“I Can’t See This World Unless I Go” Study Abroad in Florence.
By Meaghan Powers
College Tourist Ambassador
I have walked the streets of Rome, I have been to foreign lands
I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand
I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night
I have kissed a West Coast girl underneath the Northern Lights
I know what it’s like to be the only one like me,
To take a good hard look around and be a minority
And I Miss my Tennessee home
I can see the ways that I grown
I can’t see this world unless I go
Outside my Southern Comfort Zone
After four months abroad, I came home to this musical inspiration that really made me reflect about how much I loved Florence, but missed home.
December 14th I touched down in Boston after spending four months studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Yes, of course, the best four months of my life. From bussing to Oktoberfest in Munich, to flying to London and Dublin for Thanksgiving or climbing to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, boating around Capri and my daily walks through the streets of Florence, I have some irreplaceable and unforgettable memories from these months abroad.
We all know from our friends’ Facebook photos that spending a semester abroad is the ultimate experience. I am here to tell you that behind those photos there are some struggles. Being in a foreign country is not always the easiest adjustment and returning to the States may be just as hard….but who said life was easy? And the truth is, if studying abroad did not bring about challenges, it might not be worth the trip. But it does. And each language barrier or moment of homesickness makes you grow that much more.
From the moment my flight took off from Boston in August, I began looking forward to the cuisines that were in my near future in Italy. Café gelato at Grom and pear and cheese pasta from a small family restaurant on Via Guelfa made adjusting my diet pretty simple! But (yes, even in Italy!), sometimes all you want is your mother’s homemade casserole or that greasy “American” Chinese Food. In the country of espressos and cappuccinos in cozy cafés, I definitely missed my morning iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts.
Aside from food and coffee, I can name a handful of things I missed most while abroad. Variety. From the grocery stores to the clothing stores, sometimes all you need is a one-stop shop at Target for apartment décor and cereal, or a run into Marshall for a new dress. Driving. Being home for winter break, I always jumped in the drivers seat or offered to drive my friends around, because walking can get old…especially in the rain or the cold December for which I was unprepared ( even through Florence’s picturesque streets of history). English. The relief I felt when I interacted with the Logan Airport personnel, with no fear that they could not understand my English was a long time coming. FOMO (Fear of missing out). The lives of my family and friends still progressed even while I was on another continent and talking to them and seeing pictures without me in them is never easy…wishing I was there with them or that they were by my side.
But sitting in my dorm room now, I am searching for pesto recipes that will probably never compare to those made with fresh basil and tomatoes from San Lorenzo Market. I can get my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee every morning, but I miss sitting down at the café below my apartment where my roommate and I befriended the barista. I want to walk everywhere but cannot. And over break I realized how unaffordable driving is these days. I look to my study abroad friends to get fix of speaking Italian in for the day. And now I look at the photos of those friends I met while abroad and how I’m missing out. Not only missing out, but I may never be in Florence with those people again.
So being abroad is quite a mixed experience. As is returning to your home sweet home and comfort zone. But while abroad, you have to live in the moment and let go of all those American things you miss (except maybe your family and friends!) and take what your host country has for granted! And when you return home, hold tight your memories from abroad and accept the readjustments you’ll be facing. Studying abroad is the entire experience: applying to your program, the build up to, and the actual flight, abroad, your entire day to day life in a foreign country, your homesickness and longing to return home, your departure from the country that will probably become a second home, your flight back to the States and the excitement of being back in your comfort zone, all the memories you’ll share when you return and all the times you wish you could be back in your foreign home for just one more day.