Andrews is a junior graphic design and magazine major and can be contacted at email@example.com
Photos Courtesy of Sarah Andrews
• Climb to the top of the Duomo
• Go inside Santa Croce to see Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Dante’s tombs
• Eat pear pasta, bruschetta and Nutella gelato from an authentic Tuscan restaurant
• Take shots with your best friends at the Shot Café
• Dance with an Italian
• Dance with another Italian
• Assume the fetal position and weep in the streets of Florence because you can’t leave this place or these people
These are just the highlights of my last 24 hours as an honorary Florentine.
That last night was simultaneously the happiest, saddest and, above all, the most humiliating night of my life.
Let me explain. Never have I ever been as happy or comfortable with my life or myself than I was while in Florence. Had I been a cartoon character, I would have been whistling, skipping and singing with those cute little animals you see in Disney movies. I was that happy. And until that final night, I thought my life there would never end.
Saying my goodbyes that night felt like a stab in the heart. It was borderline ridiculous how upset I was (picture Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”). It didn’t hit me that my life in Italy was ending until I had to say goodbye to my new friends before leaving for my flight at 5:00 a.m. It honestly felt like I had known the people in my program for years, not a few short months.
Florence felt like home, and my new friends there felt like family.
Even with all the tears and sorrows of leaving, it was relieving and comforting to see my real family (especially my dogs) when I got home. But thankfully, I was slightly more prepared for how I would be feeling when I returned to Kansas City than when I left Florence.
I knew I wouldn’t want to be hanging out alone in my house with nothing to do, so I decided to tag along with a friend and go up to Drake for a weekend. It was definitely the right decision. I had so much fun at my sorority’s formal and it was refreshing to see everyone and catch up with old friends.
Aside from the weekend in Des Moines, being back in the States wasn’t quite as fun or easy. The first few weeks were spent catching up on sleep, dreaming of Italy and consequently waking up very disoriented in my own room. It took all the strength I had to resist returning to the fetal position and weeping like I did on that last embarrassing night in Florence. My mom would have been considerably more comforting than the Italians who laughed at me on the street, but nobody wants to get stuck with a blubbering, crying mess.
As great as it was to be back in the house with my mom, it was also just surreal. Everything was just as I’d left it. I had made sure to call my mom every day while I was gone, so there was no catching up to do. Nothing in my room had moved. TV shows were generally the same. The dogs certainly hadn’t changed. It felt like somebody had pushed the pause button on life while I was away.
Returning to Drake was much the same as my return home, but there was a lot more stress and a lot more of my own laundry to do. My friends are still the same people. Porterhouse the bulldog is still here. I still have a second home in Meredith. Hubbell is a little different, but for the most part, everything seems to be just as I left it.
It’s a little cliché, but being abroad really does change you. It’s a weird, overwhelming feeling to have an experience like that and return to an unchanged life.