Tomorrow is the day. My nerves are overshadowed by excitement to start my spring semester abroad. The process of organizing everything which led me to this point has not been possible without some amazing people. Thanking my parents only seems natural, as well as the lovely folks in the study abroad office, but there is one particular friend who I owe so much to because she helped me paint a new reality of what’s to come and gave me the answers of how to be best prepared when navigating through the Italian culture.

This friend was introduced to me at one of my numerous study abroad meetings and she was there because she actually attended the same program in Florence just this past year. She, like myself, was a sophomore during the spring semester who attended the Florentine University. However, I was utterly shocked at her bravery when she had admitted she was one of the first of our students to ever travel to Florence. I had been so stressed earlier that week because of the woes of applying for a visa seemed larger than life, but when I heard she willingly traveled where no student had gone before my claim to stress quickly dissipated.

After our initial introduction we had decided to swap numbers and she was gracious enough to agree to lunch one day, dedicating the time for me to shower her with a plethora of questions. I had made a list with everything that made me worried or confused, like the process of buying textbooks in Italy, and what would the apartments be like. She quickly answered everything, giving me advice on the easiest avenue to achieve little things, such as how to pleasantly interact with locals.

There were so many good tips that she gave me. I could tell she wanted me to be aware of so I did not have to endure the hardships that she initially experienced. I was so grateful to her because I realized that as much as I try to prepare myself there will be an awkward phase when learning the ropes in Italy. I can read as many books and blog posts as I want to try to avoid the most simple of missteps, but the reality is talking to people like her is what will help me be successful. She’s one of the only resources that have been in my exact position and has experienced the vast contrast of both universities. I am indebted to her and I feel secure knowing that she’s only a text away if I feel lost in the city she grew to love.

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