Senior Spring Hill College student Gabriela Diaz is a dual major studying International Relations and Spanish. She is from Miami, Florida.

I know I will return to Italy many times in my life, but never again will I set foot on Italian soil and live in the real world of Italian college life.  Bologna is a natural place for meeting Italian students but living in the Camplus Alma Mater residence hall is like no other place I have been.  There are fourteen nations represented in our residence hall as well as all the regions of Italy. The Sicilians are the largest both in numbers and in pride.

We really have become a family, the Italians are stunned when we walk the halls in our flip flops “careful, you are going to catch a cold” and we fall even more in love with them when they make us pasta in their rooms. Had it not been for this residence hall, never would I have been exposed to these amazing people.  I can honestly these Italians are the hardest working, the most laid back, and probably the most affectionate friends I have ever had.  Here is what a few of my Italian neighbors have to say about us Southerners, New Jersey folks, and Californian’s landing in their dormitory.

“My fondest memories are when we do “Sunday Brunch” together.  I enjoy making traditional Sicilian cannolis and the Americans show us what they make for breakfast when at home” (Stefano Castiglione, Agrigento, Sicily).  Stefano forgot to mention that it is actually his mamma who makes the cannolis and sends them in the mail to Bologna.

“This experience of living with Americans has helped me to better understand their lifestyles and I now understand a culture that is very different from our ways of doing things” (Alberto Acuto, Alessandria, Piemonte region).  Alberto offers some advice for incoming Spring Hill students; “Don’t worry, we share the same problems as you in talking in a different language, this anxiety is normal.”

Perhaps Marcello Massitti, my engineering friend from the Marche region, who has a knack for playing late night ding-dong-ditch on his neighbors best captures life here at the Alma Mater; “E fantastico! Vorrei che stessero qui per sempre!” (Fantastic, I would like them to stay here forever, is it possible?”

As I think about returning to the United States, all I can say is that this whole experience has made me rethink my whole life plan.  Living with Italians, learning about the imperfections in one another’s cultures and political systems has reminded me that I need to refocus and recommit to Social Justice issues. I am happy to say I have no clue what the future has in store for me but I am looking forward to it. Had it not been for this community I would not have been able to grow, gain confidence and appreciate the world in ways I never imagined possible!