By Michaela Papa, Columnist
Much like I found myself writing my first editorial, I write my last atop my terrace soaking in the Tuscan sun. Ah, the metaphorical circle of it all: how deeply satisfying. But, despite the moderately (contrived) cyclical nature of my editorials, am I really where I began? Nay. And so, we delve into: Michaela's European Discoveries.
Over the course of about three and a half months I have spent time in six countries. While that's fewer than other abroaders, and I'm no Alexi Knock (Hofstra's own Odyssea), I think I garnered a good feel for each place, observing nuances of the varying cultures. However, what I found at large was how bizarrely similar many places are. There are just some universal things.
The most obvious of these things is a universal love of pizza and kebobs. They are ubiquitously available. Every country I visited not only had pizza and kebobs accessible, but readily available. Multiple places within a short distance to the point where it was impossible to ignore.
Living in places renowned for pizza (New York, Italy, New Haven…) I tried my best to eat pizza in each place I visited without sacrificing traditional food of the country. Cheap pizza is pretty much all the same.
Also, I learned how far a smile, a point and a head nod or shake could get you. Of the six countries I traversed, I only speak the language of two of them…and even that's a bit dubious at times. While I felt rude and ignorant not knowing the vernacular of the country I was visiting, I suppose it's reasonable not to pick up in only a few days.
I needed only a few words, which I happened to know. Moral of the story, I got a 2-CD set of wonderfully entertaining German songs for €1. Win. Turns out, it was supposed to be €15. Even better. I had no idea how well you could get by with smiling and gesturing.
One unfortunate realization was that American chocolate sucks. There, I said it. I look forward to coming home and being "that kid." I'll embrace it! Power to the bourgeoisie wanna-bes! Chocolate in America just doesn't compare to European desserts. While I have found myself craving Oreos, as a whole, America fails in the dessert department. We need to step up our game. I was so naïve enjoying my Hershey's bars and Chips Ahoy. It's no wonder Europeans eat pastry for breakfast—you need to incorporate it into your diet as much as possible. It's almost excessively delicious.
Perhaps the greatest realization, though maybe the most obvious, is I ended up missing things. I mean this with as much duality as possible. I find myself wanting American things I never would have guessed I would ever desire. Pancakes are top on this list. In Italy breakfast is usually a pastry of sorts, usually on the go. I don't think I have ever wanted chocolate chip banana pancakes or waffles as badly as I do now. You would think French toast and Belgian Waffles would be more of a thing.
Furthermore, I miss CVS and Target. If Target doesn't have it, I don't need it. One-stop places like this don't really exist here. It's a bit refreshing, but I'll admit Target is going to be one of my first stops in America. Archer Farms and Massimo, you feel so right.
While I found myself missing tangible things, I also missed events. Silly things from ChronProm and nights on the fields to being in America when Osama Bin Laden was killed. Clearly, a range of happenings, but I missed them nonetheless.
While I wouldn't trade these things for nights wandering around il duomo or the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, it's still odd to think of what I missed. And so, in coming abroad I learned exactly what I have at home. As I start to gather my scattered belongings and cross things off my "To Do Before Leave Italy" list, I am reminded of the Italian philosopher, Ferris Bueller. "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." It's all happening!
Albeit a less clever column title, my life in America ain't so bad. But don't tell anybody I said that. So I'll embrace my Florence-flab and ninja-attired pedestrians and creepy Italians and all the culture and sunshine that is left to soak up in Tuscany in my last few days. Va bene.