Hello everyone! My name is Natalie and this semester I am studying abroad in the beautiful city of Rome. Everyone has a different reason for choosing Italy. Some want ease of travel around Europe, others want to work on their language proficiency, and some are passionate about history. For me, I knew from the start of my time at the University of Delaware that Italy was my only choice.
To explain why, I’ll take you back to 1980 in Foggia, Italy. Foggia, a city in the southern region of Puglia, was home to a family of four: mother, father, daughter, son. They were getting ready and packing up everything to head for a life in southern California with the mother’s sister, who had a home there. The family spoke no English, had never been to America, and were leaving everything – family, comfort, and their culture.
For the rest of my story, I’ll focus on the daughter – because she happens to be my mother, and is one of the bravest people I have ever encountered. The family arrived at my grandmother’s sister’s house. A small one-story house with three bedrooms, shared by what was now eight people. My grandmother’s sister was married to an American, so her three children (one of whom was already out of the house) spoke English, not Italian like my mom’s family.
My mom was 16 at the time of the move to America, which meant she had to go to high school. She enrolled and went to school with a less than conversational level of English. She took a class for English language learners in addition to her regular high school courses, but needless to say her grades suffered in her English writing classes. It was hard for her to make friends, hard to learn, and hard to thrive in a completely different culture. Fortunately, she was very determined and slowly, she learned English with the help of her cousins – enough to get into college just a few years later.
After earning her degree in early childhood education, my mom started teaching English to children. Pretty full circle, I would say….
Some years later she met my dad and they fell in love, got married, and had me. But much to my current dismay, she never taught me Italian. I know, I know, be disappointed at my mother with me. After our sad discovery that my high school didn’t offer Italian, I chose to take it in college where I had the most exceptional teachers who inspired me, even more, to reach for my goal of studying abroad in Rome.
Now, I’m writing this blog, drinking a cup of cioccolata calda (if you haven’t tried it, it’s nothing like Swiss Miss), and living and learning in the country my mom calls home. I’m learning Italian, conversing with the locals, and creating my own memories here. It’s an honor to be able to have even the smallest feeling for what it was like for my mom to be transplanted in America. Needless to say, learning the language is very challenging, especially since I’ve found the Romans speak their own dialect! Through it all, my mom has been there to answer all my cultural questions, assist with my language difficulties, and help me on the phone in the grocery store when I’m trying to find laundry detergent! I knew going abroad that I would learn, experience, and explore more than I ever could in a traditional classroom, but what I didn’t realize is how close my mom and I would become during this time. Even though we are 10,025 km (6,225 miles) apart, our new shared experiences have connected us more than ever.
Study Abroad Spring 2018
Fashion Merchandising Major
University of Delaware