I didn’t imagine the Florentine winter to be so cold, but towards the end of my first semester abroad I started to realize how ill-equipped I was to deal with the piercing winds. Although the lights around Christmas illuminate the city in a beautiful way, it was a bit difficult to traverse the streets without losing sensation in my fingers.
I’m lucky to return another semester. When returned to Italy after spending a much-needed break with my family for the holidays, I came much more prepared. Big, thick jackets. Nice warm sweaters. A couple pairs of gloves and even a scarf. I was much warmer this time around.
Rumors had it that February wouldn’t be the beginning of spring, but the coldest month. However, despite all the presumptions, the month started to warm-up. The sun is starting to draw people out. Students are stretching and smiling as they walk outside between classes. The weather gave me, and I’m assuming many others, an inclination to walk.
Wednesday afternoon, I found myself next to the river Arno. The natural divide in Florence. I wasn’t the only one being drawn to the river. Many people walked alongside it that day, and Ponte Vecchio was almost full to the brim with tourists and Italians alike.
While walking, I allowed myself to be lost in thought while looking at my surroundings. This was my second semester here in this beautiful city, and I felt like I hadn’t given it enough appreciation my first time around. The first semester’s time was spent finding ways to comfort myself abroad and now I feel pretty immersed in my experience without any worry.
The day’s sun had warmed the air and had started to recede, changing the sky around me to different colored gradients. From a pale yellow amidst blue, to pinks and purples. The Arno reflected them back towards the sky. Light reflected off the buildings around me, pulling me further along the river. “No wonder the spring semester’s enrolment seems bigger,” I thought to myself.
Which brought me to the most valuable reflection of my walk that I could share with others: try to spend more than one semester abroad. I’m sure some people may be capable of immersing themselves in a new cultural experience instantaneously. I, however, was not one of these people. I needed the time to become accustomed to my new environment, and one semester seems to fly-by. Once you find yourself finally used to a new place… you return home.
Granted, I’m an incredibly lucky individual being able to spend another semester abroad. Not many people are given this amazing opportunity, and the decision to stay abroad longer is a difficult one. Just as it’s a lot of work the first-time around, it requires the same diligence and application to do it again.
I’m forever grateful for this life, this opportunity, and this overall experience. I have so many people that have helped me get here. The weather is starting to warm, and walks are not only enjoyable—but perfect times to remind oneself of where you are. That day I thanked the Arno for helping me understand and appreciate my life, accomplishments, and find excitement for the future.