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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Commentary: Student critiques campus culture after studying abroad

After returning to Ithaca College from eight months of living the life in the Eternal City, I am definitely Rome sick.

Junior Brian Porreca spent the fall semester studying in Rome and is trying to readjust to life on campus despite his disapproval of the American approach to sustainability and healthy living. Courtesy of Brian Porreca
Junior Brian Porreca spent the fall semester studying in Rome and is trying to readjust to life on campus despite his disapproval of the American approach to sustainability and healthy living.
Courtesy of Brian Porreca

According to the Study Abroad Student Handbook Worldwide, there are four stages of reverse culture shock: disengagement, initial euphoria, irritability and hostility and readjustment and adaptation. I am feeling, for the most part, all of these. Whether it’s being irritated and tempted to clock out early from class or being disconnected from my friends and things I used to think were fun, reverse culture shock is damaging.

Getting back into the swing of my schedule here is tough. I was used to walking by the Vatican every day and not rushing back to my room to escape Ithaca’s brutal winds. The ability to travel in Europe was mind blowing. Here, it’s not like I can hop on a plane and go to another country for the weekend. I was in the center of rich art, history and culture. But being back in the middle of nowhere Ithaca, the only sights to see are the deer outside my building, and the only tour stops are the line of fast food joints along South Meadow.

I’m tempted to get rid of my meal plan after watching students stack their trays in the dining hall. The problem is not that they’re hungry but the fact that their eyes are bigger than their stomachs — and they end up wasting most of the food.

In Italy, it was a light breakfast, a panini for lunch and a decent-sized, but delicious dinner. I could walk across the street to the market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and prepare my own meal. Here we indulge in the genetically modified, pesticide-covered foods. I miss being able to walk among Italians wherever I wanted and enjoy a glass of wine with my pizza — or even a fresh glass of water filled by the fountains along the streets.

Here, our best friend — but the ecosystem’s enemy — goes by the name of Poland Springs and comes in the form of plastic bottles. Watching people fear to take a sip of water from the fountain or fill up a glass of tap water is sad. We are so wrapped up in consumerism and buying water, when our very own sink is free and the same thing, if not better. All we need to do is eliminate the fear of what’s in our tap water. It’s not our fault that we think like this; society has plagued us with the idea that tap water is not the best thing to be sipping. It’s fine though and will not only save us all some change, but it will slowly help our environment.

Maybe we drink from water bottles because everyone else does. I can’t leave my house without spotting 17 college sweatshirts in a matter of 60 seconds. In Europe, people don’t conform — they create. Though I detested dressing up for class every day, I had to. If I didn’t, it was a sign of disrespect to the culture. Here we roll out of bed and pretend to be professionals even though we’re wearing mismatching socks. We do it because everyone else is, and there is no sense of originality or diversity.

For now, all I can do is remind myself that I’ll be back to Rome soon enough and won’t shave my mustache until I do.