I have been in Ferrara for almost two months now and the world continues to open up to me. But, in order to keep these doors of opportunity open, I have to reciprocate it by opening myself to the world.
I have begun to do this through honoring all of the experiences that occur here- good and bad. But, by keeping myself open I have realized that it is so important to build relationships here.
I had arrived here with ten other American students and immediately we all stuck together. We spoke english for the most part, it was the only thing familiar to all of us at the time. We explored the city together, went for dinners together, and took Italian classes together. We became this type of 'team' that was there to support each other.
Once we had settled in and started our core classes, we began to meet more people and branch out. We were speaking more Italian and meeting other foreign exchange students from around the world. The opportunity for international friendship flourished.
At first, it was difficult because of this sort of paradigm I placed myself in when I first arrived here with the other Americans, but I quickly gained confidence in realizing that I was not alone.
Just as nervous as I was to build relationships and overcome language barriers with new people here, they had the same fear as me; The other Americans had the same fear as me, my host family had the same fear as me. All the anxieties I felt and nerves I had everyone else was experiencing to some extent as well.
In that moment I realized to me, what the key to building relationships here was. It was not trying to change my American ways to fit Italian ways, or my foreign language accents to be rid or any hint of American, it was to do my best to learn to love different kinds of people so that I can learn to appreciate the language and culture through the peoples eyes; appreciate the individual person as a person, not defined as their nationality.
I cannot stress enough how rewarding it has been for me to network myself to so many different people. I found that being myself and being open minded is one of the best ways for me to begin to build a relationship even with people that you may think you have nothing in common with superficially. I am learning to be loyal to myself for who I am and use adaptability to learn new perspectives and try to enlighten myself to new experiences.