Reverse Culture Shock and More


First, I must apologize. I am tardy in publishing this - I actually wrote it weeks ago, then realized I hadn't uploaded the necessary photos from my camera, then procrastinated, then uploaded them, then forgot about this post, then was a bridesmaid in my older brother's wedding, then I was bored one day and checked the student blog... And here I am.

Wendy and Angela

Bridesmaids (me, left, with my younger sister).

This is, roughly, a four part post. Part I is my final digital photography project. Part II is about my triumphant (and jet-lagged) return to the United States. Part III is a brief farewell to the Class of 2008, plus some photos from commencement. Part IV is about my future plans (the summer and into next year, a bit). Read on if you dare; it's a bit of a hodgepodge.

Part I: My Final Digital Photography Project

I thought this might be enjoyable. I did this project for a digital photography course at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. The requirements were that it had to include 10-20 photos, put into slideshow form with words and music to enhance their meaning. My "theme" was less of a theme and more of just an idea: that each picture is somehow like another picture that I have taken, and so in this slideshow, each picture is linked to the one before it and the one after it. It is thus titled (extremely creatively, I must say) "Associations." All photos were taken in Italy, Germany, the UK, and France. James Whong (Olin Class of 2009) provided (composed, created) the music for this video.

You can see the video here (

Part II: My Return to America

After four full months abroad, I have returned to my fair country. When I arrived in Rome, I was expecting some amount of culture shock; I did not, however, expect any noticeable reverse culture shock. I felt so ready to return home - I didn't expect things to feel so strange. I made a list recently of everyday things that now feel strange and exciting; I shall now reproduce it below...

1. The US dollar.

Glorious! But also a little strange. American money is weirdly all the same size and color (mostly); I always have a bit of a shock when I open my wallet.

2. Drinking fountains.

They are all at a reasonable drinking height (for me), point in the correct direction (that is, upward and toward my mouth), and have a button to push to turn them on and off, so as not to waste water unnecessarily. Italian drinking fountains are not so - they are often below my hip, point straight downward, and run continuously. It's very odd. Dogs drink from them quite a lot.

3. The dryer.

As in the washer and dryer. In Rome I only had a washer. It took only 3.5 kg loads (that is, very small loads), and over an hour and a half to finish a cycle (it feels very strange to use the past tense for those statements). At home we have a washer AND a dryer - my clothes were washed and dried within two hours! Fantastic.

4. Big cars.

There are vans and SUVs everywhere here... I'm used to SmartCars and Cooper Minis and Vespas. It's strange. Additionally, the abundance of parking space, sidewalks, and wide streets feels unfamiliar.

5. English spoken in restaurants... And everywhere.

I went out to dinner with my parents, and was, quite frankly, shocked when the waiter approached the table and addressed us in English. I was fully expecting him to say "ciao," and was prepared to respond in kind. The "hi" we got instead threw me completely off balance.

6. Portion sizes.

Americans eat a lot. American restaurants serve a lot of food. And although here it is quite standard to take leftovers home and eat them later, the portions are nonetheless enormous. Italian restaurants serve less food, and over multiple courses. Italians take much longer to eat - the point of going out to dinner, after all, is not just for the food, but also for the company - and the waiters and waitresses are never in much of a rush, either. Italians end up eating, usually, less food over a much longer period of time than Americans.

7. My friends and family!

It's a little weird to be back... But really great at the same time.

Part III: Farewell to the Class of 2008

Ciao everybody! :) You will be missed.


Matt is himself.

Beth and Simone

Beth and Simone look on in amusement.

Meena and Tiana

Meena and Tiana are happy to be graduating.

The Wave

Seniors do the wave.

Jon and Katie

The seniors (including Jon and Katie, above) make their way to the commencement tent, and there is much rejoicing.


Anthony, ready for action.

Part IV: Future plans

Starting in June, I'll begin my summer internship: working for iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba (among other robots). Basically, I get to play with robots all summer. I'm pretty excited. I'll be living in an apartment in Somerville, near Davis Square (right next to Tufts University) with four guys from Olin's class of 2009. I've been officially designated as The Mom: "Do your dishes!" "Stop playing video games!" It will be... Interesting.

Next year will be my last at Olin (how strange). I've been chosen to chair Olin's Student Activities Committee (SAC), the (maybe) largest and (definitely) wealthiest committee on campus, and it's entirely student-run (though I think we technically have a staff adviser - the Assistant Dean of Student Life). SAC basically throws a lot of cool events. We had our first planning meeting last week with all the new upperclassmen/women members (first-years will be encouraged to apply in the fall), and, well, I'm really excited for next year.

Additionally, I'll be taking a full 16 credits each semester (including SCOPE), writing for the blog, and applying to graduate schools and scholarships/fellowships. I don't have any idea which ones; I haven't really decided my long-term plans yet. Yikes.

Cheers, and have a great summer!


PS: Hi Mrs. Yarak!

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