I had a lot of expectations before I embarked on my four-month journey abroad in Florence, Italy. In terms of academic, professional, and personal perspectives, all three have most definitely changed in some way. I’ll begin from an academic standpoint. I was told before I came abroad that my classes here would be substantially easier and require much less work. I expected them to be easier, but I didn’t expect them to be as easy as they are. My teachers give very little homework. They are also very lenient about a lot of things that many American professors wouldn’t be. Classes are 3 hours long here, which is much longer than I’m used to. Fortunately, all of my teachers give us at least a 15-minute break to go grab a coffee. Most of my professors have been very straight forward with telling us exactly what will be on our exams. I have really enjoyed my Italian class. My professor has focused mostly on teaching us things that are helpful to us while living in Italy – like words that we see in a grocery store and on a restaurant menu. Although I am far from fluent in this language, I do feel that I have a better understanding now when people speak to me in Italian.
I can’t really speak much on a professional standpoint, since I’m not participating in an internship, but it has been very interesting to see how careers are in Italy compared to the United States. Time is pushed back with regards to starting and ending the work day. Most jobs start around 9 or 10 AM, in comparison to the United States when most works days begin around 7:30 or 8:30 AM. People are just overall much more relaxed here. Nobody seems stressed in their jobs.
Personally, I expected that abroad would come with many challenges and complications. I was completely right about this. Every day I am hit with new challenges – but I absolutely love it and truly feel that facing each one helps me grow as a person. I’ve had to learn how to navigate train stations that aren’t in English, work a washing machine that makes zero sense, weigh and label my fruit at the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. This is the first time I am completely dependent on myself. I can’t just turn to my parents and ask for their help. Another challenge that I continue to face is budgeting. Somedays it is hard to find that balance from being frugal because you are a poor college student and splurging on a nice meal because you are only in Italy once.
Overall, my general expectations were that studying abroad would be an incredible, life-changing experience. I was fully, 100% correct about this. I am partaking in the adventure of a lifetime. I am so grateful that I get to do such awesome things every single day – like randomly taking a pasta making class! Each day is an opportunity to try a new food, check out a new museum, speak to a different local, and take a different path to class.