My friend, Ali, had a panic attack inside of a medieval fortress in Assisi, last Friday. I have known Ali since we were three years old, but it was purely a random coincidence that we both ended up at IU, in the same sorority and studying abroad in Florence together; we didn’t plan any of it.
In fact, as we were dodging cars while crossing the streets of Rome together last weekend, I told Ali that I had been a little nervous when I found out she was going on the trip. We are both neurotic in our own special ways—I was worried that she would be annoyed when I stayed up until 3 am; she was worried about us falling victim to the street vendors who prey on tourists; I was worried that she would resent me for having to stare at my unmade bed everyday; she was worried about trusting me to be on time or navigate during weekend travel; we both worried about Florence potentially being clear confirmation that the two of us are just too different to be good friends.
We both threw our worries out the window on the first day when we decided YOFLO: You only Florence once.
What has now become the tagline for our every adventure, fairly accurately explains our attitudes when facing new opportunities while abroad. Without YOFLO, Ali would’ve never stepped foot into that medieval fortress, as the 800-year old hallways and spiral staircases are a claustrophobic’s nightmare but lead to a spectacular view of Assisi and made for a really good story to tell/fact to use during “2 truths and a lie.” I would’ve never roomed with my friend who is sempre preoccupata (always worried) but turned out to be my guaranteed buddy system when searching for Il Duomo (which is a block from our hotel) at 3 am.
She would’ve never had me to distract the eavesdropping street vendor as she purchased a Vatican City tour, via phone, which required her to recite her credit card number. I would’ve never had someone to empathize with me regarding the life-stopping church bells of San Lorenzo—seriously, they ring what feels like 30 times a day and we’ve entirely given up trying to carry on a conversation while the ringing explodes through every window within a mile radius. She would’ve been kicked out of the McDonalds near the Rome train station for falling asleep there when we missed our train and were forced to take an early morning option back to Florence but had nowhere to stay for the night—I would startle her each time that I could tell her eyelids were getting heavy and the guard, who promptly removed anyone who used the establishment as a place to crash for the night. We would’ve both been a lot worse off here in Firenze, without one another.
YOFLO isn’t an acronym represented on neon frat tanks and indicative of questionable decisions—it’s a way of life. YOFLO is taking a leap of faith and getting to know someone, somewhere or something on a deeper level. YOFLO is taking every opportunity to expand your horizons beyond what you ever though possible. YOFLO is engaging in all that makes our program so special: family dinners, Tuscany excursions, wine on the Hotel Villani Terrace, and having class where many only dream of vacationing. YOFLO is making friends, making it to class, making mistakes, and making lifelong memories. After all, You Only FLorence Once.