Saturday, January 30, 2010

what did you expect?

The stairs to my apartment. They're absolutely KILLER...I'm going to have some amazing legs when I get back, between all of the walking and climbing these babies multiple times per day.
Me and Marissa's bathroom and bedroom doors. We are the only apartment in our building with two bathrooms in a two bedroom apartment. Score.

Tiny TV and couches.

Marissa's and my bedroom. It's REALLY small, but honestly, the only time I spend in there is spent sleeping.

And, my bed. Thank god for that's down (or "made from ducks", as my landlord told us) and weighs about ten pounds. Keeps me so warm at night when the heat is off.

Expectations. It was one of the greatest obstacles to my whole study abroad experience. It affected the city I chose, the final decision in picking the API program, and everything I've heard from them since. I got a lot of feedback and information from API regarding what to expect in our apartments, social situations, and life in Italy in general, but the truth is that it's impossible to prepare for living abroad until you actually get here.

As much as I want this blog to be all sunshine and rainbows and Italy-is-amazing, I would be remissa if I failed to document all of the experiences I have while I'm here - and what I'm experiencing today is homesickness. I do not want anyone to worry, I'm told that the adjustment can be difficult, but that everyone gets over it, and the sooner I get this whole culture shock thing over with, the better. Mostly I'm struggling with my friends group here. My roommates are really nice, but they're very different from me. I'm terrified that my experience here is being diminished in some way because I have always sucked at meeting people. I do know one incredibly nice group of girls who have tried to include me thus far, but they live halfway across the city, and are all roommates, so I do feel like a bit of an outsider. I'm missing having people around that want to do the same things that I do, and quite honestly, I expected it to be way easier.
I just feel this intense need here for everything to go perfectly, wonderfully, smoothly. I'm very afraid that the experience will not live up to the expectations in my head...but at the same time, I know that I have been here less than a week, and that I need to just calm down and let things ride for now.
Last night was also not the most pleasant experience I've had since I came to Florence. One of my roommates and I went on a pub crawl with Euroadventures, and I definitely drank too much. I enjoyed myself at the beginning, just sitting and chatting with Sam (roommate) and two of the girls she knows here, but after the first pub, it was not fun. I ended up lost and alone, without my roommate, and had to find my way home completely inebriated. It is not an experience I want to repeat, and I'm serious when I say that I'm done drinking here. I am all for going out and having a glass of wine at a pub or a drink with an appetizer, but I have to accept the fact that getting drunk and going to clubs is just not my thing, and it does not make me strange (though it seems to among the people in the API program). I feel like I'm having to try too hard to fit in with the people here, I just expected to meet some people who have similar ideas to mine about what constitutes "fun" ... my expectations are having to adjust right along with everything else.

Anyway, enough whining for now. Like I said, do not get worried, I'm sure that will change things ounces classes start, and now that I finally got a phone like everyone else, I feel way less disconnected from everyone here.

The photos at the top of the page are from my beautiful apartment! My only problems with it so far are the lack of hot water and the cold in general. API was not kidding when they mailed us information about short showers and the Italians' Tendency to use heat sparingly. I'm getting used to constantly wearing socks, pajama pants, and a sweatshirt when I'm home.

Hopefully my next post will be a bit more happy ... I'm sorry if any of you bummed out, but like I said, I intend to record all of the ups and downs of the experience, and it just so happens that today is a down day.

Friday, January 29, 2010

coffee, creeps, and el mercato centrale

So I really wanted to post my entry first, and the pictues last, but you'll have to look first and read about them at the end.
The Uffizi museum, from the Ponte Vecchio. My sad lack of photography skills does it no justice.

The actual Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, from another bridge over the Arno River.

My first Italian caffe latte!

Haha, the apple martini from the previously mentioned aperitivo.

Fresh bread at el mercato.

The dried fruit stand in El Mercato Centrale

Just as a note, everyone who said that Italian men are creeps was not exaggerating. Every time that I have dared to set foot in an Italian street alone, I have been catcalled, whispered to suggestively, and one particular creep used a very cruel (albeit clever) pick-up line. I was walking to El Mercato Centrale (The Central Market -- pictures to follow) yesterday through a large area where people come to sell things like jewelry, leather goods, postcards, etc. I was rifling through my purse looking for my wallet to pull cash out to use at the market, when one vendor stops me by saying (in English), "You dropped something!" Anyone who has ever lost anything important abroad (as I have, many times) knows that this is a horrible thing to say to a tourist whose entire existence in a foreign country is dependent upon a credit card and passport. So when I understandably went into a mild state of panic, the vendor laughed and said, "You lost my phone number. Here, let me give it to you." Case in point.

So far we have been taken on several tours...historical tours, survival tours, orientation tours, tours galore. I'm fairly certain that I could tell you the exact name of a store where you could find any particular product, but I could never in a million years lead you to it. I am getting very handy with the map though, and I maanged to truck it across half of Florence in less than 10 minutes yesterday.

It has sadly been too cold for me to even crave gelato, but I can tell you that Italian coffee is amazing. If you want a lesson in the contradictions of Italian life, I suggest that you head into an Italian coffee shop, which they call bars. On our first full day in Italy, we were introduced to the pace of Italian life, which drives me, the fast-paced American, completely insane. They are late everywhere and have no concern for the time. One of my traveling companions noted on the first day the complete lack of clocks anywhere in public space. However, put these slow-moving, relaxed people into a crowded bar, and you can watch them order, receive, pay for, and knock back an esspresso shot in about 60 seconds flat. It is quite a sight. I'm sure that even now I'm very conspicuous in the bar that I'm at, as I slowly sip my caffe latte (with no sugar! I'm turning into such an Italian already).

The coolest thing I have seen so far (besides the view off the Ponte Vecchio -- again, pictures momentarily) is el Centro Mercato. It is FULL of the most amazing and cheap fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dried fruit, olive oil, and pretty much anything else you can want. I purchased a nice bottle of olive oil while my roommate bought some super delicious balsamic vinegar for the salad we made last night. We also went halves on a loaf of fresh whole grain bread (delicious for breakfast with some nutella...mmmm). I also bought some fresh green olives, bananas, pears, romaine, and was given a clementine for free by the owner of one fruit stand, hah. I was going to buy some dried fruit, but there was a pair of women taking their sweet Italian time at the stand, and the market was about to close, so I'll have to go back later this week.

My computer is about to die, and I finished my latte, so I'll have to update more about the apartment and post photos of that later. Classes also start Monday, so I'm sure I'll have a lot to say when that happens. Arreviderci, for now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

oh, the difficulties of european living.

Okay, so I am FINALLY in Florence! We spent the last two nights at this amazing (though slightly echo-y) hotel in the center of Florence doing all kinds of fun (read: repetitive) orientation activities. I have met some cool people so far, but everyone got separated now that we have left the hotel and moved into our apartments which are located around the city.

My apartment is enormous, possibly bigger than my apartment back in America. I do have to share a room, and the bedroom itself is a lot smaller than mine at home, but considering the kind of descriptions they gave us pre-departure, I was expecting something akin to a hovel you would find in a rogue third world nation. I am quite pleased with it.

I am starting to be able to find my way around the city, too. It is incredibly, incredibly beautiful here. Florence is a small city by comparison to places like Rome and NYC, but it is full of historical buildings, sculptures, and it is surrounded by the most gorgeous landscape. I have taken a few pictures, but I am updating from a computer in the Lorenzo de Medici computer lab right now, so I cant upload them (I also cant find the apostrophe on this foreign keyboard, so you will have to excuse me).

Yesterday morning we took a walking tour around the city for about two hours. I was confident in how I had dressed at the start of the tour, but by the end I realized that gloves and a hat were essentials that I had overlooked. It was just a quick tour though, and I am looking forward to getting to know the smaller, more genuinely Italian aspects of the city. I already spotted a little cafe near my apartment where I can get coffee on my way to school, yum. After the tour, I was absolutely EXHAUSTED, since I hadnt slept well the night before, despite ridiculous jet lag, so I napped for a couple of hours until another orientation event.

After orientation, I met up with a girl I met on my flight over and her roommates for aperitivo. This is definitely a concept we need to instigate in America. You go to what is essentially a bar and order a drink and you get an all you can eat light dinner buffet for a flat rate of £8. I ordered an apple martini which was really pretty, but also pretty strong. I drank maybe half of it, but took full advantage of the buffet. The food here is so fresh and everything tastes different, but in a good way.

Anyway, tonight we have our first "cultural activity" with the program, a cooking class. The tomorrow morning we are going on a survival tour of our neighborhood to find out where the markets and drugstores and other essential places are in our vicinity.

I am extremely tired, but loving Italy so far. Everything is too beautiful to believe, and I am still in denial that I am going to be here for the next four months. I should have access to the internet via laptop in the next couple of days, so I will put up some pictures to spice this blog up a bit.


Monday, January 25, 2010


I have TONS of blogging saved on MS word on my computer, but no WiFi in airports = no angry rants for you today. I'll be adding them (along with photos, hopefully) tomorrow, maybe?

Either way, I survived the flight to London and have only 1 minute left on this computer before it is going to demand more money from me. I miss you all!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Wow, my first blog post. I wanted to get started with a bang, but all I really have to write about at this point is my building anxiety and anticipation as my departure date draws nearer (dum dum dum). I officially fly out of Tampa, FL at 11:55 AM on Sunday, and I'll land in Pisa, Italy on Monday, with stops in New York City and London along the way. 18 hours of flying would sound horrifically torturous to most people, but I'm looking forward to it. For some strange reason, I seem to have developed a fondness for hanging out in airports.

I drove home from Gainesville late last night after some tearful goodbyes to my friends (the girls, at least, were tearful; the boys were nonchalant, but I know they'll miss me, too). It doesn't seem real that I won't be going back to UF until August, and that I won't see most of my friends until June, if then. I have a lot to do before departure on Sunday, so it's hard to focus on being sad about missing out on the shenanigans my friends are sure to get into this semester. I still haven't packed, which is the most daunting task of all...I plan to procrastinate by getting a haircut, downloading new music, prepping my internship applications, and shopping for some last minute items like socks, sweaters, and outlet adapters. I really need to get busy, but I decided that customizing my blog sounded like a better idea.

I bummed around the house all day doing nothing but watching Law&Order after my orthopaedic appointment this morning. Thanks to my own idiotic clumsiness (I'm sure it's hereditary), I'm supposed to wear this post-op boot for 4 - 6 weeks....looks like I'll be making a fashion statement when I arrive in Italy. My mom is already making jokes about bedazzling it or writing some designer's name on it. It would be funny if the damn thing wasn't already giving me a blister on my heel.

So, we're officially at T-minus three days until departure. When did that happen?