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.