At the beginning of January, I left the small town of Glenside, PA and Arcadia University for a foreign country where I don’t speak the language, and I definitely don’t know anybody. And yet, I managed to fall in love with the city of Perugia, Italy, and I haven’t looked back since.
I am currently attending the Umbra Institute in Perugia for the semester, Being here for a few weeks now, I have been able to settle in to the Italian lifestyle a bit and see some of what this city has to offer. The staff at my school are so helpful and kind, and the classes only make my abroad experience more enriching and give me a deeper understanding for Italy and its people. However, for anyone considering studying abroad, I don’t think you want an elevator pitch as to why I love my school. Instead, I’d like to share with you the realities of my first few weeks here.
To start off, I have to admit that airports and traveling are very stressful. And unlike some people who study abroad here, I did not come with friends from home, which did not ease my anxiety in the least bit. Against all of the stressors though, everyone in my program were all so nice from the start, and unlike freshman orientation in college, it was so much less awkward. Everyone here has a similar mindset about what they want out of their semester here, and they all have goals to adventure, which was an easy way for everyone to bond for sure.
While the people in the program did make life easier at first, the culture shock was there, and it was definitely an adjustment (and still is) to go into a grocery store and not be able to understand the labels and the cashiers. Learning the language has been a big barrier, even with having taken Italian classes in the past, but putting in the effort in every situation does make a big difference in being able to learn quickly. It is also important to ask for help since Italians really do appreciate when you try to learn their language, rather than just say “Sorry, I don’t speak Italian,” as you can imagine. However, I found that it is important to know that not everyone is so accommodating for you, and you just have to accept that you are still a visitor to the locals even when you are trying your best to fit in. This is the exception, but it is a reality.
Having only been here for a few weeks, I have so much to learn still, namely in the language, but it really has been a great experience so far and I want to continue to interact with the locals and create bonds I would not be able to at home. There are so many opportunities here in academics, extracurriculars, volunteering, making friends from all over the world (I could go on), and I can’t wait to see where this semester takes me, both literally and figuratively. I really believe Perugia was the best choice for me, and I am so glad to be 6765km away from home.