Eternal lessons in the Eternal City

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By Melanie Chan

Rachel-Caruso-BlogPostPhoto | Mentoring Network and Success Strategies - Ellen Ensher

As my study abroad experience in Rome comes to an end I can confidently say that it was an enriching and enthralling experience. I thought what better way to capture my experiences here than with tying it into Hofstede’s country comparison. We looked at Hofstede’s study in class and it compares Italy and the United States on the basis of 6 dimensions. Instead of comparing the two cultures of these countries on the basis of these dimensions I thought I’d talk about my own personal growth in each of these aspects.

Power Distance
Power distance deals with the way society views inequalities and this immediately reminded me of tourism. I found myself throughout this trip constantly trying to blend in with the locals for fear of standing out as a tourist and being treated differently. It forced me to immerse myself in the culture here whether that be the way I talked, dressed, or ate. Sometimes it feels safer to stick with the more touristy areas where you’ll be guaranteed English speakers. But my advice is to eat, drink, and laugh with the locals and it will be worth your while.

“I” or “we”? I’ve always considered myself an extremely independent person but my time here in Italy has pushed my sense of independence to another level. I found myself the majority of the time wanting to venture out on my own. While I do believe in the importance of hanging with groups every once in a while, I found the most happiness from having the freedom of planning my own itinerary. Having those moments alone where I could sit and think about my own personal ideas and objectives in life ultimately provided me with the most fulfillment.

This one is an interesting topic for me only because I feel like I’m always on the extreme of the two ends. Masculine cultures are driven by success and achievement whereas feminine cultures focus more on caring for others and quality of life. Back home I definitely feel like I have a more “masculine” mentality. Perhaps it’s the competitive environment at LMU where academics and involvement are valued so highly. However, during my time here I’ve had a complete shift in mentality because of the slower pace of culture in Italy. It’s interesting to see how my mentality might shift once I return home and whether I’ll revert back to my extreme “masculine” mindset or if I’ll keep this “feminine” mindset going. Perhaps I’ll even find a happy medium between the two.

Uncertainty Avoidance
My natural instinct is to choose the safer route, one that breeds comfort and familiarity. But the 5 weeks here have made me slightly more welcoming when it comes to the unknown. I’ve made some of my most memorable moments here through the unexpected. In Florence I spent an afternoon with another study abroad student from Montreal who decided to travel around Europe before returning home. In Naples, I found myself eating pizza and drinking limoncello with a programmer from Milan, a stage manager from Australia, and a consultant from Lithuania (Salute!) only to end the night meeting other Italian locals. My point is, sometimes it’s not so bad welcoming ambiguity into your life.

Long term orientation
This relates to how one deals with present or future challenges while maintaining connections to the past. The night before my flight to Rome I was hit with the news of my grandmother’s passing. I’ve had to learn to deal with this being halfway across the world while having little to no communication with my family. What got me through these tough times was finding small memories I shared with my grandmother in the past and holding onto those memories in the present.

With food at the core of Italy’s culture, sometimes it’s difficult finding the balance between your health while enjoying the indulgences. If you take away the idea that you have to restrain yourself from certain pleasures because it’s deemed “bad”, it takes away the pressure and anxiety and you can enjoy everything life has to offer. So with that, I’ll end here with saying “eat your greens because it’s good for your body, and eat the gelato because it’s good for your soul!”