As I sit here in the kitchen of my apartment, I cannot believe it has officially been a week since I have arrived in Florence. I fall more in love with this city everyday. At first, the adjustment was challenging. It all started the night before I left the United States. This was the first time that it really hit me that I was leaving my home, my family, and a way of life I am accustomed to for an entire four months.. This feeling continued as I went through the motions of flying to Europe and settling into my apartment. It was a very out of body experience and I was not expecting it. Traveling is not a problem for me, I love to see different parts of the world and learn new things. But as I unpacked in my new apartment it clicked that this wasn’t just a 10 day vacation but an entire semester and that began to scare me.
I do not think the physical and mentally adjustment fully hit me until the night of Friday, January 6th. I was at dinner with other Quinnipiac students that night when we heard the news of the shooting in the Fort Lauderdale airport. All around the table people were saying how awful it was and sharing updates on the situation as they were reported. However, I went into panic mode. My Dad was traveling to the Fort Lauderdale airport that weekend and I didn’t know what to do. I called and texted both my parents and got no immediate response. All I could do was sit at dinner until I got a reply. Thankfully, my parents answered within ten minutes and my Dad was not there, he was scheduled to leave on Saturday, January 7th. I was relieved with this news. But then, this feeling that I’ve never experienced came over me. I realized that there is absolutely nothing I could’ve done. I am neither here nor there, but in the middle. As Slimbach put it, this is when I experienced a “cultural quake.” According to Slimbach, “much of our life abroad happens under our feet and without our permission. Cultural quakes happen. Our foundations suddenly shift, and nothing – not family, by friends, not language, not customs – seem to be fixed anymore” (Slimbach 156). During this cultural quake everything felt like it was out my my control and for the first time I felt alone.
However, as the days went on I began to feel less alone. I realized that the other students I am traveling with were feeling many of the same emotions as me. I am not alone, but rather a member of a small group, with a variety of strengths and weaknesses, that is trying to figure things out together throughout this limbo stage. Although I am still a liminoid, day by day I am becoming more comfortable with my new surroundings. I no longer get 3 hours of sleep worrying about things I have no control over, I am becoming more comfortable with the people I am here with, and getting into a routine that I am comfortable with. I am content with my position in my new culture. I am aware that I am an outsider but working towards making this place feel like a new kind of home, different than that of the US.
The picture above is of the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo. This is a square the overlooks the city of Florence. For obvious reasons, this picture best describes my journey to date. It shows that I have made it to my host country and explored the streets throughout the city. However, what this picture doesn’t show is the walk we took to get to the Piazzale. We crossed busy streets, bridges, and walked up a big hill. This represents my journey to date because getting here, to Florence, was not easy. It was difficult, physically and emotionally. However, I made it and I can’t wait to make the most of this experience.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010.Print.