Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

One Year Later

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

 When you go abroad, no one informs you that you might fall in love with a country. That it will be intoxicating, thrilling, nerve-wracking and sometimes, painful, all at once. But thats exactly what happened to me. I fell completely in love with Florence; with the food, the streets, the buildings, the people, the art and the history. I think about my time there every single day; fifty-two weeks have come and gone so quickly, but the feeling is still fresh. 

The fact that it has been one full year since I started my journey to live and study in Italy is a little surreal. Little did I know that those five months abroad would have changed my life so much.  Looking back, it was an experience that I never fully appreciated until returning to the U.S. Being able to walk through a city of vast art and history everyday as I walked to and from school, right in the heart of Florence wasn’t something that at the time I could fully comprehend. However, once you leave a place like that, it all seems to be put into perspective. 

Florence surprised me. I expected Europe to be a magical kingdom, state-of-the art, innovative, clean, pristine, elite, glorified. However, my eyes were opened to the opposite. The beauty wasn’t in the exterior, but in the soul of description. The buildings are breath-taking because they’re rich, ancient and ornate, the cobblestones hurt but they’re culturally unique, the Ponte Vecchio needs some serious remodeling but it has been standing since the Renaissance period, and the Arno River is green but it’s in Florence, Italy and the city is so full of heart that it doesn’t matter.

I remember sitting on the Ponte Vecchio my last night in Florence, taking everything in one last time and crying because I was so humbled to be there. In that moment, everything I had been searching for during my trip came into full circle. Florence is magnificent, but at the end of the day, and at the end of our times, it won't matter how many bars you hopped to, how many friends you had, how much bread you ate, how many times you bought gelato, how many pictures you took, how many clubs you hit, how much wine you drank. What matters is the people who you can share these experiences with, and who you can recount your stories to. 

To those of you who are about to start this whirlwind of an adventure, make sure you approach each situation with a sense of awe and appreciation. There are too many of us "study abroad alumni" who would do anything to be in your shoes. So for now, I will just continue to keep a price alert on flights to Florence for a much needed reunion. 

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