I’m home and it honestly doesn’t feel real. And it’s not just me that feels this way. I remember last week my roommates and the other friends I had made in my study abroad program were agreeing with me when I said that it just doesn’t seem right that we are leaving Florence so soon. That’s one change from the beginning of when I got there; the friends that I made. When I first got to Italy, I didn’t know anybody. I had to try to make new friends with people from different schools and people from difficult backgrounds. And now, we have been talking everyday about how much we want to go back. When I look back on my past blog posts, I see how excited I was to venture out into this new world and find different challenges to take on. Now looking back on the past three months, I see that I really went through a lot. Like a whole lot more than I thought I would ever go through. I went into studying abroad looking forward to meeting new people, trying new food, visiting new countries, and of course getting better in Italian. But I didn’t expect to go to countries like Austria, or I didn’t expect getting stuck in the city of Frankfort in Germany. I didn’t expect to leave my passport in Florence and realize that’s probably not the best idea if I am trying to travel to other countries.
When I think of what skills and qualities I have developed over these past three months, the one thing I am thankful for is how much experience I gained in traveling. I truly feel confident in any surrounding I could put myself in. I am also thankful that I have grown a greater sense of responsibility. During the semester, I had a random allergic reaction to something, and I broke out in hives all over my body. It was a very difficult and very uncomfortable time for me, especially because I had a flight to Amsterdam coming up. But I had to find the right medicine and the right treatment to get me through that time and through that experience in Amsterdam.
I have also gained a better insight of the term “hidden racism” through people choosing not to sit next to me on a bus or always being asked to see my passport while I’m sitting down at an airport and being asked, “Why do you have so much luggage?” It was things like this that showed me that the worlds of Italy and the United States aren’t so different. I learned throughout my time in Florence that our people, our cultures, our worlds really aren’t that far apart. The main things that really separate the States from that part of the world is how well we speak our English, what/how we eat, and how interested and involved we are in sports. In my eyes, these are the things that really differ the United States from people and cultures in Europe. At the same time, here in America we try to copy the European lifestyle. We try European food, we try to dress like Europeans. But it also goes the other way around. In Italy, they try to mimic the American lifestyle with how they dress, how they talk, and how they express themselves. These are all things that I miss already.
Regarding reverse culture shock, I am in the stage when I am gradually starting to readjust, but things are still not exactly the same. Florence truly feels like a dream. That’s what I keep telling my friends here when they ask “How was abroad?” “How was it?” “What was the craziest thing you did?” It’s crazy because a majority of people will never really understand or know the answer to these questions, they won’t ever experience the things I saw and went through. It makes me truly grateful for the opportunity to study abroad.
These past few days, I have been a little sad because I don’t really know if I will ever be back in Florence. I don’t know if I will ever be able to discover new experiences there, and do things that I wasn’t able to do within the three months there. One thing that I have realized from the beginning of my journey was how foolish I was to think I would be able to experience a big part of Italy in the three months that I was there. I could honestly compare my time there to the journey I had at the Palace of Versailles in France. I was at the Palace for about 5-6 hours, and I don’t even think I saw 10% of it. That’s how this experience has been for me. I was there for 3 months, but I only scratched the surface. There were trips I didn’t take, people I didn’t talk to, food I didn’t try, and mistakes I didn’t make but probably could have. Three months is nowhere near enough time to really immerse yourself in a brand new culture like that. But one thing that makes me happy is that I will be able to take these experiences and incorporate them into my life here in the U.S., here at Fairfield University. I can show people that studying abroad is truly worth it and you’ll discover things about yourself that you would have never thought possible. The challenges ahead of me- such as trying to finish my last spring semester as an undergrad with a 4.0 GPA, graduating, getting a job, and preparing a path for my future career- don’t seem as difficult as they did before I went to Italy. I know that these things, as tough as they will be, are things that I can handle. These are challenges that I may (ok, definitely will) mess up along the way, but I will be able to bounce back and be alright. My experiences in Italy and the other countries I visited will never leave my mind. Florence was very good to me and I am truly thankful for everything that city gave to me. I will never take it for granted.