After over a month of being abroad, I’ve begun to reflect on the things about Italy that I love and will miss when I leave in a month or so, versus the things that I miss about home that I can’t wait to return to. Family and friends are the obvious answers, so while yes, I miss them, I have not included them in my list. Many of these things I love or I miss are unexpected—I didn’t anticipate these things having such a big impact on my life one way or another. At a little over halfway through my journey here, here are the things I love about Italy and miss about home:
Things I miss about home:
- Air Conditioning: Italians have a philosophy that is anti-air conditioning. Besides this coming from their outlandishly expensive utility bills, it also comes from the belief that in order to withstand the heat, you shouldn’t be drastically changing temperatures constantly. They believe it’s bad for you so while they do have air conditioning, it does not keep things cold. I will say, I’ve definitely warmed up to the idea more since when I originally arrived (ha, get it?) but when Milan reached a toasty 95 degrees this week and my room refused to stay below 80 degrees, I found myself wishing for the icy American air conditioning.
- Ice cubes: Believe it or not, Italians also group drinks in with the philosophy that everything should remain warm. Hot coffee, lukewarm water and soda, no matter the temperature outside. Barring when you order a mixed drink at a restaurant, ice cubes are nowhere to be found. As a Hydroflask user and ice water lover, this has been a difficult mentality to adjust to. I mean, 95 degrees, no air conditioning, and no ice water? Basically, I am just sweating 24/7.
- Sleep: Italians have a late dinner time (7-9ish at night) which often leads to a late bedtime. However, that doesn’t stop them from still waking up bright and early for their long commute to their job the next morning. On top of that, while studying abroad, it’s hard to be willing to justify a moment of rest. Not only are you traveling on the weekends, but on the weekdays it’s easy to fall into the trap of “but I’m in Italy, so I shouldn’t just stay at home”. If you’re the type of person that can keep up with that schedule, I have so much respect for you, but unfortunately my body is just not built that way. Basically, you just have to learn to say no when you physically can’t anymore and get used to the concept that you’re probably just going to need an extra espresso shot every day to make it through.
- My weighted blanket: Because everything is so hot all of the time, the bedding provided to you is essentially a blanket the thickness of a top sheet. As someone who uses a weighted blanket religiously at home, the lack of weight on me while sleeping took some getting used to.
- American TV: The unfortunate thing about being abroad is that your TV can’t follow you. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming sites can tell when you are in a new country, meaning you only have access to certain shows that are on the Italian version of the streaming service. This was a very devastating realization on one of the first days here, considering I was halfway through the last season of How I Met Your Mother and it is not on Italian streaming. Something to look forward to when I get home I guess!
- Being in the same time zone: Before coming abroad, it never occurred to me how much of a hassle the time difference would be. Not just with family and friends either. I mean, I never know what’s going on back home with TikTokers I follow, celebrity news, or even just forgetting the time difference while on a phone call. It often leads me to feeling out of the loop with not only family and friends, but overall just American society as a whole.
Things I love:
- Espresso at 2 p.m.: For Italians, coffee is an all day, everyday type of thing. Coffee when you wake up, coffee mid-morning, coffee after lunch (which is around 2 p.m., since they eat lunch around 1 p.m.), coffee at all times. It’s a way of life in Italy and it’s even a way to connect with people. A tip: if an Italian asks you to go for coffee, do not refuse. It is considered rude because coffee is such a connecting factor in their society. I’ve always been a coffee addict, but normally I left that to be an exclusively morning activity. Coming here, my favorite time for coffee now is definitely right after lunch around 2:00. It gives me the perfect boost of energy to continue my work for the rest of the afternoon and honestly, I may need to invest in an espresso machine once I come home just so I can keep doing it.
- Public transportation: Being from the Midwest, public transport is not very often utilized. Something Italy definitely has figured out is their public transport system. For just 22 euro a month, I can go anywhere I want to in Milan. That’s so cool to me! I also just love walking everywhere along with the public transport. Not only is it cheap and healthy for you, but public transportation and walking are a great way to familiarize yourself with the city and make it truly feel like home.
- Dogs!!!!! : Italy has different laws surrounding animals being in stores and restaurants than the United States. Also, most Italians live in apartments which is not ideal for a dog to stay all day. Because of this, there are SO MANY dogs being walked around with people to stores, restaurants, or even just on the street. It always brings a big smile to my face to see all the furry friends every day.
- The fashion: Italian fashion is unlike any other look. You can always spot a wide variety of fashion on the streets of Milan, but almost all of it is a combination of pieces I would never even think to put together. As a fashion major, I love looking at the people around me and seeing new inspiration, aesthetics, and ideas of what it means to be fashionable.
- Constantly trying new things: While abroad, you are basically rewriting what you know to be “normal” and replacing it with a whole new version of normal. This means you are constantly being forced into new situations, trying new things, and learning more about yourself. And I swear, every time I think I have it figured out, there’s a whole new curveball thrown your way. After several weeks here, ordering coffee, being at restaurants, or getting groceries are much easier, but just the other day I decided to try sushi for the first time at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant (amazing experience, by the way) and the server and I had a really hard time communicating, showing to me again that even 6 weeks in, I still do not have it all figured out. Honestly, I enjoy the way these difficult situations push me and even though I may feel frustrated in the moment, experiencing new things constantly is one of my favorite things about being abroad.
I think it’s safe to say after being here for as long as I have, I’ve learned a lot about myself, whether that’s that I have an irrational love of ice water, or that life is just better when you can have an espresso shot at 2:00 p.m. While this list is obviously not all encompassing of the things that make me miss home or the things that make me want to stay in Italy forever, it’s fair to say that these things are things I think about on a somewhat daily basis. Just three more weeks until ice water!
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<p>Ciao! My name is Annika Rader (aw-nih-kuh if you're wondering how to say it) and I am a junior at University of Missouri Columbia. I study Textile and Apparel Management major (which is just a fancy way to say fashion) with a Business minor. I am a writing intensive TA for my department, which tells you my love for writing, and I also work in my university's historical clothing collection. I love to learn, I'm an avid reader, and I've never met a thrift shop I didn't like. I can't wait to merge my vintage and thrifted style into the chicness of Milan and document my experience through writing. I want to share the good, the bad, and the (hopefully very little) ugly of my time abroad and maybe inspire others to experience it too. Milan here I come!</p>