Courtney Cranford is a student at Emporia State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.
I am extremely directionally challenged. All my friends and family can attest. It’s honestly embarrassing. The GPS is a beautiful invention that has allowed my terrible weakness to go under the radar for quite some time.
One time, I was driving to a friend’s house, which I had visited nearly a thousand times over the course of almost a decade. I missed my turn and ended up driving around aimlessly for almost an hour before I found it again.
All of this to say, traveling 5,000 miles from my town in Manhattan (Kansas, not New York) to Florence, Italy was a very fun and adventurous transition. Until I saw the streets.
Florence is a beautiful city, home to ornate cathedrals and churches, world famous architecture, and countless muPPseums. It truly feels like living in two time zones, one rich with the history of the past, and the other keeping pace with modern times.
However, for someone like me, the narrow streets, long connected buildings, and everything seeming to look completely identical is somewhat of an accident waiting to happen. In fact I have had lots of “typical American tourist” moments already.
I enjoy green and open spaces. And despite what some people may think, Kansas sunsets are hands down the prettiest you will ever see. I didn’t recognize it at first, but city life was starting to weigh on me. It became a huge stress to have to pull out a map and try to remember all the lefts and rights I would have to take before I finally made it to the market, or my next class. It all seemed so daunting.
But then my roommate, Nikki, and I took a hike up to Piazza Michelangelo, an open area that overlooks the whole city. With our cameras in hand, Nikki and I watched the sun go down over the city, until Florence was all that lit up the sky.
It was there that we met Antonio, an older Italian man who lived down our street. He comes out every night to watch the sunset and to reflect on his life. Literally, every night.
Antonio reminded me why I chose to spend this semester studying abroad in Italy. I chose it to try new things and to experience a completely new culture. I wanted to challenge myself and expand the limits of my comfort zone. I chose Italy to become a better person. To grow.
I chose Italy to let go of my American roots and see the world from a different light. Seeing that sunset over the city lit Florence in a new light, which I needed. It reminded me that the same sun that is setting in Kansas is setting here in Italy. And though it looks different, it is just as beautiful. It was good to remember that Italy is my home.
And that getting lost is part of finding yourself.
The world awaits…discover it.