Studying abroad. I’ll say the one typical, overused and temperately accurate thing I’ve heard time after time: those who can, do.
I’ve been at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence for just under three weeks and have been captivated by this city for just about the same amount of time.
It’s truly amazing to let yourself explore another culture with open eyes and open ears.
My mind has been opened both willingly and without me knowing by this experience, right from the moment my plane landed in Paris, just ten minutes before my connecting flight’s departure.
Then repeatedly so when that same flight landed in the wrong Italian city prompting a long, perspiring bus ride.
And even again when I arrived at my final destination of Florence to find my luggage had been lost.
Of course, there will always be some type of problem while traveling internationally, I just happened to experience a great deal of them.
However, I didn’t let it ruin the start to my semester abroad.
I made a decision on that first day to delve into this chapter with no expectations and high spirits and that alone has carried me far in just a few short weeks.
Culture shock is a real thing and so is language barrier.
We all know this, but do we really? You never really know how hard it is until you’re in the situation firsthand.
I thought I did, until I had to navigate streets, classrooms, menus and phone conversations in a foreign language of which I knew more or less one word.
I mean, I really only knew one word at first.
Pizza—pizza is the one word I knew. Don’t you think that would’ve been enough?
I think my most troubling feat upon arrival was purchasing an Italian SIM card for my phone.
It took 3+ trips to the Vodafone Italia store over the course of a week before I could finally operate my phone well-enough to communicate with my family.
It being my first week abroad with no real way to talk to my ties at home, it was rather terrifying, but, again, a great experience for me.
On the bright side, I could absolutely order pizza.
Amidst the struggle that is adaptation, the promise of food has kept my spirits high.
Gourmet, genuine, rich, savory, wonderful food everywhere I turn.
From the pizza (yes, I’m discussing Italy’s pizza again. You haven’t had pizza until you’ve had traditional Italian pizza), to the different types of pastas that I am happily shoving in my face, I want to try it all.
Every day I am beckoned by a new flavor of gelato that must be tasted.
These flavors and their accessibilities have contributed to my comfort in the city, as well my connection with the culture in Italy.
With every traditional Florentine dish I indulge in, I allow myself to become more in-sync with the city, as well as the rest of Europe.
Already I have seen both the east and west Italian coasts, much of Tuscany and most recently Paris.
Next stop is Munich, Germany for the legendary Oktoberfest.
I mean, it’s no Keene Pumpkin Festival, but it will have to suffice for this year.
So I’m now turning into one of those people who tell you, if you can study abroad at any point: do it.
The world is massive and even the bad days make for an incredible cultural experience, while the good days have the ability to change the way I live.
While I dearly miss my roommates, family and friends I feel confident that this exploration will only help me to appreciate them more.
Study abroad. You will not regret it. It is something that I can only hope everyone gets the chance to do at one point in their student lives at Keene State.
I am a senior now in my last semester of education ever. As I allow myself to explore more of Italy, I hope I can explore more of myself in these endeavors before adulthood creeps in. It truly is an experience for those who can, so, I have only one word of advice. Do.