Trumping On Abroad

Bridget Michael Rome Internship Program, Italy


November 14, 2016

By now I’m sure it’s hard to discuss the political atmosphere in America, but it’s even harder to discuss this topic abroad. Why is that? Well, for the most part, discussion has been dropped. The hype and excitement has left, and the world around me seems to be moving on. This is a strange situation to be in. Being in a country that is no longer focusing on American politics, but at the same time viewing the political unrest in my country through social media and online news articles, creates a sort of parallel universe.

My own political views aside, this was a large topic that I was confronted with in every country I had visited these last few months. From the moment I stepped foot abroad, I was placed in the roll of ambassador for America, answering questions about the candidates, bluntly asked my own views, and meant to create dialogue about this large topic the whole world was sitting on the edge of their seats watching.

I feel I have been in a unique situation because I intern at a university radio station. Daily, the radio reported on the newest events leading up to the general election, and the Italian millennials were just as interested in the political scene as we millennials were in America. Being removed from the actual circumstances, my colleagues and Italian friends found jokes to make about our potential candidates, as most of the world did. None the less, this was an exciting topic everyone was ready to discuss. The day of the election, I walked into work and was asked, “are you ready for today?” I responded that I was nervous for my country as the world watched us decide our fate, but also the fate of the world. The day after the election, I was greeted with a sort of sympathetic round of laughter, comments about how Italy went through 20 years of Berlusconi, but nothing too substantial. It was hard for me to discuss the election on my radio show that day. My boss told me to smile from my stomach so I sounded happier on air, but that was all. Now, almost a week later, there is no discussion. The questions have stopped. Everyone around me has moved on. However, it is very clear that my own country has not.

I think these are an important circumstances to reflect on. While abroad, you do miss out on the life at home. While it might not be something as monumental as the widespread political unrest currently taking place, you will always have this feeling of the world moving on without you. It’s a surreal feeling of being situated between parallel universes. You are forging a new path and growing all on your own, and you are linked with the world you left, but that, too, is moving on without you. Being between these two worlds, it’s hard to find balance or understanding. The day after the election when everyone made jokes and moved on, I felt like no one understood the immense shock I was going through. But now, being so far removed from the unrest in America, I feel out of place for not being outraged to the extent of my friends and family. In both circumstances, I feel out of place, and this is a feeling that is unfortunately very familiar in a study abroad experience; you’re hanging in the balance between the life you knew and the life you are making.

In this situation, it’s easy to fall into the current world I am in where everyone is moving on, but it’s also unsettling to see half my country taking part in large political movements. In less than a month, I will be back in America, and confronted with this situation once more. Do I move on like the Italians have for as long as possible, or do I begin to immerse myself in the realities of the country I will return to? This is the question I am left with during my last 32 days in Rome.