42. That’s how many days I have left to prepare myself both physically and mentally for one of the most culturally enriching, self-exploratory, riskiest, and most fun experiences of my life thus far. Now, for someone who is just 20 years old sitting in her apartment staring out onto the roof of a Subway sandwich shop, this imminent future of self-discovery and cultural growth is a lot to take in. I like to consider myself a pretty “worldly” person. Besides traveling a great deal with my parents in the last 20 years, I come from a family that has instilled cultural relativism into my values. This sense of understanding how the surrounding cultural influences have developed the daily lives and beliefs of the locals doesn’t come from sitting at the resort with pina colada in hand. That is why I have decided that to truly get the most out of my study abroad experience, I have got to be able to culturally relate to and immerse myself in lives of the people that will surround me for the next three months.
I have to learn to be Italian in six weeks or less
Lucky for me, there are a few God-given qualities that will make my transition to Italian citizen (visa status pending) a little smoother:
1. Look like an Italian: My 50% Eastern European looks have allowed me to travel and not stick out immediately as an overzealous tourist. To boot, Italian (along with Spanish, Armenian, and Guatemalan -look out for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” reference) is a normal guess to the roots of my ethnicity, so it looks like I’m going to blend in well.
2. Feel like an Italian: I grew up outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania and just minutes from Old Forge, Pennsylvania. With an Italian population making up 42.3% [www.city-data.com], Old Forge is the self-proclaimed Pizza Capital of the World, so I guess you could say I have been exposed to Italian culture (haha).
But besides the God-given rights that will allow me to slip inconspicuously into Italian culture, there is a lot of prep work I have been doing to get myself ready.
3. Learn Italian: Since purchasing my copy of Teach Yourself Italian from Amazon.com for $0.79, I have embarked on a linguistically fascinating journey to turn as many English words I know into eloquent Italian. For example, by simply changing the emphasis on syllables, you can turn the English “spa-ghetti” into Italian “spa-GE-tti”. So even if you don’t know Italian, there has got to be a way to fake it (at least for a little).
4. Dress like an Italian: It’s no secret that Italy is one of the fashion capitals of the world. So, its no secret that my Big Red Cheerleading t-shirts and jean shorts are not going to fly in Italia. Thanks to the advice of some dashing Alpha Phis and Florence study abroad alums, I am expanding my wardrobe this summer with trendy dresses and boots and perhaps an Internazionale jersey to take on a more Euro look so as not to be disregarded by the Italians.
5. Eat Gelato: no preparation necessary.
6. Have confidence: Italians are passionate, beautiful, and strong-willed. To know one, you gotta be one. That is why I am going into this venture as a full-fledged confident Italian. And while I joke about the little things (i.e. numbers 1-5 above) that may or may not make me Italian, having confidence, class, and a willingness to learn will carry me the furthest in this journey into exploring Italian cultures and living as the Romans do.
With six weeks til my August 30 departure out of Logan Airport in Boston, I will continue to study up on my Italian and enjoy the comfort of home and friends. But come August 30, I promise to keep my readers updated as often as possible. Excuse me while I go add the Lizzie McGuire Movie to my Italian inspired Netflix queue. I leave you with this video of Peter from Family Guy using his Italian confidence to grocery shop!