Student recalls cultural differences in study abroad trip

It’s been one month since I packed up my life into a 50-pound suitcase, a Jansport backpack, and Vera Bradley duffel bag. I said tearful goodbyes to family and friends as I was about to embark on a semester abroad in Rome, Italy.

Lauren Healy greets the view of the Amalfi Coast in Capri, Italy.
Lauren Healy greets the view of the Amalfi Coast in Capri, Italy.
Cobblestone streets are commonplace in Rome, Italy, such as this one in the Prati neighborhood.
Cobblestone streets are commonplace in Rome, Italy, such as this one in the Prati neighborhood.

I traded the keys to my house on Wilson Avenue for an extensive set of keys to my apartment right in the heart of the city. I traded my Adidas running shoes for converse sneakers, because apparently all the Europeans wear them. And most importantly, I traded everything that I knew in life and everything that was comfortable for something unknown, something unfamiliar.
I stood in front of my apartment, admiring the bright mix of yellow and orange walls and the wooden shutters. I stood there with a heavy heart and open eyes. This is where reality started to sink in, as I clenched onto my bags and made my way up to my room. I began to realize I’m not just going to be here for a two-week vacation. This is a four-month adventure of a lifetime.
Of course, I heard all about the amazing food: the pasta, the pizza, the wine. And let’s not forget about the gelato. You hear about the relaxed way of life, the way Italians stroll through the streets without a care in the world and no place to be. All of this is completely true. The pasta, pizza and wine have done nothing but surpass my expectations. And it’s very true that Italians walk slowly through the streets, as they gaze at the mannequins in the windows dressed from head to toe in the latest styles.
But there are about a thousand things that people don’t tell you before you leave.
If you are walking in a cross walk outside Eagle Commons, you pretty much always have the right of the way. Well, with cross walks in Italy, you better be prepared to dodge mopeds zipping by all around you. So much so that you hope the sign of the cross and some Papal prayers can save you from being knocked off your feet.
At Clarion, it’s pretty much acceptable to wear running shorts and a T-shirt not only to the gym, but also to class and around campus. If you even think about wearing gym clothes somewhere else besides the gym in Italy, you will regret it within .5 seconds of walking out of your apartment. I wore navy blue running shorts and my Clarion Golden Eagles freebee shirt from a football game sophomore year (Clarion chic, am I right?) on my way to class, and got looks from people that could kill. One gentleman actually stopped in his tracks to look at my outfit up and down in disapproval. I could only drop my head in shame.
Dryers over here include hanging your clothes outside on a metal rack, carpet is a rarity, and if you are in a restaurant, be prepared to whip out two Euros for a 1.5 liter bottle of natural mineral water. And yes, that’s the Metric System. Get used to it.
While there are some fun surprises that people don’t always tell you, there are also some amazing things that no one can prepare you to experience. such as the cobblestone streets, the quaint cafés, the mix of the falling leaves of autumn with the warm air of summer. Then there are the magnificent buildings, intricate details of statues, and the breathtaking view of St. Peter’s Basilica. The mix of languages you hear as you walk up and down the streets, the friendly man at the gelato shop, and the people you meet; these are the things that you don’t necessarily hear.
I traded what was comfortable back home for something I didn’t know. I didn’t have expectations for what my life would be like here, and sometimes it’s best not to. I’m learning that if you don’t take chances once, when are you going to again? This is probably going to be one of the only times in my life where I’m going to have the opportunity to live in a different country for four months of my life. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and see what Italy has in store for me.

You May Also Like