Upon getting the approval from both my parents and SAI that I was admitted into Florence University of the Arts, I spent the rest of the semester at home fantasizing about what it would actually be like, walking down the cobble stone paths to class with views of the Duomo. After a long summer of working a 9-5 job, I was more than ready to get on the plane and start my 4-month adventure in Firenze. After what seemed like a year-long flight and a 4-hour layover later, I finally arrived. Luckily, I was able to travel with 4 of my friends from college back in the states. Without them, I would probably still be stranded in Munich today.
Once we all parted ways and got dropped off at our various apartments throughout the city, the first thing I noticed was the heat. I had heard the Florence was going through a heat wave this summer, but I had not pictured anything like it. The air was thick and sticky and even after ice cold showers, it was inevitable that you would start sweating immediately. But despite these humid conditions, I soon forgot about them once I looked up to see the beautiful city that I would now call home.
I was lucky enough to get placed in an apartment with two of my best friends from college. When we got to our apartment, we were surprised by how nice and new everything looked. The views were also impeccable; two large glass windows in my bedroom looked out onto the busy street of Via Verdi where hundreds of people flocked from store to store, in and out of restaurants and zoomed down the street on bikes.
One thing that stood out immediately, and still does, is the friendliness of the locals. Unlike walking down the streets of say, Philadelphia or New York City, although just as busy, residents of Florence will practically always look at you with a smile and say, “Ciao” or “Buongiorno.” In ways, this is very reassuring for someone who has never traveled to Europe before and is residing in an unfamiliar city for 4 months. One particular instance that I recall from the very first day we arrived was meeting our next door neighbors in their sandwich shop. After introducing ourselves they immediately treated us very kindly and even helped us with our Italian. Having known barely any Italian, I thought I was going to be in for a hard semester of communicating with locals or anyone for that matter. Luckily, the majority of people in Florence speak English and are more than happy to help you learn Italian phrases. For the past two weeks, I have made a point to walk down stairs each day to either get a sandwich before class, or to simply say “ciao” and learn at least one phrase from Alessandro, one of the men that works in the sandwich shop. Honestly, a lot of the time I will forget the phrases Alessandro has taught me by the end of the day but are often reminded of them once I get to Italian class.
Siobhan is a Fall 2017 SAI Florence student from Muhlenberg College.