A good reason for studying abroad is to begin to blur the lines of the world. Confines of countries and cultures are arbitrarily drawn and constantly changing. By exposing yourself to a new culture or country, while there can be grand differences in communication (languages or hand gestures or body language) and appearance and superstitions, many things stay the same.
Kids watch “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” friends go salsa-dancing, people pass recipes over a dinner table. In many ways, it is just like the United States, with the language switched to Italian.
Italy was not always a single united nation—in fact, it was unified only in 1861 and the today’s Italian language arrived still later—which is why many dialects still survive. The borders changed again and again after two world wars. Where I am now was, only 100 years ago, part of Austria. Within the flare of the boot, the territory has been passed between Romans and Venetians and Austrians, with castles and strongholds dotting the countryside every few kilometers.
That mixed heritage is remembered in their Venetian architecture, their blonde hair, their food, their Germanic names, their festivals, and their bilingualism of Italian and German. It is remembered by an old fort, sitting in the mountains that defended the Austrians in WWI and the Italians in WWII.
Italy is not a place that can be stereotyped; it is not only olive-skinned romantics eating pizza or mafia soldiers. It is a gradient of people and cultures, of traditions and festivals that remember older times and other languages. It does not end where the borders are drawn, but extends into Austria, into Switzerland, into Yugoslavia, and all the way into the United States.