Major: Creative Writing English
Non-WMU Program Florence, Italy
Looking to my left, one student is shopping for a new pair of converse. To the right, another is booking a weekend trip to Amsterdam. In the front row, a YouTube video plays- a highlight video of LeBron’s son. And next to him, another laptop posts a selfie taken in front of the Duomo to Facebook.
16 students including myself make up this classroom. The teacher explains the importance of culture and globalization to the crowd. Facing her is 13 Apple logos- which give light to the whole room. 13 clanking keyboards sound across the class and against my eardrums. Outside the classroom, one student hovers over the toilet- hurling up drinks and a late night kebab from the night before.
I came to Florence to see different opportunities and experience a new way of life. Although I am in no position to complain about my decision to come to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I must say- my expectations were much different. $15k and a four-month commitment later, I’ve learned that no matter how far I go, not even 4000 miles across the globe, I have still not escaped the stereotypical American lifestyle.
Of course a new pair of shoes would be nice. I would love to see Amsterdam. LeBron’s son is talented and the highlight video is great. But I came here to get away from American culture for a bit- and I find myself still caught right in the middle of it.
The teacher speaks about culture and how social practices are learned and shared throughout a community of people. She also mentions individualism vs. collectivism- is it better to conform or blend in?
The further I analyze the concept, the further I find myself leaning toward the outskirts and away from the pack. Life is short and this alone scares people away from enjoying it. This cycle of life doesn’t have to clutter with mindless distractions and attempts to fit in. We have a choice- a decision we make every single day. We can live a dying life stuck in the middle, pretending to be happy. Or we can distinguish ourselves and strive for what makes us happy- not what makes everybody else.
Hearing these keyboards clank over the teacher’s voice motivates me to escape normality. There’s more to life than looking forward to the next paycheck or trying to meet societal expectations. We feel like we should be doing something- but for whom do we do those things for?
If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that relying on others for personal happiness is a death sentence. Don’t be afraid to step away from the crowd. Set a goal for yourself, jump for it, and if you fall flat on your face, get your ass up and jump again. This life is precious and so easily taken for granted- no matter what country you’re living in. Florence has pros and cons just like Kalamazoo. But walking through the city streets on the way to class, I cannot help but smile thinking about the goal I set- The goal I fell on my face trying to obtain- and the goal I was able to get my ass up and jump for again.