5 things I learned while studying abroad

Written by Jessica December 3, 2013

After three months of living in Italy and traveling around Europe, I have become accustomed to a new lifestyle. Through my experiences I have been able to see that normal only exists in our own mind because everywhere in the world is different. These differences I have found to be beautiful, frustrating, and teaching.

1. Italians eat pizza and pasta.

I must say this is one stereotype I found to be true. Every day in the cafeteria there was pasta. Different forms of noodles, but still pasta. As for pizza, there has not been on restaurant in Venice, Florence, or Rome that did not have a whole page dedicated to it. At every restaurant we would stop and read the menu, all of which said pizza. We would continue on and pretend that there would be somewhere to eat that didn’t have it, but to this day I still haven’t found one. About a month in I found myself dreaming of Mexican or Chinese food, but with a week left here I have only been having pizza cravings. Since I know my time is coming to an end, I think my appreciation for pizza has become clear. Thinking back I am now thankful anywhere I went in Italy I could order a Diavola ( pepperoni pizza).

2. America isn’t the only places with problems

There has been so many times I’ve heard people complain about problems with politics and the economy in the United States. The news only shows the problems in the U.S. with casual glimpses of major problems in conflict zones. This gave me, as well as many others, the perception that Europe is a fantasy land and all these problems are already figured out. Living here and learning about European issues in class shown me a different side. There are economic problems in Spain, political problems in Italy, and social issues in Croatia. Just like the United States, there are problems here as well. My time here showed me that, and that the world is much bigger, with many more needs, than that just of the United States.

3. Dress to impress

On a typical day at a college campus it is rare to find a student in jeans. Sweats, yoga pants, gym shorts is the preferred attire. It is comfy and convenient. I learned in Europe, especially Italy, this was not the case. Females in Europe tend to wear dresses with boots, leather jackets, and fur wherever the location and whenever the time. There makeup is always done complete with eye shadows and lipstick and a messy bun would never be acceptable for a hair styling. Comfort and convenience hold no ground here, this is a culture that values presentation.

4. Life can be played out slowly

My time here has showed me that in the United States we are always in a rush. We use a drive thru for our coffee and cars to drive a block. Here it is much slower. Walking to the store is part of the day, not a hassle. Drinking coffee at the cafe is a ritual, not a necessity.  I realized the slow lifestyle by dining in Italy. When you are given a table, it is your table. You are not rushed to order, eat, and leave; it is your table to enjoy as long as you please. Servers to constantly check up on you or quickly remove dishes. They let you enjoy your food and company. It is a slow paced lifestyle that is designed to soak in the moment rather than feeling rushed towards the next task.

5. Adventures come from the unexpected

Before heading out on my travels I usually had some sense of where I was going. Of course there were surprises here and there but I had a general grasp of where I was visiting. I knew the food to expect, I had seen pictures of sights I would see, and an idea of the culture. This always made for an enjoyable trip. But the real thrill would come from somewhere I had no expectations of. This place was Turkey. I had no picture in my mind of what it would be like. Without an preconceived notions of the country I was able to be free and explore all it had to offer. It brought adventure and a newfound love as Turkey has become my favorite country.  Leaving room for the unexpected is sometimes better than having a plan.