So it’s the end of my first week in Italy. I arrived in Florence last Friday, June 1st. I had a bit of a panic attack when I first arrived. I felt alone and overwhelmed; I wanted to go home. I’m settling into my apartment on Santo Spirito now, with 5 new roommates, trying to understand the differences within Fiorentino culture and living. Such as: the light/ power preservation (power cuts off if you have more than a couple appliances on at once) , the trash separation and disposal (there’s no garbage man), and more reliant use on windows instead of AC. It’s kind of hard to get used to but I understand and appreciate the environmental consciousness– the AC is a bit more difficult to get used to though.
There are 27 students in my program. Each of us divided into groups of 4-6 in apartments spread across the city. We meet for class typically about 4 hours a day 4 or 5 days a week– this week was 5. The schedule changes from day to day but typically we visit a church, museum, and/or historical building for our art history lesson, then we draw our surroundings onsite for drawing course lesson. Everything is beautiful here, not only inside of the buildings we visit, but also on the streets. From the finest little details of a building, to the sketches on a wall—there’s so much variety.
I was quite nervous when this trip began. Traveling to a foreign country for the first time on my own. “What if I get lost or robbed or can’t articulate my problems because of language barriers?” Luckily no pickpocketers have gotten me, but I have faced some challenges, most of which, were quickly solvable. I’ve had to do a lot on my own that I wasn’t sure I could handle: Getting around the city by myself for example. Being here has forced me to do things I never thought I could do on my own.
This past week has been pretty jam-packed. On the first day of class, Monday June 4th, I went to the Baptistry, the Duomo [Florence Cathedral], and climbed the bell tower in a storm. I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it— not a big fan of heights— but I did it and I’m so glad that I did. It was an amazing experience.
On Wednesday evening, June 6th, I attended a pasta-making class where I learned how to make 3 different kinds Gnocchi, Ravioli, and a linguini-like pasta. Pasta is my favorite food in the world and I’m so glad that I learned how to cook, [then eat] authentic home-made pasta. This was probably my favorite activity thus far.
The social aspect of this experience has been the most challenging for me. I’m naturally very shy, so it’s been difficult for me to make friends. I have been forced to step outside of my comfort zone quite a bit through constant interaction with my 5 roommates, as well as the other students in my programs. On one of the first nights of our stay, my roommate and a few other students cooked a big “Italian Family” dinner of Ratatouille and it was great. I’ve gone out a couple times with my fellow students, seen their beautiful Italian apartments, and of course, gotten gelato —which can literally be found anytime, anywhere.
Every time I get discouraged about making friends, being alone, lost , anxious or confused, I remember how grateful I am to be here having this unforgettable experience. I will continue to embrace the positives of each day, overcoming my self-doubt, because this is an experience I never want to take for granted. I’ll keep you updated in the weeks to come.