“While you are here you must live the Italian lifestyle.”
This was the advice offered to me by multiple people when I arrived in Sesto, Italy, ready and eager to begin my semester abroad.
I nodded sagely to this somewhat ambiguous comment, but in reality I had no idea the significance of that one simple sentence. I was in Italy, what lifestyle would I be leading besides an Italian one?
Now, months later, I think back to that long ago advice and smile.
Italy is an amazing place, but it’s one that runs at its own pace. It is a place where the stores close for a couple of hours each day, where it’s impossible to find anything open on Sunday, and where visiting a store is a social event as well as an errand.
At first these things frustrated me; they were so alien from the way America ran I was sure these Italians were creating the biggest inconvenience possible for us lowly tourist.
But then I took a look around, took in the setting sun over the Tuscan landscape, and it finally sunk in that I was not in America anymore. So I took that simple advice, and I began to live the Italian lifestyle.
Every day I go to class and I take my own special post-class siestas. I take random strolls through the villa gardens, sometimes plopping on benches to daydream or sketch a scene. My natural speed walk has slowed to a slow mosey, and the need to rush has been left behind in America.
The little things that so frequently frustrate tourists are now simply a part of my everyday life. I’m no longer the frustrated tourist I was when I first arrived; I am in that wonderful middle ground between tourist and native, a visitor that “lives the Italian lifestyle.”
I only hope that all of my fellow travelers have reached this point and left their preconceived notions of how life should be behind. To truly take advantage of the opportunity study abroad represents, you must fully embrace your host country. The cries of “if this were America” must be left behind, because you are not in American anymore.
I know the American experience, I’ve lived if for twenty years, but now I also have a little piece of the Italian experience to take back with me. To me, that is a priceless gift.
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