Lessons Holy Cross Students Could Learn from Italians
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 16:09
Study abroad is less about the classes and more about the intersection of cultures—or at least that’s what I was told by the countless others who insisted I must go. Having studied Italian for the past two years, I figured I knew a fair amount of Italian culture before I arrived to my host city, Bologna. I did know the little things like famous dishes and locales; however, the things that cannot be translated even in a language class seem to be the most essential to understanding Italian life, or Italian life as far as I’ve encountered over the first two weeks of my stay. Here, I have listed a few of my favorite lessons I’ve learned—lessons that as a Holy Cross student were difficult to grasp but things I will now always have tucked away.
1. Stop being so awkward. There isn’t a word for ‘awkward’ in Italian, so feel free to misspeak, offend someone, laugh too loudly in public, kiss your significant other in a crowd of people, trip over uneven steps, argue with a someone over a bill, get lost, ask for directions, tell your friends you love time, get too close for comfort, tell someone he or she is too close for comfort, wear something outrageous, and stand out. Isn’t it freeing to not prioritize imposed norms? When there’s no word for ‘awkward’ most things seems possible.
2. Meals are more than hunger suppressants. Maybe it’s the way a waiter never gives you the check before you ask for it, or maybe it’s just food that overshoots dining hall quality by cosmic proportions, but in Bologna I’ve noticed that meals are slow, meant for conversation. Nearly every evening, my host mother and I spend the better part of two hours catching up and watching the news (as well as an awesome word-centered game show) over dinner. First pasta, then meat, then cheese, and, for dessert, fruit. It’s not about over eating, its about hitting all of the different palates and spending time with someone you value.
3. Venturing outside of central heating and air conditioning need not be reserved for seventy-five-degree-mostly-sunny days. I can’t speak for what life will be like in the winter months, but cooler weather does not deter the Bolognese from eating al fresco. Even in temperatures reaching a chilly range of the low 60s, tables outdoors are packed and deserted inside the restaurant. Piazzas are frequented even when there is a bite to the air. The Bolognese in particular prepared themselves for rain with miles of porticos lining the streets shielding pedestrians from drops. Windows are closed on the condition of street noise, not the dropping of temperatures. Their decision to take advantage of fresh air (or the freshest air a city can offer) makes for a more friendly and relaxed environment and shows for a greater appreciation of what has been given, rather than always hoping for the optimal conditions like we Crusaders do.
4. Style is not homogeneous. Holy Cross students without a doubt have fashion sense. Most everyone is polished for most every class. Any visitor to the campus will let you know this upon the first ten minutes of arrival. However, any visitor will also make it known that everyone looks the same at Holy Cross: sperrys, JCrew, riding boots, Timberlands, puffy vests. Here, there are definitely some patterns and similarities amongst Italians, but they aren’t afraid to try new things with their clothes. Maybe it fails, like the handful of harem pants I’ve witnessed. But most times, the unusual becomes magnificent.