Florence: Week 1


Aug 24

I’m not usually a fan of the hours before a flight, especially since I’m the kind of person who doesn’t usually feel much excitement about the upcoming trip until I have literally landed at the destination. Sitting on my bed at home, going through my mental packing list over and over even though I’ve packed for trips so many times, always feeling like I’m missing something. I suppose that’s the anxiety of being in between. Even though this time around, I’m leaving for a trip that I know will change my life, in a city that I’ve only heard wonderful things about, I still feel apprehensive, not quite sure what do with myself … so I hope that my mood starting off this trip isn’t indicative of how my study abroad experience will turn out. I hope that the beauty of Florence will shoo away my sadness over leaving home and entering into a long distance relationship

What has pained me the most during the past few days, and honestly the past few months that we’ve been together, has been the uncertainty of the four months that lie ahead. Yea, I suppose uncertainty is always part of a relationships, but studying abroad really throws a wrench into things… My thoughts — of the distance inevitably picking apart at us, and conversely of the confidence I have in us — have constantly been at odds with each other. It’s difficult for me to stay in the present during times like these, often I have to drag my mind out of imaginary scenarios or pick myself up from memory lane. #justpiscesthings I guess

Aug 26
(My first official day studying abroad. Walking from my Airbnb next to the Arno river to the ACCENT Center in Piazza Santo Spirito, touring the center and meeting my roommate Mackenzi. Taxiing to our apartment together. Other housemates trickling in throughout the day, Tiffany, Viv, then Danielle. Settling in, buying groceries, acquainting ourselves.)

Il Pizzaiuolo
rustic and warm
beige speckled tiles with sunflowers on some of them 
very stylish Italian woman wearing an emerald green blouse 
waiting for our food while taking advantage of the free wifi
Napoli pizza – tomato sauce sliding off the dough, freshest mozzarella, salty anchovies and capers

I went out later at night to go with Danielle to get dinner (she ordered the most scrumptious-smelling pesto pasta at Salsamenteria De’ Ciompi), and then I got my first delicious Italian gelato – hazelnut/nocciola and this almond-pistachio-candied-orange flavor/il procopio. We sat on the steps of this stage/platform speckled with bird poo and ate our food, chatted

Then we strolled further to the east and found a little street with some nightlife. The sun was setting and the light was beautiful and definitely lent to the atmosphere of relaxation, socialization, a lazy enjoyment of the scenery and food 

Aug 27 
our kitchen, windows open, fan spinning, couple minutes before our apartment inspection

i’ve been up since 2:30 am
the tittering fan keeping me awake, eyes opening and closing, watching the sky through the window change from dark blue to light blue 

Viv and I walked to a little cafe, I Ghibellini, to get breakfast, and I had my first Italian style coffee at the bar 😌

At the grocery store
Italian grandmas bumbling and bustling around

A long program orientation, and my biggest takeaway:
Don’t smile at strangers!! They will think you’re flirting with them!

Our entire program got dinner at Ristorante Da Mimmo
Warm atmosphere, loud voices all around, anticipation of getting to know new people
We/Tiff, her boyfriend Sumeet, Danielle, Viv and I sat down at the first table to the left, and we had a great time getting to know the rest of the kids at our table. It was so easy to get along with everyone — well, as easy as it is the first time you meet someone and have to eat a whole 4 course 2+ hour dinner with them
New friends: Jessica (from San Francisco!), Sam, Nadine, Kevin, and Francisco
Dinner was decent, nothing spectacular, just bruschetta, risotto, penne, and a dessert that I don’t know the name of

I’m currently sitting outside on Viv’s patio, view of the Duomo straight ahead, beetle crawling across my keyboard,
sipping on some wine and writing, hoping that the wine will put me to sleep later, or perhaps that I’ll develop a taste for it

I’m adding events to my Google calendar from the program event page —flipping through the pages and seeing the weeks fly by on paper, I’m realizing just how quickly my time here will run out. By the time I added the final event — our farewell reception — I felt a twinge of sadness, of where did the time go?

Aug 28
(Language entrance test, academic orientation, buying SIM cards, strolling through the streets near the Duomo and resisting the urge to pop my head in every shop, heavy rainstorm followed by a rainbow, crisp light absorbed by the red-tiled rooftops)

Today we had our academic orientation with Mariarosa, and for the first time in a while, I felt inspired to learn. She spoke so passionately about Florentine and Italian history, the Renaissance, Dante’s Inferno, the Medici family, Michelangelo,
She spoke with so much love that she infused our topics of study with a romance
I felt so in awe

Otherwise, feeling very thankful for this apartment and these girls. I could not have asked for a more beautiful apartment to call home for the next months and for ladies that I get to call my friends and housemates. My living situation could’ve been much worse, but they are truly the best they could possibly be

Aug 29
Danielle, Viv and I went out this morning with the intention of “being tourists” and doing a bit of shopping, and though I wanted to retrace our steps from our walks to the center and pop into the vintage shops I knew were there, we decided to take some new roads.

To my disappointment, we found shop after shop of the same tourist trap leather goods, with few authentic shops that we really felt the urge to enter. This is what tourism does to a city, I suppose. Where’s the authenticity? I asked myself, isn’t that what people are looking for? wouldn’t it make more sense for these shop owners to open a store that tells their true story, rather than opening a copy of the shop down the street? But what is authenticity to begin with, and does everyone have the opportunity to pursue authenticity? Perhaps not, for the Pakistani immigrant who comes to Florence and finds himself torn from his culture, then finds that what seems to be the “authentic” way of life for people like himself is to open a tourist trap leather goods shop.
And what is my definition of authenticity? I suppose I’m looking for something organic and unique, artisan and Italian

After our permit of stay meeting and activities meeting, we took a different path back home, crossing the Ponte Vecchio bridge then walking down the river bank. Needless to say, the views were stunning.

When we arrived back at our apartment, Tiff, Sumeet, and his roommate Andy were hanging out in our kitchen. As the evening went on, we all got to know each other and moved on to bantering, chatting about plans after college, and making travel plans for the upcoming weekend. It was one of those nights, new friends sitting round the dinner table with a few glasses of wine, that invigorates me. The kind of night that fits into shows like Friends or New Girl, both of which I credit for giving me unrealistic/this-isn’t-for-my-personality-but-I-still-want-it expectations for friend groups

What is the point of studying abroad? I heard a girl say in class that “no one is here to learn” and I honestly wanted to jump into the conversation and say “alright maybe some people are here to f*ck around but some of us *me* are not ?!?!!” Hello yes my name is Sophia and I’m studying abroad to learn, wow what a revolutionary concept… if you’re not here to learn then what are you here to do? and what am I here to learn? Sure, to learn about Culture & Language, Cities & Sustainability, Marketing the Italian Style, and Genius and Innovation in Italian Art, but what else? what’s the Big Lessonthat I should be walking away from this experience with? Or am I being too idealistic

Mariarosa talked about cultural identity and a deeper understanding of my own, but I suppose that requires a little more introspection than I’ve done. Yes, I can see the differences between cultures, but it’s not just that.. more on this later I suppose.

There are actually so many opportunity costs of being here. No doubt I would be working much harder if I were at UCLA, constantly jumping at career and educational opportunities. There’s the cost of being away from my friends and boyfriend. So what am I supposed to take away from here that weighs the same in importance and is as good of a use of my time as that?

Aug 30
(Walking tour of the city cancelled due to heavy rain, Palazzo Vecchio tour instead.)

How do you create culture? Is culture a force that moves on its own or does it need to be fed and bred?

Aug 31
Today we took a train to Cecina, a beach town on the western coast of Italy

There’s nothing more scrumptious than glittering waves reflecting the sunset

My headspace was pretty overcast in the morning — I was anxious about the way I was communicating in my relationship, I was socially fatigued from being with my housemates 24/7, maybe I just don’t know how to make friends anymore? other people seem to be getting along so much better with each other than I am, guess people just don’t want to talk to me and so the spiral downwards goesParagraph

When everyone else went to go grab lunch, I stayed at the beach to just be with myself. The beach always soothes me and I hoped that it would do the same here. I tried to meditate but a few minutes in I started to doze off, and so I read (Dante’s Inferno, inspired by Mariarosa’s orientation, hoping to glean some deep introspections from it but haven’t quite gotten there yet). The time alone was much needed, and when everyone came back they provided a much needed distraction from my own thoughts as well. We played Contact, a word game that surprisingly a bunch of 21 year olds were very serious about and had a lot of fun playing.

I lost one of the earrings that I bought at the Dumbo flea last summer in New York — trying hard to channel Siddhartha in the other book that I’m reading and be okay with letting go of material possessions… 

Sept 1

Watch the golden orange sun set from our patio

Look down to smear some goat cheese on a cracker 

Fold up some prosciutto and place it on top

Look up and the earth has already shifted a few degrees, the sun sinking below Florentine rooftops

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