Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Missing Florence...

It's no secret that I'm a compulsive traveler.

I was lucky enough to have studied abroad not once, but TWICE, in college. My first study abroad was in Seoul, South Korea in 2013. The following year, this year, I got to go abroad again. This time to Florence, Italy.

Il Fiume Arno in Florence, Italy
I had traveled quite a bit before throughout Asia, but this was my first time setting foot in Europe. I was warned that my study abroad experience in Florence would be nothing like my time spent in Seoul. I took the heads up, packed my one large suitcase, and boarded a flight to Italy on my own.

I was scared, I didn't know a single person in Florence and I wasn't completely confident in my ability to meet people and make friends. My first time abroad I went with my best friend. Sure, we made friends, I even met my ex-boyfriend there, but I always knew that I had someone there who I knew, and who knew me, to go through everything with me. The culture shock, making new friends, navigating a new city. I always had a sidekick.
Tiny Tim aka Michelangelo's "David" (wink wink wink)
When I arrived in Florence, I was more than just a little nervous. I had a full on panic attack the first couple days, doubting whether my housemates and I would get along, wondering what I had gotten myself into. I had the same meltdown my first night in Seoul. It's normal, it's natural, but that doesn't mean it's not still nerve-wracking. 

After seven months apart, my then boyfriend flew in from France to see me my second weekend there. I thought it would be a huge comfort, but in the end it really just made me extremely homesick after he left. I had gotten to spend the weekend with a familiar face when I was still fresh in Florence, and his departure felt like I was starting from scratch in Florence.


View of Florence from 'up the hill'. Florence is much prettier from above.
The first month or so was a bit painful for me. I hadn't found anyone I truly clicked with, and since I only had a semester there, I was afraid that I would go through my whole semester without having made any true friends. Everyone was solidifying their friend groups and booking their trips for the whole semester, and I felt a bit....lonely.

But a few weeks before spring break, I met someone in one of my classes who would eventually become my favorite travel partner. Right after spring break, I met a couple more girls who I spent almost every night out with. What began as a sort of bleak experience blossomed into a seriously self-affirming one. 

I did something I thought I was incapable of. I went to a foreign country alone and came out of it with some of the best experiences and people who I know will be lifelong friends.
Florence, Italy at sunset.
I miss Florence. But not in the way you'd think. While I loved my time abroad, Florence never became my city. It never felt like a second home and it isn't a place that I feel I will find my way back to.

And yet, I have such a strong connection to the city. It taught me how to be a good traveler and that I can make friends. It taught me that it is possible to escape home and find yourself in an even more ill-fitted place. It taught me that having a good experience isn't about loving where you are, but about learning something about yourself.

I learned a lot about myself in those four months, and for that, I will always love Florence.

-A

Sound Off: Have any of you studied abroad? Lived abroad? From another country? I'm planning on moving out of the U.S. after I graduate from college and would love to hear about any of your stories. Maybe you'll inspire me to move to your favorite country! Let me know in the comments below.

5 comments:

  1. This is so cool for me to read. I've never really considered studying abroad until recently, but now I'm really interested in it. Thank you for sharing!!
    xx
    missheatherlauren.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Heather, thanks for reading and commenting! I would definitely look into studying abroad if it is something that even MIGHT interest you. In some cases, it takes years of planning (financial preparation, academic planning), and I know some people who couldn't study abroad but who could have if they had started planning from their freshman year.

      Hope to hear from you again, I'm heading over to your blog now! :)

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    2. Good to know! I'll be a freshman, so I'm hoping I still have enough options open to go maybe my Sophomore or Junior year. I'm not really sure how easy it is to do in my major, but I'm going to figure it out. It just seems like such an amazing opportunity.
      Thanks for visiting my blog!! :)

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  2. It's really great how you get to make friends even in different countries. As for me, I would LOVE to study abroad at some point, but unfortunately, I'm a scaredy cat haha :)

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Love getting to talk to people :) I love having friends from all over the world. It makes ME more well-rounded and culturally/politically aware having friends from such diverse areas. I was super afraid to study abroad, too. I had a really hard time leaving home for out of state college and didn't want that to happen to me again. But I ended up having literally the best experience of my life during my first study abroad (and caught the travel bug for life!). I was lucky enough to get to do my first study abroad with a friend. It helps a TON and makes you more courageous. I'm actually going to write a post on tips for studying abroad! check back in a few days if you're interested. :)

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