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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week 1 recap {Florence Files}

*Feb. 1, 2016- Adventure time! Today’s the day. Leaving Washington at 6:40PM and getting into Paris at 8. Connection leaves at 10 and I’ll be in Florence around 12. My roomie, Shelby, gets in from Amsterdam at the same time. We booked a private car from the airport because with so many students coming in the wait for a taxi could be up to an hour.. lol no thanks. Just taking in some comforts of home the last day- my big queen bed, own bathroom, my cute puppy, & spending some time with my parents. Oh, and getting a sweet tea from CFA of course. ;) insert drive to the airport Per usual getting to DC was a total and complete disaster and aged me about 5 years. My parents both took off of work to drop me off and we said quick goodbyes (those are the best). Thank goodness for upgrading to premium economy because 2 checked bags for free and 3 carry ons.. plus priority line for check in. The other line was wrapped 3 times around and down a hallway… pure insanity. TSA went quick and I grabbed some questionable chicken tenders from a restaurant. Air France is always nice for international flights- their food is actually good. Probably got about 3 hours of sleep, but that’s to be expected.

*Feb. 2, 2016- After 2 uneventful flights (thank gosh), I got to Florence!! Met with my roomie perfectly fine and our private driver was my savings grace. 4 overstuffed suitcases, housing orientation, and a crammed taxi later we got to our apartment. I was preparing myself for those tic tac sized apartments I always see on international house hunters, but our apartment turned out to be unusually huge. With 6 girls total, there are 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Almost cried when I saw 4 floor to ceiling closets in our room and a dishwasher in the kitchen. There are huge windows in every room that boast gorgeous views of the city when you unlock and open the shutters. The best way I can describe it is European pretty. It’s not necessarily what I’m used to, but it’s a lot of space and very functional and efficient. The kitchen is also a lot wider than I expected and the washing machine isn’t in the kitchen- which I was preparing myself for. After unpacking and instagramming the views from our bedroom, we set out for a quick lunch. We discovered an amazing panini place right across the street from us. Going to the grocery store was quite the experience.. it’s kinda hard to grocery shop when everything is in another language. It was completely packed with people too, learned my lesson about going at night. A lot of Europeans go to the grocery store 2-3 times a week because everything is so fresh and it’s more efficient for them then doing big shops like we typically do. I’ve seriously been like once every other day, just to pick up this and that. We picked up essentials, discovered vegetables are cheap and that wine is cheaper than water. Ramen will run you about $2 for one pack and the smallest box of cereal you’ve ever seen is $3. Shampoo and basically any health/beauty product will cost you as much as your first born child. Eggs aren’t refrigerated and canned soup is not a thing here. It was definitely my first taste of culture shock, but I realized that their pricing strategies are way smarter than ours. Instead of overpricing fresh ingredients, they run you 50-70% less than unhealthy options with preservatives. It makes sense in a country that is renowned for fresh food and cooking. Conad brand is a generic brand and has become my best friend- although I can’t vouch for the $2 box wine.. We made fresh pasta with pesto and discovered that fresh pasta only takes 30 seconds to cook. Sleep was a joke the first night, but again, that was to be expected.

*Feb 3, 2016 Had my first ever espresso this morning because 8:30AM orientation session.. seriously who comes up with this schedule lol. Afterwards, I spent the day exploring the city with Shelby, my roomie. We just aimlessly walked around, got American pizza and SIM cards for our phone plans. Word of wisdom- Piccell sucks.. TIM is $70 for 4 months vs piccell for $160 + we got 4gb of data vs 1gb. Let me tell you data is amazing for using google maps to navigate the city!! For you directionally challenged people like me, this will become your lifeline.

*Feb 4, 2016 Finally some SLEEP. Our room is a literal black hole because the shutters are wood and block out every bit of light. So nice to sleep in and have some time to recover!! Clemson orientation today went over safety/school basics and we got our final schedules and more important info like permit of stay guide, which let me just preface by saying it is the biggest pain in the ass. J Fancy fancy fancy pants dinner held by our program at a hotel… seriously chandeliers as big as a small bedroom. Made me laugh that we got a ‘one glass of wine’ card at the dinner- we all know someone would have gotten beyond hammered if not.

*Feb 5, 2016 Last orientation at 9, then we swung by the leather market.. and stayed awhile. Scooped a Hermes birkin bag look alike for $50 and some gifts for my friends back home. Also ordered custom leather jacket.. so excited for my jacket + gold zippers & not silver. The leather here is so much better quality and cheaper than back at home. I can’t pass it up!! The leather jacket was an investment I will not regret- plus who wouldn’t love to say that they got their jacket custom made in Florence?! I’m probably going to become a victim to the leather market. I know I wanted to purchase leather boots, sandals, a satchel, and a wallet before leaving. The shopping here is just so easy and accessible.. it’s so dangerous. Went to Gusta pizza for dinner and my taste buds have never been more satisfied.. seriously AMAZING.

*Feb 6, 2016 Day trip to Pisa!! The best part about Florence is how centrally located it is in regards to popular cities to visit within the rest of Italy. Before I came, my mom gave me some simple/extremely relevant piece of advice- while I was rushing to plan weekend trips across Europe, she said, “Devin, don’t forget about the country you’re in too- don’t discount Italy.” She was so right, and it really opened my mind to the possibilities of day trips throughout Italy. The BEST part is it is so cheap to travel within Italy.. it was only $10 one way to Pisa. Overall, with lunch included, I spent $36 total on the day trip. Pisa is a city that I’m glad I can now check off of my bucket list, but I was underwhelmed by it looking back. Part of the reason being that Florence is such an entertaining city to be in.. every corner has a cute shop, café, or architecture that leaves you speechless. Pisa is really just the leaning tower of Pisa… and in all honestly the 2 buildings that you NEVER hear about that surround the leaning tower were actually way prettier and more impressive. It took about 15 min to take some cute super touristy leaning tower pics and then it was time for lunch. There’s a tour to go to the top of the leaning tower- but I’m not sure how worth it it would be. Overall, cute touristy spot, but I wouldn’t go again and I wouldn’t go if it were out of my way.  On our way back from the train station we stopped by a cute shawl shop and got handmade cashmere shawls. It’s so cold here that all the Italians wear huge shawls wrapped over their puffer coats- and we wanted to be just as comfy chic as them.

*Feb 7, 2016 Well…. We slept in until 2PM oops. The first Sunday every month in Florence museum entry is free if it’s a public museum. We figured we’d take up the offer and tried to get into the Gucci museum, but it was private and so it wasn’t free. I’ll be going with my marketing class in April so I decided to just take advantage of a free museum instead of paying for entry. We stopped at the next museum only to discover we had to pay for tickets to enter.. ok bummer, but we wanted to do something in Florence so we just went for it. After standing in line for 2 hours to get into the exhibit we were told we had bought the wrong ticket. Total fail of a day, but it was the best learning experience because for the first time I actually felt like a dumb tourist. Needless to say our next museum trips will be researched and planned in advance.

First week is down & everything so far has been positive & enlightening! This week is my first official week of classes- blog post will be up this weekend with details on my classes & what I like/don’t like here vs in class at Clemson!

Happy Tuesday!




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