I was the Instagram envy of all my friends during my study placement at the Università degli Studi di Firenze. Yet upon my return in July to a drizzly British summer, I subsequently plunged into the depths of what has been coined internationally as ‘Post-ERASMUS Depression.’ What they don’t tell you in all those pre-departure meetings is that settling back into life after study abroad is infinitely more difficult than moving to a foreign destination will ever be, especially if you have been lucky enough to spend a year in Florentine paradise.
Here is my advice for current students in Florence to help you with the inevitable post-Florence blues.
1. Enrol on a language course. I am sure you have been dreaming of how you’ll meet your gorgeous Italian soul mate who will teach you the ‘lingo’ and how you’ll return home fluent. The reality is that learning a foreign language is an endless process; even advanced learners might need a bit of help. Classes at the university or a language school will ensure that you bring more home than just a collection of parolacce from your time in Florence. Think intelligent conversation and correct grammar.
2. Be internationally minded. It is so easy to fall into the trap of clinging to people from your home country or finding friends who speak your language. There is nothing wrong with this, but Florence is host to an entire world of international students. From all corners of the globe, they are interesting, funny people, who can teach you so much about their own cultures and languages. Among my Florentine friends were Romanian, French, Austrian and Portuguese students, and we still talk every day. Also, don’t forget all the doors you will open for further travel. Don’t miss out on any opportunities to meet new people.
3. Prepare yourself in advance for the goodbyes. The Florence experience is unmatched by any other. Your study abroad friends are the only people who will understand the spirit of Florentine life; they will become more like family than you could even have imagined possible. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but a Facetime call between Luxembourg and the United Kingdom, squeezed in between dinner with your grandma and studying will never be the same as watching the sun go down together with a bottle of wine on Ponte Santa Trinita.
4. Remember that the study abroad experience never truly ends. To fight off the post-Florence blues, get involved in international student organisations in your home institution. Help visiting students feel the way about your own college or hometown that you do about Florence. You will not only feel great about what you’re doing for these visiting students, but you’ll also manage to perpetuate those same magical Florence feelings for as long as possible.
Living abroad transforms both your entire outlook on life and your relationship with yourself. Use every opportunity to learn from the experience. Make new friends and build stronger relationships with those at home. Allow yourself to be homesick, but don’t allow homesickness to get in the way of your social life: stay out until sunrise. Travel as much as possible. I promise, despite the sadness of leaving, you’ll never regret a minute of your time in Florence.