How to be Both a Local and a Tourist

Tara S. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a Campus Storyteller. She comes to SYA from Friends Seminary.

Tara Singh IT '23 stands with friends by the colosseum 

In recent weeks, I have started to explore Italian culture and landscape beyond Viterbo. For our Wednesday fieldworks, the school traveled to Rome, Bolsena, Bagnoregio and Tarquinia – our main goals being to discover and navigate these new cities. Upon arrival, my mind was simply in awe, struggling to comprehend their beauty. Traveling to Bagnoregio, I was breath taken by the ancient town that was surrounded by chasms and mountains. In many ways, places like Bagnoregio and Rome are much more exciting than Viterbo, in part due to their novelty; I am distracted by the thrill of seeing American brands like the Lego store or hearing people speak English.

But I am also struck with a feeling of displacement. It feels abnormal to be around other native English speakers. It feels strange to be jam packed with tourists, and even more strange to feel like one of those tourists–despite living in the country for three months. I notice how differently Romans drive in comparison to the swerving cars throughout the narrow streets of Viterbo. I taste gelato and think to myself, the Piazza Commune gelato is better. At 5:16, I look at the clock and feel confused when I do not hear the bell tower ring from my bedroom. Even though it has been a mere eight hours, I felt reminiscent of Viterbo in a way that paralleled my initial homesickness for New York. Even when my parents visited in November, I found myself rolling my eyes at their "touristy" American behavior. Despite only being here for a few months, Viterbo is a place that I have grown accustomed to–a place whose routines and history I am intimately familiar with. In many ways, Viterbo has become my new home, and it is hard to imagine myself without it.

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