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Faux pas abroad

| Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Here in Rome, it’s pretty easy to tell I’m from somewhere else.

I dress the part. I travel in a pack. I can’t roll my r’s. And when I speak Italian, I tend to forget the operative word, so a simple question (“Are these the same thing?”) becomes an awkward linguistic dance (“So that one is that one, but is this one also that one?”).

And I make American assumptions. Like when I went grocery shopping for the first time, I grabbed my produce and got all the way to checkout before I realize that here, you weigh your vegetables and print out a barcode in the produce section, not at the register. Also, I somehow misread the number 7 as the number 4. I just hope the people behind me didn’t miss their bus.

If I’d done a basic Google search, I would have learned fairly quickly that yes, you are supposed to weigh your own vegetables in Italian supermarkets. I also may have committed the cardinal sin of touching them with my bare hands (though, thankfully, I took everything I handled).

Lessons learned. Uncomfortably.

But it’s the good kind of uncomfortable. Other than grossing out a few of my poor Roman neighbors (mi dispiace molto), I’ve been doing okay. In the supermarket, I only spent 10 euro for a whole lot of food. I had an entire conversation in Italian. I’m more aware of the people around me and that I’m a guest in their country — but I also have a great story to tell.

That’s what this year’s study abroad blog, Observer Passport, is all about: our stories. It’s our experiences abroad — our travels, our triumphs, our uncomfortable moments. It’s a how-to (or how-to-not) guide for current or future travelers. It’s a photographic record for the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s experiences abroad. It’s easy, interesting and sometimes impactful reading, whether you’re in Le Mans Hall or Le Mans, France.

You’ll hear more from me, as I continue to apologize for my faux pas. You’ll hear from writers in England and Ireland, in Spain and Jordan. You’ll hear about trips, language, culture, politics, good and bad, scary and exciting.

If you’re abroad, or if you’ll be abroad at any point this semester, we want to hear from you, too. Send your writing, pictures or questions to [email protected] We’ll work with you and put it online or even in print.

And wherever you are, have fun, but learn the local term for “whoops.” And don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable.

Emily McConville can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

Contact Emily