By Danielle Gabriella Contributor
30 days. Who knew in such a short amount of time one can completely immerse themselves in another culture. I lost myself in Italy... I don’t know why this is so fucking hard to write about. Maybe it’s because I left a piece of my heart in Florence. I’ve gotten home and I still don’t know how to adjust to this lifestyle.
Everything here is so fast paced and time oriented. We revolve our lives around our schedules and hardly take the time to just sit back and (as the Italians would say) “enjoy & relax”. It all feels like a dream to me that I was ever there, to be honest. I’ve come back home and fallen back into my regular routine. It’s been a challenge to say the least.
I felt different out there. Life was different out there. I was alive and free and as much as I may have hated myself at times for some of the decisions that I made, I learned to pick myself up day by day and face the things that I did. I grew over there as a person. All I had was myself to rely on. It was just me, and it felt amazing being truly on my own for the first time.
And the adventure begins…
Part one: bella ricordi di Italia
Going out there I experienced feelings of culture shock. I’ve learned about culture shock through my intercultural communications class in the past, but this was different.
It was beyond just definitions and terms for an exam. It was a legitimate feeling that you could feel in the pit of your stomach, like never-ending butterflies that just won’t go away.
And oh, what a feeling it was to feel so alone in such a beautiful place. I was so fucking scared my first week. Being in a brand-new place I’ve never heard of before, meeting people different than myself in all aspects, living in a culture different than my own. It was all new to me.
From the time I stepped off that plane in Milan it hit me how real this was. I wasn’t in America anymore. I was in a foreign country. On my own. With three bags of luggage (I overpacked) and no clue how to speak Italian.
My first instinct, when I got off the plane, was to head straight to the bathroom and hide because I didn’t know where else to go. I couldn’t read the signs, my phone wasn’t working, and I needed a place to clear my mind and regroup.
Once I hit the bathroom, I took a minute to calm down, looked in the mirror and gave myself a little pep talk about what my next move would be.
Weeks prior to arriving in Italy, I had been in contact with a guy I met on Airbnb. My plan was to stay with him for a week until school started… See, my dad works for the airlines, so instead of paying for a flight, I flew standby. I had to leave in advance to make sure I’d make it there in time.
The guy from Airbnb was sweet, his name was Antonio. He was handsome, looked like he was about my age, and he spoke a little bit of English. I read his reviews and he seemed legit and his place was affordable, so I figured why not.
I contacted him on WhatsApp as soon as I landed. He said I had about 4 or 5 hours until I could check in, so I took my time getting from Milan to Florence. Once I finally left the bathroom and checked out of customs I went to find somewhere in the airport with an outlet so I could fully charge my phone.
I sat on the ground and began fixing myself. I changed shirts quickly, braided my hair, and put on makeup to cover up the +12-hour flight. I wanted to look presentable when I saw him. As soon as my phone was fully charged, I headed out.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about getting to Florence. All I knew was that I needed to take a train, but I wasn’t sure where it was. I wandered around the airport staring at signs until I found my way to a ticketing station.
They weren’t much help. The lady behind the counter was short with me and simply said, “You need to go to Milano Centrale” and that was my clue.
P.S. Check in with us next week for the next installment of Letters from Italy. Next week we catch up with Danielle as she makes it to Milano Centrale on her journey to Florence. Ciao!