First Impressions

3 Feb

My first week of classes here at CAPA’s program in Florence, Italy has come to an end and I’m about to start the next. Surprisingly, this week has not only passed by pretty fast, but it has also changed me. Now, I know that probably sounds like an exaggeration, but at this point, I believe that the first week or so does most of the changing, while the rest of the semester here will just be confirmation. But I guess I can’t know for sure until my final departure. Regardless, that’s just my theory for the moment. Now, I left the country on the Lufthansa Airlines. From my perspective, this flight was pretty nice, mind you, I’ve flown out of the country a couple of times to the Philippines several years ago and Dominican Republic, Singapore, Bali, and Bangkok just this past summer. Now I stopped in Frankfurt, Germany. If anyone ever stops here, don’t forget that when the plane lands, it’s one of those situations where you climb the stairs down and walk to a bus and the bus takes you to another part of the terminal. There you’d go through another screening before being able to get to your final terminal. There, you would take another bus to the plane. Complicated much, but thankfully I made it with barely a minute to spare, considering the bus started moving once i got on. There was a moment of terrible turbulence on the plane, which I am not sure if it was because of the time of year I am going or not, but it reached the point where stuff was falling off the cart and the flight attendant fell into an empty seat. Definitely one of the worst turbulence experiences I’ve had…

Landing in Florence, I needed to prep myself up. This is a new beginning for me. I chopped off more than a foot of my hair to donate to Beautiful Lengths, which is a partnership between Pantene and the American Cancer Society. Also with the new year starting and a new environment, I really needed to remind myself to not just stick in my comfort bubble, but to stay open-minded and branch out to people and opportunities. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and walked over to introduce myself to other students near the baggage claim talking about my program. And here it goes.

CAPA originally told us that we would have to take a taxi to the CAPA center and then the taxi ride to our apartments would be paid for. That didn’t happen and I’m thankful. Someone from CAPA had a sign for all incoming students, since apparently there was a huge group of us arriving at the same time. She then talked to the taxi drivers making sure they knew where to take us (straight to our apartments) and that CAPA would be responsible for paying. I took a cab with 2 of my roommates that I met at the airport. The drive was unbelievable, seeing the architecture of the buildings and the beauty all over, similar to being in the honeymoon stage.

Now I definitely had a slap in the face culture shock when I found myself blank in front of my landlord who doesn’t speak English! Now it might have been wrong of me to assume, but I kind of just assumed that since there were people before us, they might have picked up some english, but they didn’t. It got to the point where she handed me a dictionary to help me put together my question. Thank goodness one of my roommates actually speaks a little Italian, so she managed to get my point across. Whew!

Our apartment is adorable. It’s on Via Bixio, which is right next to this corner gelato store that is supposedly one of the best in Florence, according to reviews online and a local. We live on ground level with a cute, little garden outside our door. Nothing was surprising, except the bidets and the washing machine. Now if you guys were anything like me, I’ve heard of bidets, but never knew what they looked like. I just stared and asked what…is…that? One of my roommates had to explain to me that people use it to spray themselves, basically cleaning themselves after doing their business. So don’t be surprised if you end up seeing one out here! The half bathroom has the washing machine. For the first week, we had no idea how to drain out the water from our clothes so after hang drying them in the bathroom over the bathtub, it takes about 2-3 days to fully dry. The air here is a little more damp than I’m used to. Also, we’re supposed to open the windows for a period of time to prevent mold on the walls. Good to keep in mind! What I find kind of creepy, but for others, it might be cool, but there’s a deli slicer in the closet. None of the girls open the closet because we’re kind of scared to go in. There’s apparently more tools and gadgets in there, but I haven’t searched it out to elaborate haha. Overall though, the whole apartment is very cozy 🙂

Now in terms of heat, it was freezing cold here when we arrived! It felt like it was in the 20s… FAHRENHEIT. I guess it was because the heater hasn’t been used for a while so it still had to get adjusted. But let me explain in a more visual way: the first few nights, this is what I wore to bed: shirt, sweater, thick jacket, thick scarf, gym shorts under sweat pants, and socks. Our blankets are kinda thick, but the first few nights, it wasn’t enough, especially with all that amount of clothing I still found myself shivering.

To wrap it all up, I have a generally good first impression. I will admit I definitely had my moment with the culture shock, but who doesn’t when coming to such a different place for a couple of months!

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