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


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!]


Forza Fiorentina! — The Soccer Game

Fiorentina is Florence’s soccer team. I went to the Fiorentina v. Atalanta soccer game with AIFS and my study abroad classmates.

Italy is a young country that is formed of separatists –It is a country united in its disunity. Soccer (or in Europe, “futbol”) is one of the only arenas in which people come together.

(Not my photograph)

Fiorentina v. Atalanta: I got very cold from sitting down in the cold stadium during the first half of the game, so after the intermission I ditched my seat and stood between some classmates and an enthusiastic group of Italians; the man next to me waved a huge flag (It was at least 6 feet across).

During the last minutes of the game the Italians and I were intent on the score.

(Not my photo) — Rossi channeling team spirit.

My eyes were glued to the ball– and I saw it slam into Atalanta’s goal — in the next instant my world exploded.

We’d won, 2–0

The Italian guy grabbed me and literally jumped up and down with me screaming with happiness. I yelled and waved my fist in the air. In the following moment, an extremely short Italian woman had grabbed me by the shoulder and leaped up and down while screaming with joy. It was a priceless experience.

I bought a jersey before the game like many of the other people in my group.

Rossi is Fiorentina’s American soccer player — he was born in the U.S. and lived there until he was 12 before moving to Italy. He was recently injured so he actually didn’t play at the game I went to.

The stadium: Jed (AIFS staff member) warned us that the stadium is more “basic” than us Americans are used to. I don’t attend sports games in the U.S., and I thought the stadium was adorable and cool. There are huge, clear panels that separate the home team from the visiting team to prevent violence or thrown objects from hitting fans. The stadium isn’t covered either.

If anything, I admire the straightforward approach to soccer. Fans go to watch in every sort of weather (it’s frowned-upon to leave early for any reason). I’m somewhat critical of the American attitude toward sports as it is.¬†The energy of the Europeans’ love of soccer here is tangible and so real — it’s the one thing that can bridge Italy’s divisions. Their spirit (and skill) earned my respect.

Soccer is the world’s sport. America is unique in it’s lonely pursuit of baseball and American football. Soccer is played around the world by nearly every country¬†¬†— it’s the international game.

(I don’t have any photos of the game because large, “professional-looking” cameras aren’t allowed (camera’s with a removable lens). The small-camera people beat me out on this one! Check out¬†Elizabeth’s photos of the game¬†though.)

Tips for attending a soccer game:

  • Wear the team colours! Don’t buy a jersey if it’s during one of the cold months. I’d buy a jacket (if you don’t mind buying something more expensive) or a scarf. It’s so cold that you’ll have to bundle up over your jersey.
  • Bring a waterproof in case, it has been known to rain.
  • Don’t bring your big camera — anything “professional looking” or that has a removable lens.
  • Bring a form of I.D. — Driver’s license or passport are great.
  • Dress warmly.
  • Don’t just watch the game– watch the crowd! Try to stand next to an Italian group. It’s fun to listen to them cussing out the other team.
  • Don’t bring any knives or lighters. Don’t bring anything that could be thrown at people.