My time studying in Florence, Italy, has been truly incredible, and I have seen and experienced so much, not only in Italy but in countries across Europe. I could not have hoped for or imagined a better semester. Although it is difficult to say in words all the things that I learned, I think it is still important for me to reflect on my time here and examine the new understandings I have gained about myself and the world.
The biggest thing that studying in Florence gave me was the ability to experience history and the subjects I was studying in an incredibly tangible way, and see their effects first hand. In Italy, I have experienced the deeply entrenched history of the Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans, and have essentially lived in the history by seeing historical landmarks around me everywhere I go! I have seen how important these people that came before us are in our modern world. From providing a basis for the ideals of the Renaissance, to today, inspiring artists and creatives who see the awesome works of sculpture and architecture, we would be nowhere without the groundwork built by these ancient people. And even today, we continue to build upon this metaphoric structure for future generations to come.
A little forward into history, we come to the times of the kings and queens of Europe, namely the Medici of Florence. Political marriages between the kingdoms in Europe resulted in the exchange of traditions and trade secrets. This caused a profound development and spread of high culture, not because of one group in particular but due to the sharing of ideas, improvement upon those, and collaboration between cultures. Although my explanation was a little long, my point is that through learning the history of Florence and the Medici, I learned that we not only have a huge affect on others around the world, but many cultures have contributed to where we are today and therefore deserve to be treated with respect. The world is too small to be rude or discredit others because of their heritage. In addition, talking to people from around the world through my travels has helped me understand and evaluate my own culture better, and has inspired me to change my attitudes towards certain topics.
Another thing that I have observed about Italian people, (although not to generalize; this is just based on my experiences and observations) is that they take time to experience and enjoy those around them. Some of the times I was able to spend time with Italians my age, we literally just hung out for hours, talking, singing and playing instruments until the late hours of the night. In addition, when you go out to restaurants, it is typical to order several courses and just talk and hang out there even after finishing the meal; in fact, they won’t even bring the check to you unless you ask for it. This appreciation for spending quality time with friends and family, and just taking the time to do things right, is something I think I can really apply to my own life.
When I return to the United States, I will miss the incredible and historic architecture that is just ingrained in the city structure, and the care and work put into beautifying every part of the city. I will miss the convenience of having everything you need within a walking distance, with apartments built on top of shops and boutiques. I will miss walking out of my apartment and one block down the street to Piazza Santo Spirito, where vendors set up tables every day beneath the beautiful S. Spirito Church with fresh produce, cheese, antiques, books, and clothes. I will miss taking a casual bus or plane ride away to another country to experience a completely different lifestyle, culture and cuisine. I know I’m the luckiest person in the world to have been given this opportunity, and I will carry a part of Italy and Europe with me wherever I go. Thanks for following along my journey with me, and to my fellow Drexel students out there, take every opportunity you get to get out into the world and improve yourself. You won’t regret it.