Finishing My Program

I know, I’m super late with this, but even a month after my program officially ended in Florence, I’m still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it’s over. My best friend studying in Japan still has another two months left, so it’s kind of surreal that I’ve finished so “early.” In fact, I’m somewhat jealous of her because she’s still involved in the experience. Everyone from my program has gone home by now, and while spending my days in Spain certainly isn’t difficult, I sometimes wish I was still in school. It’s bittersweet, knowing that my year of living in Florence is over.

The end of term came without much fanfare. I could have missed it, to be honest. With the rush of final exams and packing, I didn’t have much time to put thought into the fact that the “most influential year of my college career” had just come to an end. It doesn’t feel over, though this might be attributed to my still being in Europe. I’m sure it’ll make more sense once I get back to California, or even when I see my mother and brother in person for the first time in 10 months. Even that doesn’t scare me, to know that I haven’t seen them in so long. With technology these days, it’s not hard to keep in contact with home and friends around the world, so I don’t feel like I’ve been out of the loop too terribly because I talk to somebody at least once every day. All that being said, the end of semester ceremony was a little different from Fall Semester’s, as it had an awards ceremony. I was pleasantly surprised to be awarded the Award of Excellence in History and Political Science, so Mom was happy!

I suppose there’s a lot of reflection to do on this year of my life, and while I will be continuing this blog until the end of the summer (when I return to Arizona for my senior year), I have to say that I’m glad to have done it. At the same time, blogging is a pain in the ass. I’m not very good at regular updates and sometimes I’m sparse on the details. I use FaceBook almost religiously, so this seems more like redundancy than actually being informative. From my point of view, anyway. Those of you who aren’t my friends on FaceBook clearly enjoy whatever I’m doing here! Blogging was an interesting exercise, though, and I might be interested in continuing a new one through my last year in college. Honestly that one might be a bit more difficult to update, what with the thesis to do and all kinds of awesome classes.

Oh, introspection, right. I’m sure I’ve grown up over the year, even though I feel the same. The more overt displays of this new maturity might be my ability to cook real food now and being able to handle solo travel. I know that loads of kids might have set goals for their times abroad, and if I did, I can’t remember them now. I think it’ll take longer than a month for me to absorb the year for what it was, and while I’m aware that study abroad is a privilege many don’t have to opportunity to explore, I sank so quickly and easily into Italian culture that I don’t feel terribly lucky yet. Granted, I’m still expecting to wake up in Florence again any day now at the start of a new week of school, so I guess it hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’m done.

I had entertained for a while the idea of staying a third semester. I’m very nearly done with my degree, could have graduated this year if I hadn’t gone abroad, but when confronted with staying longer, I had some doubts. I wanted to spend my last year with my friends, not just one semester; I wasn’t sure if I could put together my honors thesis in just a semester, and shouldn’t I spend a lot longer with my director to get a good project down?; could I handle being away from home for longer than a year? There were a lot of factors to consider, and I’d been on a deadline. The various applications for another semester were due in at the beginning of March and while my coordinator back in Arizona assured me that there wouldn’t be any problems if I wanted to stay, I still felt pressured to make a choice. What sealed it for me was saying goodbye to my dad after his second visit to Florence. I nearly started crying watching him go, and I took that as a sign from the universe to go back home once my allotted time was done. The year did me well. I’m sure I could have soldiered through the third semester but I’m satisfied with the decision to return to ASU and with the experience I’ve had.

Another deciding factor for me was the academic portion. Putting the honors thesis aside, I’ve signed up for some pretty brilliant classes next semester, and I’m eager to get to work on those. I’ll have 21 credits in total, including the thesis placeholder course (I have to fill out some paperwork in person before I can take on the extra class), so it’ll be nice to actually work hard again. Take a look at my schedule:

I only have classes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, the last being a three hour seminar with two excellent honors professors. I’m definitely looking forward to my internship with the literary magazine, Superstition Review, as well, and the rest of the classes are going to be excellent as well. It’ll be great to study subjects related to my major again. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a job, too. Having two free days should be incentive, otherwise all I’ll be doing is homework and sleeping. Not that I have a problem with that, but I think my parents would appreciate me actually doing something productive every once in a while.

Anyway, this entry feels empty and unfulfilling because you’d think I’d have more to say on finishing up the year. Unfortunately I don’t but hopefully as the new semester approaches and my time in Europe actually comes to a close, I’ll have more reflections to share with you. That being said, my mom and brother will be getting on a plane tomorrow bound for Paris, so I’ll pick them up on Saturday. Next entry: my trip to Dublin and life post-school in Spain.

Shooting in Florence

I’m not sure if anyone’s heard about this yet, considering it happened not even half-an-hour ago, but there was a fatal shooting here in Florence, not even fifteen minutes away from where I live. An elderly man, depressed and angry, shot two African merchants in the San Lorenzo marketplace before committing suicide near the Duomo Piazza. My friend Daniel was walking home around the time that this happened and he heard the gunshots, thinking they were fireworks. He made it home safely, thank God, but he’s understandably shaken.

It’s hard to believe that some place so picturesque and peaceful as Florence could be the site of something like this. I mean, racists taking a gun to the subject of their hate seems more of a tale for the Confederate South rather than the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. I’ve always felt safe here in Florence, and that’s not to say I don’t feel this way any longer. A few weeks ago, I had a run-in with an unsavory character while walking home from a party at 2AM. I dealt with him appropriately (aka throttled him) and got home safely, but thinking back on the incident, plenty could have gone wrong. I realize that isn’t anything like a shooting, but I reiterate that I’ve never felt unsafe here. Despite creepers in alleyways, I know I can take care of myself if things have to get dirty. But a gun?

Thinking that this is an isolated incident would be naïve. Granted, I don’t imagine this will be happening again in Florence any time soon, but I realize things like this happen all the time. It’s not pretty and it’s not okay, but we can’t say that it isn’t unusual, sadly. I’m glad that Daniel didn’t get caught up in it, though I imagine he’s not feeling very well at the moment, but it certainly puts things in perspective. People with guns in states of mind like this man don’t exactly discriminate.

No Mom, I won’t be going out tonight.

More information: http://uk.ibtimes.com/articles/266427/20111213/florence-shooting-neo-nazi-murdered-african-street.htm

Finally in Florence

So I’ve been in Florence since Wednesday, and I can’t even describe how busy I’ve been. Even at ASU, orientation didn’t take three days. Then again, we spoke the same language in Arizona (if not the same slang), usually ate the same food, and couldn’t get arrested for making a bunch of noise in our dorm rooms at three o’clock in the morning. Florence is a big cultural shift from college life at Barrett. I expected no less, but I think my roommates are still reeling from the differences. I can’t say how often I hear the word “America” or “American.” They miss home. Rather, they miss the fixings of home.

Orientation covered a lot more than I thought it would. Aside from the copious amounts of paperwork to fill out, we were introduced to all of the professors, administration, and locations for classes. We got our books, schedules, and signed up for some September extra-curricular activities. All in all, it seems a lot like school. Nothing’s terribly different, save for the fact that we’re in Florence. We have three day weekends with the promise of attendance the other four days of class. I’m looking forward to the routine of classes. Honestly, this floating around with no set plan is starting to get old. I’m not sure what to do with myself. Definitely glad that classes start tomorrow.

My door on Via Giusti!

Anyway, I’m living in Via Giuseppi Giusti, 30 for this semester with six other girls. They’re good fun, though a little more interested in the bottle than I am. I don’t think they’ve done a lot of traveling outside of the US, so I sometimes feel like I’m imposing my knowledge on them. I do mean well, but I can see how my interest in helping could be taken as condescending or patronizing. Not that it matters, I’m sure we’ll all know the city equally well by the time they leave. Oh, I’m the only student staying for the academic year, by the way. As a result, the entire administrative staff knows who I am. Awkward.

Today was our first free day and I was the only one up at a reasonable hour. I decided to take a little stroll through the city, and since I had to buy an umbrella, it was a great opportunity to do a bit of shopping. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on it raining before I could get to a shop with a reasonably priced umbrella. Luckily, though, I’d just ducked into a little cafe to have a drink and snack when the downpour started. I had a front-row seat to the Duomo’s piazza emptying as people scurried for cover under massive stone eaves and the awnings of pizzarias. A bellini and chocolate bigné and I was set.

After the rain let up, I did a bit of shopping at Zara and H&M. I bought some perfume, my umbrella, a pair of black flats, and some nail polish to cover my horrendous fingernails. I’m flattered (and kind of embarrassed) to say that I got a lot of looks/whistles from various men, thereby disproving that only blonde ladies get catcalls here in Florence, but it definitely brightened the overcast day. Every girl could use a self-esteem boost in the form of a hot whistling Italian man. On the way home I went to the San Lorenzo marketplace, where all of the leather goods are sold, to pick up some wine toppers since the corks never seem to fit back into their bottles once we open them. I really hope they don’t break. We’ll see. If they do, I know the stall where I can get them cheap.

Tomorrow classes start, and Palazzo Rucellai is a fair walk from Via Giusti. Add to that my first class starts at 9:30, and I have to be up freakin’ early. Ugh. My dad got a kick out of that, though. Back at ASU, I’ve made an effort to schedule my classes as close to noon as possible. I’m not a morning person at all. Anyway, class update on Tuesday after I’ve been to all five of them! Hope everyone’s having a good day. Bye!