Time Abroad: Fall Semester 2009
Major: Triple major: Media Studies (Communications), English, Italian Language
Every experience in Florence was memorable. Living in a city like that isn't something that you can forget easily. Im not even kidding you when I say the highlight of my day could be simply riding around town on my bike. And not because the rest of my day was awful and the ride happened to be nice, but because just being in the city, smelling the aromas and hearing the friendly Italian chatter was beautiful. I enjoyed the times most when I blended in, when people would call out to me in Italian and when I would go home at night and talk about my day with my host family.
The most memorable night for me was just like any other. It was near the end of the trip and my friends and I made our way up to Piazza Michelangelo, on top of a hill. We looked out over the sun setting on the Arno, on the city and we all realized how great it had been. We were at that point in the trip where we were finally appreciating it all and really stopping to take it in. At the beginning it was a blur of activity, trying to fit in as much as possible and never missing an opportunity — and that was great, but looking back on it was better. When the sun set and the temperature started to sink we all split up and walked home our separate ways. I imagine it like at the end of the Sandlot when all the kids disappear off the field one by one.
I walked to the bottom of the hill with two of my best friends I'd met there and then got on my bike and pedaled the short distance home. I climbed the stairs and turned my key in the lock and the smell of gnocchi pesto, pisollini, formaggio and manzo rushed at me. My host mom called to me from the kitchen as she always did and I went in to greet her. When she kissed my checks she told me I was cold and to go put on a sweater then come to dinner. I obeyed happily and we all sat down at the table in her small kitchen, six of us total. I had a somewhat unusual family with two moms (sisters living together), two boys (17 and 20, sons of the sister) and me and my roommate. We were crowded at the table but it was comfortable, someone was always passing the oil and vinegar or Francesco was kicking Frederico under the table. Occasionally Malbo (the very fat cat) would jump up out of nowhere and land in my lap.
This night was different because the conversation flowed; instead of getting stuck on words I trusted it and went with it. My host brothers teased me as easily as my real brother would have and my host mom talked to me lovingly. After dinner I stayed in the kitchen and talked to her for awhile. I listened as she told me about her family, her job, what she still wanted to do with her life and I told her about what I wanted to do with mine. At the end she kissed my cheeks again and sent me to bed, telling me to do my homework. Having a host family scares lots of people at first but once you get to know them they become your second family. They were definitely the most memorable part of my experience.
Most important things to know/do:
Don't pack too much, just a good variety
Take advantage of every opportunity
Get to know locals if you can
Get involved at school
Do something you wouldn't normally do
Start saving some money now! The euro conversion can be hard
Embrace your host family
Everyone says that studying abroad was the best thing they ever did, the most incredible experience ever and it gets to a point where you stop believing it, but it's true. Going abroad is one of those things that you can't do again, ever. I've talked to so many people who have said they didn't do it or they couldn't and there's nothing they wouldn't give to have that chance again. You have that chance now. Once you leave school you'll most likely need a job. That will get you what, 4 weeks vacation a year? Not enough time, even if you clump it all together. Then you might get married, have a kid or two and you're really tied down. Right now is the perfect time to go! You may have a boyfriend staying home or think that you just won't like it but believe me you will! Just have an open mind and be willing to embrace the culture and you will have a blast. I had a boyfriend while I was abroad and I still stayed out till the wee hours of the morning dancing with my friends. Just be willing to be flexible and you're golden.
Studying abroad taught me a lot about myself and helped me gain confidence. Though it's hard to see a chance in yourself, I definitely noticed that I was more sure of myself after returning. Also, having that little bit of info on my resume has already helped me in the job aspect as well. I have an internship in New York this summer and the other day my boss called me into her office to talk. She said that she saw I had studied in Florence and asked about it, saying it was her favorite city she'd ever been to. We ended up talking about it for almost an hour and we made a connection because if it. When you're in a foreign country, even if you have friends from home with you, you have to have confidence. If you don't, you'll automatically gain some just because you're there, out of your shell. Being there also inspired me to add another major and keep learning Italian. I still chat with my host family every once in awhile just to keep in touch.