Well, sadly the time has come for my contributions to this blog to come to an end. I’ve been back in the states for two weeks now and now that I’m finally over my jet lag and have settled back into my “real” life, it’s given me time to reflect on the amazing adventure I had while studying abroad in Florence, Italy. For my final post, I thought I’d share just a few of the many things I learned while living in a foreign culture for six weeks.
I have no patience in comparison to the Italians.
Italians live their lives at a slow pace compared to the way we are used to living our lives in America. It took me two hours to do one load of laundry in the tiny washer I shared with 5 other girls. Shops and other businesses close in the late afternoon so people can enjoy some time off. At first, the waiting around seemed annoying to me but I soon began to realize that it made me enjoy my experiences more because I wasn’t rushing through things. I savored every second I had in Florence and I have the Italian way of living to thank for that.
The way I am used to living is very wasteful.
I realized that I take for granted and abuse a lot of the resources I have at home just because they are so readily available, especially electricity. In Florence, this was not an option and I learned this the hard way when my roommates and I tried to cook and do laundry at the same time. We lost power. Also, as silly as it may seem, I rationed out my shampoo and conditioner because they didn’t have the same brand available in Italy. What I would have used up in two weeks back home I was able to stretch out for six weeks and it made me realize how excessively I use my things back home. I’m definitely more mindful of this now.
Being abroad can bring out the best in people.
There’s just something about being in a foreign country that makes it easier to bond with people. We are all in this together, and you talk to and befriend people you might never even approach back home. I arrived in Florence not knowing anyone, and this scared me a little but I didn’t have to worry for too long. During my weekend travels, I met college students from other states in the U.S. that I never would have met otherwise. I also got to know some Italians and people from other countries in Europe. Even though I know that realistically I won’t see most of them again, I feel happy knowing that we shared an amazing life experience together, even if it was for a brief period of time.
Being sick in Europe is very different
Unfortunately, I developed a nasty cold my third week in Florence that lasted until the end of my program. Getting medication was a bit of a challenge because you can’t just buy medicine over the counter. You have to go to a pharmacy and tell them what your symptoms are and they hand you a foreign medication. I was sure to look up the medicine online before I took it since I really had no idea what it was. Also, the “sick” foods I’m used to eating in America such as canned soup basically don’t exist in Italian supermarkets.
Nobody will be able to truly understand your experience the way you do.
Though I expected it, I knew that when I came home it would be hard to tell the stories of everything I did and saw and expect my friends and family to really understand. And I think that’s okay. Everyone has had a different experience that will only be accessible to them and that’s what makes it special. While in Florence, I kept a journal and wrote down everything I saw and felt because I know that eventually just looking at pictures won’t conjure up the exact emotions and memories I had while being in those places. When I look back years from now, I can read my journal and hopefully those memories will come back.
My time in Florence has truly been the most exciting and life changing experience for me. It was everything I wanted it to be and more, and it has only fueled my desire to travel even more now that I know what amazing opportunities and experiences are waiting for me out in this beautiful world. I am so grateful for my time in Florence and I’m glad I got to share some of it here.