Learning to Live Like a Local

Upon arrival at my apartment door on January 11th I could not imagine a day that I would be comfortable walking the streets of Florence by myself. I had this same feeling when I first arrived in Pittsburgh so I was familiar with the fact that it wouldn’t last, but it was still a nerve wrecking adventure. During the first few days of our semester, my roommate and I traveled everywhere together and were frequently lost with every turn we took. As with any transition to a new city, I quickly grew out of this uncertainty as I became comfortable in my new home. I picked up on the ins and outs of the roads around me. I mastered my walk to school and to work in about a day. I am still finding shortcuts and new places with every journey I take outside my apartment, but that is one of the best parts of living in a foreign country! Now that I’m familiar with it, it turns out Florence really isn’t as big a city as I thought it was.

One of the hardest parts that I have found about living here is that all of the buildings are so high that I can’t look up to the sky to see my location in relation to the buildings around me. At Pitt, when I’m unsure where I am I look for Cathy and navigate my way from there. But here, every time I look up all I can see are the two buildings I am in between.

I am learning a lot about study habits and my personal academic style. At Pitt I have grown very accustomed to the standard deadline-oriented, syllabus given on the first day of class, homework assignments due every Sunday night at 11:59 style of studying. I usually put everything in my calendar during week 1 and know what to expect when I step into the classroom each day. Here, half of my classes don’t even take place in a classroom. While things seem less structured, I am realizing how much more I am taking away from the experience because I always have to be aware and alert. Additionally, I feel that listening to lectures in a museum or church, anywhere outside of the classroom, forces me to pay closer attention since I don’t have a notebook to write things down. Learning in these different environments also makes the material incredibly interesting as I can see examples of what I’m learning right in front of me. I always knew I was an experiential learner according to online personality tests but I did not realize how much of a difference this style actually makes in my understanding of material.

Every time I travel to a new city or town I experience the “oh my gosh, this is really my life, I’m abroad” phenomenon. The ease of getting from city to city within Italy is incredible and each place is uniquely breathtaking. With every new food I try and new environment I experience I wonder how it is that I am really living this life. Even walking to class sometimes I am amazed by the views I see every morning, afternoon and night. It’s been a few more weeks since I said it last but I still stand by it, I don’t know that these views will ever get “old.”