Time moves slower in Italy. The sometimes overwhelming grind of the machine we know as the United States is nowhere to be found. Here in Rome, the atmosphere is enormously carefree as if to allow its people to relax and remember that there’s always tomorrow. After only a short period of time in this country, I already feel like I’ve been here for much longer. I am learning how to live and adapt to the demands of a foreign country more rapidly than I’ve ever had to learn anything in my life.
The first few days were very difficult for me considering I have had no prior knowledge of Italian language or culture before this program. I remember eating out at a pizzeria across the street and struggling to order from a menu that I could barely understand (luckily for me, almost everything on the menu is delicious). I experienced similar troubles at grocery stores, gelato shops, and bars that I attempted to order in. As terrifying and disorienting as these instances might have been in the moment, I have found that my fellow classmates and I have an aptitude for cultural survival. The amount of experience under my belt and my level of confidence seem to be entirely proportionate.
The IES internship program that I am in is different from many other programs because it actually places us in the workforce. To me, this internship is crucial to understanding Italian culture. I am entirely responsible for navigation through a city that I am entirely unfamiliar with, using the metro subway system to commute to my internship, and setting up my work schedule. This may sound bizarre, but the more I immerse myself, the more I feel like an actual Roman. I am sleeping, working, eating, and living as the Romans do. In a way, the program throws us into the ocean and it’s either sink or swim. What better way to truly experience a country than by completely assimilating to its ways of life.
The internship I have been placed in has also proven to give me a better perspective and increase my worldview in numerous ways. At the start-up app for mobile devices called “Atooma,” I have been entrusted with promotional design as the company gears up for its launch with Apple in mid-July. Even after one day, I could feel my pent-up American ideologies fade away as I join a much more relaxed and perhaps even more inviting workplace than I am used to. I will undoubtedly take some of these Italian values back to the United States and use them in my future endeavors.
Despite all of my study and work, I have found plenty of time to explore the city and see some truly incredible buildings and works of art. The awe-inspiring Pantheon, the monumental Castel Sant’Angelo on the Tiber River, and the unbelievably beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica to name a few. I am in utter disbelief at how lucky I am to be on this amazing adventure. Not only do I get to be a part of Rome, but Rome is quickly becoming part of me. I appreciate the quirks and eccentricities of this beautiful city and the way of life of the Italians who live here. For two months, I am an Italian. I will share their struggles, enjoy their culture, and live among them, while I soak up as much as I can and even learn more about myself along the way.
What’s that saying, When in Rome?