Although it’s exciting, traveling to a foreign country can be a daunting task. Whether you’re staying for ten days or a couple months, you have to be able to adapt to a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to your own. However, if you approach these changes with an open mind and you take advantages of opportunities to learn, you will be surprised how easy it is to feel like a local in a short amount of time.
I boarded a plane for Italy knowing no more than a couple basic Italian words. I was anxious about my ability to communicate and navigate the country and my only expectations were formed from looking at pictures. Upon arriving in Trastevere, I still felt these concerns. I could not imagine a neighborhood in Rome feeling like home in the short two weeks that I stayed there.
I could not have been any more wrong. The first couple of days were difficult with using public transportation, learning my way around the area and communicating with locals. Part of me wished that we could have lived in a more tourist-oriented area so that it was a little bit easier to adapt. However, as I reflect after being here for a week and a half, I can confirm that Trastevere feels like home.
I can now get up in the morning and grab breakfast and then hop on the tram to class. I know exactly which one to look for and I can find my stop with no difficulties. I know where the good pizza places are, where I can find American iced coffee, and how to find the best gelato. Every day that I leave my apartment, I feel one step closer to thinking like a local.
Developing confidence in a foreign country is partly expected over time, but it also requires some effort. It forces you to leave your comfort zone and put yourself in situations where you may feel lost. If you enter a new place with an open mind and a willingness to learn, you will take away more from your experience than others who do not.
Try to speak the language, even if you’re afraid that you’re going to say the wrong thing. You will learn from practice and your efforts will be appreciated.
Wander. Don’t be afraid to get lost down a side street. By exploring the area, you will become even more comfortable and it will make your experience that much better.
Take chances and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. By doing this, you will be amazed by how quickly a new area can feel like home.