Over my Spring Break 2022, I spent a week in Rome, Italy. This trip is so special to me; I learned a lot, and met a multitude of new people. Really, though, what was most enjoyable to me was exploring a new city and all the differences the culture had to offer. I was only there a short time, but by the end of the trip I felt like I could never leave and feel right at home! If I could go back, or if I go on a different trip soon, I would remember to not be afraid to just throw myself into the hustle and bustle of the city, as well as interact with the locals as much as possible. There’s only so much the internet can tell you; the locals always know best!
My first couple days in Rome were mostly spent in awe, taking in all the sights. Everyone was speaking a different language, wearing different clothes, and pushing me out of the way to get where they were going. One part of Rome that I especially loved was that it didn’t feel filled to the brim with tourists. Even at the most famous sites, there wasn’t a swarm of cameras pointed at everything in sight. This does mean, however, that there aren’t a lot of people that can speak English. That being said, I was really afraid of interacting with people my first couple days in the city. I thought they’d make fun of me for trying to speak broken Italian, or just simply ignore me all together. Yet, when I broke out of my shell a little bit, I found this wasn’t the case at all. Pointing and gesturing sufficed for basic communication, and everyone was really willing to help out. I remember on my second day, me and two friends went into a pizza shop. None of us could speak Italian, and the lady in the store did not know a single word of English. There was a lot of confused pointing, waving, and head nodding, but we eventually got our pizzas and everyone involved was amused at the situation; we all looked very silly!
About halfway through the trip I was still convinced that although the Italians were nice when I approached them, they still had no interest in engaging with me. But one night me and a friend were hanging out at an outdoor restaurant, and all of a sudden a random Italian approached us. He just started talking in heavily-accented English about his life, his travels, and his opinions about the US. He was so interesting to talk to, and it made me realize that maybe if I was bolder like him I could be meeting really cool people. He even told me where we could listen to really good jazz music – this was not something I would have known without talking to him!
All in all, if I ever go back I will definitely try to interact with the locals more. This is obviously easier said than done, especially in a new, big city, but if you set the intention it will happen. All it takes is one conversation to realize everyone is not as scary as you might think!
Allison Jackson (BA Spanish) spent Spring Break 2022 in Rome, Italy as part of a faculty-led trip linked with a UTC course. Allison had the following to say about study abroad, “Don’t be afraid to talk to the locals!”
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