For our second Culture and Identity Envoy event, professor Lorenzo Rinelli, and Student Life Assistant Benedicta Djumpah took us on a migration walking tour of the areas surrounding Termini Station. We started our tour at Termini Station, where we were informed about the historical aspects of architecture and the relationship between buildings and people. The buildings surrounding Termini Station resemble the architectural styles of Northern Italian structures that do not have balconies. The lack of balconies is seemingly insignificant but is highly unusual in Rome and southern regions of Italy. Additionally, we highlighted how different parts of Termini square and surrounding neighborhoods are occupied by varying migrant communities. Termini Station has been the portal of entry for many migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking communities. The historical and social importance of Termini is integral in the movement and placement of people. With this understanding, we examined the relationship between the physical structures of Rome and internal identity.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding moments of the tour was our visit to the Nuovo Mercato Esquilino (formally known as Mercato di Piazza Vittorio). This market was teeming with diversity of life, language, artisanal goods, and of course, food. The overwhelming amount of international produce, meat, seafood, and spices was a joyous relief after months of solely eating Italian food. It was also exhilarating to be apart of such a vivacious and welcoming environment. It was both heartwarming to see food items I would normally find in Philadelphia/NJ and thrilling to find new items I have never seen before. We were given the challenge of finding key ingredients that we would then use to prepare a meal at home. It was indeed a challenge! I struggled to find just a few ingredients and rightfully so with such a massive selection of delicious items. I decided that after being in Italy, it was time for some comfort food. So, I navigated my way through the tight booths of the market and selected my items: beans, jalapeño, plantain, and avocado. I planned on pairing these items with the rice and vegetables that I had waiting for me back at my apartment. My indecisiveness paid off when I got home and after preparing the meal with my roommate, Doriana Diaz, I knew I had made the right choice.
Our migration tour was insightful in many ways and I felt immensely privileged to be able to witness the profound sense of community and camaraderie present throughout the streets of the Termini and Vittorio neighborhoods. Seeing people interact with each other in areas where they feel seen and heard is incredibly humbling. While the reasoning for displacement is vastly different amongst migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking communities, study abroad students can indirectly attest to the similarity of existing as an outsider in another country or culture. Luckily, food is an outlet to express and further appreciate culture among other community members.
This sense of communal energy is something I have personally been longing for during my time here, and I have found that through food and good company this is possible. When preparing a meal and cooking for others, there is an energy present that becomes almost therapeutic. Especially when every dish is made with patience and love. I believe that through the walking tour and my time in Rome, I have found that it is possible to nourish one’s self through food and more specifically culture. Who you share a meal with can expand that growth to encompass mental and spiritual nourishment. Holistic nourishment is one thing all study abroad students should strive for when beginning to miss those things that make you feel at home. Finding certain items to prepare comfort food is just one solution to connecting a part of your identity that is seemingly fading away while living within the Italian population.