The sweat, anxiety, confusion, and irritation I have encountered over the last two months have taught me more about myself and the world (or at least a broader portion) than any textbook ever could have. I am returning from a week plus long trip touring Northern Europe and as I reflect, I realize that active learning is not just limited to traveling, but is getting past the uncomfortable and calling it home. To see a city as a local and to see a city as a tourist are very different concepts. In Florence, I am blessed with the time to see the Gallileo, Uffizi, and Accademia museum instead of having a tourist itinerary. I allow myself to enjoy the uncomfortable moment of translation when ordering a coffee. Whereas when I was traveling this week for Fall break I was on The Amazing Race and was forced to be at certain places at certain times in order to get my typical tourist pics in front of the monuments. While I felt like I taste tested the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Dublin, Amsterdam, Noordwijk and Prague, I found it harder to take cultural notes along the way being surrounded by tourists as well as being "on-the-go." It's one thing to read about a place or see pictures, another to actually visit them, and then a whole other experience to call that place home, even temporarily. Taking trains, busses, cars and planes makes one go insane. But that's all part of it. The meshing of personalities that conflict and those that blend naturally especially when traveling is active learning at its finest. All of the name games we played as children was just a prelude to the real life networking and compromising we have to do as adults. This Fall break challenged me. Coming ‘home’ to Florence is a relief and I'm excited to enter those CEA doors again! It's funny to me how easily we adapt to places. What was once new and unfamiliar is now a comfortable place to return to. And while tomorrow morning I may not order my coffee in perfect Italian, I'm ordering a coffee in Florence, Italy and learning about the culture, language, and myself doesn't get any more active than that.
Danee Chavez is the Fall 2012 CEA MOJO in Florence, Italy
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