Orientation Day Gone Wrong

In The Art of Travel, 2. Getting oriented, Florence by Marirose Aleardi2 Comments

All my life, I have been notoriously bad with directions. Even at home where I have lived in the same town all my life, I will get lost on a regular basis. Even when following a GPS, there is no telling how my journey will end up.

So as you can imagine, when it comes to getting around in a completely new city – new country even – daunting would be an understatement when describing my feelings. My first week in Florence proved to be adventurous to say the least, and “adventurous” would be putting a positive spin on things. To preface my struggles getting around, it’s important to note that for the first three days in Florence, I did not have a working cell phone. My phone company was unable to unlock my new SIM card and therefore I had no service or data – meaning no GPS. And considering I get lost with a GPS, I knew it would be interesting.

On Thursday, February 1st came my first major problem getting around. That day, we had two mandatory orientation activities: the first was meeting with our Italian class in the city center and the second was a wellness session/movie screening. I left my room with about 30 minutes to spare before my Italian orientation. I knew the name of our meeting place and even took a screenshot of the map so I knew I could find my way. This turned out to be a waste because even with the map, I got extremely lost. I asked police officers and locals, pointing at the map and trying to get out the Italian name of our meeting place. They gave me directions in Italian or broken English, making them difficult to follow. After wondering around for a while, it was 30 minutes past our meeting time. I figured it was a lost cause, emailed my professor, and got a bite to eat to replenish after a stressful morning.

Later that afternoon, I got ready and headed out to attend the wellness orientation. I was planning on meeting a friend at her apartment and traveling to the event with her. Apparently, that was easier said than done. I got lost on my way to my friend’s place and the worst part is I couldn’t even text her to tell her I was lost. Finally, it was about 20 minutes until orientation started and I had to get to campus (about a 20 minute drive away). I hopped in a cab and spent 20 euro rushing to campus. As I arrive and connect to the WiFi, I text my friend telling her that I got lost and am finally at campus, to which she replies, “Wait, what’s at campus?” Turns out, I got the name of a building on campus confused with the name of the actual venue’s street. So, I missed my second orientation of the day.

Needless to say, I immediately got my phone fixed so I could finally get directions and communicate with others – something that I learned is extremely important when traveling to a new country. While it was extremely stressful and nerve-wracking, I definitely proved to myself that I could get through a tough situation without totally falling apart. I’m finally starting to learn the city a little better, and hopefully by the time I leave I’ll know it like the back of my hand.

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(Image: Where I Mistakenly Ended Up for Orientation; Source: Marirose Aleardi )


  1. Getting lost is so rough…especially on your first day of mandatory orientation. I had a similar experience––my roommates and I underestimated how long it would take to get to campus from our dorm and then took a few wrong turns, and ended up walking onto the front stage of the packed auditorium 45 minutes late. Not a great way to start off the semester, but hey, things can only go up from here! It’s awesome that you still kept persevering despite the difficulty with directions. I’m studying abroad in Sydney, but I can imagine that navigating a new city with a language barrier is a thousand times worse.

  2. There’s nothing worse than getting lost without a phone in the 21st century. For me, when it was the first day of classes, my roommates took so long in the shower and then left without me, so I was completely lost when it came to finding the bus! Getting to campus the first day, I too spent 20 Euro to go up the bolognese to La Pietra. I think experiences like this show us just how reliant we are on technology, even in a city as ancient as Florence. It’s almost as if our phones have become literal extensions of us, and having them taken away is as hindering as the amputation of a limb. I hope that you’ll start to find your way around Florence better, and if not, I hope you’ll find locals that will give you directions and make sure that you understand them (I had a wonderful experience that I wrote about this week). Just keep your head up, because it only gets better from here!

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