As the months and the weeks wind down, I am starting to prepare to head back home to America. It has been a whirlwind of a semester in Florence, Italy this past Spring. From the first moment I saw the Duomo from my upstairs apartment balcony, I knew that I had chosen the perfect place to be living and studying for the following four months. Turns out, I was right.
That same day that I first saw the Duomo, I was also introduced to my five new roommates. Four are from North Carolina State and the other from Marymount University as well. I was so excited to get to know everyone and so intrigued to see what our semester abroad was going to entail. We ended up becoming really close and traveling together on the weekends and going out to dinner together, which I am forever thankful for. I will never forget going out to get Gnocchi at our favorite restaurant and then completing the night with a Nutella crepe.
The Italian school system is something that was brand new to me as well when arriving here in January. School systems are different all over the world. Although I come from a small school where the rules are generally the same, studying at LdM came with stricter requirements than what I was used to. Stricter attendance rules, grading policies, and classroom etiquette. These were new challenges that I was ready to face, which lead me to appreciate the learning environment much more than I had originally. I think that people who have studied in Italy, would definitely agree.
Luckily, while studying and living in Italy, I was capable of traveling to other nations as well. This is the luckiest part of studying abroad in Europe – you are able to travel throughout it while also gaining your education. It is common to study and attend class during the week and then head out on the weekends with your new roommates and new friends to a brand new European country that you had never seen before. I was able to visit Austria, Monaco, the French Riviera, Greece, France, Germany, and Spain while being abroad. That’s eight different new places that I got to experience while being abroad, including Italy, to offer me new cultures and ways of life different than my own. This is so important because it leads you to have a better understanding of the world and those around you. That small blue book called a ‘Passport,’ allowed me to gain a better understanding through faster decision-making, problem solving, and leadership skills that are always in the process of being strengthened.
After all of these experiences and challenges that have shaped and developed me while studying abroad in Italy, I now have to head back home to the States to complete my degree. When returning home, I fully expect to experience reverse culture shock in my own country. Some often forget that you experience culture shock when returning home from being abroad as well. It is very real. I will need to readjust to the time difference, to the food that I am used to eating on a daily basis, and to driving my car all over again. I am also currently used to using Euros, buying vegetables from the market, walking anywhere that I need to go, and am used to not having to tip while at restaurants. These are Italian traditions that I have grown accustomed to that will change once I set foot back in my home country of America. Culture shock is always challenging at first, but I think that the benefits outweigh the costs. I had the benefit of studying abroad in Italy for four months and experience a culture much different from my own, having to return home is something that I cannot avoid, but is something that I must do. I am very appreciative of everything that I have been a part of while here in Italy, and will soak up every last minute I have the last week and a half I have here.