by Casey Bermingham
Blog 1: School’s in Session
It’s hard to express how much insight and knowledge I’ve gained from just one month of studying abroad. Between my classes and the learning experience that day-to-day life is when you’re abroad, I know so much more than I did when I started this journey.
The first and most prominent perspective I’ve gained since arriving is that Europe is the place to be if you’re a budding anthropologist. I have never seen so many cultures and nationalities interacting and embracing each other. So far I have gotten to speak to Italian, German, Dutch, French, Swiss, and Mexican people in depth about their home countries, something I’ve never had the opportunity to do back home. Any given café in Florence is a joyful mix of people from all over the world. Waiters jump between languages constantly and seamlessly. Every European seems to know at least the basics of French, Italian and German. It’s such a fascinating melting pot of people and I’m constantly astonished at how smoothly interactions unfold despite everyone being from different places.
This brings me to my next lesson, which is that language is certainly of huge importance, but there are certain universally shared feelings and humors that transcend words. I look for these moments when I’m feeling homesick or overwhelmed by the language barrier- everyone on my international flight waving at the cute baby, the doorman and I laughing about the broken door together even though neither of us understand what the other is saying, strangers asking me to take a picture of them and their family using nothing but hand signals and a smile. Cultural differences are real and worthy of acknowledgement, but every human enjoys a pretty view and the chance to laugh.
Finally, I’ve learned how much fun it is to be a tourist (responsibly). Early on, I spent a lot of energy trying not to be recognized as someone who is new to the area. This is definitely helpful in immersing oneself and learning how to be respectful to the culture you’re in (i.e. when it is and isn’t okay to order a cappuccino). But as I walk by the duomo for the fifth time that day without even looking up to see it, I have to remind myself to slow down and allow for some awe. It’s better to look silly than to miss out on what I came here to see, and everyones a tourist somewhere. For the rest of my experience, I will be picking up new pieces of knowledge like these along the way, and I’m very excited to see what I’ve learned by the time I leave.
Casey B is studying Sociology and Anthropology and studying abroad at API Florence.