ACCENT Community College Scholarship: A Cultural Exploration

Today’s post comes from ACCENT Community College Scholarship recipient Jessica Nichol, who is spending her semester abroad in Rome with Santa Barbara City College. Jessica takes us through a day in her life as a study abroad student, including the many cultural differences between Italy and the U.S.

Touchdown! I felt the plane land in Italy late on February fourth. My heart aflutter and my stomach full of butterflies, I disembarked the plane ready to take on what this new adventure held in store for me. When at home, I decided that I would leave behind my American background and embrace the Italian lifestyle. After landing in Rome I decided to dissolve any expectations I had and welcome the experience ahead of me.

A taxi took us to our apartment and I noticed the way people were driving. It was all so, so foreign. The seats in the taxi were facing backward and cars were zooming around us. Everyone seemed so busy rushing from destination to destination.

When we reached our apartment, we realized how much we were going to have to adapt. The electricity was very sensitive, our washing machine was located outside on our balcony, and the gas had to be turned on and off every time we used our stove. These were things that we take for granted living at home. Going to bed that night I heard many noises that I was not used to. I heard the loud rumble of the tram moving along the tracks, the sirens of ambulances, and the horns of cars arguing on the street. These are the noises that now put me to sleep every night.

After waking up, I went to a local cafe with my friends to get something for breakfast. In Italy, a typical breakfast is often a cappuccino and a cornetto, not pancakes or a ham and cheese omelet. Later, we hopped on a tram and traveled to get lunch. We walked into a trattoria and they told us it would be a thirty-minute wait. Not knowing what to do for thirty minutes, we meandered outside and The Pantheon loomed over us. In we went, sat in the pews, and explored the inside of this historical beauty while waiting for our table to be ready. How many times in America have I wandered into a building constructed in 125 AD to wait for a table for lunch? The amount of history surrounding me was absolutely mind-boggling. I was already in love.

After lunch, we walked around to explore the city. I found that the people were dressed very nicely and neutral colors dominated the scene. Suddenly my purple sweater seemed like a bright eye-catcher that would only attract unwanted attention. The leggings I had dreamed about in the States suddenly made me feel as if I was walking around in something one would only wear behind closed doors!

I am not sure if getting gelato after lunch is part of everyday Italian culture, but it has easily become a part of mine! Walking into shops to gaze at the myriad of delicious choices we are always greeted with a “Ciao!” and we all echo “Ciao!” in return. I love the confidence and surety of the Italian people. I have found that the people here are very easy to talk to and they enjoy helping us learn their language.

Before arriving in Italy I was so nervous about what to expect. Would I feel lost? The answer to that is “yes.” I am lost in the beauty of the people and lost in the history of this land. Would I be able to find myself? Yes, I have found myself surrounded by an amazing group of peers who have run head-on into this adventure with me. Now that I am here I never want to leave! Wouldn’t you love to be lost and found in this same way? You really must consider an adventure as great as this. You will not regret it. Roma, ti amo!~Jessica Nichol, Santa Barbara City College

ACCENT is proud to support the Community College Scholarship as part of our commitment pledge to IIE Generation Study Abroad, a nationwide effort to help more U.S. students gain international experience through study abroad programs.