While abroad it is very easy to interact with all Americans. This is obvious because we often live and study with those who are also studying abroad. But is that why we’re abroad? In Rome, anyone can see there is a very strong Italian culture. Many other study abroad destinations are also similar to this situation and that is why I recommend reaching out and broadening your cultural horizons.
My Italian cultural experience happened by accident but I couldn’t be happier that I had the experience. I came across an opportunity to participate in a Model United Nations here in Rome. Upon signing up I didn’t know that I would be the only American amongst 400 Italian students, but I entered with an open mind thankfully. After attending a few training sessions that were in Italian, I made some friends who spoke English. After 24 hours of training, we all entered a Model UN four-day assimilation (in English) and we were forced to work together. This experience helped me to make lots of Italian friends. Meeting Italians and spending time with them has helped me immerse myself into the Italian culture.
I entered this experience thinking it would be educational and I could become more knowledgeable in the area of international relations. While I did learn about the United Nations and its processes, I also got a first hand experience of personal international relations. By spending these days with Italian students I had the opportunity to understand the way they go about their day, how they interact with their friends, and what they like to do in their free time. It was a shock to me as an American student to be fully immersed in the Italian culture of young people as quickly as I was, but I enjoyed it tremendously.
Without this opportunity I probably would have never met and made Italian friends. I now can say that I have seen and can better understand the way Italians live. It has been a pleasure to get an inside look of Italian culture. This experience has made my study abroad experience much more culturally rich and exciting. While American students are going to dinner with each other I have the opportunity to say I’m going to aperitivo with my Italian friends. Study abroad has been not only an academic learning experience but also a learning experience for me.
I have had such a rich experience that I would like to encourage all study abroad students to broaden your horizons while abroad. Do something that will encourage you to fully learn the culture of the place you’re staying. It will give you a very cultural rich and exciting experience.
Dana Bartone is the Spring 2013 CEA MOJO in Rome, Italy
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