Studying abroad is something that I have wanted to do my whole life and I finally get to do it! I am a sophomore studying in Rome, Italy with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). Currently, we are in Florence for our three weeks of orientation but regardless, I am still having an amazing time!
I left John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesday, January 15, 2008. First, I traveled to London which was quite an experience. However, it was not as shocking as the experiences to come. Being from Staten Island, to be exact, I am used to big cities. I am used to watching my purse and taking care of myself. London also had a lot of the same products that we can find in America. I stayed in a Holiday Inn so things really were not all that different for me, except for the accent and currency.
When I arrived in Italy that Friday, the 18th, I slowly began to understand the meaning of culture shock. Suddenly, I was in an area where everyone knew what to do and what to say and I had absolutely no idea. Now I do understand and speak Italian, but not like a true Italian from Italy.
Europeans have their own way of doing things and all of a sudden, I was a foreigner among people who looked exactly like me. The worst part of the whole first day was that I knew exactly what I wanted to say but was too nervous to speak to them; I was afraid of messing up what I wanted to say. These Italians are classy; they dress impeccably well and have a certain air about them which made me feel quite incompetent.
Having been here a week already, I have finally begun to feel as though this is my home. Studying abroad is very different from living away from home at college. At least in Connecticut I can get shaving cream and my favorite breakfast cereal. Here in Italy I have to settle for their products and their way of doing things. I’m used to everything being open from at least 8 a.m. to 9 p.m, maybe 10 p.m. if you are lucky, but here the shops close every single day at around 1 p.m. and re-open at 2:30 p.m.
And the time difference! Italy is six hours ahead of the New York and Connecticut, so talking to friends and family is a challenge. However, it was a little difficult at first but it gets easier each and every day.
And once you begin to feel comfortable, you are better able to take in the beauty around you. I am surrounded by artworks created by the monsters of the Italian renaissance, including Michelangelo and Leonardo DaVinci. I am the luckiest girl in the world!
If you can study abroad, I strongly recommend it!