Living in another country has been incredible. It has taught me patience and undoubtedly, humbled me. As much as I love it here in Italy, I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life here.
I was expecting something different. I may have romanticized my expectation of Italy a bit. I wanted to fall in love with it immediately and picture the possibility of moving here in the future.
Despite not seeing a future in Italy myself, let’s focus on the important stuff going on now.
The homecooked meals from my host Vittoria have been nothing short of impeccable. I really didn’t know there were that many variations of pasta (she made marinara spaghetti our first night here, probably to test the waters). Her risotto the other evening was nothing like I’ve ever had in the states.
It had the perfect consistency. The last-minute mozzarella cheese she added to the risotto strung away perfectly from grain to grain, as it were playing my heart strings on every bite (I was very hungry this particular evening if you couldn’t tell).
I live about 45 minutes to school via the bus, and I’ve been dreading it every day. This is probably my least favorite part of my stay.
But, even so, I see the opportunity in everything.
I’m making it a habit to read on my Kindle every commute. Looks like I’ll have a few more finished books to add to my arsenal by the end of this trip! Two hours of commuting everyday will not go by wasted.
I work in comparisons. I’ve always wondered how someone did something in the past, so I can imitate and innovate it.
That was it. I needed to find someone who has successfully adapted to the culture around them and really empowered them.
I didn’t have to look any further to see that individual right in front of me.
Trung Tran, is one of the main coordinators that work with AIFS, the organization that really put this whole trip together. He is Vietnamese American and I couldn’t wait to share his story with you guys.
He did the same program six years ago, when he was 20. Since then, he’s been living in Italy for five years. How did he go from being a normal student at a junior college to being an international facilitator of a study program?
I wanted to dive deep and address the first thing people face when they think about traveling abroad.
The fear of submersing yourself in a new environment can be intimidating…
- It can be the fear of leaving your comfort zone that you’ve grown so accustomed to in your own country.
- It can also be financial fear as well, study abroad programs are definitely not the cheapest routes to your degree.
I asked Trung what even brought him to the absurd idea of traveling abroad in the first place. His answer?
”I just went.. I took a chance. You know? You never know… You trust yourself to go out and test it. If you don’t go, you’ll never know”
That to me was profound.
Taking a calculated risk is probably what most people say they’re going to do but never do. We’re scared of failing. It’s a fact.
Failing sucks. Period.
Trung took a risk six years ago and it has been one of the best decisions of his life. He’s made countless international friends from all over the world and broadened his perspective on those around him.
But, hey, there’s costs to studying abroad isn’t there?
Trung LOVES what he does. He has a burning passion for working with students, and giving them the similar experience he had six years ago. He owes it all to his first experience abroad and trusting in himself.
That’s an opportunity cost.
Just imagine how his life would’ve been different in regards to his passion for helping international students?
However, not everything was picture perfect for Trung.
He faced discrimination as an Asian American in Italy.
“In Italy, if you’re born in another country, it doesn’t matter how long you live here. You’re still not Italian… You will never be an Italian if you were born somewhere else.”
Discrimination is something extremely common and is to be expected when there are minorities. I asked him how he overcame that, as it must have been difficult to adjust to when he first moved to Italy from the states.
“I talked to them about it, and we had a conversation, and they explained to me why… Italians still had to learn about immigration… whereas in America… growing up with a bunch of different ethnicities, it makes the experience normal”
Communication, communication, and did I mention communication?
Trung relied on communication when faced with adversity in a whole other country. He could’ve retorted negatively, reacting with the same negativity towards traditional Italians– but he didn’t. He used the environment around him and adapted to it to grow and mature as an individual.
“You aren’t going to change the mind of a 60-year-old. But you can talk to them and understand why they think a certain way. And tell them why you think a certain way.”
A timid twenty year old Trung has grown to a resilient, respectable, and responsive individual as a result of his cultural environment.