A lot changes when you study abroad. For me, one of the most stressful things was to find housing in Milan. Based on previous students’ experience, I knew I did not want to live in the foreign students’ dorm. This meant turning to the internet to find housing in a country where I barely knew anything about the language. With a lot of searching and more luck, I eventually found a girl heading to the U.S. who needed a sub-letter for her room for fall semester. This sounded perfect to me. We exchanged a flurry of emails over the summer, and then I headed over to Milan in August to officially begin the living-abroad experience.
I love my room. I love my Milanese apartment. It was remodeled two years ago, and the inside looks like an IKEA showroom (for good reason: the contractor refurbished the place with purchases from IKEA). Downstairs are the kitchen, bathroom, and lounge area, while the bedrooms are upstairs. Best of all though, I can live with my roommate.
I was really apprehensive about having an Italian roommate. I feared the worst. I don’t speak Italian well, and she doesn’t speak English- so how would we communicate? What if she threw loud parties every night? What if, what if, what if dominated a lot of my thoughts about my roommate before I met her. I never really thought about what she would be thinking before meeting me.
The day that my roommate moved in (I had been in Milan for three weeks by then, taking a language class), she showed up on the doorstep with her entire family- mom, dad, brothers, cousins, etc. The entire family even stayed the night in our tiny apartment (in all fairness, the cousin lived next door, so the extended family stayed over there). As nervous as I was about meeting my roommate, it turns out she was far more nervous to meet me, an American student from the UW.
Since that time, her family has gone home, and we’ve really gotten to know each other. True, communication can be an issue, but we can generally work it out. We have more language dictionaries floating around our apartment than the amount of languages we speak. If there are any problems, we’ve mastered the art of facing them head-on, rather than silently fuming about them. Mainly, our problems have been cultural and not really clashes of personality. I’ve really enjoyed living with her, and learning about Italians more. After all, I came to Italy to learn what it meant to be Italian and to learn what life was like in a different culture.
Still, with all my willingness to learn, it is extremely nice to have my own room. When life gets too overwhelming or too stressful, when I miss the UW or can’t figure out what I’m doing next quarter, I can retreat to my room, and enjoy that rare feeling in Italy of being alone.