Dear pre-departure self,
Maybe it seems naïve, but I did not realize how much I would really grow throughout the course of this program. I guess that before I left, it was hard to really even imagine all the people I would meet here, and all the things I would do and see. It has been a truly amazing experience, and I am so glad that this was something I chose to do. I feel like I have a much better understanding of not only what it means to be Italian, but also what it means to be American, and just what it even means to be human. People everywhere are different, in almost every different way. But at the end of the day, despite these differences, we are all humans with the same basic needs. This dichotomy that I have thought and learned about has been especially striking to me, learning how we are all so different but also very similar at the same time.
Another thing that I have come to realize is just how big the world really is! Every day here in Florence more people are arriving here from all over the world, the lines are growing and the streets are full of people. Every day I hear so many other foreign languages besides Italian, which I think is so fascinating. And to think that this is just in one city, in one country, in one continent! There are so many cities like this that are so full of people from all over the world, it is honestly very hard to wrap my head around.
I think one of the things that surprised me the most is how different Italy is from region to region. It is almost like each region could be its own country! The accents and language are different, the food is different, the climate and land are different, and there are even major cultural differences between northern and southern Italy. I had always heard about these differences, but to see and experience them first hand has really been surprising. I guess I also never realize how common it is to take a train in Italy! They have a very extensive and well develop train system that can take you anywhere in the country, and it seems to be the most common way Italians travel when they have to go a longer distance (besides flying if it is somewhere very far).
Lastly, one thing I wish I knew before I left was just not to be afraid or worried. Of course, this is very easy to say now, because at the time I had no idea what to expect about anything here. But what I have found is that Italy as a country and Italians as people are very welcoming, and everyone has been very kind to me here! It took me some time to get used to it, but now I feel very comfortable speaking to people to ask for help or directions in Italian, even if I know that sometimes I make mistakes.