They say the best way to learn a language is to completely immerse yourself within the culture, by just throwing yourself into the mix. I’ve been in Malta for a little over a week and it’s been a similar experience. I arrived and jumped right in.
Getting to my apartment was one of the most challenging parts. I didn’t know the address, because the house doesn’t have one. I knew the street and that was it. Talking to my taxi driver about where I needed to go was stressful because we both just got in the car expecting the other to know where the destination was. He asked me if I had been there before and I said that I had just moved to Malta and this was my first time. He verified by stating, “But you have visited Malta before.” No, no I had not. He was not the only person I had that conversation with and every time I told a local that I just moved here for the year without ever having been here before, I felt more and more insane.
As I’ve written, I have been feeling very comfortable here. I haven’t experienced any culture shock, I’ve been able to accept all of the little nuances of and minor differences of between American and European cultures very easily, and I have not felt out of place at all.
Of course, leaving home was hard. Goodbyes are always difficult. I said goodbye to those that I love: my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, cousins, boyfriend, friends from home, friends from school, the mountains, cows, cornfields, sweet tea. I said goodbye to things that I didn’t think I would miss but have become noticeably absent from my life: my cat, American accents, people excited about Hokie football, grass, knowing which way to look when crossing the street, being able to read the ingredients on juice containers, wearing jeans.
Today is Labor Day in the U.S., which is not a thing here, and it was weird to finally realize that it is in fact a major holiday at home, while we’ve been so focused on the fact that we have a free day tomorrow because it is a religious feast day.
Today is also Game Day in Blacksburg, and my social media has been blown up by videos of Brad Paisley giving a free concert at Virginia Tech, and people tailgating and using #beatOSU. These are the things that make me miss my friends and miss being in Blacksburg. I’m currently the only one around wearing a VT shirt, and I had someone comment today, “Rachel, could you be any more Virginia Tech right now?” Please. You haven’t seen anything. Possibly the worst part is that there is a girl from Ohio State in my program, and she seems completely uninterested in what’s happening today, while I know for a fact that Blacksburg is lit up right now and I don’t have any other Hokies anywhere near me.
I took a class centered around experiencing love and loss. It was called The Creative Process, and the focus was those two things, love and loss, and they make up the very essence of our lives. While I said goodbye to those things that I lost (temporarily) that I love, I have also gained a lot.
I am really enjoying getting to know my new roommates and friends, I’m excited to start school and to work on my research, I’m excited to make the most of this year. Today I met with my advisors to discuss my capstone research. They said that they’ve been observing the group throughout the last week of orientation to see how everyone has been adjusting. They told me that out of everyone, they think I’m one of the most well-adjusted and that I seem like “I just get it, I know what’s going on. I must be made for Mediterranean life.” It’s a very encouraging thing to hear in this type of situation, so I know that I’ve got this.