For my program at l’Accademia Italiana in Salerno, I have class from 9-1 each day, followed by excursions to local museums and lectures in the afternoon. I love being busy (and it has kept me from being too homesick), but I also don’t have time to do day trips to cities further than an hour a way. Depsite this, the reason I wanted to study abroad was to fully embrace the Italian lifestyle and live like a local. Here’s how I have succeeded so far!
Live with a host family: This was the most intimidating part about studying abroad for me. I like my alone time, so living with a family, especially one that spoke little or no English, terrified me. However, my host family has been more than a blessing in so many ways. In addition to providing housing and food, they care about you. They know that you’re coming to a new place and may get homesick, and they want you to have the best experience. After all, where you are staying is their hometown, so they want you to have a good impression and be happy! Also, a home-cooked meal tastes good in any language. Eating dinner with a family encourages you to try things you may not have ordered off a restaurant menu. And on that note…
Only eat foods whose names you can’t pronounce: Trying new foods is all psychological. I’m not the greatest fan of eggplant, but I ordered it on accident. That may have been the best mistake I have ever made because now I always seek out “melanzane” on restaurant menus! Try the regional speciality and embrace it.
Walk everywhere: Public transportation, especially in Europe, can be cheap, but the necessary locations (i.e. my school and gelato shops) are so close that I don’t need a bus. Not only does this encourage me to walk, it gives me more money to buy food! Life is all about balance: more money, more food. It also encourages you to explore the city moreー making a wrong turn can help you find cool shops and determine your most efficient paths!
Find out where the college aged kids hang out: I have a host sister in her 20s, and she knows the best places to go hang out for university-aged students. Although I’m lucky to have my own personal tour guide, it is not hard to find your own! Even meeting someone at a cafe and striking up a conversation with a student will help you find the right places to go and will help both you and your new friend practice your language skills.
The cliche rings true: when in Rome (or Salerno), do as the Romans do!