Before starting my program, I was warned about the effects of culture shock. I heard the phrase over and over again, but I just thought I wouldn’t experience this while I was abroad. Boy, was I wrong. It is hard to go to a completely new place where nothing is the same as where you are from. The language is different, the beliefs are different, the entire way of life is different, and it is exhausting.
The first couple of weeks were a hard transition. I learned to not look strangers in the eye (because they might think you are attracted to them), not tip waiters/waitresses at restaurants, ask for the check when you are ready, how most stores close during lunch time, and plenty more. Learning what was socially acceptable and what was not was hard because I was so used to everything I did that seemed “normal”. Something as simple as eye contact, which is a form of friendliness and is seen as respectful, has a totally different meaning here. I was confused why no one reciprocated eye contact with me on the streets and when someone did it was always a young Italian man. My initial thought was that everyone was not so friendly here, until I learned otherwise.
Another thing that was a shock to me is that many people in Florence rarely use dryers to dry their clothes. At first, this didn’t really bother me and I quickly forgot about it, until this past day. I started running out of clean clothes and I decided to do laundry, big mistake. I followed the instructions that my landlord gave me and waited for the red light to turn off, singling my load of laundry was done. When I reached inside to grab my clothes, they were drenched and at the bottom of the washer was a pool of water. All the color in my clothes ran and stained other clothes and it took about three full days for my clothes to dry. This was quite a shock to me because I am used to my laundry being washed and dried within a matter of hours. This is something I am definitely going to have to get used to.
Since being in class for three weeks now, I’ve noticed some major differences in the classes from Pitt. Here, the biggest difference is that we have class once a week for three hours each time. I am started to get used to these three-hour classes, but they were extremely hard the first two weeks. I found myself distracted the entire class, looking at the clock constantly, watching the three hours pass slowly. We get a 20-minute break where we can go to the bathroom, stretch, talk, get coffee, and so on, which makes the three hours a little more bearable. As I got more comfortable with the three-hour classes, I started to enjoy them more. Participation is encouraged, and the professors truly want everyone to thoroughly understand the material being taught. I am not used to having such small classes (compared to Pitt), which I found to really like. There is room for discussion and debates, which make the classes more interesting. I find myself becoming more and more interested in my classes each week. The professors have helped all students with their study abroad transition and offered advice every chance they can get. I have professors recommending the best places to visit, the best food to eat, how to act in public, and many other things that have helped me feel like Florence was home.
This experience is like no other and I cannot wait to continue my journey!