Week 1: Reggio Emilia: Gianna Calderon

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Ciao! My name is Gianna Calderon, and I am from Chicago, Illinois. On May 22nd, 2022, I took the adventure of a lifetime. I hopped on a plane from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Frankfurt International Airport in Germany. After much exhaustion in the middle seat of the flight, I was relieved to finally make it to Europe! Then, I traveled from Frankfurt to Bologna Airport in Italy. Once arriving in Reggio Emilia, I learned that it was home to Parmigiano Reggiano, Ferrari, and balsamic vinegar. The region is also known for their famous meat, “Mortadella.” Later on, I was greeted by my host family. There is a strong language barrier, but we have been able to communicate via similar words, Google translate, and hand gestures. We have gone to basketball games to support my home stay brother, out for pizza, and I even tried reiki with them! While in Italy, I have noticed numerous cultural differences. For instance, the attire is extremely formal. There is never one person wearing sweatpants or yoga pants. The people dress according to the season, too. Since it is spring, it is abnormal to wear shorts, even though it reaches about ninety degrees Fahrenheit everyday. Furthermore, it is common for Italians to stare at you without greeting you. I was encouraged by my teacher to not greet them because it is abnormal for their culture. The overall culture is slow paced, which is immensely different than America. For example, a normal lunch break is about an hour. Within this timeframe, a person can sit outside and have a meal, walk the open market, or they can take a leisure stroll in the park. Also, aperitivos are appetizers that are served around 6:30-9pm. This time frame is for families to gather with eachother or friends and enjoy small horderves with a glass of wine. Red wine is only supposed to be drunk with pasta, whereas white wine is supposed to be drunk with seafood. The dinnertime usually starts around 8pm. Therefore, in Italy, it is almost impossible to not see a gathering of people outside regardless of the time. When you go out to eat, the tip is already added onto the bill for you. Additionally, the table you sit at is yours for the night. So, the waiter will never rush you to leave. In fact, you must ask for the tip in order for the waiter to bring it! While abroad, I have grown accustomed to living without air conditioning and ice in my drinks. I have also realized that it is common to drive stick shift cars or walk/bike to places. I am enjoying this one in a lifetime experience; it has taught me to appreciate a new way of life. I have successfully immersed myself within their culture, and I am proud to say that I have been increasing my cultural competency! I could not ask for a better host family, and I look forward to further sharing my journey with you!