My interest in travelling has always been due to my interest in creating empathy and connections with people who I’ve never clearly seen their perspectives. Something that surprised me about my experience was that a language barrier can be something that is hard to break. I often take for granted that I came to the United States at a young age and that made it easier to learn a second language. Due to this, it was difficult to create those connections and have long, elaborate conversations.
Italy had many surprises for me, but something that was the most surprising was the similarity of the importance of food in their culture as well as in mine. Growing up with fast food restaurants, I’ve learned to appreciate the home-cooked meals my mom prepares for us. The grocery stores in Italy, the bakeries, and the restaurants all had fresh ingredients and many restaurant owners would get offended if you didn’t your food which is something that I’ve grown up with my whole life. This is especially common with my grandmothers because they will often turn their heads over their shoulders to make sure you’ve eaten all your food and that you’ve eaten enough food to the extent to which your stomach can contain. Also, I fell in love with Siena which was my favorite due to the environment of it which made me feel welcomed and reminded of the small town I live in. I felt like I would be able to have conversations with anyone and that they would be happy to make me feel welcome and wouldn’t make it difficult to make friends. Overall, I became deeply interested in Siena’s own history and traditions.
Studying abroad and world relations have always been my interests which have sparked my passion for wanting to pursue a career in political science. Going to Italy and having an idea that I wanted to attain new perspectives helped create a more realistic path to pursuing my passion. It surprised me how I was constantly comparing US customs and regulations to those of Italy and that caused me to gain interest in studying abroad in Italy.
Only 3 out of 6 of my mom’s children have citizenship in the United States and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. I’ve always had the fear of having my family taken away from me because I had already been separated from them due to the fact that I arrived to the United States on an airplane and they all had to go through a more rigorous, risky journey. This increased significantly during the 2016 election when I turned the television to watch the presidential debates, I’d been doing since the beginning of my passion for politics, and I watched as a man spoke about my family calling them criminals when I’ve watched my parents struggle to provide opportunities they never had.
I’d speak to my mom about it and explain what he’s trying to do and how and she’d tell me to not worry because it would never happen because she has an idyllic representation in her mind of the United States. This image had been created in her mind due to the fact that she was never on social media, she was oblivious to when people were trying to belittle her, she’d only take in mind those Americans who “invested time and energy in building human connection” (“Why Build Bridges, Not Walls”). After I had proven to her that there were people in this country that believed she was a criminal and that she had stolen a minimum wage job from an American (which she has due to the fact that she doesn’t speak English), she simply told me that she was raised around the idea to build a longer table if you are more fortunate than others, not a taller fence.
My experience in Italy is something that I will take with me my entire life because it taught me, not only different ideas of how we can help women around the world gain representation, but also the overwhelming amount of history many countries have within them. Having learned that Italy is rich in culture, history, and customs has made me yearn to visit many different countries to get the same feeling I received during my visit to Italy. My attitude has become more open-minded toward cultures and understanding why they have the customs they have. I’ve definitely not been able to stop talking about my experience in meeting new students from around the United States, attaining their perspectives, and having fallen in love with Siena.