Surely by reading this title you can see my interest in creating titles with alliteration, but I really feel as though it is a fitting window into what my life looks like in Florence. As I am ending the third week and halfway marker of my first experience abroad, I would love to really allow you into my struggles and successes here because both sides of the aisle will make this trip memorable and something to learn from! So far, I have used much of my time to observe, and I plan to continue to do so. By observing, I pay attention to surroundings as much as possible, listening to the sounds that echo in the narrow streets while being mindful of everything around me and challenging myself to avoid using my phone for directions. I find mental markers to help my awareness of where I am in regard to my apartment so that I can get home without staring at my phone and I have done rather well in doing so! I use landmarks, stores, souvenir stands, and the biggest marker is the Baptistry of John and the Duomo! An interesting thing for people to learn is that this trip marks a few very large milestones for me as it is the first time I have travelled without my family, the first time I have left the country, and lastly, the first time I have lived away from home.
Communicating with my support system at home has been vital to me because sharing this experience with the people I love reminds me just how much I can go home to when this program inevitably ends. I am so lucky to have an opportunity like this and it is a huge honor for me to have received the scholarships that I did to support my trip here. However, I would like to acknowledge that many people, even younger than me, have faced this challenge without the privilege of having a choice in the matter, nor is it much of an option for them to return to the place they once called home.
Although all of those firsts can be very positive things, my very first time living with anyone other than my family happens to be 4,397 miles away, in another country, across the world. This has made it somewhat difficult for me to adjust to new people and the new environment, so lots of calls home, journaling, and letters have taken place so far. Adjusting to meeting all of the new people has proven to be more intricate than I had imagined, and not just because this is my first time living on my own. My peers here, although wonderful and beautiful people, are very different from myself in values and desires. Many came into the program knowing people who would be here, many have traveled here before, and a few value the experience more than the education. This has made it challenging for me to find similar people to do things with, in any situation, these things might cause conflict, but for me, it encouraged me to be a bit more independent. However, I found a few amazing people to spend my time with. This week, I went wine tasting in the countryside of Tuscany. My friend Mik joined me, and we went to two wineries, where we were able to taste wines, olive oils, and balsamic dressing made completely from locally grown olives and grapes. Not only are the crops grown right here but the process is also carried out on site, making the wine, oils, and dressings especially unique!
The same friend and I also got to take a day trip to Cinque Terre where we explored a few of the towns! Our first stop was Riomaggiore, where we were able to see beautiful views like the one below! The water was so beautifully blue but clear and boat rentals were available all morning. We also got some of the popular pesto pizza that many people know the town for. Both sides of the street were lined with different shops, some specific to souvenirs and others with items you might need for a day in the water there, like goggles, towels, swimsuits and more! Something that I’ve noticed and been excited about is that dogs are very common all over this part of Italy and you will not go a day without seeing at least one, and that definitely applies to Cinque Terre.
Next, we got caught in the pouring rain in Manarola! To some, it may not sound enjoyable, but because of it I have memories to smile at forever. Due to the rain, we were unable to go cliff jumping into the water as the rocks were slippery and the water was rough. We did however get soaked, buy ponchos and laugh at the tiny floods that took over the pathway back to the train stop. We ended up leaving the town early because of the weather and heading over to Montorosso al Mare to enjoy some time at the beach. We got some fried seafood and indulged in fresh fruit smoothies while laying on beach chairs. The beach was stunning and serene, even with the crowds of people. Luckily, it didn’t rain while we were there, and we got to be dry for our bus ride back to Florence.
Next week, I look forward to a visit from my mom. She gets to join me for a week and I am looking forward to being able to share this once in a lifetime experience with her since she is the woman who made it possible for me. My family has been so wonderful to me these past three weeks and I am so grateful for all of their support and encouragement.
I am beginning to learn a lot about myself, and I feel as though I have the tools to continue doing so no matter where in the world I am. Supporting people looks different for everyone, both in how the receiving person accepts the support, and in how the person offering support is willing to give it. My goal is to support those around me as best as I can for as long as they allow it. Sometimes, however, support, or lack thereof, can cause tricky feelings. This trip has given me the ability to speak my feelings with an even tone and clear head because I remind myself that not being supported by one person, does not mean having no support. You cannot change how someone responds to your needs and you cannot always please them with your response to their needs, but you can always be kind.