Deciding to spend the first semester of my junior year in Florence, Italy was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although I have been here barely more than two weeks, I can tell that I am already learning and maturing immensely. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the challenges and difficulties I have faced thus far.
This semester abroad is my very first time traveling outside of the United States. Even back home, I have not done much traveling off of the east coast. Being able to experience an entirely new and foreign culture has been wonderful! There were several stark differences between Italy and the U.S. that I quickly had to adjust to. I noticed immediately that the roads were very small and Italians had what seemed like an almost reckless driving style. In my apartment, the hot water lasts at the most 10 minutes, there is no clothes dryer, no screens on the windows, and air conditioning is seen as an unnecessary luxury that uses too much energy. These are things that I am very accustomed to having accessible to me any time that I wanted. However, being in Florence I see that I can easily do without these things. The positive differences in my apartment strongly outweigh the things I’m used to having back home. For example, my apartment building is over 100 years old and has been beautifully updated for the perfect mix of historical modernness.
Italians are a very interesting group of people. They take pride in their city and enjoy freely expressing the love that they feel for those they are acquainted with. Their style is completely different to that of Americans; they often wear bright colors and semi conservative clothing. I have gotten lost on several occasions due to Google maps being very unreliable. During these times, I find the closest business and politely ask for directions. The Italians always do their best to assist me and so far I have always gotten to my destination with their help. Not all Italians can speak English, but many of them do try and are very decent. The language barrier often makes it difficult to communicate with them, so I have decided to try to become as fluent in Italian as I can.
I have not been able to visit as many restaurants and cafes as I would like. However, I have visited enough to say that the food here is beyond amazing. Unlike in the U.S., Italy does not genetically modify its fruits and vegetables. The animals are fed the foods that they are naturally supposed to digest. This significantly enhances the taste of the food prepared here and of course, has positive effects on the human body. Portion sizes are also significantly smaller which makes it difficult to overeat. Although it has only been two weeks, I can already see the effects of a better diet on my body.
Whenever someone asks me if I like Florence, I always say that I love it. I love the food, the culture, the people, the art, the architecture, the weather, and even the air. I am surprised with how easily I have adjusted to my life here. Although I really miss my family and friends back home, I am sure that once the day arrives that I have to return back to Virginia, I will find it difficult to leave this beautiful city.
Detranelle is a fall 2017 SAI Florence student from Virginia Commonwealth University.