Wandering and Wondering in Florence

My name is Grace Gibson, and I am a senior English literature major and biology minor at Elizabethtown College. In the spring of 2019, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. I detailed the beginning of that experience in a blog post for CIS Abroad.

Despite anxieties about going abroad and difficulties in the application process, I did eventually follow through with my decision to go to Florence for a semester. It was a decision both incredibly easy and hugely difficult to make – who wouldn’t take the opportunity to live in Italy for a few months? But, then again, who would leave behind their friends, family, and responsibilities at home to run around Europe for a semester? I would, apparently. It was an emotional transition into my new life in Italy, but I was aided in feeling better by the beauty of the places I visited early on. Cathedrals, museums, landscapes, ruins – it was all stunningly and surreally beautiful, a catalog of images I thought I’d never see in person.

During my first week abroad, I participated in a travel course that involved excursions to multiple cities and sites around central Italy. While it was amazing to see so much of my host country in just a week, it was also a fairly rushed experience, and I ended up still feeling like a tourist. Most of my observations were superficial, and I was excited when we finally settled in Florence, where I would come to have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of my surroundings.

Though life calmed down once I wasn’t traveling every day, living in a new country had a measure of excitement in itself. Having to adapt to new ways of communicating, shopping, eating, and even just living brought new challenges every day, and even tasks that would seem simple at home in the States became difficult. Still, it was thrilling for me to be in such a new and unfamiliar environment. I had never before lived in a city, and despite Florence’s small size, it truly is a metropolitan area. I found it continually exciting to live with such beauty, history, art, and culture surrounding me.

I still can’t always grasp the enormity of what I did in going abroad. It was such a huge step outside of my comfort zone, and I’m grateful now that I perhaps didn’t know how difficult it would be – I don’t know that I would have taken this step had I known. But, for all the difficulties, it was still a rich and invigorating and beautiful experience that makes up part of who I am today. My time in Florence changed who I am in ways I am still discovering, and I’m excited to see what my next big adventure might be.

To read my full blog post, visit CIS Abroad and check it out! It was originally published by CIS on April 5, 2019. You can read further about my study abroad experience here. To learn more about CISabroad and their Florence program, click the hyperlinks above.

About the Author – Grace Gibson ’20, Spring 2019, Semester in Florence, Italy alumna

Grace is studying English literature and biology at Elizabethtown College. Outside of those disciplines, she also enjoys drawing, painting, music, and theater, and she hopes to spend the rest of her life creating art in various forms.

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