I studied abroad and worked in Italy which was indeed two moments of greatness. Studying in the heart of Rome at 19 years old, allowed me access to ancient Rome —Vatican City, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and other popular historic buildings. It also exposed me to current day Italian culture as I engaged with Italian people in various locations such as: flea markets, restaurants, local farmers markets and other social spaces. This cross-cultural exchange enriched me not only because I was living in Italy’s capital city but also because my classrooms were filled with students from all over the globe, residents from six continents were present.
What made my experience even better was the country’s central location in Europe, this offered me the opportunity to travel quite frequently and almost every weekend I was exploring other parts of the country or other countries in the European Union. Living abroad, I learned to rely on myself for everything. Many times my colleagues did not feel as if they were “enough” to be around people who had a bit more wealth than they, sometimes they lacked the funds to go to events or even restaurants. I did not allow that to stop me from enjoying different cultures and environments, whether or not that meant they were coming. So every Wednesday, I went to a place called Testaccio in Rome and danced salsa. It was so much fun having a routine, it allowed me to feel like I was at home in Rome. I walked to and from my apartment and never got lost.
Moreover, this experience prepared me for my work experience in Positano in the Amalfi Coast during my undergraduate degree. I worked as a stagiaire at a five star, Leading Hotel of the World, with a two-star Michelin star restaurant. I was proud to be the first black person to work in the hotel and demonstrate a high level of excellence while working in Italian only systems. I enjoyed the beach town, yachting and showing others, tourists and natives alike, that a black person is here living; eating and dwelling just like them. For many, I was the first black person they had encountered and spoke to.
I accepted the differences many saw and was at peace whether or not they were because I knew within myself that I deserved to be there. I was often asked to translate and teach the Reservations staff American culture and business etiquette. This helped me realize how important cross-cultural communication is in today’s society because of globalization and its effects. It is so important to engage with people and understand how culture is at the forefront, influencing dialogues and ideas to be shared unconventionally.
By Topaz S.
Topaz is the founder of EN-NOBLE. EN-NOBLE’s mission is to create immersive experiences for the socially conscious traveler. They believe in sustaining local markets through travel and seek ways to access resource-filled communities lacking exposure to the broader tourism market.