Upon arriving in Sicily I was very excited to see family but mostly nervous. I was still clinging to everything that reminded me of home and I was constantly in search of Wi-Fi. I permanently attached myself to my cousin, Daniele’s, hip because he spoke English. The more family members I met, the more nervous I got. Only three of a million people in my family spoke English and so when I was left alone with them, despite having the knowledge that I don’t speak much Italian, we attempted to have a conversation anyways. Every time they would say “You’re going to be in Italy for four months, you better learn fast,” and every time I would get more nervous. I wanted to practice the little Italian I knew and try to learn something but there was a little voice constantly in my head reminding me that I am a perfectionist and I don’t like to be wrong. This was by far the biggest mistake I made. I had constant access to a human Italian-English dictionary and I completely ignored it. However, on the bright side, upon my arrival in Viareggio and then in Florence, I found out how many people speak nearly perfect English. While this was a relief, it won’t help me to learn and be immersed in the culture.
While in Sicily I found communitas in my little brother, who I don’t always get along with but we both felt alienated as my mom carried on conversations with relatives while we awkwardly and quietly sat in the corner. “My hosts tell me not to trust anyone, but all I want to do is build relationships. I do not know how to deal with this. I fear I’m on the brink of disengaging myself entirely from the community in order to maintain emotional stability” (Slimbach, 159). I constantly have been told “don’t trust anyone” countless times but that makes it hard to build a new life if you’re constantly living in fear of your surrounding environment and just like Lena, I would end up completely shutting everything and everyone I’m surrounded by, out. Upon my arrival in Florence I found communitas mostly in my roommates but also in other students at my university. We all seem to travel in packs afraid to break away for fear of not being able to find our way back physically and mentally. My roommates have given me a group of people I can trust and having people that are just as lost and essentially clueless as I am is very helpful in my adaptation to Florence.
The biggest challenge I have encountered is finding my way around the city to, from and between classes. I have learned that I am a different kind of person than I thought I was. I haven’t quite figured out in what sense yet but I guess this experience is meant for me to figure it out. I have definitely discovered that it takes work to adapt to the new culture, becoming more social is something I can do to make my journey here more effective to my personal growth. I hope to find international friends although I don’t have the slightest clue about how to do that. Discovering how to make international friends, where to find them and how to find things in common is something I need to put a lot of effort into because it’s not something that will naturally happen for me. Even thus far I have learned that I am content traveling alone even just on a day to day basis.
The picture I chose was from my day in San Giminiano with my family. San Giminiano is a completely walled and gated town about an hour north of Florence. I chose this photo because traveling there was the first day I truly felt excited to be here. Although excitement doesn’t sum up my experience thus far it is what I hope to feel once I am a bit more grounded. The stability in the walls is also something I strive for here. Stability was something I was just starting to find at Quinnipiac, so leaving was that much harder and I hope I learn to adjust quicker here than I did at QU.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.