Florence Through the Wine Glass of an NYU Freshman

It was a dreary day in Florence, raining per usual on a Sunday. Instead of writing an essay on the Istituto degli Innocenti, I chose to spend my afternoon on Facebook browsing photos of my precious time here in Italy. After scrolling through the endless photos of dinners, parties, and day trips, I came upon one shot that paused my trigger finger.

Duomo di Firenze
Duomo di Firenze

A friend of mine had captured a photo of a few of us at a wine tasting at a nearby Tuscan vineyard called Nipozzano. We had been laughing and drinking on the green outside of the tasting room, enjoying our day trip outside of Florence. What struck me was that she had taken the shot of through the curvature of a partially full wine glass. The background was slightly distorted, but our physical appearances remained completely normal. The photo was beautiful of course, but that was not what inspired me to pause.

It is common knowledge that the first year away from home can be a thrilling yet terrifying adventure, unlike anything an 18-year-old such as myself, has experienced before. New challenges arise, like creating a strict budget, managing a balanced schedule between academics and social life, and knowing when to finally do that load of laundry that’s been sitting there for two weeks. Clubs are joined, pledges are hazed, and life paths are decided in college, as this part of a young person’s life is what truly defines him or her.

River Arno, taken from the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") in Florence
River Arno, taken from the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") in Florence

But those expected events are distorted when living abroad in Florence. Formulating a budget involves converting from dollars to euro while class trips range from visiting the Uffizi to the San Lorenzo food market. Ordering a glass of wine with a meal is expected, as is eating dinner no earlier than 7:30 PM, and the most popular clubs visited are YAB and Twice. With Florence being such a small city and the program containing barely one hundred freshmen, all from different international backgrounds, there is a familial atmosphere on campus; students look out for each other in good times or bad. That being said, both the academic and social scenes are compact, causing college to sometimes feel like high school revisited.

The most common judgment of the LSP program in Florence is that we must feel “displaced” or “separated” from the home campus, and that we’re truly “missing out” on our first year back in America. True, when we finally reach New York it will be a fresh start. While to some it will be revisiting the old, to others it will be adjusting to a new time zone, a new drinking age, and a new pace of life. We’ll still keep the memories though, as no one can forget instances like the first “epic” night out, Professor Nicholson’s masked performance in Fiesole’s Greco-Roman theatre, or even the “snowpocalypse” of Florence that left the majority of us stranded in Europe. On one thing I can agree: these experiences certainly separate us from the rest of the class.

Florence at Night
Florence at Night

Like that picture taken through the wine glass, freshmen year at NYU in Florence is a distorted vision of what the first year of college is usually like. Unlike some of our counterparts in New York, we see things in brighter, larger perspectives, not necessarily sure of what’s reality and what’s not. That may make us different, strange, or even just disillusioned, but I like viewing the world through my own personal wine glass.

Story by Caitlin Semo and Photos by Carolyn Balk

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2 Comments

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  1. Great Write Up 🙂

    Alumnus GSP Florence, Class of 1998/99

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