I'm an NYU student who studied abroad in Florence. I hated every aspect of my semester abroad.

·4 min read
Stacia Datskovska in front of a city landscape
Stacia Datskovska did not enjoy her semester abroad.Stacia Datskovska
  • In the fall, I studied abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy, as an NYU student.

  • I hated that my classmates traveled every weekend, while I stayed in Florence alone.

  •  I also thought the locals I met were rude and hostile toward me, and I missed my life in New York.

As a journalism and international-relations major at New York University, I was required to study abroad for a semester. While NYU is famed for its foreign offerings in places like Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Berlin, Paris, and Shanghai, I opted for Florence, Italy, in the fall.

Before arriving in the Italian city, I learned I'd be living on the central Via dei Tosinghi street, which is a two-minute walk from a beautiful cathedral. I would be living with seven other girls, a welcome change after living in a cramped studio apartment in New York last year.

I imagined fun potluck dinners with my roommates, summer flings with people who called me "bella," gelato that dripped down my fingers in the heat, and natural wine that paired effortlessly with good conversation and better prosciutto.

But when my semester in Florence came to an end, I grew to despise the sights, hated the people, and couldn't wait to get back home to my campus in New York.

For starters, living with 7 people was not easy

The people who shared the space with me had asynchronous schedules, meaning they'd be out and about at various times of the day and night. Some would be taking the bus to our campus on the periphery of the city, while others walked to the All'Antico Vinaio panini shop after school, hopping back home to do occasional homework. Many would go out until the wee hours to take advantage of Italy's young drinking age.

My routine looked drastically different from that of my roommates. I had a GPA to upkeep and an online internship. I wasn't out partying; I was home working most of the time, and it became difficult to concentrate on my assignments.

The pressure to travel on weekends became too much for me

Since three-day weekends are the standard for NYU's study-abroad programs, almost everyone chose to take $20 Ryanair flights to places like Croatia and Munich for Oktoberfest. To me, this seemed like an exhausting form of escapism. I was convinced my peers were doing it only to freshen up their social-media profiles and make their friends back home jealous.

I, on the other hand, wanted to travel to learn more about myself and explore ways to shape my life after graduation. Since most of my classmates were looking to go to sex shows in Amsterdam and getting wasted in Ibiza, I traveled alone. I went to Nice, France; Lugano, Switzerland; London; Malta; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

But most weekends, I stayed at home in Florence, while my classmates burned themselves out with travel. During those lonely weekends, I ran along the Arno river, popped into free gallery exhibits, and cooked with ingredients I found at local vegetable markets. I was left in the apartment completely alone. This lack of human interaction didn't help me feel optimistic.

I was disillusioned by the fact that no one in my study-abroad program seemed to have my values.

Throughout my semester in Florence, Italian people were hostile toward me

I'm not quite sure whom I resented more during my stay in Italy: my American classmates or the locals. The latter is often described as soulful, charming, and overflowing with hospitality, but I could provide concrete examples of them being hostile, inconsiderate, and preposterous. For example, one time, two women were talking about me on the bus, looking at me up and down and scoffing. There were a couple of incidents of verbal confrontations.

I started to protest by presenting myself to the public in a way I knew they'd hate. I started wearing American-brand athleisure, Nike Air Max 97s, and oversize hoodies. The Italians rolled their eyes as I passed them on the street.

About 5,000 American college students flock to Florence every semester, so why are the Florentines still angry about the way we look and act — as long as we don't infringe on their rights, safety, and comforts?

My life back in New York went on without me, and it felt like I was wasting a semester

I was consistently frustrated by the fact that my life back in New York was not put on hold. Fellow NYU students who stayed in New York were actively pursuing in-person internships, networking with zeal, and making moves to advance their futures. I felt like I was wasting precious time in Florence.

I watched as my study-abroad classmates acted as if they could escape real-life obligations forever. I wanted to confront my obligations head-on.

All of this shouldn't dissuade students from heading to Florence. My feelings aren't every college student's experience — yet I also can't be the only one who thought studying abroad was a nightmare.

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