Finding Myself in Florence and Bidding it Farewell

I certainly learned a lot on my program. I was surprised to find out about all the misinformation about Italy’s and Florence’s culture and food that I discussed in my previous post. I learned about the other side of Florence that is not stuck in a romantic image stuck in time. The Florence that has crime and isn’t perfect, and why it is important to the people of Florence that that side of the city be known, because hiding it adds to the narrative that ignores many aspects of the city in the pursuit of painting the perfect picture for tourists I learned the difference in what Italians hold value in and their priorities while going through life, and how they differ from Americans. For instance, we learned about what aspects of masculinity are most important to Italians and Americans, and how the difference in the types of societies we live affects that. I also learned a lot about the history of Florence including the different transfers of power and the influence that the Medici family had on the city. I learned how fashion has affected Florence’s culture and identity, along with how it developed to be one of the major fashion cities of the world. I also learned a lot about the neighborhood Il Prato Ognissanti, as I was assigned it for a project, so I got to explore the history of that area along with interviewing several people living in the area. I learned a lot of ways to avoid scams and tourist traps from local and CAPA staff members. I learned the importance of diet and what we put into our bodies, and I was surprised to learn that the most important topic for schools and parents was the food given to their children at school. The parents even test the food before it is given to the children, which is unheard of in America. I learned to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings, as I saw many amazing views, structures, and art works that were incredible. I feel that I’ve grown a lot in many ways. I feel that I’ve grown academically by having to become accustomed to a faster pace of learning, and it is more on me to retain as much information as I can and take the best notes, as I was unable to rewatch any lectures like I can at Pitt. I’ve grown personally by putting myself more out there to create friendships and being more willing to talk to strangers, whether for tips about the city or wanting to make a new friend. I’ve grown in my ability to communicate through meeting new people and having to communicate differently than I am used to, which has helped me to grow personally and professionally. I had to adapt to a new environment, which helped me to grow personally, as I had to figure out how to go about my day and life out of the usual comfort of my home. I had to adjust to a new area by learning how to navigate it along with where to find the best food or prices at places such as grocery stores. The improvement of my adaptability also helped me grow professionally, as I had to perform my work in a new environment, and I had to adapt to doing my work in an uncomfortable situation like being in an extremely hot room with no air conditioning. That also increased my ability to focus and cut out distractions, along with having to ignore all the distractions and temptations that come with being in a city such as Florence. I had to better my time management to be able to get my work done while allowing time for me to experience the city. Those are both ways that I have grown professionally. I also grew personally by developing my cultural competence through experiencing an entirely new culture that had different values and norms than my own, which will help me to have a better understanding for others both professionally and personally. I have several takeaways from this experience, and I intend to bring them back to Pitt Business. I intend to bring back the several skills that I have gained to the classroom, especially in my group work and interactions with fellow students. These skills will help me to communicate better and work better with my fellow students, and I hope that I can help to give other students these skills if they lack them by using my experience abroad as a way to explain the skills themself along with their importance. Another takeaway is the difference between generalization and stereotypes, as generalizations that are common among a culture can help one to better understand that culture, and they are constantly evolving, so it is important to ensure their accuracy, while stereotypes do not evolve and are usually all or nothing statements that usually tie a sort of prejudice to another group and do not allow for individual differences in their statements. Generalizations are also absent of judgment and rely on observations and cultural beliefs or norms. My final takeaway is understanding that not everything you read or hear is true, and it is important to do your own research. As I stated before, many of the Italian staples are not actually a part of the true identity of Italy and its local areas. I learned that every different area of Italy has its own unique culture and identity that would be an insult to the citizens of Italy to overlook. However, I would not have known that if my professors did not stress it and force me to research the different cultures of Italy, especially Florence and Il Prato Ognissanti. Many tourists visit Italy and only see the romanticized version of it, and they then spread their experience to many others, so I learned it can be helpful to learn about other people’s experiences, but it is also important to do your own research, as you never know what you are missing out on or are ignorant of if you don’t.  I’ve attached some of pictures from some of my favorite moments in Florence!

Leave a Reply