Written by Cara Suplee, (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Student Correspondent CET Florence, Spring 2020
My mother never flew on a plane until college and neither of my parents have ever been to Europe. These facts echoed through my head as I boarded a plane that was set to land in the enchanting city of Florence, Italy. It’s almost easy to forget how unbelievably lucky we are to have the opportunity to study in a foreign city for four months and live out something of a dream. When you’re surrounded by so many people doing the same, it can feel like a given. However, thinking about my parents’ experiences and the sacrifices they made to give me this undoubtedly life changing adventure, I can’t help but feel humbled and deeply grateful.
The best advice I was given before departing was that at every moment of awe I should turn back and admire where I came from. Not many people look in the opposite direction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but there I was, facing the tourists who were looking up, but also facing the city of Pisa which when explored enough, can have magic of its own completely separate from the tower. Throughout Florence, I have made the point to not always walk forward with purpose, but to also wander and look behind me just as much. I have turned around to meet eyes with the smiling, eager vendors of the Sant’Ambrogio Market or to catch the steam coming off of a freshly served espresso. In each beautiful discovery, I have rediscovered what I already knew.
This leads to the first lesson I have learned in my first few weeks of living abroad. Savor every moment. It’s a cliché that you have probably been met with each time you tell a new person that you’re studying in another country. However, the actual savoring can be hard to do once you’ve finally arrived and are overwhelmed with the countless sights and bustling streets. I have realized that I have to consciously remind myself to turn back, take in where I came from before I move forward and acknowledge with every moment that I am remarkably fortunate.