GBI Florence: Midpoint

I’ve been in Florence for three weeks now, so it makes sense to write about three of my biggest takeaways thus far. Although I have already learned so much about not only Florence, but also myself, pretty much all of it can be summed up with these three things.

1. Ask questions: It’s tough being somewhere unfamiliar, especially if it’s in a different continent where the main language is one you don’t know how to speak. Fortunately enough, lots of Florentines speak English. It’s important to embrace and immerse yourself into the culture and city you study abroad in, but that will require you to ask questions—it’s hard to navigate and learn all of these new things without some assistance. The people here are my greatest resource. CAPA, my academic program, has wonderful staff members that answer lots of our questions. A nice girl on the train to Elba Island showed us where to go at the port for our ferry. A cafe employee explained proper etiquette to me. All I had to do was ask! Most people here embrace the study abroad students, and they are happy to help answer a question or show me where something is or give me a recommendation on where to eat. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive— so ask away!

2. Say yes: There are so many new things to experience while studying abroad, way more than you will have time for. If something seems a bit outside of your comfort zone, just say yes! If someone offers you a bite of a mysterious meat, try it! Maybe it’s cow stomach, and maybe it’s actually not so bad! (That did happen.)  Six weeks may seem like a long time to be abroad, but it’s flying. I have been maximizing my time, trying to take advantage of every hour of the day to experience as much as I can. If you’re a little tired, who cares? Go grab dinner with your friends, go get that gelato, go to that Piazza and take a walk around. You won’t look back and think about that amazing nap you had or that time you went to bed early, you’re going to look back at that amazing steak dinner, that delicious chocolate gelato, that violinist in the Piazza at 11pm. 

3. Be present (but also take lots of photos): When I’m in Oakland, I always walk around with my Airpods in, primarily focused on the music blasting into my ears and not so much on my walk to Sennott Square. In Florence, it’s the exact opposite. I lose the Airpods and I take in all of the people, buildings, artwork, smells of food, and opera singers that surround me every day. There is so much going on in the city, and something as seemingly meaningless as a three minute walk to class can be an exciting experience. Being present in every moment has allowed me to notice more about Florence and take it all in. Also, take pictures. Document what you see and how you feel. When I get back to my apartment every night, I journal so that I remember what I’ve done and seen each day. I can be pretty forgetful, but this experience is something I always want to remember. 

– Alexis Hammer

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