When I first decided I was going to study abroad in Florence I never imagined that staying an extra two months would be in the cards for me.

I am from New Jersey originally and I study multimedia journalism at Virginia Tech. My family and friends mean everything to me, and although it was very hard to say bye to them in January I knew that I was ready to take on this new journey of being abroad. Before leaving, the pressures of finding an internship for the summer were put on me (mainly by my mom) but also by myself. I am a multimedia journalism major with a marketing/business minor and was applying to just about anything that remotely related to my resume.

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My dad works in the garment industry in Manhattan and one of his partners, Marco, works for The Florentine, a popular magazine in Florence. I was aware of this and asked (very optimistically) if I could have his email to ask about a possible internship for the summer, just incase nothing in New York worked out. The Florentine did not have any spots for me but Marco so kindly referred me to a woman who worked at a communications agency and wanted me to work for her. The catch was she said they don’t usually have summer interns but she would love to have me for the spring. I am one to take advantage of my opportunities and have never had an internship so thought this was perfect. I met with her my second day in Florence and I was hired- for the spring.

Balancing my internship and classes with traveling wasn’t as hard as most would think. My boss made my hours flexible to fit my schedule and having a lot going on made Florence feel like even more of a home than it was. There was something so comfortable about the streets that made me feel like this was my life- and I know that it was my life, but not everyone gets fully immersed in the culture, they choose to float at the top. I was submerged, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Throughout the semester I was still applying to internships in New York, seeing if someone would accept me as living situations (if I were to stay in the summer) were unknown and my plan was constantly up in the air. I almost had hoped I wouldn’t get the positions in New York because I didn’t want to be torn with choosing one or the other, mainly because I knew I wanted to stay in Florence but wasn’t sure if that was what was best for my ‘career’ or ‘path’.

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Around April I started to realize that staying was a possibility, if I could make it happen. I had heard that renting apartments is very expensive and that au pairing with some families could be a lot of work with low pay. A coworker of mine had given me some contact information for a woman who she knew had connections to people who needed au pairs for the summer. I got in touch with her and I met the family that I now currently live with. It worked out almost too perfectly.

Since I had the au pair situation down I now knew that I was able to stay for the summer and keep the internship that I’ve had for almost four months at that point. I’m someone who always is looking for something to do, and like I said earlier, take advantage of my opportunities. I am in this gorgeous city for an extra 2 months, I need to make the most of it.

I saw a post from a page called ‘Campus Florence’ on Facebook in May and it said that they were looking for social media interns for the summer. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give all of my time but a little here and there couldn’t hurt. I met with Anna, the boss, and we figured out a schedule that worked for me so that I could help her out as well as manage my own time and not make myself crazy.

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During my summer experience here I also became friendly with Luigi, the owner of a leather shop in the leather market and he asked if I would want to work at his store when it was convenient for me. I obviously said of course because what American wouldn’t want to become a leather expert during their time in Florence. I go in when it is convenient for me, usually after one of my internships and work for 1 hour and go home with some pocket money.

Working 4 different jobs has made my experience of being in Florence more memorable than I ever thought it could be. There is something so special about living in a place for almost half of a year and not only going to class during the week and traveling on the weekends but creating a lifestyle for yourself, a rhythm. I pack a lunch everyday and walk to the center- just as I would do if I was living in New Jersey.

As I ready to leave in two weeks to go back home I leave with so many lessons and even more gratitude to this place and the people that made my experience as spectacular as it was.

To future students coming abroad to Florence, or just in general, be open to new experiences. Try new foods, branch out to people in your classes and walk down new streets every day.  The more you do this the faster your new environment will feel like home.

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