February 2, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 35°F


Culture balloon pops for Italy

My name is Liz and I’m a pop culture junkie.

I didn’t understand what a revelation that was until I spent a month in limbo between my home in Rochester and my new destination, Rome.

People tell you that studying abroad will change your life. But standing at the precipice of change was not as glamorous as I had imagined. Instead, like any other break, I spent less time thinking ahead to Europe and more time thinking about how I wish I’d kept in touch with people from high school. I was bored.

Luckily, I found condolence in my other friend: the great North American television community.

I wrote this parked in front of my big-screen television, watching some hour of “America’s Next Top Model.” As much as I hate Tyra Banks, I love this show. Or maybe I only watched it because it was the only thing on. There’s no way to know.

My best friend and I sat watching TV the other day when I realized, with shameful regret, that I would be missing the rest of this season’s “The Office.” I actually got sad.

“I’m going to come back a weirdo,” I said. “Seriously, I won’t have TV for a long time. It’s going to be strange.”

“Liz, you’re going to Italy,” she said. “Shut up.”

That’s when I had my second realization. I’m not afraid to leave “The Office” or VH1. I’m afraid to leave the familiarity they represent. My pop culture addiction is less a problem and more a comfort.

Saying goodbye to my remote control may be the hardest goodbye I face because it’s the first step in my journey away from the usual people, places and things. My biggest fear is to change so much that I can’t relate to the humor in Michael Scott anymore. From this juvenile worry a real fear emerged: Would I come back a snob, snubbing low-brow entertainment? Would I come back and judge my American lifestyle and friends?

I’ve seen it before. Students come back from Europe and frown on their “old” American lifestyle. But Michael Scott hasn’t done anything but make me laugh, and my American friends who love him do not deserve an attitude.

It’s a challenge we’re faced with all the time: the ability to appreciate the new without shunning the old. It takes a big person to learn to balance curiosity for a new culture with affection for the old.

So as I say “arrivederci” to “mia televisione,” I’ll keep my mind open to the possibility that I may change, but I have faith that my sense of American humor will stay intact. Still, I don’t think I’ll ever like Banks. She’s so annoying.

Liz taddonio is a junior culture and communication major. E-mail her at etaddon1@ithaca.edu.