Check-in: lots of fellow American students who had spent time in London getting to know each other, so had already formed little social clusters which, to me, felt intimidating, overwhelming, impenetrable, and loud. Lots of loudness. I never really realized how loud Americans are. We’re loud.
So I went to my room, where I met my awesome, chill, hilarious, and really nice roommate, Sarah.
This is Sarah. She made me feel so much more comfortable.
With all 80-something of us crammed into a tiny hotel for two weeks, taking an intensive Italian language course everyday, and going on little trips to wonderful little towns, well, we all got kind of sick of each other. And me transitioning from total solitude to total social immersion. I was drowning. That in itself was the biggest culture shock I experienced in six months in Europe. Culture of one to culture of crazy. And I will tell you, culture shock is stressful. I felt so wound up by the end of two weeks, I was miserable by the time we reached Florence.
There was a lot that I didn’t expect, there was a lot that wasn’t what I had anticipated, and there was a lot that would have been what I had expected if I hadn’t been so unhappy. I was happy to be there, but I was just unhappy, if that makes any sense. Again, culture shock is stressful.
I actually didn’t fully love being there until Sarah and I took a weekend trip to Paris. A month or so in, I’d gotten used to Florence, I’d made a routine, but I still didn’t really love it like I’d thought I would. So I went to Paris again, because I’d loved it so much. But it wasn’t the same. Well that’s not true. It was the same. But I saw it differently. It felt painted on, and egotistical, like the buildings knew that they were the best city. All of a sudden it seemed to me that Paris had its nose in the air, and I just hadn’t realized it before.
And when I got off that train station in Florence, I was so beyond happy to see the old, grimy plaster walls, the uneven cobblestone streets, and the abrasive, scooter-riding locals. It was such a relief to be back. And stepping out of that train station I realized, I’d fallen in love with Florence and I hadn’t even noticed.