1: Introductions, 2. Going places, 3. Wayfinding, 4. Communicating, 5. Quotidian life, 6. Books (1), 7. Authenticity, 8. The "art" of travel
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved traveling. It was easy for my family to travel because I enjoyed road trips and plane rides. Alain De Botton’s Art of Travel explains that “there is a psychological pleasure in this takeoff” (38). The takeoff has always been exciting for me because I anticipated the destination; I love that we have the freedom to go almost anywhere on this globe. During the takeoff, you are either on on your way to an unknown place, or returning to a familiar place with new stories.
However on January 24th, I felt differently when I took off from Newark airport. I watched New York City’s skyline get smaller and already started to miss it. The idea of separating from my favorite city for four months, made me realize that Florence isn’t a vacation, it will be my new home. I have traveled to Italy before so I had no anticipations or expectations before my flight. I kind of ignored the fact that I am going to be living among people that I cannot communicate with, and will have none of my close friends with me. My nerves just hit me when I saw other New York University students, and realized I had to go through the awkward encounters of freshman “Welcome Week” all over again.
The story of Duc Des Esseintes, made me understand that no travel books or images of Florence could teach me everything I need to know about my experience. My first few days were different than others because I am in a home-stay in the residential areas of the city. I was quickly forced to figure out the bus system, the map and people I live with. In addition, I was not prepared for the sudden temperature drop to 21 degree’s and 2 inches of snow! While I was meeting other people and visited the NYU campus, I independently got to understand the beauty of my new home.
I associated Florence with touristy images like the Duomo and Ponte Vechhio. However my home-stay father made time to show me and my roommate that there is much more in and around the city center. On our third night we drove to the past the main tourist stop, Piazzale Michelangelo to the top of the mountain to find the church, San Miniato al Monte. I have never been to a church at night. While we quietly passed the monks, I discovered that interior was full of the old mosaics I studied in my art history class. Because it was at night, I didn’t feel like a tourist when I stopped to take picture of the Florence’s sparkling skyline along the Arno River. The nervousness I felt on arrival has been replaced with a victorious feeling of claiming Florence to be my new hometown.
As the taxi pulled up to Via Ricasoli, my friend Becky eagerly awaited my arrival on the sidewalk. Relieved to see a familiar face, she welcomed me into our new home. As I stepped into the kitchen I was greeted by four unfamiliar faces; “meet our new roommates,” said Becky. After introducing ourselves we decided to get dinner together, “so, do any of you speak Italian?” I asked. At first I was a bit worried, how are we going to communicate with anyone? Dinner at a restaurant seemed like a disaster, but we decided to give it a try. I plugged the address of the restaurant into my Iphone (which has been a lifesaver thus far) and we were on our way. Getting to the restaurant wasn’t an issue, but asking for a table for six was. Becky managed to get us a table, as she combined hand motions with her ability to speak Spanish. We got through dinner by pointing to things on the menu. Getting to school in the morning would definitely be a challenge.
It was nine am and we were headed for the bus stop. We were told to wait for bus twenty-five which would depart at 9:10. How difficult could it be? Twenty minutes later we began to panic. Where is the bus? Did we miss it? We soon learned that absolutely nothing in Florence follows a schedule, ever. And so the bus finally pulled up at 9:50. We thought that the rest of the ride would be smooth, but of course, we were in for another surprise. Apparently the bus drivers switch shifts often, which took another fifteen minutes. We finally got to school at 10:20—thankfully we left ourselves plenty of time for the first day! Finding my way to classes was, of course, complicated as well. I couldn’t wait for the day to end and to get back on the bus and look for the duomo—the landmark that lets me know I’m almost home.
The sky was dark grey and rain began to drip down my back, but I was on a mission; nothing could stop me. My day in London was amazing. I met up with my three friends, Rebecca, Talia, and Lauren who are studying in London for the semester. I could not wait to hear how they were doing, but insisted we first grab food. I was famished. They took me to a quaint pub and convinced me to order fish and chips. I mean I was in London after all. We finished eating and headed towards their dorm. As we walked the streets I was hit with a wave of grogginess. “C’mon, Push yourself Elana, you’re here for a day,” I repeatedly told myself.
After tea and scones at Harrods we explored Piccadilly Circus. By eleven I was ready for bed so I headed back to the hotel I was staying at. Brotton discusses the idea that despite our anticipation, our actual happiness with, and in a place seems to be brief. As I lay in bed, reviewing the amazing day I had just had, I realized that Brotton is right, “the condition rarely endures for longer than ten minutes.” I had only spent a day in London and my excitement did not last for long, I was ready for my next adventure. I began to panic. Are the next four months going to be a waste? Am I going to forget everything? Will I appreciate it all? I then promised myself that from now on I would record my adventures in a journal. Maybe then I will be able to look back and revisit my experiences, for more than ten minutes at least.
American Airlines flight 142 with service to London Heathrow was a blur. I put all my luggage under the seat in front of me, large carry on, personal item and all, took some Dramamine and a sleep aid, and fell asleep to the whir of the turbine outside my window. I woke up once when they served breakfast, and once again when they gave us what I think was dinner. I’m not quite positive, I still felt like a spooked cat cowering in my window seat. I’m singularly glad there was no passenger next to me, I am not sure I would have been in great shape for meaningless conversation.
When we landed, I was told, after aimless wandering around the shuttle bus terminal for a connection to Terminal 5 in London, that Heathrow closes after 11 and that all travelers that had overnight layovers must stay the night in one terminal under the surveillance of airport security. All I can comment about Heathrow is my displeasure at the quality of the design and my treatment I felt as if I were a sheep, corralled into one roped off area to be watched by wolves. If anything, it felt like what my idea of purgatory would be, a poorly lit, empty airport, with lonely travelers spread out on uncomfortably generic airport chairs, lost in the abyss that was the witching hour between dusk and dawn. Airport security patrolled up and down the aisles as if guarding the streets of a garish indoor city advertising currency exchange and stale fast food, its gates locked up against the loneliness the travelers seemed to emanate from the terminal. I slept very poorly, waking up every thirty minutes to a security officer walking by, heavy foot steps sending fantastically awful reverberations through my dreams. Needless to say I was very happy to exit that terminal promptly at 5 AM, and be well on my way to Terminal 5 and my next flight to Germany.
At this point my mental capacity for remembering things was at an absolute end. Communication was not at the top of my list of things I could perform without appearing drunk, and exhaustion had claimed my physical processes most important for survival. Thus reduced to a zombie, I boarded British Airways flight 990 with service to Berlin Tegel, and promptly fell asleep. The rest is even more of a blur, as the zombie disease continued to eat at my brain. My perception picked up small things: like my brief (subdued) panic at not being able to find the NYU representative at Tegel, exchanging my dollars to Euros for the first time, meeting some fellow students briefly and making a mental note to not speak too much because zombies don’t generally talk to their food, the shuttle and the bright cold morning sun, the resident assistant kindly reviewing check in procedure to me for the sake of propriety, only registering where my room was, getting lost and having to ask someone for directions to my room, struggling with my new front door, attempting to connect to the internet, failing, and then falling asleep with my face in my laptop and all my clothes from my travels still on for the next 6 hours.In the morning I woke up in time for breakfast, served at around 8, though I was still suffering from jetlag and had to drag myself out of bed and into a cold shower to wake up fully. I stopped by the office, grabbed my little breakfast sack, and headed straight to Dylan’s and Andrea’s room to eat and start the day with them. We did a housing tour and a neighborhood tour, and then a trip to the academic center where I will be having class to go through orientation sessions on general things to know before we start class and met quite a few new and awesome people. I began to be more and more amazed at the actuality of what I was experiencing. I didn’t know what to expect before coming here and I definitely did not expect everything that I was able to take in now that I wasn’t so exhausted. The architecture was old, from before the Berlin wall fell, full of renovations and newer architecture overcoming post Cold War structures. The academic center itself was a renovated beer brewery, with a cobblestone courtyard, wrought iron fences, old brick buildings, but the restaurant we had lunch as a collective abroad class was very modern and classy, with chandeliers and shining wood bar and tables amongst the exposed brick and dark steel that made up the brewery’s intact structure. Absolutely beautiful and inspiring use of design in this kind was all over the city. I found it in the suspended steel platform staircase in the academic center, and again in the theater on campus. I am so excited to see more of the city and to see the redevelopment of a nation that has been so dedicated to a different kind of social infrastructure during the Cold War and during World War II. Almost as excited as I am to start learning more about the subway system here, and to learn more German so I don’t feel quite as lost as I do now operating public transit and buying groceries.
In relation to an excerpt of "On Travelling Places", I find it necessary to note that there is a certain desolation to the in between places of travel that provides context for the places one has to be. I became terrified of the process of traveling, as a different kind of endurance is needed to get oneself to where one desires to be. As described, "there was poetry in this forsaken service station perched on the ridge of the motorway, far from all habitation" (30). Indeed, being "alive to the power of the liminal traveling traveling place" is interesting in that most travelers are unaware of the power of these places. The only power that I've noticed in these liminal places, or mainly just London Heathrow, is the power to enhance whatever feelings you are experiencing at the time. Mine simply happened to involve exhaustion, homesickness, and self doubt. But the liminal traveling places have power. And I am expecting I will find power in this foreign land in places I least expect.
foreign country? Not only would the ten-hour time difference be a challenge, but I also don't speak a word of Italian! However, my mom nudged me to embark on this journey, encouraging me that my ability to speak Spanish would make learning Italian a piece of cake. And of course she was right; my first week of Italian class has been challenging, but definitely manageable.
Not only am I fortunate enough to learn a new language, but I am also constantly absorbing the beauty surrounding me. I live on Via Ricosoli, which is a block away from the duomo, a historic landmark filled with beauty and culture. Living in the center of town is amazing. Although the building I live in houses all American students, the moment I step out of my front door, onto the cobblestone streets, I am surrounded by local Italians.
The first time I walked through the gates of the NYU campus, my jaw dropped. Propped up in the hills, surrounded by lush greenery, are four astonishingly
beautiful villas. Not only is walking to class fun, but I also look forward to my classes. In addition to the Art of Travel, I am enrolled in Intensive Elementary Italian, Introduction to Marketing, and History of Italian Fashion. I am most looking forward to the History of Italian Fashion course, which is based in the center of the city, rather than a classroom. Weekly field trips are scheduled in an attempt to really expose and immerse us into Italian culture. Furthermore, this course fit
perfectly with my concentration, which is business and design. Ultimately, all of my professors are warm and friendly and it seems as though they make an effort
to get to know each student. I guess it makes it easier that the classes are small, which is definitely something I am enjoying.
Overall, my first week in Florence has exceeded my expectations. Living in Europe seems so surreal. Although I definitely miss home, I know this is a once in a
lifetime experience. Even though I don't necessarily miss the super fast paced, pushy lifestyle of New York it will definitely take time to get used to the slow
paced lifestyle here in Italy. I also thought I was escaping New York's snowy winter, but I guess I was wrong; my first week has been filled with hot chocolate as I try to keep warm from the snow!
I can't wait to spend the next four months exploring this amazing country.
I waited to write this post until I was traveling back to Buenos Aires. I’ve been home in Florida for the past seven weeks, feeling incredible static and as if my yearlong journey in Buenos Aires was on a temporary hiatus. My foremost feeling about going back was excitement, until today, the day of my departure, when it turned to nerves.
I’ve always loved the saying “fear is ungrounded excitement” and I believe that to be absolutely true. When viewing my situation objectively: I’ve already spent a semester in Buenos Aires, know the area and the professors I’ll be having, etc., I am entering a far more secure situation than last semester. However, I think all the time at home and complacency has caused me to regress as if this is my first semester in BsAs.
I love the process of travel, particularly on airplanes, because it allows you to truly relax. On an airplane, you can spend six hours watching mindless television and there’s truly nothing better you could have been doing. I personally fear for the day when airplanes WIFI internet because then I’ll be forced into productivity. It’s a time of suspended animation. Not to be morbid, but if something wretched were to happen in the world during a flight, you would be spared from the reality for a few extra hours.
The can relate heavily to Baudelaire’s feelings towards living in the same cramped city his entire life. I’ve read his writings on Paris, how stressful and corrosive it seemed to be for him. I draw similarities to how it is when I spend too much time in New York City, I find myself drained and exhausted from the constant struggle of exertion the city demands. In Buenos Aires, I’ve had the opportunity to strike a balance of stimulation and relaxation within a big city. I hope to further practice this in the upcoming semester and bring this inner calmness back to New York when I return in the fall. The two cultures are so dramatically different however. To me, the processes of journey and travel are not synonymous, though they do sometimes intersect. A journey is not always a physical progression. It absolutely can be, however, and a journey can oftentimes emerge during travel or be the impetus for travel. I love the quote “journeys are the midwives of thought.” I think it’s spot on because journeys facilitate thought through bring you out of your comfort zone.
The photo I've uncluded was taken on the Buquebus back from Uruguay last November. it proves that their's beauty not only in the destinations, but in the in-betweeness of travel as well.
Try as I might, I can no longer skirt the inevitable. In a mere three days I’ll be off to Buenos Aires for the spring semester and won’t return to Los Angeles for nearly a year. Vague plans and daydreaming about a country I’ve never before entered are now being eclipsed by the creeping panic/excitement of trying to pack everything I want to bring in one suitcase and a slight pang of regret for not having seen more, done more, eaten more, over winter break.
My name is Emily. Though I am technically from Los Angeles, I grew up in the northeastern edge of the county in a small town called Sunland that straddles the foothills of the Angeles Mountains. My parents are both immigrants from England and since all of my extended family still lives there, I visit often. I feel that I must have travel in my blood, having started at such a young age and being a member of a family so passionate about traveling. At four (which hardly counts I know), I went to Belize and Guatemala. Since then, and besides England, I’ve visited Mexico, Germany, France, and Spain, where I spent a month in Madrid at sixteen on my own.
By no means a seasoned traveler, Argentina is the next step for me. I could have easily studied in Europe, but it all seems to easy because of my family’s central location. I’m a believer in the philosophy that traveling should be somewhat challenging, and involve constantly putting yourself outside of your “comfort zone.” That being said, my Spanish skills are not the best and my most important goal while abroad is to improve my command of the language. This also factors into my concentration, which I’ve deemed “Creative and Cultural Identity” (working title). Having an artist as a mother and being exposed to art so early on, I am interested in learning how to expand and hone my creative capacities in the areas of Creative Writing and Photography, while also studying various aspects of cultures that interest me through Anthropology, Language and Art History.
Writing this post is definitely making me feel more at ease about leaving, and I’m excited for the semester to finally begin. Especially since my plan isn’t just to study abroad in Argentina. I have to get my British citizenship this summer, which requires staying in the UK for six solid weeks. Since I wouldn’t have enough time for a summer internship or job, I decided to travel my entire summer. Once the semester ends in Argentina, I plan to bus the length of Chile, going north into Peru and then into Ecuador, where I can hopefully go to the Galapagos Islands. From there, I plan to spend a week in Miami at a very good friend’s house. Then it’s off to the UK for the rest of the summer, meaning I will fly straight back to New York from London. Only three more days till the adventure begins.
(Image by Emily Tugwell. Taken in The Angeles National Park)
I remember staring at my cobalt Samsonite, trying to envision packing four months into it. I once packed a whole year into its narrow frame, but that was as unfathomable then as four months is now. I packed this same suitcase full to bursting just travel home for winter break freshman year. I packed and unpack and repacked for weeks, unable to fit everything within the given limit.
It felt like being in limbo, with a suitcase half packed and the plane ticket bought, when all I really wanted to do was snuggle into the couch with my dog, my family, or my friends. I wanted more time to ramble around my hometown, wanted to extend my period of limbo indefinitely. I couldn’t pack up my family’s love, my childhood bedroom, my wonderful friends. I packed my photographs, but left my beloved books because they were too heavy. No art supplies, none of my favorite shoes.
I’ve always been a stuff person, a collector. My bedroom is covered in things I’ve collected from flea markets and thrift stores, travels and gifts. I love sculpture and large scale painting and took four years of classes in high school and another three semesters in college. My artwork fills shelves and wall space, tucked into corners and behind furniture. When I came home from India, I swear the sheer amount of stuff I own doubled. Now that I had to pick up and move my life again, I cared about the things I had collected. Those items were repositories of my memories, physical representations of parts of my life I had left behind me, and the people whose love I could not feel directly everyday. Every statue and pair of earrings cradled my memories, and if I couldn’t pack those memories, I had to leave them behind. It felt like leaving chucks of myself behind.
My best friend laughed at me as I freaked out over all the items I wanted, and all that I would have to leave behind. His idea of packing for a foreign country entailed throwing all his clothes in a duffel, and maybe, just maybe, a toothbrush and comb. He packed for college in trash bags. He does not see the need for stuff as a repository for his memories. I’m not even sure he owns a single photograph. Sometimes, when I have to pack my entire life up to move from place to place, I envy his lack of physical attachment to the stuff of life, and when I arrive in my new home, I’m always glad to unpack quickly, with all I need and very little forgotten.
But I have to admit I miss my giant library of books. I miss the twenty millions pillows I kept on my bed, my artwork and years of collected art supplies. I do really miss my things, not because I am unable to live without the things but because when I am far away from home, those things give me comfort. And so I filled the cracks in my suitcase with statues of Ganesh and bags of tea and photographs and tokens from home, even though they can’t replace the people and places I miss. And when I miss my mother, I will make a cup of tea from her kitchen.
(Picture is mine, of my hometown)
Alain De Botton captured my feelings on travel as of late in a line on page 11, “We are familiar with the notion that the reality of travel is not what we anticipated.” What I enjoy about this particular quote is that it can be seen in both an optimistic and pessimistic light. When I think about in it a literal sense I think back to the countless hours I spent on an airplane these past couple of months and I feel like I would be happy to avoid them for the rest of this year entirely! But when I think about the memories, moments, and experiences that lie ahead of me I know that no matter what I anticipate or expect from this semester abroad the reality of what will actually happen is different.
We were told before we even got to NYU-Accra to not have any expectations, to dilute the anticipation that might be pulsing through our veins disguised as excitement. Why? Because it’s a place so foreign that no amount of pictures or words can describe the emotions and feelings evoked through the reality of our every day. Even so, you can’t help but let your subconscious run free with the hidden images of what life might be like in Accra. I know I was surprised and underwhelmed by certain aspects of NYU-Accra. The most shocking has been the academics. The size of our center, (only 4 classrooms and about the size of a small house) the size of our classes, (my largest consisting of 10) and the lackadaisical attitude towards organization have all proven that patience is the key to NYU-Accra. Patience that I sometimes find myself lacking when it comes to the pace in which my professors speak, the lack of water my house has, the lack of electricity my house has, the lack of internet my house has, and the lack of air-conditioning my house has. All of these things are things that I never anticipated happening and did. But each of these unanticipated actions has already taught me a strong lesson in appreciation only three weeks into the program. I’ve already learned to lighten up, laugh when my water shuts off mid shower and think about how this is everyday life for this entire continent and only five months for me.
Perhaps the presence of expectations and anticipation is what helps put things into perspective. Your environment doesn’t adapt to you, but you adapt to your environment. Whether you are pleased or disappointed, there’s always a lesson to be learned and a lesson to grow from. And isn’t that why we travel to begin with?
*A picture from Shai Hills Resource Reserve, a two hour long hike we took on Saturday*
All my life, I have always gotten interesting reactions when I introduce myself as Bianca Bianchi. Most people don’t believe that my first name is almost identical to my last! However for my first week in Florence, every Italian I’ve encountered has not been phased by this common Italian name. I feel proud to be among my family’s culture, until someone starts speaking to me in Italian. This is because, other than restaurant conversation, I cannot speak one word of my heritage’s language. I have never needed to speak Italian until now. I grew up in San Diego, where the most popular second language is Spanish. My high school never offered an Italian course, and the most I learned about Italy was in AP Art History my senior year. Although I have visited Rome, Florence and Lombardy when I was young, I knew all my life that I wanted to learn Italian and spend some time there. Therefore studying abroad through NYU couldn’t be more prefect.
When I was accepted into LSP, I almost anxiously choose the option to study here for my freshman year. However I am happy with my decision to wait because my first three semesters helped me select Gallatin for my Junior year to study Media and Entertainment in a Global Environment. Like I predicted, I immediately noticed that Italy’s and Europe’s pop culture consists of a lot of American music, while America listens no Italian music. I still have time before I declare my concentration but I want to study what it takes to become an international superstar like Adele. A long with this blog course I am taking an Italian Culture course, Introduction to Marketing, Experimental Photography and Beginner Italian.
To really get to know the Florentine lifestyle and challenge my Italian skills, I also chose to live in a home-stay with an Italian family. I was so nervous about this type of housing, but I wanted to bring myself out of my comfort zone. Being in the safety of NYU, around my peers speaking english all the time, would lower my chances of achieving my goals here in Florence. Therefore living with my roommate and 3 Italians was the only way to go. I couldn’t be happier! I was prepared for the worst. I knew there was a chance I would have to stay in a old building or small home; I was even prepared to share a bathroom with the whole family. Although it was a pleasant surprise to I met the Rotelli’s and see that they live in a gorgeous two story apartment. My roommate, Marah and I have already grown close to Mario, Sarah and his 20 year old daughter Stephania. We are lucky that they speak good English, but they will take the time to teach us Italian at our 3 hour long AMAZING dinners. Ive already seen so much in my first week thanks to them and cannot wait for more to come. This post could go on forever with me listing all of the food I have eaten, or clothes that I have bought but I'll keep it to 500 words for the first blog. Living in another country has brought me out of my comfort zone and although I already miss certain parts of home, but I hope the next four months will help achieve my goals in studying Italian and the Italian culture.
I was immediately anxious that I was letting myself slip off the wagon when I wasn’t able to email my best friend every day, read books for pleasure, run, eat well, make new friends, improve my French, do my job at the library, STOP BITING MY NAILS, and so on. And then I realized two things: the first is that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to start/break many, many habits when I had just moved to a new country, and the second is that it was still ME in France, not Super (French) Woman. A third thought is that January just ended and there is ALWAYS the added pressure of the New Year and all its resolutions during the first month of the New Year – we have both the fortune and misfortune of going abroad during this extra pressured month. It is both a distraction from our new goals and additional pressure to create an entirely different set of resolutions. Ouf! (Interestingly, I took the above picture because, when translated, it means “To the New Year I will give my oldest dreams” which somehow relaxed me a little about this January pressure…)
Botton discusses this idea that "we may best be able to inhabit a place when we are not faced with the additional challenge of having to be there" (23). This comment, while witty, points out something that many people push out of their minds while planning voyages. When you look at a picture of a place from the comfort of your own living room, it is practically impossible to remember that, while you are actually visiting this place, you will still have to work on your rationale when you get back (or even while you are still there!). And when your rationale is looming over your head throughout your trip, it may in some ways hinder your experience (or at least dampen it at times). While it is preferable that you are able to relax and let BOTH your body and mind inhabit your new digs, this can be challenging. However, I feel that relaxation and “in-the-momentness” are acquired skills which we are all in the process of learning simply by having made the choice to be in another country for an extended period of time. We are learning tolive as foreigners in a new place while also soaking up as much as we can before our abroad lives are over (for now). And that, is a goal well-worth the challenge.
This winter break I have been debating a lot if I should go abroad, and furthermore if I chose the right site. I always knew I wanted to study abroad, and especially with the ease that NYU allows me to make this happen I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Since I studied Spanish all of high school, I also always knew I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country to do so. However choosing what to study in college was hard for me and took a long time, and after I had just recently chosen an academic path I felt that going abroad would be a deviation from that path. So I started thinking, why not go to a site that offered more visual communication and studio art courses? Berlin? Florence? Or maybe Paris instead? In the end I stuck to Buenos Aires.
This was where I truly wanted to go from the beginning. I wanted to have the experience of living in a country in which they speak a language I had spent so many years studying in books, and in which the culture is completely different from my own. I hope I made the right choice! I know that no matter where I go the experience will be once in a lifetime, and this will be the true education. Just as when I came to NYU for the first time I am scared, excited, and unsure of my decision. However unlike then I have more life experience now, and I know that whatever decisions I make in my life I can’t go wrong because there just doesn’t exist a “best” decision.
I leave on Sunday and am now busy getting ready! Hasta luego. I am excited for this class and for hearing about everyone else’s experiences abroad!Hell
I’ve already decided my three goals of my time here in Florence. The first is to drink espresso alone, no sugar, no milk. Plain. I’ve learned that if you order a latte or cappuccino after lunch or dinner, the Italians look down on you. Apparently, milk is too fatty to digest after midday. (The Italians are big on digestion) My second goal is to like olives. While two thirds of my goals may seem petty, they are a big part of the Italian culture (which includes cuisine). I’ve heard when it gets warmer, one can pick olives off the trees on campus and eat them right there. I’ll be one of those people. If I am to like olives anywhere, it should be here, right? Thirdly and most importantly I want to leave here fluent in Italian. I want to be able to go into a trattoria, ristorante, gelateria, or any negozio (business) for that matter, speak to the shopkeeper in Italian, and not have he or she automatically respond in English. Generally, I would like for my conversational Italian to improve dramatically. I know Italian, but when I enter a shop, I get stage fright, freeze up, and switch to English or some form of broken Italian (un small cup di pistacchio gelato per favore?). Let’s hope that by post 15 I can proudly say I have accomplished these goals!
Since I have been here, I have learned some things about Italian culture which I did not know previously. I used to feel like Italians liked Americans, or at least more than most other European countries. From personal experience of street mockery, I can say that they are not too fond of us ‘studenti americani.’ Apparently, we are loud, we walk around with open bottles of wine because it’s legal, and we’re generally stupid. While I have seen examples of this and understand where they are coming from and not being the biggest fan of tourists in New York, where would either city be without the universities or tourists? Here, they have customs that I am just not used to, like you don’t take your coffee to go and walk with it down the street, and apparently I laugh too much? Mi dispiace, i fiorentini, but I multitask and I laugh when I am happy. I will just have to grow some thicker skin.
What inspired this line of thinking was a quotation in the de Botton piece, “the destination was not really the point. The true desire was to get away- to go.” The more I come to truly identify with the cliché term “global citizen” the more I feel that I am losing the ability to “get away.” It has become too commonplace to get on a plane every few weeks, take shoddy transportation, have communication troubles, and try a new cuisine. I think that maybe I’ve been “getting away” for so long that I’ve actually ended up somewhere characterized by being everywhere- the cosmopolitan interconnected world.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love so much about travel, I wouldn’t be living this way if I didn’t, but I feel increasingly eager to “get away” to somewhere stationary. I graduate in December and I often fantasize about living somewhere for three years or so. I dream of having a nice loft, feeling at home, and knowing that the friends I make will be around indefinitely. I’m excited for that chance to get away from constant movement and settling down.
So why then, when I feel this stress, did I decide to study abroad a second semester? I guess that though I feel I’ve gotten to a point where traveling is no longer “getting away,” I’m not quite done yet. Personally and academically I think I have more to learn in Abu Dhabi than in New York, and first and foremost, I am a student and preparing for the future, is what I’m supposed to do. It is nice though to sit here and look around my new room, hear my new friends outside, and feel “at home, “already more so than in Israel and more and more every day.
As for myself, my name is Theresa Akers, I am studying Spatial Psychology and will be studying (if it is not obvious) in Berlin for this semester. I am originally from Minneapolis, MN, so New York was a big feat for me, and this is just another huge step outside of my hometown. I hope this course in some way helps me gain more of an appreciation for Berlin and all it has to offer me.