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Arriving in Florence

February 14, 2017
by CEA MOJO
“Bye mom, I’ll see you in 5 months!” Something I’ve said once before, but still not something that is easy to say. My first semester of college I spent at The University of Alabama. For someone born and raised in a Southern California beach town, this was a study abroad experience in itself. I spent my second and third semesters living at home and commuting to community college. This made embarking on a semester abroad a bigger step for me than it might be for other college students. Nevertheless, I knew this was an opportunity I could not pass up.
 View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo during orientation week

Nothing can prepare you for the feeling that comes alongside arriving in a foreign country for an extended period if it’s your first time doing so like it was for me. Prior to leaving, your friends and family will continually tell you how excited they are for you and give you suggestions for places to go while abroad. You can talk about it, research it, and plan for it, but not until you are there will your study abroad experience feel real.

My destination was Florence, Italy. Leaving my parents at the airport was bittersweet. I was sad to leave but excited to see what this new adventure would hold for me. The nearly 24-hour transatlantic journey was brutal. No matter how much I thought about it on the plane, I could not have anticipated the feelings that would follow my arrival. I landed at 11 pm, got in a taxi, and was speedily driven through the small streets of Florence to my apartment where my roommates welcomed me with open arms. Without a second to stop and take it all in, my orientation had officially begun.

 My roomates, an epic group of guys!

Orientation week went by incredibly fast. I was in a sort of bliss, probably a result of both jet lag and excitement. It wasn’t until Saturday that it sunk in that I was going to be living in this foreign place for 5 months. With this feeling came a wave of homesickness. To make it worse, I was struck with a pretty bad cold, making my second week in Florence a tough one. I spent most of the week figuring out how to take care of my physical sickness while also trying to fight off the doubts I had about coming to Florence. I powered through it, made my way to the “Farmacia”, and a few days later I was feeling better.

On my second Saturday in Florence, I was invited to join a friend on a day trip to Assisi, the home of Saint Francis. This small town on a hill was absolutely amazing! In Assisi, I realized how blessed I was to have this opportunity to study abroad in Florence. When I arrived back in Florence, I had an entirely new attitude. I stopped looking down and thinking about how much I missed home and the warm weather, and I started looking up and taking in the beauty of this Renaissance city.

 Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi in Assisi, Italy.

The most prominent feeling I have experienced these past 3 weeks abroad has been naivety. I was and still am naïve to the Italian culture. While I am picking up some phrases and habits that separate me from the average tourist, I am still an outsider. I was naïve to the thought and reality of homesickness. It took me by surprise and hit me with a heavy hand. I was most of all naïve to the feeling that hits you when you soak in the entirety of your experience. Standing in Assisi, looking out at the Italian countryside from the same spot Saint Francis stood 800 years ago, I was humbled more than I have ever been. We are small people in a big world with a long history. Being given the opportunity to step out of my day to day routine in the States and spend a few months being humbled by sights like this is priceless. I am so excited for these next 5 months I will be spending in Florence, and the humility I hope to experience time and time again.
 Street view in the Oltrarno of Florence, Italy!

Anthony R. is the Spring 2017 MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy.  He is currently a Sophomore studying Business Administration at Santa Monica College.

Read more about our CEA MOJO Bloggers & Photographers.
 
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