Since I was about 12-years-old, I have had romantic thoughts about what other countries would be like. To walk down streets that had character and history. To meet Big Ben in person, walk the great wall of China, and see where so many Christian’s were put to death in the great collisieum. I wanted to get a taste of what others lives were like.
My first opportunity to make these dreams come true is by studying abroad in Florence, Italy for the semester.
Heaps of paperwork, about a dozen stamps, some frustrated phone calls, and a dash of bravery later, I was checked in to the international terminal (terminal five to be exact) at the O’hare airport in Chicago. I had somehow managed to pack what I hoped to be an adequate amount of clothing for the next four months, said some difficult good byes to loved ones, and was now anxiously waiting to board a flight that would take me to my first foreign destination ever: London. London is where I would meet up with a majority of the other students in my study abroad program.
For the next two days, we both guided and encouraged to roam about the city, finding our way armed only with old fashioned paper maps, and our travelers instincts. Managing to only get very very lost once, I was pretty happy with the navigation skills that the other girls and I showed.
Saturday, bright and early, all the luggage was heaved down the stairs and into trailers that were pulled by charter buses (yes, charter buses were pulling little trailers and it was as funny as it sounds). They were taking us to Heathrow airport where we would finally fly to Italy.
A three hour flight, some standing in line to get passports stamped, more lugging of the luggage, and finally a short rainy walk later, and we were on yet another bus that took us from the airport in Pisa to Florence, our new home.
The stories you hear and the pictures you see of the Tuscan country side are in no way exaggerated. The bright green with pinpricks of golden honey and toast topped with terra cotta that were homes littering the terrain were as I pictured them after seeing so many movies and pictures. The mountains that cut the horizon were something that I did not expect but were a pleasant surprise. Even though it was overcast, and misty, Italy was somehow felt bright and vibrant.
I drank in these views, knowing that the wonderment I was feeling was something that only comes in the form of a first experience.