Whether it be lost in a conversation in a language you don’t understand, lost in the a hidden street of a neighborhood you’ve set out to explore, or lost in a culture different from your own, you learn by getting lost. But there’s beauty in the process of finding your way. Even during my short time here in Rome, I have had glimpses of that beauty as I cope with daily life abroad.
At first the differences between the Italian culture and America were too overwhelming to really comprehend. I was more focused on finding the exact same route home as I took to school, and sightseeing at all the famous tourist destinations, that I wasn’t able to take a step back and really appreciate where I was and what I was doing.
Prior to studying abroad I always felt restless. I was bored in my classes and disliked the city I lived in because it felt as I was always doing the same thing with the same people. I was terrified that this was the way life was going to be. That I would graduate from college, get a job that I may not even like, or that may not even pay, work long hours, and come home too exhausted and stressed out to enjoy my free time.
In Rome, I have learned that there is an alternative way of life. Italians are infatuated with life and all it has to offer, which is evident even through daily interactions. Here people take time to just exist, to finish that conversation with a stranger even though they may be running late, to sit with their loved ones and visit hours after their meal had ended. Talking with and observing people it is also very obvious that Italians are passionate. Many people speak with such ardor, and interest no matter the topic, and act like you have been friends for years. In class we learned of the many artisans who make a living out of a skill they have and are passionate about. Italians take time to live.
At my internship I have been writing a lot of pieces about the Italian culture. With each topic there is a story with so much history and passion. My supervisor also also is so driven and zealous about her work and design. After getting to know her more it has become clear that her work, even for other clients is a reflection of her own passion. I see her style and voice in everything she writes, designs, or even picks out because it seems interesting. As an intern it is important that I am able to comprehend and adapt to that, but also that I learn how to develop my own style, and cultivate my own passions.
By getting lost in this culture I was able to step back and appreciate the opportunities that lay ahead of me. In a sense I am able to temporarily abandon my life in America and all of the aspects that go along with being a student at the University of Minnesota, a student worker at the Institute on the Environment, and Intern with the Institute on Advanced study. Here I am just me, taking in all that I can just for me. Not for anyone else and not for a grade. I am experiencing a culture in a beautiful city and meeting extraordinary people along the way. Many of the locals my age who I have talked to keep stressing to me the importance of getting out and traveling, and seeing, and learning, so I am grateful to have this opportunity.