“How’d you choose Florence?”- It’s one of the first things that pop up in conversation when talking to others on the program. I now have a rehearsed answer for anyone curious. It may not be as fascinating as others’, but it’s a story nonetheless. Getting to Florence was a long and quite smooth process. I’m not only talking about the physical travel, but the path I took in choosing this study abroad program too.
Ever since I learned about study abroad in high school from neighbors or family friends, I wanted to try it. Before I knew it, I was a starting my junior year at University of Wisconsin- Madison, and I knew if I was really going to study abroad, this would be the year. Of course I didn’t want to miss the football season and wanted to miss the harsh winter, so I decided spring term would be the best option (my major class schedule had a little influence too). One of my roommates had just returned from studying in London so her excitement reassured me that a semester in any foreign country would be an adventure. Things became serious and I narrowed my choices to Ireland, Italy, or South Africa. “Narrowed” is an overstatement here. These countries are as different as the sun and the moon. However, the advisors at the study abroad office on campus were nice enough to help me choose Italy.
After a semester filled with paperwork for my passport, visa, banks, etc., I was in the car with my parents driving to the airport in Minneapolis, MN. It was a bit of a shock to us all, but I had only one suitcase and two carry-ons in the trunk. It’s not that I’m a high maintenance person, it’s that I’m a very indecisive person. This makes packing one bag for four months an excruciating experience. “Do I bring my electric toothbrush… what if it starts buzzing in my bag while going through security… I’ll be pulled to the side and asked random questions by the TSA people who make me nervous… I don’t need it.” I ended up bringing the electric toothbrush along with an ordinary one. At the airport, Parting with my parents was hard since the winter break at home had been one of the best. However, we were all too excited and stressed to shed tears. As soon as I got to the gate, two UW students, Anna and Eric, were already waiting for the flight. We flew with no problems from Minneapolis straight to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Florence. Luckily, two CET directors were waiting for us in Florence and guided us into separate taxis. The taxi was my first heart attack of the trip. I had been told time and time again not to be by myself. Here I am, the first day, in a taxi alone. After I had determined the driver wasn’t going to steal or kill me, I started paying attention to his driving. All I could hear was my mom’s voice saying, “Are you going to stop? Do you want to kill us?” I guess leaving space between cars or walkers is not a concern here. Eventually, I ended at apartment 36 in one piece, where I’ll stay for the next couple of months.