“It’s the time of your life!! You will never want to come back to America!! You’re going to fall in love with places you’ve never been to and people you haven’t met! You are going to find yourself and this experience is going to change your life!”
These are some of the things former study abroad students tell you about going abroad…. Am I right? And although I know these are the types of things I will say to potential study abroad students once I return, these are not the feelings I had when I first arrived in Florence.
I’m going to be real with you…. Those former study abroad enthusiasts don’t tell you much about the challenges one faces upon arriving to these new places. Personally, I was expecting everything to be amazing and to fall in love as soon as I arrived. I was expecting to fit right in and to go about my daily lifestyle as I do back at home. I never listened to people when they mentioned culture shock or homesickness, I didn’t think those symptoms would phase me…. Little did I know this would not be the case. Let me fill you in…. CULTURE SHOCK IS REAL. IT’S REALLY REAL. The language barrier? YUP, THAT’S REAL TOO. Overwhelmed emotions, frustration, mental break downs, getting lost everyday for the first week? YES, that all happened to me.
I don’t mean to sound so negative because Florence is seriously AWESOME! Florence is gorgeous and I am in love. I am so truly, madly, deeply in love with this city. But it indeed did take some time to get used to things before I could fully appreciate how amazing this place truly is. After familiarizing myself with my new neighborhood, visiting local shops and restaurants, being able to point out specific landmarks, eating gelato everyday, learning how to grocery shop and use the ATM, and getting into a routine once classes started, I was finally able to start appreciating this city and falling in love with it.
I’ve learned that Florence is exciting and filled with new adventures and things to do. Familiarizing myself with my neighborhood has especially helped so much! Although, I missed the walking tour of my neighborhood due to getting lost, I have figured out my way of getting around on my own due to getting lost. I guess getting lost isn’t always a bad thing. I live very close to the Santa Croce Square which is surrounded by some of the most amazing restaurants, cute shops, and the most beautiful Church in the area. Some of my favorite places to go for a bite to eat in this area are Pinos and All Antico for paninis, Oibo and Soul Kitchen for Aperitivo, Gelateria dei Neri for gelato, Pizza Man and Pizza & CO for Pizza, and Trattoria Anita for pasta! I also live very close to the FUA and SAI office and two of my classrooms which is very convenient! I also appreciate having the post office, Conad, and the 99 cent store across the street from me. There are also a lot of bars and lounges in the area for nightlife fun. I love how close to the river I am as well as the Duomo and Piazza di Michael Angelo; these are all a few of my favorite places in Florence that I like to visit in my free time. Overall, I love the convenience of my location and how close I am to a lot of my favorite places. I also really love how authentic my apartment and how lucky we are to have a balcony with a breath taking view.
Some of the other things I’ve learned to love are the cobblestone roads that surround the whole city. All the cute, little shops and restaurants that surround my neighborhood. I love meeting the store/café owners, you can tell that their store/ restaurant is a huge part of their life and that they really enjoy providing services to others who appreciate their products. The building designs and architecture here is UNREAL (the Duomo gets me every time). The people here are so stylish. For example, what I used to wear to class back at my home university would definitely not be appropriate attire here, BIG NO to workout clothes. Something else that I appreciate is how much people enjoy vino (wine) and socializing over meals. I have learned to eat meals at later times and to enjoy my food over a long period while gathering with my friends. THE ALL CARB DIET IS THE BEST PART BY FAR! And the night life is pretty upbeat as well. After settling in and meeting new friends this place is really turning in to my new “home sweet home”.
Annalise is a current student at University of Missouri studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Italy during the Spring 2016 term.