Words by Rose Linehan, a history and education major from Mount Saint Mary College who studied abroad in Florence during summer term 2016.
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Before going abroad, getting lost in a foreign city sounded like one of the most terrifying things to me. I thought about it a lot and hoped that I would never find myself in such a situation while studying abroad. The second night I arrived in Florence, my friends and I decided to go out and find the CAPA center. We were told it was simple to get to: go straight for five blocks; make a right after three blocks and you should arrive. Well, that was so wrong! We wound up getting lost for over an hour and a half. We were in a random city we knew little to nothing about, we were starting to get hungry, and our feet were killing us. Although this may sound like a nightmare, it was one of the best things that could have happened to us.
Luckily, we had maps on us so we tried to find our way back. We were really struggling to get back to our apartment and since we hadn't even been there two full days, we did not recognize any familiar landmarks. In between trying to figure out the map and attempting to ask people for directions, it was quite an entertaining experience. Saying that I am so grateful for this experience is an understatement. We pretty much made our way around the whole city of Florence that night!
First, we found so many great restaurants, gelato places, coffee shops, etc. We made sure to take note of every place that looked good, and later on we went back to all the places we discovered. We found tons of great shopping and even better, some of the most scenic views. We even ran into tons of locals that we got to talk to and practice our (little to no) Italian with! In one long night we got the best tour of Florence all thanks to ourselves.
This helped us expand our horizons and go to the other side of town so early into the trip. We had the rest of the month to take advantage of all the amazing places the city of Florence has to offer. Even better, we always knew where we were going because we had been to so many places already. We always knew where we were and how to get around. It was easy to play tour guide to our friends and show them cool places we discovered. You never know where you’ll wind up when you explore, but you can be sure it will be worth it.
I would recommend that you go out and walk as far as you can before trying to find your way back to your origin. This allows you to take a beautiful walking tour of your host city and find some cool, unknown places. This may also give you the practice you need to become acquainted with using a map. Many people are afraid to use maps because they do not want to be labeled as a tourist, but maps are so helpful and should be something that you always have on you. Getting lost also gives you the chance to mingle with the locals. Florence is filled with some of the best, most friendly people who are always willing to stop and talk.
Go out, travel, talk and make the most of your time abroad. This is going to be one of the best experiences of your life, so don’t take it for granted!