It is amazing how much can happen in one week. Before Jan. 23, all I knew was the bitter cold of New England winters, mixed in with the comfort of my suburban life both at home and at Fairfield. However, that comfort would soon be tested with the knowledge that I would be studying abroad in Florence, Italy for my spring semester. There are plenty of things that come to mind when one thinks of Italy: the amazing food, the beautiful landscape or maybe even the timeless art and history behind the culture. I would soon get the chance to interact with all of these aspects and I could barely wait to begin.
Arriving at JFK International Airport to start my journey, I was suddenly hit with feelings of excitement and anticipation; my mind began to race. What would happen? How long would it take to adjust? Would my flight even make it to Florence? These unchecked fears continued to flood my mind as I said goodbye to my parents and set off on an adventure of a lifetime.
Getting on the plane, I met with my fellow Fairfield peers heading to Florence as well and we all could barely wait to takeoff. As the plane began to pull onto the runway and the engines signaled that it was time to leave the comfort of the United States, I slipped back into my seat and began to imagine my next few months in Europe. Our flight was destined for Paris as a layover and then straight to Florence. Everything went without a hitch on the flight, we survived border security in Paris and continued the journey.
By the time our flight landed in Florence, I stepped out onto the plane runway only to be greeted by the temperate Italian weather under the Tuscan sun. It is hard to put into writing the sheer beauty of the Italian horizon. Picture rolling green hills and mountains that stretch across the landscape, each sprinkled with countless villas and Renaissance-era castles that evoke a culture torn between modernity and the medieval. For our first few days, we would stay in the Florentia Hotel just outside of the city for orientation. There, we had the chance to meet more students from Providence College, Saint Joseph’s College, along with others that would be a part of our program. We were also greeted by the program directors and advisors that would help us adjust to our new life in Italy and they provided us with several informational meetings regarding safety and Italian culture.
After orientation, we were all bused into the city to move into our apartments. My address would be on Via Ghibellina, a street that I would later discover to be located near countless restaurants, stores and landmarks, like the magnificent Santa Croce church. Upon moving everything in, my roommates and I quickly realized how different living would be in Florence. Natural water is harder to come by, electricity is a delicate balance of use and conservation, and the Italians are serious recyclers. Mistakes would be made. And the language would certainly be a barrier for a long time. However, I can safely say that after a week of getting lost around the Duomo a dozen times, accidentally buying sparkling water instead of still water an embarrassing amount of times and slowly building my Italian vocabulary, I now feel myself gradually acclimating to the Italian culture.
Even though my semester has barely begun, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. My classes are just beginning at the Florence University of the Arts, which is located near the scenic Arno river that runs through the city. As the days continue into the spring, I hope to explore everything in Florence, from the hidden gardens that overlook the cityscape to the multitude of food places that I’m sure will drain my wallet at an uncomfortable rate. Traveling to even more countries will be a big part of my abroad experience, but I still cannot shake the dreamlike feeling of finally living in a city on the edge of forever.