiles and will talk your ear off if you let them (and can understand what they're saying). They joke, laugh, and flirt unlike any other people I have met. They embrace Americans and laugh off our broken Italian with grace and correct us politely. As someone coming from the Northeast of the U.S. I can't deny that this openness and hospitality was a little shocking. From experience in NYC I assume most city-dwellers don't want to be bothered; especially with a naive college student who only can say "Grazie" and "Prego" in Italian. This type of culture shock is a welcome one I must admit and helps to put to rest my feelings of embarrassment every time I butcher their language or brokenly ask for directions when lost.
There are some downsides and adjustments that must be made when living in Rome. For one, the transportation system. Although Rome is such a vibrant and energetic city the people themselves never seem to be in a rush to get anywhere. The buses have no set schedule and you can find yourself waiting at the bus stop for a good 20-25 minutes thus making yourself late to class. This lack of punctuality doesn't seem to bother the Romans though. They're notorious for showing up late to events, dinners, class, etc. The irony of living in a bustling city without the time crunch affecting the people is still a mystery to me. I personally can't stand to be even a few minutes late to something, let alone a half hour or more. The laid back attitude of the Italians is wonderful in some aspects but will definitely take more getting used to.
Perhaps the greatest "shock" of them all is how everyone around you knows you're American from twenty feet away. Try as we might to blend into the culture, fashion, and mannerisms of the Italian people it just doesn't seem to work. Without even opening your mouth you can hear the whispers from surrounding locals of "Americana this and Americana that" making it painfully obvious that you somehow don't quite fit in. Whether it be our outfit choices or our manner of walking there is some signal that we as Americans give off that screams to the rest of the world "HEY LOOK! SHE'S AN AMERICAN!". It's rather unnerving that even when walking quietly down the street or through a museum people can target you for being foreign. It's uncomfortable to walk through a marketplace and hear vendors yelling at you to come and buy their wares only because you're American and they think they can get away selling your overpriced things. The best thing to do in this situation is to embrace the place of your birth while simultaneously embracing the place of your abroad experience. Instead of being that "tacky American" who refuses to assimilate into the culture and does their best to make their heritage known be considerate. Try the language, food, and time schedules the rest of the country functions on. Going abroad is the perfect opportunity to be unofficial ambassadors for the United States and by being proud of your country while adjusting to another is a great way to show just how global and amazing the American people are.
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