Pico Iyer writes that “we travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves,” an aphorism that immediately brings to mind much of why I chose to spend the length of my sophomore year abroad. In many respects, one could say that my time at NYU in its entirety is one extended “study abroad” experience, given that I am an international student to begin with, and so the desire to transplant myself and reset in a new environment is perhaps fundamental to who I am. I am restless by nature, naïve, and maybe capricious as well, and it is perhaps for these reasons that I have always felt so strongly about beginnings; be it starting a new school without knowing anyone else, taking on entrepreneurial endeavours (which I often never finish, but enjoy the process of planning and launching immensely), moving to New York from Canada to start college, or studying abroad in London, and now, in Florence. The opportunity to “see the world clearly, and yet feel it truly” is perhaps at its most acute when we embark on a new journey, mentally, environmentally, or both as they often coexist symbiotically (Iyer).
Florence is an exceptional type of beginning for me because I have – without much prior thought until the last minute – decided to put myself in the middle of a completely foreign experience where I know no one, speak no Italian, and have very little prior knowledge of the city or country, having never been to Italy before. For a long time, I romanticized this notion of having the chance to start anew (again) where I could, to an extent, reinvent myself, explore myself, and even better myself. But as much as I relish this opportunity to overcome hardship and emerge a New Woman™, I have also asked myself why I continuously chose to put myself in the way of struggle, often in circumstances that are isolating or totally out of my depths. I miss my friends in New York and the comfort of knowing my neighbourhood like the back of my hand and remembering that a plane ride back home will only take one hour instead of seven. Maybe it takes going away and feeling nostalgic to realize where you assign meaning in your life – for me, this has certainly been the case.
Hopefully, my continuing foray into the unknown will also help me to realize that the unknown and fear are not as formidable as I have always felt they were. I have a tendency to do (a lot of) things that scare me, but unfortunately, any of my increased experience with fear has not resulted in its depletion – by any means. My hope is that as I try to keep an open heart and mind this semester, that I will become more exploratory and learn to acknowledge my fear less and my curiosity more. In the words of the ever wise and magnificent Solange, “I’m looking forward to the day I greet fear, wholeheartedly, nose to nose, and tell it, ‘You have met your goddamn match.’”
I arrived in Florence yesterday morning and intend to make it my mission to be spontaneous and open-minded, to sign up for the trips and activities that interest me but maybe aren’t the popular thing to do, and to take my camera out around the city or find an amazing book store instead of watching another episode of TV on my laptop. If this is going to be my last period of uprooting and foreignness for the foreseeable future, I intend to have something to show for it.
My name is Tia and I am a sophomore at Gallatin, concentrating in Feminist Criticism and Fashion Media with an Art History minor. I am interested in writing, journalism, fashion, analogue photography, filmmaking, history, and politics, and I am in Florence to take part in NYU’s Global Fashion Program, which I also participated in when I studied abroad in London last semester.