Italia Reflection

Florence Travel Blog

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This last week and through the weekend, I have been reflecting on my experience in Italy that occurred last year.

About a week ago when I decided to pick up my old job at the UMD dining center, I had the privilege of working with an international student. Our experiences in our respected countries (past and present) were briefly discussed, while tossing beef gravy on egg noodles.
Then it occurred to me; maybe it was fear of alienation that I never reacted on my experience abroad after my return. Maybe it was because now that I was back in my country of birth, my experience was irrelevant to those who are currently international students at UMD.
I dismissed most of my stories, convincing myself that it no longer mattered what I had experienced was important to others.

Of course my self-accusation was incorrect. Being able to finally, and honestly open up about who I had developed to be, and WHY, was absolutely freeing.

This specific individual understood my struggle while overseas. Why? Because only three years ago he came to study in the United States and went through some similar scenarios. Communication; how do we say certain things, and understand what is being said to us when our comprehension of that language is minimal? Being in situations where you are the only one who doesn't understand a majority of what anyone is saying, What do you do when your friends and family are nowhere near you, and calling just to hear their voice is too expensive? And the homework that looks simple has suddenly become frustrating.

In Italy, I discovered a greater sense of self. I grew more comfortable with handling difficult and overwhelming occurrences, getting lost and speaking this new language was now an adventure, not a fear.

Listening to the sounds the city made throughout the course of a day; a tangle of Italian verbs, the rustling of espresso cups as locals headed to work, the rush of the Arno river as ancient marble sculptures rested proudly along the Uffizi's outer walls. Shutters on crumbling houses, tripping on discombobulated cobblestones, wine at every meal, the meat and produce market (even its horrible smell), the cheese, but most importantly, the people.

The Italian and non- Italians I was fortunate enough to befriend were the most wonderful people to me. They made me breakfasts, dinners; let me practice my spoken Italian without teasing me too much about my mistakes, bought me train tickets, and beer, cleaned my kitchen, let me sleep on their extra bed for two weeks, folded blankets after staying on my couch, and most importantly, listened and conversed.

We shared stories of sorrow and triumph. We explored the meaning of human behavior, and emotion. We learned, discovered, and enjoyed many different pieces of life and its traditions. Even through some of these conversations brought me to tears, they brought me to confront my fears and to face them. I shared an abundant amount of respect, compassion, and hospitality with these individuals; something I had rarely experienced at home in the United States.

Looking out of our little boxes is so important, and life changing. Encouraging others to experience this is the real challenge, as we have become so accustomed and comfortable in our own ways, that we convince ourselves that venturing off would be too difficult, expensive, and time consuming. We are so consumed by these fears, that even when an international student approaches us, we are at a loss for words, grow uncomfortable, look to the ground, and shuffle to class.

There is wisdom greater then us; it's all of us combined, and communicating and making an effort to understand. By being pro-active, we can only begin to understand, but a beginning is better than an absence.
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7,456 km (4,633 miles) traveled
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photo by: spocklogic