Nearly six months ago, I announced to my family and friends that I had been accepted to IU’s summer program in Florence, Italy. Upon making the decision to go abroad, I received an influx of comments about the things I would see, the people I would meet and travel with, and that amount that my Italian language skills would increase. Prior to my departure I did a lot of listening to all things Italy-related, as well as to opinions and suggestions regarding study abroad opportunities and the experience of traveling.
During my six-week stay in Florence, Italy, I connected with close family and friends via FaceTime or Skype. In most cases, I would talk briefly about my experiences for about 10 minutes until the poor Wi-Fi connection would frustrate both me and the other person to the point that all conversational meaning was lost in the pixelated lag. I kept a journal as a reminder of the sites I visited, food I tasted and cities I traveled so that I could reference it when people asked about pictures or stories in the days and months following my trip.
When I returned home one week ago, I had no idea how difficult it would be to summarize six whole weeks of new experiences, new food, new cultures and new adventures into a few short sentences that would serve as an accurate recap for everyone who asked about my time in Italy.
Fortunately but unfortunately for me, the day after my flight landed in South Bend Regional Airport, was the day of my sister’s graduation party—this meant that I would see nearly every friend, family member and long-time acquaintance who knew that I’d been living in Italy for a month and a half. Though I was thrilled not to be subject to my usual run-arounds during which I stop to say “hello” and catch up at a few of my many “second homes” (homes of friends/family friends) in my small town; I knew that, come Sunday, I would probably be voiceless and tired of talking about Italy.
My prediction came close to the truth as the following situation occurred an upwards of 50+ times, at the party: friend, family or acquaintance congratulates my recently-graduated sister and wishes her well, then they approach me with a smile and exclaim, “Hi! How was Italy?” Obviously, I was eager to share my joys and memories but if I were to have recounted every detail of my travels to each person who had ask me about the trip, I would still be there, now, a week later, explaining beautiful views of lush, green mountains and the refreshing taste of wine made from grapes grown near the sea.
For the sake of my voice and the listeners sanity, I figured out a pretty affective way to summarize my experiences in Italy all the while answering the most frequently asked questions such as, “What was your favorite thing you ate?” and “Which city did you like best?” I call this the “study abroad elevator speech”:
When prompted by:
How was Italy?
I respond with the study abroad elevator speech:
It was such a great experience! I learned so much and saw so many amazing places. I went to 16 different cities in Italy and three in France. France was tough to fully enjoy, for me, because I am such a talker and don’t know a word of French. It made me really appreciative that I could get my way around Italy comfortably, since I’ve had four semesters of Italian.
Living in Florence was perfect, although navigating my away around the tourists got a bit tiresome—especially because the most famous cathedral in the city was essentially in my backyard. I figured out ways to avoid the crowds during the day: I would go to a little café with good Wi-Fi and have a macchiato doppio, two shots of espresso with a touch of foam and a really great cookie called “occhi di bue.” I’m such a sweet freak and I guess I get that honestly, being Italian.
Our group was entirely IU students and we lived in a hotel with a terrace the overlooked the whole city. Since I lived in Florence, I really used the weekends to see other cities and areas like Rome, Venice, Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. If I were going for an entire semester I would love to stay in Rome because there’s so much see and I barely scratched the surface during my two-day weekend trip. Florence was perfect for six weeks because it is smaller so I really started to feel familiar with it. I know my parents want to visit Italy as a family in the future and I can’t wait to take a trip down memory lane while watching them experience the things that I mentally noted for them as “must-sees.”