Adjusting back to life in The States

I am not the most emotional person, but I will never forget the feeling that I got when I was walking to my terminal at the airport in Torino, Italy. I had not shed a tear about leaving up until this moment, but my eyes filled with tears because it became real that I was leaving the country that had become my home for the past month and a half. Although 6 weeks sounds like such a short time to most, but when you are completely taken outside of your comfort zone, 6 weeks feels like 6 months. I was now leaving the whole new life that I had built, completely removing myself from my apartment in the city, my friends that I made, all of the amazing weekend getaways, and so much more. I cannot even put into words how rewarding this experience was.

Trying to follow the Italian culture was hard because the people do not smile and say “hi” to each on the streets. Being from below the Mason-Dixon line, I have been raised to make conversation with strangers and be cordial with them on the street. I quickly learned that Italians saw this to be insulting and that I had bad intentions. This became one of my hardest habits to break. So, when I arrived in Atlanta, I had extreme culture shock!

One of the most interesting parts of my culture shock, was being able to eavesdrop on people’s conversations. I had been completely immersed in a different language, and I never really knew exactly people were talking about while I was gone. I was completely overwhelmed being able to actually hear what SO many people were saying around me.

On my flight from Atlanta to Louisville, I was extremely shocked to finally be reunited with ice-cubes in my drink! The cup was so much larger than any that I had while I was living in Italy. Also having pretzels and being able to read the package label was different. This short flight was reminding me of how different life is in Kentucky.

In Torino, there wasn’t Uber so I didn’t spend much time in actual cars for long periods of time. When my family, picked me up in the airport and drove me home, it was different to be in an actual large vehicle again, with air conditioning! Cars were so small in Italy, and my parent’s Ford Flex actually felt like a bus to me.

My first meal back was Cracker Barrel, and the service industry is so much different in America. The servers are constantly checking on you and making sure your needs are met, and in Europe, the servers only take your order and bring your food, you even have to ask for the check! It felt amazing to have LARGE portions of food, but more importantly breakfast food because I was only able to have pastries and mini cups of coffee for such a long period of time.

It crazy how the smallest parts of life in America such as: free water, ice, cheap peanut butter, air conditioning, and services, are taken for granted, and can be very hard to adjust pack to in America.

Culture Shock- Language!

It never really hit me that I was flying all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, from all my friends and family, to a country where I did not speak the native tongue, until I got there. Wow, that sounds pretty crazy when I put it into words. All I had heard when I would tell people that I was studying abroad in Italy, was that “You will be fine! They speak English in Italy!”, well let me tell you… that is not the case in Torino. I first figured this out when I arrived in the airport, and I was greeted with the hustle and bustle of so many people running into each and not even saying I’m sorry! I ended up eating lunch at the airport, and ordering food for the first time. This experience was interesting because it was a mixture of pointing and smiling, trying to be as a polite as possible.

My non-verbal communication skills were put to the test my first few days in Italia, and I am forever thankful for this. The main example that I have of this is the relationship that I built with the older man that owned a cafe on the street that I was living on. I quickly was becoming a regular at Cafe de Marconi, and one morning a man came up and started speaking Italian to me, and I could understand that he was talking about an older couple had been married for 50 years and still shared their lunch everyday. Mr. Daniele then sat down with me, and I ended up having to tell him that I didn’t speak Italian, and he didn’t speak an English. We still were able to communicate, and he told me all about the city through broken language and of course, Google Translate. He would take my notebook and draw maps of the city of restaurants and gelato places that I needed to try. My favorite part of the morning, was always stopping by to share my adventures with my friend. The day we met was still gives me chills and brings a smile to my face when I think about it. The small moments that you don’t expect to happen are the reason that I fell in love with traveling.

If I were to redo my experience, I would have learned more of the language before I left The States. I should not have expected most people to speak English. When I first arrived, people would point and whisper under their breath, “Americana,” which means American girl because there is not tourism in Torino. By the time I left Italy, people would come up to me and ask for directions because they thought that I was a local, and this was one of the best feelings. I would definitely not study in an English speaking country. Completely immersing myself in a new culture forced me to be completely out of my comfort zone, and made me think quick on my feet. The skills I gained from this experience have changed who I am, and prepared me to take on adulthood and my future career.