Well, I am sitting in my hotel room while my mom sleeps in her bed. We spent the day traveling and in Venice, but let me rewind…
My semester abroad is officially over. I had the most amazing experience while living and studying and traveling for the past 3 months. I made so many new, meaningful friends who I plan on seeing as soon as I get back to good ole America. I learned a lot about myself, what I want, and I know I have changed-some small ways, other more significant differences, too. I am very sad that the program is over, could spend more time living in Florence and with the AIFS buddies!
Thursday of last week I went around to about 6 different churches with my mom, a teacher in the program, and Father Abel of Santo Spirito-whom she befriended on the trip. I finally was able to go inside of many of the churches I walk by and admire: Santa Croce, San Lorenzo, San Marco; and many smaller, hidden ones you don’t realize are churches!
Throughout last weekend I showed my mom around my beautiful, Italian hometown. We ate gelato and delicious Italian dishes until we could barely move. Walked for miles through the town. Spent time in Boboli Gardens, along the Arno, across the Ponte Vecchio multiple times, past Il Duomo regularly, up to San Miniato al Monte and Piazzale Michelangelo. I tried to give her a taste of what the city has given me over the past few months, and she loves Florence!
On Sunday it was Easter and my 19th birthday! We saw some great celebrations: flag throwers, parade, the crazy event in Piazza del Duomo-it includes a fake bird and fireworks, some birthday celebration, and an Easter potluck picnic with some students by the Arno.
During the school week I finished up my homework and last few tests, the last day I had to go to class gave me a strange feeling, didn’t like the idea I wasn’t going back.
I went to the food fair in Piazza Santa Maria Novella a couple times and got very good dishes, including gyros and canoli. Took a trip up to Fiesole with some good friends. We admired the beautiful city and looked down to our lovely Florence home.
Wednesday night we had the final goodbye get together for the AIFS group at a bar in Piazza Signoria. It was great to have everybody all together again having fun and making memories singing, dancing and laughing.
Thursday I had to pack up my luggage; we ended up sending a suitcase filled with a bunch of stuff home to America so my mom and I can travel lighter while we explore more of Europe together (so glad we did!). It was hard to accept the fact that we were leaving, I didn’t want to go!
Thursday evening the majority of the students walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo and watched the sunset one last time on Florence. We went out to eat at Osteria de Peccatori, got gelato and stayed up all night. We all tried to meet up and would run into each other as we walked through Florence. I said goodbyes to so many people. Got a kebap and secret bakery one last time before showering then walking back up to Michelangelo’s Piazza for the sunrise.
I walked by myself through the sleepy town. It was overcast and misty as I strolled through the streets I’ve grown to love and know so well. It was strangely foggy, but matched the somber feel of our departure. At the Piazza we had more one last goodbyes and hugs, while trying not to get too emotional. We’re going to have reunions and see each other again! Thankfully we all live relatively close by to each other in northern California.
I walked back to my apartment and said goodbye to my roommates. It’s strange not to have them around anymore after weeks of constant contact. I know I’ll miss living with them (maybe already do), we had a lot of fun together in the apartment, around Florence and on trips in Italy.
My mom and I caught a train to Venice and spent the rest of the day walking around there. We both love Venice and I’m so glad we got to together, the last time she was there was in the ’70s when she was backpacking though Europe.
The sun was shining, lots of tourists and interesting things were going on. And, of course, lots and lots of walking. I’m pretty worn out from the past few weeks, the emotional toll leaving Florence has taken, and today’s exploration of Venice.
One of the saddest part of this program ending for me is that all 90-something of us won’t ever be together again, we had such an awesome mix of people, and I really enjoyed getting to know them.
I know I’ll miss Florence the city so incredibly much. There are a million little and huge things that made it such a special place for me. The sounds of the city waking up in the morning, sticking my head out my window and watching the fruit market below my window get set-up, walking past so many artistic and historic artifacts, looking at objects hundreds and even thousands of years old, going to class and learning about important things I could walk to see instead of just in a textbook, connecting with other students, hanging out and exploring Florence with them, the bell towers ringing out regularly, and so much more.
There is no way for me to truly express what a life-changing, amazing experience studying abroad was. It’s so bittersweet that it has ended, I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to take part and sad and nostalgic now that it’s over. I know it has changed me and I hope others have the same chance to experience the wonders of studying abroad or traveling. I know I will never be satisfied and need to keep traveling forever. I am already planning multiple trips to different places. I love experiencing new cultures, having adventures and making friends with awesome people.
I am so thankful to the AIFS staff, teachers, students and everyone who made this trip possible, amazing and memorable!
Thankfully, the adventure does not end for me yet. My mom and I are going to have a blast traveling around together for the next 5 weeks. First stop is where I am now, Venice; next to Germany to visit my host family from high school (so excited to see them again after 2 years!); then using their house as our base of operation we’ll take day trips to Paris then Luxembourg and Trier and enjoy her home village; we’re off to Brussels, Belgium after that and taking the chunnel over to London and more exploration in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Okay, I’m tired and it’s late so I don’t think I’m going to proofread this last post… There’s so much more I could write, but this blog would never end. If anyone reading this has any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll try to update this blog regularly as my mom and I travel, as well.
Arrivederci! Go have an adventure.