“Would you like some peanuts?” the flight attendant asks as you fidget in your not-so-comfortable airplane seat. You look out the window to try to set your mind at ease and calm your anxiety-driven thoughts about the journey you are soon to begin. After a long and tedious eight-hour flight, the plane has landed, and as you walk down the narrow aisle to exit, all of the nervousness and doubt that you tried so hard to overcome has flushed back into your mind. Your hands are sweaty, your pulse is racing. You slowly walk out of the airplane and onto the land that seemed so small from the window. But it’s not just any land.it’s the land of another country.
“It’s like stepping into another world,” Nina Scimenes, senior English and communications major and a graphic design minor, said. Scimenes partook in the Study Abroad program to Athens, Greece in the summer of 2005. While studying there for six weeks, she also visited a number of other exotic places, including Rome. For Scimenes, the biggest problem she encountered with being in another country was the language barrier. “If you speak Italian, they’ll treat you better. My friend spoke really broken Italian and they wouldn’t respond to her. It’s a respect thing. They would rather you try to learn their language,” she said.
Scimenes noticed many differences between American ways and the cultures of the various countries she visited.
“We kind of had to gain their trust, because we dressed like Americans. We wore shorts, which is strange to them even though it’s hot there in Greece,” Scimenes said. “The Greeks have a lot of pride.”
Prior to departing the United States to study abroad, Scimenes and other classmates were given brochures to read about Greeks and their way of life.
“I didn’t expect to be welcomed in Greece. We read about them and so we knew ahead of time that they generalized.they didn’t like Americans because of their politics. But it turned out I really didn’t have a lot of problems there. They know that not all Americans are the same,” she said.
While Scimenes sometimes felt like an outsider during her trip, there were often times where she was mistaken for a Greek herself. “Because I have Greek features, I was treated extremely nice sometimes. Older men at stores would say, ‘Hey, you look like my daughter, can I get you something to drink?’ They take pride in their heritage and I definitely benefited from that,” she said. “It seems that this is true in a lot of places.if you blend in, they treat you better. In the United States, everyone looks different. You can’t pin-point who looks American, until you go to another country.”
Maria-Olivia De Nadai Albornoz, a junior finance major with a concentration in international business and minor in human resources management, left Italy and came to America for an education when she was 18 years old. “I looked at my brother for an example. He came here and I saw what he was achieving.it’s like opening a new door, a new experience,” Albornoz said.
The most difficult obstacle for Albornoz proved to be getting used to the different lifestyle. While she had a main goal of succeeding in school, other students here seemed to be focused on having fun. “I came here to learn English, to do good in school. I don’t want it to be a waste of money or time,” she said. “But my second semester, I started to understand the lifestyle of the campus, like Thursday nights, everyone goes out to party,” she said with a smile. “I started to think that if I wanted a social life, I needed to start doing what these people are doing. So I did, but then I began to think that it was wrong. You shouldn’t have to change just to have a social life here at Cabrini.I realized it was not my lifestyle,” she said.
She expressed the fact that if people label others as “weird” or “different,” those individuals will most likely have a hard time getting through school socially. However, she feels that her uniqueness is what helped her gain acceptance from other students.
“I was accepted just because I was different, maybe because of my clothes, maybe my accent or the way I think. But after all of that, I was still the foreign student that will leave Cabrini one day. I still feel like people look at me like I’m the ‘Italian girl.'”
While her Italian background helped her get recognized on campus, Albornoz began to experience the different typecasts in America. “I feel that there are so many stereotypes here.I feel like Americans see Italian people as this.they eat this kind of food, they do this, and they do that. But no, that’s not how it is. Italian people like to do many different things.of course Italians share the same culture so we have the same beliefs,” she said.
When looking back at her experience as a whole, Albornoz said, “People did try to make me feel comfortable, but there was a huge miscommunication with language. I couldn’t speak English at all when I first came here! At first I thought to myself, ‘ok, American people don’t have time, they’re running all the time and there’s always competition.’ So what do I have to do? I have to follow what I want to do here and take advantage of it all. I have to try to feel at home, even if I didn’t like the culture in the beginning because I didn’t understand it. I knew it was my choice to come here so I should take it upon myself to learn the language, I have to do something first and that’s what I did,” she said.
“Even with all the problems to overcome, it was all positive. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I really wanted to try,” Albornoz said.
Albornoz said it best when she said, “In the end, we are all individuals. Nobody’s perfect, nobody can understand everything.”
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Posted to the web by Matt Schill