Becoming One with Siena
Tiffany, Siena, Fall 2015
November 19, 2015

Fitting in can take a long time to achieve in an exchange. By “fitting in”, I mean feeling less like a tourist and more like a part of the society. I have now been in Italy for 2 ½ months and I am just now beginning to feel like this is my home. I am dressing more like an Italian, I can navigate my way through Italian cities, and I know how transportation works. I even have my own favorite places and hidden gems of Siena that I go to often, which I recommend everyone who studies abroad to search for. Fitting in starts off with the small things.

Campo

Here is one of the typical hangouts for Siena, Piazza del Campo. Many tourists come here every day to take pictures or to hang out in big groups. The Italians also might be in big groups, but more often they will be alone to just sit, reflect, and enjoy their surroundings. Before I took this picture like a tourist, I had been relaxing and reflecting, like I had seen many before me do. 

I started to feel a small accomplishment when I knew how the streets worked. I know what directions cars are able to come from and where they have to turn. This means I can now walk on the side of the street and not freak out every time a car drives right by my feet and I can chuckle along with the other Italians when we see the tourists being flustered by the cars and not knowing where they are going. I am also learning street names, so when someone tells me where they live, I do not always have to pretend that I know where it is.

Wine

Here you can see the Siena Italian Studies students having a wine class. This is pretty important to fit in here. Italians are serious about their wine.

My Italian still needs much improvement, but I have repeated simple conversation enough to feel comfortable talking to new people. I love it when I am able to give directions to Italians and tourists visiting Siena. I socialize often with store owners and employees and when they recognize me, it gives me a great feeling. I definitely recommend starting little conversations with employees in stores that you visit frequently. There is even a sweet old man that runs a restaurant down the street from my apartment and we greet each other every morning that I walk by.

Flight

One of my proudest language moments happened on this flight to Egypt for my fall break. There happened to be a situation where I had to translate Italian to German and vice versa for the passenger sitting next to me and the flight attendants, who wanted to communicate with him. I surprised myself that I was able to do this with my Italian. Fitting in and speaking the language well go hand in hand. 

I think the most important part for me to make this place a home is finding Italian friends. Thanks to a program that my school offers, Language Partners, I am able to meet with some local Italians each week. I have met some really great people and we have started to get together outside of the group. These past few weeks have been the turning point for me in Italy. I was invited to aperitivo (Italian happy hour) and a celebration by my new Italian friends, and I had a blast. Having Italian friends will help me improve my Italian and will make me feel like I have put down some roots and will have an emotional connection to Siena.

Aperitivo

Speaking of aperitivo, this is one of the most popular drinks ordered at that time. This drink is called a Spritz, it originated from Venice.

For the most part, I know how to fit in here, but it does not mean I will always want to. I will still happily be stared at by the Italians while eating gelato in the cold weather and I will probably always walk as if I have somewhere to go.

Friends

This was my first Italian get-together. I had so much fun and was able to make even more Italian friends. 

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Tiffany is a current student at University of Missouri studying at Siena Italian Studies in Italy during the Fall 2015 term.

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SAI is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.