Travel Log 4 “Studying Abroad…It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” By Katheryn DeMarey. Florence, Italy

As I stepped outside my front door on my way to class at 8:30am I started my walk. Every morning I take the same route, see the same people, dodge the same buses and punch the same pass-code into the school building to enter for class.

As I stepped inside the passage on page 182 I started to see life inside of Florence in a new way. Walking with no specific purpose rather than walking with a specific destination teach us two totally different lessons. We either “stop and smell the roses” or are “too busy to water our own grass”. I think being new to Florence has made me “too busy to water my own grass”. I’m never exactly exploring, I’m always in a rush to make it somewhere on time.  On the other hand, the assignment of going on a walk and experiencing our culture really opened my eyes to just how much happens in the city that we all don’t take the time to notice.

My walk started off with a whiff of sewage and cigarettes, the two most daunting smells at 8am. The streets were quickly flooded with buses too large to fit another car driving down the road, mini dump trucks that look like they are from the 60’s and a pack of 2016 BMWS. I thought about the range of cars present, then the economic status of each family here in Florence, then the wealth of the country and so on.  I found my mind wandering, paying attention to detail, listening to conversations and trying to guess where each person was hustling to.  I thought about how I haven’t seen one area to walk your dog or to lay down in grass. I thought about how all the cars are packed into one small parking garage with no method to get each car out when need be. I asked why when I saw a man (as he appeared to be) watering the sky (when he was actually watering plants that were hanging out the 6th floor window), I realized how important it is to have clean streets and I took into account how many American students I passed on my way to class each day. I found myself referring back to the book and thinking about how I now see detail and look further into things. Instead of just being bothered by a moped, I think, why could I have been hit by a moped? What was so important to the driver that they happened to round the corner too close and run over my toes? As Slimbach would say, “your imagination wanders through the scape as your legs pound out the rhythm. You see detail instead of scenic blur” (182).

The walk taught me to open my eyes to the small things in life. It taught me that it’s important to take every aspect of my host country in, to make a consistent effort to order a breakfast sandwich in Italian instead of pointing at the croissant. Taking time to stop and smell the flowers is what helps us separate successfully and enjoy every second of our time in our host countries.

Chickens Eat Pasta is a story about an English woman who one day decided to purchase a house in ruins, uproot herself, start a new life, move to Italy and begin to repair her home. She makes the decision after watching a video of a chicken eating spaghetti — the basis of this book is quite inspiring to me since I decided to study abroad on a whim as well. The bigger overhanging theme throughout the whole book is love (I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a great love story?!), but when it comes to looking at the book in terms of rites of passages, transitions, separation, community etc ., I find myself focusing on smaller underlying events that other readers may not have picked out. Things like recreating herself in a foreign country after buying a house that was in ruins, finding support and close friends, experiencing culture clashes and the most impressive part, doing this all herself at age 26. The book is very descriptive…meals, streets, allies, feelings… at parts in the story I felt as though I could give the main character (author) my advice before she turned down a street or ordered dinner at a restaurant.  I felt as though I could relate a lot to how she seemed to figure everything out on her own. When I decided to study abroad, my parents had never left the country. I now find myself looking back and asking ‘how did I do this all by myself?’

gce5MKnri.jpgThe image I choose to describe my mindful walk represents how free I felt. Monkeys are genuinely curious creatures and I find myself more and more curious every day. Each time I walk the same road, something new catches my eye and I find myself with new thoughts; just like Curious George and his memorization with the banana. The smile on the monkeys face represents how happy I have become by taking action and spending time by myself exploring or discovering new hidden Gelato places. The young age of Curious George also represents how I feel when I take a step back and evaluate my position in life. It’s as if I was reborn in a new culture, but this time I am self-sufficient and can grow emotionally, instead of just growing physically.

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.

 

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