My Space Shrank When My World Grew

In Florence, Italy, the typical American ‘personal-space bubble’ shrinks to the approximate size of your bathing suit.

When a bus is packed full, no one falls over until that one man gets off and leaves a gap. Then you can be sure that at least three people will fall into that hole before the next stop.

If you make eye contact with the driver before you step into the street, you forfeit your right-of-way. He now knows you are aware of his moving 1.2

This is my fifth trip to Europe, but by studying abroad this time around, I hope to see Italian culture from backstage. I will be living in Florence for three and a half months, and doing so with a host family–two advantages I have never experienced before.

Tonight marks the end of my first week in Italy, although I just began class yesterday. I felt quite at home within three days: my host mom, Cristina, has played a huge role in making sure of that. (However, I recently found out that she will be cleaning my room and doing my laundry this semester, so that takes away from the at-home feeling somewhat–in a good way, I think!)

At first I was a tourist. I visited Florence for three days six and a half years ago, and I was surprised at how much I remembered–but I was still a tourist.

The following morning, I found myself ‘annoyed’ with the throngs of tourists. ‘I must be adjusting already,’ I thought. ‘This is what the locals must feel like everyday.’

But when I awoke the third morning, I knew that was not true. By this point I did not see the tourists as a problem; they were simply a part of the natural background of daily life 1.3

I am only taking 12 credits this semester. I’m used to taking almost twice that many most semesters, so this semester should be a breeze. I did that on purpose; I want to spend as much time exploring Florence (and elsewhere!) as possible. I’ve already found a couple study spots around the city that I’m going to keep tucked away in the back of my mind.

Today’s spot was outside the old Tribunale on the wide benches across the street. Yesterday I sat outside the Lorenzo chapel, and today as yesterday I seemed to go unnoticed by most tourists walking by, allowing me time to write, study and observe. That’s what I do.


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