Never in my life had I sat in a plane for over 10 hours, let alone flown across an ocean. Surprisingly, I did not expect to be nervous when arriving in a new country despite being unfamiliar with its language and culture.
At first, when descending into Rome, I was surprised at how normal the scenery appeared from the sky. Terracotta roofs lined the coastline, and a busy highway passed alongside it. It was not until finding my way through the airport that I was hit with the reality of no longer being able to read signs I previously would not have thought twice about being a necessity to get across a building. Nonetheless, this created a spark of excitement that I was about to experience something I had never had the chance to before. A group of students and I soon gathered in the pickup line outside the airport and were escorted to our apartments by the API program leaders. As we drove to the city center, our eyes were glued to the windows observing everything we passed. I’m not sure if we all expected to pass buildings reminiscent of the Coliseum along the highway, yet we were equally shocked to see the commonalities of infrastructure Rome shared with cities in the United States. It was humorous for all of us to realize we expected complete ancient architecture in a modern city.
However, we were not prepared for the biggest culture shock of arriving: the fear of air conditioning. We don’t often consider that cultures don’t prioritize the same technology as we do at home, and when it comes to Italy, the temperature outside does not impact day-to-day life. In Rome, it is common to see windows open throughout the daytime to allow a natural breeze to pass through the home; artificial air cooling is seen as a cause of sickness. Retrospectively, it did not take long to adjust, and we quickly found it pleasurable to be encouraged to spend more time outside enjoying the warm weather. The unity with nature became one of my favorite things about the city: a moment never passes where you cannot hear the laughter and conversations of friends spending time with one another along the city streets. The day is meant to be spent outdoors here in Italy!