This week, I have found it extremely easy to immerse myself in Italian culture. Why? Well, because I love sports! When I was accepted to the Rome summer program early in the spring semester of 2014, the first thing I did was mark a date on my calendar—June 14, 2014. Why this specific date, you might ask? This was Italy’s first game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and it was against a team who posed a large threat—England.
Living in the United States as a die hard soccer fan is a tough life. Few Americans appreciate the game as much as I do. I guess you could say that fans like myself are an endangered species. This is not the case in most of Europe, and more specifically, in Italy, however. Knowing this fact before arriving to Rome, it was safe to assume that I was excited to be a part of this cultural aspect of Rome. When Saturday rolled around, I took my opportunity to immerse myself into something which was so foreign to me due to its lesser significance in the United States, but so familiar at the same time due to my passion for the game.
Some friends and I walked to Piazza Venezia around 11:30 for the midnight kick off. I had expected a crowd, but turning a corner and meeting a wall of thousands of anxious Italians gave me the chills. This was real. My heart was pounding, and the smile on my face was from ear to ear. I was in my element, and more importantly, effortlessly and completely immersed in Italian culture for the first time since my arrival. There were no language barriers; the language was just soccer (or calico as it translates); one that I’ve come to adopt in my many years of playing. Simply put, yell at the referee and go crazy when your team scores. There was no staring at the Americans, but rather staring at a giant projector screen. I was not lost somewhere in the city, but rather lost somewhere in a game. When Italy scored first, I thought Mount Vesuvius had come back to life. The Piazza erupted; flags waved vigorously, flares lit the sky a florescent red, and the decibel level pierced my ears with sounds of glory – pure passion.
But this wasn’t my only experience this week. When we stopped at a lake to grab some lunch during an Art History field trip last Friday, I had another very unique experience involving sport and culture. A few Italians were sitting at a nearby sand volleyball court with a ball. Upon approaching them and gesturing whether or not my friends and I could play, we quickly formed teams; Italy versus America. The experience was unique because again a language barrier ceased to exist, similar to when watching the World Cup. (That’s two times in one week, possibly a record to be held throughout my remaining three weeks studying here). When we finished beating up on the Italians, who, by the way, should just stick to soccer, I realized how valuable of an experience I had just gained. Using sports to immerse myself in this foreign culture has been my most useful form of communication, appreciation, and adaptation. Sports have a universal, globalized, language, and when used in the correct manner, they can truly add to and aid in the absorption of a different culture from your own.