Tuesday, May 24, 2011


So now it has been over a week since I have been home. I am still tired all the time, part of which I blame the weather for as it has been really cloudy and rainy lately. I've been going to the gym twice a day versus twice a week in Italy to work off that pasta weight. Today started my online class and tomorrow starts one of my many jobs of the summer. This summer is going to be full of work and working out, but I know it will make this fall's field hockey season that much easier and next spring and summer that much more fun. After a spring semester in California I want to be abroad again either teaching english abroad or interning abroad. Cross your fingers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse culture shock is one of the craziest things I've ever experienced. So far, I've responded "grazie ciao" while leaving a store, stared at a stranger who asked, "is someone in the bathroom," and got confused when the bank teller handed me dollar bills. I've taken a few naps, something I never do and have woken up exhausted each day I've been here. I managed to miss the exit on Route 18 that I have always taken to get to my job. I almost ended up on the other side of the road, don't ask me how.

My biggest fear now is forgetting: forgetting the details, forgetting my friends from there. I'm not looking forward to the day that I see someone I know, and they don't ask, "how was your trip," because they either don't care or already heard it. I feel like my eyes are always glazed over, and I'm not really awake.

For me, that trip wasn't just a trip. I truly set up a life for myself there. I made a home complete with classes, friends, things to do. I was completely comfortable with the city for weeks before I left. That's a feeling I don't really have at home just yet. Maybe after I finish unpacking... Its like I have never lived here, but I somehow know where everything is.

More on reverse culture shock: Click Here

Sunday, May 15, 2011

L’Utimo Notte a Firenze (per questo viaggio non per sempre!)

After a final social media class, a delicious panino of prosciutto crudo, mozzerella and sundried tomato on schacchiata from the far winery, meeting up with two language exchanges, taking my Italian final, getting gelato and sitting on a bridge, signing check out paperwork, after all that, I changed dresses and went to a final dinner.

Pino is a man who works at Salamaria Verdi, which is essentially a sandwich shop. It is often confused with "Central Perk" of the television show Friends or "The Diner" of Saved by the Bell. This common watering hole is a place where I have gotten many panini here all of which are fresh and full of flavor. His pesto is to die for. I met up with a friend, Haley, a few of her friends, and my professor to have a nice meal. Its funny because this professor is my History professor of all subjects. She is a riot though. She’s “the pits,” as she says in her British accent. We talked about everything from Italian culture and living here rather than studying here to her travels to American celebrities to the shop itself. Pino even sat down with us and shared a glass of wine while our empty plates sat before us, once filled with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, cheeses, salami, prosciutto crudo, then penne con truffles e poi rigatoni con ragu`. We spoke in Italian and English about short term things and long term things. She encourages me to teach English abroad (I am not sure if I had mentioned I want to do this next summer) in another country, other than Italy. Ho bisogno a tornero` ma, oops, I need to return to Italy, this place I found such happiness, but I think I spending time in a completely foreign country not knowing the language or much about the culture would be a great experience.

After feeling that homey feeling of chatting after a big long meal, my friend said she was going to Bible study. Bible study? I knew she went, and I knew that her father was a pastor, but I was not expecting to go to Bible study on the night before I go home. Her friend and her were going, and I know I could have gone out again, though I did every night last weekend and a bit during finals, I figure why not? What’s stopping by?

I ended up meeting some pretty amazing people there. Some were studying abroad students, one who I am pretty good friends with whom I did not expect to see there and other Florentines, some of whom did not grow up in Florence, or even Italy for that matter. (As a sidenote, this post is taking me forever to write. First, this is because my sunburn from Viareggio stopped hurting but started that itchy phase. When I took off my dress before, a sheet of skin came with it. Gross. Second because I want to make sure I remember this night right. One of my biggest fears about coming here was forgetting things and not documenting things well. Finally, when I am finished with this, I am going to sleep at it is 4:30 in the morning and when I wake up, I only have 12 hours left in this beautiful city, for the time being of course. My travel writing teacher says I need to stay focused when I write, but with blogging, I do more stream of consciousness stuff as you can see, or read. Anyway…) These people were very open and the kind of people I would love to surround myself with. They were not overly religious and did not push ideas on you, but just enjoyed sharing what they thought. One guy quoted from the Bible about how if we are not the ones who share the word, who will? This reminded me of a time when I was in a mixed up high schooler and someone asked, “have you tried praying?” I thought of how things have come full circle and how what someone said to me 4 or 5 years ago is ringing in my head now. I would have never thought I would be repeating what he said in my head while I was in Florence.

We broke out into conversation once it was over and ended up at two of the girls’ apartment. We drank coffee, hot chocolate, and tea, sat on the roof, talked, and looked out onto the Florentine nightscape. There was a moment I will never forget. “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things,” a Florentine friend said. I was thinking, for me, that’s quite possible, and with this group of people definitely, but you live here. You can come back tomorrow…

Once we got some solid ground beneath our feet instead of those orange tiles, we talked about the cultural differences between our countries of Finland, America, Brazil, and either Kenya or Tanzania I don’t remember. We talked about how Italians fight using words and objects, their lifestyle, their dialects. These were all topics I have covered living here for almost four months, though each time I talk about these things with different people, I get another perspective and a more true sense of the culture here.

I told them that of all the places I could have ended up tonight, I was happy I was there. I love meeting new people, even if its on my last night in Florence. Every interaction with another person teaches us something about them and something about ourselves. Maybe not always something new, but it can be reinforcing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I have changed over this trip, aside from losing my New Jersey accent and gaining a bit on the hips. I have always heard from my friends who have also studied abroad that when you go home, you will really realize how you are different, just as the friends from home will notice how long my hair got though I do not see it because I saw it a bit different each day. Also, I realized that leaving here is just another step closer to the person I hope to become. Every change is an opportunity to maybe not start completely over again, but to start new. Instead of being upset about leaving, I know I can just realize that I have no regrets, I am so blessed to have so many friends here and around America to miss, and that I exploited my opportunities, one of which was being open to change and be free to truly be myself. I know that when I go home, I will not have any apprehensions about completely being myself, even if the people I am around think differently. This is because I will always know that there are people out there who think like I do and have similar outlooks.

My biggest fears about going home are one, having my memories fade away, two, something awful happening and having memory loss, three, missing the diversity of my friends here, and four, losing my luggage.

Some people I have talked to said that living here scratched the itch of traveling. For a few others and me I know this just made me want to travel more. This winter, I hope to get my certification to teach English as a foreign language then after the spring semester in California, I hope to land a job in Poland for the summer, then of course visit Italy on the way back. This has been such an amazing journey, but saying goodbye to this one just opens the doors to something new and now, I’m even stronger. Building a life for myself, with the help of my program, is very confidence boosting. If I can do that at 19 years old, I wonder how the rest of my life will pan out.

It’s still sad to say goodbye to something that made me so happy. I’ve come to think of it this way: I will miss so many friends, but that means that I was loved here. I will miss the pace of life, but that I can try to take with me home. I will miss the food, but I can cook it. I will miss this gorgeous city and that will be under my skin for the rest of my life.

Florence this isn't goodbye, I’m just moving on for now, a dopo.

This will not be my final blog post. I will be writing through reverse culture shock, because I think it will be an important part of this experience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Good Guys

I have realized on this trip how nice guys can really be. I guess from growing up in New Jersey, I would tolerate a lot from guys. No more! I cannot say that every guy I have met here is nice, and of course there are those infamous Italian catcalls, but even the friendships I have made with American guys here taught me something. Some of them reinforced what I already knew , but some of them definitely proved that there are genuinely good guys in the world, guys who are funny and also kind, considerate, respectful, happy people. They bring out the best in you and always make you smile. Do not get me wrong, I know there are guys like this at home, but I feel like I find that so much more here, though the group is a mix of people from all over the country. Being around people like this, male and female, makes me want to surround myself with people like that forever. Live is too short not to. Plus, I hope this trait rubbed off on me, and now I can be one of those people.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finals and Ending

Its so hard to stay focused on school work while saying goodbye to a beautiful city. Good thing I packed and took pictures of the everyday city I see early in the week. I need a few pictures with some shop owners, and I'm finished. So sad.

Today, I climbed to the top of the Duomo. Yes, it took me over three months, but I finally did it. I thought it would be a good way to say goodbye, and it was. I met a lot of people, then when it emptied out a bit, a few tears did roll down my cheeks. Its hard leaving a place I was so genuinely happy in. If I can build myself a life here though, I know I will be able to do it again in another town.

One great reminder when leaving a wonderful place behind: when you leave, you are not leaving empty handed. Your leaving with memories, mementos, and friendships. Leaving this place also means entering a new one. The new locale is open to exploration, even if thats rediscovering a place you've already been. And if your unhappy with this place, you have the confidence that you can build a new and happy life for yourself as you did in that place you're leaving. If you could do that once, you can do that again.

As my mom says, "there is no place like home," which is true. What's also true is that "home" can be set up anywhere. It will be nice to see my family and friends from New Jersey, but I know a piece of me will always be here, in this home of Florence.


One thing that I have been trying to do as much as possible is talk with tourists. I have been talking with locals and Americans so much, which I have loved and I made a ton of friends, but talking with tourists is so different. No one visits Freehold, New Jersey, so I never really get the chance to talk with people from all over the world: Sydney to London to Dallas. Plus, helping lost tourists always makes me feel better. Not only do I make someone smile, but I also get the satisfaction of giving someone directions through a "foreign" city, though its not so foreign to me anymore. Plus, I've met some really interesting people from the boys who were studying in Norway I think it was, I met them in Verona. Today, I met people from Texas, Australia, California, and Michigan. I love the diversity, and hope to experience that again.

Reverse Culture Shock

Many of my professors have been preparing us for this, reverse culture shock. They ask us questions about our trip and tell us to envision home. I remember thinking from the very beginning that the only thing I was nervous about coming here would be returning home. My things are packed. My bank account depleted. My planner full of memories instead of to do's. My hips grew. This was one amazing trip, and I realize that when I get home, no one will care. That is the first thing taught in my friend's "culture shock" class. This blog post sums it up: click here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The End is Near

Everyone is getting nostalgic. The FUA Farewell party last night was greater than I anticipated. It was in a gorgeous estate with truly vintage pictures everywhere. Having a skit performed and band play outdoors was a great idea. It was nice to see all the people whom I have met the past few months all in one place. Everyone went out afterwards, which was hard after my all-nighter last night, though I did sleep on the Viareggio beaches during the day, getting half sunburned. I did accomplish something to cross of my list of things to do while I am here though.

So its my last Saturday in Florence (for a while), and I am about to figure out which of my clothes are worn down the least to wear. Tomorrow, I will be waking up early, going to the top of the Duomo, and walking the entire city taking pictures. I can't believe this wonderful experience is coming to a close. I really did have the time of my life. I just hope it's not all down hill from here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

I just wanted to remember this right here, and unfortunately, my journal is far so I guess I'll stick to blogging. Tonight, I went out for frozen margaritas with a friend. We ended up at a couple bars then clubbing. I know its a cliche` to say that Italian men are persistent, but tonight was a prime example of it. You can say no, push away, hand gesture, it doesn't matter. Some of them were really cute, some acted nice, some were sleezeballs. That's life though right?

My friend and I got home pretty early in the morning and unfortunately, I can't sleep. I guess I'll be up until the 8am train to Viareggio, the closest beach to Florence. I know the end of this trip is near, but nights like this help me forget and really just enjoy the time I've got.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Free Hugs Florence

I just got back from the opera; Aida was amazing. It was such a good experience with my friends from my program. Anyway for my social media final project, my classmates and I made a video: Free Hugs Florence. Another Florence memory. (For those like my mother who don't know what to do, click the blue letters to watch the video)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Travel Writing Assignment - Poem

Two Towns

Walking through busy winding streets, a mix of veterans and tourists,
Driving through my small town, always finding familiar faces.

Looking up to homey balconies, skinny, tall buildings and deep green shudders,
Looking down tree lined streets filled with traditional two-story homes.

Sleeping to city sounds: music from the club across the street, ambulances blaring,
Sleeping to the soft quick bursts of air from my dog's nose as he sleeps aside my bed.

A two room studio apartment with one framed picture of a sailboat,
The room I grew up in, bright and beached out, my sanctuary.

Stepping outside to a friendly shopkeeper who is always stocked with wine,
Stepping outside to my best friend's house, home to childhood memories.

Living around the Duomo, Santa Croce, and il panino centrale,
Living around the mall, the movies, and familiar restaurants of food from around the world.

Fresh markets, gelato, and real wine from regional grapes,
The comfort of knowing the chef, homecooking.

Traveling the country with views of rolling green hills, discovering,
Driving the state with views of the parkway, visiting.

A fifteen minute stroll to the sparkling Ponte Vecchio,
A fifteen minute drive to crashing waves at Jersey's shores.

How lucky can I be for both of these are homes to me, memories.