Photo courtesy of Zoe Bernardi

By: Zoe Bernardi, Columnist

Ciao! Welcome to Florence Italy, my home away from home for the next four months. I am a student from USM and was the Community Editor for The Free Press, before placing my life in a checked bag and large backpack to start a new chapter.

This column will reflect my time here studying abroad: the ups and downs of culture shock, homesickness and planning weekend trips while making friends, studying and keeping touch with those back in the states. Today marks my official start of classes. I am taking 12 credits with classes that fall on Wednesday and Thursday of each week.

The first challenge after applying and getting accepted into Florence University of the Arts (FUA) was packing. I currently live in a large apartment with 9 girls that is about a 30 minutes walk outside of the city center. Yes, 9 girls. I had to minimize my life and all my belongings into about 50 pounds. After a week of putting together outfits, reducing my shoe collection and eating my last American meals I was ready to go.

Two quick flights and 9 hours later I had arrived!

Since I live in an apartment, I knew I would have to make my own meals and go grocery shopping. Little did I know how stressful and overwhelming grocery shopping would be. I think in correlation with being exhausted, meeting my flat mates and getting used to a new environment this one errand was the breaking point.

I was confused. I had no idea where anything was. I couldn’t read any of the boxes or ingredients and felt defeated. I felt so stupid, like a lost dog, unsure of where to go. I knew what I wanted, I had made a list. But then… blank. I had nowhere to look.

Before leaving USM we had an informational meeting, discussed the policies and talked about culture shock. Then I shook it off, “yea, yea, different language, but it’s a city they have to speak some english, I’ll figure it out!” I probably shouldn’t have. Culture shock hit me in the face. So soon, as well. I took for granted that I can read every ingredient on the box in America, or that eggs are usually next to the milk. When you want fresh fruit, you better put a glove on or you will be yelled at in Italian by the eldery women next to you.

I knew culture shock was going to happen, I just didn’t know it’d be so soon.
Now after a week I do feel more adjusted. I learned that it’s easier to:
1. Take your time in the store.
2. Look up key ingredients in Italian so you know what to look for.
3. Asking for help isn’t bad,
4. Not be ashamed to not know the language.

I am excited to learn more about the area. I am unpacked, classes have started, I know my way around to each campus building in the city. I’m making friends and getting closer with my flatmates. For me, a routine is the best way to feel adapted somewhere. I feel more immersed with each day I am here, and I am excited for what’s to come.

In the upcoming weeks I have a four day trip to Interlaken, Switzerland, and a day trip to Pisa and Lucca, to see the leaning tower and the neighboring city. Every day I take on new challenges and get closer to becoming a local.


  1. We loved the article. We knew you would be able to adjust. All good things are worth waiting for. We love you and look forward to hearing more!


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