Life in Italy: A 2016 Reflection

It’s the new year, and apparently the ~trendy~ thing to do is either go on a diet or reflect on the past year.  Since we both know that Hell could literally freeze over and thaw and freeze over and thaw and freeze over and thaw (times infinity) again before I go on any kind of diet, I’m going to opt for the reflecting thing.


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It’s the new year, and apparently the ~trendy~ thing to do is either go on a diet or reflect on the past year.  Since we both know that Hell could literally freeze over and thaw and freeze over and thaw and freeze over and thaw (times infinity) again before I go on any kind of diet, I’m going to opt for the reflecting thing.

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Something you’ll never see me do.  Seriously.  I hate salad.  It’s just glorified leaves.  And it’s EXPENSIVE.  Why would I pay THAT MUCH MONEY just to eat LEAVES and SUFFER? It’s NOT FUN. It’s NOT FILLING.  I am NOT A RABBIT.

I think 2016 can be summed in in one (albeit, pretty long) quote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only”

– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

2016 has been a pretty… interesting year, given all that’s happened not only to me, but in general.  There were some pretty not-cool things that happened in 2016, and as much as I’m still salty with Dickens for writing the shit-show that was Great Expectations  that I never would have had to read my freshman year of high school if he was an actual sport about it and never actually wrote it in the first place (can’t spell Dickens without DICK, amirite?), I think the quote above is a pretty good summary of what 2016 was.  Sure, some people may say that the whole “spring of hope” and “winter of despair” tidbits are a bit dramatic, but I’m extra like that, and I enjoy the little flair.

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I’M NOT.

To save you all the headache and political commentary that would ultimately just end up in me ranting and flipping the proverbial table, I’m just going to be reflecting on the biggest life change for me this year, which was moving to Italy to attend school there.

I’ve actually been back in the US since the middle of December and I’ve been doing a really bad job of blogging for the past 2 months because even though I technically live in Italy, I’m still a lazy American at heart (*chanting* USA! USA!).  This has been mostly because of schoolwork, but also just because I’ve been living the Italian lifestyle aka I’m on an all-carb diet and I’m not ever going to complain about that.  Here are some things I’d like to reflect on:

1. Eating Later Is Logical, But It Still Sucks.

Going off of the food thing, because honestly I prefer food to people sometimes, one of the wildest things to get used to in Italy was the dinner time.  In the US, I’m used to eating at 6:00 or 6:30, while in Italy, dinners are usually around 8:00.  I guess this makes more sense or something because I’m not as hungry in the morning afterwards, but I’m never very happy when I have to wait longer for food.  I started getting used to it right before I left, but still.  1 point for the US for letting me eat at 6:00 and not getting all those judge-y Italian vibes.

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PS… I ate those yummy things (yes, all of them because I’m a monster) in Bobbio, which you can read about in this post!

2. Tobacco Shops Are Still Sketchy, But Necessary

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Another wild thing about Italy: while I’m used to the world revolving around me, in Italy, it revolves around the tobacco shop.  This is… ok, I guess, but I won’t give you lung tar.  Just saying.  Just throwing that out there.

In all seriousness, tobacco shops aren’t only used for cigarettes.  If you’ve read my Things I’ve Learned in Piacenza, Italy post, you’ll know that this is the place to go if you want things such as stamps or bus tickets, because God forbid you try to go to the post office for a stamp or the bus station for a bus ticket like an idiot (OK you can get a bus ticket on the bus itself, but they tend to be more expensive)!

3. Time Really is Relative

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Not sure what’s going on in this image, but I am HERE for it.

I’m not sure if Italy really is just some other dimension where time is not finite so people have no reason to care about its passing since to “waste” time is an arbitrary statement that holds no merit, or if people just really don’t give a flying fuck whether or not they’re always late to things, but people just REALLY DON’T SEEM TO CARE ABOUT BEING ON TIME in Italy.

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For most people, this isn’t that big of a deal, but since I’m an American from the Northeast who has a Type A personality and no chill, I do tend to care just a teensy smeensy bit about this.  I’ve gotten a little bit better about it all (I’m trying to be a better sport about life than DICKens), but I’m not sure if this is something I’ll ever shake.

Prior to leaving for Italy, I had to take a class over the summer to learn about cultural differences and whatnot.  In this class, we did a global dexterity assignment, which basically just assesses your ability to adapt your behavior to a new culture. The assignment included predicting our own abilities to adapt in certain areas and I remember writing down that I wouldn’t feel very competent or authentic when it comes to being more relaxed as pertaining to schedules and order, and since then, I unfortunately think I was right.  I’m always right.  It’s both a blessing and a curse.

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I know there’s the whole “stop and smell the roses” thing, but first of all, I’m allergic to roses, and second of all, I just can’t help it sometimes.  I’m a girl on a mission and that mission is to get shit done.  Still, even being the insane person that I am, I found myself doing little things in Italy that I might not necessarily do in the United States, such as grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend without the agenda of “catching up.”  Previously, I found the lack of the concept of “to go” to be an inconvenience, but now I’m kind of thankful for it.  Ok, it’s still an inconvenience, but I’m trying really hard to be more laid back.  I promise. Stay tuned on how that pans out.

4. Being An American in Italy Really Isn’t All That Bad

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Yes, Italians have their stereotypes about Americans… although I WOULD like to point out that all of the Italians I’ve met in Italy are WAY MORE OBSESSED about eating McDonalds than any of the Americans I’ve ever known.  Seriously.  They LOVE McDonalds and I think I’ve eaten more McDonalds in Italy as a result of having Italian friends than I’ve EVER eaten in my 21 years of living in the United States.  Sorry.  Just had to throw that in there.

Right, anyway… Yes, Italians have their stereotypes about Americans, but that doesn’t mean they automatically hate us as long as you’re not a jerk, and you shouldn’t be going around being a jerk to people anyway.  Most of the time, they’re honestly just curious – I’ve had rando Italians come up to me in class just because they heard me speaking English with an obvious American accent and ask me where I’m from and all that jazz.  While I honestly should be trying to speak more Italian (come through 2017 New Year’s resolution!!!), the Italians I’ve met love the opportunity to speak more English since Americans/English people are kind of hard to come by in the little town of Piacenza.

In terms of speaking Italian, I’m still really self-conscious about my accent, which I’m always told I shouldn’t be, but we all know that I don’t listen.  It’s a pretty well-known fact that I can’t roll my R’s, so I sound ridiculously American (can’t even fake it ’til I make it here) and that’s not something that I like to sound like.  I know I just spent like two whole paragraphs saying that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be an American, but that’s different from sounding American.

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I think most of the time Italians are just taken aback because they’re not really used to hearing Americans speak Italian (even though saying that I “speak Italian” is probably too much credit on my part and I should say that I “try to speak Italian” instead).  My friends like to make fun of me for it, and although I know they’re just doing it because they’re my friends and we all make fun of each other (because that’s true friendship), it’s still one of the things preventing me from trying to speak the language.  That, coupled with the fact that I feel like I know no useful words… like, I know the word for “stapler,” but do I know how to say anything else that might be useful if I’m lost on the street? No, not really.  Well, maybe.

5. Studying Abroad is Amazing… But That Seems Pretty Obvious

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All in all… now that I think about it, living in Italy has been a really amazing experience, although I didn’t expect it to be otherwise.  That sounds sappy, but it’s true.

Sure, I’ve had a lot of moments where I wanted nothing more but to be back in the US (such as the day I was exhausted and had no food and made the mistake of going to the grocery store at 3:00 and it ended up being closed because I’m stupid and EVERYTHING in Italy is closed between the hours of like 1:00 and 4:00), but there are so many things I’ve done in Italy that I would have never been able to do otherwise – from “big” things like hiking a mountain in Austria, to “small” things like going ice skating in Italy.

It’s pretty incredible that I’ve seen so many countries (Switzerland, Austria, Spain, and Germany, to be exact) in the short months that I’ve been abroad and it’s also pretty incredible that I’ve been able to make friends from all over Europe and even other parts of the world.  Italy (and Europe in general) has so much history and it’s easy to take its beauty for granted when you’re living there.

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It took me all of 2016 to realize it was the year of realizing… oh the irony.

2016 really was the year of realizing… stuff, as put so eloquently by the neo-immortal bard herself, Miss Kylie Jenner.  Yes, some parts of it sucked, but as DICKens (I know I keep making this joke, but I’m not sorry) says, it was also the “age of wisdom.”  As snarky as I am, I like to consider myself a positive person, and looking back, 2016 really wasn’t all terrible, talking-Cheetos-as-the-new-president-elect aside.

Even though the beer in Germany wasn’t that great, and despite the fact that I got blisters climbing the mountain in Austria because I was wearing the wrong shoes, and even though there is no Target in Italy, the fact of the matter is I was still there experiencing all of it and I wouldn’t trade that experience for all of the time I’ve spent waiting in “clusters” in Italy because lines don’t exist there.  I feel truly #thankful and #blessed for the opportunity to study abroad in Italy (shout out to my parents) and can’t wait to see what the next 1.5 years holds for me.

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@2017 please be gentle… or else.  Not to jinx anything, but I think 2017 is going to be a good year.  After all, how can you go wrong walking into the sunset on a cobblestone path in some quaint old Italian town eating gelato?

…Even if you’re lactose intolerant? 🙃


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