At the turn of the century, my great-grandparents left Italy in order to establish themselves in America. They were trying desperately to find their place in the New World.

They helped to create a lifestyle that I am thankful to live by today. Now here I am, 100 years later, trying to find my place in Italy as I study abroad.

I grew up with my heritage, but being in Italy has made me realize for the first time in my life that I am not Italian, I am American. I look American, dress American, act American and speak American ? English is for the British around here ? and no matter how hard I try to assimilate to being Italian, I am just an American in Italy.

However, I am willing to do what it takes to adapt to new ways and fully become a part of the Italian culture. I am open to letting go of my American habits and taking on those of a European in order to truly experience Italy and its way of life.

It is important to be open-minded, willing and ready for what life presents you if you are going to study abroad. Before departing, I freed myself of any impressions so I could let Italy imprint itself on me.

It is doing a wonderful job so far ? sometimes I really have to concentrate to absorb what is around me. I already feel a comfortable connection with Italians and their ways. The old lesson “when in Rome, do as the Romans” has never been more true.

This has been the philosophy I have lived by since living in Italy ? and it is working out well. I am having a wonderful time discovering Italy and myself in the meantime.

I have seen and done many great things in just three weeks ? found an appreciation for Renaissance art, been to churches in Cortona and Siena, been to the antique fair of Arezzo, seen the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, gone shopping at the market in Florence and been to Carnavale in Venice.

Each new day is stimulating and an adventure. I have been abroad for over three weeks now, yet it seems like yesterday I was navigating my way through the airport in Rome in search of the train station.

It was at about that point I realized I was going to have a big problem ? communication. To find yourself in Italy, not knowing a word of Italian is not the most comforting feeling. But it has been my challenge, and so far I have been championing it.

When I moved into Santa Caterina?a boarding school for high school and university aged Italian girls, I was introduced to my two roommates who spoke very little English.

Although we didn’t talk much at first, they were warm and welcoming and made me feel very much at home.

I have found that most Italians I have met thus far are extremely hospitable.

Gradually my interactions with my Italian roommates grew from salutations to small talk, and now after three weeks of language classes and immersion into the Italian lifestyle, I am able to hold normal conversations with them and other friends I have made at the school.

Communication is challenging, but fun. I have become accustomed to a whole new way of having a conversation which involves dictionaries, body language, gesturing, and even drawing.

I still have a hard time understanding Italians when they are talking together amongst friends, but I can still pick up on what they are saying through body language and tone of voice.

It is a whole new method to understanding others and it takes practice, something I have had plenty of recently. I have learned that interactions and relationships amongst people are universal, no matter what language you comfortably speak.

Language differences can act as slight detours, however they are by no means ultimate barriers.

I have met many great people and made many friends in the short time I have been here. I have never felt more welcomed by everyone I encounter.

Italy is amazing and studying abroad is an experience I know I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Frustino can be reached at jfrustino@campustimes.org.



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