ACCENT Community College Scholarship: La Mia Famiglia

Today’s post comes from ACCENT Community College Scholarship recipient Rachael Sincavage, who, in addition to learning the importance of family in Italian culture, has found a second family of her own in the bright and unique students on her program.

My time here studying abroad in Rome has been amazing. I’ve learned so much about other cultures, made some surprising friendships, and experienced numerous memorable moments I will forever treasure. I feel truly blessed to have been able to participate in this ACCENT study abroad program.

The lessons I’ve learned about Italian culture vary: from learning to be comfortable in the crowded morning tram, to discovering that smiling and saying “Hi” to strangers means something different here than it does back home in California. When I first got here, I was protective of my personal space and extremely friendly, always having a reassuring smile for anyone I made eye contact with. However, I quickly learned that my attitude was attracting the wrong kind of attention. My grin was acting like a homing beacon, telling all who passed that I was flirting with them. Needless to say, I have stopped smiling at strangers. And although my personal bubble has started to dissolve, I still can’t help but cringe a little bit on the inside when I’m riding the packed tram.

I’ve also learned that Italians really do put their families first, in every sense of the meaning. Nothing is more important to Italian people than family, not even money. In fact, there are services that are simply not available in Rome on holidays and weekends because no monetary amount can pull an Italian away from their families during that precious time. In America, no matter when or where you are, you can have any service desired if you’re willing to pay enough.

I believe the strong emphasis on family here in Rome contributes to the many family-run businesses you find that have been operating for multiple generations. I frequent this one cute little coffee shop where the family has been cohesively working together like a well-oiled machine for three generations. By treating all who enter like family and greeting each of us by name, they impart the feeling of being part of something special. We even follow each other on social media!

When I look at my Instagram, I can’t help but smile as the proof of my newfound friendships between Italians & SBCC students alike slide across my screen in the forms of bright, joyful images. Living in Rome has been an exhilarating experience, one that has enriched me with incredible newfound friendships for which I will always be grateful. Never in my life did I expect to make friends with college students almost half my age, but here I am, conversing, studying, and exploring with some of the coolest nerds I know. They don’t conform to societal pressures, but instead stay true to their beliefs, which I totally admire. These bright young ladies have made this experience more than I ever hoped it could be. We’ve made great friends, and I am sure we’ll keep in touch even after getting back to California.

I know that when I’m sitting back at home in Santa Barbara, I will have so many fond memories from this trip because we’ve have so many incredible moments. It was surreal to see the Pantheon, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, St. Sebastian’s Catacombs and a number of ancient artifacts in Rome. The fact that I can walk to most any of these places in one day I find extraordinary. Thanks to ACCENT, I was able to witness Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera right before my very eyes, and they were astounding. ACCENT also took us to Venice, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. While we were there, my friends and I got to ride in a gondola and visit St Mark’s basilica. I’ve never seen anything shine more brightly than that basilica, covered head to toe in gold. Thank you, ACCENT, for turning my dreams into realities!~Rachael Sincavage, 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.