While it has been very exciting to get to know this new culture, it has also been difficult to integrate into the Viterbo community as a foreigner. One reason it is hard is due to the language barrier. I know so little Italian that it is hard to have conversations with local students and adults. My main interactions with people I do not know have been ordering food in restaurants and cafes. Another reason why it is hard to integrate into the community is being constantly surround by American students. I live with American students, go to school with American students and usually hang out in my free time with American students. It is not surprising that we get into the habit of interacting with Americans, as it is comforting to talk to someone who you can relate to. It is a lot easier to to talk to other American students because you don’t have those frustrating moments where you don’t know how to say something or you just can’t understand each other. Now that I have lived in Viterbo for about 1 and half months, I have thought of some ways for students, like me, to break out of their comfort zone. I have tried a few ways already and others I plan to try before I leave.
1. 1.Traveling Alone. I know this can sound pretty intimidating and nerve-wracking as you are in another country by yourself. But I think traveling alone really can help break the comfort zone. For someone like me who needs a push to interact with others, it is pretty uncomfortable. You are literally by yourself so you are forced to interact with others. When I first got to Viterbo, I traveled around the city with other American students. The more outgoing students in the group ended up being the ones that interacted with locals and even ordered food for me in Italian. I realized that I wasn’t doing much of the talking. So, a week later I began traveling to the bank, post office and cafes alone. I learned how to order and how to say different foods by walking around alone. While alone, I also find myself more willing to talk to other people. The other day when I walked into a pizza shop, I struck up a conversation with the worker. I used the Italian phrases I know so far and felt pretty good about it. Usually when I go into food shops with friends, we are too busy talking with each other to practice our Italian. So, being alone helps me talk to people more.
2. Meeting with a language partner. Interestingly enough, my study abroad program sets Italian and American students together for language partners. This is a great idea as it is very useful in improving your language skills. A language partner is an Italian student who is trying to improve their language skills. They can practice their English while you practice your Italian. So far my language partner and I met up for lunch and met up at a party. Doing different activities is fun because we are really able to get to know each other that way. Unfortunately for me, we have mainly been speaking in English. I have been kind of shying away from speaking Italian. I only know so much so I am not able to have much of a conversation. But my goal when we see each other next is to spend the first half hour trying to say as much as I can in Italian. I think a language partner can be very useful if you make the most of your time together and practice the language.
3. Making Italian Friends. Making friends can be pretty hard when you don’t know the language, like me. But I highly suggest it. Obviously making friends will help you understand the culture a whole lot better than solely observing. So far, I have made a few Italian friends who have taken me out to parties and different places around the city. They have also been very helpful in telling me the Italian way of life in their experience. I have learned what students my age to for fun, what their families do, what is acceptable in a grocery store,etc. It is also very comforting to have friends a way from home who you can connect with and share interests with.
4. Visiting/Meeting with an Italian Family.
This is something I have not yet done but plan to do in the coming weeks. So from what I assume, meeting with a family can be very useful. Meeting with a family will of course give you a taste of Italian family life. You will be able to get another chance to learn about cultural practices and behaviors. You will also be by yourself which ,again, will force you to have more conversation.
Ciao! Mi chiamo Kamillah. I am studying at Universita della Tuscia this semester in Viterbo, Italy. I am from Northampton, Massachusetts in the United States. I go to school at Goucher College in Maryland. I am studying sociology. I am not sure what I would like to do with my career at the moment. Possibly, I would like to go into real estate or international relations. This year is my final year in school. I also run track and field at my college. I have been running on a team for 8 years and I really enjoy it. I run the 100 meter, 200 meter and 4 by 1 relay. I chose to go to Viterbo Italy for a couple reasons. I am very interested in how different cultures interact with each other, whether its cultural or political comparisons. Italy has a very interesting history with the United states as there have been years where Italy and United States have been very distance and periods where both countries influenced each other very much. The Usac program in Viterbo offers classes where I am able to closely study this relationship. Viterbo is also a smaller,authentic city as compared to Turin or Rome. I felt like Viterbo would give me more of an Italian feel and I would be able to observe the Italian way of life better. (Which is true) So far, I am really enjoying living in Viterbo.