As a follow-up to the previous article “A Quick Look: Alina Marino in Perugia, Italy” , Marino ’20 expands on her experiences studying in Italy in the fall of 2018. In addition to describing some of her favorite experiences, she also provides advice for those looking to study abroad in the future. In particular, Marino discusses the importance of finding a country that most closely aligns with your personality, lifestyle, and habits; she also discusses her experiences with culture shock.
To start off, can you tell me a little about you?
I am a junior with a double major in psychology and criminal justice. I am from Long Island, NY. I am a member of Psi Chi, Alpha Phi Sigma, and Xi Theta Chi. I am also a sister of Alpha Sigma Alpha.
Where did you study abroad? Why did you choose to study there and what was it like? Was it different from what you were expecting?
I studied abroad in Perugia, Italy. I chose the country of Italy for my studies because I had previously taken Italian for six years and wanted to be able to improve my speaking skills. I specifically chose Perugia because out of the places in Italy to study abroad that Roanoke works with, the Umbra Institute (in Perugia) had the best options for psychology classes.
Italy is a beautiful country. It is one of those places you can feel how old everything is. The culture and way of life there is extremely laid-back. It was a little different than I expected, since I did not realize how regional everything is. For example, in Umbria (the region I was in), you can basically only find traditional Umbrian food. Pride in your specific region is a huge part of Italian culture.
What were some of your favorite moments while abroad?
As someone with a deep appreciation for food and cooking, most of my favorite memories revolve around food. My favorite memory is when my best friend Hayley and I took a weekend trip to Bologna. Bologna is known in Italy as one of the best places to eat, so I was very excited. Compared to other cities in Italy, like Rome or Venice,
Bologna is less of a tourist destination. It was less crowded than some of the other places I visited so I felt like I was really able to get more of a “true” Italian experience. We spent the weekend eating regional food, drinking the local wine, and exploring the city.
What were you most worried about in terms of studying abroad?
I was mainly worried about how much I would miss my friends and family.
Did anything happen that you weren’t expecting? Were there any moments that particularly struck you while abroad? Tell me about them.
I did not expect to have culture shock as bad as I did. I had looked into Italian culture, but it still did not prepare me as much as I would have liked. Before going away, I didn’t really think culture shock was that big of a deal, but it is. I am a very type “A” person and that does not really work in a place where you live life day-to-day and carefree.
What did you learn while abroad? This is not limited to just coursework (though certainly talk about the types of courses you were able to take) but also about the culture or cultures you interacted with and, cheesy as it is, yourself as well.
While abroad, I took three psychology courses; organizational behavior, human development in culture, and criminal behavior. My OB class was taught by an American that had been living in Italy for over ten years. It was interesting to see his perception of OB from a multicultural lens. My other two courses were taught by a German that had been living in Italy for over twenty-five years. Her view of development in culture was intriguing because she had multiple cultural backgrounds that were blended into one.
The biggest thing I learned about myself is that I will not step out of my comfort zone if I do not need to. I already had somewhat of an idea that I was like this but being in a completely new country helped to reinforce this.
What do you miss the most?
The food! Hands down.
Tell me about your plans for the future. How will you apply what you learned while abroad to help you?
My plans for the future are to go to graduate school for forensic psychology. Studying abroad did not change or impact this decision. However, studying abroad did solidify that I will be living in America. Being in Italy made me realize how grateful I am to live in America.
Do you have any advice for other students interested in studying abroad?
My advice to students studying abroad is to know yourself – look into various countries and see what you think would work best with your personality. Don’t just study abroad in a place because everyone says it is beautiful (that’s where you go vacation!!). By picking a country that values the same things you do, I think it would help alleviate some of the culture shock you may experience. Do not feel guilty that you aren’t having the “most amazing time” like everyone claims to have. Everyone is different and your feelings about the experience – good, bad, somewhere in between – are still valid and acceptable.
Something I personally did when I was feeling down is remind myself of the amazing opportunity I had. Living in a different country is something not a lot of people can say they have done. Even if in the moment you are miserable, you will be able to look back fondly on your time and how much you have grown as an individual.
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