Throughout the semester I have written a lot about other cities I have been fortunate enough to see while living abroad. This is largely because I think it is so amazing that the students in this program have had so many AMAZING opportunities to visit cities that are so unlike what we’re used to at home. Likely, many of the people here will never have the chance to see places like this again. So, I wanted to document my travels as a student who had very little travel experience prior to coming to Europe, and tell the story of each place I visited, since each had its own story.
What I have realized through my experiences in Rome, Italy, and Europe, is how vital it is that the American youth know what life is like outside of our country. America is a very important place, having an especially large barring on the political and economic world, but it is certainly not the only country that matters. America is known as “The Melting Pot,” and for good reason, as we have such a diverse population and so many different cultures within one country. But to see countries where this is not particularly the case, like Italy, where the majority of residents are 100% Italian, is intriguing because it is so drastically different than America, a country who has few residents that are 100% anything. It is so important for people to understand how the world functions, and get a better grasp on what they think of other countries and what people from other countries think of America; The only real way to do this is to experience these places.
To see the long and meaningful histories of countries like Italy is also enamoring because it makes you realize how young America really is. Being here and learning about this ancient city, and also SEEING ancient ruins with my own eyes, really puts the history of the world in perspective for me. It has made me realize how unusual of a country America is, being only 235 years old, compared to Italy’s 2764 years, and yet has progressed quicker than most other countries around the world. I think this is a true reflection of the American people, how we think, and what is important to us. I can see after spending only three months here that Italians are so much less focused on work, making boat-loads of money, having all the material items they’ve ever desired, and always improving and being better than everyone else, than people and the overall lifestyle in America. Instead, Italians seem to have a sense of inner contentment that I don’t often see in the States. They focus on their relationships with friends and family and not working their lives away (as can be seen in their daily two hour “siestas” for lunch, unlike the one-third of Americans who wolf down lunch at a desk, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.)
It has become obvious to me that many of the unfortunate stereotypes regarding America and the American people are, in fact, true. I believe the American culture breeds a sense of always needing to be better and never having enough money and enough things. So, people often work their lives away, with more than 31% of college-educated males logging at least 50 hours of work per week (Bloomberg Businessweek.) But this is not what life is all about!! We each have a life so that we can enjoy it, and in the end there is no reason to have gratuitous amounts of money, as long as you can live in a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, and have people around who make you happy. The fault for this lifestyle lies with no one person, but it is something that Americans, especially the youth, need to be aware of in coming years. With the always evolving and developing technological advances and progress in America (and around the world), I can see it only becoming more of a problem that people forget about their personal relationships and leisure time, and replace it with technology and work. In my opinion, we, the youth, have the responsibility of making sure that doesn’t happen! However, unfortunately I think I would be vastly outnumbered by my peers on these feelings. My experience in Italy has made me aware of how I should organize my own priorities in life, and I think will help me lead a healthy and satisfying lifestyle overall.