Porta Portese Market
(Every Sunday morning I step outside my apartment and I see this.)
Spending my first week and a half in Italy was quite the culture shock, an amazing awakening, like a dream and everything in between. From the moment I stepped out of the airport, I did not fully understand the culture; my senses were heightened to all sounds, smells and sights. The first couple of days traveling to work, I would jump out of my skin if I heard a bus pull its break. I did not realize what was going on with me and why I was so scared of a new place. Was it that I have only lived in rural environments my whole life? Was it that I did not understand a word most people were saying to me? Traveling from Clemson, SC to Roma, Italia is a huge switch.
Since my first few days in Rome, I have made a few friends, introduced myself to public transportation, learned some very helpful phrases, consumed some delightful treats and learned a lot about the American University of Rome (AUR). My internship is splitting my time between enrollment services and the student life department of AUR. Since we just had around 300 students arrive last week, I got to help with pick ups from the airport, orientation, and normal day to day tasks like answer the bajillion questions a student abroad student can have in Italy.
Being around the Student Life department helps me make those relationships with the students by helping the ResGrads (the equivalent of a Resident Director) take students to go on trips. I am also auditing an Italian culture and language class that the AUR Provost is teaching. It is interesting to see the amount of focus students have in their actual classes in the summer and in another country. Nonetheless, it is a great opportunity to experience the academic affairs part of the university.
While in Rome, I have met quite a few people that all have elaborate stories of why they chose Rome and what the hook, line, and sinker is to make them want to stay in Rome. Interestingly enough, most of the reasons people decided to stay in Italy had to do with love. Love for the city, love for a significant other, love for the culture, etc.
I was pretty shocked when I closed the recent poll asking what my next topic should be about, and the topic of love stood out above the rest. For those of you who know me, you know that a relationship is not a high priority right now and has not been for the past 2 years. Without further alluding to my nonexistent love life, I’ve noticed that love is the center of most people’s lives here in Italy. They live with their entire family, they spend time walking the streets with their mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers, the PDA isn’t as subtle and conservative as in the states and gender roles are much more defined in the majority but in a different way than America.
I was warned by a fellow blonde that the Italian boys would be all over the blonde American girls because we looked exotic and different than what they see every day. Before I left the States, I dyed my hair red. Little did I know, red-headed ladies in Italy are even less abundant than blondes. This has made for some interesting stares, calls, and a different life than if I had stayed in the States with my Ariel-like hair.
You know how if you find someone attractive, you enjoy looking in their general direction until they catch you? You do this little dance with your eyes to know if he is looking at you and even though you were looking at him, you don’t want him to know you were. This little shy act is completely bypassed in Italy and the male supersedes the role of the eye catcher. In Italian culture, the man is paying the woman a compliment by staring. There is no shame in looking at something that they enjoy and making sure the woman knows that they enjoy what they are looking at.
As some residents of Italy explained to me, the guys that play this act on you in the streets, bars or random places out of the blue are not the ones that create that pure Italian love that everyone gets in a tizzy about. The way you meet the Italian guys that would be able to fill that role is by friends of friends, just like the US. Interesting how it all comes full circle.
More updates to come later. If you would like to see the first set of pictures, follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101544192882018.3134377.13755373&type=3&l=c9de557d62