- In the fall, I studied abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy, as a student at New York University.
- I hated that my classmates traveled every weekend, while I was left alone in Florence.
- I also thought the locals I met were rude and hostile to me, and I missed my life in New York.
As a journalism and international relations student at New York University, I was asked to study abroad for one semester. Although NYU is famous for its foreign offers in places like Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, Parisand Shanghai, I opted for Florence, Italy, in the fall.
Before arriving in the Italian city, I knew that I would live in the central street Via dei Tosinghi, which is a two minute walk from a beautiful cathedral. She would live with seven other girls, a welcome change after living in a small studio apartment in New York for the past year.
I imagined fun potlucks with My roommatessummer flings with people who called me “beautiful,” ice cream that dripped through my fingers in the heat, and natural wine that paired effortlessly with good conversation and better prosciutto.
But as my semester in Florence came to an end, I began to despise the sights, hated the people, and couldn’t wait to get back to my campus in New York.
To begin with, living with 7 people was not easy.
The people sharing the space with me had asynchronous schedules, meaning they would be away from home at various times of the day and night. Some would take the bus to our campus on the fringes of the city, while others would walk to the All’Antico Vinaio panini shop after school and return home for the occasional homework. Many would go out until the wee hours of the morning to take advantage of the young age to drink in Italy.
My routine looked drastically different than my roommates. I had a GPA to maintain and an online internship. I wasn’t partying; I was at home working most of the time and it was hard for me to concentrate on my tasks.
The pressure of traveling on weekends became too much for me.
Since three-day weekends are the standard for NYU study abroad programs, nearly everyone opted to take $20 Ryanair flights to places like Croatia and Munich for Oktoberfest. To me, this seemed like an exhausting form of escapism. I was convinced my classmates were doing it just to refresh their social media profiles and make their friends back home jealous.
I, on the other hand, wanted to travel to learn more about myself and explore ways to shape my life after graduation. Since most of my classmates were looking to go to sex shows in Amsterdam and get drunk in Ibiza, I traveled alone. I went to Nice, France; Lugano, Switzerland; London; Malt; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
But most weekends I stayed at home in Florence, while my classmates exhausted themselves with travel. During those lonely weekends, I jogged along the Arno River, visiting free gallery exhibits, and cooking with ingredients I found at local vegetable markets. I stayed in the apartment completely alone. This lack of human interaction did not help me feel optimistic.
I was disappointed that no one in my study abroad program seemed to have my values.
During my semester in Florence, the Italians were hostile to me.
I’m not quite sure who annoyed me more during my stay in Italy: my American classmates or the locals. The latter is often described as touching, charming and brimming with hospitality, but could you provide concrete examples that they are hostile, inconsiderate and ridiculous. For example, once, two women were talking about me on the bus, looking me up and down and making fun of me. There were a couple of incidents of verbal confrontations.
I started protesting by presenting myself to the public in a way that I knew they would hate. I started wearing American brand sportswear, Nike Air Max 97 and oversized hoodies. The Italians rolled their eyes as I passed them on the street.
About 5,000 American college students flock to Florence every semester, so why are Florentines still angry about the way we look and act as long as we don’t infringe on their rights, safety, and comforts?
My life in New York went on without me, and I felt like I was wasting a semester.
I was constantly frustrated that my life in New York was not on hold. Fellow NYU students who stayed in New York were actively seeking in-person internships, enthusiastically networking, and taking action to advance their futures. I felt like I was wasting precious time in Florence.
I watched as my fellow students abroad acted as if they could escape real-life obligations forever. I wanted to face my obligations head on.
All this should not deter students from going to Florence. My feelings aren’t the experience of every college student, but I also can’t be the only one who thought studying abroad was a nightmare.
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