Italian stranger spotting
Monday, January 28, 2008
By Special to Opinions
In the summer of 2006 I went on the Vienna Studies program. I had the chance to meet people from all over the world.
When we had the chance for free travel, we’d take trains to visit the
different big cities in Europe and I usually ended up sitting with
For three, six, or eight hours, however long the train ride was, I’d
chat it up with the people in my car. I met people from all over
Europe and Asia on the trains, and had the opportunity to learn about
their culture on a first hand basis.
I remember one train ride from Italy to Austria where I ended up in a
couchette (sleeper car) with a family from Dubai. I was pleasantly
surprised to find that they spoke perfect English.
We were bonded together by our distaste for the Italian train system.
The air-conditioning was broken and it was too hot to sleep, so we
spent the night talking about anything and everything.
Much to our mutual surprise, we had a lot to learn about each other’s
countries. As I learned more about them, stereotypes shattered and I
was astonished to learn what the Arab world was like.
Likewise, I had the chance to shatter some of their stereotypes about
Americans. I met many other people from around the world, and with
each conversation, stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings were torn
I came back to OC with a different perspective. The student body
at OC is actually quite interesting and diverse. You can meet people
from every continent of the world in our own cafeteria.
People are interesting. Everyone has his or her own unique experiences
and perspective on life. Sitting down at a table with complete
strangers and meeting them might be one of the most profound learning
experiences of your life.