Heart of the Renaissance: Arrival

They say most people go through specific phases when living abroad. They begin with the honeymoon phase, where they are in awe and excited and happy about everything they see. Then they move to the culture shock phase, where they have difficulty adjusting to a new culture and miss home. It did not go this way for me, so be prepared that it might not for you either. For me, it was the opposite. My arrival into Italy was accompanied by culture shock and it took several days for me to feel like I appreciated Italy at all. This was in large part, however, because I arrived in Italy very sick.

My arrival into Italy was not the most pleasant. Having suffered some major motion sickness on the 3 different flights over, I was not feeling well at all by the time I reached the airport in Rome. The airport was crowded and disorienting (it didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling well), but I was able to make my way to the baggage claim area and then the taxi area just fine. My first job was to get myself a taxi to take me to my apartment, which was easy since there were several parked right outside. The taxi driver loaded my bags into the car and I got in. This is when I experienced my first bit of culture shock.

I had imagined (from scenes I had seen in movies mostly) that Italians drove a bit fast and carelessly, but I was definitely not prepared for this taxi ride! Not only did the taxi driver drive incredibly fast, but he merged in and out of traffic in a way that told me there were no rules on Italian roads. He never waited for pedestrians to cross the street; instead he zoomed by, missing them by inches. If a car stopped in front of him because of traffic, he didn’t wait, he just honked his horn and went around, somehow getting past them in the narrow space available. All the swerving and fast driving only made me feel more sick, and I feared I might puke in the back seat. I tried to ask the taxi driver if we were close to our destination, but he only spoke a little English and all he could tell me was “not close.” I had to endure the ride longer, but I didn’t know how much more I could handle.

Had I not been so sick, I imagine I would’ve felt a little better about the situation. I did find it a little amusing the way he drove, knowing that in many countries the driving is similar, but it was also definitely shocking. I imagined this kind of driving in Asian countries mostly, not a European country like Italy. However, when I’m sick it’s difficult for me to see anything in a positive light.

From the car window I saw scenes of the city passing by. Sickness was suddenly joined by a feeling of fear and anxiety as I saw the neighborhood we were passing through. Graffiti plastered on what seemed like every inch of space (something I’m not accustomed to in my hometown), I did not feel like I was in a safe environment. The neighborhood looked dirty and beaten down. I worried maybe the extensive graffiti meant gangs ran wild here. I hoped this was not the neighborhood I was staying in while in Italy… It was.

I finally reached my destination, paid my taxi driver, and was met by someone from my study abroad program. He walked me to my apartment and chatted cheerfully with me. Feeling even more sick now, I told him I just wanted to lie down and sleep for a while when I got to my room. We got to the front door of my apartment building and I felt as if things had just gotten worse. A shabby, little door covered in multi-colored graffiti, it led through a dark hallway to a tiny, unimpressive apartment. Admittedly, I had expected something a bit grander, newer, so I was both surprised and disappointed. However, my upset stomach was my biggest problem at the moment and I laid down for the rest of the night.

I think it’s safe to say that my first day in Rome was not ideal, but I also know a large part of that had to do with me being sick. When I’m not feeling well, everything else seems much worse than it actually is. But I was finally met with that honeymoon phase I was promised. It took a couple days to adjust to things, but my experiences definitely got better as the days of the first week passed by. I was starting to fall in love with the graffiti-ridden, dirty, yet beautiful city that is Rome.

Here are some pictures I took on my taxi ride over… (I only took a couple since I was feeling so sick)….

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Pre-departure: Heart of the Renaissance Program

Today I am leaving for Rome, Italy. I will arrive there tomorrow evening and stay there for the next month. I’m very excited, but I’m also very apprehensive. I’ve been to Italy before, but it was with my family, a group, and a tour guide, so getting around was very easy and all planned out for me. This time I am going alone and I will be having to figure out things myself. I’m excited about this part, but also very nervous because I’ve never done this before. Also, last time I was in Italy (the only time I’ve ever been there) I didn’t visit Rome and I was only in the country for about 3 days. That’s not enough time to learn much about Italian culture, so I know very little about what my host culture will be like. I assume things based on stereotypes I heard and seen in movies. My perception at this point is this Italians will be very friendly and welcoming in general…and that at some point I may be greeted with big hugs and kisses on the cheeks.I expect Italian people to be true connoisseurs of food and wine (but perhaps that’s just because I know the food and wine there is supposed to be excellent). I also assume that Italians in general will be very verbal and loud. In movies, Italian people are always very talkative and loud. They like to celebrate and are happy and use lots of hand gestures while talking. This is, perhaps naively, the picture of Italians that I have in my head.


I think my host culture will almost certainly take some getting used to. If my perception is true, then I expect I may be a little uncomfortable with the greetings and possible intrusion into my personal space (my personal “bubble”), but I think it would also make me feel very welcomed and appreciated, so I think I would also like it. I, myself, am fairly loud and talkative and kind of dramatic, so I think I will fit in fine in that sense, as soon as I get to know people a little better. But in all, I’m not quite sure how I am going to fit in to this culture. I guess I will just have to wait and see!

Heart of the Renaissance: Italy and France

I’m supposed to start off by introducing myself and explaining why I chose my program, so here it goes…

My name is Ariel and I will be participating in the multi-country CISabroad program “Heart of the Renaissance: Italy and France.” In this program I will be spending a month in Rome, Italy, with a weekend trip to Florence, then another month in Paris, France.

I chose this specific program for many reasons. First of all, I’m an International Studies major, with a regional focus of Europe and language focus of French. Being an International Studies major requires me to study abroad for 2 months in order to receive my degree. I knew that I wanted to study abroad in France so that I could practice and perfect my French. I also knew I would prefer to study abroad in the summer, but many summer programs are less than 2 months long. This program is not only the perfect amount of time I need to study abroad, but it also focuses on countries in Europe (my regional focus) and I’ll get to spend a month in France working on my French.

I toured Europe a few years ago and I would have to say Italy was my favorite country that I visited (although I loved them all!) When I went, I visited Verona and Venice. I absolutely loved these cities and I wanted to see more of Italy. When I saw there was a program that included both France AND Italy, I was immediately interested. Now, I’ll be able to see Rome, Florence, and maybe a few more Italian cities!

Lastly, I wanted to participate in this program because of the art and language focus of the classes. As a linguistics minor, I absolutely love languages. I will be taking a beginning Italian class and an advanced French class. And I’ve always wanted to take an art history class and a photography class, both of which I will be taking during this study abroad experience. That’s why I knew this program was for me.