We’re Not in New York Anymore

In The Art of Travel, 1. Introductions, Florence by Isabel

At the beginning of spring semester I got an email.

“Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to NYU Florence Fall Semester!” it read. I could hardly read the rest, I was so excited. But in the midst of the first few moments of excitement, I was hit with another extreme emotion; total and complete fear. Oh god, I’m leaving the country, I thought. I’m leaving New York.

My name is Isabel Pastore and I’ll just say it right now; I’m in love with New York City. Sure it hurts me. Sure I don’t like getting occasionally verbally abused by customers at my workplace and getting shouldered surprisingly violently by men in suits. But I love it nonetheless. The city has a way of making you feel like you’ve seen the world; like you’ve made it. You have Little Italy, Chinatown, Veselka (had to add that one); as many different cuisines and atmospheres as you can imagine. In the place of immigrants who brought their homes with them, it can often feel like there’s no need to get out and actually experience the home country. One could easily go out to Eataly for a “night in Italy”, or travel the long ride to Flushing for what my sister says is the best soup dumpling she’s ever had. And yet; is it better than the street food in Shanghai? I can safely say that no, it’s not.

So I swallowed my fear and accepted the offer. I was going to Florence. And for someone who’s travelled as far as the Philippines, I knew not to worry too much. It was just a six hour flight! Not bad right?… right?

The first thing I was excited about when packing for Florence was the stimulation. I could see myself wearing my new wide-leg jeans, sitting on the bridge in my newfound inspiration spot, writing up a storm. My semester in Florence was meant to be my inspiration semester; a time where I could take whatever classes made my wheels turn in whatever way I could get them to. I think I physically smiled as I packed those jeans, thinking about where they would take me and what I would create in them.

I got notably lost for the first time when I was on my way to campus. It should have been as simple as walking to a bus station, getting on the bus, getting off the bus, and walking the rest of the way to the open gates of NYU Florence. If only it was this easy. Getting to the bus station was, in fact, simple. Finding the correct bus was not. It’s not as intuitive as one would hope, especially if one doesn’t know the language. I am Italian, another reason I’ve always wanted to study abroad in Italy, but my only qualification for the culture is my complexion, dark hair, and minimal Elementary Italian skills I barely scraped up a year ago. Eventually I found another NYU student and got on the right bus. With another look at my trusty Google Maps, we were off in the right direction; phew! Well, not so fast. We still had to get off. And we did… outside of Florence! We didn’t press the stop button in time and in turn had to walk another fifteen minutes to campus, nearly late for the event I had left my comfy homestay so early for. We got there on time and all was good; I was all itchy though. It wasn’t until I was able to shower that night that my mind was at ease in my lack of poison ivy.

This city is what I expected; small windy streets, Italian speakers, obnoxious tourists, and amazing food. I didn’t expect to be so under stimulated and overstimulated though. Being surrounded with such slow walkers who can’t understand your sandwich order can be intimidating. But I’m glad to be here; I’m ready to learn, speak, and grow through my experiences and I’m excited to hear about the experiences of my peers.