While it seems a bit silly to say so prematurely in my study abroad experience, I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment with how much I’ve learned within the short time I’ve spent in Rome. One can easily observe a culture from an exterior perspective and approach it with as much polite inquiry and openness as possible, but there is always a sense of distance and unfamiliarity that unexpectedly strikes you when fully absorbed within that culture. Here arises a sense of discomfort that we dread so much when confronted with a new reality, the comforts and familiarities that have involved us our entire lives have been pulled out from right below our feet and we are forced to reconsider who we are, what we contribute to the world and what we can learn from the world. I find that in these periods of natural discomfort we feel when involved in a culture foreign to ours, we endure a beautiful transformation of the self and world perspective that one does not even recognize is happening at the moment. With this in mind, I am able to recognize that both my good and bad experiences in Rome, all contribute to my overall education, culturally, personally, and academically.
Settling into my humid Roman apartment, I felt an overwhelming clutter of emotions, ranging from excitement to nerves in anticipation of the adventure I knew I was on the cusp of embarking on. Coming into this experience I had an intention and goal to eradicate the notion of shame or humiliation and shamelessly immerse myself in the Italian language. I view learning the language of your country of study to be a fantastic strategy as it endows a more profound connection with the culture and its people. I knew I would make plenty of mistakes, embarrassing ones even, but the hunger for learning a new language continually trumped the notion of temporarily making a fool of myself in front of others around me. I studied Italian for some months prior to my experience but as anyone who has tried to learn a language knows, the fast-paced speed, colloquial vocabulary, and simple lack of understanding easily present a distinct challenge than originally anticipated. By listening to others talk, their expressions, and the intonation of their voice within certain phrases, I quickly began to feel a greater sense of understanding of the Italian language. Everywhere I go, in stores, restaurants, and the pharmacy, I make a conscious decision to speak to those around me, forcing myself to grow comfortable with what is presently a rather unfamiliar language. My learning was further heightened by the daily Italian lessons required at my university, a class that has been tremendously helpful thus far in creating confidence and assurance in speaking with others. I frankly feel a bit shocked at how easily I have expanded my vocabulary and developed a greater feeling of confidence, and I firmly sense that understanding the Italian language will greatly help me in gaining a deeper and more insightful experience and immersion into Roman culture.
Reflecting on my first week of classes, I feel eager to explore the complexities, the layers, and the ups and the downs of Rome because I understand that every aspect of my experience will contribute to the development of my self-identity and the development of my worldview. As a “Communications and Digital Media,” major I feel that understanding the world from varying perspectives can allow the new generation of media to bring forth a more unifying cultural message. I know that the experiences and (hopefully) language I will learn, not only serve as a practical matter in living here but also a great aid in discovering an alternative cultural perspective, which is something I hope to share with others. I am looking forward to seeing how this will all unfold.
Till next time,