Florence “Blizzard” 2010 and the end of a dream by Gina Mussio

My last few days of Florence can be called a lot of things if not interesting: beautiful, stressful, bittersweet, chaotic. With a surprise visit (belated birthday gift) from a good friend on Thursday and my last final of the quarter on Friday, I had very little time to also pack everything and make sure the apartment was adequately cleaned.

All that was BEFORE the freak snowstorm of 2010 (as we like to call it.) They were calling for snow, but it’s Florence – and we all knew how weathermen there exaggerated. The severe lack of anything white and beautiful on Friday morning confirmed our beliefs that there would be no snow to accompany our goodbyes…that is until about 1:00 p.m when it started with light sprinkles. We danced and took pictures as we made our way to the market for last-minute gifts. It was only thirty minutes later when the canvas roofs of the market stands were covered in snow, and the ground quickly becoming identical. Rushing into Gatto al Volpe, a small restaurant nearby, we brushed the snow off and ordered something warm for lunch, watching it literally pour snow non-stop the entire time. The snow didn’t stop until about 8 o’clock at night and I had already kind of accepted that my flight would be canceled. My friend decided to stay with me to make sure and help me figure out other options. Thank goodness for that because the bad weather across Europe canceled hundreds of flights including mine–twice! I didn’t get out of Florence until Sunday afternoon when I decided to take a train to Milan and take a flight directly to the United States on Monday morning. A city like Florence doesn’t see snow like that often and definitely wasn’t adequately prepared. The streets were covered and public transportation was practically shut down. Even with two awful days spent in the small and freezing Florence airport, I don’t begrudge the city a bit…maybe it was just another sign that Italy didn’t want me to leave.

I’m home now and yet I find myself struggling to adequately describe my time in Italy. Sure, there are more than a few stories I can tell regarding fun times and  new experiences. In the end though, there’s no way to describe a study abroad experience because it’s so much more than that. Yes I studied, but I also lived and learned and loved in the real world. I saw other parts of the world, other cultures, other foods. I lived on my own, far, far away from friends and family and I learned another language. I made friends that I had to leave and connections I hope to use in the future. I met my relatives and made myself a mini-life for the five months that I was living a dream. Although I’m done with my “study abroad” experience, I don’t think I’m done with Italy…and I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning…

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