AIFS Photo Challenge/Fiona’s Thoughts

AIFS (my study abroad program) organised a cool photo challenge for this week among all the student ambassadors/bloggers. This is my entry ūüôā

Criteria:

1. One photo of yourself with something famous in Florence (taken by someone else or a self-portrait).

2. A landscape/background/building with personal significance.


2. “The call to adventure.”

One of the statues by Pio Fedi in the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza Signoria.

[Warning: A particularly long story follows. Feel free to skim. -Fiona]

¬† ¬† ¬†This statue is so emotionally gripping and drastic.¬†The twisting figures and the¬†image of a girl being grabbed and about to be taken away (even though in this case it’s not a positive departure; the piece is called¬†The Rape of Polyxena¬†).

Putting aside the statues mythological content, I can interpret this statue as a call to adventure, which is the beckoning of an adventure to a “hero.”

Joseph Campbell writes:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man”

¬† ¬† I’m¬†a 19-year-old student living away from home for the first time. I’ve ventured from my common day into what feels like a supernatural wonder. I feel like I’ve been stolen into an adventure, and can sometimes feel a¬†secret burst of exhilaration that I’m living in Florence; I’m living an adventure.

But, once in a while, I feel a twinge of homesickness. A few months before I had any notion of studying abroad, I was curled up on the sofa in California watching a movie with my mom, as we often do. We were watching the 1985 version of A Room with a View, which is based on a novel by E.M. Forester (you can read the novel for free here, at Project Gutenberg).

A young English girl living during the Edwardian Era in England, Lucy Honeychurch, comes to visit Florence with an overbearing cousin/chaperone to experience foreign culture. It is, perhaps, an overly optimistic and romantic movie, and not something I’d typically take any interest in, but I like relaxing with a cup of tea and my mom. The old views of¬†Italy seemed distant and exotic.

Lucy actually ends up walking about some of Florence’s streets, witnesses a murder (she faints) in the Piazza della Signoria (which is right by the Palazzo Vecchio and the statue pictured above),¬† and visits the Santa Croce church (which is only a few blocks from my apartment)!

To me, this movie is symbolic of the huge shift in my perspective since having lived here for 2 months. It’s hard to describe the feeling of¬†re-watching snippets of this¬†movie.¬†The¬†scenes that recently seemed foreign and exotic and now feel familiar¬†and are easily identifiable, as I walked through them nearly daily.¬†It’s a feeling of pride, like I’m on the in on a¬†special secret. I can give directions to central piazzas, Churches, and can recommend gelaterias. I enter stores/restaurants and am¬†greeted by name by the locals I’ve made friends with. I no longer feel lost and tiny in an intimidating city; Florence feels like a new home.

This also sparked some¬†curiosity about¬†how much living here has really changed me. I suppose I’ll have to wait for the culture shock of returning home,and feedback from my friends and family back home, to really grasp this. I think that living here has, of course, been an amazing travel experience. My perspective of the world has grown. I’m pretty young, and I know¬†I’ve had something of a growing-up experience. I know that I will walk away from Italy — in one short month — a more worldly¬†person that has been changed by what she’s seen.

This may sound cliché, but I can hope that I can return a more mature person, and a better sister, daughter and friend.

And I can only wish (and plot) my return to Florence, whenever that may be. I know that¬†this won’t be my last visit. I suppose this one of those moments where I have to tell you to take any opportunity to travel you can get. The point of travel is that you cannot anticipate what you will experience¬†and¬†(more importantly) how you will change. You can¬†leave a place, that place will never truly leave¬†you.

No matter your age or economic status, there is always¬†some way to travel. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” When pondering the difficulties of life, I often think to myself “is there really no way I could accomplish this? I have the rest of my life to figure it out.” Somehow feeling the abundance of life still left to me inspires me to do my best.

Thank you for reading/skimming,

-Fiona ūüôā

[I will later link the blog posts of my fellow AIFS student bloggers so that you can take a look and decide on who you think won the photo challenge!]