It has now been a month since I have returned home from my four months abroad in Italy. I already look back on the days when I could walk by the Duomo and munch on a cannoli anytime I wanted like they were a dream. I’m sure you’ve probably heard it a million times, as did I, but a semester abroad truly does go by in the blink of an eye.
Before leaving for Italy, I read a lot about “reverse culture shock,” which is when you struggle to readjust to your home environment after adjusting to a different culture. I expected to experience more of this, but when I returned home it felt surprisingly easy to slip back into normal life. There were aspects of Italian culture I loved and wished terribly I could “bring back” to America with me (like their affordable, delicious food made from fresh, organic, and local ingredients), but simultaneously there were many things about Italian culture I was excited to leave behind (such as the dirty, litter-filled streets and the taboo over putting milk in your coffee after 11am). I had been fed many messages at study abroad orientations that living abroad would often make you question your own country’s culture and practices, but for the most part, living abroad showed me there were things to love and appreciate about America I had never even noticed. For example, in Italy, apartments and homes generally have heating, but no air conditioning. The heat is regulated by the government, and it can only be turned on between a certain date in November and a certain date in April, set to a maximum temperature of 68 degrees, and for a maximum of 12 hours per day (also within specific time frames). This might sound to some like a great idea to conserve resources, but in practice it worked pretty terribly because this year, Italy experienced a fairly warm winter as well as their coldest spring since the 1950s. My roommates and I had to open our apartment windows during the winter to keep from sweating when the heater kicked on, but after April passed and the heat shut off, we were sleeping in fuzzy socks and sweatshirts in May. This issue made me realize that not only am I thankful I have “big freedoms” in America such as freedom of speech and the right to vote, but that I also have “little freedoms” like the ability to turn my heat on whenever I want (and am willing to pay for). This is just one small example of how Italians live differently from Americans.
I am so thankful for this chance that I had to experience a new culture while also deepening my appreciation for my home culture. I will always long to go back to Italy, and I highly recommend that if you have the chance to study abroad, DO IT! 🙂