How is it already October!? Time is a finicky thing. It feels like only yesterday that I was at the New York Airport giving my last hugs to my friends and family. However, at the same time, this month has been packed with so many new and exciting experiences that I feel like many life times have passed.
First of all, I would like to apologize for the delay! The wifi in our apartment has been down the past week and a half making accessing this blog very difficult! But luckily everything is back up and running!
Let me just say that Florence is the most beautiful city I have ever been to. The very first day of my arrival, my eyes were wide and glowing with excitement as I took in the architecture and art all around me. I will never forget the first time I saw the Duomo. I was exploring the city with a group of students on the first day of my arrival, purposely getting lost on the beautiful, small, winding streets, when all the sudden the streets opened up to this large Piazza and BOOM there was the Duomo. It completely boggles my mind that it was built so long ago (1294) using only hand tools and the designs of the famous Bernini. Man is an incredible species. This building is so glorious, that the first time my roommate saw the building at night she burst into tears.
Florence is a very touristy place to say the least. I mean it’s such an amazing and magical place who wouldn’t want to see it?? People may think that tourists ruin an authentic study abroad experience, but on the contrary I feel like it has definitely heightened mine. I find it so amazing that I can walk down my street and hear languages spanning the entire globe, that I can meet African refugees who are creating their new life in the city, and see a microcosm of a peaceful world in one place.
Even with the tourists, and cultural influences from all over the entire world, Italian culture is still very prevalent in the city! From a Cafe at every corner, to the Italian man singing and playing the accordian outside of my apartment window, and Aperitivo’s, the best pizza, wine and gelato you could imagine, Italian culture is everywhere.
People: The locals here are so different than back in the States. The people here are so passionate. Couples embracing on the Ponte Vecchio, friends walking down the street hand in hand, and even young boys arm and arm playing and laughing with each other. It is very different from the stoic culture of the northeast. And this passion is seen everywhere! From peoples passion, to the art displayed around every corner, and the chefs who take so much pride in their food. Italy is a land of passion, and I love it.
Language: If you are hesitant to go to a place that does not speak English as the native language, have no fear, Florence is full of English speakers! You will learn the key phrases, such as please, thank you, I would like, where is… very quickly! Otherwise you can definitely get by with no prior knowledge of the language! But if you want to specifically practice your Italian, Florence is great for that as well! People will respond and be patient and appreciative when you try to converse with them in their native tongue.
Classes: Classes are very different here than back home! Lorenzo De Medici follows the European system so there is typically one paper, one project and a mid term and a final. That leaves a lot of responsibility on the individual to keep up with readings and their work but it is definitely doable!
Italian class: Oh how I love and hate that class. This is my only class completely in Italian. So, naturally, it is difficult to get a good grasp on what is going on and keeping on top of my work. But luckily the teachers here are really patient and all just want you to succeed and will do everything they can to help you out!
Homesickness: Such a scary and invisible little predator. I have been lucky enough to avoid the feeling of homesickness so far! However, I have seen it affect some of my roommates. I have noticed that they often feel better if they detach themselves from their computers and phones and social media as a whole to get over their sickness. My roommate says that exercising and going out with friends, to get gelato, or differ, or what have you, is the best cure for this sickness. And I am glad to know that I have this advice and support from my roommates and best friends in case I start to feel that way as well.
Apartment: I LOVE my apartment! Me and my seven other roommates (yes there are 8 of us but it is actually the best thing ever) live right of the Ponte Vecchio! So our housing is away from the tourists and we get to experience true daily Italian life. All of our neighbors are native Italians so it has been really fascinating interacting with them! All of my roommates have very different personalities but we all work extremely well together! The different interests are perfect because someone is always up to do something different! Be it a movie night, or a famous Italian Discotecca, or a quiet bar, or an Italian study sesh with a little gelato break, you always have a buddy to do something with!
Trips: As I, or any of my family members, have never traveled outside of the states before this trip, I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to travel all over Italy, and the rest of Europe for that matter, on the weekends! So far I have been to the famous Cinque Terra, Lucca, Positano, Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii inside of Italy and have been to Munich Germany (for Octoberfest) and Barcelona Spain in the past month! Being in Europe is incredible. It is so easy to experience drastically different cultures just a quick (and cheap) plane ride away!
Challenges: Most of my experiences in Italy have been extremely positive! But I have come across a few challenges. First of all, the wifi in all of Italy is extremely slow and hard to come by (especially if your apartments have been out for an extended period of time) So getting in contact with home has been rather difficult, but it is also good because I am a lot less dependent on my phone!
Another challenge I have experienced is how incredibly slow bureaucracy is. For example, it could take up to two and a half hours to check into a flight, or half of a day to get finger printed for your permit of stay. But that is just a cultural thing you have to be aware of when on a timed schedule! Also, there are frequently train and taxi strikes that can SERIOUSLY alter travel plans that you always have to be hyper aware of.
Balance. Just trying to balance school, exercise, and enjoying every aspect of this culture has been very difficult. Some nights you just have to stay in and study even though all of your roommates are off on some adventure. I am personally a serious FOMO (‘fraid of missing out) so that has been a huge challenge of self control to know when I should or should not go explore. But I have also learned an extremely important lesson here; that it is ok to not be studious 100% of the time. Since the 10th grade I have made studying and book work my number 1 priority. But being here has made me realize something important about life, that the best learning experiences often take place outside of the classroom.
I love Italy, and cannot wait to share more of my experiences here with you! Ciao my friends! Happy studying!