Many of us have been there before: you studied abroad in Florence, fell in love, and are looking to return to the Renaissance city. Luckily for you, where there’s a will, there’s a way. There are a multitude of opportunities for young people, whether it’s returning for another degree, trying out au pairing or, if you’re looking to clean up your professional persona, getting an internship.
I took the third route. A year after a magical study abroad experience, I got an internship that allowed me to travel and work in Florence. I got on the plane, starry-eyed and ready for a study abroad 2.0, an illusion that ended soon after I stepped onto the dark cobblestone street. That’s when you’ll learn your first lesson as an intern: your first step into the “real world” won’t have the safety nets you didn’t even realize you had as a student.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re searching for your own dream internship near the Duomo.
Finding a place to call home…without help
Where are you going once your plane lands? Most students are lucky enough that their university will set them up with housing. Maybe you had an apartment you shared with another student, or maybe you lived with an Italian family. Either way, you didn’t have to worry too much about the set up until you were already living there.
This time around, it’ll probably be up to you to figure out living in Florence. This means finding open rooms in apartments and dealing with new roommates and the landlord on your own, sometimes with very little moral support. Your host mom’s delicious dinners will be replaced by pizza da portare via or your own creations. You won’t have the suggestions and advice from professors or host families to help you maneuver through daily life. You’ll come to understand Florence with a newfound intimacy, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to miss your old setup.
Socializing vs. isolation
You’ll learn that making friends is a little harder than you expected. You may be surprised at first — you rarely had a second alone last time you were here — but soon you’ll realize that study abroad gave you a built-in group of people who lived on almost the same schedule you did. They had class when you had class, had free time when you had free time and, conveniently, also didn’t know anyone else in the country.
As an intern, you have to start from scratch, and sometimes it can be a little daunting, especially if you don’t feel comfortable speaking the language. It’s easy to feel like an outsider looking in when you don’t feel like you have any friends in the area. My advice: step out of your comfort zone and be outgoing. Go out of your way to talk to students and locals you meet around the city. You may even find someone who’s in the same situation as you.
School vs. work
Let’s not forget perhaps the biggest change of all: you may be rid of classes, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a whole lot of work. While you were encouraged to travel and explore the city as a student, this may not be the case with your internship. Unlike the lax school environment, you’ll be held to a certain degree of professionalism. You’ll have a new work schedule, new projects to work on and new mentors to get to know. It won’t always be easy, and you might find yourself dealing with stressful situations you didn’t have to deal with as a student.
This can be daunting when you’re far away from family and friends, but it may motivate you to get out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the go-with-the-flow culture Italy is known for. Even the best intern needs some time away from work to relax and bond with new friends over aperitivi.
These are all the things that make interning in Florence after studying abroad so unique. You’ll be in the same Florence you fell in love with, but you’re sure to see it in a new way. While it may not be all fun and games like you hoped, trust me: it’s worth it.