I’ve met loads of new people throughout the past few weeks in Florence and found it quite difficult to pick just one person to interview. After some thought I decided to ask my soccer coach, Rino Punzo if he would be willing to sit down with me for an hour or so. I chose to interview Rino because he seemed a little more cultured than some of the other teachers here at the university and he seemed to honestly express his opinions. The interview that I thought was going to take around an hour ended up taking not only two and a half hours but it also ended up teaching me 10x more than I originally thought I would be able to learn. Since English is Rinos second language and we were talking about topics that had more than basic English phrases, google translate became a great resource for us.
It is important to take the time to discuss cultural and personal view points to help us better transition into our host culture and engage in everything that is surrounding us. I find that I feel more and more comfortable here in Florence with each variation I find
between American customs and European traditions and viewpoints. Being able to have conversations about the differences between the United States and other European countries helps us not only function better within our community but also opens our eyes to a while new world.
This interview turned into a really in-depth conversation where I was able to learn things like how some Italians think that Americans need to have a lot of money to actually be free, and other topics such as how some top Italian managers actually still live in their parents’ home and unlike America, it isn’t frowned upon to graduate college and move back in with mom and dad. I also discovered that Italy takes treatment and care of all citizens in high regards with a free healthcare system and very inexpensive education. As our discussion progressed I also learned that the northern and southern parts of Italy imposed different cultural habits and family viewpoints on one another. One of the more interesting topics we touched on was boasting vs. modesty. It took us a while to get to the bottom of this question because the terminology ‘boasting’ was unfamiliar to Rino. He first stated that America is very modest, which I was surprised about. When moving further through the conversation he was able to explain that he thinks America as a whole has to be modest, or in other words, politically correct. In his opinion, Italians boast about their fashion and style. It’s not about how much money is spent on the articles of clothing being worn or the designer brands that are being flaunted, it’s about what each individual person wants to portray as themselves. He told me about how he traveled to a few different countries and each time he met someone, they immediately pointed out that he was Italian due to the way he was dressed. Rino said that there was no better feeling than being identified by what he wore. He felt proud that he was able to represent his country like that and felt as though this is the Italian way of boasting.
I feel as though this conversation with Rino really opened me up to the different ways people view not only each other, but themselves. I came into Italy with some pre-connotations and they turned out to be a little off. Emotionally I feel more connected to my host country, I am more conscious of some behaviors and tendencies that I have brought over from America and I think I am becoming a well-rounded individual in my host county.
When thinking of a part of Quinnipiac campus life that I am currently not involved in, the first organization I think about is Greek life. I have never put much thought into the differences each organization has when compared to the ones I am apart of — but with a little thought, sororities and fraternities are very unlike anything (other than a sports team of course) that I have been a part of. There would probably be a lot of value in sitting down with a representative from Greek life because I would be able to get a better feel for what actually goes on, instead of just believing the things I am told and the judgements I may currently have. I think that having students socialize with each other in their different organizational settings would be very beneficial because right now, Greek life and non-Greek life are very separate. We might even find that we like some of the organizations that we previously deemed unfit for us!
Travel is meant for more than the photographs, the ability to say you flew around the world, or the nick knacks and postcards native to our destination. “There once was a time when wanderlust was driven more by a thirst for authentic local knowledge then by hedonistic possibilities. Travel was virtually synonymous with education” (Slimbach, 150). If we all took the time to learn more about our host country and to sit down with a native once a week, maybe we would be able to appreciate just one sixteenth of the culture that lays in front of us.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.