Wanting to connect with my Mexican Roots, every year since I was young. I make a trip to visit my family members over there. Not only to visit my family but also from a touristic point of view enjoying small getaways to places like Cancun and Puebla. However, I would never imagine the feeling I would get from going outside of what was my comfort zone.
I was very fortunate to get chosen for a study abroad program in Italy where I would be taking Master Courses in the Culinary Arts field. That meant living and going to school for a period of three months. My first day in Brescia a small city in the Lombardy region of Italy, I understood what was the definition of CULTURE SHOCK. I always imagined how it would be to visit another country however never really actually felt it. Everyone talking a language that I didn’t know, soft paced environment (comparing it to New York City), different music, gestures, slang, architectures, food, their fashion, the “Piazza”, Aperitivo (my favorite time) I mean every single detail astonished me.
One of my Professors advised that if you wanted to feel incorporated and wanted to learn more about a culture it can help to see what people your age would do. I celebrated my 21st birthday in Italy and started to pick up the language through classes and way faster by hanging out with the youth, their style, nightlife, and culture. Being a Spanish speaker came in handy because although it was hard to express myself, it did help me to understand the language because of the word similarities of some words.
I identify myself more as a Mexican rather than saying Mexican- American and would often say I was born in New York with Mexican origins. In Italy, a lot of people thought I was Moroccan and would get surprised when I would tell them I was from Mexico or from New York with a Mexican background.
As a Latina with no one to reference or relate from the people that surround me, I can’t express how interesting it was to live in Italy (the first one to go to Europe) to meet new people, habits, and overall culture. I won’t deny that we have some things in common. For instance, just the gesture of greeting people is such as important as it is in my hometown to acknowledge a person being there. Another example is also the terms used to refer an elder person versus a younger person for respect. In addition, the Italian language also uses feminine and masculine nouns found in the Spanish language. One of my favorites was to hear “nothing like my Grandmas’ cooking” or “my favorite food is my Grandmas’…”. I love hearing stories of people referring to their Grandmothers or Mother waking up early with passion and dedication to prepare home cook meals that take time. That reminded me of the women such as my Grandmothers and Aunts in my hometown in Mexico which I personally compare because I live it when I go. Something that I would say I don’t see much in New York due to a different lifestyle in a fast-paced city.
Overall, I did have a beautiful experience while in Italy, from Milan, riding a gondola in Venice, seeing how Franciacorta, Parmigiano- Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Caviar were produced, Juliet’s House and Tomb in Verona, the Vatican City, the Colosseum in Rome, amongst smaller trips. This experience has definitely helped me be more open to traveling and meeting/networking with other people, and of course wanting to go back again. I would definitely love to hear and read more stories through “On The Road Mija”.
Hello Everyone, I am really excited to share my story and I want to start by introducing myself. My name is Alissa Merino, born and raised New Yorker but with proud Mexican roots. Being that my parents left all their family, culture, and heart behind their dear hometown, my main aspiration was to always make them proud and let them know that moving to a new country was not all in vain. They might’ve not given me luxury goods but they gave me something much more valuable that no one can take away from me which were my values and education. I became the first generation to not only attend and graduate college with a full scholarship and dorming privileges but also obtained more than what I thought. That was to get an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Art, a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management, traveling opportunities for competitions, and go study abroad. Until this day, I focus on being a better person, a better future, aspire to make new goals, and making my parents proud, feeling an indescribable joy.