One Month More

Kristi Stringer Umbra Institute, Italy


March 25, 2015

It feels like yesterday I was just starting to get the handle of ordering an espresso and croissant, and now I’m getting emails about adjusting to life back in America. I only have one more month in Italy! I got quite overwhelmed with the feelings of it all; on the one hand I miss my friends and family like crazy, but on the other I’m not quite ready for this journey to end. Also at the end of my time here is the end of my time as a college student, which means adult job, adult responsibilities, adult life. A lot to expect from a woman who forgot to check the weather and left her clothes outside to dry in a rainstorm. And as other students in the library start to talk about picking classes and filling out FAFSA (one perk of not having a next semester) my heart starts to beat faster and I can feel my left eye twitch from the anxiety of this departure from reality coming to a close. But instead of crawling under my covers and hiding, which was my first plan, I decided to focus on the positives and list all the things I can wait to see when I get back to America. Think positive, right?

  1. Family and friends. Although it may feel like the world across the ocean has stopped since I left, I know it really hasn’t. Family and friends are getting in new relationships, going to film festivals (Hey True/False friends!), moving and getting new jobs. It will be so nice to sit down and catch up, share our old inside jokes and reminisce. I miss being able to go home and watch movies with my family, to tuck my little brother in at night, and having my strong support group. Even with skyping and messaging, it’s the longest I’ve ever been away from home and it will be nice to hug the people I love.
  2. Now, I am in the Food Studies program so I can extoll all day long about the pleasures of a sustainable wine, the delicacy of strawberry gelato, the unique flavor profile of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and so on. However, there are several things that are almost universally missed among students studying in America, and I’ve decided to put them all here, so this list is a manageable length. Peanut butter. Yellow cheese (which Italians don’t think is a real thing). ANY non-Italian food, including but not limited to Mexican, Indian, Thai, Greek, and American food. Also, the concept of delivery food is not something you will find in Perugia, or most Italian cities. Real breakfast food like waffles, pancakes, hash browns, omelets, French toast and so on aren’t something you can find. Although there is an abundance of fresh, Italian products, variety is something you won’t find easy in Italy, and as someone who grew up eating different styles almost every day, it’s something I miss.
  3. Yes, I know that it is more energy efficient to air dry clothing, and I know it’s not that big of a deal. But I wasn’t joking earlier about leaving my clothes outside while it rained. It takes 2 days or more just to wash and dry your clothes here, which means you will end up wearing the same shirt, or even the same outfit, over and over if you don’t plan your laundry carefully. That wears on you, especially if you’re used to your clothes being done in a couple of hours.
  4. A faster pace of life. I know people complain that our world has gotten too fast and we don’t appreciate the little things anymore; and I would like to take those people to an Italian market and make them wait in line behind ten people while everyone counts out the exact change, cent by cent. Then watch as their face gets red as the customers leisurely put their receipts in their wallets, their wallets in their purses or pockets and THEN bags their groceries. Now it has been nice to stroll along sidewalks and enjoy the sights of Italy in a leisurely manner. But sometimes you just need to get stuff done, and don’t need to take an hour to do it. I always joke everyone can tell I’m American from 100 yards away because I’m the fastest walker on the street, and it’s true, but soon I will blend in the crowd of other busy people doing their busy things. And it will be great.
  5. Hearing English again. Now I don’t speak all Italian all day, but I look forward to being able to understand people when they are talking around me, to have friendly exchanges with shop people, to know how to go to the pharmacy and explain exactly what I need without using elaborate charades and dictionaries. I have enjoyed putting my skills to the test and being able to communicate with people I never could have before, but it takes a lot of effort to constantly translate in your head what people are trying to say to you, then have to translate back in order to respond. So to be back in a predominantly English-speaking country will be a nice break for my brain.

I know this post may come off as unappreciative or like I’m bashing Italy and its people, but it’s really not. Even talking to ex-pats who have been living in Italy for five or more years, and wouldn’t dream of moving back, you hear similar concerns and complaints. It’s part of adjusting to a new culture that you weren’t raised in, and it hits everyone at some point. And as I try not to panic about what the future after leaving Italy may bring, it’s nice to think about the good things that are waiting for me.

So this post isn’t too anti-Italy, I’ve included pictures of my favorite Italian meals, places and friends I have made here that I will surely miss whenever I am back in America. I’m in Parma and Modena this weekend, so after I will be writing about the unsung small towns in Italy I have visited so far. It will include great views and great food! Until next time, ciao!