I’ve been in Italy for a little over a month now and I want to say that this has been the best and also toughest semester of my life. Going abroad isn’t and will not be easy. There will be things that you will miss and if you are going to a country that doesn’t speak English, the language barrier will always be in the back of your mind. As someone who identifies as a person of color, it has been particularly challenging in some regards, but I have tried my best to willingly open my eyes and ears to the experiences of others. Here are a few things that keep me going through the toughest of days:
1) This is a once in a lifetime experience. I wake up everyday and still can’t believe that I am overseas. I am surrounded by the world’s best examples of art and fashion here in Milan. If I feel the slightest bit sad, I listen to my favorite music or take a walk to see the Duomo which still give me chills everytime I see it. Even if you do it alone, go explore. It will remind you why you are here.
2) Italians are just as curious as I am about language and culture. I’ve listened to their dreams about traveling to America and then realize I’m living my dream of traveling to Italy. HOW COOL IS THAT? And sometimes, It’s difficult to answer questions about tough topics like ethnicity, religion or politics and it’s okay to say that you don’t want to answer. More often than not, these conversations have led to friendships for me and I’m really happy to have shared stories about my background and Native American heritage. Here in Italy, I have yet to meet another Native American but I’m not surprised by this. My wish is for more of my people to see places like Italy.
3) I miss the food from home, but let me tell you a couple of things about Italian food culture. It is typical to go out and eat and drink with friends and there are plenty of places to explore. I also have been addicted to Italian coffee which is perfect any time of day for a little boost. I was asked by an Italian friend of mine about American food the other night: “Is it true that in America, they put ketchup on pasta?” This spiraled into a conversation about Honey Boo Boo Child and her creation known as “Sghetti”. If you don’t know it, look it up! These interactions really lifted my spirits and some unexpected friendships have come out of them. The next night I went to a movie with a few collegio students. You will make friends, and it may take time but when you do, don’t be afraid to ask to join them. After all, they know all the best places to go and what to do around Milan.
Overall it is going to be an experience filled with highs and lows and that’s just a reality I didn’t think about before I left. As for now, I am becoming more and more acquainted with the beautiful country and it will always have a special place in my heart. Stay tuned for my next post about my recent travels!