Ok, so here’s the deal: NYU Florence is definitely a bubble, but I kind of like it. I know that if I want to go out of my comfort zone I can, but if I need a safety net I have one. It’s nice to know that if I have an emergency I have resources that can help me. I guess the campus could be a bit more immersive (although I’m not sure how they would go about that, as it’s on it’s own separate estate right outside the city and is only attended by study abroad students). It’s a beautiful example of Italian landscape and architecture, and has a view of the city and the Duomo, but it is also completely fenced in. I have met a ton of new people while I have been here, but we’re all study abroad students, not Italians. The school does also have sponsored events around the city and the surrounding areas. This is really nice in terms of having access to trips and places I might not have thought of myself, but attending one definitely means exploring within the bubble.
Not living on the estate has allowed me to get out of the bubble a little bit. I’m still in NYU housing, but the apartment is in the middle of the city, which is really helpful in allowing me to explore Florence outside of NYU-sponsored events. I can people-watch in the restaurant right next door, or walk over to the Duomo and see all of the people running around the square. Not living on campus creates a helpful degree of separation between myself and the NYU bubble, which is nice.
I do think that I could definitely make more of an effort to escape the bubble completely. I don’t speak to many locals unless I’m at a store buying something, and even then it’s usually a quick exchange in English (I still seem to always be recognized as American immediately). I have yet to have an issue communicating with someone in English, which honestly probably means I haven’t gotten out of the touristy areas enough yet. This is not just Italy, either, but in my overall travels so far this semester as well. While being able to communicate easily is really nice and something that I’m not going to complain about, it does make me wonder how much I’m missing out on because I’ve stayed in my little language bubble.
I have a bit of a travel bubble as well. When I travel (whether it is to somewhere in Italy or outside of it), I am always with at least one person I know. Of course, it is nice to travel in groups, not just for the company but also for general safety concerns. At the same time, however, I am aware that by traveling with other study abroad students we become a sort of mini bubble. Not just because we create our own little group when we travel together, but because when we travel we tend not to go off the beaten path. Wandering around is always part of the itinerary, but we are always careful not to wander too far, and I think my definition of “too far” has some room to grow. I’m not planning on throwing caution to the wind completely, as I would like to make it home in one piece, but I could definitely be more adventurous in what experiences I’m willing to seek out in the places I travel to. This could involve seeking out more authentic food in each city and trying it even when I don’t think I’ll like it, or choosing a city off the main track to get a less touristy adventure.