This article was going to be about culture shock, or reverse culture shock. Trying to adjust to a dramatic change in lifestyle. Warning, after WWOOFing that can and will happen. But it happened to me WHILE I was still abroad in 2015.
Transitioning from a rural, multi-cultural (Italian/Austrian/Belgian/German/Spanish/French), close-knit family farm in the south of Italy to tourist-filled Florence was rough. Fluorescent lighting, grocery stores, drinking, getting dressed up to go out and garbage were foreign concepts. On the farm we made bread every two days from grain we peeled; the most garbage I saw was a twist-tie and I didn’t even know where it came from. As humans, we try to adapt to our surroundings, like water in a vase. I spent two weeks in Florence after two months of farm life and it took me those whole fourteen days to remember what urban, consumption-based life was.
Finally after two years of being back in America I’ve found my roots in a garden again. With new dreams of traveling and couchsurfing sprouting in my head I flashed back to a deflating airbed in Nikki’s study abroad, Florentine apartment.
I not only crashed Nik’s apartment, I crashed her Florence University of the Arts classes. My Americanness became a tool for blending in. I went on a walking tour with her Italian culture class and asked her professor questions. That evening we saw the exteriors of almost every ancient jail in Firenze. Some were museums, some were public shopping/dining spaces.
I went to another class where we discussed in groups how our study abroad experience had been, I made a cameo in a video and then ate free dessert. Couchsurfing allows you to meet locals, share stories and experience deeper human connections. Visiting friends who happen to be abroad means of all that with the fun of reconnecting and remembering who you used to be.
Expect the unexpected and don’t be afraid to reach out to past friends who have drifted to different towns or countries.
Catch ya later, Caryn