Finding Florence

Kristine Kelly is a student at Central Connecticut State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy

“Text me when you get back.”

A single light in the window of the bakery indicated it would be less than an hour before the scent of freshly made bread wafted its way up into our bedroom windows. Like every morning, the smells would soon mingle with chef Andrea’s hearty laughter, and the “clicks” of Italian leather shoes on the cobblestones below. But for now, the impeccably dressed locals and astounded tourists, had yet to crowd the piazza’s and alleyways; I was welcomed back from a weekend in Spain with only sleepy whispers of familiar Florentine life.

Pressing my shoulders against our towering ISA apartment door, I dropped my bags and closed my eyes. In the quiet, I remembered standing in the same spot for the first time four months ago- determined to find adventure–unaware I was about to walk into so much more.

Before I pushed open the door on via Borgo Pinti, I didn’t know how it felt to lay on snowy ground deep within the Alps–forgetting to breathe as shooting stars rained down over mountains too big to climb. I didn’t know what it was like to listen to the first notes of “La Vie en Rose” pour from the street musician’s accordion and into the waves of the French Rivera, or the thrill of navigating darkened paths high above Florence, just in time to watch the rising sun replace the glow of the streetlights. No one told me I’d spend a Tuesday night laughing and dancing around our kitchen, realizing the strangers twirling across from me had become family.

No amount of reading could have prepared me to roam ancient towns, ride vespas through rolling hills or run down pristine beaches under cloudless skies.  No emails could have encompassed the feeling of being surrounded by teachers, ISA staff and friends living with such veracity and appreciation for the world around them; the kind of people whose own lives challenge you to be a better person. That’s the funny thing about studying abroad; when you decide to go, you expect to find adventure.  But one day, somewhere across an ocean, standing alone on a quiet side street, you also just might find yourself completely at home. 

Trying not to think about when early mornings spent running along the Ponte Vecchio and horse drawn carriages, would be a distant memory, I picked up my bag. Just as the smell of baking bread began to drift onto the street, I turned toward the door and climbed the marble staircase for one of the last times.

With a heart full of gratitude and memories, I sent a “two word” text flying across the Atlantic.

“I’m home.”


The world awaits…discover it.

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