The University of Iowa

Preparing for the summer of a lifetime

June 5th, 2014

By Maddie Rosa

Madeline Rosa is a UI junior majoring in communications and human relations. She is currently studying abroad on the Lorenzo de Medici program in Florence, Italy.

girl sitting on ledge by river

The day finally arrived! My journey to Florence, Italy was about to begin and I couldn’t believe it. Thanks to my mom making me pack two days before (thanks mom), I had nothing but time to kill the day of my flight, which of course caused all of the nerves that seemed so lacking to all of the sudden hit me like a brick wall.  I thought I had gotten all of my nerves out while doing the final check for my passport and other essentials for leaving the country, but boy was I wrong.

My boyfriend drove me to the airport and thankfully walked in with me because when we made our way to the international terminal and I saw all of the different countries flags, it really started to hit me. I could not believe I was about to fly by myself across the ocean to a place I had never been before. So, as I sat in the airport for two hours alone and cried like a babbling fool, I had plenty of time to prepare myself for the long flight ahead. After talking with the older German gentleman sitting next to me on the flight and having our dinners, I got some sleep and voila!

We were in Europe.  My flight landed in Zurich, Switzerland, and I could not believe how beautiful and green it was. Very different from flying into Chicago! I met two girls in the Zurich airport as we waited to connect to Florence and learned that they, too were from Illinois and were in fact doing the same program! It really is a small world.  From the gate, which was very different from the American airports I am used to, we walked outside and onto a small bus that took us to our plane. It felt like a movie.

As soon as I sat down in my seat and got out my neck pillow, it felt like a matter of seconds before we got to Florence since I slept the entire almost two hours.  The girls and I got our luggage, hopped in a cab, and made our way to the check in building in the heart of Florence.  I could not believe my eyes and felt like I had just taken a trip to Disney World, I couldn’t believe we were in Italy.  There were people and cars everywhere, and as we came closer to the heart of the city, the architecture became more and more beautiful.  The three of us stared out of the windows in awe… we were really here!

I finally checked in at the main school building and got my apartment keys.  Here I met a few other girls who lived closer to me, so we decided to take a cab together and split the fare.  We pulled up to my apartment and little did I realize that across the street from my new apartment was a palace! The Pitti Palace, or Palazzo Pitti, was where the Medici family lived, so little did I know we were living across from an amazing historical monument.

building in a square with flags

The view from my apartment- aka Palazzo Pitti!

I unlocked the door to the building and was greeted with an enormous staircase.  I looked at my 50lb suitcase, my 25lb carry-on slung across my shoulder, and back at the stairs. In Italy, whatever floor they say you’re on is actually one floor less than we are used to (for example, the ground floor is not the first floor, but the second floor is the first floor).  So, I had to trek my 75lb luggage up three (actually four) floors all by myself.  I was sweaty and exhausted, but felt so relieved when I heard girls' voices on the top floor; I knew they had to be my roommates.  They must have heard me struggling and opened the door, I was so happy to finally meet them! 

They showed me to my room and after only a few minutes, I knew it was going to be a great summer.  Since our windows are facing the palace, there are always people playing instruments and chatting over food and drinks right outside of our apartment. The smells of something freshly made food- pasta, bread, pastries, garlic and meats, are always coming through our windows, and outside it sounds like love and happiness. 

I have almost been here a week and I can’t believe how quickly the time is already passing.  For anybody who is scared to study abroad or thinks that it’s “too long,” think again!! Before I left 8 weeks seemed like an eternity, but now that I am here I’m already longing for more time.  Almost one week down and only seven to go. I know by the end of this summer I’ll be crying my eyes out just like I was to come here, but until then, I’m going to explore, eat, create memories and have the summer of a lifetime.