Out of the whole month I spent in Italy on my study abroad, the biggest challenge I faced was my arrival. The program I was on, Engineering Perspectives of the Renaissance and Sustainability, took place in Florence, and the CAPA people, Pitt’s partners who run the program in Italy, arranged transportation from the Florence airport to the apartment I was supposed to be staying in. Well, I ended up flying into Rome and taking a train from Rome to Florence, which gave me a lot of extra steps to get where I needed to go. This was my first time traveling alone and my first time traveling abroad, so it was very intimidating. Thankfully, I found that the Fiumicino airport in Rome is both international and very large, so almost all the signs were in multiple languages which included English. I also ran into someone else who was on my program while I was in the airport, and I found out that she was actually going to be one of the people would I be sharing an apartment with. I was not expecting to run into someone from Pitt while I was in Rome, but navigating the airport with a friend made everything so much easier. It helped to have someone to discuss where we needed to go with so I wasn’t second guessing myself the whole time. Together we found the Leonardo Express train to get us to the Rome train station, Rome Termini. She had booked an earlier train to Florence than me, so we got her on her train and then I went through another challenge of getting myself some Euros and buying some food. It was easy enough to find an ATM to get Euros, but it took me so long to find and order a sandwich with everything being in Italian. Thankfully, I managed to get on my train and make it to Florence safely. I also found out that I love the trains in Italy, it is such convenient ways to get around.
After arriving in Florence, I ran into another cultural difference in how the Florentines drive. I met another Pitt friend from my study abroad program as I was getting off the train, and we ended up taking a taxi to the CAPA center together. The taxi ride was so different than anything I’ve ever experienced. Because the walking culture in Florence is so strong, the drivers have to be more assertive or they wouldn’t get anywhere through all the people. As an American who is used to a more car centered design, it made me a little nervous driving so close to people. Getting to walk around Florence was so amazing, and every day I got to walk past the Santa Maria del Fiore church, though we always called it il duomo which means the dome. I also got to eat a bunch of really good Italian food, from sandwiches to pasta I loved getting to try all the new things everyday. My routine in Italy felt so different from my routine at home. While I am very happy being back to what I am used to, I definitely want to explore the world more and see other cultures.