American Abroad


I had to open the post with that, because I am now officially in Italy, trying to use words like that in an attempt to learn a second language. 

I’ve packed my best clothes and my favorite books. I did my duolingo, watched Italian tv with Italian subtitles, and listened to Italian language podcasts in an attempt to sprinkle some last minute language skills into my repertoire before showing up. Before I left, I asked for a small photo album that could fit in my bag for my birthday. That way I can bring pictures of my family and friends with me to Italy to look at whenever I get homesick. The photo album came as a pair, so now I will be using one for my loved ones and filling the other one up with images from my time in Italy when I get back. I have my favorite pictures of my parents and friends during my favorite moments with them, peppered in with glam shots of my precious, plump cat Calypso. 

My friend and fellow Sarah Lawrence student, Natalie, traveled with me from Atlanta to Rome and then from Rome to Florence. We’ve all seen the Instagram “models” strutting down beautiful European streets, not at all hot and sweaty, with perfectly coiffed hair and no fanny packs strapped to their waist. 

This was not that.

I remained grimy, and oddly sticky, for much of the duration of my plane and subsequent train ride, in need of a shower, long nap, hot tea, and steamrolling. After tripping over my two behemoth suitcases, not knowing how to operate any machine I came across, and struggling to string together a coherent Italian sentence except when apologizing to whoever was around me, I managed to get to my destination. Jet-lagged and hungry, I was therefore unaware of what day, and, possibly, what year it was at any given moment.

So, you see, my friend and I were not the poised, unbothered, clearly-made-of-money ladies that have graced all of our Instagram feeds, who are conspicuously never juggling multiple cross-body bags and effortlessly getting around the suddenly uncrowded streets of Europe. We were the flushed-faced tourists, hiding our fanny packs beneath our clothes, while rolling our suitcases down the street in comfortable walking shoes and stretchy pants that are good for airplanes. 

I am not complaining. This is all part of the adventure. 

After a character-building day, I went to bed in my host family’s apartment only to wake up the next day in the middle of the day. 

The view from the terrace of the place I’m staying at

Day #1: Lost

My host family asked me if I was dead. Surprisingly, at 3:35 in the afternoon, I was not. In order to actually do something with my day, after sleeping away most of it, I decided to set out to see the city. 

There were a few problems with this task. 

Whenever I leave the house, I always get lost. Whenever I get lost, I cry. Whenever I’m crying out on the street, people aggressively try not to make eye contact with me. I therefore strived to get a grip, but I have not yet mastered the art of taking a deep breath. That will surely come in handy one day.

After a charming day of getting lost in a beautiful city, I called it quits, ready to redeem myself the next day, which, I am pleased to report, I did. Natalie lives near Il Duomo and accidentally stumbled upon it during her time lost in the city, so we set out for Il Duomo in order to get our feet wet on our second full day in Florence. 

My first full day in Florence: My First Cup of Coffee

After eating a dinner of ravioli and red wine with a dreamy view of the duomo, I ordered myself an espresso shot over a tiramisu. Since I was in the land of cappuccino and espresso, I decided that my first real cup of coffee should be here. If I was ever going to fall in love with coffee, it was going to be here, save for perhaps Rwanda or Colombia. I also thought that drinking espresso over dessert is the mature, chic way to go. 

When in Rome.

Update: I am still a tea drinker. 

I still have too much of a sweet tooth for something that bitter, which is probably why I chased it with gelato while wandering around the piazza. It was there that we watched the sun go down around the Duomo, more than making up for yesterday’s disaster.

So that was the start of a beautiful time abroad in Italy. More information to come. 

I came here for a number of reasons. 

I wish I could say that I came here for the people that I would meet or so that I’ll be changed as a person, but we all know that I’m not like that. The main reason, which should be obvious, is that I just wanted to see Florence and other parts of the world, but mostly, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I knew even when I signed up for this program that there would come a moment where I’d be so frustrated, so hopeless, and so out of my depth that I would come to regret it, but I decided to come anyway because I knew that I would have to push through those feelings and feel better for it. 

Now, I’m here, actually doing it. I’ll let you know how that’s going. 

The Tragic Queen,


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