Not far from the Piazza del Campo, there is an apartment with a view of San Domenico where three university students are making eggplant sandwiches for the second time in a week. While I almost cried when I saw the Acropolis in Greece and Giulietta’s balcony in Verona, these nights spent at the kitchen table with my roommates are the best moments I’ve had studying abroad.
I am lucky enough to live with Erin and Camilla—a fellow IES Abroad student and one of the Italian Resident Assistants. I didn’t know what it would be like to live with an Italian university student, and I initially worried that Camilla wouldn’t want anything to do with us. Moving to Italy was intimidating on its own, but living with an Italian sent my nerves to the next level. None of my irrational fears were true, and while Camilla has been an integral part of my abroad experience as a Resident Assistant, she is far more important to me as a friend.
It was easy to spend hours talking with her and Erin during our first weeks in Siena as we got to know each other. Initially, Camilla was the coolest person I’d ever met because she’s Italian. I loved learning about her life growing up in Sardinia and her study abroad year in the US. But the superficial fascination with Camilla’s Italian-ness faded quickly and was replaced by a genuine adoration of her Camilla-ness. Of course, she still took her job as the only Italian in our apartment very seriously.
From making dinner reservations at 9 p.m. and not showing up until 9:30 p.m., to her true appreciation for recycling, living with Camilla introduced Erin and I to the Italian way of life. However, there are times where Erin and I make eye contact from across the room and wonder, is this Italian, or is it just Cami? Categorizing Cami’s quirk is one of our favorite pastimes, and I’m happy to share our highly scientific chart below.
Having an unlimited supply of mozzarella in the fridge
Dedicated to high quality olive oil
The inability to handle cold temperatures
Asking if we want mozzarella with every meal, even if it’s Chinese food
Taking her makeup off with olive oil
An obsession with fuzzy, polar-bear-themed, thermal pajamas – even in the spring!
I may never adopt her skincare routine, but my olive oil standards have certainly been raised after living with Camilla. In a program full of Americans, it is easy to stay in a study abroad bubble. The language barrier and constant travel are legitimate difficulties in connecting the local university culture. Without Camilla as my roommate, I would have walked away having made no Italian friends during a semester in Italy.
I cannot stay in Siena forever, but my friendship with Cami (and all the Italian quirks she’s passed on) will last long past this semester. Studying abroad is not so much about the places I’ve seen, but the people I’ve met. If I could only give one piece of advice, it would be to live with Italians in Italy. Your abroad experience will never end if you create relationships that stand the test of time—and you’ll always have a friend to visit when you come back!
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<p><span style="font-size:13.5pt"><span style="font-family:"Helvetica",sans-serif"><span style="color:#333333">My name is Brooke Fakhoury, and I am from Southern California studying abroad in Siena, Italy! I’m a junior at the University of Richmond, majoring in English with a minor in History. Other than reading and writing (both in and out of the classroom), I enjoy hiking, cheering on my favorite soccer teams, and eating pasta. After graduation, I plan to stay in the East Coast since I’ve grown attached to my winter coat and would hate to retire it so soon.</span></span></span></p>