When I made plans to move to Roma for four months, I was not anticipating the level of culture shock I experienced. From January until now, I have learned to quickly adapt to the atmosphere around me. Italian culture is highly emotional and as I have seen, that can mean extremely compassionate and kind or easily irritable and short tempered. For example, the gelato shop that I frequent in my neighborhood is full of employees who know me by name and greet me with a warm welcome every time I enter versus the man in the post office who screamed at me in front of everyone because I forgot my wallet and still owed him two euros. This high emotion with such dramatic differences has been slightly difficult to navigate for me.
The influence of Catholicism is incredibly prominent in the Roman culture and while I am not religious myself, I can respect the dedication to keep tradition alive. I appreciate how proud the Romans are of their city; they take pride in sharing its remarkable history. As an outsider though, deep down I know the Romans would never accept me as one of their own. In fact, I am convinced that Italian people don’t even like Italian citizens who aren’t Italian enough. This strong sense of nationalism and patriotism is less enthusiastic towards the dominant political parties and government. I have heard more people in Italy bash the politicians who are in power than I have in the United States and that is impressive.
As far as academics are concerned, I have experienced absolute support, understanding, and sympathy from my professors which took me by surprise. Compared to the States, life at university is far less pressure and more focused on creative thinking and the quality of your learning experience. The education system is one of the many things that Roma has mastered. While the cultural adjustment has been a little rocky, I am in awe every time I walk by Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum, or any other historical monument. It's hard for me to comprehend that some of these buildings are older and more established than the very country I live in.
As my fourth month here comes around the corner, embracing the differences of Italy becomes more and more natural and I find myself less surprised by some of the things that initially triggered my homesickness. Getting stared at in public, riding an extremely crowded tram, and the outrageous amount of carbs one country is capable of consuming has just become a part of my everyday life and I am beginning to love it.
2019. In collaboration with the American University of Rome.