Being two weeks into my study abroad experience, I have a slightly different perspective on the awakenings that may be in store for me over the coming months. As I prepared to leave for Florence, I felt calm. The days of winter break continued to fly by and as I expected to become more and more anxious, I experienced the exact opposite. As someone who considers themselves a “Type A” personality, this was quite perplexing. No incessant organizing, planning, or preparing – something that is usually a staple of my everyday routine. I figured that as soon as I landed in Florence it would all begin.
I sit here today reflecting on my last two weeks and shockingly, that feeling has yet to hit. It wasn’t until reading Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel” that I realized a possible explanation. In his opening line he states, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” I was thinking of this experience as my escape – a break from the hustle and bustle of New York City. But maybe, traveling serves as a new beginning. The chance for me to discover balancing all there is to life. Certainly in Europe, cultural norms throw away the notion of “live to work” that we have in America. Here, I’ve discovered, people work to live. In only my two short weeks, I’ve already noticed the happiness in the community. Though mid-afternoon and early evening store closings can be annoying at times, it’s slowly sinking in that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. I already feel myself letting go of the need to move through life at 100 miles per hour. I am no longer questioning why I am so calm and relaxed and rather savoring this feeling. This new serenity I feel is a welcome change from the pace of home. Hopefully as my time here continues, as Iyer mentions, I will find what this new perspective will mean for me – not just here in Florence, but to carry with me through all my endeavors.
Iyer goes on to say, “Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle.” This take is both refreshing and comforting, reminding me that as young students there is always room to learn, grow, and explore. As a business major, I long to find a way to explore my creativity while still finding a place in such a serious world. I think that finding your creative voice has a lot to do with finding freedom, independence, and new perspectives. While in Florence, I hope to open my mind creatively and explore a side of learning that is not as prominent in business school. Part of the reason I chose Florence is because there aren’t a lot of business classes, forcing me to stretch my mind and find new interests that I can develop throughout the semester.
In Alain de Botton’s “In Anticipation,” he questions, “What was the good of moving when a person could travel so wonderfully sitting in a chair.” This line in particular stood out to me, especially just having read such a colorful and positive take on the same topic. It made me think about why so many students participate in the study abroad experience. Yes, travel is meant for you to explore new places, cultures, and people. But it is also meant for you to explore yourself. While I am only just beginning to find a new side of myself in Florence, I anticipate the rest of the semester with great excitement.