As my journey abroad is coming to an end I have no choice but to reflect on the many adventures, lessons, and hardships I’ve had along this journey. I’ve learned from my peers, my professors, and locals of Italy. While reflecting there is one lesson that stands out to me the most. It is the lesson that we as members of the study abroad experience are students and not tourists. This lesson has had such an impact on my trip because there are so many moments and opinions that can be drawn to enhance this lesson.
The phrase was first introduced to me during my three week intensive sketchbook course. During this course Niccoletta Salomon guided the class to many local locations in which we would sketch and learn about the areas. We went from major monuments to hidden gems of the city. She made sure to remind us that we are separate from tourists and that although the culture shock may make us feel like tourists that we should consider ourselves otherwise.
As I was struggling to understand what that meant to me personally I held onto the phrase “Students not Tourists.” Hoping that throughout this experience my mind would gain clarity on the topic. While working on multiple large projects being here and becoming friends with locals I began to understand the concept deeper. We are not of the tourist category due to our activeness within the community. Becoming regulars at our favorite cafes and restaurants. Learning to communicate through language barriers and learning the average life of an Italian real time.
On top of all the learning, living in this space, not in a way of over consumption or tourist like monumentalism, we become citizens of the city. Of course we consume and see monuments but we also digest in different ways as we can revisit throughout our days and become embedded in the culture in an area. The way the culture slowly becomes adopted by students is why we are not tourists, we don’t come solely to consume and party. Instead to become one with the community or at least try to see eye to eye with community members. The powerful exchange of culture, information, and energy is the more impactful and differentiating part of being a student abroad.
Written by: Jaylen, Fall 2023 Florence student from Wayne State University