Author Archives: Emma Rust

October: Week 2


The second week of October I ended up staying in Italy, for the better because I was starting to feel too exhausted to function. This week I distinctly remember having my first cravings for home, and when I say cravings, I mean it. It wasn’t just missing people, it was desperately wanting someone from home to just give me a hug, or to be at dinner with my friends. I realized that even though I’m happy and excited and growing, I only really have a couple friends I really feel 100% comfortable with. That isn’t to say I don’t have friends, I’d say I’m rather well liked honestly. But I constantly feel the need to water down my strong left-wing opinions, or bite my tongue when people say problematic things. I also feel like I can only sustain surface level conversations with most people here, and if you know me at all I’m the type of person who likes talking social-politics on a regular basis. So at this point, I felt like I didn’t really belong here like I normally do at Whitman. And it was really starting to stress me out emotionally. That, plus that fact that my roommate and I had spent over a month rooming and traveling together, so (despite my love for her) I could feel my patience waning.

However that weekend, she left on her own trip, and I went on a school field trip to Siena. The trip itself was mostly good but a little rough. The good parts: it was absolutely beautiful walking through the little romantic streets that circle the main cathedral. And the art history TAs provided great synopses of the history of the pieces. The works themselves were phenomenal. Its funny because so much of this art I learned about in school, and never thought I would ever see it in person. And then here I am, casually getting a front row view at Duccio’s gold-leaf altar piece on a regular Friday afternoon. And I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see these pieces in person, and knowing how they carry so much historical weight to them. You also have such a different experience with these pieces in front of you than on a screen, they come to life rather than just look flat and awkward. Then other things that I enjoyed was seeing the Siena Duomo- which was absolutely magnificent. Literally your eye was just constantly taking in patterns and paintings and sculptures and altars. I’d just recommend looking it up- I can’t do it justice in a description.


The other good part was I made a friend on the trip- who I met by eavesdropping on a conversation she was having about the Ted Talk on poverty she was watching on the bus ride. And literally within the first ride we both felt completely at home with each other talking about politics, poverty, racism, feminism- you  have no idea how liberating it felt to just speak my mind and have an intelligent conversation without worrying about alienating anyone.

Then the less good part: it was raining so hard that I got soaked through my shoes. And I got separated from my friends so I just had to wander around in the rain alone for a solid couple hours. And I got lost… But in retrospect it wasn’t even that bad, and just makes for a story later.

Then the next day, my host mum was out of town, so my host dad and sister decided to try a new recipe together for lunch and they invited me to come cook with them. So I spent my afternoon scraping dirt off of mushrooms, practicing Italian, exchanging stories and music recommendations. It was a blast! It was both my and my host sister’s first time cooking a quiche so when it turned out well we both were ecstatic. Pretty much the entire time we were just joking around or congratulating each other on how successful the meal was. And after it all I realized how lucky I was to have such a loving family take me into their home.


(Week 3 continues in the next post)

October Recap: Week 1


So I realized I fell quite behind on my blog over the past month due to midterms, travel, and my work for my publication at home, so here’s a general recap for those interested.

Within the past month, I have fallen in love with multiple cities, have really pushed myself to the limit when making art, have solidified friendships and disparaged others, and have overall spent a lot of time evaluating myself, my priorities, my needs, and my happiness. All in all, October was a pretty big month for me…

The first week of October I visited Croatia with a group of friends from school. At this point in the semester I was starting to get a little homesick but more importantly was starting to feel incredibly burnt out due to the traveling and constant exploring the city. This trip I was really unsure of whether or not I would be just constantly irked as one does when traveling in an intimate group. However, I managed to have the most amazing time thanks to one of my best friends abroad! (I’ll call her A for the sake of maintaining privacy).

The first day we spent roaming along the coast and lounging on the beach. Can you even imagine spending an October weekday lying on a pebble beach, with literally nothing to worry about except for your distant deadlines? It was honestly so unbelievable. Later in the day we did a walking tour of Split and got to hear about its history. Then the following day my friend A and I signed up for this 7-mile hiking tour in the mountains- and I can honestly say it has probably been one of my favorite experiences to date.

We were met by a tour guide, (who was the nicest guy, and very down to earth and smart, A had a bit of a crush on him which made for some laughs later) and since we were the only ones that signed up, the two of us got to have a private hiking tour. So we went to the mountains and climbed up and down the mountain slope that faced the Adriatic Sea. Everything about it was sublime. And as we walked down, our tour guide would pick pomegranates or almonds for us to eat and would point out ancient villages and talk about their history. We also stopped by a cave and rock-climbed back up to the top. And the whole time we were joking around or admiring the view around us. On our way back up it started to rain. It reminded me a lot of both my respective homes. LA because I still get that giddy feeling that comes with seeing rain fall. And Washington because I always think of rainy Seattle when I think of Washington. It was interesting being both in a completely new place and also experiencing those familiar tinges of home.


The day after that we ended up going to a national park where we got to see some fantastic waterfalls. I realized, I much prefer to venture on my own and have my own intimate relationship with nature then to just hang out with others, because while all the other people on my program were taking their photos in the lake in front of the waterfall, I was off doing hikes by myself, trying to explore a little off the beaten path. Eventually I came back down and jumped in the water like everyone else, and got my classic photos taken (for the mere sake of bragging to my family later), but I came to realize this wasn’t the first time I’ve been more than comfortable just being alone, making choices for myself, and indulging my quite impulses to go explore.

IMG_6427(Week two continues in the next post)

Week 4: Feminism and Being Abroad

     So before I left I had a lot of people tell me that I was going to have to learn how to loosen up and be more lax- especially in regards to my feminist ideals. Now if you know me at all, you probably know I’m a major kill joy feminist- meaning I’m quick to call out and address problematic behavior and to be constantly critiquing the world around me- especially when it comes to gender power dynamics and sexual harassment.
     So coming to Italy, I was very much aware that I was going to possibly have to abandon my hyper feminist ways to better blend with the culture. And I was aware that I was going to have to constantly face catcalls and aggressive “suitors” for a lack of better wording. However, after a couple weeks of really trying to be lax about the harassment I’ve faced, I’ve learned that there are parts of you that you just can’t reject or compartmentalize.
     My first weeks I found myself constantly uncomfortable when I tried to justify the behavior of aggressive and persistent men- especially in a clubbing or street setting. As I anticipated, I had people get handsy and invade my personal space. I’ve had people flat out stare at me while I am just studying at the train-station or at a cafe. And well, I honestly can say I tried really hard to be cool with it. I tried really hard to chock up their behavior to a cultural difference that I have yet to quite understand. But I realized, I was trying to excuse behavior that was “culturally the norm” at the expense of my comfort and my peace of mind.
     This got me asking, at what point is it okay to stop making sacrifices, and maintain my cultural difference? At what point am I allowed to say that I don’t understand nor appreciate this aspect of a culture in relation to my own life? Am I ever allowed to, or am I just enforcing my particularly left-wing, radical, social-justice oriented views on a culture that never asked for my thoughts? Am I disrespecting a culture by critiquing it and questioning aspects of it? Am I being patronizing?
     In short, I had a long mental debate about this before I finally decided that I wanted to be able to maintain my feminist ideals. And the moment I decided to stay critical and prioritize my agency and comfort was the moment I felt like I had come into my own here. And I honestly do believe I struck the right balance of maintaining a very prominent part of my identity, while also learning to accept that some things are just different here. It’s not my job to impose my beliefs on another culture, but it is also not my duty to sacrifice my ideals in order to respect a culture.
     So, though I still am holding myself back from being a feminist killjoy 24/7 I realized- some sacrifices aren’t wroth making. And that’s fine. Being abroad is about growing, and though it has tested me by pushing my limits and encouraging me to morph to the culture around me, it has also shown me that some things are constant about my identity and that I’m better off embracing that than ignoring it.