Student Takes in Italian Eperience

Stefanie Albert

As the flight landed, the reality of it all settled in.four months ahead in Florence, Italy. Since I can remember, the experience of studying abroad has always been a dream of mine; something I was sure I would do. And after all that time of placing it somewhere off in the distance, my dream was finally here. I was anxious, eager, and curious. The mixed emotions from the day before upon leaving home, my family, friends, and more, were hidden in the shadow of all my excitement. So I will give you a little insight to my first few weeks in a new culture and how it all begins.
Have you ever vacationed and thought, “Wow…wouldn’t it be so incredible to live here?” That was the mindset I had the whole first week in Florence. I thought, these people are so lucky, they don’t know how good they have it. I was absolutely stunned by everything within my view. From the cobblestone I was walking along, to all the historical monuments that overlooked the crowded Center. The first week passed like a fantasy. wondering aimlessly through the city of Florence, seeing new things and trying new foods (gelato I stuck with on a daily basis). I loved every minute of it.
As the second week followed, a feeling of settlement and routine evolved. Classes had started; and therefore homework assigned as well as books to buy. We were officially moved into the apartment, and hunting down basic necessities (in another language) wasn’t the easiest to locate.
This is when the difference between European and American lifestyles was most prominent. I find it so interesting to compare Italian “norms” to ours back home. For instance, they don’t stock up their homes with food to last for weeks, electronics to entertain a crowded room, or run water like they own all the earth has to give. Everything including the roads, cars, apartments and people, are smaller. Also, Italians don’t take anything on the go; if you want a coffee (or rather, an espresso shot) you sit and drink it in a café. People walk and ride bikes as basic means of transportation in Florence. Business men, dressed in nice suits with briefcase in hand, ride their bikes along the sidewalks to work. The daily “siesta” is one of the Italian norms I particularly like. From the hours of 1pm to 3:30pm all the shops close down for lunch break. Grabbing a quarter pounder and fries in a rush is not too common. Instead, they take their time to enjoy a lengthy meal and good company. And not much is open on Sundays either. Sure, everyone here works hard but it seems to me, Italians do not lose sight of true priorities.
As an outsider looking in, I am impressed with this culture and enjoy it immensely. But it’s not easy to feel accepted into.especially as an American. Trying to speak the language, or get by without the American customs we take for granted can be a struggle. But I believe it to all be part of a beneficial learning experience. Within my first three weeks, I found that acclimating to a unique lifestyle can be as pleasantly embracing, or as challenging, as you allow it.
Since my arrival, I have already witnessed sights that many people will only see in books and been places some don’t know even exist. I will continue to take in a new way of life, and am looking forward to the majority of my journey that is still to come. It’s so fortunate to have all these opportunities at hand, if you have the chance…take it.