A Year Abroad In Italy: What I Learnt

Being passionate about a particular subject or topic means you suddenly find yourself looking deeper into what surrounds you to fulfil your interests. A historian, for example, will search for the back story to a situation, perhaps seeing how the past has affected the present, a mathematician may challenge themselves to find the quickest, most logical solution to any problem which may arise, while linguists will focus on conversation, culture and stereotype for a way to understand not only their own language and cultural identity better, but those of others as well.

When I first arrived in Italy for my year abroad, I was ready to principally improve my Italian and become more acquainted with the Italian way of seeing the world. Little did I know that I was also going to be improving my mother tongue, English, as well as my attitude towards culture more generally. While living in Florence, I of course spoke in Italian daily, which did wonders for my language acquisition. However, I found myself also putting every new piece of vocabulary, grammar or idiom into the English context and through this I began to fully understand how I could use language better.

Through my studies, conversation became more than communicating information or exchanging ideas- it was a way of exploring language. An unfamiliar idiom would pop up while chatting to a friend or colleague, for example, and I’d have to stop and think how we might say that in English, or I’d have to slow conversation down for a moment to ensure I had structured a sentence correctly and it was through moments like this that I saw how thinking about language more deeply and mastering it can lead to a much more interesting way of not only speaking, but writing as well.

I’ve now brought my fascination home with me and continue to focus on the extra benefit of conversation in an effort to make my language as interesting as possible.

Another area in language study of course is cultural identity; analysing stereotypes to discover which parts are truths and which are myths. Stereotyping is constantly given a bad reputation, but when you break down stereotypes, they can be brilliant to look out, embrace and adopt when shaping yourself as a person. My studies of Spain, Italy and Britain have all led me to take on different parts of each nation’s stereotype.

In Britain we have a wonderful tradition of discipline in time keeping, manners at the table and daily routine, which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake off. This means looking into other cultures where those British values aren’t such a priority may seem initially very strange, but by taking this strangeness as interesting rather than frightening, we can investigate them more easily and discover the gems that make their nations great. Italy, for example, showed me how a refusal to eat poorly can lead to a great joy at every mealtime and has since left me with a constant interest how we can enjoy food more. Meanwhile, in Spain, I learned that there is no need to fear being bold- neither in dress, opinion, nor in action. Forever conservative before, Spain taught me how far throwing caution to the wind can take you. The confidence I’ve gained from that lesson has been incredible and has only served to impassion me to search other cultures for more life-improving attitudes.

Whether it be sports, art, languages or history, maths, science, geography or design, finding your passion in everyday life makes each day that little bit more vibrant, and isn’t just rewarding for you, but also for those around you.


Additional resources:

A Year Abroad in Paris
Learning Languages Abroad
How a Year Abroad Changed my Perspective on French Culture

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