Cultural Bubble

There is something so necessary about putting yourself in a place where you are the outsider so that you can observe your tendencies, both the good and bad ones. However, this experience is very hard for the hyperaware and introspective individuals like myself. I tend to overanalyze my actions and my personality on a minute-to-minute basis…being here for four months is a real test of resilience.

In one of my classes, I was asked what it means to be American, and after some silence from the class, the professor changed his question to what doesn’t make you Italian?

When you’re a tourist in a new space it is evident who you are, there is a clear barrier between you and the place you are visiting. Locals know you are a tourist and you know your role in the city: to see what you came to see and get out. But when you’re studying abroad that line is blurred confusing both you and the people around you. The issue I have been having the past three weeks is this: I want to fit in so badly!

I come from Bulgaria and I have struggled with the duality of my existence for a long time. I am too American for Europe and too European for America, I never feel like I fit in anywhere. So when I came to Italy I wanted to feel like I am a part of this culture when in reality I haven’t grown up here, I’m not.

At least if your thought process is anything like mine, you can see where the cognitive dissonance happens. On my bad days, I wake up thinking about how I put myself in a very uncomfortable position. I dwell on the fact that I don’t fit into this culture and every gaze I get from a stranger on the street makes me feel like an outsider.

At the end of the day, I remind myself that I can’t lose perspective of this situation. I am in a beautiful, historic city that so many people dream of visiting. I am standing in front of the art that I studied in art history class just two months ago! I have to let go of my tendency to overthink and appreciate where I am.

Petra Tsocheva
Rutgers University
ISI Florence Blogger , SPRING 2020