I think what surprised me the most was the language barrier with the locals in town. I took 2 semesters of Italian last summer and remembered a little, but I think actually being immersed in the culture and hearing people talk to each other a million miles a minute was intimidating at first. But I’m picking up phrases and the things I learned in class are coming back to me slowly. Also the way they speak it so fluently is beautiful and motivating for me to get to that level one day too! It also makes me really appreciate the Italian culture as a whole and I have realized that in order to get the full experience of studying abroad, you have to take on the habitual practices and social norms of the country you are in. I am very much enjoying learning about Italian cuture in Arezzo and look forward to continuing to educate myself. Hopefully I will return to the US with a greater understanding of the European lifestyle!
Before coming here I had tried not to imagine too much what it would be like. I wanted to be surprised and experience Arezzo and the Accademia as it happened rather than comparing it to my expectations.
I love how much me move in a day in addition to classes. The walk into town has become a familiar ritual, one that wouldn’t fit well into our fast paced lives in America. I knew that Italians were more relaxed in regards to time than the average American but it was still a surprise to be living somewhere that completely shuts down between 1 and 3.
I still find dealing with my limited Italian very frustrating. However, it makes me even more aware of how important it is to learn about any culture alternative to our own. I can’t wait to explore more of Tuscany and other regions in Italy!
1. I’m surprised by how helpful and friendly everyone is. They want to help you succeed and improve, whether you’re ordering gelato, or buying a towel. I think that when people respond to you in Italian they believe you really know the language and they’re more surprised than you are that you don’t know it very well. Also, the food here is great and everything is gorgeous.
2. I was expecting it to be a lot harder to get around… I was also not expecting to be in as much pain as I am in… but it’s good pain. Also that hill up to town and then up to the villa on the way back is killer. I was not expecting that.
3. America is flat and ugly. Seriously.
From my American culture-smothered upbringing, my entire conception of the Italian nightlife was built on the backs of Eurotrip, Eurotrip, and Eurotrip. I’m not validating Eurotrip as a good film in the slightest, but it really was the most forceful portrayal of this continent in an American youth’s life at the time. That said, the nights of Italy appeared to be driven by the fuels of, alcohol, MDMA, metrosexuality, and hardcore trance beats – with the stenches of sweat and lust pouring forth into the night air from the twenty seven story clubs that appeared on every street corner, the echoes of the dance and cheers filling the star-lit sky. It was to put American clubbing into its rightful place at the bottom of the trash heap.
That said, I was swiftly struck by the hard backhand of reality. First of all, it’s against the rules for guys to dance in Italy. For real. YOU DO NOT DANCE AND YOU WILL LIKE NOT DANCING. In the overtly fashion driven male population of Italy, you apparently can’t dance or lest be perceived as feminine. These are the guys wearing eyeliner and Levi’s Super Skinnys judging you on this. Second, the music is… odd. Take the basis songs for Kidz Bop: Dance Party and insert an Italian man screaming English catchphrases over the music at rhythmically unsound intervals. Thirdly (thricely?), half the people there are over thirty. College clubbing this is not – standing around at a loud pop dance party is a lifelong dedication around here. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that – but it’s a change of pace from seeing over-sexed twenty year olds slobbering over each other in a blacklight glazed stupor.
All things said and done, Italian clubbing is not the thumping Eurodance nirvana that you’re expecting. However, this place is too damned gorgeous and too filled with everything else to do for that one tiny aspect to impact your experience in the slightest.
Living at the Accademia, I have been surprised at how much rapidly moving to a new place can be so jarring. I have become more accustomed to the living situation now (2 weeks later), but between the new culture, the time difference, and the new home, there were a lot of things to adjust to.
I was expecting to become adjusted easily and love everything from the get go, but to be honest I was extremely frustrated with the schedule at first (as it is very demanding). Now that my body and mind are becoming more accustomed to the regular pattern of activities here, I am enjoying myself much more.
I have now much more appreciation/respect for anyone who lives abroad for an extended period of time. It may be beautiful and glorious (depending where you go), but it is very difficult-at least in my experience- to adjust to a new way of living so quickly.