My Trip to Italy
I stood in the town square of the small village. Like any other normal day, people were going about their day-to-day business. Old men sat on a wooden bench beneath a large tree and predicted this year’s crop. Women shared town gossip as they shopped for groceries, and children sucked on lollipops while they played along the cobblestone streets. However, unlike any other day, the whole crowd had stopped in unison and darted their eyes in my direction, their full attention on me. I heard hushed whispers as I passed by the crowd, “Americano!” “Oh mio Dio, guarda com’è alto!” I lowered my head as I thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing here? I’m in a country where I don’t know the language or the culture, and I have another nine and a half months until I go home!” I didn’t know it then, but those nine and a half months that lay in front of me would be the experience that would challenge my views and goals and help shape the person I am today.
My journey started when I came to the conclusion that, after high school, I wanted (and needed) a break. My senior year had been less than perfect, as I didn’t apply myself, was lazy, partied, and lost my parents’ trust and respect. I was a man without direction or a purpose, and knew that college would be just like high school but with more parties and less parental supervision. I quickly decided that instead of going straight to college, I would take a year off and participate in an exchange program. I’m part Italian, and I’ve always had a desire to trace my roots and to experience Italy and “la dolce vita” or “the sweet life.” When I signed the papers to go to Italy for the exchange program, I pictured myself lying in a hammock on a beach, surrounded by three beautiful Italian girls in bikinis feeding me grapes. However, the realization of actually being in Italy was a slap across the face as I started to experience the true Italian lifestyle.
Living in a town of 1,800 Italians was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The first months were extremely trying; I didn’t speak any Italian, and everyday things that I took for granted back home suddenly became a struggle. The most obvious of the differences between the two cultures was the language. I quickly picked up a few key-words like “My name is,” and “I like,” and I had all the cuss words mastered within the first few weeks. However, I had the vocabulary of a 5-year-old and the mind of a 17-year-old and I was going insane! My host family was very hospitable but also very serious and meticulous. They liked things put in their place and wanted them to stay that way. I had to put all my clothes away neatly in my closet, make my bed every morning, and turn the computer and lights off after I used them.
It wasn’t all bad,...