Everyone says that studying abroad is an amazing experience and it truly is. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to live in and experience another culture. Italy is a beautiful country with a culture completely different from that of the States. If you’re reading this blog and considering studying abroad–whether in Rome or elsewhere–absolutely do it. I was so nervous before I came to Italy, but being here is well worth the pre-trip preparation and anxiety. One of my roommates had never left the country before coming to Italy and she’s doing the full academic year here (since this fall, she has been to 17 cities in 9 different countries!). Temple Rome gave her the opportunity to have these incredible experiences that she otherwise wouldn’t have had.
People say study abroad is fun because you make new friends and see new places, which is true—but it’s much more than that. Experiencing another culture is invaluable; it opens your mind and allows you to think and feel in new and different ways. Seeing how different people live has been really transformative for me, widening my worldview and giving me me an entirely different perspective of my life and of the world around me. Traveling has allowed me to understand people and the world in ways I didn’t before.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel at a young age and see all kinds of different places and I believe that these experiences really shaped who I am today. When I was young, my family traveled to Albania pretty frequently, so I grew up with two very different cultures. While this dual-culture childhood was difficult at times, it is the most valuable thing my parents gave me. Having the experience of two completely different lifestyles, communities, and identities has allowed me to understand people in a very unique way, giving me the ability to adapt among different situations. Travelling forces you to learn, mirror, and ultimately absorb the behavior and culture of your surroundings, and I think this cultural adaptation is the most valuable lesson study abroad provides.
While living here in Italy, I’ve come to better understand how Italian values and beliefs differ from more mainstream American ones. As I wrote about in a previous post, Italians really value time spent around cooking and eating. They value this time with their families and will almost always choose family over work–which is often not the case in the States. Similarly, here in Italy, coffee is a shot of espresso enjoyed for a couple of minutes at the counter, which differs drastically from in Albanian where people spend hours drinking an espresso or the States where you sit with a big mug of coffee. Coffee culture highlights just a couple of the many cultural nuances that are learned when you live somewhere and are immersed in the associated way of life.
Another valuable part of studying, living, and travelling abroad is the relationships you form with both the locals and your classmates. Being in a strange place and out of your comfort zone forces you to make new friends and introduce yourself to people with diverse interests, studies, and backgrounds. I’ve gotten to know so many new people, even other Temple students, that I wouldn’t have had the chance to know had I not studied abroad here in Rome. A friendship formed abroad is like the culture– special in a unique, complex way. Of course you’ll miss your home friends and you’ll still see them when you get back, but meeting people while travelling is a really fast and fun way to make new friends. You’re all trying to figure out new things and learn how to live in a new place, and sharing that experience really brings people together. The people with whom you share these incredible adventures will always be associated with the experience.
These, among so many others, are a couple of my favorite parts of the study abroad experience I’ve had thus far. I hope you all get the chance to travel, even if it’s not to study, because the experience is truly priceless.