Student Journals: AIFS in Rome, Italy

Betsabe Ricardez
University of Texas, Austin
Richmond in Rome, Italy
Volunteer at Istituto Comprensivo Daniele Manin

Only In Rome

Betsabe Ricardez When I first decided to study abroad in Rome, I had many fears. One of them was that of cultural assimilation. Understanding the language and way of life of the Italian people was a priority for me, so that I may be able to obtain the best out of my experience. At first I was not sure if I would accomplish this or how for that matter. Yet, a few weeks into my study abroad program I had the opportunity to volunteer with Italian children in an elementary school in Rome. I decided to take this opportunity, and it has made all the difference!

The volunteer work consisted on helping the children with their English. At first I believed that they would have no interest in learning about English or other American cultural facts for that matter. Yet, soon I started to realize how wrong our perspective can be about the way other cultures think. These children were eager to learn and interact with me; it was amazing to see them expecting to be taught. Even though at first both the students and I may have been a bit timid in getting to know each other, as we spent more time together a friendship grew. I feel that I did not only teach these kids English, but I learned from them too. As I helped them with their English they helped me with my Italian. I was able to better understand Italian with their help, whenever I had questions. While sitting alongside with them in class as their teacher taught them about their history I was able to understand the Italian culture not as a foreigner but as an Italian student. It was very interesting to see an Italian classroom setting.

It is known that you attain part of your culture in school. These children were so different than students back home. They were so eager to ask questions and so curious to know more, not afraid to raise their hands or try something new. It was a wonderful "hands on" experience of how Italian culture is. When I observed the classroom, at times it seemed I was viewing mini Italians. They were so articulate and gestured back and forth with their professor. They were not afraid to be wrong, and when they were they questioned why, always seeking an answer. Another really great aspect of a take I had being a volunteer was the general behavior, which influenced my thoughts about Italians in general. I was pleased to see that the students I taught were polite, well behaved, and giving. I could not have taken a better opportunity; it gave me a whole different view on so many things. Sometimes, we have to be like these children and not be afraid to seek answers. We can’t only regard one side of the picture; we have to look at the other as well. So, as much as this phrase is coined, it is necessary: “when in Rome, definitely do as the Romans do!”