Ciao from Italy! It has been a little over a month since I arrived in Florence, which is hard to believe. Time seems to be passing quicker than I could’ve imagined. But I am loving every minute of it!
When I stepped off the plane at the Florence airport on January 26, I experienced a nervous excitement in the pit of my stomach. Not butterflies, but rather an overwhelming feeling that I had actually made it to Florence and my semester was about to start once I stepped outside the airport walls. Once I was outside of the airport, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but knew that whatever it was I would embrace the change and roll with it. I made sure to have a positive attitude, especially towards the cultural differences. This has helped me a lot. I have made sure to not become easily frustrated with the locals and their crazy driving or constant smoking habits. I have accepted the late meal times (8-11 p.m. is prime dinner time), the quick visits to cafes to swig an espresso down while standing at the bar and the endless walking around the city (my average walking distance a day is about 5 to 6 miles). While I do not participate in some aspects of the Italian culture, I have a respect for it. No need to judge. This is why I wanted to study abroad: to immerse myself into the culture and learn the Italian way of living. Not to be harsh, but if you are not willing to accept the differences and co-exist with people of other nationalities, I urge you to re-think your decision to study abroad.
The program that I am studying in Florence with, SAI, provided my roommates and I with a great apartment. It is in a residential area of the city, about a 10 minute walk from stores, restaurants and the famous Duomo cathedral. Our apartment is also located across from the Four Seasons Hotel, which is cool in and of itself. My roommates and I are going to have tea there one afternoon in the garden, in April when it is warmer.
While there is more than one University in Florence, I am attending Florence University of the Arts. All of my professors speak English, which is helpful. My Italian professor is the only one who speaks the most Italian in class. The classes I am taking include: Intermediate Italian; Food, Culture and Society in Italy; Introduction to Art History; Travel Writing. I enjoy all of my classes so far, but one of my favorites is the Travel Writing course. My professor is brilliant, pushing us to constantly think of new ways of writing. It has helped my writing immensely. I was in a “dry spell” as a writer when I came to Florence. Now the littlest of details around me inspire my writing.
Several students studying abroad like to travel every chance they get. And while I would love to travel every weekend, I honestly can’t afford it. Some of the people I have met are fortunate enough to have all of their trips paid for by their parents, which is not the case for me. But it makes me more aware of how I am budgeting and spending my money on trips. So far, I have traveled to Paris, France with one of my roommates. Before coming to Italy, I made a list of places I want to travel to before I leave Europe in May. Paris was towards the top of list, so I justified paying for the trip. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Palace at Versailles were all beautiful monuments that we visited. Paris is still healing from the awful terrorist attacks from this past fall, but she is slowly getting back on her feet. Another excursion I went on was to Parma and Modena, Italy. It was a field learning trip with my food class. We saw how parmigiano reggiano cheese, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar was made. So cool! The taste testing was one of the best parts of each tour, for sure. This coming weekend, I am headed to Milan, Italy with SAI. Although we missed Fashion Week, it will still be fun exploring and seeing Lake Como as well. Next week my family is coming into town, which I am beyond thrilled about. We will go to the outer skirts of Tuscany and do a wine tour, and then go to Venice later in the week after I have finished my midterm exams. I can’t wait to show them around and take them to my favorite restaurants, cafes and gelaterias in Florence. And before I finish my semester in May, I hope to have visited Greece and a couple of other cities in Italy, including the Amalfi Coast.
Before even getting on the plane to Florence, I was warned by several experienced travelers about the language barriers I would encounter. Although I have had trouble communicating a few times, most people in Florence speak English. It is a big touristy city; therefore, most of the workers and employees of various businesses know English (or at least fragments of English).
One of my favorite things to do here is finding a new cafe almost everday. I am constantly going into new places and trying their cappuccino (or espresso) and sometimes even a pastry. It keeps it fun and helps me explore the city a little more. (Florence is a very walkable city, unlike Rome or other large touristy cities in Italy.)
While I am absolutely loving my time here, I do have moments of missing my family and friends, home and Chick-fil-a (sad, but true). However, I am rarely homesick because I keep myself occupied. I talk with my family and friends a few times a week on FaceTime to keep up with them, but I am living in the “here and now” in Florence. I will miss this place more than I can express in words when I leave in May, but will be glad to return to my normal pace of life in America. Studying abroad is a life experience that not many will get or understand. It is not like traveling here for a few days and then leaving. In May, I will have lived here for four months. Florence is another home to me. With that said, I am fully embracing this adventurous time in my life and will truly treasure these moments forever.
Arrivederci mi ragazzi! Another update will be posted once I return to the States. Below are a few more pictures of my time in Europe so far.