Strangers on the Bus

By Alina Stakhova, Foster Undergraduate who participated in the Accounting Rome Exploration Seminar during Early Fall Start 2017. Alina was a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship recipient. 

As soon as I got back from my study abroad, the most popular question I got was “which part was the highlight of your trip?” or “what was your favorite part?” and it’s so hard to pick just one thing, but there is always a story that comes to mind when I think back on all the weekend travels we did.

It was our first weekend traveling around Italy, so we had no idea what we were doing, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We were spending a weekend Pompeii and had to switch trains in Napoli. Nobody told us how sketchy Napoli is or how it’s nothing like Rome or any other pretty place you may be imagining in Italy. Nonetheless, after a very eventful weekend and our first near-pick-pocket experience, we were heading home. But first, we had to make a stop in Napoli in order to transfer to the train that was going to take us back to Rome. Since we had a couple hours to kill, we figured we would try some pizza since that’s what Napoli is most known for. As we were taking the bus to around the city, I began to notice a lot of older Ukrainian women around. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but since I am Ukrainian, I would keep overhearing conversations and got a little curious about the nature of their visits in Napoli (since me and my friends found it to be a sketchier city without much scenery).

So, on our last bus to the train station after spending a few hours in Napoli, I was crammed right between two Ukrainian grandmas on the bus which was about 30 minutes in duration. As soon as they mentioned their frustrations about the crammed bus, I decided to chime in and make small talk. And it was the best decision I had made. I learned that there are a lot of older ladies from Russia and Ukraine that come and live in different places in Italy, especially Napoli, and they offer caregiving services to Italian elders as a way to make money and provide for their family back home. I had learned of a whole community of my people in one of my favorite countries! It almost made me see Napoli in a better light…almost.

I also got to hear their pick-pocketing stories after sharing what happened in our group that weekend. One of the ladies told me about how a young man tried stealing her phone from her pocket by bumping into her in a crowded bus and how she looked his in the eye and yelled at him to give it back, and she got her phone back from him!

That 30-minute bus ride was one of the most meaningful experiences that I had in Italy because I really got to know what it’s like for an outsider to live in a place like Napoli. I also had the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with some strangers on a bus and it turned into one of the most amazing stories. I think everybody needs to have one of those.