During my 15 minute class break today, my friend said to me, “Hey Kelly, how’s your culture shock going?” While I’m not exactly sure what type of response he was expecting, I replied, “What culture shock?”
Today is my eighth day of my study abroad semester. I’ve never been one to get homesick. I blame this on my perpetual sense of independence that I’ve possessed from a young age, but mostly on my ten summers at sleep away camp. So here I am, living in a country of which I know zero (so far) of the prominent language, not freaking out. Am I missing something? A few things came to mind.
Technology. Much thanks to my iPhone, I cannot get lost. This comforts me. But it’s almost sad. I spent the majority of my orientation week reaching out to my friends and roommates: “Let’s get lost.” I wanted to go out and explore the city with no regard for a destination. And so we did. But there was always a hitch. I knew, just in case, I could always find my way back on my own. The concept of having to try to communicate with a local in their native tongue, utilizing hand signals, is a lost phenomenon.
This brings me to my second point: the hurdles are pretty minimized. Most people in Florence speak, at the very least, sufficient conversational English. The foreign students in my classes and native-born teachers are fluent—the language barrier is small. There is a McDonald’s less than a mile from my apartment (Don’t worry, I would never go near there when I’m living in one of the greatest cities for food in the world, just making a point). Most coffee shops offer, “American coffee.” I even went into this semester on my own, signing up be placed into a random housing assignment, and go figure that my roommate ended up growing up twenty minutes away from my hometown.
These factors are, for the most part, to my advantage. But I do feel I am not receiving the degree of culture shock that I had been so frequently warned about prior to my arrival here. While it is insanely frustrating that clothes dryers are such a rarity in Italy, and that I can’t just swipe my debit card at every place and actually have to touch cash, these are not major adjustments.
There is much of the semester to go, and I do expect road blocks. But for now, the difference between being 600 miles from home in Michigan or 4100 miles away in Italy isn’t very shocking.
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