Preparing for a New Culture

Mentally preparing yourself for your trip is a sure way to get even more excited and to have an easier transition going abroad. In my case, I wanted to learn more about the culture of Italy, get ideas on places to visit, and learn some common useful phrases.

While I know that I cannot fully trust movies and books to be completely realistic, I turned to literature and film to get inspired. I did a quick Google search to look up books and movies based in Italy, but I also looked for stories based in places that I knew I wanted to visit (such as Paris, London, Barcelona, etc.).


Most of the movies are in English, but I did watch two that were in foreign languages with subtitles, just for the fun of it. I think a movie created in its home country in the native language offers more value than an American-made film. You might as well start getting used to the dialect difference now, anyway! 

My list included a couple of popular young-adult movies that I enjoyed when I was younger, so it was exciting to re-watch them as a college student. When I was ten-years-old I never dreamt I would see these places in real life! (It turns out a lot of the girls on the trip had watched these movies, too!) I found these at my local library but they can also be purchased at Amazon.

  • The Lizzie McGuire Movie
  • Letters to Juliet
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • The Cheetah Girls 2
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Roman Holiday
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Paris, Je T’aime

A couple of the books I read were for entertainment, but more importantly I bought informational books about Italy to take abroad with me. These included a conversational book and a guidebook to Italy from the Bam! bookstore . The guidebook was great for places to visit, places to stay and eat by price, methods to travel, routes to see different cities within a short time, a fold-out map was included, and so much more handy information was in this thick text.The Fast Talk Italian was great to learn some key phrases since I had never taken an Italian language class before. It shows pronunciations, too, which is probably the most helpful part. It was tiny and compact so it could even fit in my purse to go everywhere I went.

    • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
    • The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper
    • Frommer’s Italy 2013
    • Lonely Planet’s Fast Talk Italian


Another great tool to use for language is your smart phone! Prior to my trip, I installed multiple free apps on my phone from iTunes. I had an Italian phrasebook, dictionary, “tutor”, and translator. These were even better than the book pronunciations because you can listen to them being said from your phone. You can also type in any sentence or work that you want to know and have it translated from English to multiple other languages.Another app I installed was an Italian radio app, which was cool to listen to. It is another part of the culture to experience, and you won’t hear much of it unless your apartment has a radio. Surprisingly, most shops and bars in Italy play American music, so get the app and get yourself out of the American mindset!


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