Back to Reality

25 cities, 8 countries, and 4 months later, it’s time to get back to reality.

Spending four months in Florence was a dream. Looking back, it doesn’t seem real. Did I really go paragliding in the Swiss Alps? Did I really go to Oktoberfest in Germany? Did I really see the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower? Big Ben? Buckingham Palace? The Anne Frank House? The canals of Venice?

The answer to all of those questions are 100% YES, and more, whether I believe them or not. I spent four months traveling Europe, exploring Florence, and going to school (yes, I actually did school work and loved it!) Now I’m back in Ohio, applying for internships, going to school, trying to figure out my next adventure, and tackling any other task that’s thrown my way.

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I have been back in the U.S. for a little over a month, and there is a reason this “Study Abroad Reflection” post is delayed. At one of our final dinners in Florence, the question was asked, “How do we explain this experience to everyone at home?” and that was a question I never really thought of. I knew the second I stepped off the plane I would be hounded with questions, “How was your time abroad?” “What was your favorite place? Your favorite part?” “Do you feel like you’ve changed?”

Everyone at the table stopped for a minute. I had no idea how to answer that. Yes, it was an experience of a lifetime. Yes, it was amazing. I loved spending weekends “home” in Florence, and venturing to Amsterdam for the weekend with friends. No, it was not all fun and games.

One of my friends followed the silence with the statement, “I don’t think we can truly appreciate it or explain it until we’ve been home for a little bit.” And as all of the possibilities of how I would answer these questions flashed through my brain that sentence made perfect sense. It’s like the saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” So here I am, reflecting, still trying to make sense of my experience, thoughts and adventures.

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I would go back to Europe in a heartbeat. To be honest, I felt safer there than I do back home. I would love to live there some day, but not in Florence. Although I absolutely loved Florence, it’s beautiful streets and rich history, it is too stuck in the past. London, Paris, or even Amsterdam would be a better fit. The food was amazing, even the scale back at home says so. I may have eaten too much gelato and pasta, but I would give anything for another Panini from Sandwichic or Pino’s, Lemon Ravioli from the Central Market or a dinner at Il Porcospino with Franco and the girls. I got into a routine that I loved and that I truly miss.

It is so hard to pick a favorite city, but my heart definitely belongs in Italy. Venice and Turin are on the top of my list for Italy. While Ireland, London and Paris rank high overall. There are so many places I want to explore that I didn’t get a chance too, and there are so many places I would love to go back to because a weekend trip is not enough time to fully experience a new city. I’ve started making a list of new places I want to see and new things I want to experience in the places I’ve already been. This includes Budapest, Hungary; Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin, Germany; and Prague, Czech Republic.

The Boboli Gardens were my absolute favorite place in Florence, and possibly all of Europe. I could spend days wandering through perfectly lined hedges and gardens within the garden filled with statues and hidden paths. The Boboli Gardens was one of the first places I explored on my own, it was the first time I thought, “Yeah, I can do this.” I spent my last day in Florence roaming through the gardens in the pouring rain, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

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My favorite food would have to be Pecorino and Pear Ravioli or anything truffle, my favorite activities were wandering the streets of Florence trying to get lost, but ending up in a familiar place, shopping (of course), and exploring museums in every city. I was constantly surrounded by so much culture and constantly had remind myself to stop for a second and take it all in, because who knows if I will ever be back again (even though I will do anything in my power to return “home”).

I had the opportunity to see things that most people will never see in their lifetime. When you think of studying abroad you think of an Instagram perfect life, and that is what it looks like. This was the best four months of my life, but also the most challenging. Even the simplest things, like going to the grocery store, took extra effort. Although most people spoke English there was a strong language barrier when trying to do something as simples order cheese at the central market. Actions that are so habitual become more challenging, but with every new challenge I got to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. While gallivanting around Europe, it seems like all of the problems you would face in a normal semester are avoided, but that is so wrong. You get sick, you still need to go to the doctor. You get injured, you still need to get an x-ray. Getting an X-ray in Florence was definitely an eye opening experience and a bit of a culture shock.

I didn’t expect time to stop while I was studying abroad, but I didn’t expect to come back to a place that was once so familiar, as a stranger. Things are different and I just have to make the best of every situation, waiting for the next adventure. I miss Florence everyday, and I am counting down the days until I can wander those streets again.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” -David Bowie

On to the next adventure,

Sammy

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