Crash Course

by Marisa Martin (Loyola College)
I TRY TO AVOID brutta forma and put forth my best bella figura. Every day.

I, clearly, am far from fluent in Italian. But I try to speak as much as I can and as correctly as I can. Every day.

I have not grown up in Italian culture. I had a vague idea of what it would be like before I came here. (My grandmother, a native Italian, has shared some of the cultural aspects with me my whole life.) But, considering I’ve attempted to adopt a whole new way of life, I’d like to think I’ve meshed pretty well.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees, namely the locals. We, the group in general, all suffer from the same strain of unaccepted-itis. We feel the stares, and hear the laughter before and after the word “americani.” … Like we can’t understand what they’re saying.

Granted, the gawk-fest doesn’t happen every time we step outside. But I do feel “shunned” on some level at least once or twice a day, even if it’s just a look up and down from a passerby. I can tell they don’t approve.

All of this sounds exactly like the section my group covered from the enculturation /acculturation packet. Kim’s model suggested that meshing of cultures is a two-way street. There are factors in ones personal history to either ease acculturation or make it more difficult, such as previous exposure to the culture and willingness to give up part of one’s previous identity. Even if all the signs are in your favor, the culture has its own set of factors to ease or hinder the culture blend. The society basically can choose whether or not it wants to accept you, regardless of how hard you try.

But I’ve done my best in our crash course on the Italian lifestyle, and there’s not much more I could ask for. Except to hope that, someday, I’ll have a chance to come back, and I can give it another try!