Probably the number one piece of advice I was given before embarking on my study abroad adventure was to have no expectations. I definitely tried this but there are a lot of things I wish I had known before leaving.
The first is that apparently not everyone enrolled in university is a bleeding heart liberal. I’m kind of exaggerating, of course, but it can be off putting to be around people that don’t have the same views as you (and most of the people you know at home) – both the host culture and other American students. My advice would be to stick to what you believe in but don’t try to push your beliefs on others too much, especially the ones you have to see on a regular basis…
The second is that life does go on without you back home. This has probably been the hardest thing I have to deal with. When you are trying to befriend people in your new city, your good friends back home always seem like they’re having a lot of fun. It is hard to stay in touch and you might feel out of the loop but it is alright because hey, you’re abroad!
Now, in particular to Italy, you may want to be aware of these things:
1) Walking on the sidewalk and crossing the street will never feel more terrifying than it does in Italian cities, stay alert!
2) There are more mosquitos here than I have ever encountered camping, I think we are particularly sensitive to them because they are a different kind than the ones in America. Buy bug spray!
3) Starch is a part of every meal, make sure to walk a lot to balance it out.
That’s all for now! Hope I didn’t scare anyone but you live and you learn. Italy is a beautiful country with lots of beautiful people (in and out)! So thankful to be here.
Over and over we are warned about culture shock – when we will experience it and when it will go away. While I have one roommate who is having a hard time adjusting, overall I think that in Florence culture shock happens much less than in other areas. The reason being that it is a university city – Italians, Erasmus, and a high population of American students every semester. The university I take courses at has over 700 U.S. students and only a few other international students. In this way, there has not been a lot of adjustment.
While this may be ideal for some, I came to Italy for cultural immersion and frankly, it has been hard to find. I live with five Americans, go to class with all Americans, everyone speaks English, and it is a challenge to avoid the comfort zone.
I hope that as time passes on I find myself in restaurants or cafes where I’m a national minority. So I can finally experience culture shock!
Ciao a tutti! Mi chiamo Olivia! I am a junior Sociology major and Political Science minor. Born in the northeast, raised in the northwest.
I am studying abroad in Firenze, Italia through International Studies Abroad, a non-SU program. I will be attending Florence University of the Arts, which was founded just a few years ago. My course schedule includes Islam & Politics, Ethics of Globalization, Human Rights & International Criminal Justice, Gender Relations in Italian Society, and Social Psychology.
I have traveled to several places around the U.S., Vancouver, Toronto, and spent three weeks in London. I am very, VERY ready to expand my horizons. For me, studying abroad means learning independence and gaining perspective. I am excited to befriend new people and, if I’m lucky, hearken back to Lizzie McGuire and ride on the back of a Vespa through Rome! I am nervous about eating too much (not really) and running over budget. My friends and family are nothing but excited but I am also nervous about homesickness.
Stay tuned for shameless monument selfies! Ciao for now.