I have been thinking about who I want to have this conversation with for a while now. I have meet many great people from my host country. However, most people from my host country that I know well enough to sit down and have this conversation with are adults from my program. A part of me did not want to have this conversation with an adult, but rather someone my own age. I felt as though I would be able to see the similarities and difference between my home culture and my host countries culture with someone closer to my own age. It would be much easier to put myself in their shoes and better empathize for them compared to those of an adult. However, as this week drew nearer I did not think I was going to be able to find a student that was from my host country and close in age that I could talk to. But my doubts faded when I went to class on Tuesday.
“The valued outcome of study abroad, stated simply, is to help the individual acquire a deep understanding of another culture, and to begin to appreciate and develop empathy for people who are different” (E. Morgan 1975). To be able to empathize with people who are not like you, the first step is to get to know them. Luckily, I had the unique opportunity to do just that. In my Italian course, students from a local university in Florence came to class one day. During this class time, we had conversations in Italian with one another and learned about each other’s cultures. At first I thought I would just be going through the motion and counting down the minutes until class ended. Instead, I was so intrigued and fascinated by our conversation that time flew by. It was eye opening to learn that the things that seem so basic to me are for foreign to another, and vise versa.
I had the pleasure of talking to a student named Julia. At first, I was not sure how the conversation was going to go because I know very little Italian and did not know how much English she knew. But to my surprise, the conversation was great! We started off with the basics, such as where we were from or how old we were. Then, we started talking about the difference in our two cultures. From family life, to nightlife, and romantic relationships; we covered it all.
Talking with Julia made me take a step and and reevaluate. It made me remember that not everyone has the same mindset or viewpoints as me, and they shouldn’t. Being abroad is all about emerging yourself into another culture to learn. Being in a foreign country gives me the unique opportunity to have hands on experiences of different cultures rather than just reading about them. As experiences continue and my perspectives on everything widen, I am beginning to learn more about myself.
Being abroad, and having this conversation with Julia has made me think not only about how I am spending my time in Italy, but also how I spend my time back home at Quinnipiac. I am a very outgoing person and I love to be involved in things. However, I have come to feel as though my involvement right now is limited to one small circle. I am lucky I have the ability and opportunity to be able to expand my involvement in many different ways. When I get back to Quinnipiac, I want to become involved in an club or organization that is completely different from the ones I am currently involved in. I want to continue to learn about people and cultures different from my own but I have realized I don’t have to be abroad to find these experiences.