making it to italy

I am here. I am in Italy. I am getting ready for a year of growth. A year filled with new experiences as I study in this beautiful country for the next eight months. I want to dive into this rich, beautiful culture, to learn, to live.
This past week has been one of changes. I said goodbye to my family on Sunday night, August 31, and was on a flight to L.A.X. by 7am. The last night with my family was perfect. We moved thanksgiving up to August 31′ so that the whole family could have thanksgiving together since I will not be home for the holidays this year. Saying goodbye to my family was hard, especially knowing that I would not see them for eight months.
I spent three days with friends on campus in Malibu, which was exactly what I needed before I left the country for the year. Being united with the ocean again was remarkable.
I met the rest of the students who I would be traveling with to Italy at L.A.X. on Wednesday, September 3rd. After spending hours trying to get through security and checked bags and $200.00 later, I made it to the terminal for a flight to Paris. I learned that AirFrance is very particular with bags you can check and carry on, and I learned that traveling abroad with school books and clothes to last a year will definitely cost extra money.
The flight to Paris was peaceful. I actually met a European sculptor, who happened to be sitting right next to me. We talked along the way and I definitely appreciated his travel advice and good company.
After the 11 hour flight, I was exhausted as I could not fall asleep on the plane. We had a three hour layover in Paris and landed in Florence around 4pm. When we arrived we headed over to the Pepperdine villa in downtown Florence where I will be studying and living for the next eight months along with 51 other students. We were greeted with a delicious dinner- pasta, salad, and bread, of course! After we picked our roommates and traveled to a beautiful piazza, it was time to unpack and make the villa our home. I am rooming with two girls, Zoe and Mckenzie. Zoe and I get along extremely well and are already dear friends, which I am thankful for.
Unlike my time in Spain, it has taken me a long time to adjust from the time change here in Italy. The day after we arrived in Florence, I woke up early and ran around the city, which I have done daily since coming here. Running in the morning has refreshed me and helped me get to know the city better but often makes me even more exhausted by nighttime. The first few days here we had an intense orientation that began at 8am and did not finish until at least 9pm. I napped whenever I was given the opportunity, which was not often. Even today, after about five days into my journey, I still feel pretty tired. Today we started an intensive Italian course that consists of in class Italian review and real life applications of Italian in Florence in bars, cafés, and the post office.
We have taken various day trips thus far. We have taken various tours of the Piazzale Michelangelo and around Florence. And, we took a day trip to Fiesole as well, which is a gorgeous little city outside of Florence. On Sunday we went to Siena and San Gimignano. Siena was stunning, I was able to walk up to the top of a tower in Siena and look out over the Tuscan countryside which was unreal. While on the tower in Siena, I met a student from UCLA who was studying in Italy as well, which was awesome. San Gimignano was gorgeous as well, with fantastic countryside views, adorable cafés, brick roads, adorable locals, and amazing bars and restaurants. While here I have changed my diet a bit. I have been vegan for over three years but here I decided to just be vegetarian, which was a wise decision, I have discovered. The food here is extremely high quality, the fruits and vegetables are so pure and fresh, I can taste the difference. At home I don’t typically eat gluten because I feel sick when I do so, but here I have been eating gluten and I feel great. The gelato here is probably the best thing I have ever had, undoubtably (I’m a sweet tooth). The pasta, salads, desserts, pastries, cookies, drinks, everything is so good, almost too good. Meaning, I will definitely have to keep up my running every morning.
Adjusting has not been easy but I know it will get better. I am surrounded by new faces in an unknown place. But, I love it. It is an adventure I have always dreamed having, and here I am, studying abroad in Florence. Planning trips for the weekends have made me even more excited for my year, it’s hard to believe I’ll be having to do school work as well while I’m here. We have intensive Italian all this week and I begin my glasses on Monday, September 15th. I am so excited to begin classes. I have a wonderful opportunity here, learning from amazing Italian professors. Since I have already taken two semesters of Italian at school that puts me one class above all the other students, meaning I get a private Italian teacher for the year. I am thrilled, I almost cannot believe how blessed I am! I met my professoressa today and she seems wonderful, I cannot wait to dive into the Italian language and culture this year, to travel throughout Italy and even meet my Italian family in my dad’s side that lives here.
I am here, in Europe. All of you along with me in spirit, and I with you in prayers. I could not be more thankful for this time I have abroad, to get to know Florence, to get to know Italy, to get to know myself. As I grow this year I hope to grow in love, optimism, experiences, knowledge, and greater understanding- of the world, of myself, of God. I hope all of you will grow along with me this year. I know that every opportunity is an opportunity for growth, whether you’re in Europe or not. So I challenge all of you to try new things with me, to widen your perspectives, to strive to live your life in thankfulness, and to love above all else.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.
























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