In my cultural psychology class, we learnt about how cultural stress and/or shock is kind of like a U-Curve, in that you start out in a euphoric state when you arrive and over time your mood dips down before rising back up again. This was no exception for me. I was absolutely enthralled (and still am!) by Italy and Italian culture, but it is quite different from what you would experience back in Florida. But thankfully for me, some positive things happened in my second week that helped me feel more at home.
One of the first things to happen was when I made a new friend, Sarah. I met her in my cross-cultural psychology class and we both bonded when we went on a trip to Arezzo. She had been here for an extra three weeks and was more than happy to share what she learned. Her company helped me to adapt to being in Florence, and it definitely made me feel like I was more culturally aware of what was going on and what to do. I actually had to say goodbye to her this morning because she was heading home, but I know that we will remain friends.
The other experience I had was going to St. James Episcopal. I’m Episcopalian and I was happy to be able to attend a service I was familiar with. The church incorporated American and Italian culture. I was able to meet some of the parishioners at church and to develop more of a community here in Florence.
Lastly, I went to Piazzale Michelangelo and saw truly beautiful views of Florence. I had a moment where I realized how beautiful Florence is. I am living in the birthplace of the renaissance! There is a big difference in knowing that and feeling it. I was finally able to feel it. The mountains fading in the distance gave my experience an almost ethereal quality to it, too.
My advice to someone suffering with cultural stress or shock is to try to find ways to connect to the people around you. I have realized that many other students and sojourners are trying to connect to one another here. I also would recommend going around the area, and going to areas that people talk about a lot- such as Piazzale Michelangelo. Seeing more of where you now live and becoming familiar with the area can help immensely.