What Culture Shock Feels Like in a Foreign Country

I’ve been studying abroad at John Cabot University in the beautiful city of Roma, Italia for the past six weeks, and there have been a few things that are just like home and a few things that definitely came as a curve ball to me.


Since I first moved to Rome for the semester, I’ve come to realize that the mannerisms on the street, in cafes and restaurants, and in stores are very different. Growing up in New Jersey and visiting New York City very often, I’ve come to walk and talk like a New Yorker. This means that I am used to weaving in and out of crowds on the sidewalk and shoving my way through the busiest parts of the city. But walking around the streets in Rome is quite the opposite. Unlike New York, which is a gridiron, Roma has long winding streets that don’t always align like you would imagine. If you're walking through NYC, you can always find your way back to where ever you started by basically taking four lefts and you’re right back where you began. However, if you take four lefts on the streets of Rome it’s not as easy to retrace your steps. 

Similar to NYC, most people do walk everywhere even to the grocery store, which doesn't seem like a grueling task, but when you are shopping for the whole week, and have to walk 20 minutes back to your apartment, it gets difficult. The first time my friends and I took a trip to the grocery store, we got lost on our way there, and the trip was a 20 minute walk there and back. We definitely underestimated how much our bags would actually weigh, and ended up with sore necks by the time we got back to our apartment. Also, everyone in Rome uses reusable tote bags to carry their groceries and personal belongings. If you are carrying a plastic bag, you can be spotted as a tourist immediately. 

There is also a great transportation system in Rome, if you do not feel like walking to your destination. This is helpful especially if you're headed toward the Trevi Fountain or the Coliseum, which is a rather far walk from where I live in Trastevere. In Rome, there are public buses, a tram that runs above ground, and a subway that runs underground, and there are always taxis, but this is the most expensive option. The tram can be slightly sketchy at night and during the day when it is super crowded, especially when people are packed into the tram cars like sardines. My best advice is to always travel with a buddy and bring a travel size pepper spray with you at all times. And if you plan on living abroad for any amount of time, learn some helpful phrases of your host country like, “help me”. Just like living in any city, as women we need to protect ourselves, so it's best not to walk around after midnight, alone, especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol.

Coming from a school like Sacred Heart that is very campus and community centric, it was definitely a shock to me to be a student at a university in the city where Rome is your campus. But that’s what studying abroad is all about: creating new experiences and learning a new culture and city. I'm so excited to keep exploring and adjusting to my new home.