We recently caught up with SAI Ambassador Camille, who reminisces on her time in Florence.
While I was abroad in Florence, Italy, I almost did not realize how much my life was changing. It did not happen in one day. Over the course of the semester, I found that I thought about myself and the world differently. I learned that I was confident and courageous enough to actually go, take a risk, and make it work. Even if i was put in situations that made me anxious or uncomfortable, I did my best to push through and make the most of my experience. I was very scared to go abroad because I had never even been out of the country before. I was so scared that I would not do well or be too home sick and now I just cannot wait to go back. Firenze will always have a special place in my heart because how much it changed me. I think I see the world differently now. I have seen what it is like to live in another part of the world that is so different than my own. Different does not mean worse. Different can be such a good thing.
My life goals have really changed as well. Before I was just ready to finish college, get my degree, find a job and continue life. I was on the path expected of my by American society. What I realized is that I want more than that. I want to really see the world. I want to know how more people live their lives and see the differences. I want to just be around people of all kinds. My biggest regret of studying abroad is not seeing more and taking even more risks because I was scared to do it by myself. I want to take that fear away because I know it would be worth it.
I really did think a lot differently about the US when being abroad. There are some cultural things that are common in Europe that i really wish we had here. Including tax in the bill or price at a store, not having to tip because the waiters have a real wage. The education system and how it was set up was also so different and I think could be so interesting to see if it would work in America. I loved how the Italian culture was also so focused on family. Many workers and even students get a afternoon break to go home and recharge and eat with their families. I think America has really lost that value as a whole. Having the whole family together is not something we focus on. I usually felt most foreign when trying to read the bus or train schedules or doing the more touristy things. Being in Florence, it is really easy to get swept up in the city and blend like a local.
One of the things I was most scared of for studying abroad was not knowing any Italian. I did take Spanish in high school and it did actually help. The languages are similar vocabulary wise, and so a lot of words are easy to guess their meaning. I think the biggest help in going to Italy and using the language is to just keep trying and do not be afraid to mess up. Locals will really appreciate the effort and I promise they will immediately know you are American when you speak anyways. I once tried to order a panino and the man taking my order could tell I was struggling, so he said “It’s okay I speak English, but thank you for trying.” Many Italians also know enough English to help you out. Know enough to be conversational and put effort in and you will be okay.
Camille was a fall 2017 SAI Florence student from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.