Studying abroad in Italy has been like a dream so far, except for the period of jet-lag that hit me mid-week last week. That part, not so dreamy.
The days leading up to studying abroad I wasn’t eating, nor was I sleeping. I imagined not being able to communicate with those around me and struggling with everyday things like going to the grocery store or trying to order food. I talked with my friends and family beforehand, and I distinctly remember saying “I’ll go somewhere and no one will be speaking English, the music will be in different languages as it plays in stores, the menus will be different, everything will be different.” To some degree, that’s reined true, pleasantly, and in others, it’s not the case. I was terrified, imagining that I would feel comfortable after a few weeks but dreading the transitionary period of culture shock I thought would hit me as I deplaned in Frankfurt, Germany on January 12th at 5 am. Half-asleep I disembarked to find that life wasn’t all that different; the airport looked similar to those I had been through countless times, customs was a breeze, and I found my gate with little difficulty. My experience in Germany was a taste of what my experience adjusting to Italian culture would be like; simple. There are a great number of differences between culture in Italy and culture in the United States, yet they felt intuitive to me as I walked through the streets of Venice on the first night I was here. For the past couple of years as I’ve had lives in different states, I’ve grown accustomed to being a chameleon, adjusting my colors as need be to better fit into my surroundings, which is what I’ve done so far here.
Since I’ve been in Europe I’ve walked 120 miles (thank you Fitbit!), had handfuls (probably around two handfuls, but still handfuls) of interactions without speaking a word of English, and I’ve learned more than I imagined I would so quickly. Throughout the first week, we were tasked with a scavenger hunt as homework for our Italian course and we walked 5-10 miles per day around the archipelago of Venice exploring different sestieri (Venetian districts) finding various popular places and monuments throughout the city while learning a bit about Venetian history. During the second week of classes, we took field trips with my Venetian history class and my Italian art history class where we explored Castello and Saint Mark’s Basilica, respectively. We were able to go under the public viewing area of Saint Mark’s Basilica and see the crypt, an area only accessible to the public on few occasions. This past weekend was the first weekend that we were able to travel as we needed to apply for our residency permits beforehand and on Saturday (January 26th) a group of friends and I took a day trip to Verona, Italy. I made a video on YouTube that shows some of the highlights of the trip, which can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/T9AQ7R430AY. I also have a few photos that I took up on my SmugMug print gallery, here: https://katiesprague.smugmug.com/Prints/Verona-Italy
Looking back on my first few weeks here I’m shocked at how quickly time has flown by. My grandfather always used to tell me that it really does fly by, faster and faster as we age. As I age, I agree with him more and more each day. My biggest takeaways from my first few weeks in Italy are as follows:
I’m shocked by how influential American music is, I’ve heard American music on every one of my outings and it always takes me a bit by surprise.
I’m loving learning Italian. I can now go through an entire grocery store experience without speaking English and I can order coffee without speaking English!
Italians know how to dress and we could all learn a thing or two from their style.
The food in Italy is second to none, going to the grocery store I’ve noticed that they only stock things that are in season and everything tastes fresher and looks brighter. I’ve been able to find many favorites from home (finally found oatmeal yesterday!).
The pace of life here is much slower, people take their time while eating and don’t over-schedule as much as they do in The States, which is something I have been pleasantly surprised about.
Looking forward, during the next month my parents will be coming to visit (this week!) which I am unbelievably excited about. The weekend after that I will be headed to London, England for the weekend. The week after that a group of six of us will be heading to Switzerland for five days for half of our first spring break (we have two ten-day travel breaks) and then touring the coast of Italy for the second half of our break. I will be uploading photos and videos regularly to my social media platforms (I’m earning class credit to create videos in a production practicum with a communications department professor back on campus!) so stay tuned for that.
Alla prossima, ciao!
(Until next time, bye!)