Wow. All I can really say is wow. I’m still finding it hard to grasp the idea that I’m leaving in less than a week. This experience was not what I thought it would be, and at the same time, it was exactly how I thought it would be. Let me explain.
When I go into experiences such as this one, I try my best to have absolutely no expectations. I find that specific expectations lead to letdowns; life is much better lived without such rigid ideas of what is supposed to happen. It makes way for even more amazing things to take place. So coming into this experience, I tried to keep an open mind. I had no clue what my host family would be like. My best friend also happened to be studying in Florence, which I was so excited about, but even here I didn’t know what to expect. We’ve always been long-distance best friends, so the idea of finally being in the same city was completely new and exciting, if not daunting. What if we didn’t work well close together? Not to mention I didn’t know a soul in my NYU program, which was actually quite invigorating. I love NYC, but it had started to be a bit much for me, and I honestly yearned to be somewhere where no one knew me and I could start fresh. Now that I’ve set the stage, we can get into how it all played out.
It was wonderful. It was challenging. At times, it really sucked. At times, it was better than I could have imagined. Perhaps the best thing about my experience was my homestay family. They are such kind, good-hearted people, and they made their house my home within a day of me being there. As I write this, I am sitting at the dinner table across from my lovely roommate in their kitchen, sipping on my coffee and eating a toastie with Nutella. I’ll miss mornings like this. And last night I got my homestay mom’s recipe for lasagna, which I watched her make and helped her eat. I’ll miss nights like that.
Turns out, my best friend and I work no matter what. It was so amazing to be able to see her everyday; at times I lived at her house. But I still made time for my NYU friends, and actually wish I had seen them even more, since they are such amazing individuals. I will say that not living in an apartment did make it slightly harder to have a social life with my NYU friends since I really had to make an effort to be involved in what they did. If I could go back in time, I would definitely make more of that effort.
Being here was challenging because I constantly felt a weird sensation of being overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. The language barrier could paralyze me with a single exchange, intimidating me from leaving my comfy bed. But at the same time, I felt like there was nothing to do. I felt stranded without my ukulele and mic from home, my yoga practice (I hurt my wrist within the first week) and my job. For anyone that experiences the same, here is what I suggest to you; fill that gap. I bought a ukulele here for 70 euro; sure it seemed like a lot when I first thought about it, but once I did the math in my head, I realized it was a small price to pay for my sanity. Singing to youtube karaoke tracks was indeed making me go crazy. I let me wrist heal and finally found a great yoga studio, which made my body and mind feel in sync. And I kept in contact with friends from work, and am currently working on going back to the same job.
This week, I say see you later but not goodbye. Though I don’t want to live in Florence, I definitely think I’ll be back to visit, next time with even more life experience as well as some satisfaction that at one point in my life, I called it home.