A New Perspective

When I first arrived in Ariccia, I had an equal amount of concern and excitement for what this summer would hold for me. While I knew this experience would be something entirely new for me, I had so many preconceived notions about what a “summer in Europe” would look like. Within the first two weeks, these notions were completely shattered and replaced with reality. While many of the realities of living in Italy have proved better than I could’ve ever imagined, there have also been many unexpected struggles that have come along with it. Through this experience I’ve discovered just how much Americans glamorize European countries, placing them on unrealistic pedestals. The truth is, being an American in Europe is challenging and uncomfortable. The good news is that discomfort leads to growth. I had no idea how little I understood about my own country until I lived outside of it for a month and a half. Listening to people from other countries talk about the United States while simultaneously experiencing the extreme differences between Italy and the U.S. has given me an entirely new perspective. There are truly so many things I would have never noticed about the U.S. until stepping outside of it. One of the biggest differences being convenience and comfort. Whether for worse or for better, the United States seems like the most convenient, comfortable place on Earth after living in another country. To offer a few examples: air conditioning, cars, LARGE cars, free public restrooms, free water at restaurants, easily accessible food and drinks at all times, ice machines, TARGET, grocery baggers and every brand and style of anything you’ve ever wanted. All of these things sound like heaven on Earth to me right now, but if you’re reading this from the United States, I’m sure a summer in Italy sounds like heaven on Earth to you. What I’m trying to say is: this experience has made me appreciate the United States in a way I had never appreciated it before. I’ve also come to appreciate the reality of Italy in a way I had never appreciated it before. Considering how vastly different American culture feels from Italian culture, I can honestly say that I’m proud of myself for the adaptability I’ve shown as I slowly work to acclimate to my new home. I’m no longer surprised by men staring and honking, women reaching in front of my face at the grocery store without saying a word, inhaling cigarette smoke everywhere, ignoring men with accordions who walk into restaurants and play right next to me, historic ancient or baroque architecture surrounding me at all times, cars being driven recklessly on cobblestones streets, or cats everywhere you go (my favorite part). I’ve come to appreciate these little things as the traits that make Italy what it really is, rather than the perfect fairytale that’s been painted my entire life. My advice is this: if you’re planning to travel to another country at any point in the near future, go ahead and remove all of your expectations. Understand that adapting to another culture and attempting to view it fairly and without judgment takes work. Luckily, all of that work is worth it when you feel yourself finally beginning to truly understand and appreciate the beauty of that new culture’s differences.

– Anna Douglass

Caroline and I enjoying one of the best parts of Italian culture, aperitivo!