What it takes to check off the “bucket list”…

I really do promise that I will get better at this technology concept and learn that blogging, really is not that difficult to work with as a medium. In the near future, I predict posts coming on a semi-normal basis with a less scattered-brain style, as I am sure this will turn out. Anyway, that is my informal apology for what is about to come. 

I will start by giving a bit of background of what the heck I have even been doing during my time abroad thus far. Well I began my journey in early August, flying into not Italy, but Amsterdam. I have family scattered throughout the Netherlands as my father was born and raised in Zutphen for the beginning of his life. As a lovely result, I have family to visit and lean on in the beautiful country of Holland. Once in Zutphen, I was able to leave my big suitcase (yes, only ONE big suitcase) with the family and took my backpack and hopped on the train for part one of Justine’s adventure. Although it gave my parents a slight heart attack, I spent a couple weeks backpacking through Holland, Belgium, and France, only really staying in each place a couple of days. In the end though, they understood how rewarding this experience would be for me, and luckily supported my independent streak. I am going to say it once – traveling by yourself is the number one way to figure out who you are as a person. I spent some serious time reflecting on what I want out of this experience and learning how to be flexible. 

On top of the Eiffel Tower
On top of the Eiffel Tower

I am a self- proclaimed control freak who needs an organized plan at all times. Missing trains, having the wrong address, getting lost, living in dirty spaces are all different chapters of my nightmares yet was my reality for those few weeks traveling solo. I am sure I will touch on this throughout my time here, but knowing when to accept the things I cannot change has been, and will be, the struggle I explore daily. 

Fast forward to the end of August – my mother was lucky enough to come visit me and help me move into my apartment in Florence after my backpacking stunt. My clear piece of advice I can pass on to prospective travelers: though it will seem like a good idea in prospect, saying goodbye abroad is harder than doing so at home. Granted, my mother and I are as close as the Gilmore girls, seeing her walk away down the narrow avenues of Florence while still adjusting to life in this new country was more difficult than I ever imagined. For future reference, I think the way to go is to invite a visit from the family mid-program or near the end; something to look forward to, not fondly think of in the past tense.

Well this brings me to my ‘home away from home’… the apartment.  Another way to learn to be flexible; when there are three rooms, six girls, and only two rooms with a view, perspective is what you need to keep in mind. Due to timing, my gentile way of thinking, and general attitude towards confrontation, my roommate and I are sharing a small bedroom in the back of the house that faces a wall and does not get any airflow. Usually, the girl I am back home, would let that ruin a perfectly unrelated experience. Justine in Florence is a different story, I know that I am fortunate to even be here and know that this is a place that will not define my stay here. I feel the need to share that little anecdote because so many people I know have let the small things affect their attitude in the long run, and I personally think that is a waste of time and energy. Being appreciative can be a ‘hard’ job sometimes, but it is the active perspective that will help you make the most of every day abroad (and in general). 

It could be that I was traveling beforehand and have been here a month longer than my counterparts, or that it finally sunk in that this is my new home, but the couple weeks of life in Florence was difficult for me. I did not adjust right away, and I was very home sick. Everything seemed to be building up and my emotion clouded my judgment. I am not going to sugarcoat it, I really did think of ways to come there for bit. What got me through was planning something to look forward to. My ultimate dream when even planning to come over here was my bucket list goal of getting to Croatia. Croatia is in my opinion, the most beautiful place in the world. If there had been an option to study abroad there, I would have with no doubt made it my final destination. So when I happened upon a student trip to Croatia, I jumped on the opportunity. Between the island hopping, rafting, and hiking, I accomplished this life-long goal in a matter of a whirlwind weekend. It was such a beautiful four days, it feels surreal that I was even there. It was this trip that also saved me from myself and my tendency to ‘over-think’ while abroad. I am happy to report that I am doing well here now, life is becoming more routine, and beside the amazingly large groups of tourists (ironic I know), I would not change anything about where I am. 

Krka National Waterfall Park in Croatia
Krka National Waterfall Park in Croatia

So overall, these first weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion. There are somehow only about three months left. How it is the end of September, I do not know. Moving forward, I again will be more on top of this posting business and will do my best to follow a bit more coherent trains of thought. But for now, arrivaderla! 

Florence from Piazza Michelangelo
Florence from Piazza Michelangelo

-Justine

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