Luisa Angaroni guest writer
A lot of international people are coming over to the United States to take an exchange program at UNC Charlotte. I want to tell you my special experience in the States. I’m Luisa and I come from Italy or what people usually call “Il bel Paese, “or “the beautiful country.” One year ago I decided to go overseas and live an American experience as fully as possible. I wanted to discover and experience the American life style, traditions, culture and academic system.
One year ago I decided to take an exchange program and spend one semester at UNC Charlotte. This year, thanks to my Italian professor of the “Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, “ Gianpiero Fumi, and to my American professor, Heather McCullough, I came over again to UNC Charlotte to complete research for my thesis for a master’s degree program. The Italian and American academics have been two completely different experiences.
Last year, when I first landed on American soil, I was completely surprised and disoriented in seeing how huge everything looked. The streets, buildings, UNC Charlotte campus and even a milk container looked different compared to home in Italy. Everything seemed so big to me that all I could think was “Mamma mia, this is amazing. “ Last year was great and I enjoyed my American experience. I have met a lot of different people that come from all over the world. From South America to Europe, it was really impressive how going abroad teaches you how to handle different cultures and traditions.
At the beginning, I struggled to get used to the academic system differences between Italy and the United States. Last year I attended some courses dealing mainly with business subjects, which at first seemed to be disorienting for me. For example, I considered the classrooms pretty small, with about 30 students in each one. The most impressive thing to me was that the professor called students by name and integrated a kind of personal relationship with their students. I thought it was amazing, because usually in Italy and all of Europe, professors cannot get to know you because they have classrooms that include at least 100 students in each one. An issue that intimidated me was the fact that in American classrooms, participation matters. A student has to raise their hand and discuss their ideas, feelings or thoughts, and in most cases a debate gets started. However, I thought this to be helpful for students because that kind of attitude can teach you how to handle different opinions and see things from a another perspective. It shapes your way of thinking. This is why I think American people have an open mind. They don’t seem to have any kind of taboo or forbidden topics as we have in the Italian or European culture.
As for the emotional aspect, at the very first beginning it was difficult to feel so far away from home, family and friends. However, thanks to the technology, it has been quite easy to keep in touch everyday with my Italian reality. I communicate with my family every day. I usually call them by Skype or phone, and every time I call them I feel back at home in one second. I usually hear my dad in the background watching his favorite Italian team, Inter F.C. My mother is usually preparing dinner (which I have to say I really miss). My sister is usually smoking her cigarette and resting after work. As for my friends, I’m keeping in touch with them mainly by Facebook. They always tell me about all the great times I’m missing out on.
The Italian life style compared to the American one is quite different. In Italy, for example, college students usually live with their family until they get a job or get married. Parents really love to have their children (even if the child is 30-years-old) at home. Referring to the night life style, Italian people usually have dinner at 8:30 p.m. and then go out around 11 p.m. They have a good time with friends among the streets or have a glass of wine in a lounge bar. Compared to the American life style, Italian people do not have a lot of house parties like Americans do. Italians prefer to walk the streets and go to different bars. I believe that Italian people really enjoy their life and the little things in general. They take their time to taste the coffee in the morning with no rush. For example, in Italy getting a coffee to go doesn’t exist. We like to spend time with family and take care of ourselves in order to look put-together at anytime. We appreciate the European or Italian fashion style because of its elegance. We like to look stylish everywhere we go, whether simply going to school or work. Italians always have to be well-dressed. For example, in Italy you will never see students going to class wearing pajamas or keeping their hats on in class because it is considered impolite.
The main difference between Italian and American food is I’ve never seen so much frozen food as Americans have here. A typical Italian person usually cooks a variety of fresh food that can easily be found whenever, whether in a grocery store or at the street market, which are namely the best.
Traditionally, Italian people love to plan dinner with their friends or relatives, and usually like to prepare homemade food and treat their guests in the best way possible. They are very welcoming and friendly with everybody.
I think Italian people have a strong historical and cultural background. They love art and dream big. We are a romantic country and are always pursuing the poetry of life.