What a semester that I never imagined! How can you begin to put the study abroad experience into words? I have been wondering what I will say to my friends and family when they ask about my time here. The emotions, experiences and relationships cannot be said in a simple sentence or even a single paper…they honestly cannot even be given parameters or restraints because they have changed my life and forever impacted my perspective.
What have I learned? Well, aside from the few Italian words here and there, I have learned many life lessons. I have learned that people in different cultures carry themselves in a different manner. In Italy, women keep a straight face and do not let what the men say carry any weight in their minds. The elderly Italian men are wise and kind to the women around them. The men in Florence, Italian or not, are very forthcoming about what they are thinking, and are bold in words and actions. This is something I have mentioned in the past, but at this point in my journey it has taught me to appreciate their frankness and not having to guess what is on their minds. I have also learned that Italians do believe in the pleasantries, greetings and inquiring how one is doing, as opposed to getting to the point as Americans are accustomed to. About myself I have learned that I like to wander off the beaten path and discover the more unique experiences in shopping, eating, or time spent.
How have I changed? In this semester I have met so many people that have widened my horizons and exposed me to different perspectives. In getting to know my roommates, I have learned that we are all too often critical of ourselves more than we should be. In trying to show them the beauty that I see in them, I began to look for the beauty in myself. In getting closer to my friends from the photography class, I was able to see that we all have unique talents that can be paired together to formulate the best collaboration. In these relationships I have learned to be sure of who I am and how I am. I have learned to be open to my surroundings without compromising my values. It has been good to see that in the wake of new, I can stand true to me.
What part of this experience and the culture will I take into my future? I will always take with me my desire to travel and experience new cities. I will always care about the quality of food over the quantity and be more inclined to eat fresher ingredients. I will also put into practice trying new places and discovering the gems in my own city as I did here in Florence. I hope to carry with me the relationships I have gained and have them last my lifetime. I hope to use my knowledge of assimilating into new surroundings to be able to adjust to the new in my daily life.
Overall, study abroad has been an amazing experience and I recommend it to everyone who is able. Find a way to make it happen! I will forever be wiser because of it and grateful for this time of self-development.
Brittany is a current student at Point Loma Nazarene University studying at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) in Italy during the Fall 2014 term.