By: Anna Drummond, a rising junior at Texas A&M.
You can only prepare so much for a trip to somewhere you’ve never been before to experience things that are so foreign to your daily routine. While rolling with the different obstacles that came my way these past 2 weeks in Rome and Florence, I found new appreciations for things I had taken for granted before this trip.
With every complaint that I had, came a positive for something either back home or here abroad. I’m learning on this trip that while something may not go as expected, it teaches me something new and useful for my time here or when I return to the states.
“How can this place not split my check? And why would they not take credit cards?”
This may have been my biggest complaint so far. I have truly taken this for granted in the states; I didn’t even know it was possible for a fully functioning restaurant to only do business with cash (euros). However, this has helped me to become more prepared for things, like now I always make sure to have cash on me and to make an effort to have a lot of small bills (like less than 20 euro bills) on me in order to split the check with my friends. Before, I never used to think about being prepared to pay for things, I often would even check my bank account at the cash register (disregard this, Mom).
“Why would a taxi driver not be able to take credit cards?”
I’m so used to using Uber which is a taxi company that is based off of an app and is able to just charge your credit card for each ride, and also doesn’t expect a tip at your destination. The cab fares here, and the fact that they don’t ever accept credit cards has made me appreciate the ability for me to walk everywhere throughout the city (relatively).
Usually if I haven’t been somewhere before I will take a cab there and then walk back to my dorm after, and from there on I will just walk both ways.
“The power is out… great.”
Within the past 24 hours our power at St. Johns has gone out twice. So imagine, no wifi in a foreign country, and no way for me to charge my electronics that I need for class (as assignments due dates are starting to kick in). But, my roommates and I have been hanging out at the other dorm a couple blocks away and it has been nice to venture out and see some faces that we normally wouldn’t see in our day to day dorm life.
“Can you please just speak English?”
At some places I have felt so frustrated by the language barrier, like restaurants, even our dorm lobby, or cab rides. But it reminds me to respect this country’s culture and their customs. It is my fault that I didn’t prepare adequately for this time abroad and while I play catch up on learning some common phrases I am reminded that when I get back to the states I shouldn’t be so quick to judge someone who doesn’t know my native language because maybe they are just acclimating like I am right now.
“Is there air conditioning here?”
I feel like I am in a constant heat wave, every place you walk into feels like a relief at first but then after 30 minutes you are wishing you were back outside. Normally I wouldn’t consider myself an “outdoorsy” type of person, at restaurants I would never choose to sit outside, and you would never really find me enjoying my evening on a park bench; but throughout these couple weeks I have shifted towards the outdoors. The breeze is so refreshing compared to the often stale indoors (I can’t believe I’m saying this) and I appreciate morning or evening walks so much more because the sun isn’t beating down on you.
My freshman year at Texas A&M I wasn’t able to live in the dorms because they were all full, so I had an apartment off campus. A lot of other freshmen lived there and it was very nice but there just wasn’t as much of a communal feel there. I’m enjoying being able to grab lunch or dinner people so easily because we all live in the same building, it has really helped Kate, Cassidy, and I meet a lot more people because we have been able to bond over meals and walking. This is something I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of or appreciate if I had just been renting an apartment here or if I was visiting Italy with a small group.
“There’s not ‘why-fy’?” (Direct quote, imagine me trying to act out that question to people who don’t speak English)
“Commit to connect.”
We discussed this at our first Community Club meeting which we have every week and go over different topics that most of us are facing day to day. Commit to connect means that we are committing to connect with the people in our program and make an effort to put down our phones and enjoy the experience that is right in front of us. Having limited internet and texting (while also being 7 hours ahead of the rest of the people we have left back home) I have learned to appreciate just taking in every moment simply looking around to absorb the experience that most people will never be able to have.
“My American straightener is not working…”
Our hair dryer basically doesn’t work and our straightener won’t even turn on. So its natural waves all day every day. But I enjoy it a lot. It’s nice not having to worry about my hair, especially when the weather doesn’t really allow for much “style hold” anyways. As the weeks go by I find myself acclimating here and getting a lot more comfortable being here, mentally as well.
These are just initial light-hearted complaints that I found myself thinking throughout the past 2 weeks. I’m thankful for my time here so far and for everything that lies ahead. It’s so wonderful being able to learn about a different culture and to compare it to my own in an effort to grow and hopefully help others grow around me.
Until next time,