Lauren Kelley, a junior journalism and public relations major from McKinney, Texas, took part in the Baylor in Florence study abroad program this past summer. In this first of two posts, Lauren describes how her attachment to the city and people of Florence grew while living overseas.
Home Away from Home
By Lauren Kelley
Standing in San Marco Square in Venice, I see tourists feeding birds and capturing a million pictures. Children eat gelato and couples watch the sun set. At a restaurant I see an Italian man playing his violin for the newlyweds at dinner. Walking around the square, I see people of all races with headsets in their ears, listening to their tour guide. Although people travel thousands of miles to see amazing historical buildings, cities such as these are places I can only stay for a short time. Before long, I find myself wanting to go back to Florence. At that moment, I realize I think of Florence as home.
Venice is the city on water that everyone dreams of visiting. From the pictures you see gorgeous canals and gondolas rowed by strong Italian men. It is a city of endless romance, worldly tourism and aging history. Being on a study abroad trip, I appreciate having the opportunities to travel to so many places on the weekends. But Florence has become the place I feel comfortable living in. Climbing up the stairs to my apartment after a long weekend of Venice, I take a large sigh of relief knowing I am back home.
Florence has become a place I recognize after taking the effort to learn the culture and lifestyle. After only a few weeks, to be able to say I can call a place outside of America home is an accomplishment in fully grasping the point of this trip. Our professors told us they want us to learn how to interact with people who don’t speak our language. There is even a huge difference in how the Venetians and the Florentines live their lives, even though they both live in Italy.
Not everyone can say that they have even traveled out of the United States. But to say that you can be comfortable and stable in a place that is yet still foreign is more than what many people can account for.
In Venice, getting to see all of the aspects of the city was nothing less than wonderful, but on a tightly packed schedule it is difficult to enjoy the serene Venetian lifestyle. To be able to sit down at a coffee shop and people watch in the public square is how people enjoy their stay.
I imagine Venice as a place to have a three hour-long dinner with your husband, then take a light stroll along the river and a relaxing gondola ride down the Grand Canal. And while Venice can provide that relaxing experience, it is difficult to have all that on a weekend trip with a time crunch.
Florence has become a home for me because I can make the effort to know the owners and families of the restaurants and establish a relationship with them. After the owners realize you keep coming back, then they will treat you like family. I recognize the people who live near me as I pass them on my way to the store. I take the same path to school every day and I have learned what items to get at the store although they are in Italian. Becoming familiar with the streets and the people of Florence has impacted me, and I feel like a true Italian citizen as I do my daily errands.
Even though having a weekend in Venice was a great opportunity to see all the historical buildings, winding canals and narrow alleyways, I appreciate Florence as a place to live life and call home.