Adjusting To A New Culture

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This semester, two CCI students will be sharing their experiences studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Follow them on their journey as they deal with culture shock, language barriers, and a total lifestyle change.

By Samantha Meisenburg, ’18

Ciao tutti (Hi everyone),

Florence has treated me well these past couple of weeks. I’ve already made lifelong friends in a short period and I’ve seen places that most people dream of seeing. Florence is filled with unique postcard views, friendly and accommodating people and a rich history that began centuries before America was discovered.

Over the past couple of weeks I and everyone else has had their fair share of culture shock. I thought going into Florence that I wasn’t going to be homesick and the culture shock wasn’t going to affect me. I was wrong.

I was in the honeymoon phase for a while because everything and everyone was so new and different that it intrigued my interest. Once that wore off I went into the depression phase where I genuinely felt guilty that I was experiencing this amazing opportunity without my family and closest friends. Everywhere I went, I couldn’t help but wish my family were by my side, witnessing this country for the first time with me. After a nice long talk with my family and texts exchanged with friends, I felt better.

Then I gradually went into the frustration stage. Classes were starting so my free time became limited and it finally hit me that I’m in Italy and English isn’t their native language. Assuming the locals speak English is rude and having limited knowledge of Italian was causing frustration and anxiety because I couldn’t communicate with people when I wanted something. Also, getting over the shock that Italy doesn’t have the same products (food, cleaning, etc.) as the U.S. and their way of life is different than the one I was used to back home was hard. But each day got a little easier which lead me into the last stage.

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The last stage of culture shock is Acceptance. I finally realized that I accepted Florence as my home when I was in Venice this past weekend for a field trip through CCI. Venice was absolutely beautiful and I had a blast, but it is nice to be back in Florence, my home.

Venice was a bucket list moment for me. I’ve seen countless of photos and postcards of the canals as streets, the serenading men on gondola rides and the craftsmanship and beauty of the Venetian glass and masks, but to see these with my own eyes was astonishing. The preplanned tours to churches, schools and museums were also highlights of the weekend because of its beauty and uniqueness that’s different from Florence. It’s safe to say that Venice has not seen the last of me.

My first European hotel looked exactly like a U.S. hotel except for breakfast. We were expecting eggs, bacon, waffles, etc. but we got croissants, marble cake, bread rolls and chocolate cake. Needless to say, everyone satisfied their sweet tooth by 10 a.m. and I ate a little too much chocolate cake for breakfast. Sorry mom and dad!

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