Coming home so suddenly from being abroad was a shock, as I’m sure it was for most students. I am grateful however, for the time that I did get to spend in another country. I want to talk a little about my learning experience abroad compared with what I had been expecting beforehand.
I was correct in assuming that my multi-cultural identity would be a benefit. While in Italy, I found it often advantageous to speak in Spanish in order to better communicate with Italians. Those two languages were more similar to each other and could often be more clearly understood. It also helped when trying to avoid standing out as a stereotypical, lost “American tourist.” I noticed that if I were in a large group speaking English, we were more likely to be taken advantage of, in the sense that street vendors would sell to us at higher prices or would try harder to get us to buy. On the other hand, there were often translated signs and many Romans who spoke English because of the large tourism market. Both languages of mine played a helpful role in my adjusting to a new environment linguistically.
What was so special about Rome was that it wasn’t just a small bubble of local Italians, but was rather an accumulation of people from all over the world. Especially when walking near touristy areas such as the Vatican, you could hear people besides you speaking in all sorts of languages from German, French, Japanese, and more.
One of the most fascinating parts of the experience was encountering new people while abroad. I learned about Italian perspectives on politics, how immigrants integrate and play a role in the country, and overall the different values held by this new culture. It was really an eye opening experience for me, and I wish I could have stayed longer to experience more of it.
The more I integrated into the culture, the more I learned of its depths. I truly fell in love with this environment that was so different from the one I knew at home.
I’ll admit, while I had been excited for Rome, I wasn’t expecting to get much out of the experience before I left. I didn’t expect to love the country as much as I did, and I didn’t expect to come back with new eyes on how the people of the world operate and view one another. It was incredible. Studying abroad was a really beautiful experience and for whatever time I was there, it was made worth it.