Kayla Sides is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A psychology major, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester through the custom program at Norco College.
From stairs to crowds to budgeting, in this week's post, Kayla shares the top 10 struggles of studying abroad in Florence.
As amazing as studying abroad in this beautiful city is, there are definitely moments when you have no choice but to use “#thestruggleisreal”. Here are some struggles that either I or other students have faced during our three months here. In no particular order…
1. THE LANGUAGE BARRIER. What? Huh? Cosa? Sorry, non parlo italiano! This is the obvious struggle in pretty much any non-English-speaking country you travel to. Whether you’re ordering food or just trying to make new friends, not being able to speak the native language can serve to be quite the struggle. It’s difficult to share your thoughts and get help when you need it simply because you cannot communicate your needs. It also sucks when an Italian wants to talk to you and is passionate about what they’re talking about just to find out that you had no idea what they were saying for the past few minutes.
Solution: Get the “Duolingo” app or take advantage of the Italian classes provided by CAPA.
2. GETTING SICK. Traveling overseas does something to your immune system. Let me tell you, I only get sick 1-2 times a year in the US. I’ve gotten very sick 5-6 times in Europe. Thankfully, the pharmacists here know decent English and can provide you with effective medicine within minutes.
Solution: Eat healthy food, make sure you drink water, and invest in some vitamins for your immune system.
3. FEEDING YOURSELF. You will constantly find yourself between three options: Make your own food, buy food, or starve. I know, I’m dramatic. But, I feel like if you ask anyone who studied here, they would relate to that on one level or another. So, you can cook for yourself. This requires you to have minimal cooking skills and motivation to buy groceries. What was our favorite go-to? You guessed it, PASTA. Super easy, super quick, and almost impossible to mess up. The other option is going out and buying food. The only downside to this is the fact that you’ll be spending money quite often.
Solution: Learn how to cook, go out to eat sometimes, but please, don’t starve.
4. THE "STUDY" IN "STUDY ABROAD". There are a lot of times when you will find yourself lost in the magical details of Florence and will be pulled back down to reality with school and deadlines. Let’s be honest, as much as all of us dislike homework and exams, that’s really the reason why we can study abroad! It is very easy and do-able to manage your time and make exploring and homework fit into the same schedule.
Solution: Suck it up and do your work, then reward yourself with some gelato and sightseeing!
5. HOMESICKNESS. Aw, the feels. Everyone experiences homesickness wherever they go, I think. Just remember, your friends and family are only a phone call – and nine hours – away.
Solution: Remind yourself that they are supporting you and are probably really proud of what you’re accomplishing here. There are always ways to contact them; just make sure you keep the time difference in mind!
6. THE STAIRS. Remember, Florence is an OLD city. So old that elevators and escalators are extremely rare here. You are forced to drag yourself up the stairs EVERYWHERE – your apartment, a store, the schools, everywhere. Solution: Sorry, I can’t help you there!
7. STAYING HEALTHY AND FIT. There will come a point in time when you realize that the number of carbs you consume does not match up with the amount of exercise you do. There will also come a time when you remember that there is more to eat than bread, pizza and pasta. It’s very easy to inhale every piece of food you see here without thinking twice about it. If you do not exercise or forget to drink plenty of water, the strength of your immune system and your energy will start to decrease.
Solution: Carry a bottle of water around with you all the time and make sure to drink it all 3-4 times daily. Also, make sure you fit fruits and veggies into your diet! If you don’t want to pay for a gym membership, you can always do exercises at home as well as run around the city to get some extra cardio in!
8. THE FOOT TRAFFIC. Living in the center of a popular city like Florence will land you a spot right in the middle of the pool of tourism. Depending on when you study there, there are certain months when tourism reaches its peaks and you will be forced to navigate around and through mobs of groups and people with no clue that they’re standing in the middle of the one and only walkway you need to get to your destination. I promise, you will run into people and you will find yourself dealing with foot traffic the same way you deal with traffic on a freeway.
Solution: Explore the city more and you’ll realize that there are a countless number of routes to take to get to a destination. So, you can easily skip the busy and popular streets if you really need to.
9. BUDGETING. Ah, money. Don’t you just hate when you have money, but then you see delicious food or beautiful clothes that you absolutely NEED in your life and when you look down at your wallet again, it’s empty? Well, that my friend, will be a constant struggle here if you are not mindful about your money. Yes, there are moments when unnecessary spending is tempting, but if you add up all the times you said, “Wow, this is only three euro?”, you will see that all those “good deals” quickly cleared out your wallet.
Solution: Divide your money up in categories: Travel, groceries and other necessities, and spending money. Don’t stress yourself out too much; just be mindful! You can spend money, just don’t waste it.
10. ACCEPTING THAT YOU'RE STUDYING ABROAD. Hitting the sad reality that you’ll eventually have to leave sucks. You are technically a tourist, just a long-term tourist. You WILL fall in love with Florence and you might not want to leave by the end of the program.
Solution: Carpe diem. Make the most out of your time in Florence. Don’t let the thought of leaving stop you from doing everything you wanted to do here. Use it as motivation to not only accomplish things during the program, but to also, maybe, come back in the future if you really want to.
Kayla's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.