Hello from Florence! Like many students, I decided to escape the harsh UConn winter by spending the semester as far away from Storrs as I could get: Florence, Italy. Being that I was born and raised in Connecticut and hadn’t really ventured far from home for college, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to feel living abroad for four months. So, this week I want to try to explain to potential study abroad students what it feels like when you’re suddenly thousands of miles from home.
Living in Florence is like being on vacation indefinitely. I walk to school along the river Arno, passing under ancient Roman archways and walking across the famous Ponte Vecchio. Between classes, I can grab a cappuccino and a pastry at the cute cafe next door to my school building or walk over to a gelato shop just down the street. My two school buildings are old palaces: Palazzo Bargagli and Palazzo Rucellai. Half my classes involve going to local museums or taking field trips to nearby regions like Chianti. On school nights, many students go to bars or clubs or grab an aperitivo with friends at local restaurants. On weekends, students book flights on shady — but very cheap — airlines to incredible places like Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Malta or Croatia, among others. Being here is like living a dream.
And while I am making memories and seeing places most people never get the chance to visit, homesickness washes over me in unexpected waves. Although I live over a pizza place Cole Sprouse visited just last summer, down the street from a marketplace and an entire plaza of authentic Italian restaurants, the things I crave are firmly American. My roommates and I hiked across the city this past weekend to a diner that served luxury items like drip coffee, pancakes and avocado toast. Many of my meals are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, instead of gourmet cafe treats. I walk to class in a haze, daydreaming about my wonderful American shampoo and deodorant. I check my phone between classes in the hopes that my friends from home are up, because I crave hearing other English speakers.
I love living in this place of beauty and culture, surrounded by thousands of years of history. I have never been surrounded by such a great opportunity to explore and learn. Yet, when I go to sleep at midnight, I think about what my friends and family are doing now that it’s 6 p.m. in America. They say it takes six to 12 months to adjust to the culture and customs of a new country, but considering how fast the past three weeks here have flown by, I’m sure adjustment will come just as speedily.
In the meantime, I hope you all eat Dairy Bar ice cream and cheeseburgers in my fellow expatriots’ and my honor. Tune in next week for a review of Salzburg and the Sound of Music Tour!
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.