Travel log 4 “Studying Abroad… It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” by Lauren Kantrovitz, Florence Italy.

‘Getting lost’ within the streets of Florence, as many people have encouraged me to do, has not only been a way for me to engage and learn more about the culture that encompasses me each day, but also acts as an extremely therapeutic getaway, if you will. As stated in previous weeks, a goal of mine while abroad was to challenge my sense, or lack thereof, of direction. As one would expect, one with poor navigational skills likely would not be the first one jumping up and down to get lost within the streets a new, foreign city. However due to the fact that while here in Italy, wifi is very cherished as it is not found easily, data, which is rather expensive must be used if one would like to use the internet if in the need of assistance for directions. On account of this, I only use my data when absolutely needed; When I am ‘really’ lost. This has been an extremely beneficial and forceful way to accomplish my goal as I now know my way around a good chunk of the city! Hooray! Not only that, but I have opportunely discovered new restaurants, chocolate shops (my ultimate guilty pleasure) and located places that we had read were must visits while walking around the city by myself. I have found that I tend to take in more of my surroundings and appreciate them more when by myself, likely due to the fact that I am person that is easily distracted by the people around me. I began to enjoy the city of Florence much more when I began to take in the magic that I have been told encompasses me and I feel as though I have finally begun to encounter the allure that the city holds.
As I am beginning to feel more comfortable with Florence, I can begin to take in all of the stimuli that surrounds me that at first, was so overwhelming, I was not aware of. The best way for me to explain the smells, sounds, and observations I make as an entirety each day would be to walk one through my day from the beginning. It only makes sense as I am woken up each day by the sound of the city. The walls of my apartment are very thin and on a fairly well known residential street, resulting in myself being woken up throughout the night to the sounds of voices, likely of drunk Americans, or a women, that quite creepily, I often hear singing at the wee hours of the morning. Each morning, it not only sounds, but feels as though my bed has been placed on train tracks as my apartment quite literally shakes from the passing of what I believe to be a train (although the Santa Maria Novella Train station is a twenty minute walk). This is accompanied by loud rumbles and the train horn. We are situated on the second floor of the apartment building we live in. Each morning, and all throughout the day, we encounter different intensities of a fowl sewage like smell when we enter the hallway to leave the building. Occasionally, if we’re lucky, we smell garlic cooking from another apartment around dinner time that hides the potent smell. Fortunately, it is just the hallway and not the apartment that has that awful smell. Right before leaving our building, one will see an elevator that nostalgically reminds me of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, that took place in Rome, with the iron see-through door. Frankly, I likely won’t step foot in the elevator again as although fascinating, does not feel particularly safe.
As soon as you step outside the doors of the apartment one will notice the streets that are constantly lined with cars, young students walking to grandparents taking a stroll, and finally the many bikers and Vespas that seem to be the main form of transportation here in Florence. Rather comically (unless hit), if a pedestrian is in a cars way, they will plow you down, no question! That is one of the first things I was surprised to see when I arrived in Florence. In the United States, pedestrians always have the right of way, and cars will stop for you as if they hit you, there would likely be repercussions. In Florence, I truly question whether anything would happen if a car hit someone, which I’m surprised I have not witnessed yet. One must always look both ways as out of the corner of your eye a speeding motorcycle going speeds that would be incredibly illegal in the states will fly right by you. I also have yet to see speed signs anywhere in the city and have only noticed police officers near historical monuments such as the Duomo or Uffitzi. Additionally, the police officers here are not what you think of at home in the states. They are wearing military suits, carrying gigantic guns, standing still, likely in a group or near a military jeep, with straight faces. Very scary if you ask me! I think their plan to intimidate people to prevent criminal acts is working.

During my walk to school I will see a class or two of about 20 students, each of young elementary students. I am unsure if they walk to school together or take walks around the city during school as this will typically be around 11am. I then pass the cafe that I frequent every morning. People typically have a cafe that they can refer to as ‘their’ cafe based on the neighborhood that they live in. People tend to be very loyal to their baristas and not Starbucks or Dunkin here in Florence! I do the typical “American” thing and order a cappuccino, just wait… To go. I pay a 1.30 euro with the dollar being a coin! How cool! Each morning I am fortunate enough to pass the beautiful Duomo, and based on the route I take, the Uffitzi as well. My school is right on the streets lining the Arno which is known for the Ponte Vecchio. Unfortunately, and oddly enough, I have found that I don’t typically discover many smells while walking through the city streets. I suppose it may be due to the wider streets as when I walked through the very thin streets of Venice, smells of restaurants and the wonderful food cooking overwhelmed, in a very good way I may add, my nostrils.

As expected, everyone here smokes cigarettes! So if there is one smell I often notice, it would be from the many cigarettes I pass throughout the day.

Another mannerism I have noticed each day while I walk through the city is that people don’t apologize for being in one’s way or bumping into you. Often times, I find that I have to step off of the sidewalk into the streets to pass someone or else they will quite literally have no problem running me down. I have found that the only people that seem to move out of the way are foreigners or younger Italians. On account of this, I believe it may be a form of respect that is expected toward older people in Florence, to move out of the way.

Gypsies and pick picketers were people I had been warned that I would encounter often during my time in Italy. I have been to Italy before and remember feeling that my space was often invaded in Rome by men on the streets selling goods. However gypsies I did not remember and Florence I had never been until now. In Florence, gypsies dress like what you would stereotypically imagine in a long colorful peasant-like skirt with a large shawl or jacket. However from what people had told me I had imagined gypsies following me trying to haggle me for money. However I have found, based on my encounters, that the gypsies here tend to keep to themselves. The only people that I feel invade my space are the men near the Duomo that sell selfie sticks, because who wouldn’t want a selfie with the Duomo?

When we first arrived in Florence, during our orientation, a police officer spoke to us for about an hour, particularly speaking to the women in the room, warning them to be weary of Italian men as they are extremely flirtatious and will likely try to take advantage until you flat out tell them no and to go away. They don’t take hints he told us! Additionally, he stressed that we should walk on the sidewalk with our bag away from the road, our bag always zipped up and in front of us telling us that it could be snatched right out of our hands. As that is what I had also been warned of prior to arriving in Florence, I expected to feel slightly anxious and very cautious at all times while in the streets of Florence. Now although I would not advise to leave ones bag wide open, I have not experienced anything that has made me feel that I need to be exceptionally more cautious than I would in the states unless I’m walking through the leather market where it is very crowded.

Recently, I took a day trip to Rome and just as I remembered, it was drastically different than what I’ve found in Florence, and this time, the gypsies really stood out to me. In Rome, the gypsies would often be limping or on the ground looking as though they were near death, in pray. They used the technique of making foreigners feel sorrow for them in order to bring in reward just as Amber who studied in Ethiopia described. I’m glad that I don’t have to encounter begging such as what was explained in “Becoming Worldwise” as the “begger mafia”. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to pass such hopeless and disabled children each day. Just as Slimbach stated, “We simply cannot give to all beggars but neither must we refuse all beggars. Over time, our giving will be selective…” (188). I feel this is a good synopsis of travel as people initially enter a city that is new to them, their senses overwhelmed and unsure what to pay attention to. Everything seems desirable and great when it’s the first thing you see and have nothing else to compare it to. Based on my daily travels throughout the endless streets of Florence,I have allowed myself to experience enough to be able to make opinions for myself based on what panini or gelato is better or what is a better place to sit down and study. At first, everything seems wonderful, but one has to give themselves the time to make the informative decision and chance to find the magic in every place just as I have begun to do with Florence.

As described by Slimbach, it can be difficult to find the time to rest or even the environment to do that. Unfortunately I have been in that position as I share the same schedule as my roommate who I went on the trip with. Up until now, I have only had one day with the room to myself, for a solid twenty minutes. I am a person, who in order to stay sane and put my thoughts and feelings together, needs alone time. On account of this, it has been difficult to adjust to Florence. The ability to walk around the streets of Florence, that always allow me to discover new places and wonders, has been a great replacement for this.

Mercado Centrale (the central market) is a famous market in the center of Florence that is filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, homemade pastas, you name it. Local residents frequent there and people form relationships with the owners of each little shop that they frequent in the market. People tend to buy fresh groceries each day as opposed to buying a weeks worth supply of groceries at the beginning of the week. I absolutely love this about Florence as I have always found grocery shopping, especially in places as wonderful as the central market that always permit the discovery of something new, as something to look forward to! The market closes at 15:00 each day (if it isn’t clear already, I have successfully switched to the world clock and don’t plan on going back!) and if you go when the market owners are packing their food away, you can barter with them and get great deals! In terms of restaurants, I have found that on account of the fact that it is frowned upon to tip waiters, waiters don’t give customers their full attention until you are officially their customer. At home, I work in the restaurant business and as soon as someone enters the restaurant, all waiters and employees of the restaurant must put their best foot forward from the moment they enter the restaurant. In Italy I have experienced that they don’t pay attention to you as often until they have seated you. In terms of etiquette, it is somewhat expected to finish a meal as it implies that you were not satisfied with the meal given to you if you have left food on your plate. Time is also treated much more casually in Florence and is not taken in offense when one arrives a few minutes late as one is expected to enjoy their morning cappuccino at the cafe and their stroll to work! Finally, public transit, such as the bus system, is based on an honor system. All in all, Florence is a much more relaxed place seeming to place more importance on people’s happiness and places more trust that people will do the right thing than in the United States.

The memoir that I chose, “Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy” by Frances Mayes, ended up being a great choice for me as I found I could relate to her experience of adjusting to Italy. Mayes bought a summer house in Bramasole, Italy and when she initially bought the house, imagined it being the perfect getaway for family and friends to visit and have huge family dinners and such. However, the house was not as well kept as hoped and problems arose throughout the many summers they visited after buying the house. Although it was initially very difficult to find that magic that she had dreamt of towards her italian summer house, she eventually found it after allowing herself to tread over the bumps in the road. I feel that I can relate to this experience as it is a difficult decision to leave behind or put so much money into something, but when it’s a dream, it seems easy. However when you finally end up taking on your dream and it does not initially end up the way you had imagined, it can be very disappointing. I am already finding that if you stick through the tough times you will allow yourself the opportunity to appreciate the good even more than expected. Although I know I have many more bumps in the road that I will encounter, I am beginning to experience the feeling of discovery here in Florence, which could not be more exciting.

The picture that I chose is of a chocolate shop I randomly found while exploring the streets of Florence. I of course had to share this on account of my love for chocolates to show what great finds you can stumble upon while wandering streets mindlessly!


Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning.” Stylus. Sterling, Virginia. 2010.

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Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” Kathleen Flynn. Florence, Italy

In reflection of my first two weeks in Italy, I instantly think back to the moment I stepped off the plane and the drive to my new apartment. I remember seeing everyone around me at the airport and wondering what their story was. Were they a temporary resident of Italy like me, visiting for a weekend, or coming home? I was so excited to finally be in a new country that I examined everything around me, even the fashion posters around the baggage claim. As I hopped in the taxi that would take me to my new home, my face was pressed to the window looking out at my new surroundings. I must admit, the drive from the airport on the outskirts of Florence to my apartment in the center was not what I had expected. The walls were covered in graffiti, the buildings were run down, and the grass was overgrown in these outer parts. To my disappointment the drive did not pass through an area that screamed, “this is the center of the Italian Renaissance!” After dreaming of being here for so many months I had already placed images of everything that Florence would be into my head. After navigating my way through Florence the first few days and getting a feel for what the city had to offer, I was finally able to make the separation between my fantasy land and reality. Of course, not everything was as I expected, but in many ways I’ve found it even better than expected.

It has now been a few weeks and while I’ve overcome many bumps in the initial separation process, there are still many factors that leave me in the liminal phase of being neither completely ‘here nor there.’ The communitas that I have formed were key to helping me move in comfortably to my new home and having people to share in the related experience of excitement and anxiety. I formed communitas with my direct roommates whom I ‘d never met before Italy, my friends from back at school, and new classmates. In all sorts of situations they have “provide(d) the external support needed for (me) to negotiate the challenges of (my) environment” (Slimbach, 160). At the same time, I am starting to feel that my strong relationships with my communitas are holding me back from moving to the next step of my ROP, which brings me to a weakness I have already discovered in myself.

Meeting new people and forming new relationships has always been a strength of mine. Because of this, I find myself doing almost anything with someone else, not for dependency but for sharing the experiences with others. Yes, I could go to the market for groceries alone, but going with a friend would be more fun in my opinion. The only issue I’ve found with this is that it’s not helping me step out of my comfort zone to interact with more locals. Also, when I walk into a setting (i.e. café or store) with a large squad of American friends, the locals treat us differently. I don’t feel any sort of negativity from them, however they instantly switch gears from greeting us with “Ciao!” to “Hello!” The Italians have been so polite and respectful to the point that, for example, if they hear me stuttering to order a cappuccino they will smile and reply in English. I really do appreciate the gesture, yet I never get the change to really practice the language.

To solve problems such as these, I have talked to multiple professors and faculty in my school that are Florentine locals and can give me the best places to visit for a real Italian experience. This way perhaps I will go to a café where the baristas speak as much English as I do Italian (minimal), and I will be challenged to actually practice the language. Going to these spots that the faculty and not past study abroad students recommend will hopefully lead me to “invite the unknown” and not just experience an Americanized version of Italy.

I have chosen this picture to describe my journey to date because this was one of my first views of the entire city since I have arrived and it amazed me. After class my friends and I decided to climb the Bell Tower and Duomo in Florence’s center. After completing the Bell Tower with 414 steps, I realized that if we climbed the Duomo fast enough we would have a perfect view of the sunset over the city. We rushed up 463 more steps and I felt like stopping many times, but the thought of how beautiful the top would be kept me pushing up. Finally at the top it was all worth it. From every angle I looked, the city was gleaming gold as the sun hit the metal roofs. It looked like what I had dreamed of. In a more metaphorical way, the hike to the top of the Duomo can be represented by the journey I am currently taking towards a complete cultural experience. At some moments, I hit a step where I want to give up, but the reward at the top or end of the journey is worth every challenge.

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TL3: Betwixt and between.. so this is liminality – Mitchell Trulli

As I arrived in Barcelona after not sleeping for over 24 hours because of layovers and delays I am in a daze staring out the bus window at the foreign country. After a long night sleep I wake up to look out of the window greeted by a street filled with small cars, skinny streets with people laughing and chatting in bars and shops and a hotel filled with people I was eager to meet. I had not anticipated my excitement to be this high, I was supremely comfortable at first as we spent the first day guided around with English speakers and a hotel filled mostly with Americans. I was not fully immersed in the culture until the next day when we were dropped off at our apartment and left to fend for ourselves. Specifically it was my first interaction with a waiter at a restaurant who did not speak one word of English, this lead to a pointing of fingers and hand gestures trying to order food and then suddenly realizing I am truly not in America anymore. I was not immersed into the Spanish culture (I am still not) and I am not in America, I was officially in the liminoid state I was no longer here nor there.

The communitas or group of people sharing this experience together has bonded together and supported one another over this first week. This struggle to become part of the Spanish culture has crafted some beautiful friendships so far. I have grown closer than I could have imagined with some of the people that I have just met as we struggle through this rite of passage. I have made a lot of progress feeling “at home” although it isn’t home yet. I food shop every other day at the market next door, I am making a lot of progress learning Spanish, I have mastered the metro system and can order food seamlessly at a restaurant. As Slimbach said “Until we’re able to actually risk new ways of thinking and behaving, our general well-being and field learning are likely to hindered.” (Slimbach 160) I can specifically remember the first time I went on the metro by myself, the nervous feelings I had and the heightened sense of anxiety as I tried to figure out where I was. This risk taking has lead me to feel extremely comfortable alone in the city, asking for directions, or navigating the metro by myself. I have learned through this process that their culture is much slower than America, nobody is in a rush and people enjoy the smaller luxuries of life more. For example nobody eats alone, it is considered a social activity and a dinner lasts 2-3x as long as an American meal. Although it can be aggravating when you are in a rush I have slowly begun to learn to accept it and immerse myself in their culture and relax at a meal enjoying the time spent with friends, the food, and surroundings.

Slimbach explains a few examples that I have taken advantage of showing how one can “find imaginative ways to invite the unknown and cultivate a network of close-knit and supportive friends” (171 Slimbach) I have joined a local gym down the street which should help to cultivate some new and local friendships in addition to introducing myself to the owners of the markets that I frequently shop at. I have been looking for some sort of soccer club or perhaps a grappling gym that I can join which were activities I enjoyed back in the US, it should be interesting to see how they engage in these activities and what I could possibly bring to the table.

I chose a picture someone took of me and two friends wandering through Placa de Catalon on our first day. You can see how surrounded by people we are but yet how lost, amazed, and confused we were walking through this foreign city trying to navigate back to our hotel. I believe this picture captures how we felt during the first week, just a couple foreign kids lost in the amazement of this beautiful city and culture which will soon become out home.

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TL2:Rites of Sepration. Looking Behind and Looking Ahead: Expecting and Accepting the Unexpected-By: Erin Foley, Dedham, MA

As my departure is merely four days away, news of an impending snowstorm has come about. Regardless, I will think positive thoughts, in hopes that the snow gods will keep the snow at bay, at least until liftoff. While I was composing my separation letter, many thoughts ran through my head. How will my parents react? Will they be excited for me, or sad that I am leaving, or both? I am anticipating making it past the first sentence before tears start streaming-from both my mother and I. My father, a stone-faced, tough guy, may have trouble keeping it together, as well. I have decided to share the letter at dinner, where we gather nightly as a family. For years, I have taken pride in the fact that we are able to still manage this, even with such hectic schedules. It is a time that I cherish very much and feel the most comfortable.

As predicted, sharing this letter brought out an emotional tone at dinner. While my parents are sad to see me leave, they are excited for all of the endless opportunities to come. They could not be more proud of my accomplishments, academic or otherwise. After I shared my letter, it was as if a weight had been lifted. Why was I so anxious to share it in the first place? I graciously thanked them for all of their love and support throughout the years that has helped me flourish not only academically, but also on a more personal level. I decided to use the same quote, by St. Augustine, that I used in my introduction travel log: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I cannot stress this enough, especially because my experience abroad culminates with the travel logs I share. By writing each week, I am adding another page to my own personal “book” that details all my life journeys. This quote is essential to my experience, as well as Rites of Passage while abroad.

Now that my suitcases are sitting beside my bed, the imminent departure is becoming much more surreal. The most pressing matter at hand: how to pack for four months. Not only is that an extended amount of time, but also two entire seasons! As minute a detail as that is, I can honestly say it is the only thing I am worried about. Because I have been studying the language and culture for years, I feel a sense of ease and excitement whenever people ask with whom and where I am living, what classes I will be attending, and so on and so forth. There is not a single doubt in my mind that this will be the pinnacle of my academic career at Quinnipiac.

I will be living with a woman who is a retired haute couture fashion journalist. Words cannot describe how excited I am to see the city, using her as a supportive resource. The final piece to my successful education abroad is living at a homestay. Although staying in an apartment with American friends is tempting, I want to reap all the benefits of full immersion into French culture. The friendships that I make with locals will be irreplaceable and hopefully ones I maintain throughout the future. The only thing left to pack, as I noticed on Monday, is a piece of Boston to console me when I feel homesick. The picture I have included is of my dog, Seguin, in my suitcase. Seguin in a Suitcase, Spring2016While this is obviously impossible, it brings a smile to my face whenever I see this picture. Instead of feeling sad about leaving home, I feel relaxed and happy knowing that my family feels excited for my impending travels. As Frank Sinatra once said, the best is yet to come…

Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” by Aileen Sheluck – London, England

I’ve been in London for a total of 10 days now, and so far, I love it. Everything is so busy and exciting, which is far different from what I’m used to (I live in the middle of the woods in Connecticut). Everything is within walking distance, and, if not in walking distance, it’s probably only 10-20 minutes by tube (London’s underground subway system). On the second day here, I walked around to see all the typical “tourist-y” sights. I wanted to get that over with so that I could really try to fully immerse myself in the culture and function like a true Londoner. I was awestruck at the beauty of Big Ben, Dorm View Spring2016Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, etc. It was so much more amazing in person than I ever could have imagined it to be from pictures. To the left is the view from my dorm room on the 12th floor of the Marylebone Hall of Residence, where I’ll be living for the next 5 months.

In regards to physically separating from home, I found it a lot easier than I anticipated. Surprisingly, I did not cry when my mom left at the airport (I had been emotionally preparing myself to completely embarrass myself with the amount of tears streaming down my face). Luckily, I flew to London with my roommate from Quinnipiac, which helped me a lot to keep calm. After the complete stress of temporarily losing my passport on the plane (probably the hardest part for me about leaving!) I made it into the country very easily. So far, I’ve skyped my family once to update them on my new surroundings and everything I’ve been doing. I’ve been so busy doing a million different things that time hasn’t really allowed me to think about being homesick, which I think is a blessing.

The liminal phase – here I am. I definitely feel the concept of “betwixt and between” strongly now that I’m here. I’m not with my friends from home, but I’ve only lived in my dorm for a few days, and that is not enough time to really make friends. When we talked about communitas during the seminars, we said that these are the people that are going through the same transition as you. For me, these are the people that are also studying abroad here. Communitas have been vital to me since I’ve arrived. I’m living in a dorm with mostly all other study abroad students, so they’re really the only people I’ve encountered. Slimbach stated, “No matter how well prepared, broad minded, or full of good intentions we may be, entering a new culture knocks our cultural props our from under us” (Slimbach 152). Being around a lot of other study abroad students has allowed me to keep on my feet, for the most part. These are people that are experiencing the same differences in culture that I am, the same changes in time zone, the same new surroundings, etc. One of my major weaknesses is that I like comfort. I like being around people I know, in places I know, doing things I know. This made this transition a lot harder for me because everything about it is unknown – the people, the place, and the activities. It’s really comforting to know that you’re not the only one completing a transition like this, which is why I’m very glad to have had communitas with me. Something I’ve noticed with other students interacting with communitas is that it becomes a lot easier to be around strangers when you’re all doing the same thing. People are more apt to say, “Hi, how are you?” or “What floor are you on?” or “Where are you from?” when they know that the other person is going through the same experience that they are, as opposed to simply staying in a hotel on vacation, where you would never dream of speaking to a stranger in an elevator.

Challenges are a part of life, especially when going through a life transition or rite of passage. Nothing like this is going to run absolutely smoothly, but that’s part of the experience. Challenges are important because, “To be transformative, our path must necessarily take turns and present obstacles that are, at times, greater than our ability to navigate them” (Slimbach 155). The biggest challenge for me so far is acclimating to the different practices of the people here. For example, tube rides are silent. No one speaks. If you’re talking on the tube, everyone looks at you with a look of distaste similar to that which would be on your face if you were drinking expired milk. I’m the type of person who loves to talk, and I’m more used to the New York City subway, where sometimes it’s too loud to even hear the person next to you.

Luckily for me, I came to London with a couple friends from Quinnipiac. They are mostly who I’ve been doing things with here. All of my flatmates are American, so that doesn’t really help me make any “international” friends. We start classes on Monday, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make a bunch of new friends from different countries that way. I also hope that I’ll be able to befriend my friends’ flatmates, many of which are from different countries. It’s amazing how easy it is to become friends with someone when you already have a mutual friend!

This picture describes my journey to date because everything so far has been really tourist-y. It describes what I’ve done because we’ve goBig Ben Spring2016ne to all the different sites typical of someone coming on vacation to London. It also describes how I’m feeling because I’m so excited to be here, and everything is so different and so new. I thought about London and going to all the tourist-y sites for months, and it’s unbelievable that I’ve actually done it! I’ve been in this amazing city for a little over a week, and I’m already in love. I can’t wait to continue my stay here and continue to discover more and more about this country and this culture and myself.

Travel Log 3″Betwixt and Between” by Lauren Kantrovitz, Florence Italy. 

My first week abroad… One of the most mentally exhausting, exciting, confusing seven days of my life that I have experienced thus far. To begin, the first few days in Florence, Italy was far from what I expected. I have been to Italy before on a ten day high school trip of which I visited several Italian cities, not including Florence. Although I had been to Italy before, I had many of the same feelings that many study abroad students feel prior to departure: excitation and nerves. Student’s may choose their destination based on the novel surroundings and challenges a country may present, or the newfound ability for one to travel to places with pristine beauty within its culture, environment, and people, in the hopes that it will all lead to self growth. I have been taking part in excessive research since the day I applied to the program, sometimes unable to think of anything else as it had been a dream for so long. Sometimes when one has a dream, it can become just that due to unrealistic expectations that are not always met. When one is finally placed in a scenario where they are able to fulfill a lifelong dream, it can quickly become frustrating when things don’t happen the way one has planned or dreamt them to pan out. On account of my persistent research, mostly consisting of reading blogs about other people’s experiences, I thought I knew every restaurant I would attend and on which night, what gym I would join, or where I would frequent. However to be honest, I think that was detrimental now that I have begun my experience. Although I would never recommend to blindly go into a trip, I would suggest to simply limit oneself to a day or two of research consisting of a few restaurants, museums, and activities that are a must during one’s travels. Just like Slimbach stated, “we eagerly embrace the ‘prospect'” by saying “I just can’t wait to…” (156). This is fine as long as we don’t allow our anticipation to define what our journey should be instead of just letting it be.

When I arrived in Florence, I was shocked at how city-like the outskirts were. I remember thinking how much it looked like parts of New York City that I have visited before. As we approached the heart of Florence, near the Duomo of course, I could not help but pray that the city would become more like what I had envisioned: Italian looking, much like many of the Italian cities I had visited in the past. Then out of no where, the moment I had been waiting for and trying to envision had finally arrived. The cab driver was taking my luggage out of the car and placing it in front of the apartment that I would soon live in for the next four months. Locking hands with my friend Sarah, with extreme excitement and apprehension, we grabbed our bags and began our journey.

We were the last to arrive in a large apartment of eight girls. Our room, the smallest, although the coziest, was empty and cold, quite literally with marble floors and little heat. Immediately, I felt my heart drop and I knew Sarah’s had too when a flood of nerves came over us that were rather evident on both of our faces. However, we tried to smile despite our tiredness knowing our apartment is just one part of this journey. I mean, how bad could it really be?
Of course, we wanted to meet our future roommates that we would be living alongside for the next four months! However we found that all of the bedroom doors were shut, the lights off and the apartment quiet while we were given a tour around our new home. The washing machine next to our stove, a stove of which we had to first turn the gas on and then ignite with a match to work. A living room that looked like a bedroom and was about 20 feet from our ours. Finally, two bathrooms with showers so small I don’t think someone with a frame much larger than my small 5’2″ body could fit into. As Sarah and I were finally left alone in our new bedroom, we looked at each other and knew we had to explore the city, not just because we had been dying to see it for the past three months, but because we both knew deep down how much we were now questioning our choice to go abroad. We were on roughly two hours of sleep, a cappuccino, and two Swiss chocolates from our flight from Zurich. We needed food. Although I would normally advise one not to walk into a restaurant with no one else dining there, we were too hungry otherwise. It was a holiday in Florence so not much was open and we were in Italy for god sakes, so how bad could it be? We each ordered a glass of wine and a margarita pizza. Comically, it was the worst pizza of my entire life. How fitting I thought.
That night, I got an hour of sleep between my hopeless sobs. Prior to bed, Sarah mentioned how she was already homesick and was worried that she may not have made the right decision about studying abroad. She mentioned how hard it was to think about the fact that she would not be able to see her parents for four months. I couldn’t help but agree but I had been looking forward to this trip for so long! At first, when I was consoling her telling her it would be the best four months of our lives and that it will go by so quickly, I was confident in my words. However once the lights were turned off and it was time to spend my first night in Florence, those negative thoughts bombarded my mind and I could not be more frightened towards the journey I had been dreaming about for years. All of these unexpected differences from what I had pictured my experience to be, made me feel more unsure and alone than ever. I never expected myself to feel the way I had the first night at college my freshman year again. The difference being that I was two plane rides and a continent away.
Sarah and I had stayed up all night crying and consoling each other, so unsure of decision to go abroad. But tomorrow would be a new day; The first day to see the city of Florence in the sunlight. The next day, I saw all of my fellow communitas which made me feel extremely better. We went to coffee to start the day with our six other roommates and later saw other students from Quinnipiac at orientation. Although still tired, our first day was great and I felt much better after seeing the city during the day. As the next few days progressed, I felt that I was in an okay place, still tired, yes, but enjoying the ability to venture around the city and begin to plan my weekend trips to come. However Sarah, who had always been the person who had always dreamt of studying abroad, was not being herself. There was clearly tension between the two of us, snapping at each other and acting unlike we normally do toward one another. Each day I knew Sarah was struggling which was not something I had entirely anticipated. There were things that I wish I could have changed about our apartment and the life that I was slowly adjusting towards, however I am the type of person who will often embrace the situation I am placed into. Like most, I also feed off of people’s emotions, even if negative, that surround me. Each day we were walking distances I had never before and eating food that was heavenly. However I could not place my nerves aside about the thought of Sarah being depressed throughout our trip.
About four days in, we decided to finally book our first trip, to Interlaken, Switzerland, of which I am sitting on a bus to as we speak. Immediately after booking the trip and writing down possible dates that we planned to travel to other places, I saw a change in Sarah. She was finally acting like herself again, a talkative and happy girl. Yes, I thought. Things were finally coming together. However both of our emotions were on a roller coaster, going up and down. On the sixth night of our trip, we hit an all time low. We had yet to have a scoop of gelato and I turned to Sarah at 10pm while we were both on our laptops, and told her we should get up and get some late night gelato as it was open until 11pm! She turned to me with tears rolling down her face. “I have to talk to you”, she told me. Despite the fact that we had spoken almost everyday about how hard this trip was thus far, while convincing each other that we would get back to being our go happy selves, I cannot say the conversation that I was about to have with Sarah was one I was expecting. “I think I want to leave and go back to Quinnipiac for the semester”,  she told me. I knew it was coming. I knew how unhappy she was thus far and that there was nothing I could do to help her just as she told me as her and I both knew it was her own internal struggles. Her thoughts reminded me very much of Lena who studied abroad in Lagos, Nigeria in “Becoming World Wise” by Slimbach, as Lena said she was trying not to count down the days until she was scheduled to leave (159). I didn’t want to tell Sarah she wasn’t trying as I knew how hard she wanted to enjoy the city of Florence, however I was having a difficult time conveying to her without her becoming defensive, that she was not giving it enough time as it had only been six days. Additionally, when one yearns for what they don’t have, it can be difficult to appreciate what is in front of you. I began to cry when the entirety of the dream that I had pictured, with Sarah always by my side, was beginning to change. Sarah later told me that night that she was not going home after speaking to her parents and that she knew she needed to give it more time.
Two days later, things were getting much better as we were beginning our exciting weekend trips with our other communitas. However I was surprised to see just how much communitas, whether that be your best friend or not, can affect your well being and experiences. On a positive note, this discovery is a new self-awareness as Slimbach explained, “New self-awareness allows us to recognize not only our own feelings but also how those feelings affect other people” (163). My dad, who always gives me the best advice, told me I am a strong girl and that even if I were on this trip alone, I would find a way to make this journey unforgettable reminding me to do this trip for myself and not allow myself to be held back. If I want to go and see my other friends, I should. If I want to have a pizza alone, I should. If I want to go skydiving, I should; I am (in the next 12 hours!!!)!

I have learned a great deal in the past week due to the challenges that I have faced, which is part of the reason why I know this will be an incredible learning experience. It has allowed me to remind myself that I am a strong, independent person that can travel the world by myself if need be. It has taught me that I cannot plan my future and that I cannot control other people’s emotions, as much as I may want to. It has reminded me how awful I am at directions and that I need to hone in on my map reading skills. It has taught me to love language as I used to dread the idea of learning a new language, yet it now it excites me to be able to speak to the locals.

We have had our entire lives to learn the norms that persist in our culture at home in America, of which can still present us with difficulties. When placed in an entirely new culture and country, you don’t have time to “grow up” nor can you begin your journey like an innocent child holding your mothers hand. You have to jump in with both feet (maybe you can have a walker/cane by your side!). For the first time, I was truly an outsider. I was never taught to deal with that, as I had always lived in a place that embraced equality; a life in which I’ve never had to think about what it feels like to be different.

The challenges I am still facing, which I know I can overcome, includes not allowing how it has rained almost everyday in the city of Florence since my arrival to bring me down and effect my emotions. Our apartment is cold, the shower floods regularly already having been fixed twice in the past week, and we are at least a twenty minute WALK from food, friends, and classes. However the plus side is that I can eat as much pizza and pasta as I want (when in Italy right?)! Finally, Sarah and I did not get very lucky with our roommates as they are a bit caddy and rather inconsiderate of the other people living in the apartment. However this just reminds me how thankful I am for all my wonderful roommates and best friends back at home at Quinnipiac that I can’t wait to eventually come back to in the Fall.
I can’t believe I have already experienced so much in my first week abroad. I look at the pictures I have taken and I can’t believe that all of that occurred in a time period consisting of seven days! Wow, the life experiences that I am about to embark on for the next four months excites me! Although there have many struggles, with more challenges to come, I will conquer them as I will embrace this trip and make it dream worthy even if it isn’t the dream I originally thought up; because this one will be better.

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning.” Stylus. Sterling, Virginia. 2010.

Travel Log 3 “Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” By Chris Wilner, London, England

“When we discover that things in our destination culture are profoundly different from things at home, our natural tendency is not to move toward them but to flee away from them.” (Slimbach, 159) When I first arrived in London, my first instinct was to ask people the questions that I did not have the answers to. I was a stranger in a strange land; I knew where I needed to go, but I did not know how to get there. The only thing that I thought to do was to ask the locals and hope that someone would be friendly enough to point me in the correct direction. The thing that I was most surprised about when entering into the country was the fact that people were a lot friendlier than they were at home. It may have been the fact that I had a lot of bags with me and people took pity on me or they were genuinely nice, I like to think that it was the latter.

The easy part of the entire endeavor was getting to my hotel, once I got into the country, the hardest part for me was saying goodbye to the people that meant the most to me. When people asked me before if I was ready to leave I was always ready with the answer yes, but when the final day came, I wasn’t ready to leave my loved ones. Goodbyes have never been easy for me so saying goodbye to my mom, brother and girlfriend were extremely difficult because I have never taken on something like this before. I was definitely not anticipating it to be as hard as it was to hug them and say the words goodbye.

When I got to London, I was first introduced to the members of the Arcadia community that would also be going to Queen Mary University of London and I became friends as quickly as I could with them so that I would know some people while here in the city. That was short lived however because as we settled into our rooms everyone started making new friends and building a new community including myself. I soon became very close with my flat mates, as we would be spending quite a lot of time together, cooking our meals and stressing about school as any other student would. We played some games to try to get to know each other and I never felt like an outcast. Once I got to know everyone, I was welcomed in with open arms and I was told that I fulfilled the wish lists of the boys in my flat because they were looking for a fourth guy since they were so out numbered by the women. I think a lot of the reason why I was so welcomed was because I’m not a very shy person so I didn’t let those awkward situations happen as well as the fact that I keep my door open so anyone can pop their head in if they want to speak to me or see what I’m doing.

It was easy for me to become a part of the community that I will be living in for the next couple of months because I am an outgoing person and am willing to make friends. I have two other flat mates that are from the United States and one of them seemed to have a harder time getting to know the rest of the flat because she was on the shyer side of the spectrum. While I was sitting in the kitchen playing Ping-Pong with some of the guys from the flat, my flat mate came in the room and filled her water bottle and proceeded to walk out of the room without saying a word to anyone. This changed when the girls arrived and one of them invited her to play cards against humanity with us. She is still a little standoffish, but she has begun to interact with each member of the flat more and more each day.

Besides the challenge of getting to know people while here in London, the biggest challenge that I am going to face while here is figuring out what to do with my time. There is a lot of room for independent learning while here since classes only commence once a week. The challenge that I am going to face is when to get my work done and when to hang around as well as keeping up with the readings for each class. It is going to be a slight challenge figuring out how to balance everything, but I know that if I have any problems or questions that I can rely on the community that I have immersed myself in. By having the week to get acclimated, I have learned that I quite enjoy being self-sufficient and not having to rely on anyone or anything to tell me what to do and when to do it.

With the amount of free time that I have had since getting here, I think that has allowed me to make friends with my flat mates. Since there are eleven of us, including myself, it has been pretty easy to get to know them. They have invited me to go out to on a couple of occasions, which has allowed for a bond to be built on each of those occasions.IMG_2861

This picture perfectly shows my journey to date because it highlights
some of the most important landmarks in London as well as a journey that I took with my flat mates last weekend in order to get to know them better. This was an experience to see new things for all of us and it also shows the newness of my life in London. This is a magnificent place with so many things that have yet to have been discovered.

 

 

Travel Log #3: “Betwixt and Between… So this is Liminality” By Madeleine Harder. Brussels, BE

My trip to Belgium went along very smoothly; in fact there were few, if any, issues. When I booked my airline ticket I was looking for the best deal so my journey ended up being two legs long. First I flew from DC to Iceland, then Iceland to Belgium. On the plane ride to Iceland I sat next to a Swedish couple that travelled the world for Cross Fit competitions. I had a tight connection in Iceland to catch my plane to Belgium so when we finally touched down I grabbed all my stuff and was ready to make a run for it. Despite knowing that I was in a hurry to catch my next plane, the Swedish couple took their time to collect all carry-ons and put on their shoes. They had six hours to complete those tasks but I only had one hour to get to the next terminal. I was very frustrated because they would not let me out of the row. However, I made it onto the next plane and had an entire row to myself on the way to Brussels!

I was the last of my group to arrive at the airport so we all took off for our respective apartments and home stays as soon as I met the group. We chatted a little in the car and one by one everyone parted ways. I was also the last to be dropped off at my homestay and it was at least 30 minutes away from everyone else. This was when I started to get a little nervous. I pulled up to my homestay finally and my host mother greeted me warmly, all in French. I can understand French perfectly if I really pay attention, my difficulty is in speaking it. I was not ready to be thrown into that situation right away. In many study abroad programs, students stay in a hotel or one area of town for orientation and then move into their permanent living situations. I like this model a lot better because I knew nobody in the program and I didn’t know how to get where I needed to be the next day. My program is extremely small (there are only 9 of us) and I am the only person living in an accommodation without another student. On top of this I heard some crazy stories about my host mother that have me worried. On the flip side though, I can already feel my French improving.

One day over dinner my host mother asked me the loaded question of what my parents do for a living. My parents are healthcare lawyers who work for the federal government. I was content to just say that my parents were lawyers but Fabienne (my host mother) pushed me further than that. This led to me trying to explain in French how the Social Security system works in the United States and that my mother works as an attorney for that corporation. Fabienne seemed to understand what I was saying and I took that as a personal victory.

Living in a different neighborhood than everyone else in the program has already proved to be challenging. I am the only student who needs to take a bus to get to university while everyone else can walk. This also means that I was the first to have to figure out the bus system, and it was not easy to understand. Compared to the other students in my program I feel somewhat isolated and I always need to take into consideration how I am going to get home at the end of the night.

Enjoying the famous Belgian waffle with my new friends Danielle, Ethan, and Kelsey who was behind the camera.

Enjoying the famous Belgian waffle with my new friends Danielle, Ethan, and Kelsey who was behind the camera.

Fortunately because ISA’s student group is so small, we have all gotten to know each other and get along well. None of us are too familiar with the area yet so I like to go explore and try to learn my way around. Today I got totally lost with three other students but it was ok because we ran into a waffle truck and had our first Belgian waffles! Words cannot do this waffle justice; it was exactly what we needed at the moment. It was cold and raining/ snowing when we spotted the waffle truck and the guy even let us speak French to him.

My academic schedule has been set and it looks like I will be enjoying a lot of free time. I’m taking an 8:30 am class on Monday and Friday and though the time is inconvenient (who likes to wake up early?) the class sounds very interesting. I will also be taking a trip with this class during spring break to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be devoted to my internship and I only have one class on Wednesday. However my classes are not going to be easy and I believe that very few study abroad students will be in them. I am taking highly specialized political science classes and I hope that this will allow me to meet some of the locals.

I’ve had an amazing week in Brussels and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next five months!

Travel Log 3 “Betwixt and Between…So This is Liminality” by Brandon Lyons – Florence, Italy

The past week and a half of getting settled into my new home in Florence, Italy has been full of excitement, in every meaning of the word. After almost a full day of traveling, I arrived at the airport in Florence last Wednesday and, from there, was taken to my apartment to see where I will be living for the next four months. My time since then has been spent getting to know my roommates, my classmates, my new school, my new city, and the Italian culture. The separation process for me was surprisingly not as significant as I had anticipated. I had imagined that there would be an isolated moment in which I would suddenly realize that I am no longer at home in New Jersey and be frightened by the magnitude of this journey. This single moment of separation did not happen to me. My separation was instead more of a gradual process in which there have been small, insignificant moments or events that pushed me towards the realization that I am no longer in my home country. Examples of these moments include walking into a local business in which only Italian is spoken or walking through the city center to get to class in the mornings instead of walking across the quad at Quinnipiac. The separation process seemed to come more natural to me than I had expected, however considering I am only one week into my journey it is a personal goal of mine to maintain a healthy separation from those back home.

Now that I am in the process of getting settled in to my home in Florence I am able to relate to the concept of liminality, the idea that you are neither “here nor there,” on a personal level. I imagined that, given the fact that I am Italian American and have a good background in the Italian language, the process of being accepted as a part of the local community would come much quicker and more naturally. I find myself trying to blend in by speaking the language and sort of going with the flow, however I feel as though I am constantly carrying a large sign around that says “I’m an American.” I am no longer in New Jersey but I am also not yet a part of the Florentine community, stuck in this liminal phase.

One of the ways in which we can get through this liminal phase is through communitas, or the forming of friendships and bonds with others who are going through a similar transition. I personally have experienced communitas with my roommates and with those I knew from back home that are also studying in Florence. Since we are all trying to get acclimated to the Italian culture and perform day-to-day tasks while at the same time trying to make the most of our experience, we have formed bonds and created a sense of comfort because we are all from the same place. Simbach refers to this “emotional dependence on cultural similar” as “double-edged” because although it does create a sense of comfort, it can also delay or prevent members of a communitas from really adjusting to the new culture. (160) I have noticed that one of my biggest strengths as a member of this communitas is that I speak a good amount of Italian and have been exposed to the Italian culture before, which allows me to act as a gateway between the Italian culture and my communitas. On the other hand, one weakness that I have noticed among many members of the communitas is that we tend to stick with what we are comfortable with by doing things such as eating American food or going to places that are full of American students. Although I am aware that communitas can be unhealthy for personal growth at times, I believe it is something that I would not have been able to go through the separation process without.

In order to grow as both an individual and a part of a larger community, I have challenged myself with trying to only speak to the locals in their language. I believe that, for me, the biggest separator between where I am and where I want to be in terms of my transition is the language barrier. That is why by speaking the language I can help myself along this transition. (171)

“Only as we become a functioning part of the local community does its strangeness begin to wear off” (Simbach 171).

Travel Log 3This picture was taken on my first Sunday in Florence. We had arrived the previous Wednesday and it had been cold and rainy every day we had been there. This Sunday, however, the sun came out in the afternoon and the temperature rose to 60 degrees. I wound up spending the whole afternoon in my room getting settled in and catching up on the sleep I had lost during travel, however about an hour before sunset I looked outside and decided that I would take advantage of this beautiful day. In the city of Florence there is a small piazza called Piazzale Michaelangelo that sits on a hill just south of the Arno River with arguably the best view of the city, which is where the picture was taken. I think this picture best describes my journey so far because it captured the moment in which I realized how lucky I am to be studying in such a beautiful city. I also think it’s interesting how in the picture there is a contrast between the darkness of the storm that is receding and the light is slowly starting to shine through, which could possibly represent the negative aspects of liminality and leaving home versus the metaphorical light that comes with traveling and constantly being exposed to new things.

 

 

Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is liminality” by Jim Webb. Perugia, Italy

My first glimpse into life in Perugia is what I expected without knowing Italian.  A confusing very animated man pointing at various items in our apartment and then leaving without saying anything in English, our landlord.  But, I made it and after a few days to get acclimate things are going well.  I feel like I am on-track in separating from my native culture.  A few things still feel a little foreign to me like needing to ask the waiter or waitress for the check and not leaving a tip at anytime.  I feel as if I am defiantly an open minded person already and was not so deeply rooted in my traditions that the small changes were very upsetting or anything like that.  I did expect some things to change but nothing has been very drastic or life altering as of yet.

After reading Slimbach’s chapter six I do have a good understanding of the double edged sword that is communitas.  Just looking back at my experiences abroad so far I have an understanding of how communitas can be a double edged sword.  While you are immersed in a different culture you are not going through the experience alone.  As a result, I think people that are experiencing the same things group together to help protect any vulnerabilities they have.  I know first hand how daunting a simple task can be when you are in a different culture and the people speak a foreign language.  I think some of my strengths that will help me avoid the double edged sword of comminutas is my curiosity and independence.  I love to explore and in doing so I am getting more exposure to the culture.  I am also very fine with being independent, if my roommates have class or don’t want to do something that isn’t going to stop me from doing it.  However, in doing so I am not completely ignoring my communitas, we do a lot of things together and the common language is defiantly a benefit.  Slimbach writes about reaching this stage and going down two paths one where you seek refuge in your fellow classmates that understand your culture and the other is to fully embrace the new culture you are in.  I think I am defiantly more confident around my classmates because of our shared culture and language but it hasn’t stopped me from going around town and attempting to interact with the local people.  Just today I asked a butcher what went into something he was making.  He gave me a small piece and after I had taken a bite he said it was pig head and skin from the arms, and it was very chewy.

Being in the liminal phase also has it challenges that must be overcome to establish an identity within the new culture.  Small simple things are mainly what I have encountered so far such as asking the waiter for the check or not leaving any tip.  Another challenge that I’m not used to in my small town is people asking for money on the streets.  Some people are really forward in their approaches, sometimes they will try to give you something and if you touch it they try to make you pay for it.  Its pretty common to see and I’m adjusting to it but I’m still kind of nervous when I see someone doing that.  Another challenge of the liminal phase is learning how to act like you belong.  The first few days you could very easily tell who the Americans were; we walk quickly, clothing in general, and our choice of shoes.  I am still not good at dressing like I live here but that may come in time.  A good way to mix cultures is to speak to the locals.  This way you can find out better places to eat that might be less touristy or just off the beaten path enough that you would never find them.  Language is a real barrier here but luckily enough people are better at speaking English than I am at speaking Italian.  I have spoken to a few locals about places to go but I wouldn’t say I had “cultivated a network of close-knit and supportive friends” yet.  I do have one friend that is from around Amsterdam and he is studying at my school.

icebergThe picture I chose to accompany this is the classic ice berg metaphor.  I chose this because I believe
it accurately shows that I have only scratched the surface of what I hope to explore and understand by the end of the semester.  There is still so much I don’t know and haven’t experienced.