Ohhh, so that’s why they call it Study Abroad
I was recently rudely pushed out of the ‘honeymoon phase’ of my adventure by the remembrance that school is just around the corner. All the sight seeing I’ve been doing almost made me forget about the “study” part in study abroad. This past Thursday and Friday was orientation and as you can see, Gabrielle was really thrilled about it.
We sat in an ornately decorated theater with about 350 other students, mostly from the United States, and were lectured on how to be safe while in Florence. If I had a euro for every time I heard the phrase “buddy system” I wouldn’t have passed up the that cannoli on the way home…
In all seriousness, I really am looking forward for classes to start tomorrow! It’ll hopefully give me more opportunities to make new friends and I’ve always been one to enjoy the opportunity to expand my noggin (yes I just said that). The classes I’ll be taking are: two Business Management courses, Italian for beginners (thank god!), Florence Sketchbook (super excited about this), and Event Planning. Although I’m going to talk to my advisor about taking the Italian Food and Culture class instead of this last one… yes I know it does not seem particularly academic, but how many times will I have the chance to take a class like that?!
Here to Stay
Sometime during school orientation I also finally had the realization that I’m not just visiting Italy, I’m living in here, and that makes quite difference. When I’ve traveled in the past, my trips have mostly been brief. During short excursions one can get along just fine without having to make many personal adjustments; you can learn just a few new necessary words, hang out with the people came with, and go out to eat for most your meals. No need to dig deep to try and understand the culture in order to assimilate. But that’s not the case this time around. And I can now say from personal experience that this endeavor must be undertook with good humor, lest one get discouraged!
For example: The other day Gabrielle and I went to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Sesto Pub. (Truth be told it’s the only restaurant we’ve been to but we’ve been there 3x). We both had delicious meals but decided to only eat half of them and save room for dessert (they have the best tiramisu I have ever tasted). In Gabby’s best Italian she asked the waitress for a box for the rest of our meals. The waitress seemed to understand and swiftly took our plates from the table… and then dumped then in the trash. I know what you are thinking, “che triste”, but we had to meet this mishap with giggles because, well, there was nothing left to do.
Some other “opportunities for growth” (#euphemism”) have been: trying to make friends, even though I don’t speak the language; trying to be a thrifty grocery shopper, when I can’t even tell what I am buying; and trying to look like I don’t have a gait abnormality while carrying all my groceries home, even though my bag was so heavy I thought my shoulder was surely going to be dislocated by the time we reached our apartment.
A Walk in the Park
In sum, being a foreigner is not always a walk in the park. But speaking of taking walks in the park, I came across this beauty yesterday while on a run.
Gabrielle and I walked back there again today and we both agreed we left feeling more at peace and refreshed than we had been in awhile.
I sat in this park today and I reflected on the beautiful concept of nature being an equalizer. I realized it wasn’t until I was completed surrounded by trees in the park yesterday that I stopped feeling like the odd-one-out. For the first time in a while, my cultural identity had no affect on the level of enjoyment I could experience from my surroundings. In town, before I am even able open my mouth and fumble over the few Italian phrases I’ve memorized, my light eyes and foreign apparel gets me labeled as “different”. It’s surprising how much this bothers me. But nature on the other hand, offers a non-discriminatory invitation for everyone to simply be who you are, as you are, when you are in its presence. This invitation has always been a source of peace for me throughout my life and for that I am grateful. Alas, my nature-loving soul has found a place in Sesto that it feels completely at home.
I plan on going back to this place very often.
The Real Reason I Came to Italy
And of course on our walk to the park we stopped for pastries at a bar (that is what they call cafes). Best one yet!
Fun little nuggets of knowledge for the curious of mind:
– When you buy produce here you have to wear gloves and weigh them individually on a scale that prints you a sticker with its cost. There is no touching, smelling, rubbing of your fruits before you choose them! Pressures on.
– When you go to a bar (think starbucks that also sells alcohol and cigarettes) or a ‘pizza-by-the-slice’, you pay after you have eaten and drank all your goodies!
– They serve bubbly water here and water naturale.
– There is a flea market every Saturday in Sesto that has dozens and dozens of venders with cheap but cute clothes, gadgets, jewelry, and food. (It’s so fun!)
Pictures of Sesto