The holidays are always a very hectic time for my family and this year was no exception: running around to buy last minute gifts, wrapping presents, preparing for family celebrations, etc. This year, however, I noticed that there was a different feel to the holiday season. The knowledge that I would soon be studying abroad in Florence, Italy changed the dynamic of this holiday season for my family and me. At every family party and at every dinner I was asked the same questions: Where are you studying? How long are you staying for? Are you nervous? It seemed like every time I was around others I was reminded of the fact that there was such a life-changing experience that would be happening in only a few short weeks. And of course, the most notorious question, “Have you started packing yet?” was a constant reminder of how unprepared I felt for this journey. These conversations gave me mixed feelings to say the least. I was obviously excited for this experience, but I also felt a little unprepared, both mentally and physically.
To be honest, the whole idea of going so far away for such a long time felt unreal to me throughout all of this. The fact that I am soon leaving and will be able to call the city of Florence my home has not yet hit me, and I am anxiously waiting the moment it does, whether it be on the car ride to the airport or when I am sitting in an Italian café. There were, however, several experiences that made my upcoming semester in Florence seem so much more real. For example, on Christmas morning I awoke to find a new luggage set sitting under the Christmas tree with my name on it. I thought to myself “Wow Brandon, you must be getting old.” As the morning went on I unwrapped things that would be useful to me such as an Italian dictionary and power converters. With each present I realized just how quickly the time of my departure would arrive.
Reading our first chapter in Richard Simbach’s Becoming World Wise has begun to shift my focus from the magnitude of the transition I am about to undergo to the knowledge and benefits I am going to gain from the experience. In the section about cultivating relationships, Simbach writes, “Among the many benefits arising from the global movement of people across national borders is the unprecedented opportunity for face-to-face encounters with different cultures in our own backyard” (128). This quote had me thinking about the relationships that I am going to make and the bonds I am going to form while abroad. I am going to meet new people, make new friends, learn the language, interact with the Italian people and hopefully become integrated into the local community in Florence. That alone is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will change the way I look at things and help me better understand what it means to be part of a community. One thing I have learned from this experience so far is that it is better to focus on the positives and remind yourself just how lucky you are to have this opportunity.
For my travelogue I chose a great novel by Frances Mayes entitled Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy. The reason I chose this novel is because, from what I have seen, the author describes her experiences of Tuscany and the Italian countryside with such beauty and depth that it makes me extremely excited and gives me something to expect/ look forward to. If my experience is anything like Frances Mayes’s novel then I know I’m going to have the best time in Florence.