Saturday January 27. I made it to Rome today!!! I am so excited for what this semester is going to hold. However, after that 9-hour plan ride where I got about 5 minutes of sleep I am exhausted. However, there is so time to rest as I should go to the grocery store to get something for my Rome like soap and shampoo. The school is located on a street that you just have to walk less than 10 minutes to get to a grocery store that’s kind of like an Aldi, a convenience store thing that sells everything from shoes, to clothes, to towels and electronics, and what I didn't know at the time but have since learned was also in the center a store like a Walmart. A big group of about 6 of us headed out for our first European shopping adventure, but before we could even shop we had to cross the street. Now, why would crossing the street be a problem? Well, in Rome all the cars drive extremely fast. On the bus from the airport while I was enjoying the scenery I was also staring at all the near collisions cars were having on the highways. Cars will random switch lanes, drive like the are late for something important and on top of that you have motorcycles just driving in between two lanes. People drive crazy here. You can now image my worry as we have to cross a two-lane street that is on a straight. This is great for us because we can see all the traffic coming, but as you know, straight road means drive faster.
The time has come. We have made it all the way down the street and see our destination in sight. All that stands between us and shopping is the speeding rows of cars. We stand at the crosswalk that is marked with lines on the ground, a crosswalk signal above and blinking yellow light. No one makes any attempt to stop or even slow down to let us cross. I am confused. At home, while it may take a couple cars to be nice and let you go, someone always does. However, it does not appear as though anyone will be stopping anytime soon. We end up waiting there for a gap big enough that we can sprint across the street to safety. While my head was still pounding on the other side of the street, I still couldn't understand why any of the cars that passed us wouldn't let us cross. And I still had to do it again when I went back to school.
Back at school I learned that in Italy you cross the street by making eye contact with the driver and walking confidently. They then slow down but don't typically come to a complete stop. This is so different from the way that I was taught to cross the street. The look both ways to make sure there are no cars and when the coast is clear then you can cross. Or when a person comes to a complete stop and waves at you then you can cross. I never imagined that moving to a suburb in a different country would mean learning an entirely new way of crossing the street. The fact that something I believe is so simple cause me panic and made me become flustered is why I realized that I can learn from these experiences. I learned that when you integrate yourself into a new culture that nothing is guaranteed to be the same. This also makes me think about when people come to our country. How it’s not customary for someone to just walk in front of a moving car and could cause a car accident. Different countries mean different cultures and customs. Because of this traveling results in expanding of your cultural perspective. While I may still stand out as being a foreigner because of my looks I am hoping that by the end of this experience I can be more accustomed to the culture of Italy and the places I visit.
I'm Sabrina Kirsch a sophmore physical therapy student at Duquesne University. I will be spending the spring semester of 2017 in Rome, Italy where I will eat my way through all the gelato and pasta they offer. My goal is to see everything possible and visit as many countries as possible.