Marte Eggleston is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism major at the Indiana University, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
In this week's post, Marte shares her thoughts on what it's like to be an American abroad.
Being American in Europe has been an interesting experience for me. On any given day you could encounter people who have very different feelings toward the country that I come from. Before I left the US, I tried to prepare myself for what kind of encounters I would face, and it did help me grasp the situation, but nothing can really prepare you for how people feel in reality.
I visited a family in Milan with my roommates. They had traveled in the US recently, so it was very interesting to hear the point of view of international travelers in the US. They went several places, and as I was hearing the locations I realized how vastly different regions can be. I think it would be even more difficult packing to live in the US for four months if I were coming from Italy!
One of the stranger things for me was realizing I have a deep affection for things that are seemingly “American” and “normal.” For instance, when I was in Madrid last week, I happened to stay close to a Steak n Shake, which is a popular chain back home. I obviously had to go and experience it in Spain, and I can say that it was mostly the same as it is back home. I felt kind of silly eating at an American chain restaurant while in Spain, but it’s the little comforts that make being away from home very bearable. It was also a surprise because Florence does not have many chain restaurants besides McDonalds. Spain had a variety of chain restaurants, including Starbucks, which made it seem a little bit more Western than Florence.
Even though we have been in Florence for almost two months now, people can still tell that we are Americans. We blend in a little more than the casual tourist, but more often than not we’re pretty easy to pick out. I have tried to speak more Italian as I have learned more in my classes, but most times the store clerks or waiters will respond in English. I’m not sure if they want to make it easier for me or my accent is so bad that they can’t stand to listen to it.
Either way, I have learned a lot about being an American abroad in my time here. I’ve gained quite a lot of patience and understanding, but I have also gained a greater appreciation for the things that I have at home like free public restrooms and free water at restaurants.
Marte's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.