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Written by Alexa Myre, (University of Wisconsin-Madison) CET Florence, Spring 2017

God help me… This is week six in Florence and week five of me blowing my nose into my scarf during layovers and coffee orders. It’s safe to say that I have wished for my mom, a hot bath, and a hug more than a few million times now. It is not that I want to actually be home instead of here, but I really wouldn’t mind a quick sabbatical from Florence. A few days to be spoiled and taken care of, to lay in bed and not feel guilty about it…

Okay enough of that, because last I checked that little daydream wasn’t feasible economically or academically. Obviously, this isn’t the ideal situation. No one wants to be sick, let alone sick abroad, but if I sit here and sulk in it… play the woes me game what does that do for me? Quite honestly, it lets me avoid acting. It has given me an excuse to be absent in my own experience. I haven’t been 100% here. If I blamed being uncomfortable or lack of progress in class on my sickness it somehow didn’t make it my fault. It allowed me to play the victim. As hard as I thought I had it, I was taking the easy way out.

Luckily, I have persistent friends and family at home who weren’t going to let me waste these four short months. I was reminded that I have this insane opportunity to see the world and it wasn’t going to wait for me to get done pouting. It finally sunk in. It was time to adjust and adapt. I needed to find home in Florence, to embrace the bumps in the road, and make no more excuses.

I started working from the outside inwards. Instead of complaining about my situation I set out to change it.  Nothing about my room here in Florence made me feel at home. So, I hunted down candles and new blankets and rearranged everything when I arrived home one afternoon in efforts to personalize my space. I also started spending the majority of my time outside or bouncing to and from my favorite coffee shops. I refused to let myself sit inside passing judgments on Florence when I hadn’t even experienced it. It was as simple as that. This decision to be present gave me more time to observe my new surroundings and less time to reflect in a negative way.

The other upside to coming out of my pity-party hibernation was that it gave me the opportunity to branch out. I met more locals, students, and slowly but surely I started to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I was making decisions for myself, staying in when others went out—because I couldn’t breathe through my nose—but also because I really didn’t want to. I preferred to wander off on my own during the day or search out the hole in the wall spots full of Florentines at night. Standing by this, to act only in my own best interest…I went from my lowest low to my highest high in a matter of days.

Last night I spent hours swapping life stories over chocolate cake with two roommates I am coming to adore and this morning I woke up with yoga at a studio down the street that is ran by a woman and her husband who always make me feel at home. I now have familiar faces to exchange smiles with throughout the day and I am in constant awe of how incredible everything is around me. I had put a blindfold over my eyes the second things got hard. Today though I am happy to report that I have lost my blindfold along with the stack of excuses, bought some Kleenex, and am thoroughly enjoying my study abroad experience.