Written by Tim Rice (Vanderbilt University) Student Correspondent CET Florence, Spring 2018
First of all, I want to say that I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to study abroad. Such an experience is difficult to encapsulate, but I feel like the best way for me to describe and sum up my time in Italy is through a few different lists.
After spending the semester in the Tuscan town of Florence, here’s a list of things I can finally do that made me feel like a local:
- I can order my favorite sandwich completely in Italian (but unlike Subway, if the Italians don’t think your combination would be good, they won’t make that sandwich for you – probably a good thing)
- I can find my way around the city without Google maps (this took longer than I’d like to admit)
- I set up a rewards card at the local grocery store and with the train company (ballin’ on a budget, am I right?)
- I got on a first-name basis with my downstairs neighbor (and we shared a bottle of wine)
- I can list about 15 different types of pasta and none of them start with Kraft
A list of my favorite Italian Words:
- Allora (this is the word Italians use like “umm”)
- Ciao bella (hello beautiful)
- Prego! (not the tomato sauce, but a very useful word)
- Merrigiare (to escape the heat of the midday sun by resting in the shade)
- Apertivo (it’s like a pre-dinner meal with cocktails – phenomenal)
Here are the things I’ll miss most about Italy:
- The food (obviously)
- The food (shoutout to the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy which means even the McDonald’s is extremely fresh)
- Did I mention the food?
- Italy has mountains, beaches, countryside, art, and historical ruins – literally everything you could want to do – all in a super accessible geographic area
- The pace of life – people are happy, gregarious, and relaxed – it’s no wonder Italy’s life expectancy trounces ours
On the other hand, here’s a list of things I was excited to have again once I got back to the US:
- Chick-fil-A (duh)
- Dryers and dishwashers (phenomenal appliances that don’t really exist in Italy – see pace of life comment above)
- Large roads and sidewalks (I was a bit tired of walking single file)
- Costco (Italians shop for groceries like four times a week)
- Ubiquitous native English speakers
As I packed up my belongings to head back to the US, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had just gotten all settled in to my home in Florence, and now it was time to return to America. But even though my time in Florence was over, I was struck by the realization that I had been able to adapt and become a fully functioning citizen of another country. That is something I’ll always be proud of and cherish.
And so I’d like to close with a list of things I’m thankful for about my study abroad experience:
- In addition to providing incredible travel opportunities and tons of fun; I got a lot of self-actualization and self-confidence from knowing that I’m capable of being a global citizen.
- I managed to not gain any weight! (probably because of all the walking I did)
- If I ever had to move to another country, say, for work, having this experience under my belt will make it 1000 times easier. Traveling in the future will be smoother, and less stressful.
- I have something super interesting to talk about in job interviews or just in meeting new people (“hey tell me about that time you lived in Italy for four months”)
- I made so many amazing friends – other study abroad students, my teachers, locals, and whoever else I encountered along the way!