As of today, I have officially been abroad for a month! I truly cannot believe that this much time has already passed, but it’s certainly taught me to immerse myself into the culture and explore the city of Florence as much as I possibly can. Having been in Italy (and a few other countries) for a month now, I have already gained some important insight and had a chance to reflect on my study abroad experience. In this entry, I’ll fill you in on the three biggest takeaways from my time so far…
1. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
I won’t lie – at first, it was pretty intimidating to be on my own in a place halfway across the world from where I had spent the last twenty years of my life. Having to constantly be aware of speeding vespas recklessly making blind turns around corners of incredibly narrow streets has definitely taken my breath away on more than one occasion. Today I had to physically jump into the entrance way of a restaurant to avoid being hit by the side mirror of a van that definitely was not built for the side streets of historic Florence. Having street vendors yell out to me while I am on the way to class or simply exploring the city still continues to throw me off a bit; even though I cannot completely comprehend what they are saying, I am able to pick up small phrases such as “ciao, bella,” but at this point I have learned to just keep walking if I’m not interesting in what they are selling. However, being able to live in such a beautiful, historical location with the small caveat of having to step of my comfort zone once in a while will always be worth it.
2. Culture shock isn’t just a myth
The second I stepped off the plane in the Italian airport, I knew I was in a new country, but it truly felt like I was on a different planet. All of the signs were in Italian and I couldn’t understand what any of the people around me were saying to each other – I simply felt lost, and a bit out of control. Surprisingly, almost every Italian I approached knew at least some English, and gladly assisted me in finding my way around the city. I knew I was entering a place where the official language was one other than English, but physically being here and being unable to understand what other people were saying was a bit shocking. On another note, the biggest shock I have had is in regards to dining. Italians take their food very seriously; don’t expect to be in and out of a restaurant in less than two or three hours, have the waiter check up on you more than once or twice, or receive complimentary water with a meal. Dinner also isn’t usually started until 8 or 9 pm, and most restaurants don’t even open until 7 pm for dinner – talk about an adjustment. It definitely hasn’t been too simple entirely changing my eating routine, but the unique and incredibly delicious food here in Florence has made it just a little easier.
3. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Whether it has been tasting escargot, walking through the outskirts of Florence, or attempting to navigate the London tube, being abroad has really taught me to say “yes” to new experiences, and I truly feel like it has helped me get way more out of my study abroad experience. If I only stuck to the things I have already become accustomed to, I would be missing out on all of the special things that Italy (and the other countries I have visited) have had to offer.
Hope that gave you a little bit of insight into some of the things I have already come to learn here in Europe – ciao for now!