Don’t Be an Asshole

In Florence, The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Tips by Serena Wong3 Comments

So tips. It really just depends on what kind of person you are. Are you the type to genuinely seek an authentic Italian experience? This entails the acceptance, acknowledgment, and appreciation for a completely different culture, which in my opinion is far easier said than done. It’s easy to say that you appreciate a different culture because, well, how could you express yourself otherwise? But it’s an entirely different entity to live in and experience it for everything it is. Tips for the open-minded and adventurous:

Homestay. Just do it. I think there are several misconceptions that I wish NYU did a better job of communicating to prospective NYU Florence students. For example, the homestay families completely understand that we are students who enjoy our respective social lives. No, they don’t force us to have dinner at home with them every night and definitely aren’t offended when we choose to go out to dinner. Next, although all of the homestay conditions are different, my family doesn’t mind when my roommate and I enter the house late at night. Choosing to live in a homestay was definitely one of the best decisions I made regarding my semester abroad, because it allowed me to truly experience the local Italian culture in an immersive and highly effective way. It’s also incredibly nice not having to worry about dinner ever, and always having a hot multi-course dinner waiting at home every day. The perks of living in a homestay are endless, and I really really hope more students take advantage of this opportunity!

Next, I wanted to address the “problem” of planning travel. We’re in Europe. There are a lot of drastically different cities and countries and I’m sorry but it’s simply impossible to cover all of them in fifteen weekends. Don’t go anywhere you aren’t dying to go to just because a giant group of people are going together – this is your semester and you should see what you want, regardless of other people. Don’t be afraid to travel alone. I found that solo travel is the most efficient and eye-opening kind of travel because you have to focus on yourself without being burdened with other people’s needs (they often times have many needs). Also, as stressful as traveling can be, keep in mind that every single one of these opportunities is truly incredible! When else in your life will you be able to hop around Europe for a semester? Don’t stress about travel – everything will work out in the end.

I also wanted to bring up that it would really help to begin learning the language before arrival. There’s just something about Italians that make them so much friendlier when they realize that you don’t want to just speak English to them. I strongly believe that learning the language is the first step into another culture and having a few handy words under your belt will help you greatly when you arrive!

On people. NYU Florence, especially if you come from the OG NYU (not sure where that came from but I’m going with it), can be overwhelming. Not in the same sense that moving to a big city is, but rather quite the opposite. We’re so used to having the entire New York City to our disposal, and walking the streets like we know what we’re doing. In Florence, the campus is a hub of familiarity – the same people in the same tiny spaces. It’s overwhelming to see the same people every single day since we’re so used to being flooded with new interactions all the time. I’d advise you to enjoy it while it lasts, because if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will follow you back to the city and you’ll have to actively seek them out when everyone starts getting busy again.

Florence is a city filled with knowledge and frustration and beauty, but if you look in the right places, it’ll change the way you look at your life back home, wherever that may be.

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  1. Hey Serena, right away the title of your post made me interested and I wanted to hear what you were referring to. I think it’s great how you specified what type of person would get the most out of the tips. I definitely agree with your homestay statement, I did one (in Spain, not Italy) and it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. Where to travel is always a hard choice, especially when there are so many that are so different, I think you gave a good idea of what to consider when planning. Your post made Italy like such a great adventure and it sounds like you had a great time and your tips will help others do the same!

  2. Serena, I’m still jealous of your home stay experience. It sounds perfect. Where have you travelled alone? I’m doing Interlaken, Grindelwald and Bonigen, Switzerland and then Dublin, Ireland once the semester ends. Over the course of the semester I haven’t travelled alone, so I’m very much looking forward to it. I hope to employ the independence you promote in this post. I couldn’t agree more with your suggestion to learn the language before arriving – I wish I put the effort in prior. I wonder where not being an asshole comes into your tips… I guess it’s just an overall suggestion, and a good one at that.

    1. Author

      Hey Jonathan!
      You’re gonna have a great time going alone! I’ve done a bunch of solo day trips to various parts of Italy alone, but also got to spend a day or so in Prague by myself. It’s nice to force yourself to focus on just yourself and what you want out of a traveling experience. Have fun and good luck with the rest of your finals!

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