Indiana University Overseas Study

Elizabeth King

It is amazing how much can change in a matter of weeks. You arrive in a foreign country so dazed and disoriented, and weeks later you’re walking around with purpose and poise. How is it possible to so quickly adapt? For me, this is how my experience in Firenze (Florence) has been. When I arrived, I didn’t know how I was going to ever orient myself in a city so large and with so many winding, narrow streets. The taxi pulled up to our hotel and I was thankful I could put my trust in someone else, because I know that I would never have been able to get there myself. Yet, here I am, now able to navigate to my favorite gelateria (gelato shop) and café with ease.

This is not to say that learning how to function in a different city and culture is easy. In fact, learning how to act, where to go, and what to say is extremely difficult; it’s a process. Slowly, you figure things out. You find a new trattatoria (café) or learn a new route (despite the many wrong turns). You have to figure it out, you have to get out there and learn. There is so much to see and experience in such a short time. When I was preparing to study abroad, I read that the locals appreciate any effort you give to learn the culture and speak the language and it is so true. By being open to learning new things, you open yourself to a multitude of unique opportunities. Otherwise, you’re left sitting in your hotel room or apartment wasting away an extraordinary opportunity.

“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.” -Charles Baudelaire

Already, I’ve made so many “accomplishments” while living abroad. In my short time here, I’ve managed to navigate the city by myself to get lunch, wash my laundry by hand in my hotel bathtub, and purchase a train ticket and hostel. Although these accomplishments are trivial, they mean something. They show how I’ve grown in just a few short weeks; they show how I’m open to doing something I’ve never done before.

I’m looking forward to see how many achievements, both big and small, I can make over the duration of this trip. If I feel accomplished now, how am I going to feel at the end of this trip? So much has already changed and this is only the beginning.

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