By an anonymous Marist Italy student
Over the past two and a half months I have finally made the realization that my college experience is anything but typical. Since I’ve never gone to school at my actual school campus, this new life I’m currently living was what I labeled as “college life”. From talking to my friends and hearing about their college experiences I have come to terms that this isn’t normal. To attempt to prove my point, I’m going to go through a typical day in my life: a freshman finding her way in Florence.
My schedule goes a little something like this: Monday Writing II 9-10:15, Italian 12-1:15, and History of World Cinema from 3-5:30. That’s my busy day. Tuesdays I don’t have any classes at all. Wednesday I have Writing and Italian again. Thursday I have International Conflict Resolution from 12-2:30 and Topics in Nutrition Cooking class 6-8:30. In Florence we have mandatory Fridays off. Already this seems a little wild, doesn’t it? My friends back at home have classes 8-5 almost every day of the week. We still have an immense workload here as the time before winter break grows smaller each day, but our schedule allows us time to learn and grow on our own. We are located in the very center of one of the most historic cities in the world, and exploring the place we now call our home has become an added bonus to our education.
My typical Monday I roll out of bed to an obnoxious Piccell cell phone alarm by 8:20 (after pressing the snooze button 3 or 4 times). I wash my face, brush my teeth, throw in my contacts and get dressed, grabbing the first thing I can find to avoid waking my slumbering roommate. I load up my bag with everything I’ll need until 5:30, and head out the door. I sneak across the street to Zurito, a family run ristorante, where, at this point in time, they know what my favorite Italian breakfast pastries are depending on the day. I speed past the Duomo and the gathering of tourists in the piazza. You know you’re not a tourist anymore when you get frustrated with people just trying to take pictures in your pathway as you try to get to class on time.
It usually takes about 5-10 minutes, depending on foot traffic, to get from my home on Via Dei Servi to classes on Via del Giglio. A typical day in writing class could consist of anything from peer editing, to discussing “what is art?”, or just visiting the statue of David. Our first field trip was to Piazza Santa Croce, but we had to find it ourselves without any help. Our assignment was to write a page of observations. I noticed that everything from business meetings, to leisurely reading is happening on these steps. An older gentleman a few meters down from me sits with his dark sunglasses, watching and waiting. A guy gives me a funny look. He’s waiting for his work day to begin, standing with his “Filippo’s Team” shirt and blue microphone lanyard devices. The piazza is beautiful: the sun shines on the upper half of yellow buildings with their shutters cracked open and roofs are decorated with lush gardens. A few kiosks litter the street but not many people have stopped to browse yet. A pop electronic rhythm hums from one of the stands, but at least it’s not Call Me Maybe, a song that seems to be the national anthem. Behind me sits the church. You can’t help but to think of all the patient hands that went into the detail of such a grand structure. It’s carved from green, faded rose, and white marble. A statue of a man and a raven looms outside the front right corner. How many people have seen this? How many camera clicks and beeps and buzzes have occurred right where I am sitting on these steps? I don’t think I’m one of them anymore. I’ll have to come back here at night.
At the beginning of the semester we purchased museum passes for the year for 45 euro and I’ve already gotten my money’s worth. Not to mention you get to cut all of the lines! I’m not positive, but I don’t think it’s typical for a freshman writing class to visit works of art by some of the greatest artists of all time on a weekly basis. After this class I go over to the cafe with my friend Eric, who is also in my writing class, and we help each other with Italian homework. We have a good hour and a half to kill, so we usually get our work done with time to spare. We catch up on the happenings from the weekend, philosophize, discuss future travel plans, talk politics, and other typical college stuff.
Italian starts at noon. Our teacher Irene is amazing. I was so anxious about having to take a full immersion language course, as I have never been very good at foreign languages, to put it lightly. She speaks slowly and clearly, and when we have questions she is glad to answer them. She also has a great sense of humor, and we have learned to laugh with her. She even asks us about English words on occasion, if we say something she’s never heard before. It’s been a completely different learning experience than any foreign language class I’ve ever taken, and this way of teaching has made the language much easier to learn.
After Italian I either go get lunch, if I didn’t beforehand, or I’ll go home and study or siesta for a few before my next class. There are only two apartments in the entire 4-story apartment complex that house Marist freshmen. We have two bedrooms, each with two people, and then a combo kitchen, dining room, living room area. It’s not the typical freshmen dorm at all, but having our own apartment has helped us to grow, mature, and become independent young adults in a very short amount of time.
For my next class I stroll over to Piazza Strozzi. I pass by designer clothing stores that include Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Versace and more. I walk through the arches of Piazza della Repubblica where there are musicians playing and the carousel spins round, every horse occupied. I get to Piazza Strozzi, not only home to my classes, but also the famous Odeon theatre. I walk up the 99 steps, winded by the time I reach the top for my History of World Cinema class. After class I’ll go home and make myself some dinner. It’s usually some combination of rice and vegetables, just to take a break from pasta. Then I’ll head to the gym about a 5-minute walk away from my house. Although gyms are awfully expensive here in Florence, much like the freshmen 15, the freshmen Florence 15 also exists. Going to the gym just helps me clear my head, and makes me feel a little less guilty about indulging in gelato and nutella.
I’ll go home, take a shower, catch up with roommates about our days and get to work on homework. If our wifi isn’t being temperamental, this is usually a good time to skype with family and friends as well. The time difference makes it difficult to get in touch at times, but we’ve found ways to make it work.
I think the biggest difference for us freshmen, being here in Florence, is the independence immediately given to us. We don’t have a contained campus, we have something better: an entire city. And one that contains more history and art per square mile than most. I’ve loved every moment of it. Sure, there have been ups and downs, like any experience, but through trial and error I have managed to navigate my way around the city, I’ve found my favorite places to eat, shop, hang out, and visit, and I’ve learn how to take care of myself. The learning and growing is only going to continue, who knows where this adventure will take me next.